The Week In Ink: 5-03-06
No time for clever introductory paragraphs, Dr. Jones! It's the first week of May, and I've got comics to review!
...Right after this picture of Mr. T fighting Space Dinosaurs.
Why? Because I love you.
Action Comics #838: Another fun and exciting installment of Clark Kent: Daring Reporter hits the shelves, and while Pete Woods is credited on the cover, it's actually Renato Guedes handling the pencils inside. The art was off enough to make me think Woods had slipped a few notches, what with everyone looking vaguely plastic and static, but it's not horrible by any means and the issue itself is thoroughly enjoyable. Like the previous issues in the new storyline, I'm really enjoying all the reporter moments in this one, whether it's Clark facing down and outwitting Intergang with nothing but a tape recorder and a kid photographer or getting congratulated by Perry while he's working on three stories at once without the benefit of super-speed, it's good to see him being the kind of reporter we always want him to be. Still, though... Just how old is Jimmy Olsen that he sits around by the phone waiting for an older guy to call him up so they can go play catch in the park?
Archie & Friends #100 and Betty & Veronica #217: This week's two entrants into The Riverdale Experiment include a landmark anniversary issue for Archie & Friends, which also includes an appearance by Australian popstar singers "The Veronicas." Incidentally, "The Veronicas" always has quotes around it in the dialogue, which is a bit odd. Odder still is the fact that the Archie Comics/"The Veronicas" cross-promotion came out of what was initially a lawsuit over copyright infringement, which seems to have ended in exactly the way it would've in an Archie Comic. And that's a comforting thought. Betty & Veronica, unfortunately, is only really remarkable for the cover gag, a joke about bikinis that, as Tug said, reads like the writers just sat at a rest home and waited for some old-timers to crack a joke about today's kids and their fashions, along with an interior story where Veronica sues Betty for the rights to Archie (!) that lacks the tense courtroom drama of, say, She-Hulk.
BPRD: The Universal Machine #2: I've mentioned before that I've never been a fan of John Arcudi--I read his entire run on Doom Patrol and found it to be a largely incomprehensible mess--but his work with Mike Mignola on the story for the BPRD books has been consistently solid, highly entertaining stuff. And in the case of this issue, it's absolutely amazing.
The epigraph in the first Hellboy trade paperback dedicates the story to Jack Kirby and HP Lovecraft, and while the recent (and also awesome) Makoma story was a two-fisted tale of supernatural adventure that saw Hellboy beating up demons left and right with his giant rock hand, Universal Machine falls squarely on the other end of the scale. This issue especially is everything I've ever wanted from a horror comic right from page one, with existential dread, shadowy creatures lurking in the woods, flesh-eating monstrosities, forgotten gods, and a castle full of evil trapped on the other side of a painting. The whole thing's incredibly well-done, with Guy Davis's pencils perfectly suiting the creepy (and at times genuinely terrifying) atmosphere that also keeps the feel of a compelling adventure.
Plus, this issue sees the secret origin of Captain Daimio, which is every bit as good as I wanted it to be, right up to the incredible last shot of the flashback. And an appearance by the Devil. Yeah, that's right: Capital D.
Civil War #1: Want to make Marvel's latest crossover more enjoyable? Grab the nearest 80-proof adult beverage and take a shot every time someone says "straw that broke the camel's back," a reference to training, or the phrase "carry badges." Thanks to the annoyingly repetitive dialogue, you should be reasonably soused by about the middle of the story. On a high note, while the man who revealed his identity to the public on television and the man who faked his own death and mindwiped the entire world to keep his identity a secret are apparently switching sides on that little issue and I'm reasonably certain Daredevil ought to be in jail during this whole shindig, Mark Millar does a great Captain America, and Steve McNiven's art is--by and large--very pretty, as per usual. It's just not enough to make me not want to actively avoid almost every comic advertised on the checklist.
Detective Comics #819: So. Orca the Whale Woman has a husband. A husband who marrired her after she was mutated from a marine biologist into Orca the Whale Woman. I'm going to go ahead and assume that any relationship predicated on the fact that one partner is half sea-creature will not end well, a theory that's certainly supported in this one. I liked this issue a lot, especially the purposefully vague captions that could be Batman's cold assessment of Killer Croc or his proud approval of Robin (or both), but at this point I've just got to question how effective a mob boss the Penguin was based on his choice of muscle. I mean really, there's nothing KGBeast, Magpie and Orca the Frigg'n Whale Woman could've accomplished that KGBeast couldn't have done on his own, and that guy only had one hand.
Fury: Peacemaker #4: And now, an ISB Actual Conversation™:
"Hey Chris, should I get this Nick Fury thing?"
"Have you read any of Ennis's War Story?"
"Then yeah, go right ahead."
But I kid. I'm actually enjoying this story quite a bit so far, especially now that it involves one of the top ten story elements of all time, The Plot To Assassinate Hitler. Can't beat the classics, after all. I just hope it doesn't end up with, oh, I don't know, Nick Fury foiling said plot in an effort to keep Hitler alive and thus prolong the war which he has grown to love. That would be annoying.
Infinite Crisis #7: Well, that's all for Thanks For The Four Bucks, Hope You Like One Year Later, the DC Comics Miniseries that wasn't afraid to suck as long as it accomplished its goal of being nigh-unreadable. After the exciting ending to the Villains United Special and the great George Perez cover to this issue, I was pretty excited to see the big showdown in Metropolis. But unfortunately, it didn't really happen. Instead, there's three pages of people standing around looking "cool," Bane breaking Judomaster's back despite the fact that he reformed and stopped doing things like that a few years ago in Gotham Knights, and Shining Knight taking a flying leap off of a pegasus that we last saw not only dead, but being eaten in the pages of Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein.
Which, I think, is the real problem with Infinite Crisis: Every mini-series and tie-in has ended the exact same way: "For the rest of the story, check out Infinite Cirsis, where THE SHIT IS ON!" Except that the shit never actually gets around to being on, or happens off panel, and instead we get a story where every third panel tries to be a capital-M Moment, with nothing in between to contextualize it. Didn't like "thin green line?" Don't worry, Wonder Woman'll break her sword on the next page! Don't like that? Stick around for four more panels, they'll do something you think you want to see eventually! Except the things you think you want don't necessarily make for a good story. Grant Morrison's JLA isn't good because Batman beats up Prometheus every single issue, and Walt Simonson's Thor doesn't go around hitting things so hard he breaks every bone in his body all the time. What makes these moments special is that there are things that build up to them, and when everything in the story is a huge moment, nothing is.
And of course, there are large sections that just don't make any sense, and the last panel is, if memory serves, exactly what happened at the end of "Godfall," the reasonably terrible Joe Kelly/Michael Turner Kandor story, right down to the antagonist carving the S into his chest and swearing vengeance. I mean, really guys. But, to be fair, I did like Batman taking his sidekicks on a year-long cruise around the world. That's awful nice of him.
JSA #85: So this "Smith System" that everyone keeps talking about to Stargirl. Is it anything like The System, the posthypnotic training given to Jean-Paul Valley by the ancient Order of St. Dumas that included the automatic knowledge of how to create allegedly futuristic armor that shoots shuriken out of gauntlet-launchers? And if so, how does that help her to be a better driver? I'm very confused.
Marvel Romance Redux: I Should Have Been a Blonde #1: I read somewhere--Kevin's blog, maybe--that the Peter David remix of "Patsy's Secret Boyfriend" or whatever it's called went on way too long. And I agree, but considering that the original story also goes on for about six pages after they've milked the premise of Patsy apparently cheating on Buzz to the last drop of interest, I think that's part of the joke. And it's pretty funny, too, although nothing tops this issue's "Patsy Walker's Battlesuits," which alone is worth the price of admission.
Marvel Team-Up #20: Remember when we introduced Spider-Man? Now we continue the mighty Marvel tradition with our newest and gayest action hero! Maple Syrup! Chicken Costumes! MODOC! Magical Chocolate Milkshakes! A guy with a powerful ring that doesn't whine about art or punch people in the face (yet)! The bold saga unlike any other begins here, True Believer!
Mouse Guard #2: Shadows Within: The first isse of the darling of the comics blogger set featured a mouse with a sword fighting a snake while trying to uncover a vast and far-reaching conspiracy. In this issue, a mouse with a pegleg armed with a giant fish-hook fights a battle to the death with a crab. Yes, this might just be the best thing ever.
Neverwhere #7: Just in case you were wondering, I like it better than the BBC miniseries, but not as much as the novel. Not that anyone asked.
The Punisher #33: There are few things in this world that I enjoy more than reading an issue of The Punisher where two tough guys just beat the living hell out of each other. That is exactly what happens in this issue as the Punisher and the Barracuda--who apparently hasn't gotten the memo that most of Frank's nemeses never return for second appearances--meet each other and throw down in one of the most brutal fight scenes I've seen in a while. This is, of course, set against the Garth Ennis backdrop of penis jokes, evil corporate bastards, and other unsavory types who linger around deserving death. All is, therefore, as it should be.
Rex Libris #4: In addition to the enjoyable lead feature where Rex brings democracy to a race of half-robot snowmen and immortal librarians defend cookies with shotguns is one of the best one-page ad parody gags I've had the pleasure of seeing. I'd scan it to share the joy, but a) you should go buy it yourself, you stingy cretin, and b) Kevin beat me to it.
Supergirl: Was there a bill passed into law while I wasn't looking that makes it illegal for Supergirl to be remotely appealing in her own book? I mean, she's really good in Legion of Super-Heroes, and I like Greg Rucka a heck of a lot, but man: This one's rough. Not only does it seem to spin out of the events of "Godfall" (again with that thing) and the "Black Kryptonite" story-arc of Supergirl itself, two stories I don't care for a bit, but the whole thing seems rushed, with awkward dialogue and word balloons that point to the wrong character, and even without those, Kara would still come off as an unlikeably petulant child. But it does have a higher Kryptonian-Breast-Per-Page ratio than any other book on the stands, so if that's your thing...
Teen Titans #35: Not to spoil anything for anybody, but I'm not sure that even Niles Caulder could whip up a cure for a disease like "ribcage sticking through chest." I think that one's got a pretty high mortality rate. Anyway, the Titans continue to be enjoyable, and although it's not as much of a standout as some of the other OYL books, I do enjoy seeing crazy-ass Ravager running around being all, you know. Crazy. Now if Tony Daniel would stop drawing people like they were standing around in awkward magazine poses, it'd be great.
Y - The Last Man #45: And now, an ISB One-Sentence Review: What with all the ninjas, yakuza-boss pop stars, and the phrase "mandroid wrangler" getting thrown around right there on page six, "Kimono Dragons" might be the best story in the entire run.
Osamu Tezuka's Buddha, Volume One: Despite my mother's best efforts, I've learned most of what I know about religion from comics, which, now that I think of it, explains quite a lot about me, and is why I'm pretty excited about sitting down to read this when I get the chance. Plus, Ben didn't believe me when I said that I was pretty sure that Buddha himself invented the devastaing Buddhist Palm kung fu technique, so I'm hoping the creator of Astro Boy can help to prove me right.
Sandman Mystery Theatre v.4: The Scorpion: SMT--not to be confused with my town--is one of the best mystery comics in recent memory, but complete four-issue stories are notoriously hard to put together around here. I just wish they'd hurry up with the trades so I can finally find out what the deal is with the Phantom of the Fair.
The ISB Guide to Free Comic Book Day!
(Clip Out and Save For Your Scrapbook)
Saturday, as you may well know by now, is the second-most wonderful time of the year. Yes, my heart will always belong to Christmas, but as a general rule, there's only one day where you're guaranteed to get free comics, and that's never a bad thing.
But with so many titles lining the shelves and a flock of children standing between you and the sheer bliss of reading sequential art you don't have to pay for, which ones are worth your time? Well, seeing as they're free, I'd wager that you can't go wrong with all of them.
But in case you're wondering about the highlights...
Free Scott Pilgrim is probably the most anticipated FCBD offering, what with it being a new story from Bryan Lee O'Malley that's going to have to tide us over until that dim and distant future when Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness finally arrives on my bookshelf. It's highly entertaining, and our boy Scott wears what might be the best t-shirt ever in it, but--and believe me, this came as a shock to me too--it's not my favorite FCBD book.
And neither, in an almost equally surprising turn of events, is the Archie 65th Anniversary Special, although I'm certainly a sucker for Archie books where all the different characters of the Riverdale Universe get together, especially considering the joke about Sabrina the Teenage Witch getting a makeover.
Ditto for Marvel's offering, with an all-new X-Men/Runaways story by Brian K. Vaughan that's an enjoyable read lumped in with a new Franklin Richards story and some other fun stuff. And no, though it too is well worth picking up, not even the cuteness of Andy Runton's Owly comes out on top in this one.
Joel Priddy's The Preposterous Voyages of IronHide Tom, from our friends over at AdHouse, came dangerously close to the top slot this year, with its great stories of an invulnerable and accident-prone sailor done in a stick figure style that reminded me more of Chris Ware's Candide cover than anything else. It's incredible.
And yet it still cannot beat the FCBD juggernaut that is...
The Bongo Comics Free-For-All.
With no less than five stories, Bongo offers a lot of bang for your nonexistent buck, especially seeing as how the first story, wherein Comic Book Guy gets a life, is fantastic. I don't want to spoil anything, but suffice to say that there's a joke in panel one of the story that had me in tears with laughter. It will make you want to give them very, very much of your money.
Which, really, is what getting free comics is all about.