Monday, July 9, 2012

Bryant Has Issues #10 (Inluding a Special Bonus Review of "The Amazing Spider-Man")

You know what I've never understood about comics?  How come an issue that comes out in June 2012 is called the "August 2012" issue?  What's up with that?

Well, I've got a whole slew of incorrectly-dated comics to review for you this time, and there's no reason to not dive right in.

Series artist Rafael Albuquerque returns after a two-issue absence, and Pearl -- who is probably my favorite character in American Vampire -- returns for the first time since #18 last "October."  That's a slight lie, since Pearl showed up at the tail end of #27 last month; but for all intents and purposes, Pearl has been missing from the story for quite a while now.

I don't want to be too specific about what this new story arc is about, partially because there are excellent surprises that deserve to not be ruined on some douche's blog, and partially because this issue is mostly setup.  So, like, I really don't know where it's going.  Seems pretty cool so far, though, and it's a six-issue arc, so I'm guessing it's going to end up being eventful.

What I can tell you for now is this: the issue begins with a thoroughly badass Pearl scene, progresses into a scene in which Pearl and Cal fight off a team of vamps who want to do some harm to the ailing Henry, and then culminates in a meeting at the West Coast branch of the Vassals of the Morning Star.

Good stuff.  I'm definitely looking forward to the next issue.  Between this and the five-issue spinoff "Lord of Nightmares," the next half a year or so seems quite promising for an American Vampire fan.

Way back in the first installment of Bryant Has Issues, I offered up a relatively scathing review of the final issue of The Cape.  Regretfully, I must report that I am not immediately terribly impressed by this first issue of The Cape: 1969.  I was afraid that might be the case; let's talk about why that is.

As you know, I'm a bigbigbig Joe Hill fan.  The dude is a great writer.  One of my favorite short stories of his is "The Cape," a nasty little twist on the superhero tale.  It's about a kid whose security blanket grants him the ability to fly.  Then, years later, as an adult, he ... well, let's just say that the story ends in a surprising fashion.  Here's a spoiler: as it turns out, this is a supervillain tale.

IDW, presumably as a means of capitalizing on the success they've had with Joe Hill on Locke & Key, decided to produce a one-shot adaptation of "The Cape" for comics format.  It was adapted by Jason Ciaramella, and it turned out quite well.  It must have gotten a good response, because IDW then pulled the trigger on a four-issue series that sequelized the one-shot.  Now, my understanding is that those issues were entirely written by Ciaramella, and that Hill himself did not write the story.  I'm not positive about that, but I believe it to be the case.

Either way, I absolutely loved the first three issues of the sequel, which were brutal and uncompromising and funny and horrifying and memorable.  As for issue #4, I thought it was a gigantic miss.  I can't entirely explicate why without spoiling the end of the story, which I don't want to do; suffice it to say that I felt that the ending somewhat betrayed the rest of the series, and the original story, too.

When I heard that a prequel -- which promised to explain the origins of the magical powers-granting cape itself -- was in the works, I was immediately apprehensive.  Part of what I like so much about the original short story is that there is no explanation for the fact that the cape grants the power of flight.  In fact, part of what I like about Hill's work at large is his tendency to feel like nobody cares about the why and how of things like that.  (The best example of that trait in his work may be the exquisite story "Pop Art," which is about a sentient inflatable doll.)

With that in mind, the idea of a prequel that promises to tell me all about the why and how behind the cape is an idea that I am thoroughly skeptical of.

I wish I could tell you that issue #1 of The Cape: 1969 changed my mind, but it did not.  Strangely, it also did not reinforce my thoughts, either.  The reason for that is that there is nothing much in this issue that delves into the cape.  There is a Buddhist (?) monk (?) who seemingly has the power of flight, but beyond that, this is essential just a war comic.

Thing is, it's a fairly good war comic.  I say that having very, very few other war comics to compare it to, but I know what I enjoy, and I enjoyed this reasonably well.  It's a gritty, unpleasant-but-in-a-useful-way trek into the jungle, complete with bloody killings and an awesome helicopter crash.  As a war comic, it was satisfactory; I'm just having a hard time connecting it to "The Cape."  Presumably, Jason Ciaramella has a plan for that.

I'll be there to read it if and when it materializes, but for now, I'm still skeptical.

Final note: the art by Nelson Daniel (and Zach Howard, who drew literally a single panel of the issue and yet somehow gets his name above Daniel's on the front cover) is excellent.

I've been pleased with Before Watchmen so far.  I like the first issues of The Minutemen, Silk Spectre, and The Comedian a lot, so I've been feeling pretty good about the overall project.  I mean, so far it's not even an iota as good as Watchmen, but the odds are that there won't be a comic all year that's as good as Watchmen.  There wasn't one last year that I'm aware of; probably won't be one next year, either.  But through the first three issues, Before Watchmen has been pretty good.

Now comes the "uh-oh..." moment.

I did not like Nite Owl #1 much at all.  It's written by J. Michael Straczynski, whose television show Babylon 5 is still one of my sentimental favorites.  He's a controversial figure in the comics world; he's got fans due to his original series like Rising Stars, and thanks to an excellent stint writing Thor for Marvel; but he also had panned stints writing both Spider-Man and Superman, and if there was one name associated with Before Watchmen that had people the most dubious, it was J.M.S.

Here's an example of a bit of dialogue from this issue.  Says a policeman to Nite Owl as he is departig a crime scene: "And a hooty-hoot-hoot to you."

Now, I get that in the world of Watchmen, costumed heroes -- especially the ones from the era being depicted here -- are supposed to be a little on the lame side.  But THAT is lame to the nth degree; that's next-level lameness of the Saturday-morning-cartoon variety.  Is motherfucking Snarf about to show up?!?

Part of the issue tells the story of young Dan Dreiberg, who grows up to be the second Nite Owl.  Turns out his dad is an abusive guy who might even be a rapist.  That aspect is handled reasonably well, I suppose, although it, too, feels a bit cartoonish to me.  This is probably due to the artwork by Andy and Joe Kubert, some of which is very good, some of which is a bit lightweight at times.

The issue really loses me once Rorschach shows up, though.  There's no process to he and Nite Owl becoming partners; Rorschach literally just walk up and says (I'm paraphrasing, but not by much) "You need a partner."  I don't know what, if anything, Alan Moore might have had in mind in terms of how these two got partnered up, but I'd be willing to bet it was a damn sight better than Rorschach just showing up out of nowhere and propositioning Nite Owl.

The issue then spends four pages recapping the big Crimebusters meeting from the original series.  Bad, bad idea.  If you're going to take on a project like Before Watchmen -- which, for the record, you probably shouldn't -- then you want to at least avoid overlapping with Watchmen.  So repeating a scene from the original does nothing but invite comparisons.

Here are mine: Andy and Joe Kubert, though good, are no Dave Gobbons, and J. Michael Straczynski is certainly no Alan Moore.

Speaking of Before Watchmen, since I took a week of from writing about comics, you get a double dose this issue.  So here's the second dose:

Here's Ozymandias #1, which is simultaneously the part of Before Watchmen I was most apprehensive about AND one of the main reasons I ended up deciding to give the series a chance.

Explanation, part one: I was/am apprehensive because Ozymandias is such an integral part of the original that there doesn't seem to be much room to move in terms of changing his character, or providing background details.  Given where the character goes in Watchmen, and what he does, it just seems like a bad idea to mess with that.  However, if the comic stuck with the notion of simply showing us what Ozymandias was like during his costumed hero days, with only hints toward what we learn about him toward the end of Watchmen, then it could end up being a lot of fun.

Explanation, part two: the presence of Jae Lee on art duties made me immediately interested.  I love Lee's work; it's just that simple.  He, of course, was the inaugural artist on The Dark Tower comics, and he also did the excellent art for the Grant editions of The Wind Through the Keyhole.  (By the way, it really bums me out that the mass-market editions do not have Lee's art; that's no way to treat loyal Towerphiles.)  So the idea of seeing Lee draw characters from Watchmen was too good to resist; even if the story sucked, the art would be good.


The story DOES suck, and, sure enough, the art is good.  Actually, it's kinda great.  Lee has a weird thing with faces once in a while, and for soe reason it annoys me the way he draws hair.  But those are quibbles; mostly, what he does is great.  Here's an example:

I love those circular motifs.  They appear throughout the issue.  It may be that writer Len Wein deserves some -- or even all -- of the credit for the concept, but even if that's the case, Lee executes them beautifully.

Now, that page also serves to illustrate one of the two major problems I had with this issue.  The biggest problem is that the issue is, for all intents and purposes, merely a dramatization of Ozymandias's "origin story," as Adrian Veidt tells it in Watchmen #11.  Thanks to Jae Lee's art, it is worth looking at, but it adds nothing to the story.  Except that Wein has made the unfortunate decision to try and add an element: a girlfriend, who (spoilers lol) gets killed and provides Veidt with the motivation to become a costumed vigilante.


I'm sorry, but that doesn't mesh with my ideas about Veidt at all.  I'd have bought it if Veidt had manipulated the situation in some way, so as to gain something he could use to curry public sympathy later on down the road.  And maybe subsequent issues will go down that path; I don't want to be too dismissive too early.  But for now, these do not strike me as being developments that sync well with Watchmen, and for me, that is a serious problem.

So, after a solid start, Before Watchmen has -- at least in this geek's eyes -- hit a major rough patch.  I'm going to stick with it, though, even though my heart -- and my checking account (not to mention Alan Moore!) -- are telling me to drop it.

I'm really digging The New Deadwardians.  Here's how I know I am totally onboard for the series: almost nothing happens in this issue (which marks the midway point in the story), and yet I was totally captivated by it.

Here's the plot: a detective gets threatened by some guys, who are then scared off by a constable; the detective talks briefly to a prostitute; the detective talks to his superior; the detecetive talks to his mother, and then to his maid; the detective and the constable go for a drive; and the detective tells the constable some war stories.  We learn a little bit about the origins of the "restless curse" (mainly, we learn that -- as in The Walking Dead -- nobody seems to know what caused the dead to rise), and we learn something significant about how vampirism began in this particular story.  And that's about it.

But the art is terrific, and there's a lot of wit on display, and it's just plain good.  Are there really only four issues left?!?

I've love to tell you about the new issue of Animal Man, and in a moment I'm going to do just that, but first, I've got to pose a question.  See that snipe across the front cover, the one advertising The Dark Knight Rises?  

Okay, make that TWO questions I need to pose.  Here's the second: in what universe does DC think it needs to devote roughly one-tenth of the cover of each of its books for the month to telling DC fans that The Dark Knight Rises is coming out on July 20?  Honestly, DC, do you suppose there is even one single comic-book reader who isn't already aware of that?  You want to figure out a way of promoting the comics to the movie viewers; currently, you're doing it in reverse, and you're doing nothing but taking up space on the cover of my Animal Man, Swamp Thing, and Batman.

(Speaking of Swamp Thing, I have no review of its issue #11 this week, because I guess my local chop didn't get it or something.  Thanks, Diamond! I am assured it will be in next week, though.)

Alright, so, Animal Man #11: pretty good.  The cover promises an epic showdown between Buddy Baker and the Hunter that has stolen his body, and Jeff Lemire (together with artist Alberto Ponticelli) does not disappoint in this regard.  I will leave it to you to discover the specifics of how that happens, but suffice it to say that the character of Animal Man undergoes a major shift in this issue.

As is typical, there's a big cliffhanger, too.  It involves Buddy's son, Cliff, so pardon the pun, I guess.

Why does Captain Picard appear to be thirty years old on that cover?

Beats me, but otherwise, consider me sold on this series so far.  I was ever-so-slightly let down by the first issue, mainly because it was, in essence, just a Doctor Who comic that set up the crossover.  Well, this one backtracks in time a wee bit and serves as a Trekcentric version of the same setup; but, wisely, the writers move through it a bit more quickly, and this time actually have the Doctor and the crew of the Enterprise interacting with each other.

Here's an example of why this comic works for me:

As both a Trekkie and a Whovian, that just hits all the right notes for me.  The wisest approach that the series has taken is to decide to insert the Doctor into the Trek universe, rather than the other way around.  Because the Doctor bounces around from place to place, and from time to time, and even from genre to genre, it doesn't really seem all that unusual for the TARDIS to suddenly end up on a holodeck.  It just works, at least for me.

I'm also still loving the art by J.K. Woodward.  The painted style is apparently a bit divisive within the comics community; I've heard some very negative opinions about Woodward's work on the first issue.  But personally, I love it.  As I stated when reviewing issue #1, that style results in characters who simply ARE Riker and Data and the Doctor and Amy Pond, etc.  The only ways to get closer would be to film the story, or to get the original actors to do one of these Big Finish radio dramas.  Those things seem to be nowhere in the cards, so from my vantage point, this may be the next best thing.

Bring on issue #3!

A flying saucer shows up; some aliens walk out; evil Einstein does some evil shit to good Einstein.

I'm done with this book.  It's not bad, but I'm not getting enough enjoyment out of it to spend $3.50 on it every month.  I can put those funds to better use.

This was a pretty good issue of Angel & Faith.  As you might recall, the previous issue ended with Willow showing up at the doorstep, which seemed to indicate that she was joining the team for a few issues.  Well, sure enough, that's exactly what happens, and that's predictably fun (though not AS fun as it would be if it were Joss Whedon writing these comics himself; Christos Gage is doing a good job, but he can't always quite perfect the Whedonisms, and he struggles a bit with Willow, one of the trickier Whedon characters to write well).

Then, toward the end, another major character from the Buffyverse makes a return appearance, and seems primed to stick around for a while.  (Hint: you may find yourself wondering why Pete Campbell has long hair all of a sudden.)

And now comes the Spider-Man portion of tonight's show...

The big Spider-Man/Ultimate Comics Spider-Man crossover continues, and I continue to be a little confused as to where, exactly, this takes place in the Miles Morales story.  Perhaps future issues will clear that up for me.  If not, then Spider-Men is going to go down in my little black book of opinions as an entertaining curiosity, and nothing more.

But it definitely IS entertaining.  This issue does what almost all crossovers do: it gets the heroes to fight one another, so that we can geek out and compare their powers when stacked up against one another.  So, yeah, Peter and Miles duke it out for a while, and then they go to visit Nick Fury, and then they take a ride in a helicopter, and then Mysterio shoots the helicopter down.

This is fun, but so far, it's nothing I consider to be essential.

No, if you want essential you have to turn to our next book:

With the possible exception of the first issue, this is perhaps the most important issue of the Miles Morales version of Ultimate Spider-Man yet.  I'll even tell you why, although it's a major spoiler, so I'm going to delay it a bit.  So let's do this: I'm going to offer up a brief review of the new movie The Amazing Spider-Man, and once that's done, I'll give you the spoiler for this issue.

So if you don't want to read it, skip entirely past the Spider-Man section, and catch me on the flipside with me look at the new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen book from Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill.



So, let's talk about The Amazing Spider-Man.

I didn't like it.  I wish I had, but I didn't.  I didn't hate it or anything, but I walked out of it feeling more or less totally indifferent to what I'd just seen.  That's just not what I'm looking for from a big-budget superhero movie.

Most of the people I've talked to about it have liked it a lot more than I did, and in trying to defend my indifference, I've struggled a bit.  The analogy I used to someone the other day was to compare it to soda that has recently gone flat: it's not bad, it just isn't as crisp and delicious as you were expecting it to be.  There aren't enough bubbles, or something.

In the case of The Amazing Spider-Man, I think it may be a case of the origin story blues.  We just got a Spider-Man origin story on screen a mere ten years ago.  Was it really time for another one?  Well, maybe it could have been, if it wasn't handled so clunkily.  But here, it's just ... flat.  Peter Parker's parents pull a vanishing act, abandoning him to the considerably older Uncle Ben and Aunt May; he grows up, finds some documents linking his vanished father to Dr. Curt Connors, and he goes to the lab to try and find out something about that link.  There, he is bit by a spider (in a room where there are what seems to be about ten thousand spiders, all of whom are presumably capable of transferring spider-powers to some hapless bastard).  He starts sticking to the roofs of subway cars and whatnot, makes himself a red suit, builds web-shooters, and then tries to avenge the murder of his Uncle Ben, who has been killed by a robber as a result of a moment of inaction on Peter's part.

This all takes what seems like an hour or so.  Except for the stuff with the parents, we've mostly seen it all before, and in some respects, we saw a better version of it back when Tobey Maguire and Sam Raimi were involved.  So by the time Peter became Spider-Man, I was really rather bored.

Theoretically, the appearance of Spider-Man ought to have changed that, but instead, Peter's on this crusade to find the hood who killed Uncle Ben.  He gets a few scenes to crack wise, but it's mostly grim stuff, almost all of which ill-advisedly takes place at night.  As a result, the movie's visuals are just blah.

Compounding that problem is the fact that The Lizard is a boring Spider-Man villain.  In the comics -- the ones I've read, at least -- he's just a lizard in a white science jacket.  He can smack things with his tail, but is otherwise lame.  If the comics ever do a better job of making that interesting, the people who made this movie don't seem to have read them, either.  I have zero interest in Curt Connors, who is played with palpable boredom by Rhys Ifans.  Ifans isn't giving a bad performance, in the strict interpretation of the word "bad," but he's got no real charisma to speak of in the role, either.  His character has no arc to speak of, and his decision toward the end to gas the entire city so as to turn everyone in New York into a man-sized lizard is just dumb.  Why would anyone do that?  They wouldn't outside of a comic book.

You might be saying to yourself, yeah, but isn't this a comic book movie?  Good point.  Thing is, this movie wants to be more serious than that.  It doesn't aspire to Christopher Nolan levels of pathos, but it is determinedly more serious than, say, The Avengers.  But when you throw a goofball element like that plot to enlizard the good people of NYC, you'd better be playing in goofball waters; this movie isn't, and that's where it goes wrong.  The Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies had some of those problems, too, and they have not been solved here.

One element of the movie that I will praise, though, is the casting of Andrew Garfield as Peter.  He's great.  I loved Tobey Maguire in the role, but Garfield immediately eclipses Maguire in every conceivable way.  He's funny, he's great at the emotional aspects of the story, he's got a nice fluid grace as Spidey.  He looks about a decade too old to be in high school, but hey, that's Hollywood.

He is completely matched by his co-star, Emma Stone, who is just plain adorable as Gwen Stacy.  In fact, she's WAY too adorable for dopey old Peter Parker, although the movie does at least try to explain why she is totes into him even before he puts on the spandex (he stops a case of schoolyard bullying, mostly with his jaw).

Stone and Garfield are great individually, but they also share a convincing chemistry in their scenes together.  I suspect it is this element of the movie that is causing so many people to enjoy it, and I guess I'm okay with that.

Martin Sheen is also very good as Uncle Ben, and Sally Field does good work with a poorly-written Aunt May.  Dennis Leary is grumpy as Captain Stacy, the overworked policeman who wants to put an end to the vigilante reign of Spider-Man; I didn't get much out of his character, to be honest.  J. Jonah Jameson fails to appear in this movie, as does Peter's chum Harry Osborn, which seems odd and out of step with both the comics and the original trilogy.  This, perhaps, is a by-product of having rebooted the series; perhaps they don't want to include Harry because it means people will compare the movie to the Raimi films.  If so, then why have half of the movie set at Oscorp?  If you set it at Oscorp, though, shouldn't Peter's best friend, who is the son of the man whose name is on the Oscorp building, be in the movie?  The two decisions do not add up.

Other things I disliked: the Stan Lee cameo.  Everyone seems to be going wild for it, but I thought it was silly.  Am I going to reveal what it is?  I am not.

During a scene that involves a fight in the school library, Peter lands on the ground near a bunch of books.  One of them is a Stephen King book, and I'm pretty sure it's Desperation.  So, yeah, I guess that was pretty cool.

Overall, though, this movie was a misfire.  Evidently, it's making money.  I was hoping it would flop badly, so that Sony would have to sell the movie rights back to Marvel.  That seemingly isn't going to happen, so instead I have to simply hope that the sequel is better.

Now, here comes that Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #12 spoiler I promised you:

A great deal of the issue involves Miles fighting his Uncle Aaron (aka The Prowler, a costumed villain who uses high-powered tech to steal things and make money doing it).  The two have been circling each other warily for the past few issues, and it finally comes to a head here.  The end result: Miles unwittingly kills his uncle.  This is a rather profound moment for Miles in general, but when you consider how big an echo - albeit one flipped on its head -- it is of the way in which Peter learned one of his most valuable lessons from the death of his uncle, it suddenly becomes even stronger.  It is a powerful moment, one that is certain to prove to be a major turning point in the career of Miles Morales, Spider-Man 2.0.


We'll conclude things with a look at The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century #3.  Also called Century: 2009, this sucker is more than I can handle in the small amount of space I'm going to devote to it.  Which almost certainly means that this review is going to suck, but hey, at least I warned you in advance.

Before we get into this actual issue, though, let's take a brief retrospective look at the rest of the series, which you are quite possibly not familiar with.

It all started with the first six-issue series, which ran during 1999-2000.  In that series, Mina Murray (who has survived the events of Dracula) is recruited into the British Secret Service, and forms a team of adventurers, consisting of Allan Quartermain, Captain Nemo, Dr. Jekyll (and, of course, Mr. Hyde), and the Invisible Man, who put their considerable and diverse skills to use in the attempt to foil a dastardly plot hatched by none other than Fu Manchu.  Professor Moriarty shows up in an unexpected fashion, as does someone who we are evidently expected to accept as an ancestor of James Bond.

It is an absolute classic of the comics medium, a rollicking good time with exceptional art and all the bad taste that you could hope for from such a daffy project.  And yet, it totally hangs together from a story standpoint.

If anything, Vol. II is even better.  It takes place during the events of H.G. Wells's The War of the Worlds, and so you get all sorts of alien invasion action.  The whole thing even starts out on Barsoom, with John Carter and the Tharks, and eventually encompasses characters from The Island of Dr. Moreau.

This installment is a bit more downbeat than the first one, but is maybe more satisfying for that quality.

After Vol. II ended, it was about four years before the series popped up again, this time as a graphic novel, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier.

You will note that this does not bear the moniker "Vol. III," which is apparently because Moore considers Black Dossier to be more a sourcebook than a proper third volume.  However, there are plot developments here -- including the addition of new characters -- that simply cannot be skipped over if one has any wish to not be lost in subsequent installments.

Black Dossier is a frustrating experience, in some ways.  The actual narrative is frequently interrupted by side-trips into the titular dossier, which serves as an excuse to introduce absolute tons of information about the background world in which the story takes place.  These include a Tijuana Bible that introduces Orlando (an immortal, gender-shifting warrior) to the series; an anti-Thoughtcrime (1984) pamphlet; a faux-Shakespare play; a tale in which Jeeves and Wooster encounter Lovecraftian monsters; an unbearable "Sal Paradyse" story; and various summaries of the activities of the League(s) down through the years.

Your reaction to this installment will probably be tempered greatly by your reaction to these sourcebook materials.  I found most of them to be terrific, although that faux-Kerouac section grated on me so badly that after a page or so, I simply skipped the rest.  Hope I didn't miss anything.

It's also worth mentioning that Black Dossier marks a major shift for the series.  Almost all of the characters from the first two volumes are long gone; remaining are Mina and Allan, who have both become immortal thanks to a visit to the fountain of youth.  I'm fine with that, although I do also miss Nemo and Hyde, etc.

Making up for that somewhat are appearances here by James Bond (who is a right bastard), Bulldog Drummond, and Emma Peel, all of whom are referred to somewhat obscurely so as to keep Mr. Moore and his publishers from being sued to hell and back.

The whole thing ends with a trip to the Blazing World, all of which takes place in 3D courtesy of a pair of glasses provided inside the front cover.  It's quite cool.

I can understand how a reader of the previous two volumes would despise Black Dossier, but for my own part, I found it to utterly brilliant.  The sheer amount of imagination on display here is staggering.  Moore has done nothing less than encapsulate nearly the whole history of storytelling.  I was hoping Roland Deschain might show up somewhere; so far, no dice on that score, but who knows what future volumes might hold in store.

So, if Black Dossier isn't Vol. III, what is?  The answer: Century, which appeared in three installments.

In the first issue, Century: 1910, the new League (still led by the now-immortal Mina and including Orlando, Carnacki, and A.J. Raffles) investigates rumored attempts by Oliver Haddo -- an Aleister Crowley-type figure -- to bring about the end of the world.

Meanwhile, Captain Nemo's rebellious daughter goes to work in a shabby part of London, and encounters Mack the Knife (who, as it turns out, is also Jack the Ripper).  So, of course, Suky Tawdry is on-hand to sing about the whole thing.

The shit hits the fan toward the end of the issue, which is maybe the best of the three that comprise Century.  Personally, I think this is a mild step down from previous volumes of the series, but if so, it's only a mild one; this is terrific stuff, top to bottom.

For the second installment, the series rockets forward nearly sixty years, smack-dab into the middle of the free-love era.  You know what that plus Alan Moore means: you goan see you some titties and dicks.  Sure enough, titties and dicks are on display in abundance (not that this is the first time in the League series for that to happen).

Maybe the best thing in this book: a cameo appearance by the Doctor from Patrick Troughton-era Doctor Who.  In the next volume, both Hartnell- and Smith-era Doctors can be glimpsed, as can Captain Jack Harkness.  Sadly, none of these characters interact with the story; they are just there on the sideline, checking things out.

The art here is glorious.  O'Neill's art is always glorious, but it's especially so in Century: 1969.  I'm sure there are tons of references that fly right over my head, but it mostly doesn't seem to matter; the fact is that the story works on its own, and the references to books and films are merely frosting on an already-excellent cake.

Would you believe me if I told you that Voldemort shows up?  Because he does.  He figer-rapes Minda and then gets possessed by the spirit of Oliver Haddo.

Yep; it's THAT kind of book.

This brings us to the conclusion, which is suitably grand, and even a little tragic.

The whole thing begins with Orlando Roland, who is a soldier fighting in Q'Mar.  (Q'Mar is the fictional country where bad shit happens in The West Wing.  How awesome is that?  If you answered "a lot," then you win.)  Soon, we're back in London, where Roland is walking past a billbord advertising the new Vince Chase movie, the presumably long-awaited sequel to Aquaman.  Driveshaft has a new album out, too.  Elsewhere, both Roger Moore's and Daniel Craig's James Bond show up (as do Brosnan's, Connery's, and Lazenby's, I think -- not sure about Dalton's), working for an M who is really an Em.

That's the type of stuff you can expect here.  As for the story itself, it involves the final culmination of Haddo's plot to bring about the Antichrist, who turns out to be Harry Potter.  Not that you'd know it by looking at him, because you wouldn't.  But he came from an occult school Orlando (Roland turns back into a lady early on) and Mina visit, one which you get to by taking a train, which you get to by walking through a wall at the train station.  And he's carved the symbol right off of his forehead, not that that did him any good.

At one point, he kills somebody by shooting a lightning bolt at them out of his penis.  Also, he is a giant now, and has multiple eyes growing all over his body.  I hope I'm not giving anything away when I say that he IS defeated; but by whom, I refuse to tell you, because it's just too good.

I'm being rather flip about the whole thing, but it's for no reason other than that it's so good that any attempts for me to be serious about it bring me up against a wall where I have to make a choice between saying nothing and writing ten pages about it.  I don't have the time to write ten pages, and this blog would be an improper venue for me to do so, anyways.  So flippancy it is.

Hopefully, though, that won't discourage you from checking these books out at some point.  The first two are probably the best (although Black Dossier is probably the deepest), but they are all extremely good.

And for today, folks, that is all she wrote.

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