The Weekly Round-Up #93 Featuring Scalped, American Vampire, Criminal, The New 52, And More!

It’s week 3 of DC’s relaunch (only the second week for me though), and I have to say that it’s going a lot better than I expected.  Sure, some of the books are clearly rushed and poorly thought-out, but there’s some real gems here too.  My favourites for this week were Batwoman, Batman and Robin, Frankenstein, Grifter, and surprisingly, Deathstroke.  There was some other good stuff that’s been getting overshadowed by DC though, such as Pigs and Marvel’s Monkey King.

Best Comic of the Week:

Scalped #52

Written by Jason Aaron
Art by RM Guera

I recently re-watched the HBO series Deadwood, which was set in the town of the same name during the Gold Rush, and which followed the lives of a variety of historical and fictional characters as they schemed and swindled, until the twin greater evils of American annexation and amalgamation under the aegis of George Hearst forced everyone to begin working together.  While watching it, I thought of Scalped a couple of times.  In many ways, the Deadwood character Al Swearingen, played by Ian McShane, reminds me of Chief Lincoln Red Crow.  Both men are ruthless villains, but they are also both immensely more complex than anyone else in their series, and both of them emerge as the true stars of their series, which it slowly becomes clear, is more about their redemption than anything else.

With this issue’s arrival comes the knowledge that Scalped, one of my two favourite monthly comic books, is only going to be around for another eight issues.  It is clear though that Jason Aaron is reaching the climax of his story on his own terms though.  In this issue, Red Crow continues to defy and piss off just about everyone he’s worked with, as he continues to shut down the criminal elements that he previously employed on the res.  His fellow councilmen are annoyed, and most importantly, so is Shunka, his bodyguard and aide-de-camp, who is a very dangerous man to cross.

While Red Crow is cleaning up his act, his enemies are coming out of the woodwork to take him down.  Even the joke of a local sheriff puts him on notice, as he himself takes a stab at redemption.  More importantly, FBI agent Nitz is ready to make his move, although it’s very unclear whether or not he can count on Dash Bad Horse for support (having your jaw wired shut does interfere with communication).  Dash is more interested in tracking down the man who killed his mother.

Big things are happening in this issue (I’m not going to talk about the last page), and as usual, it’s very well balanced and impressive.  I’ve been unhappy with Jason Aaron’s Marvel work of late, as I feel like he’s phoning it in compared to the work he’s doing on this series.  I feel like I’m really going to enjoy these last eight issues, as almost five years of character work heads towards its pay-off.

Other Notable Comics:

American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest #4

Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Sean Murphy

Scott Snyder is spending a lot of time fleshing out the diversity of vampires in his series.  Between this spin-off mini and the main title, we’ve seen a variety of species of vampire, each different in a variety of ways, and each tied to the region of their genesis.  Now, with this issue, we are beginning to get glimpses of the evolutionary history of the vamps as well.

The scientist that Vassals of the Morning Star agents Cash and Book were sent to retrieve from Nazi-occupied Romania has found three ancient vampires, who are as immobile as statues.  Of course, after a suitable pause for exposition, the Nazis who are pursuing our heroes make their appearance, and stuff gets all crazy again.

I’ve been enjoying this mini-series just fine, especially with Sean Murphy’s art gracing its pages, but I think I prefer the main title.

Baltimore: The Curse Bells #2

Written by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden
Art by Ben Stenbeck

When in the mood for melancholic, uber-gothic vampire comics, you can’t go wrong with Baltimore.  In this issue, we are really treated by artist Ben Stenbeck to a number of fantastic visuals, as Lord Baltimore investigates a convent that had been taken over by his enemy, Haigus, although that’s not the case anymore.

There are great scenes of Baltimore infiltrating the convent as the nuns stand sentry on the roof.  There’s an even better scene, where Baltimore and his new companion, the journalist Hodge, attempt to consecrate their weapons at a church, only to learn that it has been taken over by another entity.  I also loved the shout-out to Madame Blavatsky.

In a lot of ways, I find that I prefer Stenbeck’s brand of creepiness to Mignola’s.  They are similar artists, but having seen Mignola work on much the same stock of images for so many years, Stenbeck’s approach feels fresher and more interesting.

Despite having collected comics my whole life, I’ve never started collecting original artwork, and have only rarely felt the need to.  That said, I would love to own the last page of this comic.

Criminal: The Last of the Innocent #4

Written by Ed Brubacker
Art by Sean Phillips

I don’t know why, but I thought that this was a five-issue arc of Criminal (maybe because they all have been up to this point), so as I got closer and closer to the end of the book, I kept expecting something totally unexpected to happen.  I kept thinking that everything was wrapping up too soon, and so I’m sure this skewed my perception of the comic somehow.

But then, it really did wrap up nicely.  Riley feels like he’s in the clear when the issue opens, and he receives his inheritance and gets back together with his previous high school girlfriend.  Shortly though, he learns that a few people are on to him, some of whom are completely unexpected.  At that point, our understanding of just how ruthless Riley really is gets tested.

This has been a very cool arc on the best Brubaker/Phillips series.  The Archie-comics style flashbacks perhaps give the story a more gentle appearance, but in a lot of ways, this is one of the more cold-hearted Criminal stories yet.

I’ve read before that Brubaker doesn’t plan out his conclusions completely when he starts a new arc, and that makes final issues more interesting to read.  That this one ended so neatly is a testament to his skill.

Pigs #1

Written by Nate Cosby and Ben McCool
Art by Breno Tamura

The high concept for this comic is pretty awesome.  A group of KGB sleeper agents, with orders to take down the American government were installed in Cuba back in the 1960s, and are still there, awaiting orders to begin their mission, and passing it on to their children.  You know, despite the fact that the Soviet Union has fallen, and Castro is retired.

It sounds like Cosby and McCool are really taking the long view on this comic, and so take their time establishing some of the characters, and some of the conflicts between them.  When the senior member of the cabal, Vidlen, dies of a heart attack, there is new uncertainty in the group, just as they are finally activated.

The story jumps around in time quite a bit, with the most recent part involving a pair of police interrogating a woman who looks to be in her fifties or sixties.  The cops seem to know a lot about this KGB stuff, and the last page contains a pretty big surprise that definitely has me coming back for the next issue.

This is the type of comic I like to read – the cover by Jock immediately reminds me of DC/Vertigo’s The Losers (which is MUCH better than the movie) but the comic itself continued that feeling of familiarity in tone and appearance, if not in details.  Tamura, who I’m not familiar with, has a Jock-ish vibe to his art.  Cosby and McCool explain a little about the book’s genesis in the back-matter, and what I read there gives me comfort that there is a highly-detailed plan for this comic, and that it’s been exceptionally well-laid out.

Which brings me to my main concern.  I’ve read bits of McCool’s other comics – Choker and Memoir, and haven’t been all that impressed. I’m also pretty sure that neither one of those titles have finished yet, and are months behind schedule.  On the other hand, I’ve enjoyed many books that Cosby has edited for Marvel, and feel confident that his editing skills will help him keep the book on track.  I’m definitely interested in sticking with this title, so long as it keeps coming out.

Twenty-Seven: Second Set #1

Written by Charles Soule
Art by Reno Podesta

The first volume of Twenty-Seven was a pretty cool comic.  It was about the habit of musicians to die at the age of twenty-seven (and was published before Amy Winehouse was added to the list).  The main character, Will Garland, was a musical sensation, playing guitar and singing, before nerve damage left his left hand unable to play the guitar.  Wracked with pain, he explored a number of strange cures, including one that involved him making a deal with the embodiment of the number nine; a god-like creature that embedded a panel on his chest, with buttons which, when pressed, gift him with new creative abilities for a period of three hours (although he can only push the buttons 27 times before he dies).

Now, Garland is back in this new series.  He has attempted to reorient his playing style, but is not meeting with any real success.  He’s struggling, but still refuses to shorten his life span by pushing the buttons.  At least, at first.  Like in the beginning of the first volume, Garland is at a serious low point in his life, and is beginning to become desperate to change his situation once again.

Soule’s writing on this series is strong, and I really enjoy Podesta’s art.  There are a few terrific pages, when Will lets loose later in the book.  I wasn’t sure there would be enough to make a second volume (or set) worthwhile, but I can see that there is definitely a plan here.

The Unwritten #29

Written by Mike Carey
Art by Peter Gross and Vince Locke

The covers of this comic are always nice, but during this latest arc, ‘On To Genesis’, they have been particularly good.  Last month, cover artist Yuko Shimizu gave us an homage to the Golden Age, and this month designs a wonderful pulp cover that matches what’s going on in the story while perfectly evoking the era in which it takes place.

This whole arc has been running very smoothly, as Tom continues to track his father’s involvement in the Cabal, and the slowed growth of comics as an art form almost immediately upon the creation of the superhero genre.  It’s been clear from the start of the series that Wilson Taylor was never a very good person, and it’s interesting to see what choices and events led him to becoming the man he is.

There’s a great surprise at the end of the issue, which has me looking forward to next month’s chapter.

Quick Takes:

Alpha Flight #4 – I was pleased to learn this week that Alpha Flight, under Van Lente, Pak, and Eaglesham, has become an on-going series instead of an 8-part mini.  This creative team has managed to capture so much of what made John Byrne’s original approach to these characters work, while updating them nicely (with one exception, which I will get to).  The idea of a Canada falling sway to an extremely right-wing government doesn’t feel so far-fetched these days, and with the (somewhat obvious) reveal of the villain behind everything, I’m sure that the next four issues are going to be great.  I do want to quibble with the portrayal of Vindicator though – even under mind control, her character is not being served well by having her kill her own cousin, and betray her team.  Byrne made Heather Hudson a fascinating and complex character long before she even put on the uniform, and I don’t like to see her treated this way.  Everything else though, I like.

Batman and Robin #1 – When Tomasi and Gleason were briefly on the last incarnation of this book, which featured Dick as Batman partnered with Damian instead of Bruce, they included a scene where the Wayne family had a movie night.  That scene is the reason why I gave this title a chance, because I like the idea that the series is going to explore the relationship between Batman and his son, who has become a favourite character for me.  Wisely, Tomasi opens this series with a similar scene (after a prologue in Russia), as Batman travels to Crime Alley to mark the anniversary of his parents’ passing, while Damian channels the spirit of the New 52, and chastises Bruce for spending too much time looking at the past.  I’m not sure how much of that is an intentional comment on the relaunch or if I’m reading into things a little too much.  The rest of the comic is pretty good, as we learn that all the Batman RIP/ Return of Bruce Wayne stuff is still in continuity, and father and son struggle to find the right balance when working together.  It’s a decent comic, with nice art; I am curious about this new villain, and want to see what happens next, which means this is a success.  (At the same time, this book could have existed in exactly the same way, minus a few superfluous lines on Batman’s costume, in the old DCU).

Batwoman #1 – Here’s another title that fits as well in the old DCU as the nU (which makes sense considering it was originally supposed to be out months ago), aside from the colour of Commissioner Gordon’s hair.  This book is absolutely gorgeous, which we knew would be the case with JH Williams drawing it, but it also is decently written.  Williams and co-writer W. Haden Blackman set up a strange case for Kate to solve, she arranges a date (because I guess her orientation has to be established early on) with Captain Sawyer, and starts training her niece (who makes it clear that she was a Titan – is that going to cause problems in the nU?).  Most interesting to me are the cameos by DEO Agent Chase, and her boss, Mr. Bones.  I loved the comic Chase, which was one of Williams’s firsts, and like that he’s returning to these characters.  I just had a thought – since DC is looking to diversify their line, and are publishing books like Men of War, is it too out there to hope for a Gotham Central relaunch?  Crispus Allen and Rennee Montoya don’t have to be the Spectre or Question anymore, and I would totally buy a police procedural again…

Daredevil #3 – Remember how not too long ago, Marvel was touting the ‘Heroic Age’, and everything at DC was about a ‘Brighter Day’?  I think Daredevil might be the only comic that actually lives up to the concept, as Matt returns  to a more swashbuckling superheroic existence, and the series is as much about Matt and Foggy’s law cases as it is the costumed stuff.  Most importantly, Matt is no longer a depressed navel-gazer.  Truly, with the Riveras on art (and next month Marcos Martin!), I would be buying this book either way, but it’s a very nice change for Daredevil.

Deathstroke #1 – I guess the line-wide relaunch is successful if it’s getting people to pick up series they wouldn’t normally try.  Although I’ve always liked the design of Deathstroke (I miss the bell-bottom-y boots though), I’ve hated a lot of the character’s baggage, and writers’ feelings that they have to be mired in it.  This is a lot fresher take on Slade, as he works to regain his rep as a field agent par excellence.  Joe Bennett and Art Thibert are as good on the art as they always are, and Kyle Higgins seems to be okay (I only know him from Gates of Gotham, which he co-wrote with Scott Snyder – I may have to give Nightwing a go too) with this kind of thing, although whoever decided to lift the Bullseye killing insects with paperclips shtick out of old school Frank Miller Daredevil comics should have not bothered.  I’ll get the next issue of this.

Farscape #23 – With only one issue remaining in this series, there are way too many dangling threads to deal with, and that makes me uncomfortable.  This is the big battle issue, as the Kkore engage the remnants of the rest of the universe, who are using the Delvian version of the Force to fight them off, and of course, there are lots of double-page spreads and a death or two.  I’ve really been enjoying Farscape lately, but I’m not sure they can finish this off satisfactorily in one issue.  Unless, of course, the series will be returning…

Fear Itself #6 – This book finally feels as big as it should have all along, as the two main Avengers teams come to grips with the impossibility of fighting The Serpent, Thor and Odin have some serious father and son chats, Tony Stark makes some new weapons, and Captain America trades places with his Ultimate version, getting all lippy with Odin and picking up a gun or two.  It’s taken way too long for things to get to this point, but now the comic has really become an event.

Fear Itself: The Monkey King #1 – And the most random comic of the week award goes to this one-shot picking up on the story of the character introduced in the incongruous Iron Man 2.0 Fear Itself tie-in issues.  The Monkey King is a thief who has escaped from the Eighth City (of Iron Fist fame), with the abilities to change shape, among other things.  Now that he’s free, he goes after Lion, the man who imprisoned him some fifteen years ago.  I have no idea why Marvel is getting behind this character, but the fact that this one-shot is written by Joshua Hale Fialkov (read Echoes) and drawn by Juan Doe made it a no-brainer of a purchase for me, and I’m glad I got it.  It’s a fun story, with great art.

Frankenstein Agent of SHADE #1 – I didn’t much enjoy the Flashpoint Frankenstein mini-series, which surprised me because I’ve usually been very happy with Lemire’s writing.  This is much more to my liking, as he relaunches Frank as a part of the New 52, complete with a governmental agency and a new team (which is pretty much the Flashpoint team, plus a mummy).  Some of the on-line commentary I’ve seen compares this book to Grant Morrison’s pre-Vertigo Doom Patrol, but I didn’t get that vibe at all.  Instead, this comic feels more like Hellboy and the BPRD, done in a superhero universe.  SHADE has a crazy miniaturized city that flies over New York like a tiny SHIELD helicarrier that you have to teleport to, which is staffed by intelligent plant robots with a short expiry date.  The headquarters seems pretty shabby for something so scientific, but that could just be the art.  Alberto Ponticelli takes a much looser, scratchier approach than what he used on Unknown Soldier, but I like the way it works here.  I also like that Ray Palmer has been put into the cast as a supporting character, although it’s unclear if he is or ever was the Atom now.  I’m sticking with this one for a while – there’s a lot of potential in this book.

Grifter #1 – I’ve only been a fan of the WildCATS when they were handled by writers like Alan Moore and Joe Casey (especially Joe Casey), and while Grifter has never been a favourite, I will admit that he’s cool in a 90s kind of way.  I didn’t pick up this title for him though – I got it because writer Nathan Edmonson has impressed me with his independent comics – Olympus, The Light, and Who Is Jake Ellis?, the later being thematically very similar to the relaunched Grifter.  First, Edmonson made him an actual grifter – the book has him conning a shady businessman.  Shortly after that, he is abducted and experimented on by what I assume are Daemonites, and now he is on the run from them (he can hear their thoughts in his head).  It’s a nice quick start to the series, and handles the character with a level of intelligence that was lacking in his first debut (later added by Brubaker and Casey, of course).  Cafu’s art is nice, but not quite as sharp as it is when he is inked by fellow one-namer Bit.  I like that Grifter is not being reincarnated as the DCnU’s Punisher, but is instead more along the lines of a super-spy.  With aliens.

Legion Lost #1 – I picked this one up with some trepidation.  I love the Legion, but for the last decade, I’ve been consistently disappointed with what DC has done with them.  Paul Levitz’s recent tenure on these characters has been particularly disheartening, as he was the person who shepherded them through my second favourite era (the Giffen/Bierbaum run being the best ever).  Now Fabian Nicieza has brought a handful of them to the present day, stripped them of their technology, killed two of them rather pointlessly, and has infected the world with some sort of contagion.  Nothing is really explained, from who the characters are, why new villain Alastor is so lame, or why Wildfire, who is a living ball of energy contained in a suit would need to lift his visor to weld something (most people lower visors for that, and Wildfire doesn’t actually have a face, let alone eyes).  I’m curious to know what the ‘Flashpoint Breakwall” in time is, and whether or not these characters have memories of the real DCU, since they seem to be picking up from where Levitz’s recent series stopped.  I assume that DC is laying the seeds of the eventual return to status quo (18 more months to Detective 900!) in this time barrier thing, which makes the most sense if that mystery woman showing up in all the DCnU books is the Time Trapper, as Rich Johnston has suggested.  I doubt I’ll get the next issue of this, which is sad, because I love these characters.

Journey Into Mystery #627 – I found this issue a little disappointing.  Instead of focusing on Loki and his machinations, Kieron Gillen gives us a whole issue of Mephisto explaining his to a bartender.  It was a little too wordy, and guest artist Richard Elson is good, but is no Dougie Braithwaite.

New Avengers #16 – So I guess Bendis misses writing Daredevil, because he’s now being shoe-horned into this book, which already has enough characters to more or less render him unnecessary (what can Daredevil do that Iron Fist, Spider-Man, and Wolverine can’t?).  It’s a decent enough issue, but now that the Fear Itself tie-ins have finished (and everything looks like it’s back to normal), I’m hoping we can finally ditch the reality TV confession booth style framing sequences that have been padding these books lately.

Resurrection Man #1 – I had always meant to try the first run of Resurrection Man, and then it was canceled, so I never did read it.  I figured I’d give the new series a try, and while it’s pretty good, I’m not sure how interested I am in reading another comic about a guy whose soul is being pursued by angels and demons.  This book is well-written and drawn though, so I may give it another chance.

Suicide Squad #1 – The original Suicide Squad (by which I mean the John Ostrander super-criminal version, not the old war comic) played with some very dark characters and situations, but was never as mean-spirited and bleak as this first issue of this new version is.  Basically, the team is tortured through the whole issue.  As an introduction to one of the coolest comic concepts of the last thirty years, it just doesn’t work for me.  Gail Simone can have King Shark eating peoples’ arms, and it’s funny, but here, it’s just one more harsh thing after another.  Really, this story did not grab me at all.  And then there are other issues.  First, I don’t understand why in the DCnU, the prison that the Squad operates in has had its name changed from Belle Reve (‘beautiful dream’, which has a nice irony to it) to Belle Reeve, which just sounds stupid.  Secondly, the character redesigns.  I don’t mind Harley Quinn’s new look, aside from how stupid it looks to have her walking through snow in what is basically understand.  I don’t mind that King Shark is now a hammerhead.  What I don’t like is that Deadpool, who has one of the most classic costumes in comics, now has all this superfluous stuff stuck to him.  And then there’s Amanda Waller, who now looks like Misty Knight.  I suppose, now that DC is publicly committed to increasing diversity in their books, needs to change the rotund short black woman into a Halle Berry look-alike.  Because then the criminals will fear her.  Finally – while the art in this book is okay, I think that the originally solicited Marco Rudy would have done a much better (and more consistent) job.  In all, this is one of the more disappointing new titles I’ve read.  I’m glad I didn’t pre-order #3; the next one will have to be very good to get me back.

Uncanny X-Force #15 – It still amazes me how much more I’m enjoying this story with Jerome Opena drawing it than I was Mark Brooks.  That we are out of the Age of Apocalypse universe, and that Rick Remender is pulling together a number of plot threads from the start of this series are all icing on the cake.  This is once again one of the better X-books, and is probably the nicest looking one on the stands.

X-Men Legacy #255 – It’s been a while since this book was this good.  Steve Kurth is doing some very nice work on the pencils, and the return of the X-Men that were with the Starjammers is welcome.  I don’t remember though – is Lorna Dane still crazy?  That would explain her actions at least.

Comics I Would Have Bought if They Weren’t $4:

Amazing Spider-Man #669

Punisher Max #17

Supreme Power #4

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1 (what does it say that I, who has never read Ultimate Spider-Man, am interested in this book?  I hate when hype actually works – sorta)

Bargain Comics:

Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine #6 – I’m just going to assume that Jason Aaron was experimenting with peyote when he wrote this book, and leave it at that.  It’s always nice to see Adam Kubert draw something, but a more coherent story would have been preferable.  I would not recommend getting this series in trade paperback.

Flashpoint: Deathstroke and the Curse of the Ravager #2 – Is there any point to buying anything from the old DCU now, especially the Flashpoint series?  Still, I kind of got into this portrayal of Wilson as a pirate; I kind of hope that the DCnU version of the character is somewhat like this, instead of going over all the tiresome Terra/Jericho/Ravager stuff once again.  Plus, I’ve never understood why Joe Bennett isn’t more popular.

Hellblazer #275 – 279

Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli, Stefano Landini, and Simon Bisley

I find it odd that I enjoy Milligan’s run on Hellblazer, but actually have no desire to purchase the book each month.  Instead, I scour bargain bins at poke around used book stores for it, and usually score small runs at conventions.  That’s how I amassed these five issues, which start with John’s wedding to Epiphany, and move through their first few challenges as a married couple.

The notion of Constantine being married is an interesting one, especially since he married the alchemist daughter of a notorious gangster.  There is a lot of story potential in that sentence, and Milligan is slowly unpacking it.  We see the desire they both have to remain independent in dealing with their own issues, the first of which is John wanting to retrieve the thumb he cut off a little while ago.  This leads to an odd sequence of events involving crashed cars, thieving art managers, and Epiphany’s father.

This comic remains fun (when it’s not dealing with topics like John’s demonic side molesting his niece Gemma at the wedding), and very well put together, but for whatever reason, it’s not enough to attract me to it on a more regular basis.  I’m also not sure what it would need to do that.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Echo Vol. 2: Atomic Dreams

by Terry Moore

I’m very glad that I decided to check this series out.  Terry Moore has crafted a very good military weapon/espionage/super hero/fugitive story with Echo, and by making it so character driven, he’s created a series that is very hard to put down.

The first volume established the parameters of the story.  Julie, a divorcing and unhappy woman witnessed a strange explosion in the sky, and was pelted with bits of a strange metal, which then bonded with her skin.  The metal came from a military battlesuit that exploded during a test (if you can call firing missiles at a flying woman a test).

Now Julie is running from the military, and from a bizarre homeless man who also has some of the suit.  She is with the Dillon, the boyfriend of the woman that had been testing the suit.

As this volume opens, the two were hiding out with a group of bikers, but that doesn’t last for long, as the homeless dude finds them, and things get pretty bloody.  Julie is being pursued by Ivy Raven, from the National Security Branch.  She appears to be a gifted profiler, and makes contact with Julie in this book.  The problem is, it’s very hard to tell whose side she’s really on, or what her agenda might be.

Echo moves very quickly, but still packs in a number of strong character moments.  Moore’s clean and clear artwork helps propel the story.  I haven’t really followed Moore’s career, but based on this, am starting to pick up Strangers in Paradise, and should probably check out his new comic, Rachel Rising.

Paying For It

by Chester Brown

It’s been a few days since I’ve finished reading this book, but I wanted to take a while before writing about it, as I’m not sure how I feel about it.

Basically, Chester Brown gives us a journal of his experiences with prostitutes and escorts, in both in-call and out-call situations.  We also get to read a fair amount about his justifications and rationale for this behaviour, and the reactions of some of this closest friends with regards to it.

After having a slow breakup with his last girlfriend (they continued to live together, but her new boyfriend moved in), Brown decided to use prostitutes to satisfy his sexual needs, and to no longer seek relationships with women beyond the monetary kind.  We follow him through a few years of his whoring, as he goes from being a timid john utilizing a pseudonym, to developing a monogamous relationship with one particular woman who he loves, but continues to pay for services rendered.

While the book avoids being particularly graphic, it is indeed pretty explicit in a number of places.  This is definitely not a book for someone who enjoyed Louis Riel and wanted to read more of his stuff (although that’s more or less how I came to read it).  Brown gives each woman their own chapter, and gives us as faithful a rendition of their encounter as he can, allowing for the shoddiness of memory, and his desire to protect the identities of these women.  It does seem like he’s getting (and paying for) a lot of sex, but it’s worth paying attention to the dates listed, as he has carefully organized the time between his encounters.

A book like this is sure to raise all sorts of opinions and questions.  I can see how this arrangement worked for Brown, but recognize that it’s not for me.  He doesn’t shy away from issues of human trafficking and sexual slavery, but also appear to ever reject a woman if she suspects that her involvement with him is not purely consensual.  Brown fills the last twenty-five pages of the book (before his voluminous notes) with 23 appendices designed to share his views on topics like exploitation, pimping, violence, and Nevada’s brothels.  It’s a very informative book, opening a window onto a world I am pretty unaware of.  The fact that Brown lives in my city adds particular relevance to the book for me.

This is probably the most honest in a long line of autobiographical and confessional graphic novels completed by Brown and his circle.  I have no doubt that it’s an important book; I’m just not sure how much I enjoyed it.  I did find it compulsively readable, but like Brown’s meetings with Anne in the book, it left me feeling kind of empty afterwards.

Album of the Week:

Souljazz Orchestra – Freedom No Go Die

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