Friday, April 13, 2007

Five Topics for Friday

Topic # 1: Ryan McLelland of Newsarama expressed some interest in doing something for my Legion book, and he mentioned this Sequart-related anecdote in his e-mail to Editor Mike Phillips: "BY THE BY...I was reading The Grant Morrison book at the dr's office and when i looked away...someone stole it! I was sorta mad...but kind of happy that someone had enough interest in grant morrison that someone actually wanted to steal and read it...laugh..." I'm pretty proud of the first reported crime committed regarding my Grant Morrison book. Am I wrong to think it's cool that someone wanted my book enough to steal it? I just hope it NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN. Seriously, don't do drugs or steal books, kids.

Topic #2: The Legion of Super-Heroes is my life these days, and I'm happy to report that nearly 20 writers have now expressed sincere interest and/or submitted proposals for Legion essays. This book is going to be badder than badass, folks. (And, hey, we still need more writers. So let me know...)

Topic #3: My Son's Monster Drawing inspired by Sam Hiti and company's Fist-A-Cuffs battles. If you don't know about Fist-A-Cuffs, it's basically just drawings of monsters , but the cool part is that one guy draws a monster, then another guy draws a monster, then people vote on who they think would win. After dinner, I told my six year-old son about this game, and we each drew a monster then talked about who would win. I drew a mutated rooster beast, but he drew a monster using the head of a vampire he held in his fist as a weapon which was cool enough to beat my monster as it was, but then he pointed to the triangles coming out of the vampire head as he explained than not only could the vampire head bite my monster, but he had a rocket launcher in the vampire brain. If that's not the most unbeatable monster, then I don't know what is.

Topic #4: Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham was a shockingly dense comic book. I found my old copies as I was climbing through the longboxes this week, and I gave them to my son. I tried reading one out loud to him last night and we couldn't even get through it. The characters droned on and on and there was just an unbelievable amount of exposition. These were actually my brother's issues now that I think about it, but I bought all of his comic books off of him when he went to college. Did he actually read these as a kid? Let me know, bro. By the way, the issue I tried to read last night was written by the legendary Steve Skeates and drawn by the even more legendary Fred Hembeck. That sounds like a cool creative team, but nope, it just doesn't work.

Topic #5: Moustache Awareness Day may or may not be a "real" holiday somewhere, but I celebrate it today, the day we leave for April vacation. And not only did I grow an amazing handlebar 'stache this year, but I posted Fun Moustache Facts around the school (without administrative permission--I'm crazy that way). Here's a sampling: "Moustache Fun Fact #841: The moustache was created by Julius Caesar in 1581 as a weapon against Napoleon," and "Moustache Fun Fact #297: In Zanzibar, the moustache is called 'el tigre del fuego.'"

Happy Moustache Awareness Day!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

You Gotta See Grindhouse

I actually got a chance to see a movie on opening day, which never happens when you have two young kids and a wife that's in a Friday night bowling league. But because we had no school on Good Friday, my wife and I, along with some students of mine with excellent cinematic taste, went to see Grindhouse.

Short review: You Gotta See It! It's the most fun I've had in a theater in a long time.

I won't go into a lot of details, because I want to go watch a bunch of dvds right now (once you leave the theater after seeing Grindhouse, you'll want to spend the rest of the weekend watching more movies--not Merchant/Ivory Jane Austen movies, but movies with lots of 'splosions and kicking and swearing and hot pants), but Planet Terror is, BY FAR, Robert Rodriguez's best film. It's a blast, literally and metaphorically. I enjoyed it immensely. It was really fun.

Death Proof really slowed things down, with a talky opening sequence (the whole movie, really, is only five sequences, most of them dialogue-heavy, which is a sharp contrast with Planet Terror, a movie that jumps from location to location and action to action). Yet the anticipation, and coolness of Kurt Russell, sets up the action perfectly, and once the killing starts, the movie becomes mesmerizing. I had more fun watching Planet Terror, but the scenes in Death Proof are unforgettable. I can't decide which one I liked more, but luckily, I don't have to because they're both part of the same movie. Man, you gotta go see Grindhouse. And see it soon, because it probably won't put up big box office numbers, so it won't last very long in your local theater. But, who cares? Let all the suckers go see Ice Cube remodel his house while you sit for 3 1/2 hours in cinematic bliss.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Craig McGill's Grant Morrison Book

Human Traffic author Craig McGill has been working on a Grant Morrison biography for years, as was recently mentioned in a Morrison interview over at Fanboy Radio. In the preparation for my Grant Morrison book (available any day now--I'll keep you posted), I interviewed Craig back in December of last year. My project is so different from his (mine is a critical analysis of Morrison's work, while his will be more like a straight biography), that he didn't mind talking to me about his project. I ended up not doing anything with the interview, so here it is for you now--an EXCLUSIVE interview with writer Craig McGill:

You're working on a Grant Morrison biography. How did that come about?

A few things brought it about. I had just taken some time off after my book on sex slaves and illegal immigrants, Human Traffic, and it had been a heck of a research gig. Lots of travelling, lots of depressing tales. Similarly, my book before that Do No Harm about children harmed by their parents wasn't exactly a barrel of laughs so I wanted something a little lighter and easier to focus on than a global issue.

While I was scouring about for ideas, I realised that it would be nice to do something about an artform I think a lot of and I thought that perhaps someone like Grant might be an interesting project.

Very few serious biographies exist about writers and artists in the comic book field. What made you decide that Grant Morrison needed a biographer?

The first thing that made me think of him though is that here's a guy who is very much a working class hero. He came from an average background in the unhealthiest city in the world. A city where you had about four options at leaving school: be a secretary, work in a bank, be a mechanic or a housewife. If you had a little talent you might get to be average as a boxer, footballer or something but this is very much the country of 'don't try too hard and you won't be disappointed' which is a shocking ethos for anywhere.

So on one hand, he's a role model. He's a kid who never gave up on one of his dreams and he made it. Superstars court him, he has access to the top powers in Hollywood, he has a beautiful wife and lots of cash and he's still got a lot to do. He's Scotland's first 21st Century role model.

At the same time, I thought writing about Grant would also expose more of the working of comics to the general public and show the graft that goes into the craft and perhaps get us a little bit more away from the old perceptions that still exist. Comics as an artform needs more books out there about it and to date most books have either been highbrown as hell or too technical. Every book I've written has been written for the mass market (no not the Catholic mass, though the sales would be nice) and approached topics on a balanced approach and I wanted to do this.

Role model...rags to riches...he's a goddamn mid-afternoon real life made for TV movie isn't he? Well if we take out the drugs, the magic, the wild sex, the swearing in his work and his general rock and roll lifestyle.

How much access did Morrison give you? Were you able to look at any of his preliminary ideas or sketches?

Grant has been fantastic with this. There's been plenty of access, both when he lived in Glasgow and then when he moved elsewhere, though he's harder to visit now. He and Kristan have also vouched for me with other people and that's helped a lot - after all lots of people get suspicious when someone with 10 years' in tabloid newspapers starts asking questions, especially some of the people Grant hangs about with.

Grant has mentioned a million ideas of his that have never seen print or screen but I haven't looked at his sketches or his diaries. Part of that is because I don't want to read a Grant idea and then go away and end up writing a riff on it myself. I don't want to be accused of riding on his coat-tails or using him to break into comic book writing. I love it as a medium and I received a few emails from people when the book was first announced that I was only doing this to get into comics, which conveniently ignored the 10 years of my life at the top of British journalism, TV, radio and website work as well as four books, but you know, each to their own. However the accusation stuck and it still rankles a little so there are definitely things I haven't pushed Grant on in that regard.

In all honesty, I doubt Grant would be that miffed if I did read something of his (with his permission of course) and did a take on it because a) it would still be a different take from his and b) this guy has ideas at a million miles an hour. He is to ideas what Imelda Marcos is to shoes.

Recording him is an absolute swine though. Apart from the fact that iPods make lousy dictaphones in terms of battery life, Grant manages to screw up electrical equipment when you try to record him. I had to grin when he had one of his character's say that recently as well.

What's the most unusual thing you found out about Morrison while researching the book?

Unusual... tricky one. Grant says a lot of things very matter of factly and unusual isn't something that comes easy to a man who broke into nuclear bases as a child, communicates with aliens and had a near-death experience (oh, spoilers behind in case you've never read a word about Grant). In fact, thinking about it now, one of the most surprising things was something he confided in me about him and Mark Millar. It wasn't 'rip the internet in two' shocking or unusual but if you know them both, it was a very unusual thing to hear.

I did try to find out something unusual about him that would have pleased his female fans if I had found out, but bless her Kristan talked me out of it.

The most annoying is the fact that he quite likes Mila Jovovich, who I've always considered a total babe, but if Mila has a choice of Glaswegians odds are she's going for him. Still I recently saw a show with Lauren German in it and was instantly smitten, so if she has a thing for poor Glaswegians, can you pass her my email address? And don't tell my wife either.

I know you're not quite done with the project. How much longer will Grant Morrison readers have to wait for your biography to hit the shelves? Will it be available in the U.S.?

After a year of being slightly distant from the project, trying to work out a style for it (major hassle that) and getting some people to believe I'm not going to turf them over in the tabloids, it's getting back on board and there's hopes - depending on certain people being available for interview - that it'll be done mid-March and hopefully out for end of 2007.

Hopefully it will be available in the US, it's certainly a book that should be available where Grant's work is and it would be commercially daft not to have available in the US. There's no publisher yet but at least two companies have shown an interest, but that's more an issue for agents to deal with.

It's been a book that's been a killer to write which might sound bizarre, but it's not a book being written specifically for the comic book market, this is a book for the general mainstream and as such you have to be a bit more forgiving with readers. You have to really explain how a comic works, you also have to ease them in to Grant's world of magic because otherwise you can turn them off.

Don't get me wrong, this is a book for comic book fans but more than that, it's for those who aren't. Most people who have met Grant will tell you that you come away with a real buzz. The guy has an incredible enthusiasm for life and to try and catch that energy and show people that despite all the nonsense going on in the world, all the hurt and pain, you can change it, you can make yourself a happier person and those around you. But it may not be easy. And while that sounds incredibly glib, it's true.

Ultimately the story of Grant Morrison is the tale of a guy who went out and tried to make things better for himself and for others and if the book does its job right, others will want to do that as well.

The more I look at the book that's how it seems to me. It's as much a documentary of one man's life as it is a guide to sorting your own life out. Of course it's also a book without a bloody title so let me know if you can think of one.

BEST OF THE WEEK and More--April 4th!

So, let's see how this prediction experiment turned out. I'll run through the rest of the comics I bought this week, and I'll announce the BEST OF THE WEEK at the end. Here goes...

52 #48: This was a weak issue. I think Montoya needs to lose the fedora. I guess she's keeping it to honor Charlie or something, but she just looks ridiculous in the classic Question attire. Put her in a trenchcoat if you must, but give her just a plain black shirt--no tie, no fedora. Really. It's silly. And, yeah, this is a Rucka-heavy issue obviously, and it was clunky and flat. By the way, does anyone actually read the "origin" back-ups? I have liked the art on a few of them, but they seem pretty pointless to me. Predicted Grade: B / Actual Grade: D. Very disappointing.

Atom #10: No Panda, which is good. But I really hated the opening sequence, and the art is inconsistent. The Atom's not-so-secret love has some strange proportions. I still think the footnotes are a terrible idea that Simone is sticking with out of stubbornness. They detract from the narrative without adding any value. But, I kind of liked this issue overall, even with the flaws. It's nice to get to know this Ryan Choi guy, and that's what this issue's primarily about. Predicted Grade: B- / Actual Grade: B-. Yup. As expected.

American Virgin #13: Maybe it's because the protagonist is so humorless, or maybe it's because the whole series has been one quest narrative after another, but I'm just not feelin' this comic book. Even with the excellent-as-usual Cloonan art. I'll probably stick with it until the end of this story arc, but I can't see buying it much longer. Predicted Grade: C / Actual Grade: C-. Time to drop it, I guess.

Detective Comics #831: This issue didn't work for me. I've never thought Harley Quinn was much of a character and Dini didn't convince me otherwise in this issue. Dini, by the way, has seemed to avoid actually writing Batman stories, have you noticed that? He's exploring the secondary characters pretty extensively (and he has done a nice job with the Riddler in previous issues) but he seems to shy away from exploring Batman himself. Why do you suppose that is? And Bruce Wayne's appeal to the parole board at the end seemed wildly dangerous and out-of-character. So there's that as well. Predicted Grade: B / Actual Grade: C. Disappointing. I hope Dini can bounce back next issue.

Jonah Hex #18: This one was a surprise. It didn't even have Noto art, but I bought it anyway, even with the pedestrian work of Val Semeiks gracing the pages. Yet, I thought this was one of the tightest, most engaging Hex stories in a while. It was actually good. I think Hex could use a bit more narrative momentum between issues, though. I like the idea of the single issue stories, but what's the benefit, really? Is this really an entry-level book for any reader? Why not add some complexity to the narrative, or at least some subplots? That might compel me to keep reading. Predicted Grade: C / Actual Grade: A-. Nicely done, boys.

Midnighter #6: This one had even less of a "threat" than previous stories. It's just some alternate history version of the Midnighter/Apollo relationship with really nice Fabry art but not much else to recommend it. Really, shockingly pointless overall. Predicted Grade: B- / Actual Grade: C-. A severe disappointment.

Scalped #4: I like the build-up to the casino opening. I like the flashbacks. The story could have used maybe one more significant event, but it's still got some savagely powerful art by R. M. Guera and I like the tone of this comic. Predicted Grade: C / Actual Grade: B. I'm looking forward to next issue.

Superman #661: Yeah. This was weak. But I liked the Howell and Barreto art a lot. This comic looks like it could have been published in 1987, but that actually makes it charming in the context of 2007. Yet, sadly, the story didn't have much going for it. Predicted Grade: C+ / Actual Grade: C. Yeah. A fill-in.

Superman/Batman #33: A dramatic ending to a weak story. I liked this issue a lot more than the last couple, and although Benitez uses some strange poses at times, I like the character he adds to the faces, even if it is a bit McFarlane-ish for my usual tastes. I thought this issue turned out pretty well, with a nice, positive conclusion. Predicted Grade: C+ / Actual Grade: B+. Nicely done.

Welcome to Tranquility #5: Stuff is happening! The bad guy is revealed. And there's another layer of secrecy. And a really cool Captain-Marvel-as-a-geriatric-scene. Predicted Grade: B+ / Actual Grade: A-. Good work, Gail Simone. Maybe I'd like the Atom more if Googe were drawing that as well.

Marvel Zombies vs. the Army of Darkness #2: One of the great things about the character of Ash is that you can write really bad dialogue for him and it seems to fit perfectly. You can "hear" Bruce Campbell delivering those kind of lines. So I don't know if Layman's just a bad writer, or if he's just perfect for this comic, but this was another good issue. Predicted Grade: B+ / Actual Grade: B. Not as much happened as I would have liked, but the ending was pretty cool.

Madman Atomic Comics #1: Guess what? My store never got any copies of this. Predicted Grade: A- / Actual Grade: ???

Annihilation: Heralds of Galactus #2: I didn't buy this because I still don't have issue #1. Maybe I'll track it down someday.

Avengers: The Initiative #1: The cover of this book bears no resemblance to its contents. And that's a good thing. This is one of the best issues of the week. It's "Young Avengers Boot Camp" with all that such a concept implies. I love the dark undertones, and I love the way the characters have been established already. And I especially love the derogatory use of the term "New Warriors." A really promising start. You done good, Dan Slott. Real good. Predicted Grade: B- / Actual Grade: A. Surprising, in a good way!

Dark Tower: The Gunslinger #3: Yup, it's still got Richard Isanove ruining Jae Lee's fine artwork. Yup, I'm still not buying it.

Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America--Wolverine: I thoroughly enjoyed this issue. The characterization of Wolverine was better than I've seen him in the past year, and I love the use of Dr. Strange. I like that this issue goes out of its way to establish that, yes, Cap is really dead. Really. Because, honestly, we all need to hear that. So his return will be so much cooler! Predicted Grade: C+ / Actual Grade: A-. Nice job on this one too. Marvel's coming on strong in this post-Civil War environment.

Iron Fist #4: I own the Essential Iron Fist, and I really need to read it immediately, because this series seems to rely on a knowledge of the character's past. Yet, even without that knowledge, I liked this issue quite a bit. And, as I've said before, I love the pulp-era Iron Fist! Such a cool concept. Predicted Grade: A- / Actual Grade: A-. Good stuff.

Ms. Marvel #14: Still a solid title. The whole theme of this series, and it's being handled well, is: What does it mean to be a hero? (And, correspondingly, "How do I make heroic decisions?") In this issue, Ms. Marvel must face the consequences of one of those decisions, and it's played quite well. Brian Reed is one of the best of the "young" writers at Marvel. And, oh yeah, freakin' MODOK is in the next issue! Predicted Grade: B / Actual Grade: B+. Solid.

Omega Flight #1: Yes, I bought this. I'm not a fan of the Kolins art, and it was even worse than normal in this issue (it seemed rushed), but I really can't resist a story which stars Walter Langowski. I liked the story well enough--the pacing seemed about right, and it had the Wrecking Crew, so I gotta love that. But I have gigantic reservations about the U.S.Agent. We'll see how he's handled in the future. Predicted Grade: B- / Actual Grade: B. Not too shabby.

Runaways #25: Would the Runaway gang really hook up with the Kingpin so soon? It seems wrong to me. Not because they'd be disinclined to talk to a "villain," but because they have spent their entire career avoiding conflect and hiding out from everyone. Why show up in New York and set up a meeting with the most powerful gangland figure? But, if I play along with it, the rest of the story works quite well. It's fun and it's got 'splosions! But, yeah, I'm having trouble getting over that Kingpin hurdle. Predicted Grade: B+ / Actual Grade: B. Kingpin--can't let it go.

Ant-Man #7: BEST OF THE WEEK! Yes, I just can't help fall in love with a series which features such a likeable sleaze. And it has and epic battle with the Black Fox! And, yeah, I really think Kirkman is the guy destined to do a great run on Spider-Man someday. Maybe he'll take over the Ultimate title when Bendis ditches. A Kirkman/Immonen USM would be pretty sweet. Predicted Grade: A / Actual Grade: A+. I'll love this title until the bitter end.

Wow. So even though I am an unabashed DC guy, I was disappointed by a lot of the DC stuff and surprised by the Marvel quality. Come on, DC! You can turn it around. You know what, though? I really think there's a wealth of quality titles on the shelves these days. I don't think this is a groundbreaking era by any means, but the average quality is pretty darn high, don't you think? Higher than it's been in recent memory. Go Comics!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Legion and Justice League This Week

Okay, I read two of this week's books so far. Let's see how they stand up to my initial expectations:

Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #28: I predicted that this would be the BEST OF THE WEEK. In reality, it's too early to tell if it will remain best of the week until I read the other comics, but it's got a shot. I liked the intensity of the torture sequence, I liked the vast array of characters, and I have to admit (after rereading EVERY Legion story over the past six months--from Adventure #247 till the Waid/Kitson run), I've really grown to appreciate Kitson as an artist. I used to think that his art was to stiff. Everyone looked posed, but his attention to detail (especially on this series) has completely won me over. I'll be sorry to see him leave. This issue provides a good build-up for the final showdown with the Dominators, and as I pointed out over at the Legion World board, there's more than a little political allegory happening here with the invasion force. So we'll see if things go as smoothly as planned for the Legion. The only thing keeping this from getting a solid A is the clear transparency of the "trap" laid for the Dominators. But, it's a great issue otherwise. Predicted Grade: A / Actual Grade: A-

Justice League of America #7: This was an all-epilogue, all-the-time issue. It wasn't great, but it wasn't terrible. I liked the bit about Geo-Force (although there's perhaps too much of a Penance-feel to his current powers), and I love the introduction of the Hall of Justice / Watchtower headquarters. It's just perfect. And I like the Red Arrow bits, but the rest of it seemed a bit too thin. It's really only about 8-10 pages of quality story moments. And there's a weird fold-out that seems stapled in the wrong place. It doesn't read as part of the actual story. But the final page of the issue promises some exciting Legion cross-over action, so that bumps the potential of the next few issues a few notches. Val Armorr in the house! Predicted Grade: A- / Actual Grade: B+

So far, so good. Pretty close to my expectations in terms of overall quality, but the content was not exactly what I expected. I'll be back with more reviews soon.

UPDATE: I also read Sonic the Hedgehog #173 to my son at bedtime tonight. He bought this issue with his own money this week, and he wanted to read it right away (even before Power Pack and JLU). I don't know why he wanted it so badly, since he's only ever seen one Sonic X comic book in the past and that one was horrible, but I guess his passion for "Sonic Heroes" on PS2 compelled him to get this new issue. Anyway, it was better than Sonic X, but it was pretty bad. It confused me, as an experienced comic book reader, and it was shocking in how continuity-heavy it was. Every time a character appeared, he or she referred to some past event, most of which (according to the footnotes) happened 30 to 50 issues earlier! There were about half a dozen of these references, far more (and referring to the far more distant past) than any superhero comic book you're likely to read. Really strange. Within the onslaught of continuity, the story was relatively simple, with a marriage proposal as a subplot and a fake jewel heist as the main plot. I didn't like much about this issue, but my son said he loved it. I don't see the appeal, but I'm not 6 years old. I guess the cover is bright and colorful (especially when compared to the mean-looking superhero covers like Legion and JLA above). No Predicted Grade, because I didn't expect to be reading it. My Actual Grade: D- / My Son's Actual Grade: A+ (I asked him)

What Will Wednesday Bring?

I'm going to take a bold stand and PREDICT what I will and will not enjoy about each comic book I purchase tomorrow. And I'll give them a grade SIGHT UNSEEN, which is really stupid, I know, but I want to see how my expectations match my real experience. Later in the week, I'll let you know if I was right.

52 #48: I'll like the build-up toward WWIII. I won't like the "smooth criminal" Montoya/Question. Predicted Grade: B

Atom #10: I'll like the inventive use of his powers. I won't like anything to do with any characters named "Panda." Predicted Grade: B-

American Virgin #13: I'll like the art if Cloonan draws it. I won't like the story very much if it's just more of the same. Predicted Grade: C

Detective Comics #831: Dini's back for this one? If so, I'll like the story. I have no idea what I won't like. This issue's really a mystery to me. Harley Quinn? We'll see... Predicted Grade: B

Jonah Hex #18: Why am I still buying this comic? I don't know. Maybe I'll drop it. The art's been nice recently. This is another Noto issue so I'll probably end up getting it. Predicted Grade: C

Justice League of America #7: I don't care what you haters say, this is a good series so far. I won't like the Image-style art all that much, but I like what Meltzer's been doing on this title. I don't love it, but I like it. Predicted Grade: A-

Justice League Unlimited #32: Darkseid in the house! I really like the art in JLU, even if the stories can be a bit thin (even for little kids). But, Darkseid? Hell, yeah. Predicted Grade: A-

Midnighter #6: This one's been pretty good so far, but even with the violence it seems weightless. I want to see something with a bit more heft to it. Some real threat to Midnighter. I'll like it if it's got that. Predicted Grade: B-

Scalped #4: I liked the first two issues, but I didn't much like #3. I'll like the art on this issue, but I won't like the story unless there's an additional twist to it. Predicted Grade: C

Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #28: I'm going to like every bit of this. I'll predict that it will be the BEST OF THE WEEK. Why? I'm in a hardcore LSH phase right now and I'm loving everything Legion. Predicted Grade: A

Superman #661: This is some kind of fill-in issue, I think. I'll probably be disappointed, although I have enjoyed all the Superman titles for the past year or so (except for that one Superman-as-messiah-to-the-black-woman issue). Predicted Grade: C+

Superman/Batman #33: Meh. I actually enjoyed the insanity of the Loeb/McGuinness run. It didn't make much sense, but it was full of stuff. These Verheiden issues are just plain. Maybe he'll end it with a bang. Predicted Grade: C+

Welcome to Tranquility #5: This series gets better every issue. I'm looking forward to this one! I won't like it if nothing is resolved, though. Because we're do for a climax and a conclusion. Predicted Grade: B+

Marvel Zombies vs. the Army of Darkness #2: The first issue was fun, especially the scene where Ash visited Avengers Mansion. I'm sure this issue will be just page after page of carnage and wisecracks. Sounds good to me. Predicted Grade: B+

Madman Atomic Comics #1: Will my store even have copies of this? We'll see. I love Allred, though, so I'm looking forward to it. Predicted Grade: A-

Annihilation: Heralds of Galactus #2: I never even saw issue #1 of this. But since I bought all the other Annihilation stuff, if #1 is at the store, I'll probably pick up issue #2 as well. If not, I'll skip it. Predicted Grade: ???

Avengers: The Initiative #1: I have no idea what this title's about. But, like a sucker, I'll buy it because it's Avengers-related (even if the Avengers bear no resemblance to what I think of as Avengers). And, you know what? I don't really like Dan Slott's writing that much. I've read nothing by him that I really enjoyed, even though everyone tells me how funny he is. It's not really that funny, guys. It's kind of obvious humor. Maybe I need to see more of his work. Predicted Grade: B-

Dark Tower: The Gunslinger #3: I will NOT be buying this title. Reason #1: Stephen King is really a poor writer. People always recommend his work as well, and it's just bad. I've read Firestarter (bad) and the Gunslinger book (really, really bad) and I just don't get his popularity. Pick a page from one of his books at random. Read that page aloud. I guarantee you'll hit an awkward phrase or two or some jarring construction that stops you cold. Ugh. And yes, I know Peter David's writing this series, but I was so disgusted by the atrocity of the Gunslinger novel, that I couldn't possibly pay money for this series unless the art was phenomenal...which it should be except for Reason #2: Richard Isanove. His airbrushy "painting" over Jae Lee's artwork softens everything and makes it look like it was photographed through a filter. Lee is a great artist, BECAUSE of his stark use of blacks and crisp lines. Making it all fuzzy takes away everything that you'd want to see i na Jae Lee book. So, yeah, I won't be buying this.

Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America--Wolverine: That's a long title! So it's gotta be good! I'll like it if something happens. I won't like it if Wolverine just walks around talking in VO about what Captain America "stood for." But I'm afraid of the latter. Predicted Grade: C+

Hulk and Power Pack #2: Power Pack is my son's favorite comic book. So he'll love this. I think this Hulk series is a gigantic drop down in quality over the last few series, though. I mean, the last series had Katie Power turn into Venom (complete with pigtails!) and this series has weaker art (from David WIlliams) and a weaker supporting character (in the Hulk). My son will no doubt give it Grade: Infinity. I will give it Predicted Grade: B-

Iron Fist #4: David Aja's quite a mood-setting artist. I like his work a lot. And I like the idea of the generational Iron Fists. It's all good. Predicted Grade: A-

Ant-Man #7: This is probably my favorite Marvel comic book. And it doesn't have much longer to live. I HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend you buy it. It's excellent all around. If I wasn't such a Legion freak, this would probably be Best of the Week. Predicted Grade: A

Ms. Marvel #14: This is a really good series as well, though you wouldn't know it by the porn covers. It's well-written (even if it did get screwy during Civil War) and it's got a strong theme. I'll like it if it's not sidetracked too much by the Initiative. Predicted Grade: B

Omega Flight #1: Am I going to buy this? It's a toss-up. I don't like the lineup at all (either creatively or character-wise), but I like the concept of Alpha Flight enough to check out this title. On one hand, I could skip it because I'm buying soooo much stuff this week, but on the other hand, I could throw it on the pile because, hey, what's another 3 bucks when you're shelling out $80? Predicted Grade: TBD--I'll guess a B-

Runaways #25: The first Whedon issue. I think I'll like it, although the Michael Ryan art seems like a big departure. If he keeps the look crisp, I'll like it. Predicted Grade: B+

I'll also be skipping the Legion Showcase book, because I have the Archives already and I just can't imagine the Legion even being readable in black and white. It demands color!

But, yeah, I'm going to be getting a lot of stuff this week. I need to cut back, desperately. Maybe I'll drop anything I end up giving a C or less too. We'll see if I have enough willpower.

Check back in a few days to see if these comics surpassed my expectations!!!