This Week’s Haul

Comic books purchased week of November 15.

  • Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #45 (DC)
  • 52 #28 of 52 (DC)
  • Astro City: The Dark Age Book Two #1 of 4 (DC/Wildstorm)
  • Ms. Marvel #9 (Marvel)
  • New Avengers #25 (Marvel)
  • Girls Volume 3: “Survival” (Image)
  • Jack Staff #12 (Image)

Every few years, DC launches another title featuring Aquaman. I think this has been going on since I was in high school (1986), when the pretty nifty Neal Pozner/Craig Hamilton mini-series came out. People gripe about how Aquaman is a lame or contrived character, but DC keeps marketing him, and several of his series have lasted for anywhere from 4 to 7 years, which is a fair sight better than a lot of series last. So there’s some attraction there. The current series is written by Kurt Busiek – a contender for the title of best active comics writer – and illustrated by Butch Guice. The original Aquaman has disappeared, and a young man with the same name and powers has appeared in his place, reluctant to take up the mantle. The story is rather slow, but there’s some interesting intrigue there, and this issue reveals (more or less) that identity of one of the supporting characters, which I had figured out a few issues ago. I understand the series isn’t selling so well, but I’m hoping it will last long enough to wrap up Busiek’s story arc.

And then they can launch the series again, with another creative team. Hey, it’s worked before, right?

Astro City is, in my humble opinion, the best comic book being published today. It’s the best comic of the last ten years, for that matter. Written by Busiek (him again?) and illustrated by Brent Anderson with designs and covers by Alex Ross, it takes place in a superhero-laden universe of Busiek’s concoction, but the stories focus on the characters and their thoughts about and reactions to living in such a world.

The current series is a 12-issue story being told in 3 4-issue “books”, and it takes place during the 1970s, the “dark age” for Astro City’s world. The protagonists are a pair of brothers, Charles and Royals Williams, whose parents were killed in the crossfire of a superhero battle when they were kids. Charles grew up to become a cop, while Royal became a small-time criminal. In the first volume they’ve lived through the conviction for murder of one of the city’s greatest heroes, becomes estranged along the way. Now they’re apparently going to get caught up in an escalating war among the underworld. It’s great stuff, don’t miss it.

Girls is a series by the Luna brothers, who seem to have emerged fully-grown on the comics scene a few years ago. This is the third collection of their current series (volumes one and two are also available), which will reportedly run 4 volumes (24 issues).

Girls does feature a bunch of naked women, but it’s really a straight-up horror story: The small town of Pennystown consists of a small population of people living fairly sleepy lives. One bad evening, a young man named Ethan meets a mystery woman on the road and takes her home. It turns out she has a whole bunch of clone sisters, all of whom seem intent on killing the women of the town, and who are under the control of a mystery entity elsewhere in the town, an entity which has also closed the town off from the outside world.

The series is brutal and graphic, uncompromising in its tension, and it also puts its ideosyncratic characters through the wringer as they try to figure out whether they can trust each other, and get on each other’s skin when put under pressure. The art consists of simple line drawings with very little rendering and plain backgrounds, but on the other hand the characters (other than the Girls) are all distinct and hardly idealized, with a good range of facial expressions. It’s pretty good, but definitely not for everyone. It’s certainly enough of a page-turner to keep me interested in reading volume four.

All-TIME 100 Albums

TIME magazine’s list of the 100 greatest and most influential albums. At least they have the right attitude in compiling the list:

So here’s how we chose the albums for the All-TIME 100. We researched and listened and agonized until we had a list of the greatest and most influential records ever – and then everyone complained because there was no Pink Floyd on it. And that’s exactly how it should be. We hope you’ll treat the All-TIME 100 as a great musical parlor game. Read and listen to the arguments for the selections, then tell us what we missed or got wrong. Or even possibly what we got right.

One obvious objection is that there are no albums from before the 1950s, which means that the oldest (for instance) jazz album on the list is Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue. No Ellington or Armstrong? (It’s not a list from the last 50 years, since there are two Frank Sinatra albums on the list from before 1956.)

Rather than critique the selections, here are the albums on the list that I own:

  • Fleetwood Mac, Rumours (1977)
  • Stevie Wonder, Songs in the Key of Life (1976)
  • Elton John, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)
  • Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin IV (1971)
  • Carole King, Tapestry (1971)
  • The Who, Who’s Next (1971)
  • Simon and Garfunkel, Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970)
  • The Beatles, Abbey Road (1969)
  • The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
  • The Beatles, Revolver (1966)
  • The Beatles, Rubber Soul (1965)
  • John Coltrane, A Love Supreme (1964)
  • Miles Davis, Kind of Blue (1959)

No, I don’t own a copy of The Beatles (The White Album) – other than “Back in the USSR”, I don’t really like it.

As you might guess the list above is not exactly representative of my musical tastes. You can see that my tastes diverge considerably from the popular and artistic mainstream around the beginning of punk.

For other lists, there’s Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest albums list, or the 1987 top 100 rock ‘n’ roll albums list (the book of which I own and which turned me on to several good groups, such as Roxy Music).