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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Last Week In Ink: 11-22-06

It's been almost a week since Thanksgiving, so I'm pretty sure that most of the American public has now returned from its incoherent, Tryptophan-induced haze, but for those of you still lagging behind, here's a little wake-up call:

There's only one way that could be better, friends: Mandroids.

That's right: In the interest of keeping things current, I'm going to go ahead and review last week's comics, but considering that you've all had a chance to actually go to the store and look through, say, Wonder Woman on your own, I'm just going to hit the highlights here. If you're curious, though, you can click here to find a full list of what I spent my money on this week.

Now then, on with it!


Action Comics #845: I think made my distaste for this book's new direction pretty clear in my comments on last issue, but right now, the only thing keeping me on this book is curiosity over how the 3-D issue's going to work out, and that really might not be enough, as this thing's a mess. Right from the opening shots of benevolent floating head of this year's version of Jor-El (#5 in a series!), there's absolutely nothing here that I care about, and for good reason: It's all stuff that I've seen before. To make matters worse, in the case of the "surprise" revelation that it's all a plot of the Phantom Zone criminals, it's something I've seen before from the same guy writing it now, and I've got my doubts that Richard Donner's going to do a better job of it now than he did it twenty-six years ago, and I'm certain that he and Johns aren't going to do it better than Byrne. It's nothing that I need to see again, and in all honesty, it's probably nothing I need to see in my stack of comics next month.

Daredevil #91: Yesterday, I was reading through an issue of the Dan Jurgens/Johh Romita Jr. run of Thor--the one where the crazy military guy transfers his mind to the Destroyer armor, beats Thor to death, and then has the courtesy to just knock out and tie up the rest of the Avengers--and I realized that one of the things I really, really like to see in that book is the moment where the bad guy has pretty much won, and Thor finally rises up from being beaten half to death with a big "I say thee nay!" or whatever, and then proceeds to kick everybody's ass. Admittedly, that kind of thing happens to everybody in the Marvel Universe every now and then, but Daredevil--a character that's as far from Thor that you can get in pretty much every respect--is defined by those same kinds of moments, and this issue, once he finally figures out that he's been played for a fool and comes down on the guilty parties like a hard rain, is one of the most enjoyable I've seen in a long while.

Or it could be that he just reminded me of Thor because he hit somebody in the face with a hammer really, really hard in this issue. Either way, it's awesome.

Jack of Fables #5: The first storyline for Jack of Fables has ended, and while it's rapidly becoming one of those books that I can't say enough good things about, every time I read it, I find something new to love. This time, it's the little one-line gags on the covers that are worked into the logo every month. I'd noticed them before, but the one for this issue just struck me as absolutely hilarious, and while I'm not sure if it's part of James Jean's department as cover artist to work those in (like he did with the equally funny protest signs on #1), but whoever it is does a great job with it. Inside, of course, things are kept to their usual high levels of quality to wrap up one of the year's best stories, even if I have no idea how Humpty Dumpty got super-powers. Excellent stuff!

But not as excellent as...


Punisher War Journal #1: I'm saying this as a guy who likes everything of Matt Fraction's that he's read, has wanted to see Ariel Olivetti on a comic that was actually good for a few years, and as someone who once read over 300 Punisher comics in the span of three weeks: Punisher War Journal #1 was even better than I wanted it to be.

As tied as he is to gritty, street-level crime stories, I've always thought that the way the desire to have militaristic "realism" in The Punisher--which sets him aside from the rest of the Marvel Universe as a vigilante rather than a super-hero and occasionally results in stories where he goes undercover as a meth-dealing biker so that he can kill an ersatz Charles Manson--isn't always a good thing. And that's where this book comes in, and if this is the way that the Punisher returns to interacting with the Marvel Universe, it's unquestionably going to be the best thing that comes out of Civil War.

Fraction's script is tight and well-done, cramming in a great amount of action with the same kind of intensity and humor that marks his work on a book like Casanova, and the scene where Frank Castle pulls on his white gloves and picks up a futuristic SHIELD-tech rifle after having a conversation with a guy who owns a horde of adorable Iron Man robots combines exactly what I like about the Punisher with exactly what I love about the Marvel Universe as a whole. Olivetti, of course, does his usual great job, with a style that fits the writing perfectly and with a great eye for detail. His Punisher looks great, and from the opening battle with Stilt Man to the last-page Frank Miller homage, it's a great-looking book.

Needless to say, if you like things that are awesome, you really need to get it.

Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #12: By now, it's no secret that I'm a total girl for loving this book, but the main thing to watch out for in this issue is the lettercolumn--or, to be more accurate, the lack thereof. Apparently, there just weren't enough letters to print in this issue, which means that after Sean McKeever and Takeshi Miyazawa's usual entertaining teen drama, we got a picture of a sad Mary Jane with Spider-Man telling us that she's upset because nobody's been writing her letters. It's a genius bit of guilt-trip marketing, and it's nothing if not effective. So here's the one I'm sending in:

Dear MJ Loves You,
Until Midtown High's new yellow-shirted student Luke starts hanging out with Danny, the foreign exchange student from K'un Lun, Make Mine Mary Jane!

...Wait... that would actually be totally awesome.


X-Factor #13: After I was done reading through this one, I went back and read its predecessor, the original psychoanalysis story from X-Factor v.1 #87, and I've got to say: As much as I find myself disenchanted with Peter David a lot of the time, when that guy's good, he's pretty darn good. It's this kind of issue that he really excels at, and as fashionable as decompression is as a storytelling technique now, it's nice to see how taking an issue that does nothing but get into the characters' heads as they react to the ongoing story should be done. As for the art, I've been wanting Pablo Raimondi on this book ever since I picked up Madrox in trade. He's a perfect fit for it, and this issue shows that off pretty well.


Degrassi Extra Credit v.1: Turning Japanese: Finally, the single most successful Canadian television show of all time is available in comic form, and if I wasn't already a total girl for loving Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, the fact that I'm absolutely thrilled about this thing would do it. Degrassi: The Next Generation, as longtime readers might recall, was the object of one of my customary obsessions over the past year, and I've been waiting for this pretty eagerly ever since it was announced. It actually works out really well: Canadian Firestorm fan J. Torres nails the show perfectly, right down to the flaws, and since the flaws are half the charm of the intense melodrama of the show, it works to his favor. Plus, he even throws in the standard Heather Sinclair reference for good measure and, thanks to the unlimited special effects budget of a comic book, tosses in a scene where the oh-so-emo Ellie Nash jumps through a skylight and throws down with a gang of ninja, pretty much assuring that I would love it.

No, seriously.

On the art side of things, Ed Northcott does a fine job handling pencils with a stripped-down style, although he manages to get every character to look like their live-action counterpart with the ironic exception of Ellie and JT, this volume's lead characters. It's not like there's any trouble picking out who they are, but everybody else looks exactly right, so the minor differences on those two stand out more than they would otherwise. Still, it's not half bad, and if you're a fan of Canadian teen drama and comics--and if you're reading this on the ISB, there's a disturbingly high chance that you are--give it a shot. It's worth it.

Marvel Holiday Special Digest: I've actually got both Holiday specials that are reprinted in this thing (and the other two issues are readily available in a few formats), but it bears repeating: Jeff Parker's "SANTRON" story is one of the best holiday specials ever, and if you don't have it, you need it.

Showcase Presents the Unknown Soldier v.1: I realize that nobody's tastes are quite as unique as we'd like to think they are, but really: I've got to be the only one who was equally excited about getting Degrassi and The Unknown Soldier, right?

And that's all for tonight's reviews! But be here tomorrow when the ISB takes on... Well, this, really, only with newer comics. But don't worry.

I've got a surprise coming for you on Friday.


Blogger paperghost said...

The three part Donner run absolutely sucks so far. Oh look, its the six thousandth version of Zod and company. Bizarro has turned into a big, mindless oaf with none of the backwards logic that made him an interesting character in the first place.

Despite Dan Didio - oh, how I hate thee - repeatedly stating that stuff from the films wouldn't end up in the comics, LOOKEE HERE!

If it wasn't bad enough that stuff from Superman Returns was hovering in your peripheral vision in Up, Up and Away, you now basically have Superman Returns: The Rehash in print form. When they had the kid catch the globe I about wanted to stab myself in the face with my fist.

"Last Son of Krypton" has to be the most completely useless tagline for a character in history at this point.

Did I say how much I hate this comic yet?

11/30/2006 3:57 AM

Anonymous Patrick said...

Man, I actually like Action Comics a lot and don't quite get the ho-hum reaction from most of the blogosphere. I'll admit that it's not a terribly novel book (hah! I amuse myself sometimes), but it does straight-ahead Superman action very well. It's a very classical, no-frills take on the core character and for some reason that's what I want right now. Plus Kubert's sketchy art has a nice sense of movement and heft, and his Clark is the perfect mix of Quitely-esque big lug and John Byrne casual.

I'm wondering if I can overcome my own self-consciousness and buy the Degrassi book. Probably not. But I'll flip through it in Borders while glancing around nervously, I'm sure.

11/30/2006 3:58 AM

Blogger paperghost said...

"Plus Kubert's sketchy art has a nice sense of movement and heft, and his Clark is the perfect mix of Quitely-esque big lug and John Byrne casual."

Some of the art is good, but then for no reason other pages look like people got hit with the fugly stick. And however you look at it, we now have yet *another* Kyrptonian running around the place. Again.

/ awaits crisis on infinite supermen

11/30/2006 7:36 AM

Blogger Cheeseburger said...

"I've got a surprise coming for you on Friday."

Now that's a genius bit of (anticipatory) marketing, and it's nothing if not effective.

11/30/2006 11:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope your surprise involves kicking in the face! Or even punching with something like unto a thing of something?

11/30/2006 11:46 AM

Blogger David Cutler said...

Is Degrassi really more successful than Kids in the Hall? Didn't the SNL producers beg them to join the cast in 95 or something?

Anyway, Degrassi the Next Generation is actually pretty good. It's no Kenny vs Spenny, but as Canadian produced television goes it's well above Corner Gas or Forever Knight.

11/30/2006 12:58 PM

Blogger Jeff said...

There's plenty to criticize in the Donner Action run, but Dave Stewart's coloring is transcendant and the fightin' stuff is absolutely kick ass. I hate that Bizarro no am talk like Bizarro should not, but I am a fan of watching him get pummelled with public transit.

Does anyone doubt that the brat is going away at the end of this arc? They just can't keep him around for the long-term.

11/30/2006 1:49 PM

Blogger Kevin said...

Alright Chris,
You're going to have to give me a bit more of a review of "The Unknown Soldier" showcase than that. I got this thing and have plowed through it and am now almost done with it. As much as I love the rest of the Showcases, this has to be my favorite so far. The only thing that has disappointed me is that I've seen no Unknown Soldier/Haunted Tank crossover.

11/30/2006 2:01 PM

Anonymous Julian said...

Chris, did you get the New X-Men omnibus? Would you recommend it? Were there any errata?

11/30/2006 3:34 PM

Blogger Brandon said...

Screw "A Christmas Carol." I plan on reading the SANTRON story to my kids every Christmas.

11/30/2006 5:19 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


11/30/2006 8:43 PM

Blogger timmdrums said...

Now you've convinced me to pick up the Degrassi trade. As a Kevin Smith fan (who's an unabashed fan of THAT show), I now must know why it is so loved. We're actually having a Clerks 2 party on Saturday, and Mooby wear is mandatory!

11/30/2006 9:13 PM

Anonymous Haole said...

Re: Action Comics, yeah, I agree with what Jeff commented. Bizarro losing his backwards speech sucked (maybe it's a clone of Bizarro?), but that was the only thing about this issue that I hated. I didn't like the first issue at all, but watching Superman and Bizarro beat each other up with buses is something I could use a little more of in my comics.

As someone who never read a Superman story prior to the OYL later jump, the reveal of the stylish Phantom Zone Kru got me excited about the rest of the run.

And the "THRILLER! THRILL-her night!" on the Daredevil cover joke made me laugh.

11/30/2006 9:27 PM

Anonymous Lorene said...

Oh, man, the panel in the War Journal where Frank is gettin' beat up by all the little Iron Man robots was THE best thing I've seen in eons.

[paraphrased]- "Please don't let it end like this- not with cute cuddly robots."

11/30/2006 9:38 PM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

David Cutler: I remember reading somewhere that Degrassi was indeed the most successful Canadian TV program of all time. Behold! The power of The N!

Kevin: I'm almost positive that I'm going to be doing more than a few posts about the Unknown Soldier Showcase eventually.

Julian: I did not get the New X-Men Omnibus. I had all the issues, and when I sold them back, I switched over to the three oversized hardcovers (which, I believe, are just as big as the omnibus, but ten bucks cheaper and easier to read).

Timmdrumms: Outside of Jeff Anderson, I absolutely hated Clerks 2. Smith's appearance on the three-part Degrassi season finale, however, is totally rad.

11/30/2006 10:10 PM

Blogger paperghost said...

"As someone who never read a Superman story prior to the OYL later jump, the reveal of the stylish Phantom Zone Kru got me excited about the rest of the run."

You probably wouldn't feel so happy to see them if you'd already seen more versions of Zod than Doctor Who.

Hitting each other with buses is fine, but really, SHOULD that be the highpoint of this story? Considering its the near messianic arrival of Richard Donner, you'd expect the storyline highpoint to be something a little more in-depth than school bus table tennis. Yet across most of the sites this run has been mentioned, everybody comes back to the bit with the buses as the main feature. I dunno, I'm just expecting a little more considering the writinig team.

12/01/2006 2:45 AM

Blogger The Doc said...

Chris said: "even if I have no idea how Humpty Dumpty got super-powers"

According to one story, Humpty Dumpty was actually the nickname of a cannon used in the English Civil War at St. Mary's church in Colchester. It was blown off the wall and then the cavalry (king's horses & men) tried to fix it but were unsuccessful. It might be apocryphal, but it's probably what Willingham was thinking of.

12/03/2006 7:34 PM

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