The Week in Ink: 8-09-06
Considering that I'm writing this on my Internet Comics Blog, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I'm pretty out of shape. It's something I came to accept a long time ago, but this week, something happened that has forced me to take a good long look at my profound laziness.
I pulled a muscle in my leg... while I was asleep.
When the very act of laziness becomes so stressful that I have to limp around for three days, it's time to make a change. Which is why I've decided to dust off my copy of Untold Legend of the Batman #1, contact the President's Council on Physical Fitness, and devote my time to slimming down with the help of...
Although, now that I look at it, I don't actually own a speedbag. Or a pair of rings. And those push-ups look really, really hard.
Yeah, screw it. I'm just going to go ahead and review my comic book purchases for the second week of August, 2006!
Flashback Universe: Saturn Knight: This week, my pal and official Friend of the ISB Jim Shelley and artist Pierre Villeneuve launched the Flashback Universe, with the goal of creating all-new comics with the tone of the mid-70s Marvel Universe, and that, my friends, is a noble undertaking. You may already be familiar with Jim's parody work (from his own website and from places like Silver Bullet), but with the stuff he's doing over there, it's obvious that he's putting his heart into it with a first issue that throws a spotlight on dozens of characters.
Why do you care? Because Jim and Pierre are doing it for free, with complete issues ready for download and viewing in cDisplay, the preferred program of comics pirates everywhere. And that means there's only like two steps between you and reading a new comic, both of which involve clicking and neither of which involves forking over your hard-earned cash unless you want to, and that's a pretty good deal no matter how you cut it.
Plus, I got that guy Essential Marvel Two-in-One for Christmas, and I'm pretty sure that means I'm responsible for at least part of what's going on over there.
ISB BEST OF THE WEEK
52: Week 14: Considering the sheer amount of intense and sustained freaking out I was doing last month, nobody's really going to be shocked that the last page of this comic brought me almost untold joy.
The whole set of sequences with Will Magnus have been fantastic, and with this issue's more detailed exploration of the Prisoner-esque super-villain jail--complete with a motorcycle bursting out of an ice cream truck, something we just do not see enough of in today's comics--was downright incredible. Not that the rest of the boo, with a focus split between Renee Montoya and the Question's Indiana Jones-like investigation into Khandaq and a minor furthering of Steel's plot, was a slouch in the entertainment department either. It's good, solid comics, especially with Dale Eaglesham providing pencils on this issue. Although honestly, I wish Polite Scott would drop by and explain why Montoya didn't have a cast in the last issue, appears to have one on the plane ride, and then doesn't have one again at the end of the story.
So like I said: solid comics. But if Will Magnus wasn't enough to push this one into Best of the Week status, this issue's Secret Origin backup--the one I've been waiting for since the solicitation hit three months ago--would do it in a heartbeat. And why?
Because ERIC POWELL DRAWS METAMORPHO FIGHTING THE THUNDERER.
In case you missed it, the Thunderer last appeared in the single greatest comic book ever (as chronicled here on the ISB), and his re-emergence at the hands of Eric Powell and Mark Waid ensures that I remain very, very happy.
Beyond! #2: And speaking of things that keep me happy, Dwayne McDuffie and Scott Kolins continue to rock at an almost-unimaginable level with what essentially amounts to Secret Wars III, and trust me: It's awesome. Although really: What can you expect from a miniseries where the first issue ends with the death of Spider-Man and the second kicks off with Medusa of the Inhumans exacting swift and brutal vengeance on Venom? And that, really, is the key to what makes this book so enjoyable: McDuffie's characterizations are great--from Hank Pym pulling a spare Quinjet out of his pocket to a last-page show-up that's played so well that it gets me excited for reasons that even I myself do not fully understand--to Scott Kolins's pencils, which, like I said last month, are the best he's done for Marvel, bar none. Excellent, excellent stuff.
Elric: Making of a Sorcerer #4: And so, the mini-series that started back in 2004 finally comes to an end, with--as expected--lots and lots of beautiful Walt Simonson art right alongside a lot of Michael Moorcock multiverse time-travel dreamscapes. Unfortunately, though, never once in this issue does Elric totally cut someone in half while screaming "Blood and souls for Arioch!" and, to be honest, that's pretty much what I'm in it for.
Fables #52: I don't usually get into the specifics of the things I love about Fables--since I usually just pause to remind everyone that it's the single most consistently-awesome book on the stands before moving on to Firestorm or something--but I'd just like to point out one thing: I love the story titles that Bill Willingham comes up with. I've been paying more attention to them over the past few months, ever since I really noticed "The Israel Analogy" in #50, but the subtitle for this issue's chapter of "Sons of Empire" is amazingly ominous, doing in eleven words what Mark Buckingham does on the last page with the series of zooming shots of the Snow Queen. I could go on, but for the sake of brevity (which is often outright throttled here on the ISB), I'll move on, but seriously: Everything about this issue, from the evil forces getting together to the backup story has the same air of pressure slowly building towards an explosion, and that makes for some great reading.
Firestorm #28: With a really fun issue featuring Martin Stein being all sciency, Jason Rusch getting mad at his parents, and the return of the Artist Formerly Known As Svarozich (now operating, just for trivia's sake, under the name of another Russian super-hero from the pages of Firestorm), Stuart Moore seems to have designed this issue solely to appeal to people who have read through and enjoyed a hundred-odd issues of Firestorm. Which is great for me, because I fit squarely into that demographic, but I can't figure out if it's going to have a wider appeal beyond those who haven't summoned up the grim resolve necessary to get through RonRay's appearances in Extreme Justice.
Incredible Hulk #97: "Planet Hulk" continues to be a ridiculously entertaining storyline as we move further into its second major arc, with Greg Pak mixing incredibly badass moments (like a page in this issue where someone grabs a spear and stabs the Hulk, who responds with a bored and slightly displeased look) with plot elements like the Hulk possibly being this planet's propheseyed messiah, and even if this book didn't have a scene where Hulk punches out a space dinosaur and lifts up a moutnain, that's pretty exciting.
Secret Six #3: There is a very, very naked woman on page eight. Just wanted to go ahead and get that out of the way. So yeah, Gail Simone and Brad Walker continue to produce a hightly entertaining comic along the lines of Suicide Squad (which is odd, because that's also pretty much what Checkmate is), and in this issue does a great job of doing what that book did best: keeping the risk factor high. It's pretty much assured that very bad things are going to happen to these characters on a regular basis, and while it's best not to get too attached, Simone makes it impossible not to. The real standout, though, was--of course--the Mad Hatter's food preparation (and response to above naked lady). The little sombrero alone... Genius.
She-Hulk #10: You know, it takes a special kind of artist to put out a cover with the words "I married a man-wolf!" written in huge type that fails to capture my interest at all. Admittedly, Greg Horn's nigh-constant (at least lately) sleaziness is offset by the fact that this issue's supposed to look like a poster for a shady exploitation movie, but without the "creases" in the art, I doubt anyone could really tell the difference between that and any of Horn's other She-Hulk covers, which just tend to capture that look by accident. Man, I wish Mike Mayhew was doing those. Anyway, as big a fan of Dan Slott as I am, I'm pretty split on the idea of characters in the book having access to issues of She-Hulk and standing around yelling about plot points. I realize that it's Slott's version of Byrne's customary fourth wall-breaking "nod and wink" style, but for me at least, the whole thing comes off as extremely self-indulgent and cutsey. But even after five sentences worth of complaints, I still enjoyed the issue.
Spider-Man Family: Amazing Friends: I have little to no interest in Spider-Man 2099, and the Batwing issue of Untold Tales is my least favorite of the run (see my previous statements on how I cannot frigg'n stand Man-Bat for clues as to why, True Believer!), but are very few hoops I won't jump through to get some new Chris Giarrusso Mini-Marvels. That guy's awesome. What really surprised me, though, was how much I enjoyed the book's lead feature, an all-new story revolving around Spider-Man hanging out with (as you might imagine from the title of the book) Firestar and Iceman. I'm not sure why I was surprised, considering that it's written by Sean McKeever and I can't get enough of his Spider-Man-related romances over in the Mary Jane series, but it was actually a lot better than I expected it to be. Throw in the Fred Hembeck Untold Tales annual, and it's a bargain at twice the price.
Superman #655: And speaking of things I was surprised about, I really didn't expect Carlos Pacheco's Superman run to have quite so many super-hot women in states of undress (which again is odd, considering all the straight-backed bending over the Wasp did in the pages of Avengers Forever), but with last issue opening with Lois's panties and ending with Lois in lingerie, and this issue's super-hot Lana Lang sporting a v-neck dress that almost goes down to her navel, it's just something I wasn't expecting--and that's not even mentioning Arion, Mage of Atlantis recovering from a menage-a-trois with two women sans-clothes right on page one. Not that I particularly mind; I enjoy naked ladies to an almost alarming degree, and at this point, Carlos Pacheco could draw pretty much whatever he wanted outside of a Man-Bat/Gambit crossover, and I'd buy it in a heartbeat. Just thought it was worth mentioning.
Anyway, even without naked women thrown in, I enjoyed this issue a heck of a lot, especially with word balloons on the cover and the way Busiek's playing with Superman as the "Genius in Intellect" he was originally created as. I'm not saying I want the return of smarmy-ass Silver Age Superman, but there's no reason why, with his powers, he can't be obviously every bit as smart and well-informed as Batman, and portrayed as such all the time. It's interesting stuff, and I liked it a lot--almost as much as I liked the last page.
Ultimate X-Men #73: I'm beginning to think that my Adam X theory simply does not hold water. Rats.
Penny Arcade v.2: Epic Legends of the Magic Sword Kings: Me telling you about something produced by the guys at Penny Arcade is essentially tantamount to the producers of Ale-8-1, Kentucky's finest homegrown Ginger Soda, informing you that there's this thing called Coca Cola that you might want to check out. Still, it's worth mentioning that this volume of the Greatest Webcomic Ever contains the strips where it really started to hit its stride, with the first appearances of Randy the Newscaster, Frank the District Manager, no fewer than two mentions of the hummingbird-based classic Kolibri, and a brief cameo of the Fruit Fucker, now available in convenient book form. So why should you pay 12.95 for strips you could read for free online? Well, a) that's an awfully reasonable price for this, b) commentary on every strip from Tycho, and, of course c) because Gabe and Tycho have done more for the three-panel comic strip format in five years than Garfield and BC ever did. Combined.
Which, yeah, not exactly a high bar to reach, but you know what I mean.
Polly and the Pirates: I love the way Ted Naifeh draws feet. It's a weird thing to fixate on--for me at least, I don't know about the rest of this accursed Internet--but Polly's odd, Powerpuff Girl-ish rounded-off legs give me no end of entertainment, especially once she starts wearing shoes, and Naifeh starts showing how they actually work. Like I said: Weird.
Regardless, this is a fantastic piece of comics. I'd always been mildly interested in Naifeh's work, ever since the Free Comic Book Day Courtney Crumrin, but the concept behind that book didn't really appeal to me all that much. This one, however, involves pirates sailing through shark-infested waters, a phrase that never fails to fully grab my attention whenever it appears. Even beyond that, though, the narrative tricks that Naifeh uses--Polly's constant reflection on what her stern boarding school headmistress would do, which leads to the funniest moment of the entire book--along with the just-enough-detail setting of an alternate post-Colonial America and what can only be described as "Pirate Hijinx" go a long way towards making this one of my favorite trades of the year. I read it, and found myself immediately wanting to give it to a child.
And I hate children.