The Forty Dollar Pull List – March 2011

The Forty Dollar Pull List – March 2011

Mar 03

Originally posted on 02/27/2011 on cxPulp.com. Read and comment on this article here!


March 2011
by Craig Reade and B. Schatz

Craig Reade: Another month, another dollar. Which is more than I get paid for this column.

Brandon Schatz: What, suddenly my love isn’t enough for you? I’m a offended Craig. My feelings are crying now. I HOPE YOU ARE HAPPY.

Reade: Brandon, your love is cheap. You love everything and anything. Look at the dirty things you are doing to that keyboard right now…

Schatz: Shh, shh, shh. Don’t listen to him, baby. He doesn’t know you like I do.

Reade: Speaking of dirty thing… comics!

FEBRUARY ISSUES


Generation Hope #4, $2.99, Marvel Comics. Due Out 02/02/11 DELAYED – RELEASED 02/16/2011
Written by Kieron Gillen, Art by Salvador Espin with Scott Koblish, Colors by Frank Martin
Hope and the Lights – all of them – make the trip to Utopia, where they are given the lay of the land. Wolverine and Teon fight things out, and that ends in fish. Meanwhile, Kenji has a good long think about what he’s done, and Dr. Nemesis is a dick to everyone!

Reade: Dr. Nemesis was great, to be sure.

This issue was obviously a transition – geared towards character development. And I have to say that there was finally some meat in this issue. Without harping on the first three too much, I learned more about each one of the Lights in this issue than I did the previous three combined – including the first issue, where we had an artful but generally void introduction to the first four.

Anyway – sticking to the positive, I think this issue was a big step in the right direction.

Schatz: Dammit Craig you don’t understand the–

Whoa, wait, what? I’m sorry, I think I have accidentally ingested internet peyote, I am reading your word right, yeah?

Reade: If you mean “you have something good to say about this issue?” then yes – you got me. In fact, if people haven’t been reading this series yet, I think it’s a great issue to start on. I’ve beat up the first three issues enough – this is the kind of thing I was expecting, so as long as it keeps up like this, I will be happy.

Schatz: Awesome. I’m glad that something in this issue clicked for you – because it would be a shame, in my opinion, to see this book disappear from our list so soon. For my money, while it still has the same bones as an X-book, it seems to be accomplishing the same goals in different ways. Like, even when the teasers were coming out, Marvel wanted people to remember Generation X, which was huge at the time it was released, and maintained quite a bit of staying power over the years. I only got to read just a little bit of that book when it was still shipping (I’ve been told to remedy this), but I get the feeling that this is acting a little more different than even that – which was a bit off center.

Anyway, I enjoy this book. I enjoy the characters, I enjoy the creators… and hey! Next issue, we get a nice one-and-done issue that reunites Kieron Gillen with Jamie McKelvie! Team Phonogram! I’m so very excited.

Reade: Done-in-Ones make me happy. Should be sweet!

Schatz: As you should be. I’ve been hearing a lot of comic creators, in interviews, talking about how the art of the single issue comic is almost lost these days – and how writing one is a fun exercise in economic story telling. They seem to enjoy it, but the industry usually ends up telling them that’s not what it wants, for whatever reason.

Reade: Oh, I’ve been on that bandwagon for years. That’s one of the reasons Jonah Hex was on this list for so long – it’s general “done-in-one” policy. I do think that with Digital Comics being on the rise, we might be ready for a shift in the “print for the trade” philosophy that the industry is currently stuck on.

Schatz: Man, that digital revolution is going to be one sticky wicket. I know they’re already having troubles with some double page spreads, which should cause some extra thought as to how many of those we get anymore. Also, uh… my job relies on print comics! Though, I’ve gone on record many times saying that I’m not really worried – there will always be room for print, so long as you run your business well, and roll with changes (less singles, more trades, really).

Reade: Oh, Local Comic Shops have every reason to be concerned – however, all of the concern in the world will not stop it from happening. The smart LCSs are going to recognize now that they need to change their focus, and find a way to keep people coming back to the store in spite of the availability of digital books.

Truthfully, I think this will be great for the industry. I think part of the problem with the current LCS system is its dependence on those print books, and the collector mentality of comic readers, combined with the stranglehold Diamond has on the industry. LCSs will survive if they maintain the positive atmosphere that they provide now, while at the same time finding other income streams.

And anything that breaks the back of Diamond, allowing more books to become available to a wider audience… well, I favor that.

Schatz: That’s exactly why I’m not worried. Things have already changed, and we’re rolling with it. You can’t stop change from happening – so don’t. The entire comics industry was down approximately 5.6% last year (in print) and my store was up – and this January and February were our best in years. BECAUSE I’M AWESOME.

But that’s neither here nor there. My biggest hope, is that the big comic book publishers have a back-up plan for when Diamond goes down. We’ve looked into alternatives, but none exist right now, for distribution to Canada. That’s the only scary thing for me.

Reade: I think that’s part of the precarious situation the industry is in now. You know Marvel and DC see the writing on the wall, and have already made plans to cope with it. But if either one of them implemented those plans – Diamond would be destroyed. It seems to me that they won’t do a thing until they absolutely have to.

Schatz: They won’t make a move until cutting Diamond loose seems like a feasible plan. Right now, the direct market is still Marvel and DC’s primary source of comic book income. Now, what will probably happen someday – in which case, comics and trades will be distributed in another fashion. And I would love for that to happen, if only because Diamond is doing the industry no favours. It’s pretty much actively hurting it.

Weird Worlds #2 (of 6), $3.99, DC Comics. Due Out 02/02/11 ON TIME
Written by Kevin Vanhook, Aaron Lopresti, and Kevin Maguire; Art by Jerry Ordway, Aaron Lopresti, Matt Ryan, Kevin Maguire, Jared K. Fletcher, Dave McCaig, and Rosemary Cheetham.

We rejoin Lobo as he is trying to take down his target, S’Glayne, so he can return him to the sleepy planet of Xanaxx. But the shape-shifter claims to be something of a freedom fighter – an excuse that doesn’t get any traction with the Main Man, who teaches him that monologuing exposition doesn’t pay.

We next rejoin Garbage Man, who exploring the limits of his new powers. Only he’s attracted some Dark Knight attention. Garbage Man makes his way to Dr. Clive to demand that he change him back to his human form, only Clive’s guards follow orders too well.

Finally, Tanga stumbles on an interplanetary traffic jam, and is overjoyed at the prospect of finally having someone to talk to. She finds a bar and orders herself a Bruk, and has a conversation with Eeeeelehrgahognatvispertillia Bent – before accidentally blowing up the bar.

Schatz: You know, around the internet, and a little bit in the store, I always heard people complaining about Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness’ run on Hulk. But as we’ve discussed before, complaints and/or perceived quality don’t usually correspond with sales. If that were the case, books like (and I’m just looking over the racks right now) Morning Glories and Scalped and the new Power Man and Iron Fist would be rocking the charts. But I digress.

Hulk sold – both in terms of overall industry units, and in the store. It sold because it delivered what a lot of Hulk fans wanted from the Hulk. Big action, where big things and people are punched. And it delivered without fail.

Now, I’m not a big fan of Lobo. I’ve been of the opinion that he’s one of those characters who do those things. Or: a less funny Space Deadpool (despite the fact that Deadpool has been in space inside one of his books for quite some time now). And if there’s two things I just don’t dig without another hook, it’s space stories, and stories about mercenaries who cannot die. That said, the Lobo story is delivering on every single point it needs to. It’s a fun space story, and Lobo is doing Lobo things. The story is well told, well crafted, and so far, has been segmented nicely, to fit inside the serialized format. Basically, it’s not a 60 page story that just stops every 10 pages or so. It’s good: but it’s not for me. But hey, this is an anthology, and there’s a lot more in this book that just the decent Lobo stuff.

The Garbage Man stuff intrigues me. It’s definitely more of a straight laced, new super-person origin (I’m thinking hero, but really, we don’t know) and it’s got a bit of silver age mixed in. The whole science experiment gone wrong angle… while it’s still around today, was a big part of stories back then, because it played off of a lot of fears at the time. Like, nuclear bombs, radiation, all that jazz. Anymore, if you’re getting an origin, more often than not, you’ll see maybe a bit of science, but from more of a terrorism angle. It’s just the times! Anyway, this origin, combined with Lopresti’s penchant for having the characters really talk instead of just showing really feels a bit older to me. The only thing it’s really missing to give it that last bit of jazz is exclamation points! At the end of sentences! Like Archie Comics still do! That said… there’s just enough modern storytelling in the story, that the exclamation marks wouldn’t quite work – so really, in the end, it’s just an interesting brew of the two flavours. And it’s good.

And then there’s Tanga. Oh man, Tanga. This story? Is my jam. It’s funny, it’s strange, it pulls up some more traditional sci-fi/superhero comic book tropes, and then twists them quite nicely. And Kevin Maguire really knows how to work his pages. The joke of having the big guy walking in wouldn’t have worked as well if he hadn’t set up the, uh… “confrontation” with that big, impressive splash. Plus, man, not only does the guy have a grasp of expression, but the aliens! They all looked great. Fantastic, strange, and hilarious. The best in this book, in my opinion.

Reade: I have to admit that I am more than a little shocked by how much you have to say on this one!

I absolutely have to agree. As an anthology, this is hitting all the right notes. You are particularly spot on with your observation that it isn’t just a few 60 page stories that occasionally stop. I am shocked at how well each of these are hitting the serial storytelling marks, particularly the Lobo and Tanga stories. Each part has a point, a purpose, a beginning, middle, and end – and they have been distinct enough that you could even enjoy one part without having to have read the previous installment (though that does help). Garbage Man had a good outing – far better than what we saw last month, but I’m still not sold on it long term. Taking by itself though, this part was solid. The Lobo story was fun and, as you said, hit all of the notes it was supposed to. And Tanga… I’m still not sure where they are going with her, but it’s fantastic.

You know what does suck about this? The cover. HORRIBLE! Not only do the characters look bad, there is absolutely nothing that makes you want to buy this book. They really should take a cue from some old sci-fi pulp anthologies and put a little more effort into those covers. The only thing (outside the boobs) that would make someone want to buy that book is Lobo – and the art is so distorted that you wouldn’t know it was supposed to be Lobo at a glance.

Schatz: What can I say? My life is pretty much consumed by comics, and so most of my being is geared towards just talking about them. Practice, practice, practice.

This book was part of a mysterious trend at my store, where the second issue outstrips the sales of the first. It doesn’t happen with all books, but it seems to happen with the smaller books. If I had to guess why, I’d say it’s because there are a lot of shops in this city, and while every shop tries to breed loyalty, some folks just don’t like the idea of having a set list. Which is fine. But what I suspect is happening, is like most stores, these shops are dropping their sales on issue two, before the first issue even hits – and when there’s interest, they don’t correct this – and so, our sales go up, quite noticeably, for two issues, before settling somewhere in between. Anyway, this all came up in my brain, because you were talking about the second cover, and I got to thinking about cover treatments in general, and how more interesting ones lead to sales. (And sales got me off track).

Which brings me to my actual point: how great would this book look if they tossed a few coins in Chip Kidd’s direction and had him pulp the shit out of some space covers.

Reade: That’s exactly what I am talking about. The inside of this book is strong. Is it so hard to come up with a cover that reflects the content on the inside? Is quality cover work really a dead art in the comic industry today?

Schatz: There seems to be a bit of an aversion to the atypical, when it comes to cover design. I mean, a while back, Marvel experimented with changing the cover design of Invincible Iron Man, and you could see that book from across the room, in a sea of others. It was striking, fit the contents, and sold so well, because it succeeded in being something eye-catching and different.

But, they went back to doing what they always do. Because of brand recognition maybe? Whatever. Fact of the matter is, the best covers can tell you what the book is from across the room – or at the very least, can catch your eye from there. It really does translate into sales, if you give people a bit of a nudge when they pick the issue up from the stands.

Batgirl #18, $2.99, DC Comics. Due out 02/09/11 ON TIME
Written by Brian Q. Miller, Pencils by Dustin Nguyen, Color by Guy Major, Ink by Derek Fridolfs

It’s Valentine’s Day! Which means all of a girl’s attention turns to the love of a Witchboy’s cat companion that is terrorizing the city, looking for his mate. To stop this, a cat needs to be picked from a tree, and Cass needs to not die. Things work out. OR DO THEY?

Reade: This series is quickly making me a fan of Miller. He just “gets” these characters. There are few people that can tell a good Klarion story that make you not only appreciate the character, but enjoy him as well. I was nervous about this team-up, but my fears were totally unfounded. This was a great issue.

Schatz: Like a lot of characters and ideas that Grant Morrison has left his stamp on, people have a hard time really hitting the right notes, to make them work. Because seriously, there are a lot of talented guys out there, but you absolutely can’t tackle a lot of Grant’s concepts from the traditional angles. Here, Miller is coming at it all sideways. Basically, instead of creating a more traditional superhero story and dropping Klarion in, he goes the route of a super powered Odd Couple, in which the pair gets to play off each other, rather than hitting tonal loggerheads. It’s pretty much all about taking the characters, finding the chemistry between them, and letting them go – and not only did Miller do this, but he made it happen without feeling the need to strike up a romance. Because ew.

Reade: Yeah, Morrison didn’t really get Klarion either… kind of spoiled him for a new generation of readers. But then, that Seven Soldiers mess is better left unspoken.

Yeah, a romance would have been horrible. But this was pretty well classic Klarion – as annoying as he is, he has a strange ability to get people to go along with him. This was a great Klarion story – the typical stranger in a strange land – extremely powerful with a child-like temperament, sucking Stephanie in for the ride as you watch his skate on the edge of blowing up and crossing a dangerous line at any moment. Fantastic stuff.

Schatz: Klarion wasn’t really ruined for me – but I would say it’s because I had never heard of him before. And man, Seven Soldiers is just one of those books. People either really love it, or really hate it. I applaud what Morrison attempted (and I say attempted, because some people say he accomplished his goals, and others, not so much) – because those minis, you could read just on their own. But when you read them together – and this is made more apparent in the collections, where they are collected as they came out chronologically, bits of the separate stories end up affecting the others in strange and wonderful ways.

But I’m getting a little off topic. Where has Klarion appeared before, Craigers J.? You’ve intrigued me.

Reade: I wouldn’t say that Grant Morrison ruined Klarion… and Seven Soldiers started off decent enough. Trouble is – Morrison’s lost the ability to close a story, and we saw that in Seven Soldiers. The early minis were strong, but as the story progressed… not so much. His Klarion was basically good, but it missed a little of the spirit, I think.

As much as I loathe to recommend a Peter David book, Young Justice: Sins of Youth from 2000 is a decent Klarion story. He’s also got a few appearances in Demon Volume 3 (his origin is in Demon Volume 1).

Schatz: These are things I’ll try and check out for the next list. And hey, remember way back when, when I said I would read Secret Wars and get back to you? I should probably do that too.

Hrm.

Reade: I’m tempted to hold my breath, but I think I’ll just smile and nod.

Heroes for Hire #3, $2.99, Marvel Comics. Due Out 02/09/11 ON TIME
Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, Pencils by Brad Walker, Color by Jay David Ramos and Guru eFX, Ink by Andrew Hennessy

Paladin is assigned by Misty to take break up a human sex trafficking ring – with the help of Moon Knight. Paladin’s got a side job first – surveillance on some of the original Heroes for Hire – the details of which he is hiding from Misty Knight. Moon Knight discovers that the slaves are women from the Savage Land – but further investigation reveals that isn’t the only thing in Bedrock imported from that protected area. Paladin continues his surveilance, only Iron Fist spots him – and a fight ensues.

Schatz: SEX FIGHT!

Ah, no wait, different Iron Fist comic. Also: I should not respond to these things when I’m feeling sleepy. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS.

Fun fact: I am still enjoying the crap out of this comic. I love the conceit, love the execution, love the mystery… and I really enjoyed watching Paladin attempt to put together the overarching mystery while another one continued to play out. Of course, it will all hitch on the impending reveals, but DnA have earned my faith on about a billion different projects.

Reade: You know, I think some things finally started clicking in this issue. Moon Knight was one of them. I absolutely loved that the “heroes” started responding to that lame-ass “Are you for hire?” line a little more in character. I think someone actually acting like a Hero for a change instead of a mercenary did wonders for the tone of this book.

Schatz: And see, this book was always clicking with me, so I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at. I do like the pace they are taking with this mystery, and I’m very interested to see how all of this will work out after that comes to a head.

Reade: Well, you know what I am getting at – when talking about the pace of the mystery… well, until this issue, the pace was “STOP.”

Obviously, we are going to disagree on some things – and I am pretty firm in my opinion that the first two issues were largely fluff. But then, we’ve had this fight, so it’s probably better to focus on the fact that I did enjoy this issue, not that I wasn’t so hot on the last two!

Schatz: I’m willing to do that. But before we move on, I just want to say, I love how DnA can take characters that I could normally not care about, and make them work for me. Which would be pretty much every person in this series so far, but Iron Fist. I love that guy.

But really, Moon Knight? I can do without that guy. But in the span of the issue’s he’s appeared in (issues 1 and 3, I think), I get the sense of what the guy is like, what his motivations are, and more importantly, I care. And that’s pretty rad.

Reade: Oh, Moon Knight, properly written, is an outstanding character. That last ongoing was absolutely horrible – which did a lot of damage to his character. I’m glad to see him back in a role that makes more sense.

Schatz: Moon Knight didn’t really hit my radar until that Charlie Huston ongoing. But to be fair, that was because he really hasn’t been hanging around since I got into comics. Or at least, in the period where I had money enough to buy more than 4 comics a month. Did you know that comics used to run upwards to $4.75 a pop in Canada, for a $2.99 book? And I think $3.75 for a 2.25 book. Ridiculous.

But that’s neither here nor there. I have two thoughts, coming through to the other side of your comment. The first: we should definitely keep getting this. And two: I pretty much need to see your reaction to Bendis and Maleev’s Moon Knight ongoing, that starts in May… because depending on style of Bendis that comes to play, you’re either going to love it, or hate it.

A discussion for another month, definitely.

Birds of Prey #9, $2.99, DC Comics. Due Out 02/09/11 ON TIME
Written by Gail Simone, Art by Inaki Miranda, Color by Nei Ruffino

Black Canary has some disturbing visions as a result of Mortis’s touch, and is completely catatonic. Batman tries to get her to safety. The rest of the Birds, meanwhile, are en route to the Calculator as hostages. Batman gets back with Dinah, and Mortis makes a rookie mistake, and Dinah is able to break her hold. Oracle comes to the rescue… but will it be her last?

Schatz: Oh, the ol’ exploding body trick. It’s a classic for a reason.

I’m still really enjoying this series, probably a little more than the original, because this expanded cast? Just works so, so nicely together. I love the part where Mortis attempts to play the “your friends don’t like you” card, and that’s what turns the tide.

Reade: Oh, you knew the second they said she would never come out of it – she would come out of it.

This run has been a great deal of fun so far. It’s often frantic – as it should be, and Simone just clicks with these characters. I really, really wish that we’d get that regular artist already – but I have to admit I liked the Golden Age style we got on those panels with the original Black Canary….

Schatz: I thought Inaki Miranda did a fantastic job with this issue – and I think that if Jesus Saiz can’t quite make a go of a monthly, I’d love to see him drop in every now and then to help out. Clean lines, with just a small touch of kinetic manga-esque expression. Just a touch. I like it.

And yeah, like you said, it looks as though he’s capable of a few styles, which is always a bonus.

Reade: I would be more than happy if Inaki Miranda stuck around on a regular basis, but we aren’t even getting that. The art has been quality – and I suppose I should be happy with that (since I’ve read so many books with regular, poor art), but I think this book deserves a quality regular artist, whoever that may be.

Schatz: It seems odd that regular artistry is harder and harder to come by – but listening to interviews, a lot of times, it seems to come down to a couple of things: nailing yourself to the drawing board. I know I’ve heard both Mark Bagley and Stuart Immonen say that they don’t really draw faster than any other artists… they just sit down, and do the work until it’s done.

In the case of Birds, I know Ed Benes has always been a little slower on his deadlines, but the other bits come from the every regular DC artist shuffle. For a time, Jamal Igle was slated to take over this book, probably right after those two Alvin Lee issues, but he was moved onto other things, and this last arc, I think, is just keeping pace with artists until Siaz takes over. To be fair, I would not want to have to be any kind of comics editor. Those hours are terrible, and a certain amount of your deadline skills rely on the shoulders of other people. No fun.

Reade: This doesn’t really surprise me – on more than one occasion I’ve lamented the fact that nine times out of ten, a book is late because the artist didn’t bother meeting the deadline. With so many hungry artists, I wish the industry would send the ones that refuse to work packing. Come back when you can meet a deadline – there are other people, just as good, who want to work. What’s going to happen? Said artist goes to Image to do their own stuff, and they still can’t come out on time, and the book sells a tenth as much?

If you aren’t cut out for the monthly serial game, don’t do it. This is the only industry where deadlines seem to mean absolutely nothing. Save for government work.

Schatz: A lot of it is put up with because – quite frankly, comics is a horrible career path for an artist. The money just isn’t there, in comparison to what you can make doing storyboards, or character design or whatever. This is generally why deadlines tend to be a bit looser – it’s mostly about passion, rather than eating food.

Reade: Well, despite the fact that it is a bad job to have overall, there are still talented people lining up who want it.

Schatz: Yup, true story: which is what I love about the medium. For all the internet’s bluster about how comic creators and editors are “only in it for the money” and “don’t actually care about comics”, it definitely is all about passion. There really is no other reason the industry still runs – it should be floundering like most print. And yet.

Reade: Well, to be fair, there isn’t a collector or a cultural element to most print media, and there still isn’t a viable online alternative, yet…

Man, we are excellent at going off-topic today.

Schatz: That’s because we don’t ever talk like this anymore, Craigers J., you lovable scamp.

And the digital thing might not really find a good collectible angle. It’s not built into its DNA. Print media has scarcity built into it – once things are gone, they’re gone. Digital will make a great way to keep products available indefinitely, but print objects will always find a home. This is exactly why vinyl has seen a resurgence lately.

Reade: Freeing comics from the collectible angle is what is going to make it grow. I’ve done it myself, but the reason comics don’t gain more popular appeal is because of the reputation the physical comic books have. You can like Spider-Man, but actually read a comic? That’s not even a kid thing anymore, to some it’s a “loser” thing. Part of that reputation comes from the way the current consumers treat the product. Digital changes that – and changes it for the better if you ask me.

Schatz: Well, there’s just a stigma attached to comics. And really, it all comes down to comic shops. No seriously, some fans can be a bit… well, you know, but it’s the presentation and atmosphere of comic book shops that give the product a stigma. And the whole digital comics thing is really going to help do away with the ones that cater too narrowly, leaving the stronger ones behind. Really, it’s just going to strengthen the whole industry, once everything shakes out.

Hack/Slash #1, $3.50, Image Comics. Due Out 02/9/2011 ON TIME
Written by Tim Seely, Art by Daniel Leister, Color by Mark Englert

The story opens with slashy murder! Which, considering this is a book about such things, is perfectly okay. We then retreat and find out where all of our favourite characters are. Cass and Vlad are out, kicking ass and taking names. Cat Curio has just awoken and is on the search for her killer. And her killer is… well, doing something. We’re not sure what yet. First, we have to get into the crux of the current mystery, which involves a make-out point and acid. There’s a reveal. It’s a little chilling and involves boobs.

Reade: A character guide! What a shocking addition for a brand new #1 at a new publisher!

This was a great first issue. There was a ton of exposition, but Seely made sure you knew who everyone was and what they were doing. Good thing too – I stopped reading this a while ago because of my issues with Devil’s Due, and I had no idea who most of these characters were. But the additions are great – Nancy Drew all grown up after being in a coma, and out for revenge? And alien dog talking about his penis-knowledge? Seely’s really rounded out his cast here, and I like it.

Schatz: I’ve been following the series off and on through the years, recently just picking up trades, until the Image move. I always find this series to be just… so odd, in terms of what I usually collect – because the concept screams cheesecake, and the contents deliver it, and that sort of thing just never appealed to me. I mean… yay boobs and everything, but hording boats of boob art always just seemed a little sad to me.

But the thing is… this is a book that plays off of those tropes. It takes the idea of slasher movies, and creates a world around it, and the fact is, if you created a slasher world, this is probably a pretty accurate depiction of what you’d get. It’s told in a very smart fashion, even when it aims for low humor, and has done some surprising things, over the course of the past several years, resulting in the cast that you’re seeing now.

And for the record? This is one of the very, very few books at our store that has a higher female readership than it does a male readership. Which is equal parts strange and fitting.

Reade: That’s really not a surprise. When you look at all of the other female protagonists in comics – there is always a “male love interest” that she pines for or needs rescued by, some emotional weakness that dents her authority. Gail Simone’s Wonder Woman even had that for crying out loud. Cassie Hack is the exact opposite of that. She’s tough, in charge (firmly in charge) and on a mission – probably one of the best examples of female protagonists in comics today.

Sure, there is a little salaciousness… but you have to have it. As you pointed out, Boobs have always been slasher-bait. That partial nudity is a hallmark of the genre.

Schatz: I always feel weird about it all though. I mean, in my head, it all makes sense, because of all the reasons we’ve said, but there’s still a part of my brain that says, “You’re just making excuses for boobs, and you should feel bad about that.”

Fact is, as well as this book works, it definitely is what it is. And it’s the kind of book that a random girl will pick up at your house, hold up and go, “This? Really? This is what comics are?” And then its explanation time – and no matter how you phrase that argument, you’re going to lose that battle, unless you have something like New York Five close at hand, to help show the variety, instead of attempting to explain with a lack of actual evidence.

These could just be my own personal issues, though.

Reade: Brandon, there is nothing wrong with boobs, per se. Boobs are just fine. As long as that isn’t the only thing representing women in the book. That’s the issue I take sometimes when people get a little up-in-arms over the presentation of women in comics. It’s ok to draw pictures of attractive women. It is even ok for straight men and some women to like looking at pictures of attractive women. The issue arises when the only purpose the woman serves in the book is to be something for a guy to drool over.

Cassie Hack stands head and shoulders above most comic heroines in her competence and self-reliance. There is no one who could make a serious case that she is a victim in this book. I think they’ve earned the right to have fun with a little partial nudity.

As far as explaining it – there is a simple answer to that. Tell her to read it. If she isn’t willing to do that, it’s her failing, not yours. And if you don’t care what she thinks, and are just looking for something more base – well that’s your own stupid fault for leaving a comic book out for her to find

Schatz: I usually reserve fare like this for when I’m moving a person from the weed, to the coke. Which I should probably explain.

I treat my job as a comic shop guy, and my private life as a fan as though I am a drug dealer. You always want to start off with the least offensive thing you have, but you still want to open up the person’s mind to the larger world. An old employee used to try recommending Crisis to people getting into comics, because it was a classic, but if you do that, you’re probably just going to end up giving someone a bad trip. I agree that this comic is good, but the art would probably need a bit of easing, if I were to try and sell this to someone cold. Or, you know, no easing at all, if this is what the person is into, but that doesn’t really fit with my point.

What I’m saying is, the art, such as it is, would bring about a pretty visceral reaction, I think, and I’d probably start someone elsewhere, before bringing them to this. But I like the shape of your idea. This book does work, because Cassie is pretty much never the victim – and when she is, it’s only to make the impending skull crush all the more sweet.

Booster Gold #41, $2.99, DC Comics. Due Out 02/16/11 ON TIME
Written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis, Art by Chris Batista & Rich Perrotta, Color by Hi-Fi

Rip and Booster have it out over his “arrest,” but are interrupted by Doctor Nishtikeit’s attack. There is a battle, and once it is complete, Rip takes Booster to the future to stand trial.

Schatz: If this book feels like it’s building to something – that’s because it is. Giffen and DeMatteis are off the book in two more issues, and Dan Jurgens is taking it back over. Which… man, I hope means this team is shifting over to some kind of JLI type ongoing. Because please, DC? Haven’t we been good? And aren’t we acting cool, even though you just shot the Jamie Blue Beetle in the head too? (I think he’s going to get better, but still. Seriously.) Do this for me.

Oh, and uh… this series is still good. They sort of did a slow build with the little girl Booster saved from the future, and while that makes me worried for her, it also made me a touch misty, when they had their scenes together.

Reade: How typical of DC. You have an awesome thing going, so what do you do? Shake-up the creative teams!

Stupid DC. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I don’t want any kind of JLI ongoing if it means losing what we have on this book. Dan Jurgens is ok – but I lost interest in this book during Jurgens’s run. A creative shift is the worst possible news right now.

Magus #2, $3.99, 12 Gauge Comics. Due out 01/12/11 DELAYED – RELEASED 02/09/11
Written by Jon Price, Art by Rebekah Isaacs, Color by Charlie Kirchoff

After a short dream sequence/fantasy, Andrew Johnson tries to grapple with the implications of magic returning to the world. The President fears the world to come, but all the while he doesn’t suspect that his own wife has magical gifts of her own. Meanwhile, Denae, Father Swain, Darius, and Ben go off in search of Lena Cullen, and Denae explains to the boys a little something about the history of magic, and the origin and role of the Guardians, of which Denae is one. Lena is tracked by some agents of the sanitarium she escaped from – but before they can capture her, Darius’s dream begins to come true… to a certain point. Only in reality it doesn’t quite work out as it did in the dream. They still manage to protect Lena, with the help of a reformed Inquisitor named Samuel.

Schatz: I definitely liked this issue a whole lot more than the last. There’s definitely a lot less of the whole… damsel in distress thing that happened in the first one, and a lot more plot. A lot more plot. It made me happy.

Reade: There is an absolute ton going on here. Almost too much – I have no idea what kind of writing experience Jon Price has, but this story could be a little tighter. A small complaint really – I’ll gladly take a little too much stuff with a strong story than a slow, plodding, “deliberately paced” pad-fest. But it’s unique – there is a lot going on here, a lot of pieces in play, and it is a concept that could last for some time. I’m definitely interested in seeing what happens next month.

I’m thinking that this isn’t the last of the damsel in distress stuff – but it might be a little more balanced here on out. Whichever guy is the one they are looking for is going to be a bumbling idiot for a while I think.

Schatz: I believe this is Price’s first published comic book work. Apparently, he and Isaacs met after Isaacs left her Devil’s Due work (because they stopped paying their freelancers properly) and pitched some things out together. And also, started dating. But I don’t really think that’s neither here nor there. They pitched the book, and it got accepted, and here it is. Not bad for a writer’s first gig, I think.

And yeah, I think we’re on the same page as terms of plot? But I got high hopes, just like that song, Tik Tok, by Ke$ha.

Reade: Well, that’s one way to go about it. It is hard enough for an aspiring writer to get a reliable artist to collaborate with them – if you ask me, Jon Price has the right idea!

You are absolutely right. This is incredibly strong, even for a new writer’s first effort. Plot is solid – actually, I think this is a fantastic example of what a deliberate pace is supposed to be. The overall flow of the story is carefully creeping forward, but there is still stuff going on – pieces moving, slowly building… what this book has is what is missing from all of those other so-called “deliberately paced” books I complain about are missing. This isn’t a story that is stretched out – the overall plot is carefully advancing, while the mini-plots are streaming along quickly enough to keep your interest. 12 Gauge definitely has something to be proud of here.

Schatz: What I think a lot of 12 issue story arcs need? Not so much a shortening, but they need to build things like some of the better TV shows build their seasons. Tell your story, but build other ones inside, that pay off and build as you go. John Rogers (a TV writer) did this the best on Blue Beetle – pretty much every issue was a one-and-done, but it built to an amazing finale. I definitely get that feeling here.

Schatz: Not so much in the “mini-stories” kind of way, but just in the general, overall technique.

Uncanny X-Force #5, $3.99, Marvel Comics. Due Out 02/16/11 ON TIME
Written by Rick Remender, Pencils by Esao Ribic, Color by Matt Wilson, Ink by John Lucas

We get a brief into to Weapon Infinity through the eyes of Fantomex, and an even briefer look at The World. Wolverine bitches about being in too many books, Deadpool is feeling guilty about Apokolips getting whacked, and wants a group therapy session. After an argument, we learn that Deadpool’s motivations aren’t as mercenary as everyone else thought. Fantomex goes home and has a chitchat with his Mom, but is attacked by Deathlok’s Avengers, who are after The World.

Schatz: This issue is another good use of some Morrison ideas – one that I loved (Fantomex) and one that, uh… I don’t quite think worked, the first time around (The World). I always thought the shape of that idea was nice, but the story arc he wrote in New X-Men didn’t quite latch. Here, I think it does. And man, that’s a pretty awesome hiding place.

Fun fact: this story is actually a sequel, in a way, to Jason Aaron’s Deathlok story in Wolverine Weapon X (which we dumped). Thus far? Interesting.

Reade: Well, the story is a bit interesting, though I really thought the introduction killed the mood of this book. A stumble – one they recovered from, but I was quickly losing interest. I still despise the art on this book (more specifically the color – yes Matt Wilson, IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT), and I think the story tries to be a little smarter than it needs to be sometimes. But – I’m willing to keep reading it.

Until we have to make a choice, anyway…

Schatz: Do’hhhhhhh Craig, always with the specter of doom. Yeah, this month is riddled with some good comics, things might get tough in a little bit when we have to do some cutting, or adding or whatever.

The intro was a little slow, I’ll admit that. Very much a “just in case you don’t know” thing, mixed with the team unpacking some metaphorical baggage from the previous arc. And hey, all of this has the hallmark of the classic, “just when everyone appears to be screwed, Deadpool has a change of heart and returns to save the day with violence” thing, and I want to read that.

The colouring, I can’t get behind you on. The colours appeal to me, and fit this book, and there’s nary a place where I find it distracting me from the more immediate concerns of the book. Normally I’m with you more on the issue of Marvel’s colourists loving a darker palette, but here… I’m not seeing it.

Reade: I don’t know what to say – the parts about this book that aren’t working are the ones where they seem to be trying to be darker and “edgier” than they really need to be. I realize it is totally subjective, but there it is.

On the plus side, It’s nice to be able to enjoy Deadpool again. He’s been pretty seriously mishandled for a while now. Oddly enough, he’s more popular than ever. I’ll never figure it out.

Schatz: I think Marvel has listened a bit to the murmur of Deadpool folk… which is why he’s trickling down to his regular title, and the MAX title (which is just FANTASTICALLY offensive) in terms of books he headlines. But yeah, I have to agree, the way he’s written here is pretty tops.

Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man #11, $2.99, Marvel Comics. Due Out 02/23/11 ON TIME
Written by Paul Tobin, Art by Matteo Lolli and Terry Pallot, Color by Chris Sotomayor

While in Florida, Spider-Man and his girlfriend Chat stumble across the Lizard! Turns out, Curt Conners was working down south with the help of Chat’s cousin, in order to cure himself. There’s swamp fighting, and it’s grand.

Reade: Swamp fights, chicken armies, red neck posses, and editors pointing speech balloons at the wrong characters! It’s mass hysteria!

Schatz: I didn’t catch that last one anywhere. Normally, that really, really bothers me. This line of books is in a bit of transition between Nate Cosby and Steve Wacker, in terms of editorial, but still. That’s no fun.

Hey, so remember that time I told you that these stories were rad? Paul Tobin has absolutely been killing it on this book – and the companion Superheroes book. And the best thing ever? Last week, Chat appeared in the regular Marvel U Spider-Girl book. And I freaked out, because of how awesome she is here.

Reade: Check the first panel of the very last page of the story, where Chat tells Peter how amazed she was when he summoned all of those animals…

Schatz: Bother. It is right there, isn’t it.

It’s unfortunate when things like that happen – and normally, they pull my concentration out of the comic. That said, despite the small little snafu, this comic really fires on all cylinders. While it didn’t contain it’s over-arcing story (the feud with the Torrinos) it’s always nice to have little break issues. Now, this book doesn’t actually need things like that, because of the way its constructed, but all in all, it was a fun distraction. And man, do I love seeing Aunt May give Pete a hard time about his giiiiiiiiirl friend.

Reade: Oh yeah, plain as day.

I know it was a complete mistake, but something so blatant I kind of have to point out. Remember how we talk about artists lining up to do the work that slow artists won’t do? I’d love to be a Marvel editor… and when I see really blatant things like that, I just cringe.

Anyway, it was a fun issue regardless… though I’m kind of on the side of the fence where it isn’t really “all ages” or “kid friendly” for a parent/guardian to allow a teenage boy to go on vacation with his girlfriend, especially with non-direct parental supervision. That one kind of skirt the line.

And here I am bitching again. That’s the thing about the Marvel Adventures books – they are fun, basic stories. But they can also be generic… which brings out problems much more clearly.

Schatz: Well, here’s the thing about “kids” and “all ages” books – kids don’t really want to read them. Fun fact: prose books about teens are made with the pre-teen market in mind. Books about college people are made with teens in mind. Comics should just be made, not so much with kids or adults in mind – they should just work in general. I mean, obviously, a Vertigo book should remain a Vertigo book, but you get what I mean.

LATE AND UNRELEASED ISSUES

Reade: Not unexpectedly, Magus is still late. Issue 2 came out, which is great – but the eventual release of issue #3 is still pending. 12 Gauge posted on their Facebook Page that the issue was going to the printer about a month ago – not sure what that means for an eventual release date.

In other weird news, the solicitation for issue #4 did not have Rebekah Isaacs listed as the artist – but this appears to have been a mistake as well (since confirmed a mistake by Jon Price).

I love Independent books, but this kind of thing seems to be more the rule than the exception. Knowing I will be overly critical about the situation with this title – what’s your take on these bumps?

Schatz: Comics tend to go off to the printer about three-and-a-half weeks in advance, so that they can ship to the printer, to the distributor/publisher, and then to the comic shops. Each place, they got to be processed and sent to the right people. It’s a thing. Anyway, they probably weren’t lying about the printer thing. It looks like it will be at the printer next week – just a month after the last.

And don’t even get me started about Diamond and solicitations. The amount of things we have to change, every week, is stupid.

That said, I’m actually still cool with Magus. While I’d be loathe to get rid of anything else, either, I have to say, I wouldn’t get rid of it for lateness, when it’s shipping a month from its last date.

Reade: Oh no, I’m not prepared to drop it for being late – and since it appears to be a mini, I don’t think it will have time to run afoul of the 2 month late-limit. So I’m good with it.

Schatz: Awesome.

THE LIST SO FAR:

Magus #3 (of 5), $3.99, 12 Gauge Comics. Due out 02/16/11 DELAYED – DUE OUT 03/??/11
Heroes for Hire #4, $2.99, Marvel Comics. Due Out 03/02/11
Weird Worlds #3 (of 6), $3.99, DC Comics. Due Out 03/09/11
Batgirl #19, $2.99, DC Comics. Due out 03/09/11
Birds of Prey #10, $2.99, DC Comics. Due Out 03/09/11
Hack/Slash #2, $3.50, Image Comics. Due Out 03/09/2011
Booster Gold #42, $2.99, DC Comics. Due Out 03/09/11
Generation Hope #5, $2.99, Marvel Comics. Due Out 03/16/11
Uncanny X-Force #6, $3.99, Marvel Comics. Due Out 03/23/11
Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man #12, $2.99, Marvel Comics. Due Out 03/23/11
Magus #4 (of 5), $3.99, 12 Gauge Comics. Due out 03/23/11
Astonishing Spider-Man/Wolverine #5, $3.99, Marvel Comics. Due Out 03/23/11

TRADE BANK – $3.00
Current February Budget: $46.48
Value of uncut February List: $44.60

Reade: Once again, we find ourselves in a particularly sticky situation. With just $1.88 left in the budget for next month, we do not have enough room to add any new titles. We also still haven’t added anything to the Trade Bank, and I’d at least like to add $2-3 this month.

Compounding the problem, at least for me – this month Marvel’s starting the CrossGen reimagining, with both Sigil and Ruse, and I’d like to be able to add at least one, if not both of those titles to the list this month.

So how to you propose we resolve this one?

Schatz: I’m excited about the CrossGen books – but I have to admit, the only CrossGen I read, before their fall, was an issue of Meridian, and all the Abadazad’s that shipped. Anyway, I say we do the tough thing, and get rid of a couple of books to add both of these books to the docket.

If I were to pick the bottom four of this pack – which I like all of, it would be Birds of Prey, Booster Gold, Hack/Slash, and… jeeze… uhhhh… Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine.

Bother. That hurt.

Reade: I’m with you on Astonishing Spider-Man/Wolverine… I’d rather have two consistent monthlies than an inconsistent bi-monthly any day.

DROPPED: Astonishing Spider-Man/Wolverine #5, $3.99, Marvel Comics. Due Out 03/23/11

Reade: This means we can accomplish our objective by dropping one more title. And outside Astonishing Spider-Man/Wolverine… your bottom four are weird man! If I had to pick 3 among the remaining list, it would be Uncanny X-Force, Heroes for Hire, and Marvel Adventures Spider-Man – the latter only because it is always a title you can walk away from for a while and come back later.

However, if I had to settle for one of your remaining 3 – I’d pick Booster Gold. Painful.

Schatz: I love Uncanny and I definitely think we owe it to ourselves to keep holding onto Heroes until the end. But! I have a proposal for you. How about we knock another one or two off the list and see if we have room for Annihilators. It’s the new DnA cosmic series – this time only four issues, running at $4.99 a pop. Which seems steep, but it’s got DnA’s team of cosmic Avengers and the Rocket Raccoon and Groot feature that was announced last year. That’s two full length books for the price of two – and we’re pretty much guaranteed to both enjoy the series.

And to do this, I’m willing to… buh… willing to drop Uncanny and Heroes, if need be.

Reade: I’ll admit I am excited about that series as well, and quite honestly if we are going to have a DnA book on the list, I would much rather it be that one.

This is how it is shaping up – we need to free up roughly $8.15 on the list to get all three titles – and this is after Astonishing Spider-Man/Wolverine. So I don’t think there is much choice in the matter – the price for all three is dropping Booster Gold, Uncanny X-Force, and Heroes for Hire. There is no other really acceptable way to work it.

Schatz: I’ll agree to that, as much as it all sort’ve smarts. But the new stuff should be keen.

Reade: OK then – here’s the massive shift!

DROPPED: Heroes for Hire #4, $2.99, Marvel Comics. Due Out 03/02/11
DROPPED: Booster Gold #42, $2.99, DC Comics. Due Out 03/09/11
DROPPED: Uncanny X-Force #6, $3.99, Marvel Comics. Due Out 03/23/11

ADDED: Annihilators #1, $4.99, Marvel Comics. Due Out 03/02/11
ADDED: Sigil #1, $2.99, Marvel Comics. Due Out 03/09/11
ADDED: Ruse #1, $2.99, Marvel Comics. Due Out 03/16/11

DEPOSIT: To the Trade Bank – $2.50

THE MATH

Magus #3 (of 5), $3.99, 12 Gauge Comics. Due out 02/16/11 DELAYED – DUE OUT 03/??/11
Annihilators #1, $4.99, Marvel Comics. Due Out 03/02/11
Weird Worlds #3 (of 6), $3.99, DC Comics. Due Out 03/09/11
Sigil #1, $2.99, Marvel Comics. Due Out 03/09/11
Batgirl #19, $2.99, DC Comics. Due out 03/09/11
Birds of Prey #10, $2.99, DC Comics. Due Out 03/09/11
Hack/Slash #2, $3.50, Image Comics. Due Out 03/09/2011
Ruse #1, $2.99, Marvel Comics. Due Out 03/16/11
Generation Hope #5, $2.99, Marvel Comics. Due Out 03/16/11
Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man #12, $2.99, Marvel Comics. Due Out 03/23/11
Magus #4 (of 5), $3.99, 12 Gauge Comics. Due out 03/23/11

Trade Bank Value: $5.50

$2.18 (Bank from February) + $40.00 (March Budget) + $4.30 (Magus #3) = $46.48
$46.48 – $2.50 (Trade Bank Deposit) – $38.40 (March Issues) – $2.97 (tax) = $2.61 Banked for March

Reade: Well now, that ought to freshen things up a bit.

Schatz: And man, looking at that list, it’s going to be hard to come up with a cutting plan for next month. Gosh dang.

Reade: Well, the only thing in our favor is that I expect by that time, we will know for sure that Magus #5 will not be out at all in April, giving us one hole. Otherwise, you are right. Unless CrossMarvel sucks, we are going to have a strong month.

Schatz: With Mark Waid writing up some Ruse without Alessi throwing the weird CrossGen bible at him, that should be good. And Mike Carey is usually impressive when left to his own creative devices. I’m really excited.

Reade: As am I. I never actually thought this would happen – and here it is. Next Marvel is going to launch an Abnett & Lanning/ChrisCross Slingers ongoing on me. I might die.

Schatz: DO NOT FREAK ME OUT, CRAIG. I would straight up murder some folks for that book to happen.

Reade: You know what is sad? That book is 12 years old. There are comic readers now who were not alive when Slingers came out.

I guess that goes to show that I am serious about my love of those characters – but it also means I am old.

Schatz: If it helps, a lot of people who were around don’t remember that book either.

Tear.

Reade: Man, way to end the column on a downer.

Schatz: Craig, no one cares about the status of your penis.

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