The Week In Ink: 9-20-06
As relatively astute readers will know, ever since I came back from Vacation Week, I've been kicking off each installment of my weekly comics reviews with a panel of Kick-To-The-Face Action!
Normally, this is the week where I'd rely on Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen's Nextwave to supply the goods, but surprising the hell out of everyone, nobody gets kicked in the face this month! It does, however, include a shot of The Captain chin-checking Rorkanu of the Dim Dimension with a bathroom sink, but as awesome as that is, it's not a kick to the face.
And around here, we still have standards.
Nah, just kiddin'.
Ah, sweet, sweet Lady Violence. You're always there when I need you.
Now then, BEHOLD! My skewed and potentially libelous remarks concerning my comic book purchases for the third week of September, 2006!
52: Week 20: As much as I love the stuff with the Emerald Eye of Ekron--which is developed here in such a forehead-slappingly obvious moment that it's a wonder we've never seen it before--I've gotta say: Pope Lobo is doing absolutely nothing for me, even if he does have an awesome coat and a hat he apparently bought at Hot Topic. Admittedly, it's got its moments, like Adam Strange pulling a Han Solo and Animal Man finally getting around to using his super-powers, but all things being equal, I'd much rather read about... pretty much anyone else that's been in this book so far.
As for the backup, Kevin Nowlan and Mark Waid do a fine job recapping Adam Strange's origin. Still, though, is it just me, or do the "Essential Storylines" listed for each one of these tend to veer more towards "What do we have in print right now?" It could just be because I don't care for The Man of Two Worlds, but Rann-Thanagar War should only be considered "essential reading" if you're being punished for something. Trust me: You can get everything you need to know from two issues of JLA, Planet Heist, and some Mike Barr Brave and the Bold.
Astonishing X-Men #17: It should come as no surprise to anyone that this issue of Astonishing shipped with a completely unnecessary variant cover, but this time, it's actually even more unncessary than usual: It's a sketch cover. Of a cover that--while I think is great--is mostly white space. So, yeah. Regardless, it's another absolutely fantastic issue from Whedon and Cassaday of what is consistently one of the most enjoyable comics on the stands. Whedon has a gift for delivering these great, fist-pumping "All right!" moments, and while there's more than a few of them to get you excited in this issue, there are very few things I've ever seen in comics that beat the sheer excitement and anticipation generated by that last page. Excellent, excellent stuff.
Birds of Prey #98: If there's one thing Gail Simone excels at--aside from, y'know, writing all those really good comics--it's those great one-liners she drops into her scripts. They're great little jokes, and with the Karate Kid and Call of Cthulhu references in the pages of The All-New Atom, I'd assumed they were being written solely for my enjoyment. This time out, though, there's one that's even better. I won't spoil it, but I will say this: It'd be perfect if it had the entire bit of profanity in it.
Catwoman #59: Last week, I was having a conversation about this book with the Esteemed Dr. Kunka where he mentioned that Will Pfeifer is one of those guys that has this encyclopedic film knowledge rattling around in his head, and he seems to be having a great time putting it to use for Film Freak, writing with a sense of fun that spills over to the reader even when he's, you know, smashing acidic fruit into the faces of innocent passers-by and--in this issue's two-fisted climax--revealing the one immutable truth of comic books on the last page. More to the matter at hand, though, this is the issue where the identity of Catwoman's... oh, the hell with it, I'm just going to say it: Catwoman's babydaddy is revealed, and while it certainly makes sense, the reveal itself feels a little awkward and soap-operatic. If I may be allowed to dabble in Pfeifer's brand of movie references, I'll just say that while it's better than the mandatory love scene of any mid-90s action movie--your Fair Game, that sort of thing--it's not that much better.
Checkmate #6: I usually try to avoid explicit spoilers in my reviews on the off chance that you people have better things to do with your Wednesday nights than get through twenty funnybooks, but there's no getting around it here: This issue features the return of Rick Flagg, and I'm honestly not sure how I feel about that. Aside from my general distaste from characters returning from the dead (with the notable exception of Nemesis and a handful of others), Flagg had one of the best deaths in in a book that was filled with great deaths, and I'm not sure that there's anything left to be said about the character after what was a perfect ending for him. Still, Greg Rucka's one of my favorite writers and the Suicide Squad's one of my favorite concepts, so I'm more than willing to give it a chance.
Civil War #4: At this point, you've probably read far more reviews of this one than you ever needed to--including Jake's in-depth examination over at Ye Olde Comick Booke Blogge, which I agree with on most every point--but allow me to be the last one to say it: This is the one where this thing completely fell apart. First off, have the good people at Marvel Comics learned nothing from the past fifteen years? Seriously, a Thor Clone? That's what you've got? Look, clones are always bad news, and even moreso when they are clones of gods that don't make any sense. Admittedly, I have no trouble believing that Reed Richards could crack the DNA of what the Official Handbook would term "an extradimensional being once worshipped on Earth as a god" and grow a new one in a jar somewhere, but what exactly is the point? The Thor Clone--or "Thhor" as he'd be known in crappy Star Wars novel parlance--doesn't seem to demonstrate any super-powers whatsoever other than a mad-on to kill a minority character so that the creators can wedge in the symbolism of a thirty-foot black man wrapped in chains. The hammer's a piece of technology, and considering there's a scene where Reed drills into his head--presumably to fix those pesky murder-vibes--we can rule out invulnerability, too. I'm not even sure why that guy talks in a different font than everybody else.
Then there's the problem that most everyone save for Captain America acts at least slightly out of character. Nighthawk quitting the team, that's fine. Cable? I might not like the character, but there's no reason for him to quit, especially in light of what's going on in his own book. And as for Cassie Lang, you could make the argument that she's come to the sudden realization that having the ability to grow makes you a larger target when Reed and Tony unleash their Super-Murderweapons on their best friends, but she's a lot braver than that in Young Avengers. And in one of the worst moments of the series so far, we have the last-page reveal of Marvel's Suicide Squad, which includes Bullseye, who once murdered a church full of nuns.
Spider-Man spends part of this issue slowly coming to the realization that maybe he's been on the wrong side all this time. Well, Peter, as a public service, here's how you can tell you've picked the wrong side: WHEN YOUR TEAM INCLUDES A GUY WHO MURDERED A BUNCH OF NUNS. Hope that clears it up.
Even with that, though, there are a few good parts. McNiven's art, of course, is fantastic as always, and as strange as it may be, Hercules is great--but as I've said before, he's pretty much the only super-hero I ever want to see fighting other super-heroes on a regular basis. Even Sue's letter to Reed, though, while it's one of the high points of the issue, is soaked in Millar's standard over-the-top tough-guy dialogue ("Oh, right, WE HAD THE SEX.") Still, this issue was supposed to be the turning point, and, well, it looks like it's turning pretty grim from here.
Conan #32: I'll be honest: I'm not a big fan of the Adventures of Kid Conan-style stories that Kurt Busiek and Greg Ruth have been doing that detail his early life in Cimmeria. This one, however, is one of the best Conan stories I've ever read.
I have no choice but to summarize the plot here, so if you want to experience it entirely for yourself, feel free to just take my word for it that this issue has everything I want to see from the dark-haired, sullen-eyed Cimmerian--only made almost immeasurably more badass by the fact that he's a teenager when he does it all--and skip down to the next review.
Still here? Okay, so here's what Young Conan does in this issue: He wakes up, pleasures two comely wenches, snaps a bull's neck with his bare hands, and then punches a man so hard that one hit kills him.. And that's all in one day. Like I said, it's the combination of over-the-top brutality done in Kurt Busiek's fantastic style, a Gandalf-esque one-eyed sorcerer, and a plot that reveals the hidden origins of the war with Aquilonia that drives Conan to leave his native land that all add up to being exactly what I want out of this book. It is, quite simply, a fantastic piece of comics.
But hey, what did I expect? It's Conan.
Dwight T. Albatross's The Goon Noir #1: Fresh from the letters pages of Eric Powell's The Goon comes Dwight T. Albatross, one of the most entertaining and goofy bits in a comic made up almost entirely of highly entertaining and goofy bits, and I can't get enough of the guy. The concept behind the book, of course, is different creators tackling Powell's characters--including, you'll be glad to hear, the Little Unholy Bastards--and with folks like Patton Oswalt, Mike Ploog, Bill Morrison, and Ryan Sook (among others) contributing their talent to four black-and-white gag strips, the end result is a very fun read. Plus, there's a centerfold in this one, and, well, you're going to want it.
Exiles #86: You know, it takes a very talented person to write an Elisie Dee that isn't incredibly annoying, but with a single piece of dialogue on page three, Tony Bedard proves himself more than equal to the task. Like I said last month, I'm not a regular Exiles reader, but a story featuring almost nothing but alternate reality Wolverines fighting each other and the berserker rage we've all been waiting for since Origin #3, this one pushes just the right buttons to get me to jump on for a couple issues, and I was more than pleased with the results. Seriously, give it a shot, it's a great little read.
Iron Man #12: I'd usually be a lot more excited about an issue where Iron Man battles his own specialized suits gone rogue, but the whole thing here seems oddly jumbled and crammed together for the purpose of getting to the Civil War reference on the last page. It could just be that I read it after reading Civil War, but the whole idea of Tony losing control of his armor and then having the Avengers battle it out while he cracks jokes over the comm-link doesn't quite strike the chord it's going for when it's sitting in the shadow of Iron Man accidentally killing one of his friends and trying to punch Captain America's jaw off. And while it's nice that Charles and Daniel Knauf are keeping Warren Ellis's Extremis as a viable plot point and driving story element, the fact that it allows for Tony to be revived after being clinically dead for thirty-seven minutes doesn't sit well with me either; an immortal Iron Man doesn't really allow for a sense of danger. It's not a terrible comic, but I'm rapidly losing my taste for any Iron Man story that does not include the words "Armor" or "Wars" in the title, and at least one appearance by Fin Fang Foom. Could just be me, though.
Nextwave: Agents of HATE #8: Were I a lesser man, I would use my position as the Internet's Leading Expert on Elsa Bloodstone to inform you all that the flashbacks to her childhood in this issue are wildly contradictory to what happens in her own mini-series. Considering, however, that This Is Nextwave, a book where Ellie's seen battling a city full of Mindless Ones, some of whom are re-enacting West Side Story, I'm willing to make allowances for it on the grounds of total and complete radness. Plus, that second flashback is golden, son. Absolutely golden.
Robin #154: Adam Beechen and Freddie Williams II continue their absolutely phenomenal run on what may end up being the best solo teen super-hero comic since Impulse. Admittedly, that's a lot of qualifiers, but the way things are going now, Beechen's nearly-perfect Batman-in-miniature style stories and WIlliams's sharp, energetic pencils are progressing to the point where there as good as anything else on the market. What caught my eye specifically in this issue--aside from Tim Drake's great wheels-within-wheels master plan for foiling a gang of kidnappers--was the great string of fight sequences that Williams draws, from Tim's Clark Kentish attempts at feigned clumsiness to a great moment when he decides to stop playing around with the bad guys. It's fun, it's clever, and it's easily one of the best book's DC's publishing. No joke.
Runaways #20: And speaking of teen hero books that I can't get enough of, we have Runaways. I was, of course, bummed out to hear that Brian K. Vaughan and regular artist Adrian Alphona were leaving the book a couple weeks ago, and while the news that Joss Whedon was taking over writing was certainly good news, I'll still be sad to see them go. No surprise, I'm sure, since I sing their praises as loudly as possible every time this book comes out. As for this issue, Mike Norton does a fine job with pencils, and while it's not my favorite issue of the run, it's certainly entertaining, especially seeing as it contains one of the best uses of Vaughan's signature clever wordplay.
Shadowpact #5: Hey, look! It's Tim Drake's dead ex-girlfriend! I'd completely forgotten about her! Anyway, it's another fun issue of Supernatural Action from Bill Willingham and Steve Scott, and while I wouldn't call it remarkable, it's certainly got its moments: The magical prison run by Coldrake, a well-done action sequence with Ragman, and of course: Blue Devil's Awesome Beard. That thing is unstoppable.
Superman #656: It might be a bad sign that I'm way more excited about the fact that there are word balloons on the cover than I actually am about the contents of the comic, but to be fair, I frigg'n love word balloons on the cover. Inside, though, there is one nice thing, and that's a further explanation of how the idea of Superboy works in the post-Infinite Crisis DC Universe. It's a concept that works out a lot better than I thought it was going to--despite the fact that I like the Silver Age stories, I think the concept behind Superboy is fundamentally flawed and really doesn't work in the current DC Universe--it's still not as good as being completely rid of it.
Union Jack #1: Need a reason to read this one? I'll give you three:
That's right: The French Art of Foot-Fighting is once again putting boot-to-face in the Marvel Universe. Beyond that, though, I've been looking forward to this ever since UJ made his comeback in Brubaker's Captain America, and while I wasn't a huge fan of Christos Gage's Deadshot mini-series (mostly, I expect, due to my distaste for Deadshot's costume at the time and my affection for the John Ostrander mini from the late 80s), he and penciller Mike Perkins are a perfect fit for this one. It's a great little story of super-heroes battling super-terrorists, and if the first issue's any indication, it's going to be a highly entertaining series.
Wetworks #1: It should come as no surprise to anyone that I'm ridiculously excited about the Wildstorm relaunch, and while I was a fan of WildCATS and Gen13 in my youth and StormWatch and The Authority as I got older, I've never once read a single issue of Wetworks. Even so, Mike Carey wrote my absolute favorite run on Hellblazer, and he's got a lot of cred built up with me as a result, so I'm willing to take a chance on this one. As for how it works out, well, to be honest, the first fifteen pages did very little for me, but once the team gets together and gets their mission, things start to pick up quickly, and by the end of it, I'm pretty intrigued about where it's going. I'm looking forward to the next issue, and for someone coming in with no expectations, that's a good way to end up.
X-Factor #11: Sadly, this issue does not open with Jamie Madrox finding himself in peculiar romantic entanglements, but since we got that last issue, we should probably be just be thankful and move on. Regardless, it's another entertaining installment of the most solid and entertaining Peter David book I've ever read, and while there's a little too much (read: any) Quicksilver in it for my tastes, it's good stuff.
X-Men: First Class #1: Between this and Agents of Atlas, I'm pretty excited about Jeff Parker, and since I've got fond memories of reading through reprints of early X-Men stories when I was a kid--back when I formed the opinion that the Vanisher has what may be the worst costume of the sixties--it was a pretty natural choice for me to jump onto his take on in-continuity stories of the original team's early days, and I was not disappointed. To be honest, I could take or leave the plot, seeing as it features the X-Men heading to Antartica to peacefully resolve a conflict with a ten-eyed plant monster, but Parker excels at the characterizations in this one. The whole thing's narrated through a letter that Iceman's writing home to his parents, and as he goes through neatly-packaged introductions of each character, they all come off as extremely likeable--even the Angel, whom I usually hate. It's fun, and it's a great concept, but the only problem is that--in theory, at least--it's attempting to fill a void that was already filled by Millar's early issues of Ultimate X-Men, only sticking to established continuity rather than updating the whole shebang to a modified version of the original Claremont run. Regardless, it's a fun read, and entirely kid-friendly, by the way.
The Batman Chronicles v.2: Finally, a second affordable collection of chronologically-ordered Golden Age Batman stories, much to the delight of... well, it's pretty much just me and Brandon at Random Panels who wanted this. Seriously, though, as clunky as they can be sometimes, those Golden Age stories are mostly nothing but Batman punching gangsters right in the mouth, and if nothing else, it's always fun to go back and see what elements of a character's past have endured to the prese--HOLY CRAP BATMAN JUST PUT A TIGER IN THE FULL NELSON!!
God bless you, Golden Age