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Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Week In Ink: 10-18-06

If you count the Archie books, which I don't usually post about unless they contain the terror and glory that is Randolph, I bought thirty comic books yesterday. Even for me, that's a pretty hefty amount, especially when you throw three trades on top of it.

Unfortunately, this means that it just wasn't feasable for me to pick up a copy of Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter, so you're going to have to figure that one out for yourself. HINT: It's not very good.

But enough with the chit-chat!



You're right, crazy Batgirl, that is the kind of fun we like here on the ISB! And it's the perfect way to jumpstart my take-no-prisoners reviews for the third week of October, 2006!




Comics

52: Week Twenty-Four: Finally, almost halfway through this thing, and the big mysteries are starting to be revealed: As it turns out, all those statues of dead super-heroes we've seen over the years were carved by the furious punching of master sculptor/bon vivant J'onn J'onzz! Really, though, it's another highly entertaining issue. This time, the focus is, of course, on the Justice League that only I demanded fighting an army of pirates and cyborgs, which I believe I also demanded, and while Skeets turning on the heroes and mowing down innocent passers-by does seem like a pretty heavy homage to "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow," it all adds up to some good times.

If I could be serious for just one moment, though, I'd like to take this opportunity to remind everyone over at DC Comics that if E.S.Pete and The Tornado Ninja don't spawn legacies to rival the Flash dynasty, that'll be the biggest shame since Rick Veitch got kicked off Swamp Thing.

The Authority #1: It's been pretty well-chronicled here on the ISB that I love Grant Morrison's comics, but one of my biggest pet peeves in comics is reading a first issue that doesn't actually contain the stars of the book. Don't get me wrong, the whole thing's extremely well-done. Dave Campbell once wrote "The whole thing looks like it took ten years to draw" when talking about Gene Ha's work on Top Ten: The Forty-Niners, and he's no slouch even on pages that are almost entirely blank, but for a book like The Authority, which tends to be all about grand, cinematic action sequences, it feels very, very stretched out for me. It's not exactly "boring," but given the dense, jam-packed stories that Morrison's been turning out in books like All-Star Superman, Batman, and the Seven Soldiers titles, it certainly feels like an unnecessarily drawn-out opening for a book that usually revels in fast-paced action, and while that's certainly by design, there's nothing in the first issue to balance it out, and to be honest, it leaves me wanting.


ISB BEST OF THE WEEK




Batman and the Mad Monk #3: As far as I'm concerned, Matt Wagner's work on Batman is about as close to the perfect version of the character as we're likely to see.

Remind you guys that Wagner makes really, really good comics is probably the most unnecessary thing I've ever written, but the work he's been doing over the past year in this one and Batman and the Monster Men is absolutely phenomenal, and coming at a time when the two flagship Batman titles are better than they've been in a long while, that's saying something. Right from the opening sequence to this one, where Batman interrogates a thug through a judicious application of threats and violence, Wagner's doing things that we've all seen a dozen times before, but done so well that it really is like seeing it for the first time. The storytelling and pacing are masterful, and the art's amazing, and if you have any affection for Wagner's work, for Batman, or just for awesome comics, I cannot reccomend it highly enough.

Birds of Prey #99: Gail Simone and James Raiz blow through this one in preparation for next month's big centennial, and while it feels a little disjointed in parts, the new Batgirl's fantastic delusional lunatic dialogue and the Huntress beating someone with a television aerial go a long way towards making it a very enjoyable comic. Although I have to say, for my tastes, the ending goes a little (read: much) too far into the tearjerker side of things. The way I held the comic when I first read it, I missed all the captions on the left-hand side of the last page, and after they were pointed out to me, I liked it a lot better without them.


Casanova #5: As much as I enjoy plowing through the staggering amount of content that Matt Fraction and the immensely talented Gabriel Bá cram into sixteen incredible pages every month, I noticed with this issue that I'm really enjoying Fraction's four pages worth of text at the end, too. The question of where one gets their ideas is one that writers find difficult (or just annoying) to answer under usual circumstances, but Fraction's there in every issue, citing news stories and bits of trivia that he's picked up that combine to form the basis of his stories, and I'm fascinated by it, and it goes a long way towards explaining why Warren Ellis--who does the same thing on his website, filing away interesting news stories as research material--seems to like him so darn much, not that anyone really needed an excuse. Of course, I really doubt we're going to be getting the same thing in the pages of Punisher War Journal, but here's hoping.


Catwoman #60: This Issue: WILL PFEIFER GIVES YOU WHAT YOU WANT! Yes, last month's promise of Catwoman fighting a giant monkey on a rampage is fulfilled, and it reads like everyone involved is having an absolute blast with it. Even David Lopez's pencils--which I've enjoyed more and more every month since I first saw him back when Fallen Angel originally came out--seem looser and more energetic in this one, right down to Holly's lopsided grin when she's on the phone with Wildcat. What really clinches it, though, is the ending sequence, which is structured exactly like last month's, right down to the big last-page reveal, and while there's a feeling of repetition when it starts off, by the end it comes off as Pfeifer just using the same structure to raise the stakes one more time. Except this time, he's using one of my all-time favorites.


Checkmate #7: From Jewelee's reactions to Punch getting shot down last month right to King Faraday lying through his smirk to the highest echelons of world government, this issue reads a lot like an issue of John Ostrander's Suicide Squad. And considering that Squad was one of the best and most underappreciated comic books of all time, that's a very good thing. Excellent stuff.


Conan #33: I've always enjoyed Tim Truman's work as an artist--especially when he teamed up with Joe Lansdale for The Lone Ranger and the Jonah Hex books from Vertigo--but I've never really read much of his work as a writer, and with as much as I loved Kurt Busiek's work on Conan, I was a little wary, but Truman certainly acquits himself well in his first issue. With ten extra pages of story and a redesigned, easier-to-read letter column, it's a perfect jumping-on point, but the story itself has pretty much everything you want to see from Conan. And yes, that does include rescuing a comely wench from a pack of slavering wolves. On page six.


The Damned #1: I'd completely glossed over the preview for this one that ran in last month's Wasteland, and forgot about it entirely until I saw it come in yesterday, but trust me: You're going to want to give it a shot. It's gangster noir with demons in place of mafiosi with an undead hitman taking center stage, and it's excellent. Cullen Bunn's Spillaine-style tough-guy dialogue is sharp and dead-on without slipping down into cliché, and Brian Hurtt's moody, extremely expressive art is perfectly suited to a story set in the supernatural 1920s criminal underworld, handling the Laurel and Hardy-esque thugs and horned demons in three-piece suits equally well. It's an intriguing read, and it's well worth picking up.


Desolation Jones #7: Not that it really counts for much, but Desolation Jones was the first comic that I ever named "Best of the Week," and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that first story. Even so, a lot of what I enjoyed about it can be traced to the way that JH Williams laid out the pages, especially when it came to the brutal, fast-paced fight scenes that Warren Ellis wrote, so I was more than a little worried about how it was going to turn out when Williams jumped over to Detective. Danijel Zezelj, after all, is about as far from Williams as you can get in terms of style, and even with the long gap between issues, it's an unavoidable comparison. In practice, though, it works out much better than I'd originally thought it would, and I suspect that has a lot to do with Ellis's skill in writing to suit his artist and Jose Villarrubia's truly incredible coloring. Ellis, of course, is entertaining as always, and while there are a couple of awkward panels, it works out pretty well. I'm not sure if it's going to work out as well as the last story, but, well, not much in comics does.


Jack Kirby's Galactic Bounty Hunters #3: I think Kevin put it best: "I think I'm just buying this so Jack's kids can, I dunno, pay off their mortgages faster." I will say, though, that this is by far the most entertaining issue of the series we've gotten yet.


Noble Causes #24: After being thoroughly dissatisfied with last month's issue, it's nice to see that things have picked up quite a bit in this one. What really attracted me to the series in the first place was its well-done use of soap opera techniques blended with super-hero action, and while it's been on shaky ground for the past few months, this is the first issue where Jay Faerber's really gotten things back to a sense of forward momentum leading into next month's big #25. Even the reveal for this issue--because really, there's a reveal every issue with Noble Causes, that's sort of its trademark--is interesting and well-done, if not entirely unexpected, and as much as I was ready to write the whole series off after last month, this one's got me looking forward to the next.


Queen & Country #31: One of the things I've learned from reading this book for the past five years is that when Tara Chace is involved, things tend to go from bad to worse with remarkable speed, and in this issue, they go about as worse as they could possibly go. Of course, that's the whole fun of the series, as Greg Rucka's better at writing spy missions going sour than just about anyone else working in comics today, which is what made his take on the Suicide Squad so enjoyable seven reviews ago. Excellent as always.


Robin #155: It's business as usual for Beechen and Williams with another incredibly enjoyable issue of Robin that managed to really surprise me with the ending, but for me, the best thing about it was the way this month's cover tied into last month's. It's simple, but it's a great gimmick that we don't see nearly enough in comicsm, and I got a way bigger kick out of it than I probably should've.


Runaways #21: One of the problems with doing these reveiws every week--aside from the occasional moment where Photoshop decides to quit working when I've got twenty unsaved cover scans sitting in there--is that I'm really not sure how much people get out of them every week when it comes to certain books. Really, if you swap out a few context-sensitive jokes, I've got the same thing to say just about every month for titles like Fables, Y - The Last Man, and even Robin up there: They're all good, and they're always good, and that's a category that Runaways falls into pretty solidly. It's just a well-written, well-drawn (even by fill-in artists), well-inked, well-colored book on a reasonably consistent basis. The solution, of course, is that from now on, I'm just going to fill this space with battle rhymes against other comics bloggers. Watch for it.


Shadowpact #6: I knew I'd seen Flippy somewhere before. Anyway, it's probably because I don't read solicitations very closely, but I was pretty surprised to see Cory Walker, of Invincible fame, show up to do the art for this issue, and surprising absolutely nobody, he does a great job with it. Beyond that, the book continues to be fun, with what seems like Bill Willingham just chucking whatever concept for a supernatural villain pops into his head at Our Heroes, and then playing it out with sitcom-esque gags to keep things from becoming overly serious.


Union Jack #2: You know what? Union Jack is awesome. Admittedly, that probably as a lot to do with his costume, which--from the waist up--is one of the simplest and best designs ever put on the page, but I can't get enough of the guy, whether he's fighting vampires, or terrorists, or vampire terrorists, or pretty much whatever the heck he wants to fight. I'm down with it. Fortunately for those of you who don't share my unconditional love for UJ, Christos Gage and Mike Perkins are creating an excellent comic that'll give you a real reason to jump on.


Wasteland #4: Last month, I talked about how even the standard cliches of the post-apocalyptic western were being done well in this book, but this month, I've learned that Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten are talented enough to pull off a scene revolving around feudal tax policies in the grim future and still make it interesting and suspenseful. All joking aside, though, Wasteland is turning into something that really feels like an epic, and while that feeling can be traced to the extremely well-done promotional work from Oni--the ad on the back of The Damned this week with the three-line movie trailer structure across the top is a fantastic bit of marketing--there's more than enough in the comic to actually back it up. It's incredibly rich, and it's quickly becoming one of those books that I can't wait to read, and then sit down and read again once it's all said and done.

What Were They Thinking?! Monster Mash-Up: As long-time ISB readers with nothing better to do than memorize my buying habits can no doubt attest, I've gotten all of BOOM! Studos' WWTT books, and while none of them before now have really met my expectations, this one's the best of the lot by far. A lot of that has to do with Johanna Stokes's "Hats Off," which grabs the thinnest premise offered up by the art and just runs with it, but as far as I'm concerned, the best piece in the book is the one-page "Astro Alien Dog" gag strip that takes the whole concept behind remixing old comics and takes it to its logical extreme in a bit that's just the right length to support itself and still be funny. Not coincidentally, it--and something like forty-seven other bits in this thing--was written by pal and fellow comics blogger Kevin Church, namechecked here for the second time this evening in honor of his publication, and while I'd love nothing more than to trash this thing and take that sucker down a peg, he did a good job with it. Which, I imagine, just goes to show that pickling your brain with massive amounts of alcohol and late-90s Europeand dance music can have a positive side-effect after all.

WildCats #1: Do you have any idea how hard it is to be both wild and covert? Anyway, as much as I felt let down by the slow-paced nature of The Authority, this one hits the ground running pretty hard, with appearances by all kinds of Kherabim, and even tosses in a value-added fight scene to boot. The two books really function as an odd set of bookends for the comics of the week; WildCats feels fast-paced from the start, with the same sort of rapid-fire delivery of new concepts and catch-up information that you'd find in an issue of Casanova, and the end result is something really fun, and legitimately exciting. And even though I'm not a big fan of Jim Lee by any stretch of the imagination, the art's not that bad in a lot of places either, although it does only take him until page 12 to completely forget how legs are supposed to work. But you know, that's pretty much what I was expecting.

X-Factor #12: Watch me do this one in one sentence: The first year of X-Factor ends with the bang that's been building since #1, and while House of M may have been a nonsensical train-wreck of a crossover, it may have actually been worth it just to get to Peter David's incredibly enjoyable take on Layla Miller.


X-Men: First Class #2: By now, I'm sure you're all well aware that Jeff Parker is the writer of what I'm going to go ahead and predict will be the single greatest comic book of all time, but for right now, he's not exactly a slouch. With a great set of jokes right on the recap page and one of the best character moments for Professor X and Cyclops that I've seen in a long, long time, he and Roger Cruz are doing an absolutely phenomenal job of making a solid, all-ages X-Men book that's really enjoyable.


And that, my friends, is the whole stack! It's finally done!

...what? There's more?! All right then, buckle up. It's time for...




GRAPHIC NOVEL LIGHTNING ROUND


Cromartie High School v.8: Is hilarious.


Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall: Is excellent.


Showcase Presents: The Challengers of the Unknown v.1: Probably requires a little bit more explanation.

Aside from their appearance in Darwyn Cooke's DC: The New Frontier and a few scattered bits here and there, I've never really enjoyed any Challs stories that I've read, but I absolutely love the concept. In case you're not familiar with it, imagine what would happen if Steve Irwin, Kurt Angle, Chuck Yeagar, and Evel Knievel all decided to team up, put on matching purple jumpsuits, and beat the ever-living crap out of monsters.




Result: AWESOME.

17 Comments:

Blogger Earth-2 Leigh said...

I did the same thing with the last page of BoP. And I see "Batgirl" shares your occupation, according to her iSpace page.

Also, re your Shadowpact cover gag: Heh.

10/20/2006 4:52 AM

 
Anonymous jacob munford said...

Man, Union Jack was AWEsome with a capital AWE. I wouldn't Chris Gage and Mike Perkins on a Suicide Squad book. Like, now.

10/20/2006 7:43 AM

 
Anonymous heckblazer said...

Does your love of Grant Morrison's writing extend to Sea Guy?

Just askin'...

10/20/2006 7:46 AM

 
Anonymous Luke said...

Regarding "52." Once Super-Chief showed up, I immediately gave him a themesong.

HE'S A SUPER-CHIEF! SUPER-CHIEF! HE'S SUPER-CHIEFY, NOW!

10/20/2006 8:33 AM

 
Blogger Wrye said...

...but what about the lesbian subtext?

10/20/2006 8:55 AM

 
Blogger SallyP said...

Boy, howdy, it WAS a good week wasn't it?

10/20/2006 9:28 AM

 
Blogger Philip Looney said...

My LCS did not have a copy of What Were They Thinking - The Kevin Church issue.

And don't tell me I should read Previews. There should have bene some on the rack.

10/20/2006 9:34 AM

 
Anonymous Cody said...

I really liked the first six issues of Desolation Jones and was quite looking forward to the next arc, but I'm afraid I won't be around to see it to its conclusion. Danijel Zezelj's art is just so, well, gawd awful that I can't fathom spending any more money on it.

It's so bad that I forgot I was reading a Warren Ellis book for a while and actually thought, "Why the hell am I putting myself through this?" Does the man know how to draw a face?

I can't find any reviews online that agree with me. Can someone explain the appeal?

10/20/2006 10:48 AM

 
Blogger Chris Sims said...

Heckblazer: Of course! What's not to love about a book with Chubby the Choona and She-Beard?

Philip: I suggest you demand--demand, I say--that they order some more.

10/20/2006 2:56 PM

 
Blogger chasdom said...

Wasteland: SANDY! Seriously, is Christopher Mitten's art on this better than it was on Past Lies? I did not think he was very good on that.

Checkmate: Aw, man. Everytime it I hear about how this book is the new Suicide Squad, I just cry. Because... I just have this thing about Greg Rucka. I think his writing is awful, from the rave reviews that Whiteout received 10 years ago, all the way to Checkmate #1. All wrong. Just awful. Can't explain it.

"I wouldn't [mind] Chris Gage and Mike Perkins on a Suicide Squad book. Like, now." That's more like it. (I hope I inserted the right word there. Maybe it was some dirty word instead?).

10/20/2006 4:10 PM

 
Blogger Filthy McMonkey said...

I was also under-impressed by Teh Authority #1. I suppose I am but a fool for expecting better from The Grant.

Checkmate was excellent as well. It really did feel like the old SS for a few moments there.

10/20/2006 5:01 PM

 
Anonymous Matt T. said...

DC can do whatever it wants from now on as long as they give me more Ambush Bug. Morrison Ambush Bug, I'm guessing, and that's just fine with me.

10/20/2006 11:50 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris, who is the brilliant artist behind that picture with Ultivac's hand?


Mark

10/21/2006 2:00 AM

 
Blogger Chris Sims said...

Why, it's none other than Jack Kirby, with Roz on inks.

(I put that in the title tag of the picture. Kids, don't forget to hover your mouse over every image for BONUS HILARITY!)

10/21/2006 11:15 AM

 
Anonymous Imitation Cheese Spread Prime said...

Chris: "Really, if you swap out a few context-sensitive jokes, I've got the same thing to say just about every month for titles like Fables, Y - The Last Man, and even Robin up there: They're all good, and they're always good, and that's a category that Runaways falls into pretty solidly."

I'm all about context-sensitive. It's how I roll.

Keep saying what you say, Chris.

10/22/2006 5:36 PM

 
Anonymous Kyle said...

you note the covers for robin are linking (which i to was titillated by, without knowing why), but you dont say anything about how the last few X Factor covers link? granted, robins two covers i liked more, but Layla blowing the bubbles that make the dots on the covers was a winner in my book.

10/23/2006 3:32 PM

 
Blogger Chris Sims said...

I was actually prepared for that by--of all things--a poster of the whole interlinking image that was hung up in the bathroom at work.

Robin, however, came as unexpected, which is probably why it stuck out in my memory. Those X-Factor covers are great, though.

10/24/2006 10:21 PM

 

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