The Week in Ink: 9-07-06
It's always a little weird for me when comics are delayed, seeing as the schedule here on the ISB puts comics reviews squarely on Thursday nights, and that means that I'm writing the reviews shortly after reading the comics in the first place. The weird part, of course, is that I'm never sure if my reviews are colored by the fact that I don't have that extra day for the comics to really make an impact on me.
And as you might already know, here at the ISB...
...we are all about the impact.
Long way to go for a joke about a kick to the face, I know, but really: You'd expect nothing less from me. Fortunately, we made it through together, and now it's a non-stop battle to the finish as my reviews take on the comics for the first week of September, 2006!
52: Week 18: I have to admit: I'm one of those people who was a little miffed with how the start of Shadowpact didn't really work in the context of Infinite Crisis and "One Year Later," but seeing as Willingham and Justiniano are doing some pretty fantastic work in that series, I was willing to look past it. This, however, is way out, and is going to eventually get to the point where it requires an explanation as to how the Shadowpact was simultaneously trapped in a magical blood bubble for a year and also hanging out in the desert with Ralph Dibny, and that's probably going to be pretty frustrating.
Not that there's not a lot to like about this issue; the actual scenes with the Shadowpact are well-done, and the Croatoans themselves are a pretty interesting bunch. I like the fact that they're meeting in the House of Mystery (since the Secret Six are already shacked up in the House of Secrets), and I'm particularly intrigued by Terri Thirteen. I'm not sure if she comes from anywhere else besides just being a reference to Terry Thirteen, the Ghostbreaker, who made his living proving that ghosts didn't exist in the DC Universe. How exactly that guy still had stories after the time he met the Spectre just boggles the mind. Plus, there's the appearance of a member of the Inferior Five as a pallbearer alongside the Beefeater and Odd Man, who pretty much takes the prize as the absolute craziest Steve Ditko creation, and trust me: That's a field with a lot of competition.
And speaking of Ditko creations, this week's Secret Origin backup focuses on The Question, and while Joe Bennet certainly does a capable job with the art, it just begs the question as to why it wasn't drawn by Denys Cowan, or even Bill Wray. At work today, Chad and I talked about how the backup stories thus far have had art by someone with at least some kind of connection to the character (like Adam Hughes on Wonder Woman or John Bogdonave on Steel), or that just really seem to fit (Kevin Nowlan on the Elongated Man or Eric Powell on Metamorpho), and, well, Bennet is neither. Just seems like a missed opportunity is all.
Agents of Atlas #2: Jeff Parker and Leonard Kirk's incredibly fun series continues into a second issue containing wisecracking supernatural gorillas, rejuvenated sixties-era SHIELD agents, and, of course, the problems inherent in dealing with futuristic bathroom technology, so yeah: Highly enjoyable stuff all around. But it's not just because of the fun stuff on the surface, either: Parker's clearly doing a lot of thinking on the nature of these characters and how they interact with each other and the world, and from a lot of what happens in this issue, specifically with Parker's brief history of Marvel Boy, it looks like he's planning on exploiting plot holes from previous stories and spiralling off to bring them to a satisfying end, and that's got me pretty excited. The only thing that doesn't quite click with me? I'm not sure whether Venus's offer of "food, drink, or sex" was supposed to come off nearly as creepy as it struck me.
The All-New Atom #3: So how does Gail Simone top last issue's Karate Kid reference? She makes one for Call of Cthulhu--the roleplaying game. Admittedly, what with all the sewer monsters and ersatz Amish running around this issue, there's a lot here that feels like she's throwing whatever ideas pop into her head at the wall to see if they stick, but with the little touches like that and the footnoted quotes by everyone from Alec Holland to Isaac Asimov, there's more than enough charm to the book to make it a thoroughly enjoyable read.
American Splendor #1: Further damaging any street cred I might've built up as a comics reviewer, I have a confession to make: I've never read any American Splendor before. Heck, I haven't even seen the movie, and considering that I spend forty hours a week about twelve yards away from three trades worth of the stuff, I really have no excuse. I did, however, pick this one up after reading through a copy at work, so that's a start. I wasn't really sure what to make of Pekar's mildly depressing lead story (with art by Ty Templeton), and "The Day's Highlights" with Dean Haspiel was certainly entertaining, but what really sold me on it was a simple, almost wordless two-page strip with art by Hilary Barta. Twelve panels, no dialogue, and it's absolutely hilarious. Point being? I have some reading to do.
BEYOND! #3: Pay no attention to Dave Campbell--those of us who have been reading Beyond! have long since come to the conclusion that Deathlok is totally awesome. And if you haven't been reading it, well, why not? If the idea of Dwayne McDuffie and Scott Kolins doing a fun, action-packed Secret Wars-style conflict doesn't get you excited, then maybe the fact that this issue boasts a one-panel cameo appearance by Sleepwalker, The Terror, and DARKHAWK should send you running back to your local comic shop with, as they say, "the quickness." Seriously, it's fantastic stuff.
Detective Comics #823: Three issues in, and Paul Dini's run on 'Tec has been everything I've wanted it to be--everything you love about his work on Batman: The Animated Series, but geared at an older audience--and it's amazing. The story this time around concerns perennial Batman foe Poison Ivy, and while Joe Benitez's art has a little more cheesecake that I normally like, it's an excellent way to visually reinforce her role as the temptress in every single panel. She's a character that writers often try to humanize, but for me at least, she's a much more interesting opponent for Batman when the core of her character is a botanical sociopath with absolutely no regard for human beings, and Dini's able to use that core concept excellently in this issue, which, really, is no surprise at all. Plus, the scene where Ivy and Robin play Twenty Questions in the Batcave? That's worth the price of admission alone.
Jack Staff #11: Paul Grist is easily one of my favorite creators working in comics today. I love his art (especially the incredible page layouts he uses), I love his writing, I love the way he can juggle three or four simultaneous interweaving storylines in every issue of Jack Staff. Simply put, the guy's incredible, and every comic he does is an amazing example of just what you can do with comics.
The problem, of course, is that they never come out. I'm exaggerating, but considering that the last issue came out back in May, it's not by much. Not that I'm really complaining; Grist is pretty much running a one-man show over there, but ever since I first read Jack Staff: Everything Used To Be Black & White--which, if you haven't read it, I will personally guarantee is one of the best trade paperbacks you will ever buy--I've been completely unable to wait for the next issue. Especially when today's "Next Issue" box contains the line "Cover to Cover Action as Jack Staff battles Kapitan Krieg. And loses." Do yourself a favor and pick it up, along with any back issues you can find. It's more than worth it.
Jonah Hex #11: As much as I enjoy the single-issue that Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray employ for Jonah Hex, the fact of the matter is that it's derrived almost entirely from a set formula, with a few minor changes for every occasion (such as this issue's inclusion of some genuinely enjoyable El Diablo moments), and with only 22 pages to establish a brand-new villain in each issue that deserves to get shot multiple times in the face by Jonah Hex, those guys rely on comic book shorthand a lot more than they should. It's a problem for the book, and it's really cutting into my enjoyment of it, to the point where even when I like an issue--like this one--I find myself getting more and more frustrated with it as the months go on.
But never let it be said that I point out a problem without offering a solution. So right here, right now, I'm putting a challenge out there for Palmiotti and Gray: If you can write an entire issue of Jonah Hex where nobody gets raped, I will personally buy each of you a slice of pie--your choice of flavor--at any restaurant in the Greater Columbia Area. The gauntlet, gentlemen, has been thrown.
Local #6: Megan McKeenan cannot catch a break. In the last issue, she'd gone from someone who trusted too much to someone who couldn't be trusted, and this time around, her understandable frustrations with a crazy roommate lead to everything in her life completely falling apart again.
And like most well-done suffering, it makes for some fantastic comics.
I've been looking forward to this one since the solicitation gave the basic concept--two people living in the same apartment who are all but required by the living arrangements to almost never interact with each other--and, as with most of his work that I've read over the past year, Brian Wood's script does not disappoint. As usual, Megan serves as the touchstone for the reader, and despite the fact that nobody in the book takes her side when she rants about her roommate's eccentricities, we're there seeing everything that Megan sees, and validating her thoughts that, yeah, Gloria's frigg'n nuts, and the whole thing plays out excellently.
Ryan Kelly's art is, of course, awesome as always, and while his backgrounds are excellent at depicting the character of a city, it's always his facial expressions that really pull me in, this time with Megan's growing frustration, both with Gloria and herself and the complete disdain that eventually shows up on the faces of the other characters. It's another fantastic issue of a fantastic series, and if you're not reading it, you should be.
Marvel Team-Up #24: Thus ends the brief and mildly depressing saga of Freedom Ring, and wow, what an ignominious end it is. Seriously, man: Even Woodgod managed to get a victory here and there, but this guy pretty much just proves that Robert Kirkman enjoys creating characters and then kicking the living hell out of them. That's not necessarily a bad thing, mind, but in this case, I think it could've been handled a little better.
Mystery in Space #1: And speaking of things that could've been handled a little better, we have Mystery In Space! Don't get me wrong, I tend to enjoy the big "cosmic" DC stories an awful lot--especially where Jim Starlin's concerned--but while this issue certainly didn't have anything glaringly wrong with it, I'm mostly just picking it up because Starlin's written some of my all-time favorite comics in the past. Still, I'm interested in seeing where it goes after this, because with all the exposition in the Captain Comet story--and the thorough recap of The Weird's adventures that I'm sure everyone's been looking forward to--there certainly can't be anything left but star-spanning action. Here's hoping, anyway.
Noble Causes #23: I'm just going to come out and say it: I do not like Jon Bosco. I've given him a few issues to get into the swing of things, but this issue was pretty much my breaking point with him, and it mostly comes down to the way he draws faces. At best, they're inconsistent, and at worst--like on pages three and eight--they're just bad. I'm tempted to lay the blame at his feet for my diminishing interest in Noble Causes--a series that I've liked a heck of a lot for a long while--but Jay Faerber's scripts lost me a few issues back, to the point where I view this issue's opening pages, a charming scene of rough sex between Race and Liz, as even more of an exploitative shock-value ploy than a few months back, where there were two women making out right on the cover. It's rapidly becoming more of an annoyance than anything else, and with a $3.50 price tag, that's not something I've got a lot of patience for.
The Punisher #37: One thing that I've learned from thoroughly unnecessary amount of Punisher stories that I've read? With the exception of one character, if you somehow make it to a second fight with Frank Castle, there's probably not going to be a third. Just something to keepin mind before you get attached to General Zakharov over here. Anyway, it's part one of a six-part Garth Ennis Punisher story, which means the introduction of characters in desperate need of some good old fashioned killing. You all know how it works by now.
Uncanny X-Men #478: Ed Brubaker is one of those writers that consistently delivers everything I want to see in his stories, and consequently, I'm enjoying the hell out of his Uncanny X-Men. Even Billy Tan's art is starting to grow on me, although it'd be growing a lot faster if he didn't consistently give Rachel Summers' head and neck the relative size of an orange stuck on a the end of a pencil. Still, he's showing a lot of improvement, and from a guy whose artwork I used to absolutely hate, it's really nice to see him getting better. It's the X-Men in space, and assuming nobody gets turned into a giant Space Whale, I'm pretty sure I'm going to keep having a lot of fun reading it.
Y - The Last Man #49: Excellent story, excellent art, monkeys having sex and an all-girl six-gun shootout on the waterfront. Pretty much business as usual for Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra, and one of the most consistently entertaining books coming out.
Drawing Comics is Easy (Except When It's Hard): If you've seen my 30-second recap of Infinite Crisis (and to be quite honest, if you've seen one page on the ISB, odds are that it's that one), you can probably understand why I felt it was necessary to buy an instructional art book written by a seven year-old girl. All kidding aside, though, Alexa Kitchen's book--wherein she explains how to draw comics that mostly revolve around cats--is actually really interesting and undeniably cute. She's got a lot of examples of her work up on her website, and they're not just incredibly entertaining, I'd venture to say that they're even better than the comic I drew about Batman fighting Dhalsim from Street Fighter when I was that age.
The Life & Times of Scrooge McDuck Companion: Considering how much stuff he crammed into his twelve-part biography of the Richest Duck in the World, it comes as no surprise that Don Rosa's had a lot of extra stories to tell about Scrooge's past that there just weren't room for in the original Life & Times, and since that was easily one of my favorite trades of last year, I'm really excited about getting into this one. I'm pretty interested to see how the stories work, too, considering that from what I've read of the introduction, they're not as rigidly structured as the actual Life & Times. Specifically, I'm hoping there's another chapter where Scrooge goes crazy in the Serengetti and punches out a lion.
Because that is always worth a read.