I’m reading five (or six? but probably five) graphic novel series right now, not counting the Ultimate Marvel stuff. As of my completion of the sixth Hack/Slash volume, I am caught up with three of them. Plausibly, that means it’s time to start a new one, next time I get to an empty gap in my rotation. Which will be kind of weird, what with my not having started a new series in a really long while now. (Then again, I’m also supposed to reread the four volumes of the Ultimates as I’ve been threatening to do for probably six months now, and yet, nothing on that front. Also, I’ve caught up enough that I think it’s time to slow down on my Marvel Ultimate reread and intersperse something else in one of those two slots.)
None of that matters, though. What matters is that Cassie Hack is experiencing a crisis of faith. In herself, in her role in the universe, in her fate. After the dramatic events of the previous book, she’s decided to put away her baseball bat, build that white picket fence, and settle down with her long-time stripper crush, Georgia Peaches. The list of people who are unhappy with this plan is extensive, and includes enemies from another dimension, an evil rock icon, police around the country who have been led to believe by a psychic that Cassie is responsible for most of the murders that were committed by the slashers she has put down, and perhaps most dangerously of all, her neglected companion Vlad who seems to have no place in her new plans. Life is hard for a gothy, slightly emo, and confused teen slayer of supernatural evildoers.
I think my two favorite bits were a) the one-shot with the possibly autistic Encyclopedia Brown chick, investigating the soon-to-be-important new bad guy, Samhain, and b) really any scene with the skinless alien dog-thing; it is quickly becoming my second-favorite character! Due to hilarity, you see.
 I honestly don’t know why you have to hear about this stuff.
What I found strangest about Cop Out was the wide disparity between its previews and its actuality. Instead of a zany comedy with cops as the main characters, it was exactly the same buddy action movie you’ve seen dozens of times before. I mean, sure, there were the differences in buddy: Bruce Willis is an inspired choice of straight man because he has long-standing comedic acting chops that possibly a lot of people have forgotten about, while Tracy Morgan is… well, I don’t know how to describe it, but how are you not already watching 30 Rock to know exactly what I mean? But the film itself? There is no newly unearthed buddy-flick arcana here; in fact, there are probably no surprises here at all. But if you aren’t allergic to the genre and like things that are funny, this is a good way to spend an afternoon.
Also, and I say this with no trace of approbation, but there were multiple points throughout the movie where it really did seem like the lead actors had no script at all and were just directed to perform a skit about being cops. “Hey, guys, for this scene, we’re going to do a skit about an interrogation room. Now, for this one, let’s do a skit about a stake-out.” I do not know which of the script-writer or the actors (or possibly the director) I should be complimenting for the way those scenes turned out, but someone is getting a metaphorical basket of flowers right now. And, since it’s only 6 AM on the left coast, they’re probably a little pissed about it.
 I lie. The Brooklyn homeowner defending her property? I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before, and it was a little bit amazing.
The majority of one-shots in the Ultimate universe have not been all that good. Of course, the majority of them have been about Daredevil and/or Elektra, and while those stories may be good spread out over years, I have yet to see the short term version do them justice, even though both characters work just fine as guest stars to Spider-Man. Ultimate Human, however, is an exception to that one-shot rule. Card’s Tony Stark retcon has finally taken hold, and the world’s smartest man seems like the best person for Bruce Banner to turn to in finally beating this Hulk thing once and for all. Over the course of four issues, the two men finally change the Ultimate version of Bruce Banner from caricature into a genuine character, while clashing with each other mentally and physically. And because one foe is never enough, a giant-brained person that you may remember as the Leader is waiting in the wings.
Oh, and incidentally? With an entire issue given to origin and backstory, the Ultimate Leader is exactly the kind of character reintroduction that the Ultimate universe does so poorly in general and should have been doing this way all along. I wish people who are not named Brian Michael Bendis could do a better job of accomplishing this on characters that I haven’t already seen elsewhere.
A tried and true way to annoy fans of a series is with a drug metaphor. There you’ll be watching [spoiler elided] perform magic, getting better season after season, even earning a girlfriend out of it, and then suddenly in the sixth season, it turns out that [spoiler elided] has an addiction to magic that must be stopped any any cost, lest lives be destroyed. Or in the Ultimate X-Men, say, there’s Colossus, this big steel guy, but it turns out he’s been doing drugs all along to be strong enough to support his impenetrable skin. And now all of his friends are addicted too, and the ones who aren’t had better step in and save the day! Oh, and also, it’s time to introduce another half-dozen Marvel characters that you won’t be able to care about unless you already know who they are, because heaven knows we certainly don’t have enough time to actually introduce them and find out if they make any sense or should be cared about, before they’re gone again.
It’s too bad, too, because without the rush job, well… I mean, the drug thing still would have annoyed me. Ongoing series of every flavor really need to stop with that shit, because it is never done well. Ever. But, without the rush job and the drug-story allergy, the last couple of pages of climax, dramatic revelation, and cliffhanger would probably have been pretty cool. Instead of feeling excited about what comes next, though, I’m mostly glad that Absolute Power is the last Ultimate X-Men book I have to read.
 That right there is the biggest problem with the Ultimate line of comics, in a nutshell. If you’re going to pretend to be shedding forty years of continuity so that new readers can join the fun, then stop letting your stable of writers add in old characters unless they promise to tell me who they are and why I care. Or, better yet, make me care within the confines of the plot. I know that’s not that hard to do.
Jacqueline Carey returns to the world of Terre d’Ange in Naamah’s Kiss, set a century after the events of her previous books. The magically modified historical Europe has progressed into the 16th Century, with tales of a new world away west across the sea, but not-France seems content to rest upon her laurels as a center of love and decadence. Into this more superficial version of a country already obsessed with beauty and fame is thrust Moirin, a half-Alban girl with a capital-d Destiny, descended from the same magical small folk that gave Prince Imriel such trouble during the previous trilogy. Of course, as the other half of her descent is a d’Angeline priest of Naamah, the goddess of Love, it can be no surprise that her parentage and uncivilized mien make her an instant success. Unfortunately, she spends the first two thirds of the book on that, laying groundwork for events in future unwritten books before actually engaging in the plot of this one.
On the bright side, once that plot gets a move on, it’s really quite pleasant, racing to the far corner of the world to rescue a not-Chinese princess from a demon. If you can leave aside the iffy pacing, the book has a lot of things to like. A circle of demon-summoners, ancient Ch’in wisdom, cliff-diving, an implausible amount of lipstick lesbianism, chases, escapes, true love… y’know. Stuff a sick kid would want his grandfather to read to him. But, okay, even if it’s clearly not that funny, it did feel like something out of a storybook. If that sounds ridiculous, take it as me having accepted the characters that thoroughly, by the end. Pacing issues or not, I care about these characters and want to know what happens to them next.
 not-England, don’t you know
The longer I wait to write this review, the sadder it gets. And what’s funny is, I wasn’t avoiding it at first, I was just busy. But then later, I got to a point where I didn’t want to write anything at all, and I don’t know if that was valid and on me or if it was due to review dread. And then later still, I realized that it kept getting sadder the longer I waited, which of course did not do anything to encourage me to get a move on. But then I finished a book last night, and if there’s one thing I cannot abide, it’s a log jam. Resultantly, you get this horribly explanatory paragraph because at least it gives my fingers something to do while my brain is still warming up.
As you have no doubt worked out for yourself by now, I saw The Wolfman last Wednesday. In 19th Century England, an Americanized actor returns to his ancestral home when he receives word from his brother’s fiancée that the brother has gone missing. By the time he arrives, his brother’s badly mauled body has been found, but of course before all of the affairs are concluded and he could leave, events conspire to leave him bitten by a werewolf, and then we’re off to the races. Here’s what I can say about the movie: it got a lot of things right. The brooding moors, the equally brooding London town, the yet again equally brooding characters, both bit and primary, I guess what I’m saying is that there was atmosphere thick enough to choke upon. And the wolfman himself? It was simultaneously a perfect callback to Lon Chaney Jr’s original look and a special effects updatestravaganza. What I’m saying is, this was a very moody, very pretty film, and it was cast to match.
If only they had saved some money and / or creative energy for use upon the script. Or even, if they couldn’t afford dialogue, then at least for the plot. ‘Cause, man.
 If I were smarter, I would edit out these process pieces after I’d had time to write something actually good instead.