The Week in Ink: 8-03-06
Normally, I'd kick off my comic book reviews for the first week of August with some sort of witty bon mot here, but let's be honest: if you're still here after 3800 words about Gen13, it's probably not going to break your heart of I just get right to the point.
So let's get on with it!
52: Week 13: With only two pages of Isis--who doesn't manage to inspire any nostalgic feelings in me, mostly due to the fact that her television popularity came eight years before I was born--this issue is almost entirely given over to Ralph Dibny's investigation of the Kryptonian Resurrectionist Cult, which turns out to be pretty darn entertaining. Especially considering that--according to a disillusioned Wonder Girl in the pages of post-"One Year Later" Teen Titans--they actually do turn out to be running a con at the end of it. It's worlds better than last week's installment, and I'm pretty sure that has a lot to do with the awesome-but-underrated Todd Nauck handling pencils in this issue. Because seriously: That guy can handle a convincing Metamorpho and a phenomenally creepy effigy of Sue Dibny on the same page, and that's no mean feat.
Agents of Atlas #1: The first issue of Jeff Parker and Leonard Kirk's new miniseries features Gorilla Man and the Human Robot blasting their way through a base full of SHIELD agents. Further commentary on why this is the best comic book of the week should be completely unnecessary.
Really, though, it's more than that (although seriously? That scene is awesome). I haven't read much by Jeff Parker, but the idea of a long-lost Marvel super-hero team made up of mostly-forgotten characters built around the '50s Avengers (from What If... #9) holds an appeal for me that I just can't deny, and he does great stuff with it. The whole thing's just packed from cover to cover with great action and an intriguing mystery, and he even threw in my fourth-favorite Agent of SHIELD, Derek Khanata, of Amazing Fantasy: The Scorpion fame.
It's incredibly solid, and Leonard Kirk's art is as close to a perfect fit as you're likely to find, especially considering the way he contrasts the sharp, clean art of the Golden Age flashbacks with the grittier, more shadowy sequences set in the present, all while keeping the same fun style beneath it. If you haven't already, check it out. It's well worth it.
The All-New Atom #2: In the second fun, fast-paced issue of the Atom, our new hero Ryan Choi not only talks about The Karate Kid, but actually attacks one of his enemies while shouting "Sweep the leg!" Gail Simone is apparently writing comics specifically for me to enjoy. And brother, do I ever.
Batman: Son of the Demon: Son of the Demon is, without question, one of the most underrated Batman stories of all time, and it's finally back in print. Mike W. Barr is, of course, one of my favorite Batman writers, and this is might just be his best story as he absolutely nails Denny O'Neil's original concept of Ra's Al-Ghul as a globetrotting adventure villain, and while Jerry Bingham might just be a stand-in for Neal Adams, he's a darn good one here. It's a great story, and I've owned it in both softcover and hardcover over the years, so essentially I just bought the floppy version this week in case I ever felt the need to scan any of the book's incredibly badass scenes. Like, for instance, this one, where Batman lays down the law to a creep who just got a faceful of toxic waste:
Batman, you are COLD AS ICE!
Blue Beetle #5: It might just be because Diamond "forgot" to send this issue to the shop last week, but when I cracked open the new Blue Beetle, I found that I had no recollection whatsoever as to why Jaime was hanging out with a bunch of gang members or who they were until a vague memory surfaced about halfway through the issue. The scene with the Phantom Stranger is enjoyable, as are the bits with Brenda, but we're five issues in at this point and I still have no idea where this series is going, other than that it seems an awful lot like Gerry Conway's original Firestorm, except with an annoying Scarab instead of the floating head of Martin Stein. And all things considered, I'll take the disembodied nuclear physicist.
FUN FACT: That is the best sentence I have ever written.
BPRD: The Universal Machine #5: I dropped another complaint about John Arcudi last night in my post about Gen13, but while I haven't always enjoyed his work in the past, that guy has more than made up for it with his work on BPRD with Mike Mignola and Guy Davis. Universal Machine has been amazing for the past five months, and this issue's right up there with the rest of them, as Kate Corrigan pulls one of the toughest moments I've seen in quite a while, and the ending is just beautiful. It's not just the best BPRD series yet, it's one of my favorites from the Hellboy universe entire. Fantastic stuff from everyone involved.
Detective Comics #822: And speaking of comics that are unreasonably fantastic, Paul Dini's second issue of 'Tec just about blew me away with how enjoyable it was. The story of the Riddler going (relatively) legit and choosing to match wits with Batman through a contest of detective work is a concept that I flat-out love, and Batman's quiet smugness over the whole thing was great. Of course, considering that the Batman: The Animated Series version of the Riddler was the best and most viable version of the character ever, that's no big shock. What was surprising, though, was Don Kramer. I think we all knew we weren't going to get an actual run of J.H. Williams issues, but while I've always been pretty underwhelmed by Kramer in the past, his work on this one was--for lack of a better term--surprisingly adequate. It's one of the rare occasions when I can actually say it, but in this case it's true: This is everything I want from Detective Comics.
Ex Machina #22: This is one of those books that--much like Fables--is rapidly falling into the category of being so consistently well-done that I can never find anything new to say about it. It's just always good, and this issue's no exception.
Invincible #34: This may come as a shock, but I really have no desire to see any more characters adopting a Punisher-esque attitude towards killing, but it's refreshing to see a super-hero take somebody out accidentally, feel bad about it, and then (apparently) pretty much get over it while an authority figure tells them that, yeah, that was the right thing to do. Throw in a confession from an Alternate-Future Atom Eve and the final revelation of Robot's secret, and Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ottley score another great issue of the best teenage super-hero book on the stands.
Jonah Hex #10: After the incredible disappointment that was Jonah Hex #9, Palmiotti and Gray seem to be heading back towards the right path to making this book enjoyable again, helped in no small part by the art of Phil Noto. There's still the same lazy instances of gross-out shock moments and yet another use of rape as a plot device, but there's also a pretty big focus on Jonah Hex fighting an alligator, and there's not a whole heck of a lot I won't forgive when that kind of action's involved.
Marvel Milestones: Millie the Model: I've always been fascinated by the way that Marvel managed to pull their teen comedy characters like Millie Collins and (especially) Patsy Walker into their mainstream super-hero universe, while DC leaves Scooter and Binky languishing in oblivion. It's just something I find interesting, although honestly, it'd be a lot moreso if Millie the Model wasn't a horrible comic. There's more fun to be had in a scene from the Defenders story (also reprinted in this issue) where the Red Guardian fights six-hundred foot tall amoeba than in the entirity of Millie, although I have to admit: The text story about a girl who finds love despite her summer job did make me mist up a little.
Marvel Team-Up: Because YOU demanded it! Aunt May vs. Wolverine!
No, seriously. It's great. And in the backup (which may not be the correct term since it takes up more pages than the "lead" story), Freedom Ring returns after having the crap punched out of him by the Abomination, and meets a partner that might just make it the buddy comedy of the year. That Robert Kirkman, he knows what's up.
Mouse Guard #4
Noble Causes #22
Punisher #36: It's the last part of the Punisher story, and that means it's time for Frank to kill a whole bucnh of people of dubious moral fiber. Formulaic? Well, yes, like clockwork. But it's the same formula that the character's been operating on for the past thirty years or so, and while Ennis is apparently making no attempt whatsoever to hide the fact that he's working within a rigid structure, it's the twists and layers to each story that make it so enjoyable. Case in point, the Barracuda, who worked well as a villainous foil for Frank despite the fact that you knew from page one-panel one of the story that he was going to get shot in the face by the end of it. That is, after all, what tends to happen to Punisher villains: They tend not to be recurring foes.
Uncanny X-Men #477: In an issue without Billy Tan (which is always a plus in my book), guest-artist Clayton Henry does a fine job with art chores as Ed Brubaker reveals the details of Vulcan's one-man war on the Shi'ar Empire, which is way more entertaining than it ought to be, right down to the genuinely exciting last page.
Y - The Last Man #48