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Friday, August 18, 2006

The Week in Ink: 8-16-06

And with this...

The Punisher: Kicking Faces since his first appearance.

Conway and Andru, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #129

...Vacation Week has officially ended.

Like most vacations, I didn't get nearly the amount of things done that I wanted to, although I certainly did do a lot of relaxing, and that, along with not having the constant ISB deadline pressure hanging over my head, made for a nice break.

But now, it's time to get back to the regular grind-- which I assure you will contain only slightly less face-kicking than the past week--with the ISB's completely accurate comics reviews for the third week of August, 2006!


52: Week 15: Here's a fun fact for you: When I was a youngster--and I'm talking like five, six years old here--I had a completely irrational hatred of Booster Gold. I had one issue of his comic, and honestly? I think it stems from the dollar sign in the logo, and I have no idea why. I guess that when I was a kid, "cash" did not "rule everything around me," as it were.

This, of course, has pretty much nothing to do with this week's installment of 52, but my childhood loathing might explain why I'm not one of the apparent throngs flipping out over this issue's death of Booster Gold. Or maybe I'm just still stinging from the mind-bending horror of Extreme Justice. Regardless, it's another fun, enjoyable issue, and I for one was pretty excited to see Jon Bogdanove back in action for the origin of Steel.

Casanova #3: The single best thing about Warren Ellis's $1.99 sixteen-page format (I'm not sure here, is it still called "the dose?") is that both Casanova and Fell never feel shorter than anything else I read. With Fell, I think it has a lot to do with Ellis rigidly setting the stories into a nine-panel grid and exploring the hell out a single idea, but Fraction and Bá succeed doing the exact opposite--there's a new idea almost every panel. It's the ultimate in throwing something at the wall to see if it sticks, and--if I may be allowed to drag that metaphor out a little further than it was ever meant to go--Fraction's built himself one hell of a sticky wall. It makes for some remarkably fun comics, and with each issue so far being better than the least, it's not one you should be missing.

Catwoman #58: I've been talking quite a bit about Adam Hughes's covers in my reviews of the last few issues of Catwoman with nothing but glowing praise, but... man. Those things are really poppin' fresh there, aren't they? I mean, really, it's like she has a spare ass growing out of her ribcage. A shapely one, mind, but still. Anyway, it's another highly entertaining issue from Pfeifer and Lopez, with some great interplay between Catwoman and Zatanna that rounds out the Angle Man aspects of the "One Year Later" story arc, but there's so much going on in this book that it doesn't all wrap up in a neat package after six issues, and for someone who enjoys following singles month-to-month, that's a nice change of pace from the way a lot of comics are written with trade paperbacks in mind. Holly, after all, is still in a considerable amount of trouble, and with a scene where Slam Bradley's kid does something so badass that it's almost worthy of his old man, there's not a lot more that I could want from this comic. Solid stuff.

Checkmate #5: Not to spoil anything, here, but the idea that there have been a string of French super-spies since World War II operating under the codename Madamoiselle Marie has me ridiculously excited. It's one of the excellent ways that Greg Rucka keeps Checkmate rooted firmly in the DC Universe, even in a relatively slow-paced issue revolving around the agency's restructuring like this one, and--as I've said before--it's highly reminiscent of the more espionage-heavy, Amanda-Waller-And-Nemesis aspects of John Ostrander's phenomenal and underrated Suicide Squad. And with Secret Six holding up the big super-villain punchout aspects, it makes for some excellent reading.

Conan #31: It's Mike Mignola's last issue as guest-writer, and, as you might expect, there's a lot of Conan chopping zombies that are on fire up with his sword and punching the living hell out of the local town guards. This is, of course, exactly what I want to see when I pick up Conan, and, well, I'm rarely disappointed. Plus, this month's Two-Gun Bob strip is, as usual, an excellent look at Robert E. Howard, and one that--as someone trying to make a go of it as a writer himself--I'm seriously thinking of tacking up on the wall next to Jack Kirby's inspirational messages from the pages of New Gods. Seriously, why aren't those in the trades?

The Escapists #2: Brian K. Vaughan's sequel (?) to Kavalier and Clay takes an unexpected--for me at least--and totally awesome turn in this issue, setting it apart from the book I thought it was going to be after the first issue. He's really playing with the idea of the Esacpist as something more than just a character, but as an ideal that not only represents freedom, but gives other people the ability to reach it themselves. And honestly, there's not a lot that's not appealing about that. It's an excellent book so far, and by the time it all wraps up, it might just be phenomenal.

Iron Man #11: I'm actually the only person I know who's been enjoying Daniel and Charles Knauf's run on ol' Shellhead here, but even I had a hard time getting through this issue. Don't get me wrong, there's some good stuff here--Tony's solution for dealing wth the Sentry, despite being more than a little wacky, is both innovative and enjoyably ruthless, for example--but most of the actual conceits of the story fell pretty flat for me. It felt predictable at best, and while your mileage may vary, the idea that Iron Man has had a ten year-old chip in his head that nobody ever noticed and that survived his metamorphosis with the Extremis (an event that this story is pretty heavily rooted in), and that still works perfectly even when shielded by the armor just seemed pretty off. Like I said, it's not a horrible comic by any means, but it lacks the charm, the fun, and, perhaps most importantly, the hair of my favorite Iron Man stories.

Manhunter #25: If we weren't getting a Spider-Girl-esque repireve this winter and this really was the last issue of Manhunter, I've gotta say, I would've been pretty darn disapointed. Admittedly, I might've been expecting too much considering that I'd gone into it after reading Devon's review at "Seven Hells!"--wherein he spoke of the last page in tones that most people reserve for, say, the New Testament--but I think it's been made abundantly clear by now that we have pretty differing tastes, and, well, it did absolutely nothing for me. Not that it doesn't have its enjoyable moments--Director Bones's masseuse and Kate's immediate criticism of her own Bruckheimeresque tough-guy dialogue were undoubtedly some great high spots--but overall, it left me cold. Good thing Kate's got another shot at it, though.

Marvel Westerns: Strange Westerns: So between this, Batman: Dark Detective, and his recent run on JLA Classified, I'm starting to think that Marshall Rogers might just be the necessary factor for me to enjoy a Steve Englehart story.

Monkey in a Wagon vs. Lemur on a Big Wheel: Crisis With Infinite Critters: At last! A chance to enjoy Monkey vs. Lemur without the chance of Mike S. Miller getting any of my money! Unfortunately, despite the presence of a few gems--the title story's different permutations on the theme are a hoot, especially Gorilla in a Submarine--it's a gag that gets pretty old pretty quick, especially under the presence of a $3.95 price tag--and that's without getting into the fact that there's a story exhorting me to vote on the outcome by the end of last month. Still, if you're in the market for comics rooted in small mammals engaging in vehicular combat, Lillie-Paetz and Moreno have the market cornered. Deal with it, sucker.

Nextwave: Agents of HATE #7: Not one week ago--not one week, mind you!--I was having a conversation with Kevin Church--who celebrates a birthday today, incidentally--where I expressed my pure and unimitigated love for the Mindless Ones. And boom, here they are in this month's slam-bang installment of Nextwave. Sometimes, reading this comic is like having a direct line to God. Also, and I feel I should point this out as a serious comics journalist, with the presence of a demonic creature who demands cash and pictures of naked goth chicks as a price for unleashing said Mindless Ones on an unsuspecting populace, this might just be Warren Ellis's most personal work to date.


Phonogram #1: If you've ever wondered what High Fidelity would be like if it starred John Constantine instead of John Cusack, look no further.

With an ad that had lines like "David Kohl reviewed my band so hard the drummer's legs fell off," I can't imagine why anyone wouldn't want to read this book, but in case you missed it, trust me: It's great. The story, as you might expect, revolves around the Kohl's astounding dicketry as he makes his way in the world as a Phonomancer, which is apparently an industry term for someone who works magic by making music references so obscure that even my pal Tug, a former college radio DJ who spun indie tracks at a bar last weekend, didn't get them. And while that's a formula that could turn out self-indulgent and annoying even on a good day, Gillen and McKelvie don't just make it work, they make it great.

The whole thing reads like Dangerous Habits set to indie rock, and it all adds up to being one of the most enjoyable first issues I've read in recent memory that's worth every cent of a $3.50 price tag--and for me to say that about a comic with absolutely no punching whatsoever, that's saying something. Trust me on this one: Check it out.

Robin #153: I don't care who you are and I don't care how you feel about Cassandra Cain: Robin and Boomerang Junior teaming up to fight a romfull of homicidal robot ventriloquist dummies armed with machineguns and a nuclear weapon? That's the textbook definition of good frigg'n comics. Adam Beechen has been doing amazing things with this book ever since he took over, and this one's no exception. The concept alone is enough to get excited about--a teenage version of Batman teaming up with the son of the man who killed his father and taking on a dozen deathtrapped former super-villain hideouts, pulled off excellently by Beechen and Freddie Williams II, with enough room left over to introduce a new character. And if that didn't make you want to read it, check your Karate Kid box set at the door, buster. Without question, this is the most underrated and surprisingly awesome book DC's putting out.

Runaways #19: The Leapfrog's response to Molly Hayes asking if her dead friend is in heaven might just be one of my favorite moments in comics history. Aside from that, pretty much everything I say every month about Runaways being an awesomely well-written, well-drawn (in this case byt fill-in penciller Mike Norton), and well-colored book stands. Great stuff.

Shadowpact #4: Apparently, there are folks out there who have been underwhelmed by Shadowpact, which is pretty suprising, considering that this one's my least favorite so far, and I still liked it a heck of a lot. I've mentioned before that I've gone back and read through the Blue Devil saga entire, and Willingham does a nice job with this issue's portrayal of Dan Cassidy as a local hero type--even if Blue Devil's vaunted "Wierdness Factor" means that "local hero" in this case translates duking it out with a gigantic monstrosity and the demonic versions of Shlubb and Klump from Sin City. It's super-natural super-hero action as I like it!

Street Fighter Legends: Sakura #1: Finally! More appearances by the Single Greatest Video Game Character That Is Not A Robot, Vampire Hunter, Elf, or Shoe Worn By Mario ever, Dan Hibiki. Unfortunately, that's balanced out by Rainbow Mika, who fails to make sense even in a game where a green monstrosity shoots lighting through his body to defeat karate masters, but hey: It' Street Fighter. I'm not asking a whole lot here.

Wasteland #2: It's not quite as entertaining as the first issue, but this installment of Antony Johnston and Chrstopher Mitten's post-apocalyptic western is certainly a good bit of comics. Johnston's tweaks to the convention are great, especially this issue's story of how the world got into its current bad shape, which, rather than being told in a flashback or explained in concrete terms, is related as a religious fable. Well worth picking up.


I am apparently the only person in the entire comics blogger internet who thought The Boys was not very good. Maybe it's just me, but I've already read Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe, thanks.


Blogger JG said...

There might not have been punching, but a guy getting his head slammed into a mirror must be pretty close.

8/19/2006 2:54 AM

Blogger Brandon Bragg said...

That Robin issue was pretty sweet. It almost makes me wish there was some kind of Brave & the Bold, team-up style comic that paired Robin with some random teen hero every month.

8/19/2006 3:38 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Say, the cover of Phonogram #1 is an homage to the cover of the first Elastica album. Nifty.

8/19/2006 4:38 AM

Blogger Unknown said...

Re. The Boys: I read Marshal Law, I enjoyed Marshal Law and Butcher - you are no Marshal Law.

And Catwoman's a better comic than Manhunter too.

8/19/2006 4:49 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wasn't going to get Phonogram for budget resons but then I saw the postcard and found out that the main character once snorted a large selection of obscure vinyl.

For fun.

8/19/2006 8:01 AM

Blogger Steven said...

I think Manhunter might have been rewritten slightly once they got their reprieve to not be a final issue.

The Bones/Iron Monroe scene, the Mark Shaw pages, and, of course, the last page, all open up story plots rather than tie up loose ends, denying fans a sense of closure.

But of course, it's not cancelled, so closure is unnecessary.

8/19/2006 8:33 AM

Blogger Norrin2 said...

One of the many many things I love about the ISB is the comments we get when we hold the cursor in the neighborhood of the comic covers. But I have been waving all over the Runaways cover and nothing pops up. How am I supposed to get on with my life without a Runaways remark?

8/19/2006 9:53 AM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

You people. So demanding.

There, my alt-texting is now complete. Hmph.

8/19/2006 10:46 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, the Comic Treadmill slammed The Boys as being "vile." (I haven't read it, and am not particularly inclined to.) So you're in good company.

8/19/2006 11:33 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, The Boys wasn't very good, and it's sad to see Ennis ripping off Micah Wright of all people. I did kind of like the Simon Pegg lookalike, though.

8/19/2006 1:04 PM

Blogger Bill Reed said...

Really? Hm... I haven't seen many positive reviews of The Boys. Perhaps you are reading the wrong, not-awesome-enough-for-your-needs blogs.

8/19/2006 6:30 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Henh henh. Frank called Spider-Man punk.

I haven't read The Boys yet, but I love it when Ennis goes off on superheroes. If they had given him 12 issues for the Punisher to kill the Marvel Universe, it would have been an instant classic. Nightfist, Hitman going to JLA try-outs just so he can use his x-ray vision on Wonder Woman, Green Lantern getting played like a chump, Kev killing The Authority in two pages...

I love it all. I'll be buying The Boys.

8/19/2006 6:58 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Booster was fun. I pour out a fictional forty for that time he and Blue Beetle tried to build a casino on Kooey Kooey Kooey. But Nextwave eases the pain.

8/19/2006 8:29 PM

Blogger Rohan Williams said...

Mutt, wasn't that thing with Hitman checking out Wonder Woman on the Watchtower written by Morrison?

8/20/2006 2:42 AM

Blogger Scott said...

Actually, I don't think Rorkannu was asking for *pictures* of the girls - for one thing, he evidently has Internet access to have heard of them in the first place. For another, this makes both him and the Beyond Corporation more eeeevil, while still being funny as hell.

8/20/2006 3:11 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You may be right, Rohan. Of course, there was also the time Hitman was learing and drooling at Catwoman with his freaky eyes.

8/20/2006 10:29 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two-Gun Bob making the same wall as a Kirby strip? My ego will be able to coast on that one for weeks! Thanks, Chris!

The strips aren't in the trades because the plan is to collect them all into one huge biography once we have two or three hundred of them. In other words ... a few years from now. Sorry for the wait.

8/20/2006 2:06 PM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

Don't sweat it, Jim, that works too!

8/21/2006 1:10 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post but the art of that issue of Robin left a lot to be desired. The artist needs to learn how to draw young teens and not just place an over-sized head on a adult body. Tim looked creepy throughout that issue...

And The Boys was awful. Typical mean-spirited Ennis fanwank. If you hate superheroes that much, then stop writing them.

8/22/2006 7:14 AM


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