The Week in Ink: 9-13-06
Allow me, if I may, to use this week's panel of kicking as a metaphor for recent events in the comics blogger internet:
On the right, we have self-righteous internet loudmouth James Meeley, who earlier this week claimed ownership of the internet and editorial control over every blog thereupon. And on the left, we have what essentially amounts to the entire comics blogger internet rising as one to explain to him that this is reasonably idiotic. Still, let me know how that whole owning the internet thing works out for you.
What does this have to do with my reviews of comics for the second week of September, 2006? Nothing! But it's way funnier than the stuff I usually write an intro about. Now face front, soldier! We got comics incoming!
52: Week Nineteen: Everyone seems to have loved this issue of 52, and while it's certainly one of the better ones to come down the pike (aside from some odd, clearly-rushed art by Pat Olliffe in places), it suffers from a severe lack of Dr. Magnus and his band of fantastic Metal Men--some of whom, I'm told, can remain liquid at room temperature--and therefore fell a little short for me. What can I say, I have specific tastes.
That aside, the story's main focus on Skeets and Dan Carter, who provided us with the funniest punchline of the series so far last issue, is definitely enjoyable. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the sequences with Pope Lobo, where the dialogue was, at best, a chore, even if it did prove a lot of us right about the Emerald Eye of Ekron. That could just be me and my stated bias against everyone's favorite Czarnian, and this issue's Origin of Animal Man more than makes up for it, consider that it's got Brian Bolland drawing the single best pair of goggles in comics. Man, I love those things.
Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #44: Not only would "Conan Under the Sea" have made a better theme for my senior prom than "An Evening In Paris," it also makes for an incredibly entertaining take on Aquaman. I've really been enjoying it since it kicked off, and this issue's no exception, as it features our teenage hero (who looks to be in his mid-forties, in a minor quibble I have with the otherwise fantastic art that might just be a throwback to movies like I Was A Teenage Werewolf) shouting about breaking peoples' faces and teaming up with the Sea Devils to fight Ocean Master, who seems to have gotten over his whole my-trident-was-cursed-by-Neron phase. It's great, it's fun, it's action-packed, and while there's not a whole lot of competition, it's the best Aquaman I've ever read by far.
Captain America #21: This year's Captain America 65th Anniversary Special was one of my favorite Cap stories in a while, so it follows pretty logically that "21st Century Blitz" has been my favorite story in Ed Brubaker's run so far, especially seeing as it's got Cap jumping off a rooftop to fight a giant laser-blasting robot from the Middle Ages resurrected by the Red Skull. It's like he's writing exactly what I want to see. And it's not just the story, either: Steve Epting and Carlos D'Armata are producing some amazing art that fits the book perfectly, and it's shaping up to be one of my favorite runs on the character, even with an absolutely stunning lack of MODOK and Batroc the Leaper (who, by the way, is great in next week's Union Jack). If you haven't already, try it out. It's good stuff.
Casanova #4: Noted Abraham Lincoln fan Matt Fraction and Gabriel Bá have what's rapidly becoming the best value in comics--and that's only partly because it costs a dollar less than anything else.
Four isssues in, and it's unquestionably the best one yet, as Fraction's wild, machine-gun-style rate of a new idea on every page has evened out into a fantastic issue formula, and this one works amazingly well in a story that combines a heist, life-or-death casual sporting wagers, illusion, magic, and religion into sixteen pages of pure comics joy, and I absolutely love it. Even beyond the main story, Fraction's "backmatter" content in this one is a great read in itself, and stands as one of those rare occasions where a writer talking about the inspiration for a story is almost as enjoyable as the story itself.
Bá's art, of course, is smooth as silk, with great panels that work with everything from Zephyr shrouded in a cloud of snakes to the brief, iconic fight sequence between Casanova Quinn--who, if you're just joining the party, is an international thief turned interdimensional double-agent--and the New Buddha (see above). It's just excellent, excellent stuff, and for two bucks a pop, it's one of those comics you owe it to yourself to read.
DMZ #11: With as much as I loved the initial, in media res storytelling that Brian Wood launched the series with, I'm a little surprised that I've liked the recent storylines--which deal largely with revealing the backstory of the Second American Civil War--as much as I have. Not that much of a surprise, anyway, because Wood's been amazingly solid with the storytelling on this book since day one. This issue in particular focuses on the Secret Origin of Zee, and features some phenomenal art by guest penciller Kristian Donaldson, who recently teamed with Wood on SuperMarket. I enjoyed that book a lot, and with this one, it's interesting to see Kristian's pencils colored with a much more varied palette, and they ended up reminding me a lot of Ryan Kelley's work on another Brian Wood collaboration, Demo. But, you know, with more explosions. And needless to say, that's a very good thing.
The Escapists #3: Brian K. Vaughan's Pride of Baghdad came out this week, and while I've heard a lot of good things about it, I oped out of picking it up myself. Sorry, Brian, but with 1001 Nights of Snowfall, The Black Dossier, and two Absolute Editions hitting the shelves in the near future, I had to wait for softcover for something After this and Ex Machina, though, I was starting to regret it: This series is not turning out at all like I thought it was going to. It's actually a lot more awesome, from last issue's blindsiding climax--easily one of my favorite last pages in recent memory--to Steve Rolston's pitch-perfect art for the book. Plus, this one's got a cover by John Cassaday, and, well, we all know how I feel about that guy.
Ex Machina #23: I toyed with the idea of taking the above review and just swapping out the titles and names of creators, but you people deserve slightly better than that. I think. Regardless, Ex Machina's been good for almost two full years now, and that's not a record that changes with this issue, although I do think this is the first time Mitchell Hundred's had a Lynchian hallucination of a talking dog wearing a tuxedo giving him vague clues about his destiny, and, well, I like that sort of thing. I like dancing backwards-talking midgets better, mind, but I like it nonetheless.
Fables #53: One of the things that Bill Willingham excels at in the pages of Fables--aside from his uncanny ability to dredge up forgotten, yet totally radical characters from obscure German folktales, a talent he shares with Mike Mignola--is the seemingly effortless way he takes those fairy-tale characters and fleshes them out into a fully-formed, relevant cast. And in this case, as the Adversary calls a Council of War to decide what to do with Fabletown, that seems to revolve around making them terrifying. Mark Buckingham's art is astounding in this one, too, especially in the way he renders the cold, enjoyably vicious smirks of the Snow Queen as she reveals her plan. In other words, it's another issue of Fables, just as phenomenal as the last, but with a fun backup story with art by Josh Middleton, too.
Firestorm: The Nuclear Man #29: Were I a lesser man, I would use this space every month to go on at interminable length about Mikail Arkadin (alias Pozhar), Svarozich (a Russian clone of Firestorm that was once merged with Ronnie Raymond to form the goofy, childlike Firestorm that fought during Invasion), and Mikail's neice, who championed the people of Russia as a member of Soyuz (or was that the People's Heroes? No, definitely Soyuz). Of course, there are two, maybe three people in the world who would actually want to read that, so I'll pass, and just mention that I'm really getting a kick out of this book.
Incredible Hulk #98: I absolutely love Planet Hulk--and I'm planning on loving the bejeezus out of World War Hulk, too--but at this point, it's not just that I think it's the best Hulk story in fifteen years; I actually think it might be the sole reason Greg Pak was put on this planet to begin with. And brother, this one's got it all, including the Hulk not only fighting a small army of bugs and being lauded as the messiah (or possibly destroyer) by the downtrodden people of Sakaar, but also throwing down with the Oldstrong in a sequence where Aaron Lopresti draws the kind of thunderous double-knockout punch that leaves a crater. And that, my friends, can only be called... Mantloesque.
Phonogram #2: The only reason I declared the first issue to be the best of the week and not the second is quite simply this: At no point in Phonogram #2 does our erstwhile protagonist compare himself to Henry Rollins. Of course, that doesn't mean that this isn't a good comic--it's great. Kohl's pretentious, Constantine-like mannerisms are as enjoyable here as they were in the first, and with the addition of the honest, reasonably oblivious Kid-With-Knife as his sidekick, they may actually work better for the contrast. The high point of this one, aside from the appearance of the Phonomancer's mortal enemy, is, of course, Jamie McKelvie's rendition of Kohl's information-overload explanation of who the Manic Street Preachers are and how they came to be, a band that I immediately assumed was fictional, right up until I got to Kieron Gillen's glossary of terms, presumably put there for people who, like me, are far less indie than David Kohl.
What can I say? I spent my childhood listening exclusively to metal and 70s funk.
Regardless, it's a great sequence that stands out even in book that's well-done all around. It's great stuff, and you should give it a try. If nothing else, you'll have the urge to hear that Kenickie song they talk about in the first issue, and I've gotta say: It's a catchy tune.
Ultimate X-Men #74: As excited I was to see Robert Kirkman come on this book (although I enjoyed Brian K. Vaughan's run and its "ultimatization" of Longshot), I've got to say: "Magical" was a pretty big letdown. A character with reality warping powers--which, incidentally, is pretty similar to Freedom Ring, recently stabbed-in-the-face to death over in Kirkman's Marvel Team-Up--is pretty tricky to handle and an easy one to fall flat with. I appreciate the "twist ending," but, well, it didn't do much for me. Here's hoping it gets better.
Wasteland #3: I'm not sure what it is about the post-apocalyptic/future Western subgenre, but I love those things. Daisy Kutter, Trigun, Firefly, all things that I really enjoy, and Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten's Wasteland is shaping up to be as enjoyable as the best of them. It's a book that so far has pulled a lot of the same tricks that the genre invites--and in some cases, almost demands--but with Johnston's scripts, even the desert-walking loner with shady connections to the technological caravan nomads doesn't seem like a cliché, and as odd as it was to type all that out, it's a trope that comes up a lot in these sorts of things. With this, though, there's so much added and mixed into the old standards that it comes off as a surprisingly enjoyable and fun read.
And, you know, just in case anybody at Oni spots this, I really like those t-shirts in the letters page. Just, uh, just sayin'.
Doom Patrol v.4: Musclebound: For a while, I wasn't sure if these issues were going to make it into trade paperback, considering the litigious proclivities of a certain Mr. Atlas that have kept Flex Mentallo from being reprinted all these years, but here it is! It's a Christmas Miracle! I haven't gotten around to reading it yet--what with the fact that it came out yesterday and all--but I am pretty excited about it, and I'm going to go ahead and make the educated guess that it won't be very much like the Teen Titans Go! issue I read a few days ago where the Doom Patrol guest-starred. Just a thought.