Thursday, January 31, 2013


As completely repulsive as I find bullfighting, the above image is probably my favorite single one from Nicolas De Crecy's Salvatore Vol. 1, a graphic novel I reviewed for Good Comics For Kids a little earlier in the week (which you can read here, if you like).

The only new comic book-comic I read this week (you may have noticed the lack of a new edition of "Comic Shop Comics" last night) was Injustice: Gods Among Us #1, which wasn't nearly as terrible as I expected, and turned out to be the very best of the first issues of comics series based on video games based on DC characters that I've read (a small, shallow pool to be sure). I wrote about it for Robot 6, focusing mainly on the costuming and design, and wondering how closely adhered to the New 52 designs, as the video games-for-grown-ups and the New 52 both seem to court the same older teens and adults audience at the expense of the younger teens and kids demographic. Anyway, words and scans pertaining to Injustice here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Another thing I liked about Highschool of the Dead Vol. 2?

That's the volume where Bad-Ass Manga Snoopy shows up. Check it out:

In the third volume, the above dog gets the name Zeke, which makes it slightly more difficult for me to pretend that after Schulz's death, Snoopy decided to move to Japan and start a new career in manga.

More difficult, but not impossible.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

On some of the fan-service in Highschool of the Dead Vol. 2

Each volume of Daisuke Sato and Shouji Sato's Highschool of the Dead opens with a color section; in the second volume, the section featured a series of pin-ups juxtaposed with dialogue from the story. The above image was one of them, and features character Saeko Busujima.

Note the fairly ridiculous costuming—tiny panties that tie on the side, a tiny apron and, um, that's it. Note the posing, in which artist Shouji manages to include both her ass and both breasts without going for full-on brokeback pose, by positioning the "camera" near the ceiling of the room and looking down at her. And, while it may not quite come through in my poor scan of the page, the coloring mimics the sort of soft-lighting of boudoir photography or soft-core pornography.

Despite how fantastical, a word I'm using her to mean something out of someone's fantasy, the image might be, it actually occurs almost exactly like that within the context of the story (Sans the coloring, of course).
Highschool of the Dead follows a handful of students from a private Japanese school as they cope with a zombie apocalypse. Busujima is the oldest of the students, and a master swordswoman, who kept herself and her allies alive by bashing zombies with her bokken. The first day of their new lives ends in this volume, and they spend the night at the still zombie-free apartment complex of their school nurse's friend. There, the girls all take a bath to wash all of the sweat, dirt, adrenaline, blood and brains off of their bodies and wash their clothes (the boys, who have killed just as many zombies, for some reason don't seem to be eager to bathe or wash their clothes).

While they're waiting for their school clothes to dry, the girls borrow clothes from the apartment to spend the night in. The school nurse wears either a towel or nothing (oh, they also start drinking, the nurse getting pretty wasted), Rei Miyamoto wears a super=tight, super-tiny tank top that doesn't quite cover her panties and Saya Takagi wears a tiny, half tank top and shorts that aren't much bigger than a pair of panties. But the tall Busujima can't find anything in her size, save the apron.
An odd choice, really. I'm pretty sure she'd get more coverage from a towel.
She goes through much of the volume wearing that particular outfit, which allows Shouji to draw her pretty much naked throughout, no matter what's going on. And what's going on, for most of the scenes she's dressed like that, is preparing to defend the department, rescuing the life of a little girl and ultimately making a break for it through the zombie hordes.

Unsurprisingly, the boys do not strike this particular pose when bravely declaring that they will hold their position no matter what

Let's see...entire ass, both breasts...yes, I believe this likely qualifies as brokeback. That, or it's close enough that we might as well count it

I posted this one before, but I'm going to re-post it here, as it's a pretty good example of that particular outfit being worn in circumstances one might not expect such a costume to be worn in

I'm sort of fascinated by the over-the-top cheesecake or fan-service elements of HOTD, because the series isn't actually that over-the-top. Yes, there's a leering perversity to it, and obviously there's a lot of violence and gore, as the zombiepocalypse genre demands, but it's a pretty straightforward, serious horror drama: The fact that Busujima is dressed like that isn't presented as a joke, it's just matter-of-factly presented among the life-and-death elements of the comic, which are always played straight.

I also wonder about my reaction to it. I wonder why I like this comic, how I don't mind its portrayal of the characters in such costumes and poses in the least, whereas this is the same sort of stuff that I find literally outrageous in American super-comics.

I'm fairly certain that it has to do with the context, the fact that this is unambiguously a comic for grown-ups—It's rated "M", bears a "Parental Advisory/Warning/Explicit Content" label on the front that is visually reminiscent of early '90s gangsta rap CDs and cassettes and is sometimes even shrink-wrapped.

And it certainly helps that the stars are original to this series, not characters created for children's entertainment like, say, Wonder Woman or Supergirl, who are simultaneously appearing in hyper-sexualized comic books for teens and adults while they're also appearing in all-ages cartoons and comics and being sold as toys and bedsheets to little kids.

And it also helps that artist Shouji Sato is on the same page as the writer—the tone of the art matches the one of script, which isn't always the case in sexualized super-comic art. And it also helps that Shouji is a good artist (the above brokeback pose notwithstanding). I don't object to cheesecake or fan-service. I object to inappropriate cheesecake and fan-service. And I object most strongly to badly-drawn, inappropriate cheesecake and fan-service.

While Busujima's panties, apron and nothing else ensemble does give Shouji an excuse to draw her practically naked throughout the entire volume (or, alternately, readers an excuse to ogle her practically naked throughout the entire volume), this isn't a technically all-ages comic, so it's not like excuses are needed. If the Satos want to have Busujima, or any of the characters appear naked in the comic, they can just have them do so. Which they do in this volume.

Before she puts on the apron-only outfit, Busujima and the other female characters are all shown drinking and fooling around while bathing.
This image is cropped to make it Safe(r) For Work, but there are a few panels where she's not even wearing an apron and panties

It's amazing how refreshing genre comics for actual grown-ups, free of any and all valuable all-ages IPs, can seem if you've spent a lot of time—maybe too much time—with super-comics.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Building Stories, crushing skulls

Is anyone keeping track of how many people have been injured by improperly shelved or precariously positioned copies of Chris Ware's critically-acclaimed latest and most gigantic work, Building Stories...?

That's how it is shelved at the nearest big box book store, which I happened to be in tonight. It looks almost as if it were shelved as some sort of trap to do away with manga readers who might browse too long...I wondered if maybe there wasn't a thin length of piano wire stretching from, say, Sailor Moon Vol. 3 to Building Stories, so that if you pull the former off the shelf, the latter comes crashing down upon you. Naturally I was too afraid to examine it too closely, for fear of my own life.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


You're right, Myrtle—Bigfoot is cool. I participated in this week's What Are You Reading? at Robot 6, and this week's guest is Landry Walker. I briefly discuss Thien Pham's Sumo and the third volume of Ross Campbell's Wet Moon, which the above two panels are taken from.

Review: It Came From Ohio...

They Came From Ohio... might have made for a more accurate title, as writer James Renner's book contains 13 stories of monsters, UFO encounters and similar strangeness from my home state (and, incidentally, would have differentiated it from the R.L. Stine biography with the same title), but then, It Came From Ohio... is a better, snappier-sounding title, and the pronoun could be referring to the book itself, not the stories the book contains, or the creatures and characters that are featured in each of them.

Let's start at the beginning. No, let's start before the beginning, with the cover.

It Came From Ohio...: True Tales of the Weird, Wild, And Unexplained (Gray and Company; 2012) is a very attractive little book. It's a slim volume, just over 100 pages, and higher than it is wide—a thin rectangle of a book that could almost but not quite fit in one's back pocket, or inside coat pocket, like a guide book might.

The almost bright black of the cover sharply contrasts with the green of the title and the figure in the middle, a green which just as sharply contrasts with the sickly yellow of the image's background and the author's name. A few bits of red in the creature's eyes and the beam of light seeming to shoot from its finger draw the eye and add an additional level of complexity.

The cryptozoologically inclined among you, those with an at least passing interest in Ohio's many, many monsters, or readers of this blog with a photographic memory will probably recognize the creature as The Loveland Frog.

The image is by artist Todd Jakubisin, who provides an illustration for each chapter of the book (which we'll look at some more examples of below). Each chapter opens with an illustration facing it, all in roughly the same shape and proportions, and in stark black and white; the cover image is taken from the third chapter, "The Ballad of The Loveland Frog."

There's a block-like simplicity to Jakubisin's illustrations, all of which strive to capture essential elements of the stories, but to present them in ways that are decorative and evocative more than representational. That cover image, for example, isn't a drawing of what the witnesses described seeing so much as it's a cool drawing of a frog-like bipedal creature.

In addition to the Loveland Frogs, other famous Ohio monsters who have their stories told here include the Lake Erie monster AKA South Bay Bessie, the Melon Heads of Kirtland (the next city over from where I currently work and reside, though I'm not brave enough to walk around the woods with a flashlight at night), The Mothman (whom we share with West Virginia; although Point Pleasant, WV is his/its home, the Silver Bridge terminated in Ohio, and there were plenty of sightings of it on our side of the river), and, of course, the omnipresent Bigfoot (The hairy humanoid discussed in the chapter "Bigfoot's Lair" is in Salt Fork State Park in Guernsey County).

The other monsters included were new to me. That, or else ones I had read about previously and forgotten having done so.

There's a werewolf from Defiance said to have used a two-by-four or club on a few victims (What's scarier than a werewolf? A werewolf with a two-by-four. Funny how if you add the words "with a two-by-four" to the name of just about anything capable of holding a two-by-four, it becomes scarier. Try it.)

There's a camp ghost nicknamed "Red Eyes," a name it shares with one of the state's many famous Bigfoots.

And then there's a ghost in a house near the university of Akron. (I've read quite a few books on ghosts in Ohio, but few of the stories really stuck with me, as I'm not terribly interested in ghosts; certainly not as much as I'm interested in monsters).

Two pretty famous UFO incidents are included, the 1966 incident in which police officers chased a relatively low-flying, slow-moving UFO along highways for the better part of a night, producing detailed sightings from multiple police officers (This is an incident written about extensively in Jerome Clark's UFO encyclopedia, a book I'd recommend if you're at all interested in the subject), and another particularly credible sighting involving a helicopter full of military men, flying back and forth between Cleveland and Wright-Patterson Air Force base in Dayton (which Clark also covered).

The remaining stories are more along the lines of general weirdness: A chapter on the Toynbee tiles found around the region, the "WOW" signal from space that an Ohio State University professor temporarily picked up and lost and the goings-on of mysterious and super-exclusive rich-person Lake Erie hangout Rattlesnake Island.

Depending on how many other similar books one has read before, Renner's book is either full of quite interesting stories, or a pleasant enough re-telling of some familiar ones (Six of the 13 were new to me). The chapters are all very short, no more than 10 pages at the longest, and thus there's not a whole lot of room for detail. That makes it something like a Weird Ohio 101, introductions to various incidents and creatures one can read more about elsewhere.

Unfortunately, Renner's book doesn't include any notes or even a bibliography, so it doesn't really function as a stepping stone, so much as it might send one seeking a stepping stone. As someone interested in Ohio's monster populace, for example, I very much would like to learn more about the two-by-four toting werewolf of Defiance, Ohio, but I wasn't given anywhere else to look for. Nor can I check his sources for various bits of the Mothman story that seem to contradict other tellings.

(I was interested and confused, for example, by a sentence reading, "Others say the Mothman was an ancient harbinger of doom, the kind seen by prophets in the Old Testament." I don't recall any thing in the Old Testament at all resembling the weird-ass Mothman, and a Bible passage from the Book of Daniel quoted in sidebar in is prefaced by the vague "Some have noted the similarities between a biblical beast...and the Mothman", quoting the following line from Daniel: "After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon its back four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads." Doesn't sound much of anything like the two-winged, headless, owlman-like Mothman, does it?)

Also, I would kind of like to learn more about this crazy paragraph:
Renner is the first to suggest, at least in my reading, that the Coyne Incident (the UFO sighting by the guys in the helicopter) might have been the result of the government testing some sort of psy-op on their own men.

There seems to be a bit of first-hand reporting involved in some of the stories though, even if there are a few cases of sources simply being identified as "Some" or "Others."

In his chapter on the 1966 UFO chase, for example, Renner talks to the son of one of the officers involved in the chase, and reveals some crazy, spooky details about the man's death.

And in the chapter on Mothman, Renner quotes Hazel DeWitt, who appeared in the documentary Eyes of the Mothman, who now serves a Mothman burger in Point Pleasant's Harris Steak House (It's an eight-dollar "charbroiled patty covered in pepperjack and Mothman sauce, whatever that might be.") It's weird how scary the Mothman sightings were in the context of John Keel's original Mothman Prophecies book were, and how silly they seem now that the town has embraced Mothman as a tourist attraction—how credible is a Mothman sighting coming form a lady selling you a Mothman burger, for example, or a tale of a visit from a Man In Black from someone working at the Mothman Museum?

Perhaps the most intriguing stories Renner shares, however, are personal ones, given in the short introduction in which he discusses his fascination with such weirdness. One is about a childhood experience in which he and his friend encounter some weird aerial phenomena and some strange animal or insect life (an incident that takes place at Camp Manatoc, home to the Red Eyes discussed in one of the chapters), and then there's this:
My aunt tells the story—I kid you not—of seeing the Easter bunny in the furry flesh as a child. She has become convinced over the years that what she actually saw was an angel pretending to be the Easter bunny to please her child mind.
That's a story I'd really, really like to hear more of—how big was the Easter bunny? How humanoid and how rabbit like? Was it walking upright? Carrying a basket? (My mom once saw Santa Claus' sleight through her window as a child on Christmas Eve, but only from afar).

Despite some disappointments, mostly of a nature that are particular only to me or someone at least mildly obsessed with some of these subjects, I found the book to be a lot of fun, and a good starting point for explorations on a few interesting topics (And, at $7.99 it's extremely affordable—less than the cost of two issue of The Avengers!)


Let's take a look at a couple of Jakubisin's illustrations, shall we? I'm just going to limit them to three, but if you're as interested in how different artists choose to depict the same subjects, it's probably worth flipping through one of these to see how he decided to draw, say, the Lake Erie monster.

First, here's his Bigfoot:
Note the posture and the walk, and how it looks a bit like his own, skinny, almost Muppet-like version of Bigfoot loping Patterson-Gimlin style through the woods.

There's a little sidebar in that chapter in which Renner writes that the Patterson-Gilmin film "remains the best evidence for the existence of Bigfoot." I don't know, is that true? If so, Bigfoot is totally not a real living, breathing animal because I'm on the "Dude, That Shit Is Fake As All Get-Out" side of that particular debate.

There's a nice quote about Bigfoot hunting from an Ohio expert and hunter Don Keating about the best way to go Bigfooting: "Don't go out there trying to find Bigfoot hiding behind a tree...Go out and enjoy nature. And if you see it, consider yourself lucky."

Sounds like good advice.

Here is Jakubisin's drawing for the Melonheads chapter, "Dr. Kroh's Home For Peculiar Children":
Rather than drawing a live Melonhead, feral macroencephalic children, Jakubisin draws the aftermath of one of their possible origin stories, in which the home they were living in burned down, leaving only their skeletons for him to draw in the front yard of the burning home.

And as The Mothman is such a repeated subject of interest here at EDILW, I would be remiss if my mission of collection Mothman depictions if I did not include Jakubisin's illustration for the Mothman chapter, "The Mothman Cometh":
Unfortunately, he doesn't offer a depiction of the Mothman, but instead focuses on the beginning of the Neil Partridege sighting, in which his dog Bandit chases a pair of giant red eyes that shine like bicycle reflectors and then disappears.

He distills the scene into a single, circular image, with parallel beams of light framing Partridge and Bandit. But there's no Mothman, which kinda boggles my mind, given how much fun Mothman is to draw.


Speaking of Mothman, Partridge and Bandit, here's my version of the story, as presented in my The Mothman Comics mini-comic which is, of course, still available for purchase:

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A few ads of note from this past week's comics:

I love how upfront The CW is with the main appeal of their new-ish Green Arrow television show.

I wonder if Arrow might garner greater ratings if instead of changing Green Arrow's superhero name to Arrow, they had instead called him Shirtless Arrow...? Or perhaps Bare-Chested Arrow...? Maybe Naked-From-The-Waist-Up Arrow...? (They would also need to modify his costume accordingly, of course).

Not trying to be a jerk or anything, but I honestly can't recall every seeing anyone saying anything so positive about artist Eddy Barrows that could be construed as "acclaim."

I'm certainly no fan of his work, but, that said, based on this image alone, Teen Titans seems like it will be ever so slightly improved by his presence. The costumes are all still high aesthetic crimes (and they all pretty much match too...? What's up with that...?), but this image isn't anywhere near as repellent as many of the other Teen Titans covers I've seen since the New 52boot.

That was one of the nine house ads I saw in Green Lantern #15 this week (all of the ads were house ads, save one for The Kubert School and one for Geek magazine, which features DC's superheroes on its cover in the ad). Of those nine, 1/3 were trumpeting new creative teams as if those were positive things, and not a sign of some sort of behind-the-scenes creative chaos in the not yet a year-and-a-half old comics series (In addition to Teen Titans getting a new artist, ads for Green Arrow #17 and Demon Knights #16 proclaimed their new teams; the other ads were for Justice League of America #1, Before Watchmen: Dollar Bill #1, Animal Man Vol. 2, Earth 2 Vol. 1, the "H'El on Earth" crossover in the Superman titles and the new series Threshold...if that is indeed its real title).

Exactly how is it that we've gotten this far into our culture's still-surging zombie craze and no one thought to make collectible zombie figures in the style of the pink MUSCLE figures of my youth until now...?

It's too bad these SLUGs are using the color green. I always thought it would be awesome if DC Direct did a line of 7,200 Green Lantern Corps toys in this same style, featuring every single member of the Corps in green, MUSCLE-like form.

Friday, January 25, 2013

In the kitchen with Dan Zettwoch and Uncle Birdseye

You may recall last month Dan Zettwoch's Birdseye Bristoe won the prestigious and totally-a-real-thing Charles Xavier Memorial Award for Best Beverage Recipe.

At the time, you may have thought to yourself, "How does Caleb know that was Uncle Birdseye's World Famous Red Cow recipe was the best beverage recipe from a comic last year, huh? What, did he make and try all of the beverage recipes he found in comics last year?"

Well, as a matter of fact...
I did have a little bit of trouble securing the precise ingredients, as described in the illustrated seven-step recipe above.

I don't actually have any large plastic cup, with or without pro-wrestlers on them, so I used a large glass cup. Or a glass, as I believe glass cups are usually referred to. (For the Columbus residents in the reading audience: I imagine ComFest plastic beer mugs would be fairly ideal for Red Cow making).

For the ingredients, I used Giant Eagle-brand generic vanilla ice cream, which is hopefully generic enough, and did indeed use strawberry for the second scoop of ice cream.
I opted not to use a pinch of ground cayenne pepper, just like Clint J. Murgatroyd (above) takes his. (The recipe says the pinch of pepper is "to put hairs on your chest," but I have more than enough hairs on my chest; in fact, if there were a spice that removed hairs from your chest by ingesting it, I would probably have thrown that in here. And/or on everything I eat and drink.)

Unable to find Lucky's Red Thunder Red Creme Soda, I had to go with Big Red, the only red pop at my local grocery store.

Here's what the result looked like:
Not much like Zettwoch's drawing, I'm afraid, but that may be down to my using the wrong sort of cup and brand of red pop.

Step #7 was a bit difficult. Not the simple "Enjoy!" part, but the asterisks:
*No spoons or straws allowed

**You know you've done it right when you have a foamy pink mustache
I tried drinking it one long draught, in order to generate a foamy pink mustache.
But I'm afraid the mustache wasn't as big and foamy as I expected from Zettwoch's drawings. Perhaps my own mustache repelled the Red Cow's foam mustache...?
And perhaps it was a result of the narrower shape of my glass than the recommended large plastic cup, but I ended up with more foam on my nose than my upper-lip.

As for the Red Cow itself, it was a pretty-looking beverage, much prettier and pinker than your average root beer float, which it tasted an awful lot like, only more fruity than root-y.

And that was my experiment with Zettwoch's recipe.

I would recommend his Birdesye Bristoe without hesitation, but as for Uncle Birdseye's World Famous Red Cow AKA Hot Blood Shake? I suppose it depends on how much you like ice cream and red pop. Me, I prefer comics to both.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


I have a review of Anders Nilsen's mixed-media, part-comics memoir Don't Go Where I Can't Follow in this week's Las Vegas Weekly.

I have a rather long review of Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie and Mike Norton's Young Avengers #1 up at Robot 6 today.

And I have a review of Andy Runton's latest comic/kids book hybrid Owly and Wormy: Bright Lights and Starry Nights up at Good Comics For Kids.

And that's all I have today.

Comic Shop Comics: January 9-23

Ame-Comi Girls #4 (DC Comics) I read this in a coffee shop, and I think it was the first time I was actually self-conscious about being seen in public with a comic book since I was a sophomore in high school, thanks to Emanuela Luppacchino's cover.

Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray pull back from their on-going plot gathering various female super-characters against the invading, female verison of Brainiac and her cadre of female super-villains in order to introduce Power Girl, who is the Ame-Comiverse's Superman.
She fights Somali pirates in a scene just like the one in Brightest Day that Geoff Johns wrote, minus the threat of child-rape, she fights The Silver Banshees, she fights a giant Luthor-bot and she fights some Manhunter robots (which have boobs and glowing energy long-hair). Supergirl shows up near the end.

I like this version of Power Girl's costume okay, even the weird chain which seems randomly attached to part of her cape and the small of her back, which fascinated me (What's it attached to, exactly? Why is it even there?) It's super-busy, but super-busy in an anime fantasy, science fiction-y kind of way. The glove flares, for example, look kinda sorta like butterfly wings attached to her wrists. I thought those were cool. Overall, her too-busy costume looks better here than the too-busy costume she wears in the New 52-iverse.
This issue's artwork comes from Mike Bowden, whose sense of exaggeration makes Power Girl, who most artists are prone to exaggerate, um, parts of, look normal, as everything else around her is similarly exaggerated. I liked his artwork an awful lot.

Classic Popeye #6 (IDW) Another reprinting of another late-forties Popeye comic from Bud Sagendorf, this issue contains a story in which Popeye gives Swee'pea and one of his little friends (who also crawls about in a nightgown/sack—my four-month-old nephew wears something called a "sleepsack" that looks and functions similarly to that—but can talk and, like, build rafts and dig holes and paint boats and suchlike) an old treasure map to play with, little realizing the boys will actually go after the treasure. They encounter one of Popeye's foes who shanghais them and their map, and Popeye, fearing the tykes had drowned, spends the story in jail. He isn't needed to rescue them anyway, given that Swee'pea is just as strong and invincible as his adopted father.

The back-up story involves Wimpy braining a man with a rock in order to steal a sandwich from him (luckily, the man is a bank robber, otherwise Wimpy would seem even more evil than, um, he usually does), and there's a prose story that is actually pretty funny and, as Mike Sterling pointed out the week of release, actually worth reading.

Daredevil #22 (Marvel Entertainment) Our title hero teams-up with Spider-Man, who Spider-Man and/or Internet readers know recently had a Freaky Friday experience with Doctor Octopus, resulting in the all-new Doctor Spider-Man! (Actually, they're calling him Superior Spider-Man, but that's dumb, as what does that have to do with Doctor Octopus, exactly? Nothing. So I think he should be either "Doctor Spider-Man" or "The Amazing Spider-Doctor." Or I suppose I would be okay with "Doctor Spider-Pus." Or "The Amazing Octo-pider-Man." Or...Hm. Well, I would have loved to be in the meeting where they came up with "Superior Spider-Man," just to see all the suggestions someone thought of and someone else vetoed.

Anyway, what the hell was I talking about?

Mark Waid and Chris Samnee have the new Doctor Spider-Man fight Daredevil, before having them team-up to fight the villainous Stilt-Man, who I was fairly certain was killed off in the recent past.

It's surprisingly funny, right up until that last page which, ugh, not really something I want to read about in Daredevil frankly (I don't want to say it doesn't belong in superhero comics at all, it's just that I feel like it's been in enough superhero comics at this point that it doesn't sound all that interesting to me, but I guess we'll see where Waid goes with it).

Samnee's art is pretty incredible, as always. The new Stilt-Man suit allows him to telescope his arms as well as his legs, and Samnee captures their shooting movement in an effective and exciting manner.

I also like the little touches he uses to show us this is a new, secretly evil Spider-Man, including thicker, more lens-like eyes on his mask (which I think are meant to suggest, Doc Ock's glasses, and weren't an innovation of Samnee's), and pointy, claw-like fingers.

Daredevil remains very, very good super-comics.

Fantastic Four #3 (Marvel) The Fantastic Four and the kids got to a planet that tries to eat them. There's, uh, not a whole lot going on in these issues of Fantastic Four really, although Matt Fraction and Mark Bagley are both doing everything A-OK, craft-wise. Each of their three issues so far have just been sort of low on ambition and/or anything separating them from pretty much anything else on the racks or back issue bins.

FF (Marvel) I'm not really sure what to make of the gap in quality between Fantastic Four and FF: It's evident and it's wide, but it's also kind of weird. Both books have the same writer, both have casts pulled from the same general family of characters and their stories are at least somewhat inter-locked (although, at this point, more parallel than entwined).

And yet FF is so many times better than Fantastic Four, and it's not just the art. Yes, Mark Bagley is a better than average drawer of modern super-comics, whereas Mike Allred is the whole, total, superlative package—great designer, great storyteller, great renderer, possessing a style perfectly suited for the House That Jack Built (And, particularly, the characters that Jack created and drew).

It's also Fraction's writing. Fantastic Four reads like an assignment, like work, like something he has to do. He's come up with a temporary premise, but the action and actions are still fairly boiler plate for the franchise, and well within the established range of mediocre Fantastic Four comics. The characters are all written just as they are "supposed" to be written—World's smartest man Reed Richards is an emotionally clueless douchebag who doesn't realize what a jerk he is, Sue is an uber-competent bad-ass grizzly mom still over-compensating for the way Stan Lee wrote her in the 1960s, etc.

With FF though, Fraction seems to be having fun, and allowing his collaborator to have lots of fun too.

In this issue, the battle-damaged Johnny Storm of the future explains to the substitute Four how his teammates were all killed—it involved Doom The Annihilating Conqueror, a composite villain made by three Marvel villains with matching color schemes—and Ant-Man tries to convince Darla to come back to the team, presenting a compelling case. The action sequence mainly involves her fighting the Yancy Street Gang in her towel.

There are a couple of showy but effectively done scenes in here, including a chase down a hotel stairwell, and a really great splash page. It's only three issues in, so I suppose it's a little early to declare this the best super-comic going right now (and it's got a lot of competition, including at least one other Fraction-written book), but as I was reading it, I sure thought it was.

Also? I kind of want to go to a Darla Deering concert now:

Green Lantern #16 (DC) Is this book still on-schedule...? It seems like it's been a really long time since I've read an issue of it.

In this issue Geoff Johns finishes up Simon Baz's origin story arc—or at least the first sub-arc of his origin arc—as Baz ties up some of his earthbound business, finds his Lantern and gets a teacher in the form of Green Lantern B'dg, the more realistically-proportioned space squirrel who replaced Ch'p in the Corps.

I think Johns has done a pretty fine job introducing Baz and, with Doug Mahnke and company, making him an appealing and cool-looking enough character that I'm actually interested in him (more interested than I am in Hal Jordan, of course), and, when I saw a note in here saying the story was going to continue into an issue of Green Lantern Corps, I actually wanted to maybe buy and read that issue, which shouldn't be a remarkable thing at all, of course, but interconnectivity (or, that is, appealing interconnectivity) isn't something I've found in the New 52 thus far.

The state of the art credits remain a complete mess, as this issue is delivered by Mahnke and the regular Green Lantern Inkers Coprs; as usual, it also mostly looks very, very strong until near the end, where there are a few obviously rushed pages that obviously look like the work of different people.

It Girl and The Atomics #6 (Image Comics) Okay, I dropped this series with #4, but came back for this issue, as it is an "interlude" featuring a member of the Atomics (in this case, the Plastic Man-powered Mr. Gum, my favorite of The Atomics) and artwork from Chynna Clugston-Flores, the Blue Monday and Scooter Girl creator who I have seen far too little artwork from of late.

It's good stuff. The main problem I had with the series was writer Jamie S. Rich's too-effective homage to Bronze Age comics storytelling, made more interminable still by Bendis Age decompression. That is, the first story arc was a 20, maybe 40-page story stretched out over five issues.

This is a done-in-one, checking in on Mr. Gum, who is touring outerspace with The Atomics (the band, not the superhero team), which means cameos for Madman and Red Rocket 7.

Rich writes Mr. Gum as an off-brand JLA version of Plastic Man, the horny Jim Carey take that Grant Morrison suggested and all the other writers writing JLA spin-offs in the late 90s made more annoying still.

It's been a long time since I read those Allred Atomics comics, but I don't remember Mr. Gum acting anything like that, nor do I remember his powers working exactly like JLA Plas' (That is, instead of just stretching, he can radically change shape, which he does to punctuate his jokes and dialogue with visual puns or stresses).

I do like that he stumbles into the sort of obvious political/sociological metaphor situation involving alien races that Superman, Green Lantern or the Justice League of America might have encountered in the old days, but, rather than wisely solving all the problems, Gum is essentially like, "Eh, fuck these fucked-up people" and leaves. (Poor form on never giving the waitress a name though, Rich!).
Full-color superheroics involving a whole bunch of aliens, sci-fi sets and a giant monster aren't exactly Clugston-Flores' forte, but that is in large part what made her work on this issue particularly exciting to read. She does a fine job of it, and it's fun to see her, um, stretching here, and to see familiar characters like Mr. Gum and Madman rendered in her Archie-inspired style.

If I remember an first or second issue editorial correctly, Rich's plan was to follow each full story-arc with a one-shot interlude drawn by a different guest artist. If this one's indicative, then regardless of how much one may or may not like those story arc's, this is probably a title still worth keeping an eye on.

And man, Allred has been killing it with these pin-up style covers.
Next issue's looks even better than this one.

Legends of the Dark Knight #4 (DC) After a few issues of full-length stories, this one is back in anthology mode, with three short stories from three different creative teams. In the first, writer T.J. Fixman and artist Christopher Mitten present a kinda clever twist story involving The Joker and Arkham Asylum, probably most notable by the expressionist, gritty artwork.

The second is "Batman: The Movie," by Adnrew Dabb and Giorio Pontrelli, which imagines a Batman movie being made within the DC Universe, where it would be more like, I don't know, Oliver Stone's W than Chistopher Nolan's Dark Knight Rises. I've seen so many stories about this very thing (more than one being enough), that the premise seemed tired, even if the creators do a decent enough job with it. The Joker and out-of-costume Harley Quinn attack, the real Batman intervenes, et cetera. I liked how the movie Batman's costume looked like a mix of Norm Breyfogle and Kelley Jones Bat-costumes. Pontrelli is really a hell of an artist, so if the function of these digital-first shorts are try-outs for future, higher-profile gigs, I think he's certainly earned a bigger and better gigs at DC.

Finally, Jonathan Larsen an Tan Eng Huat present a story in which Two-Face tries a radical brain surgery to cut out half of himself. An okay enough idea for a throwaway short like this (I was actually relieved to see a villain other than The Joker in one of these Legends stories), although Eng Huat's more-conventional-but-still-quirky line work is the most interesting aspect of the story by far.

This title really feels like some sort of comics equivalent to snack food for me. You know how sometimes you feel like something sweet, so you eat something that's not particularly delicious or good for you, but nevertheless fulfills a vague craving? That's this book: It fulfills my occasional craving to read Batman comics I haven't read already, without having to commit to 40-part Joker or owl crossovers, wonky New 52 continuity or whatever.

Saga #9 (Image) We leave Hazel, her parents and her paternal grandparents for an entire issue focusing on hired assassin The Will and Lying Cat, my favorite comics character of the moment. His path crosses with that of another person hunting our protagonists, and he attempts to rescue that sex slave girl he encountered on Sextillon.

There are a lot of fun, little moments in this issue, mainly involving clever, quippy dialogue and artist Fiona Staples' always-inspired design work. I like the way Gwendolyn dresses, I like her ship that looks like a piece of giant mechanical fruit with a propellor. I like the weird-ass muscle Sextillon hires (in fantasy and in reality) and I was especially happy to see The Stalk again, if only briefly.

This is a really good comic, with really great design work and world-building buttressing it.

Saucer Country #11 (DC) By now you've probably all heard this one's been canceled, right? It's kind of too bad. I'm not terribly surprised, given the market's lack of appetite for ongoing, serially-published Vertigo comics, but I kind of liked this one, and it's plotting seems indicative that writer Paul Cornell still had a long, long way to go with the story he wanted to tell (the protagonist is a New Mexico governor running for President of the United States; she just had her first debate in the Democratic primaries).

This issue explores the fairy and false memory aspects of UFOlogy and abductee psychology, making for some intense drama and heavy subject matter, while also letting guest artists Mirko Colak and Adrea Mutti draw primary-colored, Tinkerbell-sized fairies and, in one scene, fairies fighting Greys.

I guess this book never found its audience, which is a shame, as I'm pretty certain there is an audience. It reads quite well in trade, I imagine, but isn't too terribly well-suited to the serial format. At least, in my experience, I found it kind of gets lost among all the superheroes and cartoon characters in the rest of my weekly stacks of comics, but is more satisfying in big, uninterrupted chunks.

Wonder Woman #16 (DC) Is it weird that Wonder Woman is only on eight pages of her own 20-page comic book, and that there's another, more interesting superhero on each of those pages with her?

Is it weird that I still have no idea who that guy who crawled out of the earth and ate a dude's brain is, even though he's been around for like four issues now, and is apparently a character from mythology I can't place?

No weirder than the fact that Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang have cast the late Wesley Willis as a demi-god in the cast of their Wonder Woman comic.
"Hellride." Jesus.

Young Avengers #1 (Marvel) Dardevil, Hawkeye, FF and now Young Avengers—Guys, I'm pretty sure Marvel is now winning superhero comics. More on this book elsewhere later today. (UPDATE: Okay, here)