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Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Week In Ink: 6-21-06

Hey, you guys know what's awesome?

Comic Books.

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.

Birds of Prey #95: So is it just me, or does Lady Shiva look profoundly crosseyed on that cover? Anyway, an excellent end to the One Year Later story that features an old woman getting kicked in the face and Prometheus being a total badass, but with Joe Prado coming on as penciller just as I was getting used to Paolo Siquiera. Fill-ins, as I have said, make me nervous.

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.

Giant-Size Hulk #1: Now that I've embraced the fact that I totally love Planet Hulk, I have another reason to buy this besides the Champions story! Plus, I've always been mildly curious about Hulk: The End, but only to the tune of about five bucks.

Iron Man #9: "Execute Program" continues to get better as each installment comes out, especially since Tony Stark being driven crazy by Warren Ellis technology certainly would explain why he's been a total dick to the rest of the Marvel Universe.

JSA: Classified #13: The best installment of the arc, but after four months of Paul Gulacy's plastic, emotionless people and Vandal Savage failing to do anything that catches my interest, I'm relieved that it's over and we can move a step closer to this Walt Simonson Wildcat story I've been hearing rumors of for a year.

Justice #6: Jean Loring wondering aloud what she'd do if the Atom wasn't around was pretty funny the first time, but it's the kind of joke that only works once. Alfred threatening to eat someone's brain, however, is funny no matter how many times I see it.

Manhunter #23: Excellent comics! But who would've thought Iron Munro would be a Hit It and Quit It All-Star?

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!

Robin #151: How exactly Cassandra Cain managed to get two shots out of a flintlock pistol, the world may never know. Regardless, since Adam Beechen's "One Year Later" run started, Robin has quickly become one of my favorite comics, and considering that this issue's pretty much nothing but Robin fighting a bunch of ninjas and the former Batgirl, that doesn't change this month.

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:


Showcase Presents Superman v.2

Wonder Woman v.4: Destiny Calling


Anonymous The Hermit said...

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.

Only because Volkswagens hadn't been invented yet...

6/23/2006 7:54 AM

Anonymous Greg M. said...

the height of Bill Mantlo's raging insanity

That is a bold statement, mon amigo. I challenge you to work thru the entire Mantlo oeuvre so as to conclusively confirm or deny. Or, at the very least, give us Mantlo Week.

6/23/2006 9:30 AM

Anonymous Moose N Squirrel said...

"keeping the Shadowpact as the underdogs--which is no mean feat, considering they beat The Spectre"

They most specifically did not! They beat Eclipso. Their "plan" to "beat" the Spectre involved allowing the Spectre to kill everyone he wanted to kill until God got mad and made him go away - a brainstorm which came from Doctor Fate at any rate. If that's "winning" then I'm a honey-glazed wonder dog.

/comic book pedantry

6/23/2006 9:43 AM

Blogger googum said...

Damn, that Champions panel looks nice, like they really cleaned up the color. I have a couple random issues, and they don't look as crisp.

A lot of strong books this week. I particularly liked Nova#3, something I wouldn't have bet on a year ago. (Go Quasar!)

6/23/2006 9:50 AM

Blogger Darth Krzysztof said...

The ends of both Astonishing X-Men and Ultimates 2 gave me what Dave Sims would call "F*#% yeah!" moments.

Maybe I should have seen them coming, too, but I didn't.

AXM seems content to wring these responses out of me by referencing What Has Gone Before (the 2 panel quotes in the 1st issue, Cyclops vs. Storm and the Black Bug Room in #14, and now this one), but it WORKS.

For me, at least.

6/23/2006 10:18 AM

Anonymous jim treacher said...

Allan Heinberg is a TV writer who obviously understands how comics work. Bilson & Demeo are TV writers who do not.

So, was the Warren Ellis run on Iron Man any good? Did he figure out how to have Stark smoke a cigarette through that mask?

Millar is indeed great at the "Oh snap!" moments, but I wish he could tie those moments together into something resembling a coherent story. (Or maybe it's just the months and months between issues?)

6/23/2006 10:48 AM

Blogger Steven said...

Dave Sims

Did you Dave Campbell, of Dave's Long Box, or our "awesome" prone host, Chris Sims?

Or perhaps Dave Sim, self-publisher, comics innovator, and noted misogynist?

6/23/2006 11:11 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"the height of Bill Mantlo's raging insanity"

. . .his Alpha Flight run would be the depths of his raging insanity, I'm guessing.

6/23/2006 12:18 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really agree on The Flash. I had to read it a couple of times and was still like, "What is going on here?" Not a promising beginning, not at all. Not to mention that Bart seems to me to be a very poor character to build the main Flash book around. He was great as Impulse because the concept of that book was so clear and funny. But as the Flash, he's going to lead to some real headaches: it's hard to relate to a guy who was born in the future especially when that future is so hazy.

6/23/2006 12:28 PM

Anonymous Moose N Squirrel said...

The ends of both Astonishing X-Men and Ultimates 2 gave me what Dave Sims would call "F*#% yeah!" moments.

Or great "woman is the dark void that extinguishes man's light" moments. Either or.

6/23/2006 1:06 PM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

Here on the ISB, every week is Bill Mantlo week.

6/23/2006 2:08 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now Chris, I see that you have neglected one pivotal trade paperback purchase this week. I refer to..Essential Savage She-Hulk! Talk about a Marvel melodrama, this has it all: Morbius the Living Vampire, Man-Thing, Gemini, Hellcat of the Defenders and...Man-Wolf!

Oh and if you hated Terry Long of Teen Titans, you will HATE Zapper, She-Hulk's first..well, I guess they did consumate their relationship!

6/23/2006 2:51 PM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

Yeah, I wasn't going to pick up Essential She-Hulk, considering that I've got eight Essentials and Showcases to get through, but then Phil told me that it had the Man-Wolf, the Man-Ape, and the Man-Elephant.

So now I pretty much have to.

6/23/2006 4:43 PM

Blogger Philip Looney said...

Straight skippy you got to. Man-Elephant son!

Dead on about All Star Superman. That book is exactly what I though All Star would be - fun books that are free for anyone to jump on at anytime and enjoy. All 4 of these issues tie in, but they pretty much stand alone. Also good, because of how long it takes issues to come out.

Also - glad I didn't pick up the new Flash. I was trying to get through the old Flash TV series on DVD, and while some parts of it were really good - effects, casting - some parts were rough. For a show about the fastest man alive, it was slow. There was little to no payoff on most of the stuff.

6/23/2006 7:31 PM

Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

The first half of Ellis' "Extremis" is one of the best Iron man stories ever; then when it became obvious it would take Granov forever and a day to turn in the artwork, he got seriously fucking lazy with the scripts. Issue #6 is one of the worst comics I've read for the time it took to actually get into the damn store.

Mantlo Week? Nay, let's do Mantlo MONTH. Across the blogs!

6/23/2006 11:14 PM

Blogger Chris said...

the height of Bill Mantlo's raging insanity

I can point to no better evidence than the fact that he was responsible for the ENTIRE run of ROM: Spaceknight.

The prosecution rests.

6/23/2006 11:29 PM

Anonymous mrpenguin said...

"the height of Bill Mantlo's raging insanity"


And wasn't he also responsible for several other beloved late 70s/early 80s brand tie-ins besides Rom & M-nauts? Was it Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, Godzilla, Shogun Warriors, or possibly the short-lived Dr. Who comic?

Or maybe they were all just trying to be LIKE Mantlo.

6/25/2006 12:28 AM

Anonymous greg m. said...

Godzilla and Shogun Warriors are Doug Moench in Mantlo Mode. Comics.org tells me Mantlo did a few issues of Galactica, but everybody from Walt Simonson to Steven Grant to Ernie Colon worked on it as well. Marvel should crank out an Essential, but they've probably lost the license.

The Internetosphere's generally harsh judgment on Mantlo's Alpha Flight is a little unfair, methinks. Yeah, about the first six issues or so after he takes over from Byrne are pretty dire, the sub-Claremont dialogue can be a persistent annoyance (AF is basically What If . . . Bill Mantlo Imagined the X-Men?, and Bill never did get the hang of having his characters speak like actual human beings, which sometimes part of his skewed charm), and the editorial mandate crossover issues are torpid, but once Bill settles into his groove things get good and weird. The tone gets progressively darker and more horrific, most of the original team dies/goes insane/goes bad (AF characters who die tend, refreshingly, to actually stay dead, with the salient exception of Guardian) and he introduces some genuinely fucked-up and disturbing villains like Pestilence and Scramble, the Mixed-Up Man. Plus he did the authorial insert and turned Sasquatch into a tranny before Grant Morrison made these things cool. Mantlo definitely wrote worse comics (hi there, Human Fly) and I don't think the book was improved by putting the likes of James Hudnall on it.

6/26/2006 10:56 AM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

Bill Mantlo wrote The Human Fly?!

That guy's the wildest super-hero ever... BECAUSE HE'S REAL!

6/28/2006 9:29 PM

Anonymous greg m. said...

Your spiritual forefather weighs in:


6/29/2006 10:51 AM


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