The To-Read List

The other day I was talking to friend of the blog Andrew about how I finally started to read Scalped after meaning to for so long, and he suggested that we do a post about books we haven’t quite gotten around to yet.  This is a little different from our discussion on grails, because they’re not necessarily hard to find, it’s just  something we’ve been meaning to get to but haven’t.

I know I’ve been begging for suggestions a lot lately; I think with cover prices going up the way they are it’s harder to randomly sample.

  • Action Philosophers – This one is a bit of a cheat because I just snagged the first trade from the library, but only  barely.  After discovering how much I love Fred Van Lente’s work on Incredible Hercules and hearing him on the War Rocket Ajax podcast I’ve been pretty fired up to read this one.  Comedy and philosophy go together like beer and back bacon.  Just ask Monty Python.
  • Aztek: The UItimate Man – Okay, for this one there is some overlap with our column on grails, as #8 is one of the hardest books I’ve ever tried to find.  Back when Grant Morrison and Mark Millar were BFF’s they created Aztek, had him join the JLA, and uh…killed him.  I’ve read a couple issues, but I’m holding off on reading  anything new until I find this one.  last.  issue.
  • Avengers and Captain Marvel – Ever since the Infinity Gauntlet I’ve been a fan of the big purple guy.  I’m in the process of rounding up all of his original appearances from The Avengers and Captain Marvel.   And Marvel Two-In-One, and…
  • Grendel – Matt Wagner’s 80’s book Grendel has been built up into something of a legend.  Though trying out early-80’s indie books has never really worked out too well for me, this one has built up enough of a  mythology (and two Batman team-ups) that I feel obligated to give it a go.
  • Garth Ennis’ Punisher run – I loved Ennis’ first arc on The Punisher, “Welcome Back, Frank,” which got back to the core of the character and brought an all-new depth to the character.  I’ve never been a huge Punisher fan, though, so when he graduated to an ongoing series I couldn’t make the commitment. However, now that his work on the title has been complete for a while and collected in trades, I feel like the time has come to give it a real shot.  (The numerous accolades don’t hurt, either.)
  • Spawn (yes, Spawn) I think I’ve mentioned before that I would pop in on Spawn from time to time just to check in, and got completely disenfranchised when #100 rolled around with no real change or direction.  I was able to stick with that for several years, until Todd McFarlane came to the same conclusion and brought things to a conclusion with the “Armageddon” storyline, and I just had to see how things wrapped up.  I’ve also picked up (and really enjoyed) a few of the recent “Endgame” issues, and that coupled with guest art by The Rob and Erik Larsen have put these arcs on my search list.  I just recently finished filling in all of the holes, so expect a review soon.
  • The Proteus Saga – I think this was only two issues, but the  characters always refer back to it in such horrified tones that I need to know what set them off.  Add in Claremont and Byrne at the top of their game, and you’ve (potentially) got a must-read.

Is there something you haven’t made it around to yet?  Got a question about something you’ve been meaning to try?  Hit us up in the comments section.

This Week’s Comics

Nothing for me this week, but that’s okay, because it gives me the chance to snipe from the sidelines.  Here are this week’s commentable books.

  • ACTION COMICS ANNUAL #13 – If it weren’t for the $5 price tag I would be all over this, the first meetings between Lex Luthor and Ra’s Al Ghul and Darkseid.  Who am I kidding…I may pick it up anyway.
  • DC COMICS PRESENTS BATMAN BEYOND #1 – If you’re interested in getting into the Batman Beyond books without digging through back issue bins, this is the place to get started.  DC provides a good intro for $8. Well done.
  • GORILLA MAN TP – And on the side of how to collect things wrong, here’s Marvel.  Even at the ridiculous cover price of $4 per issue, buying this entire series will only cost you $12.  This trade is $20.  Unless there’s some significantly valuable additional material (each issue also had reprints of stories about earlier Gorilla Men) there’s no reason to pick this up instead of the individual issues.
  • VERTIGO RESURRECTED WINTERS EDGE #1 – I really enjoy the Vertigo anthologies, as they point me at titles I may not otherwise sample. This one may make it home, too, since I’m pretty far removed from most of Vertigo’s offerings these days.

I wanted to disagree with Matt’s review of Batman and Robin #17, but I couldn’t.  Paul Cornell’s story is a very by-the-numbers Batman tale and Scott McDaniels’ art is passable but not great.  I think he was the right artist at the right time for his run on Nightwing, probably his best book.  Chuck Dixon (and this is no slam) writes  straight-ahead action stories without much dialog or nuance, leaving plenty of room for the art.  This fits  right in McDaniels’ wheelhouse in a way none of his more recent work has.  Still, I hope this doesn’t put  anyone off Cornell’s other books, namely the Knight and Squire mini (on stands now!).

Batman Beyond and Avengers and the Infinity Gauntlet both came to satisfying conclusions last week, and are well worth picking up.  I haven’t cracked Batwoman yet, but am looking forward to it.  As for Fantastic Four…Well, if my pick last week or Matt’s Game Tape hasn’t convinced you yet, nothing will.  This book never fails to please.
That’s it for me.  What are YOU looking at?

LEMUR Sunday Night at the Movies

Back in 2003, Mark Millar perpetrated a fairly brilliant hoax on readers of his column over at CBR. Remembering this item the other day, I got to thinking about what different comic movies would look like if they came out in the era when the character first hit the scene. Who would have played Superman back in 1939 or ’40? Would Ray Harryhausen have done special effects for a 1960’s Green Lantern? The mental exercise here assumes that the studios would treat the movie as big budget instead of the B-movie fodder that was typical of comic book movies prior to 1977’s “Superman.”

Part of what originally spurred this idea was seeing Rod Taylor in “Time Machine” and thinking what a splendid Hal Jordan he would have made back in the 1960’s. After all, the 1960’s were all about space cowboys; a Green Lantern movie would have been an easy fit once the director got over the technical challenges. For my money, as serious scifi movie of that time should have been in the capable hands of Robert Wise (of “The Day the Earth Stood Still). His blend of drama, action, and science fiction are a perfect fit for a GL movie. As mentioned above, creating the verdant special effects would have been best handled by Ray Harryhausen. Costumes would naturally have been handled by the First Lady of Fabrics, Edith Head.

For Hal’s supporting cast and villain, the 1960’s were full of faces and actors that fit perfectly in these roles. For starters, every hero/ space cowboy needs a villain. For the most part, that spot has been taken by Sinestro. The calculating and elegant mind could best be expressed by David Niven (see the original “Pink Panther” or “Guns of Navarone”). In someways the conflict between Hal Jordan and Sinestro is the conflict between the brash and the refined. David Niven screams refined.


Next up is the love interest: Carol Ferris. In Carol, you need someone who is strong and forceful yet feminine; She’s Hal’s boss/ sometime girlfriend after all. It’s got to be someone who can wear the pants or the skirt equally well. For my money, no one wears pants like Patricia Neal. Look her up in “Operation Pacific” and see how she holds her own against John Wayne.

Finally there are the Guardians of the Universe. They’re allegedly modeled after David Ben-Gurion… minus the blue skin. Eli Wallach and Ernest Borgnine could handle the role of guardians quite well.

It would have been interesting to see a Green Lantern movie in the 1960’s. My guess is that it would have been more story driven than the computer generated orgasm that we will see next year. I do have hopes for next year’s movie all in all though.

Thanksgiving List

Yesterday people all across America were celebrating Thanksgiving. On a satellite in geosynchronous orbit 22,300 above the Earth, some of the most powerful beings on the planet were celebrating in kind also. Here are some things overheard at the annual JLA/ JSA gathering.

“Does Batman know you’re wearing his clothes?” – Wally West to Dick Grayson

“Could you transmute Power Girl’s turkey into something edible?” – Stargirl to Firestorm

“Who put my flying harness on the turkey?” – Hawkman

“Whoever threw my franks and beans out the airlock is cruisin’ fer a bruisin’!” – Wildcat

“Where’s the table?”  – Dr Mid-Nite

“What was that great ethnic dish Vibe brought that year? Frito pie…?” –  Aquaman to J’onn

“No, no…The mile high club requires a plane!” – Hal Jordan to Power Girl

“I smell a mystery meat.” – Ralph Dibny

“And for dessert, Hostess Twinkies! Who doesn’t love those golden creme-filled tubes of deliciousness?” – Aquaman

“With my Kryptonian metabolism, that dessert will just go straight to my chest” – Powergirl to Vixen

Game Tape

No worries faithful readers, just because it’s a federal holiday here in the states does not mean that we neglected to read and review books this week. Four books worth commenting on this week; two are written by Paul Cornell.

Batman and Robin #17 marks the beginning of where I, like Jesse, was planning on dropping the title. I’ve stayed because of the merits of Action Comics and the Captain Britain stuff. With this issue, I honestly couldn’t tell you what happened. I read the damned thing twice and only felt marginally more clued in on the second read. There’s a villainess (I mean when you name her Una Nemo, does she really have another choice?)that may or may not control minds in a hive-mind sense. A body is discovered then something happens and something happens to lead Dick and Damian to a church. Strung-out looking people keep asking, “What are we missing?!” for my money, what we’re missing is cohesion. The only part that made much sense was a soliloquy by Alfred regarding Bruce Wayne’s relationships with women. Add to this the fairly generic 1998-esque art of Scott McDaniel, and you’ve got a book that needs to get better because name recognition is not enough to keep me interested.

On the other hand, I continue to enjoy Cornell’s Action Comics. Both baddies in this issue were well written and compelling. Although it was odd to see Vandal Savage set up as a dictator in an Eastern European country à la Doctor Doom. Nic Spencer’s Jimmy Olsen back-up story was also enjoyable as it concludes his romp with twenty-something space aliens in a clever and almost Silver Age fashion. At this point, I’d buy a Jimmy Olsen book written by Spencer. The guy’s got an interesting and fun take on the character.

To quote Hannibal from The A-Team, “I love it when a plan comes together.” And that’s exactly what happens in Victor Gischler’s X-Men #7. I haven’t written much about this title because it is often standard X-Men vs. Vampire fare. Neil Gaiman couldn’t be more correct in stating that these creatures of the night need to be set on a shelf and forgotten for a while. Still, Gischler has managed to come up with some surprising moments: making a suicide bomber into a biological weapon was impressively imaginative. This issue is the penultimate issue of this arc, and it’s a doozy. I was reminded why I’ve always had a soft spot in my comic bookish heart for Cyclops. For all of his Claremontian monologuing, the guy is straight-up hardcore. Next issue Dracula comes to town, and it should be a rip-snorter of a finale.

The real treat of the week, as Jesse predicted on Monday, is Fantastic Four #585. There are a ton of oh-shit and daa-yumn moments in this one. When the book opens with Galactus, Devourer of Worlds floating above the Baxter building tersely telling Reed Richards to explain, and things escalate in crazy from there, you’ve got a heck of a good book on your hands. Little pieces from almost a year ago are now coming together. I’ve read some reviews complaining about Hickman’s slow story telling and his penchant for done-in-ones. Don’t you believe it.  Remember, this is a guy that admitted in Charlotte and several other interviews that he’s got flow charts and pages of graphic organizers to tell this story. Everything matters. Let me say that again: EVERYTHING MATTERS. True, it’s a slow boil, but it’s always been cooking something. The FF, and by proxy the reader, are feeling the heat now and it’s going to be real scorcher. I know Jesse and I talk about this book all the time. You have to believe us: it’s just that good. If you aren’t reading it, you clearly hate comics. There. I said it.

Arseface — Secrets!

Yuh nuh wuh ruhlluh gruh? Wuhih mih drih mih.*


Th ruh tragudeh is thuh nuh ah theen Kur Kobay sux.**


Ah goh uh wuf an too kuhz nuh. Arseface fuh thuh wih!***


Ah wuh uhspyruhd to stuh uh bahn. Wuh Krushuh rah buh thuh ahwayz fuh uh ih mehuh foh suh ruhsuh.****


Ah kee hopuh thuh Gah Enuh wuh puh meh ih Krohnicuh uh Wuhwuh. Uh luh Jihmuh thuh rubbuh!*****


This Week’s Comics

We’ve got a good batch of comics coming out this week, and most of them involve Batman, so I’m going to consider this week a rousing success.  Here’s what I’m looking at this week.

  • AVENGERS & INFINITY GAUNTLET #4 (OF 4) – All told, this is a pretty different Infinity Gauntlet than the one I know and love.  The stakes don’t seem as high and no one seems to be taking it seriously. Still, it’s funny and contains more than it’s share of action and adventure for it to qualify as a good read.
  • BATMAN AND ROBIN #17 – With Grant Morrison moving off this book to greener bat-pastures I was all set to drop this title…Until I saw that Paul Cornell is handling the new story arc.  After an incredible run on Captain Britain and MI-13 and with a stellar Knight and Squire title on the stands now, I’m very excited to see what he’ll bring to a main bat-title.
  • BATMAN BEYOND #6 (OF 6) – Our first venture to the in-continuity Batman Beyond universe has been pretty successful…And paved the way for a new on-going.  Like the TV show, it’s got all of the trappings of a science fiction story but is well-versed in current continuity. Ordinarily I would have thought writer Adam Beechen was trying to cram too much into six issues but he makes it work.
  • BATWOMAN #0 – I’m curious, and I don’t care who knows it.  (I also resisted the urge to use the pun bat-curious, so I’m having an especially restrained day.)
  • FANTASTIC FOUR #585 – I really can’t say this enough: each issue of Jonathan Hickman’s FF run is better than the last.  He is quickly becoming a Jeff Parker for me: a writer I’ll follow anywhere sight unseen.

Speaking of following writers, since I’ve enjoyed Avengers and the Infinity Gauntlet so much, I’ve been looking forward to trying out Brian Clevenger’s book Atomic Robo.  Last week the first issue of volume 5,

Buy this book.

Deadly Art of Science, came out and I’m happy to say it was incredible. Based solely on this one issue I get a strong feel of Mike Allred’s Madman, in that our protagonist is put together to help Do Science but wants to experience more of the world.  On top of that Scott Wegener turns in incredibly strong artwork, highly stylized but consistent and easy to read.  Highly recommended for anyone who likes their comics with a dose of fun and high adventure.

I really tried to talk myself into picking up Batman: The Return and Batman, Incorporated last week, but couldn’t get past the price point.  Inc was just another standard-sized $4 book, and BTR was just
too expensive at $5, and half-full of sketches and back matter. Knight and Squire, on the other hand, was a great example of How To Write Comics.  Sure, they’re a play off of Batman and Robin, but Paul Cornell is doing an incredible job of making them characters independent of that mythos, and highlights the differences by playing off the innate Britishness of those characters rather than making them Batman and Robin clones with funny voices.  Sure, some of the references are fairly obscure, but Cornell does my ignorance a favor by including a text page of explanations rather than forcing me to spend 10 minutes on Wikipedia.

Despite my doubts (and the poor showing by last week’s overpriced bat-books), Thunderbolts #150 was a great example of getting more for your money. For $5 we got a 96-page issue with a new (extended?) done-in-one story, a recap of all the major Thunderbolts events to this point, and a reprint of Thunderbolts #1.  That’s a lot of bang for the buck. Meanwhile, Jeff Parker just makes this book so INTERESTING.  Every character is different and has their own motivations, yet seems incredibly authentic.  I enjoyed the original Busiek run and Warren Ellis’ take with Norman Osborn, but I think this is the best the book has ever been.

That’s it for me.  What are YOU looking at?