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Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Week in Ink: 5-17-06

So in this week's Green Arrow, Green Arrow uses a sword, does kung fu, and beats up Deathstroke the Terminator.

Yeah, I know, it's a little backwards. But after two issues in a row of Deathstroke showing up on the last page and talking about what a badass he is (a technique that really only works once), we finally get the big fight, and Mitchell Hundred Oliver Queen essentially smacks him around with a glue arrow.

Which, in case you were wondering, is why that book doesn't show up in these delightful lists of the comics I actually buy. It just doesn't meet the exacting standards I expect out of books like Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose.

And now, the aforementioned list, featuring my two-fisted comics reviews for the third week of May!



52: Week Two: For one brief, shining moment when I flipped through this book before reading it, I thought the Question had busted in on The Body Doubles having sex with each other.

But alas, that was not to be. Fortunately, the rest of this issue was downright incredible. Almost every single thing that happens in it is one of those little moments that I just love, from a mystery-sniffing nose to a conversation between Will Magnus and T.O. Morrow full of intriguing allusions and kidnapped mad scientists, to a sequence with the Question that--while it doesn't involve any of Resurrection Man's old foes giving in to the love that dare not speak its name--got me more excited than almost anything in recent memory. I just cannot get enough of Vic Sage walking out of curling mist and dropping cryptic statements and Zen koans. Renee Montoya standing alone at the bottom of a rigidly-gridded page shouting "I still have questions!" while the smoke curls is just icing on the cake.

The plot with the Resurrectionists--a term I'm co-opting from 19th-century grave-robbers, whom I'm sure won't mind--doesn't thrill me like mentions of "The Red Inferno" and kung fu objectivism, but it's more than a little intriguing, especially given Ralph Dibny's cold, steely dealings with Wonder Girl as he goes about his detective work.

To be honest, the History of the DC Universe backup doesn't do a lot for me, but that's probably just because the first bit has a whole lot of Donna Troy in it, and I could live quite happily without ever seeing her again outside of the works of Bob Haney. Plus, according to the solicitations, that's space that's eventually going to be taken up by a Mark Waid/Eric Powell orign story for Metamorpho the Element Man, and that's something I just can't wait for.

Two weeks in, and 52's shaping up to be exactly what I want from it, making it the best of the week and the one at the top of the alphabet. What little suspense I was building with this gimmick is now gone.

All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder #4: There are people who like this book. People whose opinions I respect quite a bit. I am not one of them. And I think that they may be suffering from some sort of hysterical dementia. Anyway, after something like eighteen in-story hours (and eleven real-life months) of riding around in the Goddamn Batman's car, Dick Grayson finally gets dragged into the Batcave, giving us this issue's six-page gatefold money shot. And yes, it's lovely, but it doesn't make any fucking sense whatsoever. It's the exact opposite of the All-Star Superman Fortress of Solitude shot, where we know Superman's been around a while and has reasons--no matter how crazy--for dragging the Titanic up to the Arctic. This is, after all, an earlier, younger Batman that, as Kevin says, is portrayed as he was in Kane and Finger's earliest Detective Comics stories. So why, exactly, does he need to build himself a robotic Tyrannosaurus? Is he going to use it in his own dinosaur-themed crimes? I mean, I'll give you the samurai armor, and the nonsensical collection of Batmobiles that's essentially Jim Lee's tribute to his own work, but the dinosaur sticks in my craw. Robin's dialogue reads like it was written by someone who had only heard of children from watching Mountain Dew commercials ("Um, heads up. We're about to crash into some pretty fierce rock."), and four issues in, I still can't figure out if it's supposed to be over-the-top or genuine. Admittedly, that may be my failing, but trying to decide if "His hand lands on my shoulder, weightless as a falling leaf. Those bigass fingers of his squeeze like a gentle caress." is intentionally or accidentally homoerotic is beyond my meager powers.

My favorite part, though, is the last page hypebox, which advises you to check out Sgt. Rock: The Prophecy #1 this week. As to why I found that so amusing, check out the review about twelve entries down from this one.

Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #42: Kurt Busiek Presents Underwater Conan careens into its third non-stop issue with the new Aquaman sitting down and talking out loud about how things work differently in bars when they're all underwater. This is, as I mentioned before, exactly what I wanted this book to do, and Busiek does it for exactly the right amount of time to keep me happy. Two panels of explication, then it's off into a punchout and a visit to the Sea Devils. It's completely solid, and as long as it continues to involve waterlogged barbarian action, I'm going to enjoy it.

Batman: Year 100 #4: Yes. The bit with the teeth was awesome. Paul Pope wraps up his big Future Batman mini-series in a way that's darn near perfect for the story. There's so much that goes on with every issue, from telekinetic government agents to police forces divvied up like sports teams to motorcycle hijinks to showdowns at cabins in the woods, and it's just an exciting read. But it's obvious that Pope has put a lot of thought into how the world within the story works, and how it all fits together, but like Batman, he's not going to reveal it to us. It's great.

Bite Club: Vampire Crime Unit #2: O! To be Howard Chaykin, and live in a world where every woman is a conniving vixen plotting behind a smile to destroy me utterly due to her deep-seated psychosexual disorders. It'd be keen. But since I can't, I can at least read about such a world in Chaykin and David Tischman's highly entertaining and bizarre crime dramas where a man can make a reference to Wuthering Heights right before dropping the phrase "pulling a train."

Captain America #18: Finally, a comic that will validate my purchase of the Union Jack mini-bust. Thank you, Brubaker and Epting. I feel better about my bookshelf now.

Conan #28: Proving that my prayers are actively being answered, this issue features art by The Goon's own Eric Powell, and while I would've almost preferred to get twenty-two pages of nothing but a powell-drawn Conan slaughtering the wretched thieves of wicked Shadizar by the veritable dozens, the story that we do get is a solid piece that does a great job of singing the allegorical praises of Robert E. Howard, and it even features an appearance by Janissa the Widowmaker. Plus, in a half-page backup feature that's worth the cover price by itself, it's got the best Two-Gun Bob strip ever, up to and including the one where he shoots himself in the leg.

DMZ #2: Wood and Burchielli take "Body of a Journalist" into its second act, and so far it's holding up pretty well against the done-in-one stories that preceeded it. Things are happening within the story, and they're happing fast, which does a lot to alleviate what I was worried about from a longer-form story. Wood does a great job with the pacing, cranking up the paranoia factor in Matt Roth in a way that leaves the reader every bit as unsure of who's playing who as he is. Burchielli, as usual, handles the art nicely, and I've noticed that with each story, he's able to show something from the devastated New York City that even a seventeen-year South Carolinian like me knows the significance of, like the Flatiron Building, the Lincoln Tunnel, or this issue's excellent full-page shot of the Statue of Liberty and the ruined skyline. Good stuff.

Fell #4: From pretty much every standpoint I can think of, Fell is absolutely incredible. I mean, it's a dollar less than anything else on the stands and routinely sells out, with the first issue at something like five printings; it's got Ben Templesmith's best art in years, moody and thriving within the nine-panel grid instead of being confined by it; and If there's one thing that I've learned over the past four years, it's that nobody does the two-guys-sitting-in-a-room-talking-to-each-other scene better than Warren Ellis, especially when one of the parties involved is a total badass. Admittedly, I say most of that pretty much every month, but it's a good enough comic that it always bears repeating.

Jack Staff #10: If Jack Staff would only come out more than once every five or six months, it would be, hands down, the best comic on the stands today. Paul Grist, the man who's single-handedly keeping the cover blurb alive with every issue he puts out, is one of the best writer/artists in comics, and his layouts and the way he uses the page would be a joy to look at even if the story didn't involve things like a suspiciously Alan Moore-esque horoscope writer/mystic warning the book's hero not to purchase certain groceries, lest doom befall him. And while Grist certainly took his sweet time with this issue, it's got twenty-eight pages of story literally cover-to-cover; no ads, one letters page, and the rest, including the inside front and back covers, are crammed with story. I love this book, and so should you.

Manhunter #22: Apparently being cancelled in three issues doesn't leave a lot of time for throwing down with Punch and Jewelee or Killg%re, because this issue felt like Andreyko was trying to toss in very single plot he needed to wrap up within the next few months. Two weird hallucination sequences, a character getting new powers, a fight with a super-villain, a guest appearance by Wildcat, and the debut of another super-villain: it's all in this issue. Not that that's particularly a bad thing, as Andreyko and Pina pull it off pretty well, but there was one thing about this issue that didn't sit well with me. Apparently during the infamous Missing Year, Kate Spencer went from being a US Attorney to her own private practice. One of the things I really liked about Kate was that she went after criminals all the time, during her day job and as a vigilante, targeting the ones the law couldn't catch, and as a prosecutor who blew Copperhead's head off, worked as an interesting counterpoint to Daredevil, who only defends innocent clients and has a super-power that means you can't lie to him. If she's gone into civil law (rather than the criminal defense, like Mr. Bones forced her into in the last story arc), that's not too bad, although really: That's usually something one does for money rather than any sense justice.

Marvel Legacy: The 1970s Handbook: Unlike most of the OHOTMU issues that I just skim through looking for interesting facts, I actually read most of this one last night, and found it to be surprisingly entertaining, even more than the 60s handbook, no doubt due to the sheer insanity of most of the characters within and the reasonably charming "in character" style of writing that doesn't acknowledge anything post-1979. You know, just in case you were wondering if THEY WHO WEILD POWER ever had a team-up with Hellcow. (The answer, sadly, is no they haven't. Yet.)

Rival Schools: United by Fate #1: And now, a public service announcement from Corey Sutherland Lewis The Rey:

And there's not really anything I can add to that.

Robin #150: The fact that Tim Drake is the kind of guy that has to sit down and do eleven hours of what essentially amounts to really difficult math homework before a daring prison break-in really hits the mark of what I like about the character: He's Kid Batman. Freddie Williams does a good job handling art chores, and Adam Beechen continues to delight me, but as someone who read an entire run of Batgirl as it was coming out, I'm really enjoying what he's doing with Cassandra Cain. It seems like everyone's got their pet theory to explain what she's doing, but I just think that her post-Lazarus Pit craziness just never went away--or at least gave her the lunatic's clarity to realize that by not just going ahead and killing the Joker, Batman wasn't really solving the problem, and combined with everything that happened at the end of the run, including her home and friends being blown up and the revelation that she wasn't Cain's only experiment, she just lost it. Admittedly, she comes off as a little whinier than I'd want her to and it's weird to see her using complex sentences without any hesitation, but yeah: I like it a lot. Especially how she's wearing Shiva's outfit.

Sgt. Rock: The Prophecy #5: Nazis get shot! Wild Man beats the living hell out of a collaborator! Little Sure Shot draws pictures! It's Two-Fisted Blazing War Action As You Like It!

Shadowpact #1: Oh yes. The did put the word "outrageous" right there on the cover. Seriously, whose bright idea was that? Anyway, I liked the heck out of this issue, as Bill Willingham doesn't waste any time getting your standard-issue Evil Versions out there right from the beginning. It's a lot of fun (assuming that you, like me, find the threat of human sacrifice and walls made of blood to be fun), and Willingham does a pretty fantastic job with the penciling considering that I'm not aware of anything he's drawn in the past few years (although I could just be missing stuff), but mostly it's just nice to see magical characters kicking around the DC Universe again. If John Constantine would drop by and act like a total badass at some point, I'd be ecstatic. The only problem is that the timing is a little weird, as most of the story has to take place between the end of the Day of Vengeance special and the beginning of Infinite Crisis #6, which might not matter in the years to come, but makes for an odd hiccup in the here and now, especially if you're reading the entire universe. Which I am. Then again, if Superman and Green Lantern had time to hang out in a church while planets were exploding in the skies above, they could probably spare a half hour to check out a magic Thunderdome.

Ultimate X-Men #70

Wonderland #1: I'm always kind of surprised every time I remember that Disney and Slave Labor Graphics are producing comics together, as they seem like such an odd couple. And yet, it makes for some good comics. I liked the Disney Alice in Wonderland movie a lot when I was a kid--although I'd forgotten completely that Mary Ann, the main character of Wonderland, was mentioned in the movie until Tug reminded me at work today--but what really attracted me to the series was Sonny Liew, whose art I've liked quite a bit since he did the fantastic and cheaply-reprinted My Faith in Frankie, and he doesn't disappoint. His art lends itself very well to Tommy Kovac's story, with great, quirky renditions of the movie's characters that don't toe the line so much that it doesn't read like a comic first and foremost. I just wish I couldn't see the inking instructions on everything that's supposed to be colored black.

The Riverdale Experiment

Jughead #173

Tales From Riverdale Digest #11


The Fate of the Artist: Eddie Campbell's new book from First Second is something that you're going to want to go out and buy immediately. Seriously, in the time it's taken you to read about what I thought about Batman this week, you could've been enjoying Campbell's autobiography wherein he himself doesn't actually appear. The whole thing is structured around the narrator, who is never identified save as a "detective," peering into the circumstances surrounding Eddie Campbell's disappearance, to the point where any time Campbell (the character) actually appears in the story, Campbell (the author) goes to great lengths to assure you that it's not actually a drawing of Eddie Campbell, but instead a drawing of "Mr. Siegrist," an actor hired to play the part of Eddie Campbell for the duration of the book. And that's just one of the fascinating elements that Campbell (the author again) blends into the story as he meanders through long text pieces that separate the sequential art (something that his daughter, interviewed by "the detective" in a fumetti sequence, says he always talked about doing like some kind of "graphic novel police about to give him a ticket" for going outside the confines of the medium). There are bits on the history of art, scenes from his life--drawn, of course, with Mr. Siegrist standing in--and scenes from his life again viewed through the lens of old-timey newspaper strips. The whole thing's amazing, and just a joy to read.

X-Men: Firestar Digest: Talk about your opposite ends of the spectrum. Anyway, I'm reasonably sure that this is an attempt to give the Spider-Girl fans something to buy while they take a break from their various letter-writing campaigns, being as it stars a teenage super-heroine written by Tom DeFalco, but honestly: If Marvel wants to put out incredibly inexpensive digest-size reprints on paper stock that's actually pretty darn good of their B-List titles, I'll probably buy as many of them as they want to make. So come on, Marvel. Where's my Cloak and Dagger digest?


Blogger Philip Looney said...

The thing that bugged me with the ASBAR cave scene was the other batmobiles in there. If he's suppose to be new at this whole thing, why does he have all of those old Batmobiles? Also, the ending to last issue made no sense with Superman at the end looking pissed off, but not showing up to do anything about it this issue but be a fetching boy. This book has become my Tarot...it's horrible, but I still buy it because I can't turn away.

Also - ditto on the best Two-Gun Bob strip. That was awesome.

5/19/2006 9:04 AM

Anonymous Jer said...

"I'm reasonably sure that this is an attempt to give the Spider-Girl fans something to buy while they take a break from their various letter-writing campaigns..."

I thought it was "Crap, teenage girls buy comics now, at least digests. Let's scour our backstock for ANYTHING we can throw together that teenage girls might want to buy." I figured that was why we were getting digest-sized collections of Spider-Girl in the first place.

That said, I agree. Marvel can put out these purty color digests for the relatively low price of $8 and I'll keep buying them (sucker that I am - I bet you can still find the Firestar miniseries in some back issue bins for less than $8 total).

5/19/2006 10:16 AM

Anonymous JIM said...

When I first saw that Conan cover, and before I read your synopsis, I thought, "Finally! The Conan vs. Al Capone story that we've all been waiting for!"

5/19/2006 7:03 PM

Anonymous Jim Keegan said...

Chris, When we were drawing that particular Two-Gun Bob strip I kept saying how much REH's plans sounded like the stuff you write on this site. Glad you liked it. That strip was just for the great ISB!

5/20/2006 12:20 AM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

Wow! Thanks, Jim!

5/20/2006 1:35 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'm really enjoying what he's doing with Cassandra Cain."

NO, Chris! BAD!

5/20/2006 3:52 PM

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