Thursday, March 29, 2012

COOL SHIT 3-29-12

AMERICAN VAMPIRE #25: This issue marks the end of my absolute favorite AV story arc thus far. We find out why, exactly, Travis is hunting down Skinner Sweet, as he and Sweet battle for what seems like a final time. Travis really, really thinks of everything. The only thing that can hurt Sweet is gold, and Travis had taken the time to mix gold powder into his coffee that morning. You know, on the off chance that Sweet would try to drink his blood. There is really no lengths to which Travis won’t go to get this guy. We still don’t know how Sweet survived WWII, but we do know something interesting and new about him. Believe it or not, it’s enough to turn Travis away from him. I hope the next story arc doesn’t let me down. Still, I don’t know how Snyder will be able to top this.

COBRA COMMAND: COBRA #11: The next mini-series reaches its end, and it’s kind of cool. Nothing too big happens . . . except the one scene that earns this book a place in Cool Shit. The Baroness is confronted by Ronin, a super-secret Joe. The latter seems to have the upper hand on the former, but it looks like the Baroness bites a cyanide pill in order to kill herself to evade being interrogated. Unfortunately for Ronin, she is actually swallowing the cure for the gas the Baroness has just unleashed. Ronin is about to die . . . except she is clever. Since the Baroness had the only capsule, Ronin forces her mouth on the Baroness’s, swallowing as much of the cure as she can. How awesome is that? This is not your father’s GI Joe.

THE LAST ZOMBIE: NEVERLAND #2: Once again, we get an all right issue except for one thing: our heroes are cutting their way through a cornfield when they discover they’re surrounded by guns . . . being held by children. That’s right, a bunch of kids have been living together in the middle of nowhere, defending themselves with automatic rifles, by their own admission killing people to survive. Now, they’re aiming guns at Ian Scott and his fellow military friends. How awesome is that? In addition, my copy has a double cover. There was probably a mix up, which resulted in me getting two identical covers on my book. That’ll be worth a lot of money in the future, right? Like an error baseball card, right? Right?!

CROSSED: BADLANDS #2: Garth Ennis gets far uglier than David Lapham could ever imagine. Lapham relied on horrible physical images to get his CROSSED material across. Sure, there was a lot of psychological stuff to it, but Ennis brings it to a whole new level. The narrator is your basic Everyman, but in his very quiet kind of way, he proves himself to be a complete bastard. We learn that he’s got a history of running away from big groups, but now we know that he’s not afraid to abandon a pregnant woman in order to preserve his own life. He’s ballsy enough to suggest to the group that everyone leave her alone to give birth, in order to save themselves from an incoming group of Crossed. If she lives, she can rejoin them later. The rest of the group certainly have their reservations about this plan (as would any good person), but one must wonder: if it came down to a survival situation just like this, how many readers would do the right thing? How many more would join the protagonist in fleeing? It’s some really nasty material (and I’m still digging the shit out of the character who claims to be Prince Harry; he’s such a bastard that one character is convinced he’s not lying because anyone in the royal family must be a fuck). Sad to say, there’s only one more Ennis issue of this book. Good news: Jamie Delano is picking up after this.

Also, it's worth noting that the narrator mentions the last group he was a part of, which was ruled by a triumverate of alpha males who constantly argued.  One of them makes a racist comment to another, and the narrator stops and thinks, really?  We're still doing this?  And I couldn't help but think, of course.  The rules of society have been canceled.  People are not afraid to let their real selves out.  Let's face it, most people don't use the dreaded n-word because society tells them it's not the proper thing to do.  However, just because society says no doesn't mean that the racist urge disappears.  That's why there are so many closet racists in the suburbs, for example.  If the rules no longer apply, then they have no reason to keep their ugliness inside.  So yes, Ennis, they are doing this, even in the middle of the Crossed apocalypse.  Especially then.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

COOL SHIT 3-22-12

HELLBLAZER #289: I can’t get over how hard this book gets me. It’s the best it’s been in fucking years, man. Peter Milligan knows what he’s doing, and so does Giuseppe Camuncoli. But the true star is Simon Bisley, the cover artist. Holy fucking shit, would you look at that? No one has gotten to the heart of this book so well since Sean Phillips was the regular artist. It’s down and dirty. You know what you’re getting when you see that artwork. Bisley’s a fucking fiend, and I love what he’s doing. I also love that the First is still around, doing his level best to fuck John Constantine over. As a result, Constantine gets shot out of Hell and back to earth . . . buried alive. As he tries to get out, the First keeps stepping on him, demanding that Constantine finally admit that he’s lost. Naturally, Constantine shows him the typical two fingers, Britain’s version of the middle finger. Gemma has had the shit kicked out of her by her lover and Constantine’s father-in-law . . . and Epiphany kinda-sorta does something that will undoubtedly change her life (and the course of this book). As great as Azzarello and Ellis were on this book, this is the best its been since Ennis. That’s saying a lot.

WONDER WOMAN #7: Speaking of Azzarello, he continues to make this book very readable. He adds a few more Greek myths to the tale, most notably Eros (a pistol-packing granter of wishes in the realm of love) and Hephaestus (a monstrous welder of magical weapons). More importantly, Azzarello finally answers a question that probably has not been plaguing the minds of Wonder Woman fans: why do the Amazons not have any brothers? Well, who says they don’t? In perfect ancient Greek fashion, they get rid of undesirable babies. Buy the book and find out what happens to them.

FABLES #115: I’m glad to see this book back on track. Nurse Pratt inserts herself back in Fabletown and manages to fool everyone, including Old King Cole, into believing her story. But the best part about this is Therese’s journey to her new kingdom, a land of forgotten toys, where she is to be the new queen. There is something truly unsettling about these toys, especially Mr. Ives and Nan. I think they might all be batshit crazy. Good things are not in store for Bigby and Snow White’s daughter. I wish the Oz back up story was a bit better, though.

KICK-ASS 2 #7: The stunning conclusion to another Millarworld book. Of course, it is just as fucked up as you think it will be. The “superheroes” and “supervillains” are having a two-fisted battle in Times Square, and Kick-Ass finds himself facing off against Motherfucker in their final fight to the death. Well, kind of. Even though Motherfucker definitely deserves an awful death, we all know Kick-Ass doesn’t have willful murder in his soul. However, Hit-Girl is a different story. She has no problem with beheading Motherfucker’s lieutenant, an ex-KGB agent. The ending is heartbreaking, though no one can say they didn’t see it coming. It absolutely promises a third series, and that doesn’t count the forthcoming HIT-GIRL monthly, which purports to take place between the first and second series.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


There has been a sad lack in the comics industry of Brian K. Vaughan’s work since Y THE LAST MAN and EX MACHINA came to an end. Fear not: he is back with a new series, and it promises to be epic.

This is the tale of Alana and Marko, two lovers on the opposite sides of a galactic war. Narrated in the future by their daughter Pico, who has just been born in the opening pages, it tells of how they evade the authorities who seek their blood and how the new parents do everything they can to keep their child alive. Throw in a few robots with human bodies and computer monitors for heads, winged men, alligator-faced creatures, and more, and it’s possibly Vaughan’s strangest tale yet.

Yet even though it takes place in a galaxy far, far away, it has his usual trace of humanity all over it. As Alana gives birth to their horned baby, she says that it feels like she’s shitting. She tells Marko, “Seriously, you’ll never have sex with me again if I defecate all over you. Unless you’re secretly into that. Please don’t be into that.”

For all the coarseness of the scene, when Marko finally holds Pico in his hands, tears are streaming down his cheeks, and Alana is awed by the creature who has come from her.

This book is truly a beauty to behold, and most of this is thanks to Fiona Staples, the artist. She takes completely alien and strange concepts and imbues it all with pure sublime magnificence. Best of all, she doesn’t rely on narration boxes for Pico’s words; she letters them directly onto the art, which works very well, especially when she’s pointing out the planet where the war all began.

What we have here is the beginning of a great new book. With THE BOYS and LOCKE AND KEY on their way out, there’s going to be a huge vacuum to fill, and SAGA is just the book to fill it. The comics industry is buzzing about this book for a reason. Buy issue one and find out why. Don’t be left behind, and don’t wait for the inevitable trades. You’re going to want this one month by month.

Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Illustrated by Fiona Staples
Published by Image
44 pages
$2.99 (Not bad for 44 pages, eh?)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

COOL SHIT 3-15-12

CROSSED: BADLANDS #1: Garth Ennis returns to the book he launched for Avatar. Once again, we have a new band of survivors, a new group of people to get to know before Ennis ruthlessly murders them. This time out, he runs into a problem he created for Lapham and Spurrier on their series: he has to one-up everything that has come before. Ennis is up to the task; in the most horrifying scene, he has a Crossed driving a car and throwing a living baby at someone. The baby splatters all over the place, and since Jacen Burrows has also returned to illustrate, we get to see the gory results. Good times ahead, folks. Good times.

G.I. JOE: INFESTATION #1: Fuck me. This kind of surprised me. Something good is actually coming from IDW’s stupid INFESTATION cross-over. Cobra finds a Mythos relic and they’re trying to figure out how to use it to kill people. The best part: watching Interrogator go among his patients, insane Cobra soldiers who are no longer fit to serve. Good stuff.

ANGEL AND FAITH #7: So Drusilla is sane for the first time in centuries, and she wants to help Angel forget about all the evil things he’s done in his life, to make him a better person. Angel rebels against the idea, as would any intelligent human being. Who wants to take away things that make one human? Faith’s father has also showed up, and he seems to have good intentions, as he’s been sober for six months. Yet . . . it looks like he has other intentions. Things are getting very interesting here.

LOCKE AND KEY: CLOCKWORKS #5: Now we finally know what turned Dodge into the monster we first met at the bottom of the well. Well, not the whole story, but we know that Rendell used the Head Key on him and removed all memories of the Door. Dodge turns into a complete dick, so much so it hurts. Poor Ellie’s heart is absolutely destroyed because of it. To top things off, Joe Hill throws in another surprise: Rendell’s ghostly mother is hanging out in the well house. Weird. 8 ISSUES TO GO.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

COOL SHIT 3-8-12

FATALE #3: How can this book get any cooler? We learn a bit more about Josephine this time around (but certainly not enough), when she reveals the location where she first died. Also, we go back to the present to check up on Nicolas, who is definitely still in trouble. And there is a scene which reminds me of the one in VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, when a guy was mentally dominated into killing himself. Good times. Great news: this isn’t going to be a mini-series. Brubaker now says it’s going to be an epic. Originally, he thought it would be 12 issues, but now he realizes he needs more, like maybe 15, maybe more (since he’s not done writing it yet). This is going to be a solid source of entertainment for quite some time.

DICKS #2: Fuck, am I excited for the return of DICKS! All right, I’ll try not to gush too much about it. I know it’s a re-release, and as such isn’t worthy of Cool Shit, so I won’t bring it up again, unless something truly awesome about a particular issue blows my mind. Of course, when they start DICKS 3, I will probably rant about every fucking issue. There’s just something about everything being colorized that makes it seem somehow more obscene. Oh, and hey! Check out that cover! Yes, that’s Trio getting gangbanged by Wookies.

THE BOYS #64: Holy fuck, things are ending fast, and Garth Ennis isn’t fucking around. Butcher is finally on his way to his final showdown with the Homelander, which will probably happen in next issue. The Boys have finally leaked everything about the secret lives of the superheroes, so now the world knows exactly how depraved they are. The Vought scumbag shows a surprising amount of backbone, and M.M. makes a chilling discovery. Perhaps the Homelander isn’t the genius behind this master plot . . . . SEVEN ISSUES TO GO!

Monday, March 5, 2012

BEER SNOBBERY: A review (kinda-sorta) of Bigby's Pour House

[Ordinarily, I don’t put myself in my own reviews, as I don’t think that’s a very professional thing to do. However, this time I cannot separate myself and my experience from the quality of this bar, so I can’t really call this a review. Think of it as kind of a lame Bruni story, if it makes you feel better. I say “lame” because nothing really happens in this story.]

For a while, Skalski has been trying to get me to come out to a place called Bigby’s Pour House in Addison, mostly because he wanted my assistance on trivia night. I am pretty damned good at that kind of thing, and he wanted to ensure that his team won first place, which is $25 off their bar tab. Not a bad prize, if I do say so myself. However, events conspired against me ever coming out, mostly because trivia night is on Wednesdays, and Wednesdays are my biggest writing days of the week. As a result, he kept company with Flemming instead.

Unfortunately, there were lay-offs at my day job lately, and Flemming was one of the fallen. He and Skalski decided to have a get together at Bigby’s on that grim and awful day, and I decided to join them.

The building itself doesn’t look very impressive, but there is a pretty cool cart outside filled with empty bottles and cans, which offers kind of a rustic, cool tone to the place. Once inside, though, it looks like an old fashioned pub, like something you might see in an old Hammer film.

Out front, they have shelves of their available drinks on rotating wooden disks. On one side, it’s all microbrews; on the other, it’s all wine. This is their entire drink menu, and it all looked expensive as fuck. I thought about the $25 trivia prize and didn’t think it would make much of a dent in a bar tab.

The guy in front explained that if you want to let other people know how good a certain selection is, we should put a tiny ball bearing into the bottle. That way, if someone picks up a bottle to inspect it, and they hear a lot of balls rolling around inside, they’ll know that it’s a quality choice.

It’s an interesting gimmick, but I’m a little too old for stupid shit like that. Everyone’s taste is different. A lot of people out there think PBR is a top quality beer. To quote a great comic, “Opinions are like assholes; they stink.” (And yes, I realize that I’m saying that in something that is a review of sorts, to which I say, “And?!”  What the fuck do you think reviews are?  Ebert, for example, is just a guy with an opinion.)

I’m not much of a beer guy. At five beers, regardless of the brand, I’m a gas bag ready to turn any bar into a concentration camp shower room. Whiskey suits me a lot more. Considering how they didn’t have anything so pedestrian as Bud or Miller, I figured they might have specialty whiskeys, so I asked the guy.

“No, we only serve microbrews and wine,” he said.

Fuck. Well, I also hadn’t eaten anything yet, so I asked if they served food.

“Some. It’s just bar food, though. I’ll bring you a menu.”

We settled down in our chosen corner of the room. The ambiance was very nice. They had a comfortable couch with a nice table in front of it. There was a fish tank nearby with a shelf above it filled with board games. At another table, they had a chessboard set up. There was a dart board attached to the wall above our heads, and it was one of the old fashioned kind, not the stupid electronic ones. All in all, it was a very intimate setting, very comfortable. You could have a conversation in this place without shouting.

Since I was in a microbrewery, I thought I would ask if they had my favorite beer in the world: the Gonzo Imperial. However, I knew the answer would probably be no. If they had any of the Flying Dog line, it would probably be the Classic Pale Ale. I asked about that and was told that they usually had it, but not today. “How about Dead Guy Ale?” I asked. It’s a close second, in my opinion, and places were more likely to have it.

“We only have two in the house,” he said. “However, I think you might like the John John.” He then explained that it was essentially Dead Guy Ale aged in whiskey barrels.

“I’m in.” Only as he walked away did I realize how excellently he’d chosen something for me. He’d taken into account information I’d given him, and he came up with the perfect suggestion. They know their shit at Bigby’s. (And it was delicious, by the way. I tried a few beers the others had ordered, but they weren’t nearly as good as my John John.)

However, even though it’s a very nice place, let’s not mince words: it’s a place for beer snobs and hipsters. Granted, I like top shelf beers a lot more than the usual crap everyone else drinks, but the difference between me and the beer snobs is simple: if someone put a Schlitz in my hand, I wouldn’t complain. I appreciate the finer things in life, but I also settle pretty easily. I got the feeling that 99.9% of the patrons here would sneer at the very idea of sullying their tongues with something so lowly as King Cobra, for example.

Case in point: the guy eventually brought by the menu, and I was shocked. My idea of bar food (his words, remember) is a burger and fries, some mozzarella sticks, wings, nachos, that kind of thing. What is most definitely not bar food? MELTED GOAT CHEESE. Yes, that was one of the menu items in this place, in addition to a cheese platter. Naturally, it was all exorbitantly priced.

The only thing they had on the menu that remotely resembled bar food was the pizza. Even though it’s not a food item I’m supposed to eat, I decided to order that, because I sure as shit wouldn’t be eating melted goat cheese with my beer.

It was, naturally, a gourmet pizza, but it was pretty awesome. It had the perfect mixture of cheeses, as well as garlic. It’s really good stuff, and I do recommend it.

We had a good time in our corner, and we were able to cheer up a couple of our fallen comrades. However, I had a mere three beers and a pizza, and I walked out of there with a tab around sixty bucks.

Like I said, it’s a nice place, and you can have a lot of fun there. (I still wish Tony had taken me up on that game of chess. I haven’t played in a while. Sober, I’ve never lost a game. The only game I’ve ever lost was when I was hammered. That night, I had a buzz on, so he definitely had a chance of taking me.) Don’t let the hipster aspect scare you off. However, I would only advise going there if you had the cash to throw around.

Bigby’s Pour House
1700 W. Lake St.
Addison, IL 60101

Thursday, March 1, 2012

COOL SHIT 3-1-12

SPACEMAN #4: I swear, Brian Azzarello is doing a lot of really cool stuff with language in this book. Unlike things like A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, this lexicon actually makes sense and might even be the direction in which our own language is going. At the same time, he manages to give us an excellent crime story, just as we expect. As Orson makes yet another bad decision for a good cause, we know where everything is headed, and it’s not good for our protagonist. The other spacemen make their appearance in the modern timeline in this issue, and they seem pretty brutish to me. I can’t wait to see how this all turns out.

G.I. JOE: RETALIATION #2: A lot of awesome shit happens in this book, but the real star is, of course, Roadblock. We get a peek at his childhood and find out why he is the way he is. More to the point, Mainframe was the reason he enlisted in the first place, hence his reaction to Hawk in last issue, when he wasn’t allowed to rescue him. Too bad for Mainframe; he’s found dead in this issue. It’s weird to have so many different G.I. Joe continuums. In the regular book, Mainframe’s a pretty important character, and Roadblock is pretty low key. Like I said last time, this book is so cool I have high hopes for the new G.I. Joe movie coming out soon.