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Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Week In Ink: 6-01-06

In an effort to class things up a bit here at ISB headquarters while at the same time meeting my Thursday night deadline for haivng all of my comics read, I decided to spend the evening in a comfortable armchair reading comics while--and this is true--drinking a bottle of wine and listening to jazz.

See? It's not all midnight showings of Karate Kid and Godzilla shooting free-throws around here.

Unfortunately, in addition to making me the classiest dude to write about comics on a website with a picture of the Punisher in the header logo, it also had the completely unforseen side-effect of me being more than a little tipsy by the time I got to the end of the stack.

So if you're reading these reviews of comics for the first week of June and you come across something that you're pretty sure didn't actually happen--like, say, a Ghost Rider appearance in Mouse Guard--that's why.


52: Week Four: I have to admit, I really wasn't sure about the plot thread involving Wonder Girl leading a cult of Kryptonian Resurrectionists--and I'm still not on the train a hundred percent--but this issue's introduction of a seemingly minor character has me pretty interested in where it's all going. That is, of course, almost irrelevant however, as are the really enjoyable sequences with Booster Gold and a hallucinating John Henry Irons, since a good portion of this week's installment is given over to the Question showing up out of nowhere in curls of smoke, making pithy remarks, and doing kung fu. And that, in case you haven't been keeping track, is pretty much exactly what I want from my comic books.

ABC A-Z: Top Ten & Teams: I've actually really enjoyed the approach that's been taken with what are essentially the Offocial Handbooks of the ABC Universe, in that they favor stories that introduce characters and recap the histories, rather than the straight-up profiles that you'd expect. And while I'm not saying that Peter Hogan doesn't do a fine job with the Top Ten segment, the real selling points for this issue are Gene Ha and Zander Cannon, who do every bit as well with filling up the panel backgrounds with enough gag references to make it worth a second read as they did with the original series.

Action Comics #839: Last issue Superman got his powers back at a level that was pretty much in line with the way his powers worked in the Golden Age. This issue, continuing along with this dynamic, he suddenly gets ramped up to his hyper-competent and nigh-Godlike Silver Age status, right down to his super-memory powers of total recall that got mentioned every thirty seconds back in the sixties. It's a story structure that I found myself liking a heck of a lot, and I'm really hoping that Johns, Busiek, and Guedes keep it going into the next issue, in which case Superman will find himself reasonably de-powered, grow a mullet, and shoot lightning out of his eyes, all within the span of fourteen panels.

All-New Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z #5: Every month, I like to take this time to single out a character profiled in the ol' Handbook that I think is worth mentioning, and while I was sorely tempted this time to go with Helleyes, a big green monster covered in eyeballs that are also portals to other dimensions who fought Morbius a couple times, I'd like to instead draw your attention to Hybrid. He's Bill Mantlo creation from the pages of ROM: Spaceknight, and he's pretty much only notable for being quite possibly the ugliest character in comics history. So ugly, in fact, that my good pal Scott once spent an entire hour telling me how shockingly grotesque he was over dinner before sketching him out on a napkin in what turned out to be a surprisingly accurate depiction. Here, see for yourself:

Man. That guy is hideous.

Books of Doom #6: For some reason, I didn't find Ed Brubaker and Pablo Raimondi's take on the Secret Origin of Doctor Doom to be as exciting as I wanted it to be, but on the whole, it's pretty enjoyable. This issue, after all, has Dr. Doom leading an army of well-armed peasants to help him take over a country, and while the ending is more than a little melodramatic (seriously, the last line in the book is "NOOOOOOO!"), this is a comic about a guy named Doctor Doom who routinely says things like: "At last, I shall finally have my revenge on that accursed Richards!" Melodrama is to be expected and encouraged.

Crisis Aftermath: The Spectre #1: As a general rule, I like Will Pfeifer and Cliff Chiang an awful lot, and the Spectre is one of those rare great concepts that require almost no explanation: He is, quite literally, the Wrath of God, and he as whatever powers he darn well pleases, not the least of which is an ironic sense of justice. And yet, this issue--while entertaining--fell flat with me for one reason: It's been established that the Spectre has an inherent need to be tied to a human host, otherwise he goes off and, you know, rampages across the DC Universe for six issues. And yet, after reanimating Crispus Allen's corpse, he gives him an entire year to decide whether he wants to be the Spectre's host--a year in which Allen does about as much as you'd expect from an incorporeal character, I might add--ostensibly to teach him a lesson. Which, in turn, leaves the Spectre unfettered by a human host and highly susceptible to whatever ill-intentioned ex-Super-hero-wives happen to be going crazy that month. I understand the need for the one-year gap and all, but I'm pretty sure it could've been handled a little better.

GØDLAND #11: Another fun slice of pop comics from Casey and Scioli, although it reads like everyone's taking a big breath to get ready for next month's one-year anniversay issue. Of course, in the world of GØDLAND, "taking a breath" loosely translates to a man made of lasers fighting a mindless tentacle horror while a floating pyramid full of cultists that apparently worship the host of Fear Factor threaten to decimate a large portion of New York City. But then again, considering that The Secret Of The Universe was revealed three issues ago, that's pretty small stuff.


Incredible Hulk #95: I've been pretty down on "Planet Hulk" since before it started, and after I read through the first installment a few months back, I immediately dismissed it as reading an awful lot like somebody wanted their older brother to play in their D&D campaign, but the only way he'd agree to do it is if he could play as the Hulk. But, you know, not as strong. Greg Pak is, after all, the guy who wrote X-Men: Phoenix - Endsong, and if that's not the absolute worst comic I have ever read, it's certainly in the running, so I'd pretty much written "Planet Hulk" off as a year's worth of comics that I didn't need to bother with.

And then this one came out.

And it's actually really good. I'd initially gotten excited about the Silver Surfer showing up in the gladiatorial games as "The Silver Savage," and Ladronn's cover image of him using his board as a shield to block the Hulk coming down with a punch while his mace crackles with energy isn't just an exciting image by itself, but it makes a great counterpoint to Silver Surfer #4, one of greatest covers of all time. And the interior's even more exciting, with the Hulk and the Surfer just throwing down on each other in a brutal fight that--in one of my favorite moments--shocks even the blood-lusting crowd of the gladiatorial arena into horrified silence. I'd initially been turned off by the idea that on Sakaar, the Hulk isn't the strongest one there is, but the big fight in this one does a lot to help.

Throw in a few great character moments for the Silver Surfer that really portray him as a soul of pure good and nobility, and you've got a comic good enough to, much to my chagrin, make me go buy three more issues that I've been talking smack about for months. And if that's not a candidate for Best of the Week, I don't know what is.

Ion #2: Ladies and gentlemen, I present Kyle Rayner: Master Strategist: "Well, now that I've taken away her guns and wings, I'll just leave this trained assassin sitting on top of a hill, completely unattended, while I go off into space to whine for a while. That's a good decision!" Seriously, that's how he handles it. Apparently this sort of thing was never discussed all those years he was in the Justice League.

JLA Classified #21: "The Hypothetical Woman" concludes, and while I got the impression that it could've benefited from being about two issues shorter (and certainly from having Sean Philips as inker from the start), the second half has been nothing but fun comics, and this issue's use of the Justice League's most famous tactic is pretty awesome. Throw in Ghost Lion, who rolls in with his spooky "Once upon a time..." and becomes one of my favorite one-shot villains in recent memory, and you've got a pretty enjoyable way to kill some time from Simone and Garcia-Lopez.

Local #5: It's come to my attention that I often forget to mention Ryan Kelly when it comes time to review this book, due to my tendency to focus on writers rather than artists. Make no mistake, though: Ryan Kelly is awesome. His work on Local never disappoints, and in this issue, he does a fantastic job managing Megan's hairstyles and facial expressions as our protagonist appears to slip further and further into a nervous breakdown after the events of the last issue. Brian Wood's script, of course, is the same top-notch quality as always, and if you're not reading this comic, there's probably something wrong with you.

The Middleman #2.4: The second Middleman series goes out with an issue that seems to be tailor-made for my enjoyment, containing as it does a two page spread of all-out kung fu luchadore action that is almost immediately followed by a full-page shot of what can only be described as "unimaginable violence." What's pretty surprising, though, is that I enjoy the way that the story ends with Wendy painting every bit as much as I liked the fighting. It's the same way that the first volume ended, and I really enjoy it as a motif for the series.

Mouse Guard #3: Following up the first issue's epic battle of Mouse With A Sword vs. A Snake and the second issue's titanic follow-up of Mouse With A Fishook vs. A Crab, we get the fight that we've been clamoring for: Mouse with a Sword vs. Mouse with a Stick! And it is good, good stuff. Mouse Guard has, of course, quickly become the darling of the comics blogger community, and with good reason: It's absolutely amazing. The characters are immediately likeable and, despite being mice, have distinctive personalities, and the fact that they're essentially Jedi rodents battling a mysterious conspiracy doesn't hurt matters either. If you haven't been reading it, give it a try. You won't regret it, and that's a promise.

The Punisher: The Tyger: For me, a story about the Punisher's early life as a hard-boiled ten year-old on the streets of Brooklyn is about as close to a no-brainer as it gets. You, however, might not share my interesting proclivities, so if you need any further convincing, I'd like to point out that the art is handled by the incredible John Severin, whose last major work was a mind-numbingly horrible four-issue gay joke that should be avoided at all costs. This is significantly better.

Queen & Country #30: You know what would be totally awesome? If the Previews solicitation for the next Queen & Country novel hadn't completely spoiled what I'm going to assume is going to be a pretty major revelation in the pages of the comic. Thanks, Diamond! Anyway, another great issue of Greg Rucka's spy comic with Chris Samnee on the pencils, featuring all the espionage, international politics, and explosive devices that you want.

Red Sonja #10: I distinctly recall getting up to refill my wine glass while I was reading this one, but other than that, all I remember is that someone gets shot in the eye with an arrow and I'm pretty sure Red Sonja is going to fight forgotten 70s Marvel character Red Wolf in the near future. Wait, that can't be right...

Runaways #16: Speaking of comics that are spoiled by solicitations in Previews... Anyway, another fantastic issue from Brian K. Vaughan and the three people who are rapidly becoming one of my favorite art teams in comics, Adrian Alphona, Craig Yeung, and Christina Strain; and for real, True Believer: This one's got it all. I'm just going to come out and say it: With issues like this one that have heartbreak, betrayal, world-shattering gods, robot religion, someone getting brained with a wrench, and an inexplicable group of pixies, Runaways is, without exception, the new standard for teen super-hero drama. Yeah, you heard me: Runaways is the new X-Men.

Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #38: It might just be that by the time I got to this one, I'd polished off three quarters of my wine bottle, but from what I recall, this one actually wasn't too bad. I am, of course, speaking relative to other issues of Tarot, as the picture of Jim Balent and Gene Simmons--yes, from KISS--on the inside front cover pretty much seals its status relative to other comics. But yeah, compared to what we've been getting over the past few months, an issue featuring a light-hearted sex romp based around broken legs, inappropriate use of breakfast foods, and a lesson in tolerance from witches who are also dragons almost seems like a breath of fresh air. Almost.

The Thing #7: I'm not going to start a letter-writing campaign or anything, but I will say that it's a damn shame this book is getting cancelled. That said, this issue is another solid story from Dan Slott and Kieron Dwyer, featuring Aunt Petunia's Favorite Nephew going up against the only super-hero that I like to see other super-heroes fight--and, not coincidentally, the super-hero that I only like to see fighting other heroes--Hercules. Seriously, all that guy does is hang around getting drunk and picking fights with Thor, and that got him into the Avengers.

Ultimate Extinction #5: Thank you, Warren Ellis. Thank you for a gun that shoots happy thoughts and a missile made of the big bang. And thank you for one of the most badass action movie closing lines that I've ever seen in a lifetime of comics reading. Thank you, Warren Ellis. You are awesome.

The Riverdale Experiment

Betty #156

Jughead and Friends Digest #11

Archie Comics Fun Pack

Cheryl Blossom Orignal Miniseries Fun Pack

You know, as much as I like Archie's usual crew, I have to say that I enjoy it even more when the lesser-known citizens of Riverdale show up. You know, folks like Jughead's psycholgist arch-nemesis Trula Twyst, or Veronica's nerdy cousin, or--

Oh my God!




Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge v.1: Somewhere in Nowhere

Essential Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Deluxe Edition v.2

Five Fists of Science

Showcase Presents: The Haunted Tank v.1

Stagger Lee

[Note: I was fully intending to at least leaf through these to give you my impressions of them, and then knock Five Fists of Science and Stagger Lee out tomorrow afternoon, but in my infinite wisdom, I left the damn things at work. I, as you might have heard, am totally a genius. Look for reviews of these soon]


Anonymous mysticjuicer said...

I see that no new X-Men comic came out this week. *wink* ...moving on.

Are there plans, that you know of, to collect the issues of 52 into some sort of hardcover? And if so, would you recommend that collection to someone who's only minimally interested in the DC universe?

6/02/2006 7:55 AM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

There aren't any that I know of, but to be honest, I'm not sure that you'd want to read them that way.

A large part of what I enjoy about 52 so far has been reading it weekly as it comes out, and I'm really not sure yet how well it's going to hold up without the context of everything else going on around it. I think I heard somewhere that there won't be any collections until next year at least, and that's an awful long time to wait on a book designed to get you excited about books that are coming out now.

As for being minimally interested in the DC Universe, I'm really not sure. It's certainly a book that's steeped in the conceits of the DCU and seems to be an effort at establishing the way that the "New Earth" is going to work.

But for the most part, I do think it's a pretty enjoyable comic in general. Because, you know: The Question.

6/02/2006 1:13 PM

Blogger Philip Looney said...

What wine were you drinking? Boone's Farm?

6/02/2006 5:32 PM

Blogger Greg said...

My choice for "If you're not reading this comic, I don't know what's wrong with you" is The Middleman, but Local is a pretty good choice.

Only one has the feared Wu-Han Thumb of Death, though.

6/02/2006 7:24 PM

Anonymous Charlie Anders said...

It bums me out when people refer to Greg Pak as the writer of Xmen: Phoenix: Endsong. To me, he's the amazing genius who made Robot Stories, one of the best movies of the past few years.

6/02/2006 7:36 PM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

I only know Greg Pak through his comics work, which really hasn't impressed me much, with two exceptions: "Planet Hulk" seems to be shaping up well and the "Mastermind Excello" story from Amazing Fantasy #15 that he did with Takeshi Miyazawa was a really fun update of a Golden Age character that deserved more than the eight pages it got.

Other than that, it's mostly forgettable stuff, along with Endsong which was wretched.

I'm not saying he's not talented, but the most remarkable thing he's written was remarkable for being awful, and when that's the case, that's what I'm going to think of him as.

6/02/2006 9:19 PM

Anonymous Tom said...

What bothers me more about the assassin that Kyle leaves on the hill in Ion #2 is that as he flies away, she seems to be smiling at him! Even though, moments ago, he almost killed her. Ugh. In general, I've found the writing and the art underwhelming--is this series typical of Marz and Tocchini, or have they done better stuff?

6/02/2006 11:03 PM

Blogger Peter Hensel said...

DO you think Pak's Warlock mini was wretched? I felt the first two issues showed a lot of promise before the next two were incredibly rushed, but I could see someone not liking Pak's comic work.

6/03/2006 12:50 AM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

I only read the first couple, but no, I didn't think they were awful. The problem is that I didn't have much of a reaction to them at all. They just felt like copyright-servicing background noise, you know?

6/03/2006 2:40 AM


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