The Week in Ink: 4-12-06
Usually I set aside Thursday night for the comics that are coming out now, rather than slowly drowning the internet in comics nostalgia, but I'd be remiss if I didn't point out a cover I found today while I was dropping books down at the Wiz:
I hate to be the guy that says "They don't make 'em like that anymore," but honestly: When was the last time you saw a story called "Birthday Cake for a Cannibal Robot!"?
And how would you even go about making such a thing? Aside from including other robots, I mean.
But that's enough diversion. Now, onto the reviews of my truly ridiculous comics purchases for the second week of Apirl! Sadly, not a single issue includes a shark-eating bear with a jetpack.
Action Philosophers Hate the French!: The entire comics blog community is infatuated with Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey's series of two-fisted biographical explanations of history's greatest thinkers, and with good reason: It's sharp, funny, well-done in virtually every way, and it's shockingly informative. There's no reason you shouldn't be reading it, and if you haven't, please take note that the trade paperback of the first three issues is solicited in this month's Previews at a price point of seven dollars. In the meantime, pick this one up, as in addition to incredibly readable bits on Descartes, Derrida, and that chainsmoker Jean-Paul Sartre, this issue includes appearances by Abraham Lincoln and God, and that's a buddy cop movie just waiting to happen.
Archie #565: Tonight's Moment of Juvenile Humor brought to you by Archie Comics: Hey, check out that cover: Archie's tossing salad. Oh, come on, like you really expected me to resist that one. Anyway, this week's entrant into the Riverdale Experiment is pretty darn enjoyable, with a story where Jughead lays out the case for Betty over Veronica and Archie's attempt to read manga being the real standouts. The latter's great, as Archie tries to learn more about Japanese comics by going and bugging what appears to be Riverdale High's only Japanese-American student, who's totally into comics. Of course, she doesn't really like manga, and when he finds out what she prefers, it's pretty darn funny. Plus, we learn Chuck's dream of going to Japan and being surrounded by adoring teenage Japanese girls, which means that Chuck is essentially my friend Brandon.
Batman: Year 100 #3: I was enjoying the hell out of this series already, but when this issue opens with Crazy Future Batman putting on ceramic fang dentures, jumping out of ductwork, and laying a serious beatdown on Evil Future SportsCops, it might as well come with a card addressed to me. It's a series that keeps getting better, especially in this issue as Pope plays with action-movie style structure by introducing a Sinister Master Plan™ for Batman to take on in the next installment, but the real shining moment comes from Comissioner Gordon, with the big reveals about his past and that of his grandfather. It's starting to become a book that I not only love to read, but can't wait to read again when it's all out.
Battle Pope #7: The last time this book came out, I didn't give it anything other than a mention on my list, and here we are one week later with the next issue, and I'd feel weird if I didn't say anything this time. So here you go, my definitive thoughts on Battle Pope: It is a book that seems purely designed for bathroom reading. And that's not a bad thing. It's just full of the pointless, over-the-top fun that can be traced as the direct ancestor to Kirkman's recent Marvel Zombies, and, well, let's just go for the easy gag and say you can knock it out in one sitting. And if you find yourself with a little extra time, the lettercols where Kirkman goes through and explains how it originally came out and says nice things about Tony Moore and Val Staples are a pretty interesting read. There's not much to it, but I like it a lot.
Desolation Jones #6: "Made in England" wraps up in this one, and while I only say this four, maybe five times a week, this comic is amazing. The art is nothing short of phenomenal, as J.H. Williams III does these incredible layouts and panel sequences that another artist--even another talented artist--couldn't pull off. And at the risk of completely running out of superlatives, Jose Villarrubia's colors are incredible, and go a long way to making this one of the most visually perfect comic books I've ever read. There's one panel on page 21, where a trickle of blood becomes an art motif on the last half of the page, under which Jones's face becomes a skull. It's astonishingly good, and again, the kind of panel that under another artist would have the potential to be terrible.
As for the story, Warren Ellis takes the send-up/homage to Raymond Chandler's Big Sleep that he's been doing for the past five issues and twists it sharply into the world of Mickey Spillaine, who ends I, The Jury by having his protagonist shoot a woman in the stomach and sit down to watch her die. The way "Made in England" comes to a close is highly reminiscent of that moment, and not only adds an element of brutal, almost-righteous but frighteningly amoral vengeance that I personally like to see in a story, but does a lot to restructure the Chandler metaphor into something that starkly contrasts with Jones and his world. Jones may walk those mean streets, but unlike Chandler's hero, he himself is a mean motherfucker. And it's great.
DMZ #6: As wary as I was about Brian Wood's excellent short stories being pushed aside in favor of a five-part storyline, "Body of a Journalist" starts off really well, with a nice set of references to the first five issues to set up the storyline and, I'm sure, appeal to the folks who are going to be enjoying that DMZ v.1 trade paperback. I really like the idea of Matt Roth, now with an apartment and regular deadlines to meet, getting too comfortable in the war-ravaged New York City, then being smacked in the face--literally--with a status-quo shakeup. Riccardo Burchielli turns in his usual job as penciller, which is to say a pretty darn good one. Wood seems to have a track record of hooking up with artists that compliment his script style perfectly, and Burchielli is certainly no exception. I really enjoy the way he's able to draw a war-zone that's still evocative of America; the shot of a hulk of a jet fighter half-buried in the Empire State Building is a striking, iconic image for the series, but he handles the details well too.
Fables #48: I always say the same thing about this book: It's exceptionally and consistently well-written and well-drawn. But as you might have guessed from recent conversation here on the ISB, this one's got a little something extra. Yes, Fables #48 features no fewer than seven pages of a naked man punching out wolves. The Bear-Gorilla-Wolf Trifecta has now been completed.
Firestorm: The Nuclear Man #24: Oddly enough, when I went back and read through a hundred-plus issues of Firestorm (and lest you forget, Extreme Justice) to get the whole story, I wasn't able to get more than a few recent issues of the current series, meaning I'm not too familiar with Jason Rusch. But the fact that I want to find out more about him means that Stuart Moore's doing the job of serialized fiction with the "One Year Later" storyline, and the fact that I don't feel like I have to means he's doing it well. And of course, he's doing it with the time-honored comic book tradition of having a guy whose head is on fire fight someone who shoots ice out of her hands.
Marvel Romance Redux: Restraining Orders Are For Other Girls: I'm not sure if it's the novelty wearing off or what, but neither issue of Marvel Romance Redux has been as funny as the first one to me. That said, they're still awfully entertaining, especially when they come wrapped up in a great cover by the incredible Kyle Baker. Baker also does a fine job re-writing one of the stories within, with panel after panel of tangent nonsense that builds to a great punchline. I will honestly buy these things as long as Marvel puts them out. They're well worth it.
Noble Causes #19: The comic that I like to refer to as "The Reason Jay Faerber Was Put on ThiS Earth" continues to be a very entertaining and often-overlooked book, but this issue features the debut of new penciller Jon Bosco, just when I was starting to really enjoy Fran Bueno's work on the book. Bosco's not bad, but he's definitely a little too Dragonball Z'ed up for my tastes. Case in point:
Nightwing #119: And the award for first One Year Later book to be dropped from my subscription goes to... Nightwing! Yes, with a story about Jason Todd dressing up as Nightwing and stabbing people while Dick Grayson runs around being so handsome that more women than usual throw themselves at him in fits of lust coupled with some of the most awkward dialogue I've seen in quite some time that makes Dick sound drunk and everyone else come off as slightly retarded (">choke-cough!<"), the Mighty Axe of the ISB must fall. And seriously? I didn't like the long-hair male-model thing when Firestorm did it ten years ago, and I definitely don't like it now.
Superman #651: Although I think we all knew it wasn't going to happen, it's nice that Clark decided not to take the Green Lantern ring, for if there's anything this past year has shown us, it's that he'd probably start walking around being an absolute dick and punching people in the face for no reason. Maybe it's just me. In this issue we get the Prankster, another Superman villain that exists solely on the Riddler factor, but there are also a lot of nice touches. Luthor's operation table, for instance, is a bit that made me laugh aloud when I read this one last night, although I'm not sure what to make of the Flea Circus. What's most important, though, is this: I don't want injecting-radioactive-material-into-my-arm Power-Suit Lex back, but if I can't have the great Evil Businessman version of Lex Luthor that worked so well in the Byrne run and on the animated series, then at the very least, I think it's safe to say that we've got incredibly bat-shit insane Luthor now. And that'll be pretty interesting.
Ultimate Extinction #4: One more issue to go, and we've only had the barest hint of Big G, but this thing's worth reading not just because Ultimate Cap throws a pretty huge beatdown onto the Silver Surfer, but the last thing Ultimate Reed says in the book is a pretty entertaining bit of dialogue.
Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle: Sterling already mentioned the same thing that I said when this came in at the store: Marvel really missed the boat in using an image from the cover to #126 of Iron Man standing around looking cool instead of what we're all paying to see: Drunk-Ass Tony Stark, as pictured to the left. Personally, I think they should've gone one step further and actually called this thing Iron Man: Drunk Tony, but that may just be me. I've actually never read any of this stuff, instead going for the later alcoholism stories that involve Obadaiah Stane rather than Justin Hammer, but from a cursory flip-through, it looks like a classic story of a man, a suit of armor, and one beautiful head of hair. I'm excited.
Past Lies: I have a small but growing stack of graphic novels by Christina Weir and Nunzio DeFilippis that I've never read, but bought solely based on how much I liked their work on New X-Men: Academy X and its predecessor, New Mutants. I'll eventually get to them one day, even though they're mostly from Oni and probably don't have Wolverine in them.
Showcase Presents: Teen Titans v.1: ATTENTION CRETINS:
FIVE HUNDRED PAGES OF DIALOGUE BY BOB HANEY.
I'm talking stuff like "Here's a special shaft for the special occasion!" and "Here's little me, the first platter jockey in space, being used by way-out weirdos to snatch old momma Earth's biggest monuments!" and, well, how about I just let Don Matanzas--a rich landowner who oppressed my people until a revolt drove him into hiding--take us on out of this one: