The Week In Ink: 6-21-06
Hey, you guys know what's awesome?
So awesome, in fact, that I bought like eight million of them yesterday, which means I don't have time for witty banter to kick this mother off. Now get to it! It's the third week of June, Ghost Rider's fighting a herd of cattle, and I've got comic books to review!
52: Week Seven: I knew when we got into this whole thing that there was going to be some pretty rough art before it was over, but I honestly didn't expect it to show up before two months were out. Ken Lashley's pencils are obviously rushed in this issue, leading to some pretty remarkable inconsitencies, even between panels. Polite Scott has a few words up about Renee Montoya's cast, and in the span of two pages, Lois Lane's hairline migrates all over her head. It's a shame, because storywise, there's a lot to like in this issue, with Ralph "Emo Beard" Dibny's confrontation with Booster Gold and the senses-shatteringly sapphic first appearance of Kate Kane, and--you guessed it--The Return of MANTHRAX! Plus, the little headline in the paper about Catwoman and the pharmacy gave me untold joy. Seriously, though: History of the DCU has got to be stopped.
All-Star Superman #4: I can say with complete and utter certainty that this issue is one of my favorite comic books of all time.
Admittedly, I probably say that more than any human being alive, but in this case, there's no question. After all, largely thanks to the Showcase volumes DC's put out over the past year, I've developed a pretty heavy interest in Silver-Age Superman, and Jimmy Olsen's crazy adventures in particular. And while there's been a lot made of Grant Morrison's Silver-Age take on Superman with All-Star, the appeal isn't that he's writing "Silver-Age style" comics, it's that he's writing undeniably modern stories that are the logical extrapolations.
And this one's got it all, and that includes the Disguise Trunk. Jimmy--who came to work on a jetpack in All-Star Superman #1, which I didn't notice until my third time reading it--is the same "Mr. Action" reporter that broke up a paper bootlegging scam by posing as a lumberjack back in 1954 and tried to impress Lucy Lane by getting her to watch alien girls fight over him a thousand years in the future, only progressed logically to 2006, with the fun, futurist spin Morrison loves to use, and the absolutely gorgeous pencils of Frank Quitely. And that's not even getting into how he solves the problem of an evil Superman in a single moment that--for me, anyway--made every Superman comic for the past twelve years a little bit better. It's just astoundingly good.
Astonishing X-Men #15: The Hellfire Club storyline kicks into its necessary "high gear" phase, and it is all Joss Whedoned up, which, if you don't like Joss Whedon, is going to present a considerable problem. Fortunately, I'm pretty partial to the way the guy writes, and I thought this one was a hoot. It's the comic that we talked the most about at the store today, and aside from the fact that Colossus really should know better, I liked pretty much everything in it, especially the scenes with Hisako. Really, though, the clincher is the last page, which I somehow did not see coming. Even though it's completely and utterly telegraphed by every element of the story, and even though I'm incredibly familiar with the source material, I was completely and utterly blindsided. And that left me very, very pleased.
Bite Club: Vampire Crime Unit #3: Honestly, I'd rather he was drawing the next issue of All-Star Superman (and not, you know, a Robbie Williams album cover), but I think we had a pretty good thing going with the Frank Quitely covers for Bite Club. Other than that, another solid issue that's as enjoyable as the rest of the series--and considering that the other installments lack an all-girl shower brawl, probably moreso.
Captain America #19
Casanova #1: If you haven't had a chance to pick up Casanova, the bastard child of Fell and GØDLAND, trust me when I say this: It is dense. That's not a bad thing by any means, but seriously, there's a lot going on in this book, and all of it comes so fast that it's nearly impossible to let something sink in before the next High Concept comes swooping around the corner to smack you solidly in the face. And again: That's not a bad thing. And it's all part of Matt Fraction's design for the book, and while it came off a bit awkwardly for me at times, there's a lot of great stuff kicking around in there that's beautifully illustrated by Gabriel Bá, up to and including Fabula Berserko, who might just end up being the Sensational Character find of 2006. And honestly, when the worst thing I can say about a book that costs less than two bucks is that a lot happens in it, that's your cue to buy it, buster.
Conan #29: As I'm sure we're all aware by now, Conan is one of my favorite comics, and in a story that feels like a secret origin for the BPRD's recent frog-related troubles, Mike Mignola is able to perfectly capture what I love about the character. Because when Conan is faced with a giant talking albino demon toad, he doesn't freak out like lesser men who rely on the trappings of civilization. No, Conan just chucks a rock at the damn thing. That guy is awesome.
Conan: Book of Thoth #4
Eternals #1: I'm pretty surprised that Marvel put out the first issue of the new Eternals series before they released the big Jack Kirby Eternals hardcover. After all, not all of us are goth girls waiting patiently under our top hats for the next Sandman, and since I've never been able to sit down and read Kirby's Eternals, I was looking forward to getting familiar with the characters before Gaiman jumped on. Then again, it could be worse: I could've gone through the back issues to put together a run and ended up with the atrocious Chuck Austen pseudoporn Eternals. Anyway, as far as this one goes, the story's interesting and there are some fun parts (which mostly do not revolve around the characters referring to their websites), but aside from the fact that John Romita Jr.'s art is awesome, it didn't get me too terribly excited. Not that I won't be sticking around for the next one--JR Jr. drawing the Celestials is not something I can easily say no to--it's just that while it's enjoyable, it didn't do much for me.
Ex Machina #21
The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #1: Considering that it was consistently good for about a hundred and fifty issues--or longer, if you were into super-hero tax evasion and Velocity 9--The Flash is probably an intimidating book to write. And to be perfectly honest, there's nothing in this issue that makes me think Bilson, Demeo, and Lashley are up to the task. The art's better than Lashley's work on 52 this week, but not by much, and the story's so disjointed that I found myself checking to see if I was missing pages two or three times while I was reading it. Transitional scenes are nonexistent, and while I don't mind a first issue that leaves the reader with questions, I'm not a fan of not knowing why anything in the story is happening, right up until the issue comes to a sudden, grinding stop.
Marvel Westerns: Outlaw Files: Those of you who keep up with this sort of thing might recall that the premise behind the Marvel Monsters handbook (from back in October) was that instead of standard Official Handbook entries, it was written from the perspective of Elsa Bloodstone's blog about monsters. It's an entertaining gimmick, but the Westerns handbook pulls the same trick a lot better, presenting the information as a series of letters and newspaper articles about the Marvel Western heroes, written in-character. It actually turns out to be the most entertaining handbook pieces I've ever read, especially when you get to the page that has capsule reviews for 27 movies based on the life of the Rawhide Kid--including the Mexican Wrestling movie version, Cabrito del Cuero en Verde Contra el Cerebro Mortal del Monstruo. It's highly enjoyable and well worth a read.
Noble Causes #21
Red Sonja #11: I forgot to mention it, but in the last issue of Red Sonja, our heroine teaches a young girl the art of stealthy revenge, and at one point paints mud on her face to better blend in with the forest. While wearing a bikini. Made of bright, shiny metal. Yeah, I know. It's great!
Sgt. Rock: The Prophecy #6
Shadowpact #2: Like I mentioned last month, I'm a sucker for a good "evil opposite" storyline. As George Takei proved beyond all doubt, there's just something intrinsically fun about seeing someone go up against their opposite number. And of course, when there's an evil opposite story that opens with Witchfire from the Power Company and Rex the Wonder Dog chilling at a campsite, well, that's the sort of thing that catapults it from "enjoyable" straight to "awesome" as far as I'm concerned. Bill Willingham does a great job with this one on both fronts, keeping the Shadowpact as the underdogs--which is no mean feat, considering they beat The Spectre--by setting up the Pentacle as a sharper, much more skilled, and in some cases terrifying version of the team. Excellent stuff.
Superman/Batman #27: Considering that Jeph Loeb has departed after 25 issues of nigh-unreadable fan-fiction, I figured I'd give the One Year Later Superman/Batman a shot. Sadly, it pretty much sticks to the Mark Verheiden mold and ends up not making a whole lot of sense, and, in a shocking twist, is revealed to be all a dream!
Yeah, they still make those.
I know, I was surprised too.
Anyway, it does feature the art of Kevin Maguire, who is easily one of my favorite artists of all time, and although there are a few odd coloring and inking choices to deal with in this one, it's still a pretty, pretty book.
Ultimates 2 #11: This might actually be the most exciting comic book I own. It's not just the last-page reveal, either--although again, it's something that was clearly telegrpahed that I managed to be completely and enjoyably blindsided by--but rather that Mark Millar's mastery of the Explodo is so powerful that he does the same kind of fist-clenching "Oh Snap!" moment like five times in this one issue alone. It's like the Die Hard of comics. But with Iron Man armor and Ultimate Swarm.
Amazing Joy Buzzards v.2
Champions Classic v.1: I'd hesitate to refer to any story with the Champions of Los Angeles that does not also involve a Nazi made of bees as "Classic," but I'll be damned if I'm not excited as hell to read this. Kevin has described it as a super-hero team based entirely on a bar bet, but all you really need to know is that it's the height of Bill Mantlo's raging insanity, set loose upon a world gone mad by Tony Isabella. What This Means To You: a gathering of heroes consisting of two mutants, a Russian super-spy, a Greek demigod, and a motorcycle-riding demon from Hell, and if you don't think that ranks with "the wheel" and "cheese" as one of the five greatest ideas in the history of mankind, then I've got some sour news for you, buster: Reading the ISB probably isn't going to work out for you.
Plus, I opened it to a random page and saw this:
...AND ONLY GHOST RIDER AND HERCULES CAN STOP HIM!
Showcase Presents Superman v.2
Wonder Woman v.4: Destiny Calling