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Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Week in Ink, 3-22-06

The targeted advertising that shows up in G-Mail wants to sell me Martial Arts Insurance.

I'm not sure if that's insurance for being the victim of a kung fu beatdown, or if it's like standard liability in case my awesome Fists of Fury accidentally destroy a passer-by, but what I do know is that my emails contain the words "karate," "ninja," and "Chuck Norris" enough times that a worldwide computer network thinks I need coverage. And that's real.

And that's why you're here for this week's comic reviews: Because my style... is invincible.

All-New Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe #3: You know, two years ago I would have had no real reason to buy this, even with the nice profile of Doop, considering that the characters in this run are the ones that didn't make it into any of the last set of Handbooks--and really, there's nothing about Death's Head II that I'll ever want to know that I can't just ask Scott about. But today? I write a comics blog, and I'm one slow day away from a Diamond Lil retrospective. Thanks, Official Handbook!

Batman #651: The One Year Later storyline goes into its second part with an issue that feels a lot like one of Scott Petersen's Gotham Adventures stories. That, of course, is not a bad thing by any means. It's highly enjoyable, with the focus on action, with a reasonably self-contained fight with Poison Ivy. It includes some very nice moments, too, not the least of which was Batman giving Robin the thumbs-up and telling him he knew what to do. I've been waiting for Batman to stop being a jerk to his friends for quite some time now, and that's the kind of moment that goes a long way towards making it happen, though the corresponding issue of Detective was sorely lacking in that regard. Plus, Batman doesn't end up socking Ivy in the jaw like he does in the Jordi Bernet issue of Solo, where he does it twice. I like punching, but come on, man, she was on her way to the floor after the first one!

Captain America #16: I'm not exactly sure what the deal is with Sin, the Red Skull's daughter, whether she's a five year-old in the body of a hot teenager, or an artificially-aged de-aged SHIELD agent, or what, but am sure of this: Even when he is making sweet love to a lady, Captain America is fully prepared to beat the living hell out of the science-terrorists of AIM. That's why he's leading the Avengers, and you're reading blogs.

Catwoman #53: The Brubaker/Cooke relaunch of Catwoman was one of my favorite books, right up until Paul Gulacy came on and Brubaker wrote a story about Catwoman going to Shangri-La with some cat people for a while. Not exactly the kind of thing I like to see in my noir-ish street-level crime dramas, so I jumped off when Brubaker left. Still, I liked the characters quite a bit, especially Slam Bradley, so I was pretty excited about jumping back on.

The deal, of course, is that there's a new Catwoman (whose identity isn't exactly a state secret, it seems), a change necessitated by the fact that Selina Kyle spends the first few pages giving birth to the largest baby I've ever seen. What really caught my eye, though, was another well-done moment where Batman comes off as a nice guy. That's twice this week, and that's almost a pattern.

Daredevil #83: Despite the surprise that was blown two months ago in Previews, the new team on Daredevil's turned in nothing but solid comics so far. Admittedly, we're only a couple issues in, but right now it feels like the best parts of the Bendis/Maleev run, but with things actually happening. Brubaker's story's not only interesting, but fun to read in the same way that "Born Again" is; It takes that story's idea of taking away everything Matt Murdock loves, and goes two steps further. Michael Lark is a perfect fit for the art, with gritty action scenes that are quite honestly far better than Maleev's ever were, handing everything from tense courtroom scenes and Jonah Jameson yelling at reporters to good ol' fashioned prison shanking. It's got me excited about Daredevil again, and after the church basement, that's no small feat.

Forgotten Realms: Sojourn #1: I'd just like to point out that while my affection for Drizzt Do'Urden is unmatched, the sensational character find of this issue is the most awesomely one-dimensional character in the entirity of fantasy literature: Roddy McGristle. Just from reading his name, you now know everything there is to know about the character. It's a beautiful thing.

Hawkgirl #50: Ever since I read his run on Thor, Walt Simonson could do a relaunch of Binky and I'd be first in line to buy it. Come to think of it, I'd be first in line for a Binky relaunch anyway, but the point stands: Simonson's a true genius of comics, and if there's someone out there that I'd pick to write a series about a woman who flies around with anti-gravity metal and capri pants bashing things with a mace, he's the guy. On the other hand, I'm not as big a Howard Chaykin fan as some people, and his art seems a little off to me in this one. The closeups are close, and I'm talking two eyes and half a nose, and they're oddly cluttered in places. Still, he's apparently trying to win me over by sheer nipple volume alone, and I consider that a worthy endeavor.

And a big hello to the new readers I'll get from that phrase.

JSA Classified #10: I like Vandal Savage a lot in theory, but my taste in immortal world-conquering villains has always leaned more towards Ra's Al Ghul. It's not a hard choice to make, really, since Savage's finest moment was unquestionably his battle with the JLA in Grant Morrison's JLA One Million, which everyone else seems to have forgotten about, despite it being totally awesome. There's potential for the character, it's just rarely tapped. I'm hoping that it might shine through in this story, though. I like Stuart Moore in general, the story's interesting, and Gulacy's art is a lot less stiff than it was the last time I read anything he drew.

Manhunter #20: Collectors, take note: This issue features an appearance by everyone's favorite bank-robbing psychosexual deviant Captain Atom villains, Punch and Jewelee, who were mentioned by me in this very blog a few months ago in a review of this very book. But moving on: The "One Year Later" stuff in Manhunter seems to have affected the supporting cast rather than the star, which works out to be a lot of fun when your supporting cast includes Obsidian, Cameron Chase, and Mr. Bones. Other than that, though, it's pretty much the same old book, which is to say, pretty solid.

Nextwave #3: Or, as I suppose I should call it, Nextwave: Agents of HATE. This issue actually threw me for a little bit of a loop, since the opening sequence seems almost grim-and-gritty for the first few pages, right up until cat-based hijinks and the new World's Greatest Deathtrap make everything right again. It's joyous even without Fin Fang Foom and his pants, and I'm going to go ahead and say that it's probably the best comic Tabitha Smith has ever been in. A cutthroat field, I know, but here on the ISB, we make those kinds of judgements. I would just like to point out one thing, though: I liked Elsa Bloodstone before it was cool. Then again, I probably shouldn't let that get around.

Noble Causes #18: So last month, Noble Causes had two girls making out on the cover and opened with one of them lounging topless on a beach. This month, we kick off the story with full-on sex right there on page one. Jay Faerber: MARKETING GENIUS.

Red Sonja #8: Every month it comes out, every month I buy it, every month I wonder why. It's not like it's bad, there's just nothing to it other than chainmail-covered breasts, which is apparently enough to get my three bucks every month. Still, I am pretty excited about the Roy Thomas Red Sonja: Monster Island one-shot in the April Previews, so I guess Sonja stays around a little while longer.

Robin #148: Surprisingly, this is hands-down one of my favorite One Year Later books so far. I've never really read anything by Adam Beechen before, but he nails the script for this one, with everything from a heart-to-heart with Batman to a bit on how the costumes work. It's exactly the kind of thing I love to read, and with as much of a fan of Cassandra Cain as I am, the story--and the references to the missing year--is certainly intriguing. Even better, Karl Kerschl's pencils are perfect. The main problem with the Willingham run, which I like for the most part, was the shaky art that accompanied every story, but in this one, Kerschl nails it. I don't think he's sticking around as the regular artist, which is a shame, because he's exactly what the book needs. It's excellent stuff, and well worth your time.

Sgt. Rock: The Prophecy #3: There's no getting around it: Sterling called this one from the beginning. But that's not important. What's important is that this issue shows Sgt. Rock having a throwdown with some nazis wherein he stabs one right in the throat with a piece of wood, rendered expertly by Joe Kubert. It's the kind of thing I live for.

She Hulk #6: Starfox, the Creepiest Avenger, takes center stage in a story that explains exactly why he's so damn creepy. And brother, that Greg Horn cover ain't helping your case. It's like one of those websites where they photoshop super-hero costumes onto naked men. Regardless, Dan Slott's in on the joke, and he turns in his usual fun script, and if the fact that this is a comic with a love triangle that involves the Two-Gun Kid and the Mad Thinker's Awesome Android--who has the word "awesome" right in his name--doesn't get you to read it, then you're beyond help.

Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #4: I'm not ashamed to admit that this is easily one of my favorite comics this week, to the point where I not only flipped out, but everyone thought I was kidding. It's just a great little book, and the fact that I noticed that Midtown High has the same school colors and mascot as Degrassi probably puts me square into the secondary target audience. You know. The slightly creepy one. Anyway, it's a joy to read: Mary Jane finally gets her date with Spider-Man that she's wanted since the first series, but lately she's been spending a lot of time with Peter Parker, and he's got a crush on her and wants her to go out with him instead! But, of course, Peter is Spider-Man, which makes it like every single Silver-Age Green Lantern story ever printed. Except it's interesting and readable.

Oh you heard me, Ragnell. I went there.

Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #16: According to the excerpt in the Legion Archives v.3, the Legion Constitution states that anyone who's kicked out of the Legion (which happens a lot) has to be "hypnotically brainwashed" to forget their secrets. That means that not only was the dreaded mindwipe prevalent amongst the teen super-heroes of The Future, but it was constitutionally mandated. We can assume, I think, that the current version of the Legion doesn't have that kind of draconian reconditioning rule, but what they do have is the best appearance of the Jeph Loeb Supergirl to date. She doesn't come off as irritating or ditzy like she does in Superman/Batman, she keeps her clothes on unlike her own book, and her costume even fits in with the Legionnaires'. It took Mark Waid and Barry Kitson to do it, but I may actually end up enjoying stories with her.

Supermarket #2: I enjoyed the first issue of Supermarket, but this one blows it away. Brian Wood's story kicks right in with the action, with the majority of the issue taken up by a chase scene involving the Yakuza, a Swedish porn cartel, and my new favorite character: Hai Boy. The clincher, though, is Kristian's art. It's amazing. It may be a weird thing to be fixated on, but I love the stylized smoke trails that constantly surround the Yakuza, and if I could, I'd frame this panel and hang it on my wall:

Also, the food court scene involves a restaurant called "Master Shake" and "Grill Bill vol.2." It's a fantastic book, and if you're not reading it, you should be.

X-Factor #5: Two weeks ago I subscribed to three Peter David books, but as we all know: There can be only one. And the fact that this one's got Ryan Sook art doesn't hurt its chances, either. But really, it's a solid book, with everything I liked about David's Madrox except--in the case of this issue--Madrox. It's a good read, and most imporantly, it actually feels like a mystery-oriented book, which is handy when your title's named after a detective agency.


Blogger Ragnell said...

You butt!

3/24/2006 3:53 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Robin 148 stuff is such good news. I was a big fan of the book and character under Dixon in highschool, but dropped it after the Cataclysms and No Mans Lands and what have yous began to overwhelm the book. I preordered the OYL stuff on strength of the art and Beecham's Hench GN from AiT/Planetlar. Still, I'm also a huge Cassandra fan, so I was iffy. That it's enjoyable is great to hear.

3/24/2006 5:56 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Batman, Catwoman and Robin--the Bat holy trinity--was excellent this week. That's amazing.

I liked Kerschl's art on Robin also, but taking over for him is Freddie Williams II. There's some test drawings of Robin that he did floating around, and they're awesome. Sort of reminiscent of Ottley's work on Invincible.

3/24/2006 9:10 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd be very happy with Williams II taking over - his work on that last issue of Mister Miracle was fantastic. It reminded me of a slightly less cartoony Seth Fisher.

3/24/2006 11:29 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I mentioned this before, but only Brubaker could have made me stay with the DD title. Not that I didn't enjoy what Bendis had done (and I had finally learned to appreciate how Maleev's art fit the grittiness of the character), but I just got really... bored with the title. I think you summed it up perfectly with:

it feels like the best parts of the Bendis/Maleev run, but with things actually happening.

I recommend Brubaker to everyone who comes in, whether it's the Catwoman run, the Captain America issues, Sleeper (!!), anything. (Well, maybe not "Lowlife" for the newbies just yet.) And I'm very pleased thus far with his work on Daredevil. Because he seems to be a writer who plans out his stories well in advance, I'm looking forward to seeing what he has in store.

3/24/2006 12:18 PM

Blogger Mark Kardwell said...

My favourite use of Vandal Savage was that episode of the JUSTICE LEAGUE cartoon where he helped Superman get back from the future. Dashed decent of him.

3/24/2006 3:48 PM

Blogger Spencer Carnage said...

Nextwave - Reading this is like watching your ex girlfriend date a total jerk. What's she doing with that guy? Can't she see he sucks? Why can't she cool like she used to? Do you think I can booty call her yet? Damn, I want a booty call so bad, but it'll probably suck.

Supermarket - And this, now I have to buy it which is akin to finding yourself strangely attracted to a a girl in the special class.

Thanks a lot, jerk.

3/24/2006 5:26 PM

Blogger Earth-2 Leigh said...

Slightly creepy?

Now get on that Diamond Lil retrospective.

3/24/2006 8:37 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

I completely agree about Robin being the best OYL book of the bunch.

3/25/2006 12:44 AM


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