Want! Buy! Have!

Stopped off at my local comic shop Comics Dungeon today and grabbed my usual titles and later swung by the Fantagraphics Store where a 50% off sidewalk sale helped empty my pockets. Who needs to eat when you got comics, right? (And speaking of sales, next weekend Comics Dungeon is having their annual anniversary sale-a-bration so nerds in the Seattle area, make note.)

So far, it has been a real nice afternoon for reading the funnies, here’s what I picked up from both stores:

  • Criminal, Volume 2: #4
  • Jack of Fables #24
  • Infinity Inc. #12 (of Volume 178 or something?)
  • Detective Comics #847
  • Buffy: The Vampire Slayer #17
  • Final Crisis #3
  • Babel #2
  • Heartbreak Soup (Love and Rockets TPB)
  • Twentieth Century Eightball
  • E.C. Segar’s Popeye “I Yam What I Yam!”

Jealous? The Fantagraphics stuff was a steal– especially the tabloid sized reprints of Popeye. Can’t wait to get into that one. Anyhow, let’s get into the issues themselves…

Criminal, Volume 2: #4
Ed Brubaker’s Criminal is easily one of the best on-going series in comics today. With the start of a new storyline this issue is a great jumping on point for those who love noir and particularly those who enjoy the pulp nihilism of Jim Thompson’s crooked narrators. In this new story arc we’re (re)introduced to Jacob, a comic artist and ex-counterfeiter who during one sleepless night meets a beautiful woman before getting literally tied up in a what promises to be just the start of his troubles.

Frank Kafka strip from the first Criminal TPB (click for larger view)

Frank Kafka strip from the first Criminal TPB (click for larger view)

What’s especially fun for those of us who’ve been following Criminal is that we get some more background behind the Frank Kafka strips that peppered the first storyline Coward as well as catching back up with Jacob since the events of Lawless. Now while it’s nice to see that Brubaker is deliberately creating a cohesive universe, any follower of the crime genre knows that most of its protagonists have 50/50 odds (at best) of surviving their tales so I don’t think we’ll be seeing anything really cute or coincidental in a crossover sense. They certainly won’t be sharing a JSA/JLA-style Thanksgiving dinner. Unless the turkey is loaded with heroin instead of tryptophan and hey! I got an idea for a story….

Jack of Fables #24
Finally the resolution to Jack and Bigby’s old west days, ending predictably with Bigby victorious and Jack groveling as he’s caught, only to go on to other mischief. Despite loving Fables, I resisted getting into this series for a long time– basically because I thought Jack was an asshole. I love Bill Willingham’s sense of characterization, but I wasn’t sure if I’d have the patience to read through the various adventures of a protagonist I had no affection for. But just as often as I hate to see Jack succeed, he fails and the stories are carried  by an engagingly deranged supporting cast who probably hate the prick as much as I do.

Infinity Inc. #12
I love Peter Milligan’s work but this series hasn’t really grabbed me yet. It reminds me a lot of his X-Force run without the satiric snap which made it sing. Following this self-absorbed and confused young superteam hasn’t been as engaging as his past efforts– but it doesn’t mean it’s been bad. This may be one of those titles where you need to wait for the trade to really get the full impact or maybe he’s just coasting. As long as he avoids inserting Kid Amazo from his mediocre JLA: Classified storyline, I might be able to stick with it.

Detective Comics #847
I’m torn because I’ve really been enjoying Paul Dini’s episodic Batman stories in Detective Comics but I think Hush is a shitty character, poorly realized from conception on. I want to give Dini the benefit of the doubt but I enjoyed everything about this issue aside from the Hush-stuff. For those who don’t know, Hush is a childhood friend of Bruce Wayne’s who murdered his folks to gain their inheritance. Gettit? He’s like the OPPOSITE of Batman! He’s like some mirror-image of Bruce’s twisted past that requires pages upon pages of belaboured exposition about their shared background for every single time he appears in a panel! I understand the motivations behind creating a character like Hush– you want to tell more about the hero in opposition to his enemies. How Batman’s virtues are all the greater because he doesn’t succumb to the darkness reflected blah blah blah…

Exactly how many damn Bat-villains do we need to reflect Bruce Wayne’s tortured psyche? We’ve had lots of Joker stories (not to mention the latest movie) where order and chaos are offered as a duality; Catwoman as his madonna/whore focus; Two-Face as legitimate/illegitmate symbol of justice and the intersection of his personal/private life; the movie Penguin was obsessed with the sort of fine breeding that begot the Bat; and really any villain can be a prism to focus in on just what it is that makes a Batman. When a villain whose main weapon is an umbrella has a more reasonable backstory and raison d’etre for committing crime than you, it’s time to hang up the bandages and just fade away. (At least until Grant Morrison unearths you decades later and does something interesting that takes place in the fucking present rather than a convenient series of fucking flashbacks.) If that’s the way you wanna write your stories, then you might as well just piss us off proper with this “Heart Of Hush”/Batman R.I.P. stuff and tell us he never came out of that isolation chamber Dr. Hurt put him in, say the past 30 years have actually taken place on Earth 23, bring back Jean Paul Valley as XTREEEM Batman and make a proper Clone Saga-esque clusterfuck out of it.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #17
So Buffy gets warped into the future by a mysterious villain who’s been around for centuries and falls into the classic hero versus hero scuffle with her future Slayer counterpart. Chris at the ISB hated all the grife-ing future-slang in this issue, and while he makes good points about of the future’s hab fo over-abbrev, I really enjoyed the issue and Karl Moline’s pencils in particular. Don’t really want to slag too badly on Georges Jeanty because damnit if drawing comics isn’t a load of work without some dweeb on the internet saying you’re a no-good shmuck– but Moline’s art is more fluid and captures the cast’s likenesses without seeming overworked. The twist revealing the big bad behind the time-traveling hijinks is nice. I’d say more but you know, spoilage.

Final Crisis #3
For those who’ve read Morrison’s Seven Soldiers of Victory, all I need to say is: “FRANKENSTEIN. FUCK YEAH.”

Aaaaand for those who haven’t, get thee to a comic shoppery immediately and buy it, dingus. (Like say, one I mentioned having a sale next weekend?) Anyhow, we get some more tantalizing snippets of Darkseid’s plot to destroy our world and remake it in his image, and damn it if it’s inappropriate to say that so far I find Final Crisis to be delicious. I’m just wondering how the hell this is all going to wrap up in another four issues because DC has certainly bloated storylines (with a fraction of the content) over *cough* 52 weeks. I think my only problem with Final Crisis is that as soon as I get through an issue, I want more, damn it MORE, MORE, MORE-ISSSS-ON. Okay so I drank the Flavor-ade, but that doesn’t mean I’m gonna be a sucker and buy the sketchbook “Director’s Cut” nonsense they’re trying to milk me with.

Babel #2
David B.’s Epileptic is one of the most moving and visually imaginative memoirs I’ve read in an industry packed with moving and imaginative memoirs. Babel continues and enriches the story told in Epileptic, a hypnotically drawn account of growing up in France in the 1970’s with an epileptic brother and a vividly surreal fantasy life. David B. will be making numerous public appearances in Seattle from August 13-17th. He’ll be at the Fantagraphics store on August 15th signing books and prints of the illustration pictured on the left (with niiiice gold ink instead of the taupe).

Also, Dan Clowes will be at the Fantagraphics shop on Friday August 29th, and he apparently has a new book coming out answering the gripe listed at #19 in my previous post.

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