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Commentary Track for the August 25th Buy Pile

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Every week I do a column full of comic book reviews as I’ve done since March 2003 and currently published at Comic Book Resources. Then, after the reviews post, I try to come over to my blog and expand on the thoughts and ideas listed there. Sometimes it’s profound, sometimes it’s gibberish, but it’s always about comics … let’s see what we get this week!

What? This week’s reviews

SERIOUSLY, DIAMOND, GET IT TOGETHER: If you’ve read my reviews and this blog for a while, you’ll likely know that I am a fan of Amadeus Cho. This week, there was a new comic featuring him battling Agamemnon from the Pantheon (now called Vali Halfling, which is way more boring, and blond hair is weirder on him than the sandy brown mop I remember) in a quest to achieve divinity for different reasons (Vali wants to be a bigger jerk than he is, Amadeus wants to save his friend).

Likewise, I’ve been enjoying the working class magic of Gravel, which was building up to a plot point involving a rival for the King of English Magic (yes, I am fascinated to see the King of, say, Ecuadorian Magic too).

However, despite having cash in hand, despite being ready to buy it, my retailer was unable to sell these comics to me. Why? Because Diamond short shipped or screwed up shipping on something like thirty freaking comic books. Do they have any mention of this on their website? No. Is this reported by the “comics press?” No (as of this writing, neither my home site of CBR, Newsarama nor The Beat had any mention of it — hence no need to link to ‘em).

Why? Because this has become such a regular occurrence that it’s not even seen as odd anymore. Screwing up massively has become the standard operating procedure. What can anybody do about it? Switch to Haven Distributors? Not if you wanna make any money — the Big Four (Marvel-Disney, DC-Time Warner, Dark Horse, Image) are all Diamond-exclusive, and nobody else (not Bongo, not Top Shelf, not Archie, not Slave Labor Graphics, not Moonstone, not Arcana, nobody) is big enough to make a significant sales impact for a retail store owner to make up for the absence of the world’s most recognizable illustrated characters. If you’re gonna be in the comics business (which is very different from just being “into comics”) then you have to do business with Diamond and accept that, fairly regularly, they’re gonna tap you on the shoulder and point to something you can bend over, never once even considering to offer you some lube, ask about your day or cuddle afterwards.

This isn’t news, but the Bush-era Department of Justice shut down a Clinton-era antitrust investigation, saying, “yes, you’re a greedy, heartless and possibly incompetent monopoly, but whatever, keep it up, gang!”

So, every once in a while, my retailer Steve LeClaire has to tell people who want to give him money, “I’m sorry, I can’t take it and don’t know when I can.” Where else would such a thing become so normal, so passe that the people who cover the industry don’t even freaking pay attention when it happens?

I didn’t even plan to write about this, but it gets me so freaking worked up, grrrr!

UH … SO, WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON? Random hits, quickly as I have other things to do …

  • Yes, I’m surprised to see Justice League: Generation Lost crawling on its bloody stumps towards almost being good.
  • Yes, I’m surprised to see that Jonathan Hickman — a man I heralded as an unparalleled genius based on Pax Romana, The Nightly News and Transhuman — is turning in some of the crappiest Fantastic Four comics that I have ever even heard of — yes, past Sue in fetish gear as Malice (I liked the usage of her powers in that issue).
  • Admittedly, his best work for the Mouse House of Ideas remains Secret Warriors, which would benefit from not being chopped into 22-page increments. Sure, you can write a novel on Twitter, but it ain’t easy and it’s a choppy experience for many, many people. It’s still not as good as his creator owned stuff, but it’s at least readable. Just so people don’t think I’m picking on the guy — I’m picking on one aspect of his work.
  • I haven’t been as interested in the property Captain America in my whole life. I’m even over the idea that I can’t use “Bucky dead” as a phrase anymore, because Steve Rogers remains defined by those events. “Buck” is great at it, and “Commander Rogers” is even better, even though the core element of the characters (tactically-minded bruisers who have to work hard in order to think through some things) hasn’t changed at all. That’s why seeing a labyrinthine plot like Zemo’s (who, really, should know better after Thunderbolts) makes me wonder. Brubaker is likewise confounding — I can prove he’s a genius, I have Criminal and the even better Sleeper. What the hell, dude?
  • It’s really unacceptable how long this same Simon Stagg/Metamorpho thing has gone on with the exact same dynamic. It makes Batman/Joker look reasonable by comparison. Also, it ceased to carry any dramatic gravitas, oh, probably fifteen or twenty years ago. Seriously. To try and use that as the opening gambit for Outsiders (also: Freight Train is inescapably lame) … it’s like, “yeah, I want you to run this race, but I’m gonna tie this rope around your leg and tie the other end to the bumper of an AMC Pacer.”
  • You have no idea how excited seeing the title Star Wars Blood Ties: A Tale of Jango and Boba Fett made me … and to be let down by such a drab book that didn’t even give the parental relationship as much snap as Destro’s family spotlight (the four rules, remember?) … not cool, dude. I remember reading that Warren Ellis once said having the Star Wars license should be like having a license to print money, yet — to my knowledge — there’s never been a Star Wars book to crack the top of the sales charts in the modern era (warning: I haven’t looked that up, it’s based on what I’ve been told, but it’s probably right) despite the fact that virtually every person who buys the top 20 comics is statistically going to be a Star Wars fan too. I take it back to Infinities (oh, SPOILER), because when you hijack the Death Star to ram it into Coruscant just to kill Palpatine, and that image isn’t indelibly seared across my Star Wars loving mind … that’s just poor storytelling. I have a clearer memory of Galen Marek bringing down a Star Destroyer. What’s up with that?

That’ll do.

ANYTHING ELSE? Well …

Aight. Tabu out.

Playing (Music): “Erase Me” by Kid CuDi feat. Kanye West

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