The Week in Ink: 4-19-06
Before we get on with the reviews of my comic boook purchases for the third week of April, I'd like to point out something that Tug noticed yesterday while we were pulling subs down at the Wiz.
The Essential Wolverine v.4 contains Wolverine #70-90.
That means that Boneclaws are now Essential.
And if that's not the most harrowing thing you've heard today, I remind you that never once has Darkhawk been collected in trade paperback. There is no justice in this world, my friends. None at all.
Betty #155: The fact that the folks at Archie put the words "Are You A..." over the titles of Betty and Veronica just cracks me up every time I see it. It's great. That said, this particular issue was the most disappointing entrant thus far into The Riverdale Experiment. Even the cover gag falls flat, as do most of the jokes within, although there is an appearance from Betty's rarely-seen sister Polly in a story revolving around the curative properties of perfume. I'm hoping it gets a little better next time, but it may just turn out that I'm a Veronica after all.
Big Max #1: I've made my love of Dangerous Dan Slott's fine comics perfectly clear over the past few months, but now that he's decided to tackle the conspicuous lack of gorilla-based entertainment in today's funnybooks, it's every bit as good as I wanted it to be. I'm reasonably curious as to why Max's love interest dresses like she's late for an appointment in a mid-90s Image book, but otherwise, it's pure fun. There are some great little touches, like Max's secret identity and clever background characters like the Village Idiot, but the way the fight with the issue's villain, a super-powered mime, is just fantastic and excellently pulled off by James Fry and Andrew Pepoy. It's a great little read that involves both monkeys and punching, and if you don't think that's worth buying, then you probably shouldn't be reading the ISB to begin with.
Birds of Prey #93: As long as I live, I will carry with me the image of Lady Blackhawk sporting her leather jacket, cheerleader skirt, and ridiculous, Sgt. Rock-esque levels of ammunition.
It may be my new favorite thing. Well, that and the idea that Zinda wears that outfit everywhere, which would be odd even if she wasn't part of a covert operations group. It's an exceptionally solid issue from Gail Simone and Paulo Siqueira, especially the slow reveal of what's really going on with Lady Shiva and Black Canary.
Bite Club: Vampire Crime Unit #1: 2004's Bite Club was a pleasant surprise for me, since it veered away from the vampire aspect (since really, the vampirism in the story serves little to no purpose) and ended up being a solid and enjoyable crime drama. The sequel looks to be starting out the same way, with excellent work by Davids Tischman and Hahn, augmented by the type of monochromatic coloring from Brian Miller that I love for this sort of story. Plus, it's got all the nudity, lesbian sex, and hair-pulling to let you know that it's written by Howard Chaykin.
BPRD: The Universal Machine #1: I've never been a fan of John Arcudi, but much like the way I feel about Palmiotti and Gray on Jonah Hex, I think we've found the book that he was put on this planet for. His work on the BPRD books, co-writing with Mike Mignola, has been incredible, and this issue's the best one yet. Captain Daimio's interplay with Liz and Johann is sharp and intriguing, but the real gems of the story come with Thierry's subtle testing of Kate Corrigan, and the way it all works out is just masterful. It's a fantastic book.
Captain America #17: The further into his run on Cap that we get, the more Ed Brubaker seems to be pushing Cap back towards the super-powered side of the scale. This week he explains that he can see faster than than a normal person,and in the 65th Anniversary Special from a few weeks back, Cap mentions being able to run a mile in just over a minute "when I have to," which is way above the proverbial "limit of human potential." I'm not sure how I feel about that, since I've always come down on the "Cap doesn't have superpowers" side of that particular geek argument, but considering that Brubaker also introduced the Military Operatives Designed Only for Combat, who appear in this issue alongside the Red Skull's confusing daughter, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Conan: Book of Thoth #2
Daredevil #84: I don't want to take away from the current issues of Daredevil by comparing them to what's come before too much, but there's no better way to sum up my feelings about Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark's run on Daredevil than by saying this: It's everything people liked about the Bendis/Maleev run, only without everything I hated.
Brubaker manages to pull off the same sort of gritty, brutal stories that Bendis wrote, but every issue so far has had the action the highlighted stories like "Hardcore," which were the highlights of the previous run for me. His scripts are tense and sharp, really carrying the feeling of confinement while doing the "you're-not-trapped-in-here-with-me" trick better than anyone's pulled it off in quite some time. And Lark's art is perfect for it. Again, he has the things I liked about Maleev's better work on the title, but rather than relying on carbon-copy panels (which, admittedly, may have been a function of the script), Lark comes off much sharper and the action works a lot cleaner.
Admittedly, that's a comparison of three issues up against one of the longer Marvel runs in recent memory, but with issues like this one, which features a set of great sequences with Bullseye, Hammerhead, and the Kingpin that really sets off the pressure-cooker atmosphere that Brubaker's creating, it's hard not to look at it and say it's Daredevil done right. The ending seems to have been scientifically designed to appeal to me, and I can honestly say that this is the most excited I've been about Daredevil since I was reading the Frank Miller run for the first time. If you're not buying it, do so.
Ex Machina Special #1: It's amazing how much JD Mettler's coloring does for the look of Ex Machina. It's remarkably well-done, and consistent to the point where I had to look twice before I noticed that Chris Sprouse--a guy I like a lot--was doing the art instead of Tony Harris. The story is Brian K. Vaughan's usual top-notch work, as he takes the idea of a super-hero in a "real world" type environment, and pits him against his first super-villain. It's excellent stuff.
Fury: Peacemaker #3
The Goon #17: This one reads quicker than the usual issue of The Goon, but considering that it's light on dialogue and heavy on punching and gunfire, that sort of thing is to be expected. It's a good one, though, as everything seems to be coming to a head between the Goon, the Buzzard, and the Zombie Priest, and with the destruction of a certain watering hole, I'm pretty sure that it's going to be "on" between those three guys. It's exciting stuff, and like every Goon comic I've ever read, absolutely beautiful to look at and tempered with Eric Powell's dead-on sense of humor.
Iron Man #7: I ended up liking Warren Ellis and Adi Granov's "Extremis" storyline a lot more than I thought I would, but this issue--the first by the new team of writers Daniel and Charles Knauf and penciller Patrick Zircher--rubbed me the wrong way. There's a lot of good stuff in it, and Tony's speech about not pretending he can't handle the Extremis just to satisfy other people when he could be out saving lives is a good bit of writing. The problem, though, is that Tony gives this speech to Nick Fury on the SHIELD Helicarrier. This may be a minor thing, but really: Nick Fury leaving SHIELD is the key element of two major Marvel crossovers, one of which is advertised on the cover of this book. It's annoying, and it feels a lot like sloppy editorial work, but "Execute Program" is interesting enough to keep me around for the time being.
JLA: Classified #20: Gail Simone's "Hypothetical Woman" storyline keeps getting better and better for me. This issue's framing sequence, of Batman plotting the Justice League's moves with a mental game of chess against General Tuzik while simultaneously throwing down with the spirit of unarmed combat is the kind of thing I can really get behind. Plus, there's that shock ending which, is pretty darn shocking.
JSA: Classified #11: Well, I think it's safe to say that it's no longer fun and games for Alan Scott.
Jughead and Friends Digest #10: With a story about Jughead's ancestors and a full section of comics about That Wilkin Boy--the minor Riverdalean who turns out to apparently be Jughead's cousin--this one worked out much better than this week's issue of Betty. Plus, if I ever get a tattoo, I'm reasonably certain that it's going to be this:
Manhunter #21: For the second installment of the One Year Later Dr. Psycho storyline, we get an issue where Marc Andreyko forgoes super-hero action in favor of courtroom drama, and it's really good. He's done this before in other issues, but watching Kate Spencer tearing down the prosecution instead of trying to put the criminals away--and loathing herself for it--is a fun change that does a lot for the story.
Nextwave: Agents of HATE #4: Assuming one has used up his daily allotment of the word "awesome," what exactly does one say about a comic book where a team of sub-third-string Marvel hereos get together to fight a corrupt cop who was turned by an "Ultra Samurai Seed" into a giant, rampaging Transformer made of scrap metal? At this rate, I'll just be making sound effects next month.
Red Sonja #9
Robin #149: Adam Beechen--now joined by Freddie Williams II--continues to make Robin the surprise hit of the One Year Later books with a great action story that's exactly what I want out of Robin. He functions essentially as a miniature Batman, pulling badass super-hero action and keen detective work, but he does it without his mentor's air of infallability, which only serves to make the story more exciting. The only problem I have with it is the (apparent) off-panel death of Nyssa, a great character that really had a lot of potential. It's something that I'd like to see dealt with somewhere other than a mention from Lady Shiva. Other than that, the story's great, and the mystery about Cassandra Cain and her missing year is more than solid.
Sgt. Rock: The Prophecy #4: This would be the somewhat-obligatory "Horrors of War" issue--just in case you didn't get the idea that the Nazis were bad guys when they killed Bulldozer's puppy last issue--but like the three before it, Joe Kubert does a pretty amazing job pulling it off. Plus, Bulldozer gets a slightly creepy replacement for the puppy.
X-Statix Presents: Dead Girl #4
The Bakers: Do These Toys Belong Somewhere?: There's a lot of material printed here that I've seen before, which might scare away some casual Kyle Baker fans, especially considering the $19 price tag attatched to it. Fortunately, it's all presented here in Glorious Color, and any chance to get new material from Kyle Baker is something anyone who loves comics should jump at.
Batman Black & White Statue: Mike Mignola: Despite my newly cultivated affection for mini-busts, I usually try to stay away from the statues. This one, however, was something I couldn't pass up at the relatively cheap price of $55. Sculptor Jonathan Matthews did an amazing job with translating Mike Mignola's art to a statue, to the point where it actually looks like a drawing. Have a look:
It's awesome. The first time I saw it I had a hard time believing it was a photograph, but that one's mine, sitting on the shelf. And it's like that from every angle.