Monday, November 29, 2004

No opportunity for any serious bloggery today, but I have time to give in to my ongoing compulsion to bore you with- I mean enlighten you about- what I'll be getting this Wednesday according to the new Diamond shipping list:


Looks like a welcome respite for my overly burdened checkbook. I might also pick up a copy of Bipolar 1, if they have a copy at my comics shop, never a given with books of that nature.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

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What I bought and what I thought, week of November 24

The Losers dig themselves a deeper hole in part two of "The Pass", the told-in-flashback tale of how our embattled group came to find themselves in their current predicament. Yeah, true, it's one big action-movie simulacrum all the way...but longtime readers are rewarded with a gripping sequence in which we finally get to see silent marksman Cougar meet the figure in the dark which has been haunting his dreams since issue one, plus the usual snappy, sharp dialogue and lotsa fast-paced and exciting action. As with last issue, there were probably better-written and drawn and more deeply significant stories told this week, but I know for damn sure that none of them were as entertaining. And kids, don't adjust your comic book or your eyeballs- the color's like that because it's a flashback. A

I know this may come as a big surprise to most of you, but sometimes I have been known to be wrong. Yep, it's true. Here's a great example of my latest incorrect assumption. I was not exactly looking forward to this new Jingle Belle mini; I was extremely disappointed with the lackluster cartooning and heavy handed satire in 2002's Cool Yule collection and last year's Dash Away All suffered from a yawn-inducing, seen-that script and really horrible, barely-legible pencil art from Jose Garibaldi. With Garibaldi coming back, I considered not even picking this up, like I did with Dash Away All- but such is my love for the character from the beginning that I added it to my holds anyway...and boys and girls, I'm very glad I did. Paul Dini has rarely, if ever, written sharper and funnier satire than this issue's lead, in which Jing creates an animated holiday video to increase her profile among the kids of the world, but is soon confronted with the studio "creative" types who make wholesale changes. Very nice, especially after previous Jingle Belles and the equally obvious and heavy-handed Batman: Harley and Ivy issue 4. And oh my God- Garibaldi does a GREAT job on the art! Gasp! His work looks much better fully colored than it did in its previous two outings, no doubt about it. He does a wonderful job visually satirizing those Rankin-Bass characters of yore as well. Mea culpa, Mr. Garibaldi. And my losing streak continues with the second story, a spotlight for Dini's teenage witch Polly Green which sees her dealing with her greedy and thoughtless family, who want her to conjure up extravagant Christmas presents for all of them. A bit like Harry Potter's Muggle family, I suppose. It's innocuous, sitcom-ish humor, a little far-fetched and not terrible if not especially great. But again, Dini gets a fine art job from Stephanie Gladden, who recently expressed her bemusement or perhaps annoyance at my faint-praise-damning via Phil-Foglio-comparison of her art. Steph, I was wrong. Your art, while still strongly reminiscent of Foglio's cartooning (of which I'm not really a fan), also shows a strong Barks influence and I found it lively and enjoyable in the service of the story. Ya did good, and I hope to see more someday. See? I don't mind being wrong, if I'm entertained in the process! A good start, and hopefully the next three will be as strong as the first. A

In which we begin to see that Holden has his devious side, as well, and he takes a huge risk by bringing in his psychopathic lover Miss Misery into his plan. Another rock-solid chapter, marred only slightly by a diversion in which we meet a character named "Fag Hag", who gets powers by draining the life energy from homosexuals. Har har. But y'know, I trust Ed Brubaker enough to think that this will have a point somewhere down the line. It becomes redundant to praise Sean Phillips' art, but I especially liked this issue's bright, eye-catching cover with its sharply representative image of Miss M snogging our "hero" even as she prepares to stab him in the back. That's our girl. A-

Deena comes to grips with her imposed abilities, while the other powered beings of the world, currently suppressed and outlawed, begin to resist. I still maintain that no matter how thin Bendis spreads himself, he saves his best for this book. Mike Avon Oeming is solid as usual. And as usual, this issue isn't likely to convert any unbelievers, but for we faithful, it will suffice. A-

You can say many things about this diverting Space Opera, but you can't say that it's dull. Adam tangles with nasty Thanagarians, including a kinky female ship's captain who doesn't get along with her superiors and has a thing for our boy as well. Call me crazy, but I think she's gonna help out our hero eventually at some point. Great action and sharp dialogue, or a typical Andy Diggle script. Pascual Ferry shines as well, with his low-key and muted but always kinetic and dynamic art. A-

More flashbacks, as we find out more about the history between Matt Murdock and the first Kingpin, Mr. Bont, who has DD at his mercy with a reluctant Gladiator serving as his weapon. The Legion of Bendis Detractors will, I'm sure, find numerous nits to pick in their charming wannabe "Little-Boy-Who-Points-Out-the-Emperor-is-Naked" manner, but I'm having none of it... I see fascinating character interaction, a bit talky maybe but so effing what, and clever, imaginative art by Alex Maleev. You say potato, I say po-tah-to. A-

Strong rebound from the last two issues, as we begin to find out exactly how nasty Johnny-boy's demon-spawned kiddies can be. Mike Carey is doing a fine job of constructing trouble mazes out of JC's past history. Still disappointing is Leo Manco's art, which isn't terrible but has all the rough edges he's shown previously all sanded off, and it's the worse for it, almost looking John Ridgeway-ish, which brings us back to the title's beginnings for what that's worth. B+
Image Hosted by The throne of time
Is a kingly thing
From whence you know
We all do begin
And dressed as you are girl
In your fashions of fate
Baby it's too late

Shallow are the actions
Of the children of men
Fogged was their vision
Since the ages began
And lost like a lion
In the canyons of smoke
Girl it's no joke.

"Monolith" is a great Marc Bolan/T.Rex song, from arguably his/their best album, Electric Warrior. And I know it has less than nothing to do with DC Comics series The Monolith, but I can't help but have that song playing in the iPod in my brain when I read the book. That's just the way things go in my head. Scary place, that. Anyway, the Monolith. The comic book series. I've read all nine issues in one setting, you know- and I feel like opining. For the fjords. No, wait, that's pining. Anyway.

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<br /> When I was a little kid, say about 6 or 7 years old, few things gave me more joy than to read the new issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. One of the things I liked the most were the picture features on certain films, which more often as not contained synopses of the films featured. One such spotlight was cast on the 1920 silent film Der Golem, which showed me several stills from the movie. Made a deep impression on me, it did- I would doodle, in my quaint and charming 6-year-old way, pictures of Paul Wegener's big stone guy with the funky Prince Valiant 'do, and I always hoped I'd get a chance to see the movie, on PBS or some other outlet for horror films. Sorry to say, I never did get to see it when I was a kid, and soon moved on to other, more accessible monsters. However, it did impress upon my youthful brain pan a more than fleeting interest in the folklore and legend of The Golem, and I did get to see a book or two as I grew older which satisfied my curiosity for the most part. I FINALLY got to see the film which touched my imagination many years later, in 1999 I think it was, when I ordered a copy from the fine folks at Sinister Cinema. Eagerly, I popped it in the VCR and was rewarded with one hell of an odd film- quite stagy and more than a little dull, as silent films tend to be, but also very arresting in certain places, such as the ahead-of-its-time scene in which the Golem is brought to life, with its eerie floating demon mask-head and smoky floating Hebrew characters, and any scene in which Wegener strutted his Golem-y stuff. I was a tad disappointed, since I had only had what- 33 years? -in which to be curious and wonder what it was like, so I suppose disappointment was inevitable. That being said, my interest in the Hebraic folklore aspect of the Golem legend continued unabated. One of the most interesting things- to me, anyway- about Michael Chabon's book The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay was its subplot involving Josef Kavalier's involvement with a Golem. Of course, I still haven't finished the darn thing yet, so I don't know how it all turned out.

Which finally brings me, in typical roundabout fashion, to The Monolith, by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Phil Winslade. Tomm Coker performed fill-in art chores on issues 6-8. The Monolith in question, of course, is a Golem- a huge man made of stone and brought to life to battle oppression and organized crime in Depression-era New York by a Jewish woman, her Rabbi, and a Chinese friend, abetted by the blood of a young man cruelly shot by thugs. After a while, he came to be sealed up in a house which belonged to the woman, named Alice Cohen, where he stayed until the woman's death in the present day. She leaves everything she has- money, house, to her granddaughter (also named Alice) who has been living the junkie life on the streets of New York. She finds out about her inheritance, but of course there's a catch...the key stipulation is that she cleans up and finds gainful employment. At first unbelieving, then eventually skeptically accepting, she does rehab and in the process discovers her grandmother's secret: the Golem, still "alive" and living sealed behind a brick wall in her basement. Through a series of circumstances, the Monolith is freed and resumes his task- righting wrongs and punishing evildoers in the City every night. Alice lives in the house, with her best friend Tilt, who was a prostitute and shared Alice's dissolute lifestyle but is determined to get out of the life and help her friend out with her unexpected secret. The book has so far been divided into arcs of three- 1-3 dealing with Alice's difficulties with Tilt's pimp, discovering her inheritance, and coming to terms with the Monolith, intercut with flashbacks detailing the creation of the creature and the subsequent events. #'s 3-5 continued the flashbacks, along with a present-day story about a line of priests, beholden to the Mob and watching over a Lovecraftian being in the church in which they live. #'s 6-8 were the inevitable Batman crossover, and #9 begins a new storyline, which involves the creation of a metal Golem and a tragic turn of events for Tilt.

I mentioned Kavalier and Clay because I just gotta believe that subplot influenced this: the New York setting, the Hebrew life in the Depression, and so on. The biggest strength, story-wise, is the scope of this project and how all the diverse characters introduced so far interact and are connected. It's certainly ambitious. I think Gray and Palmiotti have done a fine job of making his principals well-rounded, three-dimensional characters, neither completely good or bad but just doing what they have to do to survive and get along, and as a result, I cared about threats to granddaughter Alice and Tilt, and also found myself liking the well-meaning rabbi and poor grandmother Alice, who falls in love then a few minutes later sees her man shot down in the street, and feels sympathy and pity for the stone creature with what seems to be her lover's spirit. The strongest story arc is still the first, although I liked the Batman crossover with reservations. On the negative side, the whole thing feels like, to me, that Gray and Palmiotti knew from the onset that they would get canned sooner rather than later, and the scripts have all been forced-seeming and rushed affairs- with events that should have taken several issues to unfold, i.e. Alice's detox and the fate of Tilt and Alice's tormenting pimp, being resolved, sometimes, from one page to the next. The Batman crossover depended on a lot of coincidences and G & P didn't really seem to have a good handle on Batman's character, how he would react and so on. These are not major faults, just quibbles, but they stood out to me.

No major complaints whatsoever about the art, though- I've liked Winslade's work since I first saw it in the long-ago Vertigo limited series Goddess. He has a fast-and-loose way of drawing figures that reminds me a lot of Gene Colan or Don Newton, perhaps, but rendered with a strong ink line that recalls Alfredo Alcala. His city scenes are lavishly and lovingly rendered. If I have to nitpick, I could complain about how incongruous it seems to me that our Monolith is so extremely cut-and-buffed and hypermuscled, like the Hulk...I guess the Rabbi was Michalangelo-like in his sculpting skills, and all this done in a dark sewer tunnel! But again, this is not a major complaint. Tomm Coker was less effective, art-wise, compared to Winslade on his stint, but he still did a solid job, especially in distinguishing the facial features of the cast. He made Tilt look as Asian as she was meant to be, something which Winslade didn't quite do. Make no mistake, though- this book clicks with Winslade- he seems to have put a lot into this project.

Which makes it such a shame that it's been cancelled with issue 12, yet another great, but short-lived fell-between-the-cracks DC series in that unfortunate Chase, Young Heroes in Love, and Major Bummer tradition. I found Monolith flawed, but still very engrossing and highly recommendable. I hope the last three issues live up to the standard of the first nine.
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Time now to finish this week's edition of JOHNNY B's FEARLESS NFL PIGSKIN PROGNOSTICATIONS!

This weekend is "Throwback Weekend" in the NFL, which means that almost every team will be wearing unis that were worn at some juncture in the team's history, hence the Dallas Cowboys wearing their white and dark-blue togs that they wore in their initial season in the very early 60s, and so on. My Falcons will be attired, I'll bet, in red jerseys with those great red helmets and the calm falcon logo (as opposed to the aggressive one they have now) once more. If I had my druthers, they'd be clad in the circa 1970 black jerseys with the red helmets, but I don't, obviously. One very cool thing about the annual Throwback Weekend is the uniforms of the San Diego Chargers, as shown above- they go back and wear their 60's-70's look powder blues, with those great-looking white helmets with numbers on the side. Normally, I despise powder blue anything, especially baseball uniforms a la the Braves and Royals in the 70s...but for some reason those Chargers unis work, and work well. I think everybody in the world that cares wishes to see them wear those uniforms all the time, except for Chargers management. And guess who always wins that argument. I'll tell ya, if I was a moneyed man or rap star, even (MC Johnny B), I'd be wearing me one of those baby blue Chargers jerseys. Word.

Anyway, picks. I went a big fat 2-0 on Thanksgiving...but weren't those two of the most absolutely WORST games ever? Gah- the Colts-Lions game was over at the half, if not actually sooner, and the Bears and Cowboys just went three-and-out for what seemed like FOREVER until RB Julius Jones finally goosed the 'Boys and they scored a couple of TDs. The rest of my picks go something like this:

TAMPA BAY over Carolina
CINCINNATI over Cleveland
HOUSTON over Tennessee
KANSAS CITY over San Diego (but it won't be the uni's fault)
MINNESOTA over Jacksonville
NEW ENGLAND over Baltimore
PHILADELPHIA over the NY Giants
PITTSBURGH over Washington
ATLANTA over New orleans
NY JETS over Arizona
SAN FRANSISCO over Miami (in the WHO CARES Bowl)
SEATTLE over Buffalo (this one scares me, though)
DENVER over Oakland
GREEN BAY over St. Louis

And that's all, folks! Come back later- more to come, including some honest to goodness COMICS-related stuff!
Image Hosted by A couple of quickie posts, just to get warmed up after the lack of blogactivity the last couple days. I've been finding myself awake lately at the wee hours, watching television and upon occasion checking out MTV and VH1 as I scroll through the channels. This is, of course, the time when they actually show music videos (remember them?), and I've found myself actually liking one or two of them, God help me, especially the new one from No Doubt singer Gwen Stefani's maiden solo effort Love, Angel, Music, Baby, titled "What Are You Waiting For". I've never had much use for beautiful-but-cutesy and petulant-seeming Stefani or No Doubt- their slick ska/punk/funk/rock just never really grabbed me except for two cuts: "Bathwater" and "Hellagood". "Waiting" is catchy and fun electro-pop, dealing lyrically with the pressure she feels upon her to do this solo thing- not the most exciting of subjects but the music gets it through. The video itself is half Lewis Carroll and half studio tomfoolery with a couple of Japanese girlfriends, and does a nice job of enhancing the song. You can see the video here, along with a clutch of other No Doubt clips, unless you have a prehistoric Mac OS9 Mozilla system and internet browser like me. You can also catch the clip on the VH1 Top 20 Countdown right now, it's at #6...saw it there this morning. I think one big reason why I like this cut so much is the presence of Linda Perry- I despised her old band 4 Non Blondes, but as a collaborator with Pink on the excellent M!sundaztood album and fulfilling a similar function here, she is completely aces with me. Nellie Hooper, who did a nice job with Bjork early in her solo career, is listed as principle producer, but I think our old pals Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis are also on board L.A.M.B. for production credit, with maybe even another producer on a couple of other cuts as well...this too-many-chiefs approach often spells disaster, but who the heck knows. I might have to pick this up someday and give it a listen. Update: Which I just did, tonight! I'll perhaps opine more later. Promises, promises.

I also found myself liking a song by a band with what I think is one of the all-time worst band names, Maroon 5, called "Sunday Morning" from their Songs About Jane CD. Words cannot express how irritated I get when I hear of yet another group that combines a random word with a number...Maroon 5. Blink 182. Well, there's the Pizzacato Five, but they're different. I happen to like them OK. I know there are many more, but I'm mercifully blanking on them right now. I know, I know, this is irrational and silly...but still. Eveybody's got things that bug them (some of us more than others), and this is one of mine. Anyway, the song. It's a catchy poppish tune with a slight hint of jazziness, if you can believe that, and while I have less than no use for this kind of band and the majority of its recorded output, I kinda found myself digging this cut. Go figure.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usAlso, while watching TV this very morning I saw a commercial for Dell Computers that featured an obscure favorite actress of mine, Corinne Bohrer. You know the one- kid tells his Dad he wants a computer for Christmas, Dad says "which one", kid takes all day to describe all the stuff the Dell he wants has. Ha ha, how cute. Anywho, Bohrer plays the Mom, and doesn't get to do much more than roll her eyes and smirk, but hey- it's always great to see her in one of her increasingly infrequent appearances in film or TV. You may or may not remember her as Bobcat Goldthwait's love interest in one of the Police Academy flicks, and is kinda notorious, at least as far as Google image searches go, for her nude scene in the not-bad 1988 Randy Quaid HBO golf movie Dead Solid Perfect, in which she plays a golf groupie. She's had only one starring role on TV that I'm aware of, as Winnie the Witch in the 1989 Nanny and the Professor knockoff Free Spirit, in which she played housekeeper/surrogate Mom to a guy and a gaggle of kids, including a very young Alyson (Willow on Buffy) Hannigan. Not quite must-see TV, true, but she was completely charming as usual with her goofy beauty.

Okay, that's all of this. More to come, as they used to say on the Johnny Carson show.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Well, another day has gone by, and no bloginess out of me. Worked half a day at the ULPJ, then went and bought my week's worth of comics. I did sign up for Jingle Belle, and as it turned out Burglar Bill, too...but I put Bill back on the shelf. Sorry, Paul. Maybe when the trade comes out.

Spent about an hour doing my pre-recorded voice tracks for tonight at WLOC, then when I got home, I fell asleep, and slept right through a thunderstorm which blew in this afternoon! Later on, my son rolled in and brought back the DVD player he had borrowed, so I could watch the two discs I got from Netflix yesterday: Bubba Ho-Tep and Michael Nesmith's Elephant Parts.

I've received some interesting music lately as well: Neil Young's Greatest Hits, John Lennon-Acoustic and the remastered Rock N' Roll plus a promo CD of Beatles songs in both stereo and mono mixes from the new US box set, and Enjoy Every Sandwich: The Songs of Warren Zevon. Truly, now more than ever, everything old is new again.

Here is the part where I always say that I intend to write about all this at some later date; however, given my track record lately of promising stuff I don't deliver, maybe I should just shut the funk up and move on.

Tomorrow's Thanksgiving, as I'm sure you know. I really like Thanksgiving, which is kind of an overlooked holiday- it's dedicated to two things I like: eating and NFL football. Well, there's also that "giving thanks for the many blessings" thing, but that comes in a distant third to dinner and football.

So, since I doubt I'll be posting much, if anything, tomorrow, here's a very special edition of


Two games tomorrow, and I see 'em like this:

INDIANAPOLIS over Detroit: I don't see any way the Lions can shut down Manning & co.

DALLAS over Chicago: Two teams going nowhere fast; I really think the Bears are the better team, but the better team doesn't always win in the NFL, plus the Cowboys are at home, PLUS I just can't see a Parcells-coached team losing as many in a row as they have so far. It's got to stop eventually, and this may be their best chance lately.

Last week: 13-3, baby! Boo-yah! Season to date: 94-66, .588.

Fantasy: A rare occurrence: I won in both leagues! 48-32 in the Cut-Throat money league, making me 4-7, still dead in the water but a win's a win; and 61-42 in the freebie Yahoo league. 6-5, still tied for 4th in a 12-team league.

This now concludes today's all-purpose post. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

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My friend Chris Tabor, the Bacardi Show Political Correspondent, is a hellatalented young man and is no dab hand with Adobe products. He sent me this, done for a "friend in Louisville..." but the file is named sindyrellyPROTO (emphasis mine), so I think something character or story-related may be up. Anyway, here's his work for you to gaze upon- leave comments below to tell him how good he is.

I hate him with a passion, actually. Sheer stinking jealousy.

Monday, November 22, 2004

You may recall my earlier linkage to the site of artist Enrico Casarosa; he launched an interesting new project yesterday called Sketchcrawl, which is, essentially, a call for artists to do a 24-hour sketch of events in their lives that day, if I understand it correctly. He's created a website for his and others' efforts, called, surprisingly enough,

Here's the info, straight from where I read about it-the Pulse.

I hear you asking- "Gee, Johnny B- if it's so cool why don't YOU participate? Don't you draw?" Ha, ha. Silly people. Me?? Draw? I draw a (puny) paycheck. I draw flies when I don't bathe for a few days. I draw a ten when I play blackjack and need an 8. It is to laugh.
I spy with my widdle eye a new Diamond shipping list. And it goes (for me, anyway) like this:


I was so disappointed in the last Jingle Belle book, that I'm not sure if I signed up for the mini-series...we will see, I suppose. based on the preview I linked to the other day (you DID read that post, didn't you?) this one looks to be a bit better, despite the presence of Jose Garibaldi on art.

Now for reader participation time, and a test to see if anybody's reading: What do you think that I should get this week, newly released, that isn't on the list? Bear in mind that my finances are extremely limited.
The patron saint of the Comics Blogosphere, Larry Young, hath sent down a link to his loyal followers: a PDF preview of the upcoming Couriers03: The Ballad of Johnny Funwrecker. Love that name "Johnny Funwrecker", wish I'd thought of it! You will, of course, need Adobe Reader to viddy it; you can go here to get it if you don't got it. It is, of course, fuh-ree.

The preview looks pretty good; Rob G., while still a crazy man with the Photoshop filters, has been practicing his anatomy, methinks. That was the biggest problem I had with his previous Couriers efforts. I like others in the series, and look forward to this one.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

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What I bought and what I thought, week of November 17!

Daisy finally gets to pull the big train job, but gets into (naturally) more than she bargained for. All in all, Kazu Kibuishi gives us a tightly written chapter three, with a minimum of character stuff and an exciting fight on the train, really well illustrated by Kazu Kibuishi the artist, who annoys me sometimes with his propensity to draw literally square chins, a quirk which stands out like a sore thumb in his otherwise deft cartooning style. The back feature, featuring one of the smaller, less deadly robots seen in the main story and done by some "Rad" somebody or another, is drawn well enough but didn't make a lot of sense. Best of a somewhat lackluster week, and for all I know it actually came out a couple of weeks ago...but I got mine last Wednesday, hence its inclusion this week. A-

Here's another title which came out a week or two ago; but I got this to complete my run after I won issues 1 through 8 in an eBay auction. I've found this to be an interesting twist on Hebraic folklore, and writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti have done a surprisingly good job of writing the character stuff. This is the most recent issue to date, and in it we find out the aftermath of an HIV test for the two modern-day leads (there are lead characters shown in flashback as well), not a happy one, of the title character gets to throw down with a golem made of iron. I plan on writing a stand-alone post soon, with my opinions on all nine (the tenth may come out before I do, but I hope not!), so I'll go into more depth then. But for now, I am very interested in this unfortunately lame-duck book, and this was another strong chapter. A-

Again, very little screen time for Lucifer himself and a lot more for his devoted servant/warrior Mazikeen, as she has an issue long, relevant-to-advancing-the-current-plot dialogue with her mother Lilith. If you've been following along to this point, another well-done chapter. If not, well, you may not agree- but this book is too complex and too far along to be constantly backtracking now, so too bad for you. Go get the trades, they're great and you'll know what's going on now. As usual (except for last issues excellent Marc Hempel fill-in), competent, if not especially inspired, art by the Peter Gross/Ryan Kelly team. A-

We check in on "As The Zombie Staggers" in back-to-back weeks, as our harried band of survivors moves in to the prison facility that they found by chance last issue...and makes a surprising discovery. Y'know, I'm just not excited about this book anymore- it's so unrelentingly gray and downbeat that I just don't look forward to reading it. I still have a vague curiosity about what's at the bottom of all of it, and hope someday that writer Kirkman gets around to explaining- unlikely to happen anytime soon 'cause it's selling well enough to where Image will let this go on and on for a long while. Knowing this, I can begin to feel my patience fade away, and this is looking like the next book I drop. But not just yet- I want to find out what the deal is with what they find in the aforementioned prison. B+

H-E-R-O 22
Mildly disappointing finale to the big Robby Reed storyline, and the series as a whole. On the one hand, it was nice to see a lame-duck series actually get some closure...or at least a somewhat decisive ending, something which would have been nice for many of the great cancelled series of years past- Helfer/Baker Shadow; Chase, Young Heroes In Love, anybody? But on the other, the plot twists weren't all that twisty, the dramatics were kinda overblown, and I can't help but think that this was a four-issue story stretched out to six-ish. I also was disappointed that poor Joe the Electro-Woman didn't get a satisfying resolution to his/her story like all the other characters did. Wile I didn't love the last 19 issues as much as I did the first three, after all is said and done, at the end of the day, and other cliches, this was a mostly well-done comic, often fun, and it's too bad that it got canned. B+

Finale to the storyline in which Chris Chance impersonates some sort of young cult leader/religious figurehead/faith healer, which sees Pete Milligan pushing all the familiar buttons that he's hammered repeatedly for the late 15 issues, and for me at least the returns have diminished to the point that this will be the last issue I buy. I've been trying to figure out exactly what it is about Milligan's Target that leaves me cold, and for the answer I think I have to go all the way back to the 70's and the original Len Wein/Dick Giordano version of the character, who did the same thing Milligan's Chance does, but without all the overwrought angst...and those adventures were just plain old a lot more fun and interesting to read in their 70's non-conflicted simplicity. Milligan's Target is so dreadfully earnest and sincere and ponderous, that reading each issue almost sucks all the air out of the room. Fun is not in Milligan's agenda- he wants us to really identify with a man who impersonates others for a living and loses his own identity in the process, and while I have nothing against psychodrama per se, even when mixed in with modern action-thriller cliches, what I do have a problem with is plunking down 3 books for a dull, enervating reading experience. So I'll give props one more time to Cliff Chiang, who really has done a nice job illustrating these melodramatic goings-on, and bid a sad adieu to this book, which I had high hopes for at the beginning but lost me in the angsty murk. C+

Saturday, November 20, 2004

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Y'know, there are times when I really feel my age. And yes, I know that I'm not really that old...but still, I kinda got that ol' feeling as I watched the premiere episodes of Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi last night on Cartoon Network.

I first became aware of the J-Pop sensation Puffy through an Andy Sturmer Yahoo! Group. Sturmer, of course, is one of the musical braintrust behind one of my favorite newish groups, Jellyfish- and since that group split over ten years ago he's kept a very low profile, only working here and there with very little of it seeing widespread release. Anyway, someone mentioned that he had been working with a Japanese teen pop-rock group named Puffy, and I kinda filed that away in my little mental file cabinet until I got a chance to hear some of this music. Sometimes someone like that will be involved in a project in a producer's role or as a session musician, and you'd never know it because he or she has sublimated what makes their own music special to conform to the main musician's sound or identity. That's not the case with Sturmer and Puffy (now named Puffy AmiYumi to avoid confusion among the feeble minded music fans who might confuse two young rock'n'rolling Japanese girls with Sean "Puffy" Combs)- one listen to the duo's most recent Stateside release Nice. will give Jellyfish fans an instant sugar buzz as they recognize the old-new-borrowed-blue Sturmer songwriting approach. Sturmer and Puffy also did the theme song for Cartoon Network's Teen Titans animated series, which was included on Nice. and probably led to the discussion of an animated vehicle for the J-Poppers, and last night, it became a reality with this new toon show.

I really wish I could say I got as big a charge out of the show as I did from's certainly bright, colorful and fast paced, and the Flash-style animation is simplistic but fun to look at. Sturmer is on board, credited as "associate producer", and he wrote the music which is constantly going on, in short bits and pieces, throughout each shortish episode. Occasionally you'll hear an excerpt from one of the Nice. songs, or some other tune which may or may not be on one of the duo's other albums (I haven't heard them, so I don't know if Sturmer produced/wrote them). Kinda fun if you're a Jellyfish fan, but if you're not, then you probably couldn't care less. The character designs are done in that Genndy Tartakovsky/Craig McCracken/Samurai Jack/Powerpuff Girls style that the CN has had great success with so far...not exactly fresh and groundbreaking but watchable. But the scripts- ugh. This is the biggest problem I had- they're very simplistic and apparently aimed at preschoolers, which is where CN must think the audience is, I thought Puffy would appeal to older teens, especially teen girls, but what do I know- I'm sure CN did all the appropriate demographic research. Problem is, at 44, I'm a little too old to appreciate this, unlike many animated shows these days which are written with a more, shall we say, sophisticated approach. Another quibble is that the cartoon girls don't really resemble the real girls (who appear at the beginning and end of each episode, in clumsy, forced skits) except at the most superficial level (actually kinda appropriate, come to think of it).

So there you have it...your first grader might get a charge out of Hi Hi Puffy Amiyumi, but I can't imagine anybody else will be interested, unless you want to hear the Sturmer music. Zannen desu, Ami and Yumi.
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usTime now for the ongoing saga that is JOHNNY B's FEARLESS NFL PIGSKIN PROGNOSTICATIONS!

Standard disclaimer first: These picks are FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY. I'm not betting illegally with these, and NEITHER SHOULD YOU...and I take no responsibility if you lose your house.

Best news, besides Atlanta's encouraging victory over Tampa Bay (which I refuse to get too excited about until they beat them at Tampa), was that after numerous attempts I FINALLY PICKED A CINCINNATI BENGALS VICTORY! On the negative side, I once again chose incorrectly in regards to the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team I like very much but keep expecting to lose eventually...AND THEY NEVER DO! So naturally, this week, the two teams I can't seem to get a handle on meet. NOW what are ya gonna do, JB? Well...

PITTSBURGH Over Cincinnati: OK- this is a road game for the Steelers. The Bengals have been playing much, much better lately. The Steelers won't have Duce Staley again, no real impediment so far. I've incorrectly chosen Pittsburgh to lose three weeks straight. So, of course, I take Pittsburgh, because I owe them one. Who the hell knows what will happen.
BALTIMORE over Dallas
TAMPA BAY over San Francisco
DENVER over New Orleans
MINNESOTA over Detroit
JACKSONVILLE over Tennessee
CLEVELAND over the NY Jets
ARIZONA over Carolina
BUFFALO over St. Louis
SAN DIEGO over Oakland
SEATTLE over Miami
PHILADELPHIA over Washington
ATLANTA over the NY Giants
GREEN BAY over Houston
NEW ENGLAND over Kansas City

Last week, 10-4. Now that's what I'm talkin' about! Season to date: 81-63, .563.

Fantasy: Ugh. Lost in the money league 66-22, to one of the two teams that (at the time) had worse records than I. I'm now 3-7, last place in my division. In the Yahoo league, I lost by the astounding score of 113-90 and have now fallen to 5-5, tied with three other teams for 4th place in a 12-team league. Blech.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Hello. This is not going to be another of those boring old posts in which I apologize for lack of posting. You know, they always say "Apologies for lack of posting...but I've been busy/depressed/running a marathon/recording my new hip-hop album/undergoing a pilgrimage to Mecca..." You get the picture.

I'll try not to ramble very much, 'cause your time is valuable and time is money and time, she flexes like a whore, falls wanking to the floor. Ah- there I go, rambling. Anyway, I've been busy at work and have had stuff occupying my attention at home, mostly of the "stuffing my head with comics, music, movies" variety stuff...and something has to give. In this case, it's bloggus interruptus, since after typing all frigging day at the ULPJ (Unrewarding Low Paying Job, you remember), I just don't have much enthusiasm for doing the same when I get home. Beatles song reference there, Fred!

Anyway, 2 of the 3 discs arrived yesterday from my Netflix trial, and that's what I did last night- watched the Jethro Tull documentary A New Day Yesterday, a 45-minute compendium of 60's-80's overseas TV performance clips and odd videos (none of them allowed to finish) interspersed with scenes and interviews from a Tull reunion held in 1993, the band's 25th anniversary). If you're a Tull fan, you will like, even though this was (ooh-pun) 10 years ago and much has changed with the band members since. It was annoying how the performance clips were abruptly cessated to go back to the reunion scenes. By far the most exciting thing about this disc was, for me, the inclusion of the complete film of A Passion Play's centerpiece, "The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles", which was screened during the intermission of Tull's 1973 Passion tour. It is one of the goofiest, and yet one of the coolest, things I think I've ever seen- a film of people cavorting around in animal suits, alternating between an indoor forest set and an actual outdoor set, along with ballerinas and then-bassist Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond narrating the tale, using clever dance steps and gestures. It's all very preposterous, and done on the cheap, but for me it was mesmerizing. Of course, it helps that A Passion Play is my favorite Tull LP, indeed, one of my legendary top 25 which I keep threatening to post. I understand that this clip is available on the recently remastered and reissued Play, which saw release a year or so ago...I think I'll be getting that one of these days, 'cause I'd love to have that film without, necessarily, getting the New Day disc. Seeing this DVD has provoked my long-neglected Tull listening jones; I've dug out copies of Songs From The Wood, Living In The Past and Bursting Out! Live, some of which I haven't listened to in well-nigh a decade, I reckon. I've also been (tonight) looking at some JT-related websites such as, which sports a fascinating annotated Passion Play section, and, which does the annotation honors, along with features and lyrics, on every Tull recorded effort to date...even the ones I haven't heard since it's been an age since I last bought a new Tull album.

The other DVD I received was Lost In La Mancha, the documentary of Terry Gilliam's ill-fated "dream" production with a working title of "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote", loosely based on the Cervantes book. The documentary was intended to preserve for posterity the filming of Gilliam's film, but it turned out to be the chronicle of a disaster. Watch this, and you'll be amazed at the determination, the creativity, the energy, pluck, and spirit the man and his crew displayed in the face of about every disaster you can think of- late stars, reluctant European financiers; jets flying overhead during outdoor filming, to be soon followed by torrential rain, which almost completely trashed the equipment; and the health problems of star Jean Roquefort, who developed a hernia which left him unable to ride a horse and therefore unable to play Don Quixote. It will leave you saddened that Gilliam didn't get to make this film, 'cause it looked like it could have been the best thing he's ever done, and also that a man with his track record has had so much trouble getting financing for his movies- which will also make you a little angry as well. But at the same time you'll be fascinated, or at least I was, at seeing the man and his crew at work. Amazing stuff. And it ends on a note of hope- a note at the very end, and I hope I'm not spoiling anything for anybody- says that Gilliam has found another backer and is considering picking up the pieces of this picture, which is indeed good news. Of course, this was released in who knows what's happened with the project in the last couple of years. I haven't looked to see.

I got comics, too- oh my, yes. My set of The Monolith is now complete and fully read, and I hope to write about it soon- in fact, as soon as the long-delayed piece on that other comics series I've been messing around with for months now is done...hopefully not much longer for that. And, if you're keeping score at home, my copy of Daisy Kutter 3 finally showed up yesterday, along with the other books I listed on Monday. I haven't finished them yet, thanks for asking.

Gee, for somebody with no energy, I sure have typed a bunch of stuff, huh! Alright, I'm done. Good night.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Image Hosted by I see where DC has recently released their solicitation information for the month of February. Hey! Here's an idea! Why don't I go down the list and comment on them? I can't believe no one else has thought of that...

I like the cover for the collected BATMAN: WAR GAMES, by James Jean, no big surprise there. Will I buy it? Shyeah, right.

Striking Mike Lark cover on GOTHAM CENTRAL 28. Art will be by longtime inker Stefano Gaudiano, I see. Oh well, I'm not inclined to bail on this title just yet.

I love Doug Mahnke's art, as I'm sure you all know by now, and Ed Brubaker is right there on my short list of favorite writers...but am I going to buy the BATMAN: THE MAN WHO LAUGHS one-shot? I don't know. I'm sick to death of Joker stories, be it animated or on paper. This looks like another "on the rack" call, maybe if it comes out on a light week.

You also probably recall that I'm not much of a Superman fan either, never have been- but like Dorian at Postmodern Barney, I like Supes better in one-shots and minis, and as part of team books like JLA. Still, it's Scott McCloud, and he engendered so much good will with me via Zot! that I'll always consider picking up something he's involved with, like SUPERMAN: STRENGTH. Now, if McCloud drew it as well as wrote it, I'd be all over it. As it is, another game-time decision.

For the big finale of ADAM STRANGE, Andy Diggle has seen fit to exhume not only the Omega Men, but L.E.G.I.O.N. as well. Not being a fan of either of those teams/concepts, that news doesn't exactly make me shiver with...anticipation- but hey, I've liked the issues out so far, and I'm sure not gonna get the first five and not number 6!

I haven't paid any attention to BIRDS OF PREY since I dropped the ongoing title around issue #9, but judging by this issue's cover, at least, we're seeing a level of cheesecake that Jim Balent could only dream of. Looks more like a Maxim photo shoot than a superhero adventure! Not that I'm complaining, mind you...heck, I don't even buy the darn book.

BREACH 2. This series is illustrated by the Batgirl: Year One team of Marcos Martin and Alvaro Lopez, something which evaded my attention last month. I hadn't planned on getting this, but now I'm not so sure- I really liked their art on BG:Yr1.

JLA CLASSIFIED 4:"I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League" finally sees the light of day, and those of us who fondly remember the old Bwah-ha-ha Justice League and the recent passable miniseries rejoice.

Image Hosted by I like this cover for the third issue of the new LEGION series, which features one of the characters I liked, Triad. Nice use of symmetry, very clever. I see they've gone back to calling her "Triplicate Girl", which always made her sound like a legal form or somesuch- I always preferred the newer, more grown-up sounding code names, like "Gossamer" and "Alchemist" to the childish-sounding "Lad", "Lass" and "Kid"s; but I always felt like I was in the minority, (especially among Legion fans, and I knew a few, believe me) and the new Legion creators apparently agree that I am. Still haven't decided whether or not I want to buy this on a regular basis; I guess, once again, a quick scan in front of the rack will decide.

SEVEN SOLDIERS looks very interesting, and for some reason gets about five times the synopsis space of any other title. Grant Morrison. J.H. Williams III. Like Andrew Dice Clay says in those 1-800-Bet-US radio spots, "It don't get no bedda dan dat!!!"

SOLO 3 features Paul Pope. Say no more. Sold. I've been wondering when we were gonna see his work again.

Am I alone in thinking there might be some unintentional laughs to be had in this new SPACE GHOST comic book? And on a related note, I see over at Tom's place that Alex Toth is said to be miffed at the Williams Street folks for what they've done to many of his Hanna-Barbera creations. Well, no shit! Toth gets pissed when the wind changes! You just knew he wouldn't appreciate the likes of Harvey Birdman and Sealab 2021,all of which he did character designs for. Of course, it's not Toth's fault the cartoons were so wretched; the Hanna Barbera hack factory made utter crap out of Toth's concept sketches. But still, one wishes he'd lighten up once in a while. Sorry, I digress. DC Solicits, right. Onward.

LEGEND 1 is Howard Chaykin's newest; an adaptation of Philip Wylie's novel, which I haven't read. It's Chaykin words with pictures by the great Russ Heath, so where do I sign up?

The big grande finale of PROMETHEA, issue #32, is giving us "the most gloriously experimental issue...yet",and I don't know whether that fills me with anticipation or dread. Or dreadful anticipation. Or whatever. I think I'll pass on the big limited edition puzzle poster variant issue, which sounds like a big money grab to me.I'm sure I can be confused just fine by reading the less expensive edition.

I see where a movie-inspired HELLBLAZER SPECIAL is coming out, the first of many must-avoid events tied into that flick,I'm sure. This one features a character that died in the 80s, in the comic book, anyway, and has never returned except via hallucination or flashback. Joy.

Really looking forward to possible Rogan Gosh-style shenanigans in Grant Morrison's VINANARAMA. Seems like I've been looking forward to this all year now. They say it's gonna come out when?

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usI have less than no use for John Watkiss' art, but this cover for TRIGGER 3 looks kinda kewl. And here I was thinking that this was about Roy Rogers' horse. Silly me.

Well, that's all that looks comment-worthy, to me anyway. February is also the first month that there will be no new issue of THE MONOLITH. Too bad.
If reviewers are right, the wonderful, enchanting book Polar Express has been made into a lifeless, mindless big-budget movie that turns a story about doubt and imagination into a Christmas Eve car chase, only with trains instead of cars. The quality of the movie aside, what's striking is that the studio bought the title and the look of Chris van Allsburg's haunting illustrations, then changed everything -- most of what happens in the movie has nothing to do with the book. Since the book was very good, in order to make it into a movie, that aspect had to be eliminated!

Film studio Twentieth Century Fox bought the rights to Isaac Asimov's I, Robot tales, then produced a movie that bears no resemblance to those stories. So rest assured if you haven't read Asimov: There's no way he, or anyone with an IQ higher than a Chilean striped bass, could have produced anything as stupid as this summer's movie starring Will Smith. Nor did the recent big-budget movie The Cat in the Hat bear any resemblance to the book, though the protagonist was, in both cases, a cat. The Cat in the Hat movie was especially distasteful because it was full of crude jokes and bathroom humor -- crude jokes and bathroom humor constituting about the only things, besides cleavage and explosions, Hollywood produces these days. Theodore Geisel despised coarseness and prided himself on amusing children without rude references.

Today seems to be my day to cut and paste stuff from other people's sites. Here we have reason # 348,973 why I love to read Gregg Easterbrook's Tuesday Morning Quarterback column. He is, of course, so right on the money here that I'm awestruck. For what it's worth, I've tried, twice, to sit through that Cat In The Hat flick since it's been airing on HBO lately, and it's so wretched bad and stupid that I just can't do it. What a waste of talent and money.
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Just one of the fricking hilarious comic strips at

Go here for the archives, there are plenty more from where this one came. Reprinted without permission, but hey, I'm linking to you, dude, so I hope it's OK!

Monday, November 15, 2004

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Above is a a picture of Jethro Tull, circa 1970, taken from the massive photo gallery to be found at the website of original bassist Glenn Cornick. You may also recall that Mr. Cornick (with glasses, second from left) was also the bass player in the band Paris, whose first album I wrote about in the Vinyl-O! of a couple days previous. He was also in an utterly unremarkable group post-Tull pre-Paris called Wild Turkey (I've got one album, rarely listen to it), and that group is represented as well in the gallery. If you're a closet Tull fan like me, you might find this very, very interesting- he has hundreds and hundreds of pics spanning four decades.

That's all I got for today. I had the whole day off, but as is so often the case I wind up spending it doing everything but blogging. I got my run of issues 1-8 of The Monolith in the mail today, and plan to spend the evening reading them- I've read #1 so far, and y'know, it isn't half bad- it's a shame that it's not a Vertigo book, like it probably should have been in the first place. It would, I think, read better in trades and if it was a Vertigo title it might actually get one, not to mention not get cancelled after issue 12. Oh well, I'll have a better opinion when I'm done. I also found a new free image host, and now am contemplating the arduous task of transferring my image files to it instead of the one I've been using that decided to start charging me after two years...sigh.

Other stuff:

My haul on Wednesday, per the Diamond shipping list:

HERO #22

...and that's, as the pig says, all, folks! This may be my last issue of Human Target, and unless I'm mistaken (and I may well be) this is the last issue of H-E-R-O as well. And hey- didn't Walking Dead 12 come out last week? What the fug!

I have also decided to take advantage of the two-week free trial provided by the fine folks at The first three films I intend to view are Lost in La Mancha, the documentary about the aborted Terry Gilliam film about Don Quixote that I've been dying to see- Blockbuster and the other rental chains don't stock it, and I've given up on Sundance Channel ever airing it ; Teacher's Pet, the fun animated movie I saw last year and want Mrs. B to see; and A New Day Yesterday, a documentary about the history of Jethro Tull...which brings me full circle to the beginning of this post! Aren't I the clever one!

Sunday, November 14, 2004

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What I bought and what I thought, week of November 10!

In which we find out more about not only the cast, but their adversaries and the nature of the threat they're investigating on a moon of Jupiter. Deliberately paced, not decompressed, with Warren Ellis' usual terse, witty dialogue and perhaps the finest work of Chris Sprouse's (with inker Karl Story) career. Now if I could only stop thinking Stargate when I see page 18... A

100 BULLETS 55
"Wylie Runs the Voodoo Down" gets kinda tragic all of a sudden, with a grisly fate befalling a supporting character- and Brian Azzurello wrings all the pathos possible out of it while tightening up the rest of his New Orleans slash Jazz-themed story arc. Eduardo Risso is, as always, outstanding. First A grade for an issue of 100 Bullets in a long time- hopefully it won't be the last.

I'm really liking this version of Adam; so naturally I find out it's cancelled after next issue. Too bad- Charlie Adlard's Richard Case-by-way-of-Simonson art here is some of the best I've ever seen from him, and writer Greg Pak is doing a great job of working the "great power-great responsibility" theme, along with the ever-popular "horrors of war" as well as the fallacy of the "might makes right" adherents that seem to be so prevalent these days. Janie Chin's heartfelt speech at the end is a remarkably affecting moment. I won't hold my breath waiting for more Pak Warlock, but I will keep my eye on Pak's subsequent work- he's pretty darn good. A

Well, sure, OK, it references the latest big old Batman crossover event, which I've happily ignored, and relies a lot on talking heads to do so...but really, truth be told, hasn't that been what GC has been about, mostly, from day one? Character interaction and dramatics- there were plenty of both, and I for one, got kinda caught up in the whole "removing the Bat-signal and reactions to same" plot hook. A-

Fables being the relatively successful title that it is gives Bill Willingham more leeway, and if he takes four issues to shuffle the deck before he deals out the next game, well, I suppose he's earned the right. Don't know where he intends to go, but it is fun and interesting to read the paces he puts all these fantastical characters through. Penciller Mark Buckingham has improved; it seems like he's really grown into the concept as a whole- but he still draws like Chris Bachalo's inker. And speaking of inkers, ya gotta give props to that ol' hippie Steve Leialoha, who has inked issue after issue, subverting his distinctive, idiosyncratic art style to play Hope to Buckingham's Crosby. Isn't it about time to let him pencil and ink a story of his own? I'd like to see it, anyway. And with all the bitching and griping about how boring and dull covers are, ya gotta love the work of James Jean, who is always excellent- never more so than on this issue. A-

No sooner does DC restore the tarnished reputation of one of its Silver Age icons, than it goes out and trashes the legacy of another. Somehow, I don't think the final answer's going to be as simple as it seems, and please don't misinterpret this as saying that I really care all that much about a character I liked when I was a kid but who has been mostly wasted for many years now...but they better have a pretty damn good explanation in store, that's all I'm sayin'. B+

Kinda conflicted about this mini series as a whole- Chaykin has rarely been better on the art chores, and he does get in a few clever shots, script-wise, at a number of targets. But he was awfully scattershot in doing so, and longtime readers can't help but be aware that he has plowed this particular field many times before. Despite the fact that each issue was overstuffed with characters and visual and verbal onomatopoeia, the series as a whole felt kinda plot-thin to me and might have been better served as a four-issue mini instead. Still, (again) I liked the art a lot, the central conceit was a clever one, and I get a warm feeling thinking how pissed the hard core Kirby-style Challengers fans, the ones who felt that Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale "desecrated" the concept, must be at what Howie's given us. This issue: B+. Entire series: B+

Not bad-not great continuation of Joe Kelly's Authority-lite team's spotlight...the most compelling storyline so far is the romantic triangle between that ol' horndog Green Arrow, magic-guy Manitou Raven, and Raven's long-suffering wife Dawn- and it's given short shrift this time out. Lotta screen time for the gangbangin' Coldcast character and, as usual, Jenny Sparks-I-mean Vera Black, and no sooner do we fail to tie up one storyline than we get plunged into another as they (and a couple of other Elite-ists) go into deep cover yet again to get next to some evil meta-criminal drug dealer or some such, and ooh! The JSA pops in at the end! As always with this book, impeccably drawn, horribly colored, marginally interesting superheroics with some nice characterization and dialogue. And you all know I love me some Mahnke/Nguyen artwork, but somebody shoulda maybe declined to sign off on that cover. That being said, it did remind me of something that might have graced the front of an issue of the sorely missed Major maybe it's not so bad after all. B+

Pacing is beginning to get wonky on this, the thinking man's zombie soap-opera; no sooner does our still-too-large cast get introduced to the farmer and his whole f-ed up situation (barn full of living dead, that sort of thing), than they abruptly fall out and have to move on. This is Kirkman's prerogative; things had kinda come to a head there anyway...but one thinks that there's a lot more story to tell there, which gives that "had to leave the buffet before you were full" feeling. Maybe I should avoid food metaphors when describing stories in which dead people munch down on the living...I'll have to watch that in the future. Charlie Adlard is solid, as always, but one wishes he would beef up the visual cues when depicting the aforementioned burgeoning cast; sometimes I have trouble distinguishing some of the less-obvious survivors. B

Striving for authenticity, writer Gary Phillips drowns this opening chapter with heaping mounds of gratuitous Ebonics, and the effect is more Barbara Billingsley in Airplane! than Snoop Dogg or Chingy, I'm afraid. Hamfisted dialogue aside, what we have here is a kind of Spenser For Hire-type-thing, if Avery Brooks and Robert Urich traded roles for an episode...and the murder mystery doesn't strike me as all that compelling. But we still have a few issues to go, and I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt, as long as Shawn Martinbrough is on board to provide outstanding artwork. Sometimes his figure drawing is a little stiff, but I get a charge out of his almost-expressionistic style, and his deft way of laying out a page.B

Hm. I like Scott Morse's art, but for me it works best when he's trying to keep his subject matter kinda grounded in the real world, where his unusual style enhances rather than distracts. Here, he goes nuts with the visual foo-foo in the service of his own story, and it's a pretty damned silly one- kinda reminiscent of those forgettable third or fourth stories in an old Golden Age Jack Cole-era issue...and no, I didn't buy them off the rack, thankyouverymuch- with none of the sly humor that Kyle Baker usually brings to the table. It got real tiresome, at least to this reader, before it was done. Hurry back, Mr. Baker! Mr. Morse- I'm sure you'll do better next time! C-

I'm due to do a "catch-up" post as well, 'cause I've read a bunch of stuff lately that isn't current. I'm waiting for my run of The Monolith to show up before I commence ta typin'.
From Pulse comes the news of a upcoming new Jingle Belle series, to be released by Dark Horse (previous issues had been from Oni- I wonder Oni decided not to keep the character?) on November 24.

Like I say in the comments, Dini hooked me early, with those fine early issues with great art by Steven DeStefano and Jason Bone.
Problem is, the last couple of releases have been saddled with (IMO, of course) heavy-handed, obvious satire and lackluster my enthusiasm has dimmed a bit for the book. Still, it's great to see Bone come back, and on an Ida Red tale to boot...and that pinup with the candy cane, plus the neon cover, are very nice.

I'll never warm to Jose Garibaldi, the illustrator on the last couple of projects (I'm afraid), and the artist on the Polly Green tale's style is a bit too "poor man's Phil Foglio" for my tastes...but what we're seeing here looks promising.

I'm working on comics reviews right now, hopefully they'll be up before end of day.

Friday, November 12, 2004


Standard disclaimer: These picks are FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY. I'm not betting illegally with these, and NEITHER SHOULD YOU...and I take no responsibility if you lose your house.

Too many 6-8, 7-7 weeks lately- the turnaround begins now. Aw, who am I kidding? The NFL is as unpredictable as ever, more so every week. Still, I soldier on, undeterred:

BALTIMORE over the NY Jets: The Jets' game plan will depend on Curtis Martin's running, but the Ravens are hard to run on. I think the Ravens will squeak by, and certainly cover on the road.

TENNESSEE over Chicago: The Bears are tougher than most people think, but I believe Tennessee has enough to beat them at home.

JACKSONVILLE over Detroit: I like the Jags' D at home.

INDIANAPOLIS over Houston: Not at home. Indy should breeze.

KANSAS CITY over New Orleans: As someone who depends on the awful Saints' QB, RB and best WR on his fantasy teams, I hope this is a real shootout. Don't know why exactly, 'cause the Chiefs don't have Priest Holmes, but my gut tells me KC will win. Stupid gut.

CLEVELAND over Pittsburgh: I like the Steelers, really I do, and I know I picked them to lose the last two weeks as well...but Cleveland is a tough place to play, even for incredible rookie Ben Rothlisberger. I think the Steelers have enough to win the division and go deep into the playoffs, but they will not run the table to finish the regular season, and I think the otherwise inferior Browns will step up. Take the Browns and the points, if you must bet.

ST.LOUIS over Seattle: I think the Rams may be in the 'Hawks' heads a bit. Seattle's the better team, but they'll struggle on the road.

ATLANTA over Tampa Bay: Big game for Vick and Co., especially when it comes to making the playoffs. I hope they can continue to build on what they showed in Denver before the bye week...but if they come out with that feeble offense they've lapsed into all year so far, they'll get spanked by Tampa, who seems to be gathering some momentum since Brian Griese took over the QB slot.

CINCINNATI over Washington: When I pick them to win, they lose. When I pick them to lose, they win. The Bengals drive me nuts.

SAN FRANCISCO over Carolina: The Panthers made me look foolish last week, but I don't think they'll do it two weeks in a row. San Fran is due.

GREEN BAY over Minnesota: A tossup, so I take the Pack at home. Even without Randy Moss, yhis will still be a shootout, since neither defense is all that great.

ARIZONA over the NY Giants: Dennis Green seems to be getting the best out of his guys, and the Giants sure didn't look like the same team as in weeks past against Chicago. I see the G-Men wilting in the desert heat.

NEW ENGLAND over Buffalo: I take the Pats, but I'm not sure Buffalo isn't almost as good, especially with McGahee running the ball. The Bills will cover the spread, methinks.

PHILADELPHIA over Dallas: The Eagles kinda got exposed last weekend, but the Cowboys seem to be beat these days before they even take the field. It will be close, I think.

Last week: 7-7. Season to date: 71-59, .546.

Fantasy: Cut-Throat Fantasy (Money) League, I won! 53-34. Record, 3-6, tied for 3rd (or last, depends on how you look at it) in my 4-team division. This weekend, I play one of the few teams with a worse record than mine, so I have high hopes of being 4-6 when all is said and done. And hopefully I have not caused the Football Gods to frown upon me when I say that...

Freebie Yahoo League: Lost 65-50 to the only undefeated team in the league. I'm now 5-4, tied for 4th in a 12-team league in which 8 teams make the playoffs. I coulda beat the guy if Randy Moss hadn't been hurt, if I had also had a healthy #2 RB (that is a threat to score) , and if Aaron Brooks and Joe Horn had done ANYTHING at all...! If, if, if.

Time now for another installment of Johnny B's Mondo Vinyl-O! In which I take a look at some of the 33-1/3 rpm, long-playing vinyl stacks o'wax that I've listened to in the interval since the last Vinyl-O. I will not discuss music I've listened to on CD, or mp3, or cassette, or even 8-track...anything but that much beloved and sorely missed vehicle for sound output and listening pleasure, the vinyl LP.

Found this one in a stack of records Mrs. B picked up at one of her Dad's auctions. Those things never turn up any interesting music, so I didn't look through the stack she brought home at the time- in fact, it wasn't until we had our yard sale a month or so ago that I flipped through the box it was in and noticed it- its Klaus Voormann-illustrated Revolver-esque collage cover caught my eye, and upon further inspection I noticed that it had two of their biggest pre-disco era hits: "I Started A Joke" and the almost-soul "Gotta Get A Message To You". Curiosity aroused, I plucked it from the box and took it back home, and was pleasantly surprised by the music it contained. Very much of its time, and full of Sgt. Pepper-period Beatle-ish Britpop, along with the Brothers Gibb's trademark distinctive vocal harmony blend and a folk-ish underpinning. Album opener "Let There Be Love" is an attempt at an anthemic cut, with lots of grandiose strings, horns and much oohing and aahing...and it works. Next cut, "Kitty Can", is a folk-pop acoustic stomper with somebody providing sssh-sh-sssh's in lieu of percussion. "Indian Gin and Whiskey Dry" features a strong melody that I know I've heard somewhere before. The title cut is probably the most rocking; it's almost Kinks-like in its driving way. Sometimes Robin's warbling falsetto gets to be a bit much, just like years later when they were the Kings of Saturday Night...but Idea is a surprisingly solid and tuneful record, despite a worrisome self-pitying streak in some of the lyrics- and I'm glad I snatched it out of the yard sale box.

I saw Joni perform the song "Coyote" on the Band's big concert movie The Last Waltz, in 1977- the first time I ever really paid attention to her, and I liked that song a lot, so I decided to pick up the album from whence it came. Unfortunately, the only song that impressed me at the time was, you guessed it, "Coyote" it was probably 20 years before I got worked up enough about her to get another Mitchell record. Fortunately, this time, I was more receptive to Mitchell's music, and I eventually went back to re-evaluate this record...and sure enough, I liked it more in my late 30's than I did in my late teens. Here, she began to get serious about working jazz influences and musicians in her work- the accomplished bassist Jaco Pastorius (one of her legion of boyfriends, if I recall correctly) plays on every cut, along with the usual LA session musicians that she had been using for the last few years such as sax player Tom Scott and percussionist Bobbye Hall. Neil Young even shows up long enough to play harmonica on the almost melody-free "Fuzzy Sings the Blues". Her lyrics, by this time, were really in a league of their own- on the surface, dealing with her impressions of life on the road, but far more advanced, more allusive and imaginative, than the norm for that pseudo-genre. It's still not a record which blows me away, simply because it's simply too slick, samey-sounding and not all that strong melodically- but there are several cuts which stand out, including the breezy (and aforementioned) "Coyote", with its rollercoaster chord changes and lyric, and the almost Billie Holiday-ish "Blue Motel Room", an appealing lounge-jazzy cut. I'll still dig out Joni's Hits and Misses CDs when I get in the mood for the Canadian songstress, but you could do worse than this if you're curious.

POPEYE-Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1980)
While it has its admirers, and is sometimes watchable for short stretches, I've always considered Robert Altman's Popeye, which starred Robin Williams and his huge prosthetic forearms, a huge disappointment and a terrible film...but my opinion is very much different when it comes to its soundtrack album. While Altman didn't always make the wisest choices when it came to his script or storytelling, he did do one thing right when he made the left-field choice of Van Dyke Parks to do the music scoring honors, and Parks inturn got the semi-retired Harry Nilsson to contribute a clutch of songs. This was Nilsson's first set of originals released in the US since 1977's RCA swan song Knnillssonn, and while they're not exactly of Nilsson Schmilsson quality, they're fun and tuneful indeed, and are nicely vocalized by Williams and Shelley Duvall, who played Olive Oyl. Parks and Nilsson always worked well together, and VDP's rococo, swirling, almost vaudevillian scoring style, complete with music hall chorus backing singers elevates many of Harry's lyrics, which are mostly tailored to the film events they're depicting. Standouts are "He Needs Me", sung by Duvall to an unmistakable, quintessential Nilssonian melody like only he could write- and curiously enough, this cut has legs- it pops up in the oddest places, like the film Magnolia and most recently, the Nike commercial with Serena Williams. Parks and Nilsson get to tweak the classic old Popeye theme song, now subtitled "I Yam What I Am" ("...and that's all that I yam what I yam"), which Parks gives a gleefully swirling accompaniment. The completely charming "Sweepea's Lullabye" also benefits from a gorgeous Parks arrangement, and it's way too short at less than two minutes. "Sweethaven", "He's Large" (Bluto, dont'cha know, sung by Olive as she prepares to elope with Popeye), and the amusing "He's Mean", a samba of sorts sung by Bluto when he discovers Olive's treachery, are all standouts. Of course, Popeye the film was a box office disaster- nobody warmed to a live-action Sailor Man when his cartoon persona was such an indelible image in the mass public's mind, plus Altman (not at his peak then at all) directed the events in a choppy, haphazard way (the final scene goes on and on and on, and is a real endurance test) Williams mumbled unintelligibly through the whole movie plus the script established that he didn't even like spinach- and didn't whip out a can until the very end! And since the film tanked, the soundtrack didn't fare much was released on the fledgling Boardwalk label, which went under not long after so promotion was not really a viable possibility. But for those of us Nilsson/Parks fans who couldn't wait to get their heroes' first work together since Nilsson's 1976 solo album Sandman, well, we were rewarded handsomely. Of course, this album's been out of print for years now, which makes it all the more amusing when people ask about the song in the Nike commercial- "Where can I get it?" Well, can't. Unless you get the Punch-Drunk Love soundtrack, and I'm not sure if even that's still in print. Sadly, this was the last album of original Nilsson songs to be released in his lifetime, since RCA has apparently chosen to sit on the album he was working on when he met his untimely death in 1995.

PARIS-Paris (1976)
If you've ever cared to look into the history of Fleetwood Mac, you're probably aware that before the band hit it big with Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks in 1975, founding members Mick Fleetwood and John McVie presided over revolving door of members- from the great blues guitarist Peter Green in the 60s, on through a native Californian named Bob Welch, who joined up in 1971 and whose mellow, bloozy style pretty much defined the Mac's sound (along with Christine McVie's doleful, stately piano ballads) for the five years he was in the band. The Mac had hit a low point, creatively and professionally following the release of their unsuccessful (but not bad in its own right) 1974 release Heroes Are Hard To Find, and Welch apparently felt like the time was right for him to move on and see what else he could get into, career-wise. And he eventually did become very successful for a time in the late 70's, forever avoiding Pete Best's fate, with a string of solo hit singles such as "Sentimental Lady", which he originally performed with the Mac on their 1972 release Bare Trees, and "Ebony Eyes", a rock-disco hybrid which was everywhere in 1979. The first thing he did after saying "adieu" from Mick and co., though, was a Cream-style three-man group effort with former Jethro Tull bassist Glenn Cornick dubbed "Paris". Rounding out the trio was drummer Thom Mooney, who was replaced by the Nazz's Hunt Sales (son of Soupy, later with Iggy Pop and in Tin Machine with Bowie) for the follow-up album Big Town 2061. Paris was much more of an excuse for Welch to crank up the amps to eleven and cut loose with a harsher guitar sound than he brought to his former band, and nowhere was it more evident than on the album opener "Black Book", which features a downright nasty, distorted, syncopated guitar lick which was pretty eye-opening. Unfortunately, however, it's pretty much downhill from there- Welch, Cornick and Mooney thrash and riff around on nine more cuts, to diminishing returns. Occasionally a melody or strong lick or solo sticks its head up, but soon is submerged into the muck again. Lyrically, most of these songs play on the same themes that Welch pursued while in Fleetwood Mac, of the mystical/magical, wicked wimmen and good times rock 'n' roll. "Religion" is, naturally, a song of skepticism about same. Paris isn't a terrible record by any stretch, but it just isn't strong enough to be all that memorable, either. It just never really ignites. I suppose that this must have sold in sufficient numbers to have warranted the release of the not-much-different-or-better (for that matter) sequel, but I can't imagine who would have been buying. Welch is, sadly, pretty much forgotten these days, except on the infrequent occasions when "Sentimental Lady" or "Ebony Eyes" gets a spin on some oldies station...and in 2004 this tentative first step power-trio is even less than forgotten. It's like it never existed at all- except in the Johnny B archives. I feel like I should mention that he graphic designer in me kinda likes the nifty logo that Cornick created for the cover.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

No, I don't own copies of Lost At Sea or Scott Pilgrim. I considered entering Pieratikos' contest that involved the latter, but couldn't think of a single damn reason why I wanted to read it. I just did, that's all...and I knew "I just did" wouldn't cut it, so I abstained. Someday, I'll get them both, but in the meantime I can, and so can you, go check out Scott Pilgrim progenitor Mr. Bryan Lee O'Malley's website, which has, apparently, featured his recent attempts to master watercolor illustration, like the excellent example at left. Of course, most of the Comics Blogosphere are already O'Malley acolytes, so I guess I'm preaching to the choir...and like Grant Morrison's Agent "!", who came as no surprise, I'm sure this site is well known to the mosts of youse. Guess I just wanted to say that I'm really digging those watercolors, and hope you do the same.

I was led to Mr. O'Malley's page via Jen Wang's recent posting on the Pants Press Sketchblog- she has some fine, fine watercolors of her own there. Go, look, it's OK- I'll still be here when you get back, sweet Loretta Modern.

Music today? Why shore: George Harrison-Thirty-Three & 1/3*; Elton John-Blue Moves; The White Stripes-Elephant; The Beatles-Rubber Soul; Uriah Heep-Anthology (stop snickering); Paul Westerberg-Suicane Gratifaction; Joe Henry-Kindness of the World; Nick Drake-Pink Moon; Warre Zevon-My Ride's Here. One of those nose-to-the-grindstone type days at the ULPJ, dont'cha know. Oh yeah- * signifies vinyl. In fact, I'm listening to that one this very minute!

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Mrs. B and I have recently begun getting up early in the morning and walking around the neighborhood, and this was the sunrise we were greeted with as we walked out of the door. Beauty-ful, isn't it. Don't worry, this isn't going to become another fitness blog...she really wanted to get started exercising somehow, and I thought the least I could do was come along to support her- and if I can walk off some of the fast food and Mountain Dew I ingest all day every day, well, more better.

Got nothing else ready to post yet, sorry to say...some will be happy to know that I actually started the overview of a 90s DC limited series which featured artwork from a creator who had a book which came out today, plus the other four entries in the truncated Vinyl-O of a few days ago are almost ready as well. I'm taking a break right now from the monster stack of floppy singles I got...I can't do many more of these eleven-comic weeks! I have mouths to pay and bills to feed.

I've seen movies lately, oh yes. Wonderland (Val Kilmer, not bad as John Holmes in a watchable Traffic-like flick, not as enjoyable or as clever as subject-matter-mate Boogie Nights but still engrossing; Lost In Translation a quietly beautiful and sporadically humorous film, with one of the best perfs I've ever seen from Bill Murray and oh my God, was Scarlett Johansson sexy!...even the first few minutes of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which annoyed me for some strange reason that only my therapist, if I had one, would understand. I've got it on DVD, though, so I will get back on that horse eventually. Watched the oddly anticlimactic and somewhat frustrating season finale of Dead Like Me, which still had enough great moments during the course of its second season to remain one of my favorite series at present. That's all the noteworthy TV I've watched lately...oh yeah- I also caught an airing of some anime-ish (it may be truly Japanese- I haven't investigated all that much yet) animated show called The Super Milk Chan Show...very strange stuff regardless of its country of origin. Click on the link and decide for yourself.

Apropos of nothing, am I the only person that thinks that new Bumblebee character recently introduced in the latest episode of the Teen Titans anime, I mean animated series, is sexy and cute and fun? Huh? Huh? I hope they see fit to bring her back one of these days.

Changing subjects slightly, on my way home from work this evening, I passed by a liquor store with a big banner that read "Welcome Hunters!" Now, I don't know about you, but on the short list of things one shouldn't do when one has been drinking, I would think hunting would be right up there with driving and hitting on your wife's best friend. Call me crazy, but that sign just struck me as odd. Nothing against hunters- I have many friends who do, my Dad (God rest his soul) did, and while I don't share their passion I don't begrudge them it either. It does have its place, it seems, in our mixed-up, mudled-up, shook-up world. And I realize that said alcohol is probably meant to be imbibed post-hunt...but I just got the mental picture of fellas dressed in camo and staggering around the woods Monty Python-style, hooting and hollering and firing shotguns in the air. Yee-haw!

Music today- the inevitable sequel! Jack Johnson-Brushfire Fairytales; Lloyd Cole-Lloyd Cole and Don't Get Weird On Me, Babe; Beach Boys-Surf's Up; Johnny Cash-American Recordings; Kate and Anna McGarrigle, and Mike McGear-McGear. A fascinating look into what I put into my head today as I toiled at the ULPJ.

OK, I seem to be getting on a ramble here. I'm gonna rein it in and get back to my embarrassingly large stack of comeek books now. Oyasumi Nasai, y'all.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Don't look now, but here's the return of that barely anticipated feature we all know and love as What's Johnny B Listening To Lately? *-vinyl

Gram Parsons-GP/Grevious Angel
Cash Covered (the compilation CD of covers of Johnny Cash songs by a host of artists including Steve Earle, Sparklehorse, Shelby Lynne, and Nick Cave, available stuck on the front of the latest Mojo magazine)
The J.Geils Band-Hotline*
Liz Phair-Liz Phair
Beach Boys-Ultimate Christmas (well, it is coming...)
Masters of Reality-Welcome to the Western Lodge
Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire-Thrills
Glen Campbell-Wichita Lineman*
Freedy Johnston-This Perfect World
Outkast-Speakerboxx/The Love Below
Caitlin Cary-While You Weren't Looking
Alan Price-Between Today and Yesterday*

...and that's all I can think of right now.

Stay tuned, I might just post something substantial eventually, and you don't want to miss it when I do.

Domo arigato to Fred Hembeck, who wrote today (Nov. 9th entry) about how Keith Olbermann's been spotlighting the apparently-swept-under-the-rug-by-the-major-news-sources story about "voting irregularities" in last week's Presidential "election". Interesting reading (and viewing, although I haven't been a regular viewer of Olbermann's show and didn't see the reports in question there), guaranteed to make your blood pressure rise. Guess I'll have to link to the Olberblog...
There's a new Christgau Consumer Guide up over at, if you should care to read it.

Of artists I'm interested in, Iris DeMent gets a "Honorable Mention", and Jill Sobule gets two "choice cuts". Not much else there for me this time out, I fear.

While I'm pointing you to online columns I like, here's this week's Tuesday Morning Quarterback.
Just in case you care, here's what I'll be getting tomorrow according to this week's Diamond shipping list!

100 BULLETS #55

Egad, is that all? Not a bad week, quality-wise: I'm looking forward to the second installment of Ocean, Warlock is still interesting, Plastic Man has been fun so far, and I'm really curious about Angeltown, which features art by an underrated fave of mine, Shawn Martinbrough.

I won the run of Monolith on eBay, in case you were wondering, and paid for it this I suppose I'll be writing about it sooner or later.

Saturday, November 06, 2004


What I bought and what I thought, week of November 3

Biggest difference this time out is new artist Nick Derington, a not-bad illustrator in his own right, who steps in for former artist Steven Griffin, who is now doing the color only. Got it? Anyway, Derington gives us a pretty good Griffin impersonation- his art is not as loosey-goosey as his predecessor, but he does a great job just the same. Typically, since this is the in-between chapter, not a lot really happens except exposition...but we are set up nicely for the climactic issue 3, when it comes out. Likeable characters, great, snappy dialogue, novel setting...pretty much another standard issue of the Hawaiian Dick series! A

In which we get the background info on the Lynch-Tao relationship, not to mention the beginning of how the title character came to be what he is. Can't say enough about Sean Phillips' art- I thought it was interesting how he chose to frame each page of this issue in a thick black box...perhaps to suggest claustrophobia, or simply to say "Hey! This is a flashback!" Or maybe so he could turn in smaller art. Whatever the reason, it definitely adds to the the dark mood of an already darkly moody story. A

Deceptively presented as a new mini-series, it merely picks up from where the previous series, A Plague of Frogs, left off. We get a new B.P.R.D. member, of dubious origin, who is a zombie of sorts and placed in charge of the ongoing struggle with the frog-beings to boot; more of Abe and Liz trying to find out what is obvious to anybody who's paying attention about Abe's previous life, plus the Bureau abruptly moves to a new location. There's some cutesy character stuff, with an annoyingly dense (at least compared to when Mignola writes him) Roger the homonculus (the other cast members get cheap chuckles at his naivete, which just didn't seem right to me) and page after page of energetic, sharp Guy Davis art which makes the whole darn thing worth the price of admission. B+

Tommy Lee Edwards does a great job, for the most part, of trying to help us make sense out of a Rick Veitch script that is just fine when dealing with the here-and-now physical world of the Question, but is saddled with a bunch of new-agey metaphysical bullshit narration which only adds confusion and nothing else...not mood, not mystery, nothing but head-scratching. I still have no idea what befell this issue's nominal adversary, the "Psycho-Pomp", even after two readings. This being said, I like what Veitch seems to be setting up- the trip to Metropolis, Lois Lane's perception of Vic Sage and Sage's suspicions about Superman, even the bit at the beginning with Sage and the kid and his puzzle. But if the "question" in question is a question mark that's gonna be floating over my head after I finish each issue, then that's not a very funny joke and I want my money back. B

Grant Morrison, after giving us some of the most thought-provoking, challenging, and fun comics in ages with WE3, Seaguy, and New X-Men, is entitled to slum from time to time, I would think...and here's an example of what he gives us when he chooses to do so. This is an entertaining, fast-paced yarn with a definite 60's DC vibe, and like those great Fox/Broome tales of yore, the less you think about them the better they are. Much of this sounds like it was written by an eager-to-please 15-year old wannabe comics writer: "There's an alternate team of JLA-types! Yeah! And GORILLA GRODD traps them! And they have to call the REAL JLA for help! Cool! But...but they're not there! But wait! Uh...Batman's there! Yeah! And he's got a flying saucer, and a secret base on Pluto, and next issue, and next issue...ROBOT JUSTICE LEAGUE! Cool!" See what I mean? At least Grant doesn't even try to take it seriously, and neither should the reader. Strengths include Morrison's always hyper-confident-and-capable Batman, the nudge-nudge-wink-wink humor, best typified by the "Sci-Fi closet" remark Batman makes; the aforementioned fast pace which gets the reader swept up in the proceedings, and a neat kinda Robin-slash-Oracle sidekick for the alternate JLA (named the "Ultra-Marines", holdovers from Grant's previous tenure on the JLA proper title- and I thought "Intimates" was a stupid name for a superhero team) Batman named "the Squire", real name Beryl, who is cute, smart and competent as all get out with her feathered tam and long braid- and if she's a little Harley Quinn-esque, well, so what? I liked her. Serous weakness: the Ed Mcguinness/Dexter Vines art, which is in that vaguely manga-ish, overly mannered style that was kinda popular in the wake of Joe Maduriera (sp?) and Humberto Ramos, but I think the only people that liked it all that much were the editors at DC and Marvel, 'cause it seemed like every other new artist's style for about a three year stretch looked exactly like that. Anyway, it's way too busy for such an already busy script, plus nearly everybody looks like they're wearing balloon suits- chins, muscles, noses, everything is exaggerated and roundish, and it annoys the heck out of me. I was entertained by Classified...but that's all. Morrison can, and will, do better. The artists, though, I'm not so sure. B-

Still MIA: Daisy Kutter 3.

I also picked up collections of Peculia by Richard Sala, and Jetcat Clubhouse by Jay Stephens for 75% off today at the sidewalk sale my shop had. I also took advantage of the indoor 25% off to pick up Astro City: A Visitor's Guide, but I haven't read them yet.