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Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Week In Ink: 6-07-06

Be Advised: The ISB's reviews of comics for the second week of June, 2006 are going to contain phrases like "the Anti-Infinite of the Ghost Zone" and "fangoriously devoured by a shark."

So, you know, pretty much business as usual around here.

Comics

52: Week Five: I'd just like to go ahead and take this opportunity to announce that if I ever decide to go into music, there's a strong possibility that I'll be releasing tracks under the name MC 900 Foot Hawkgirl. Just wanted to put that out there. Anyway, 52 continues apace, and I'm still enjoying it quite a bit. One thing did stick out though, and that's when Steel talks about losing his hand in a battle with the General, and I didn't remember that happening at all. Admittedly, I'm not as up on my Steel history as I could be, but I made it a point to go back and read through World War III today, and while there is a scene where the General bites down on Steel's hand, he talks later in the story about how it wrecked his gauntlet, and is clearly using both hands to build himself a new one. Admittedly, this could've happened in an Untold Tale of Steel (which I wouldn't mind seeing, honestly), but considering that the General gets chucked into The Anti-Infinite of the Ghost Zone with a Warhound of New Genesis keeping him occupied, I'm going to go ahead and chalk this one up to "New Earth." And seriously, I appreciate the new pages and everything, but the History of the DCU as told by Donna Troy has got to be the most boring thing I've read since the Rann-Thanagar War Special.

BPRD: The Universal Machine #3: This one continues to be the best BPRD series yet, and by extension, probably one of my favorite horror comics of all time. Everything just comes together so well with Mignola and Arcudi's scripts, and Guy Davis's art is an incredible fit. There's the Secret Origins sequences that perfectly nail every subgenre of horror, from Daimio's terrifying monster battle last issue to Johann's story of doomed post-mortem romance that has everything but Patrick Swayze and a pottery wheel. And then there's the main story, which keeps getting more and more exciting with this issue's introduction of a cabinet full of broken homonculi and a stern lesson to not follow strangers into mysterious paintings. And with next issue's promise of an appearance by Hellboy and Kate Corrigan's battle of wits to save Roger, I can't imagine it won't stay awesome.

Detective Comics #820: So really. How hard up do you have to be for detective work when somebody walks into your office and suggest that you look into the sordid past of Orca the Whale-Woman for you to think that's a good way to spend your time? I mean, yeah, it's Batman, but I'd be terrified to even ring her husband's doorbell, let alone engage him in conversation. And that, my friends, is why Jason Bard is one of the real heroes. Anyway, this issue features a scene where Batman warns someone about the dangers of following a heroic legacy while standing right next to his sidekick in a scene that I really hope doesn't bode ill for Jake Jordan, the Manhattan Guardian, the most awesome new character in years. Even so, the fact that he apologizes to Harper for being rude and tells Robin that he's proud of him (and some well-placed karate kicking by a guy with a bum leg) ensure that I'm still thoroughly enjoying this one.

Fury: Peacemaker #5: And now, the ISB presents your Comics-Related SAT Practice Analogy of the Week: Warren Ellis : Cell Phones :: Garth Ennis : WWII-era German Tiger Tanks. And that's a fact, kiddo.

Invincible #32

Jonah Hex #8: I've been a fan of this book since it started coming out--so much so that I was actually surprised by it--but here we are eight months in, and the first bad issue has officially hit the stands. And it's not just that it's bad, it's that it's slightly infuriating in the way that it's bad. It's got a great opening setup with Jonah Hex dragging a coffin full of severed heads into town to collect a bounty, but even that's marred by a panel of a guy throwing up, or at least casually spitting out copious amounts of guacamole, in a panel that adds an annoyingly over-the-top gross-out factor to, in case you missed it, a sequence involving severed heads. There's also a sequence where Hex waxes poetic on the nature of prostitution with a stock Heart-of-Gold-Hooker™ and her standard issue Wise Beyond Her Years™ speech, but the infuriating part is that it has what is essentially the same plot as an earlier issue--right down to the rape angle--but instead of a girl who can't talk, it's a bunch of folks who don't speak English. It's poorly-done, telegraphed, and worst of all, a retread of a story that's not even a year old yet, which is thoroughly and utterly disappointing. But like I said, it's the first misstep in a run that I've been loving otherwise, and while I wouldn't reccomend this issue, there's no reason to think this is how it's going to be next month.

JSA #83: At this point, I'm pretty much buying JSA out of habit because, while I lately haven't been enjoying it nearly as much as I used to, this particular series is ending pretty soon, and I don't see the point in jumping off when there are only a few months to go and I've got all the other ones. Yes, it's the completist mentality that I try to avoid, but it's not like they're awful. And not to damn it with faint praise, but this issue was especially not-awful, pulling togehter the story with events that I wish would've happened a couple issues ago and without the intervention of the reasonably nonsensical Ghost of Earth-2 Batman. It still ends up being pretty enjoyable though, and while there are some pages by Jerry Ordway that look incredibly rushed (Power Girl, for instance, spends her time looking like a chipmunk), there's not a thing wrong with Luke Ross's work on the flashback sequences.

Marvel Team-Up #21: Marvel's all-new purse-toting hero swings into action, and, well, that certainly looks like it's going well for him. Robert Kirkman continues to do a fine job with scripting this book, with a clever and fun introductory sequence where Curtis Doyle explains his powers, and continuing to a scene involving Spider-Man's crazy-ass new costume that I can only imagine was directly targeting me, considering the presence of donuts and the word awesome, and the fact that the punching starts almost immediately thereafter. There are a few really nice humanizing moments where Curtis comes off as a pretty likeable guy--despite, you know, the purse--and his crowd distraction tactics are a great laugh. But really, all you need to know? Donuts and punching.

Noble Causes #20

The Punisher #34: When Garth Ennis's Punisher work is on, it is without question the most hyper-violent tough-guy fun in comics, and it's been on for quite some time. This issue included what may be my favorite page from the Punisher that does not also have Archie in it, when the Barracuda (who is as much of a ramped-up Garth Ennnis badass as we're likely to see) chucks Frank into shark-infested waters along with a drug dealer who immediately starts pleading with Frank to help him, offering to buy him off with money earned by dealing cocaine. It is a beautiful setup, and it ends in the only way it could: A cold badass remark and someone getting fangoriously devoured by a shark. Excellent, excellent stuff about people who go out of their way to deserve a good solid dose of killing, and the guy who's going to bring it to them.

The Walking Dead #28: This Issue's Shocking Revelation! You see... Man... is the real monster after all.

Wonder Woman #1: Despite the fact that it ended with something of a whimper, I liked the Greg Rucka Wonder Woman run a heck of a lot (and since they've been putting it out in trade, I've been enjoying reading through the George Perez issues where Diana spends a lot of time hanging out in the back yard naked), and I was sad to see it go. Even so, Heinberg and the Dodsons (along with a fantastic coloring job by Alex Sinclair) have turned in a great first issue that I ended up thoroughly enjoying. Surprising, considering that I usually consider Donna Troy not written by Bob Haney to be about as interesting as a sack of generic hammers (see above), but Heinberg does a great job following up the initial shock with a well-paced and fun story. The art's great, too, although really, did Terry and Rachel Dodson really think they were going to be able to improve upon the simple elegance of the leopard-skin bikini? Beyond that, though, there's a last-page show-up that's pretty exciting, but for me the big thrill was on the page right before that, complete with Logo-Font. It's totally exciting, and if you don't know why, don't worry: I'll explain soon.

ISB BEST OF THE WEEK


Y - The Last Man #46: "Kimono Dragons" is without a doubt my favorite story of the entire run so far, and considering that the last installment was called "Girl On Girl," that's no mean feat.

Y isn't one of the books that I write about often, since--much like the dilemma I have with a book like Fables--its consistently high quality is pretty widely well-known, and there's not much I can add to it other than to say that it's always an excellent read. But when Brian K. Vaughan decided to write a story that involved ninjas, gangsters, lesbian swordfighting, liberal use of the term "Mandroid," and a two-fisted daring monkey rescue, well, that's what I like to refer to as a call to action.

The whole story's great, and Pia Guerra's clean, sharp art is fantastic as always, but there's one moment that puts this one above and beyond just being another great issue of a great series, and that is this: There is a scene of surprising and incredibly brutal violence that I saw and immediately popped my eyebrows up and said "Oh shit!" out loud. And in the panel immediately after, a character who sees it does the exact same thing. It was great.




Trades

Abadazad v.1: The Road to Inconceivable: I was reading J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Ploog's Abadazad when it was coming out from CrossGen a couple years ago, and I loved it. Unfortunately, we all know how that ended, and it only went three issues before CGE imploded, but it was one of the best "serious" kid's comics I've ever read--and for my money, a lot better than the pair's follow-up from Image, Stardust Kid. The plot was engaging, concerning a girl named Kate whose brother--who's really into a series of books about a magical Narnia/Wonderland/Oz-like land called Abadazad--disappeared from a street fair five years ago. Kate, our jaded and cynical fifteen year-old narrator--ends up being the kind of character that you want to sympathize with for being worn down by life from a broken home and a missing brother at a young age, but at the same time have an uncontrollable urge to throttle her for being so rude to her mother and not understanding how hard she's trying. It's excellent stuff, but--for me at least--what really brought it to life was Mike Ploog's excellent artwork and his designs for the over-the-top fantasy characters from the world-within-a-world of Abadazad, like Wix, a candle that thought it was a real boy. So I was more than a little pleased to see it solicited in Previews a few months ago as a pair of Series of Unfortunate Events-sized hardcover books. But there's just one problem.

It is not, for the most part, a comic. In fact, it's way more in the vein of an illustrated novellas--albeit heavily illustrated, with Ploog's artwork in some form or another on almost every page--with the occasional comic book sequence put back in. Here, for example, is a scene from the original (click for a larger image):



And the same sequence, from the new hardcover, which moves from prose to sequential art:



The ideas are all there, and there's a lot of Ploog's artwork, but I for one was really hoping that they would've stuck with the original format, and it's clear that DeMatteis and Ploog--or publisher Harper Collins, or the folks at Disney who purchased the Abadazad rghts after CrossGen busted--want to take it in a different direction, publishing and marketing them as children's books rather than original children's comics, and that's annoying, especially when a 144-page novella only contains the events of two 22-page comics. But it's still a good story, and it's not such an annoying change that I won't keep buying the books.

Action Philosophers Giant Size Thing v.1: This trade paperback reprints the first three issues of Action Philosophers, featuring Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey's profiles on Nietzsche, Thomas Jefferson, Sigmund Freud, Plato, and others, for $6.95. One more time, in case you missed it: The first trade of one of the funniest, sharpest, and most informative comics ever printed, featuring panels like this...



...which is my favorite in the entire book, although the Hero's Journey comes close, for SIX NINETY-FIVE. I have all the issues and I still couldn't resist a deal like that, and if you don't, then you have no excuse.

2 Comments:

Blogger Earth-2 Leigh said...

I agree with many of the things you write! Particularly about the penultimate-page reveal in WW. And MTU.

And I swear, the same thing happened to me with Y (after the phrase "homeopathic surgeon" made a large question mark actually appear above my head).

6/09/2006 6:02 AM

 
Blogger Cheeseburger said...

Civil War #2 prediction: Spidey kills Iron Man.

6/13/2006 5:03 PM

 

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