The Week In Ink: 11-01-06
Boy, it sure is Thursday night!
Anyway, on the off chance that you've never read it, I'd like to start off tonight's installment of my weekly comics reviews with a panel that pretty much sums up the entire run of The Authority:
Sweet, preposterous violence! How I love thee.
And now, the comics I bought for this, the first week of November! But before we actually get to them, I'd like to note that I'm doing things a little differently this week. Instead of actually reviewing everything I bought (26 comics in total), I'm going to skip over a few of them in the interest of saving a little time. After all, I liked, say, All-New Atom #5 just fine, I don't really have anything new to say about it.
So if there's a big blank space and you're wondering what I thought of that particular comic, just assume I said some very nice things and was totally hilarious.
52: Week 26: Despite the fact that I've got a lot of affection for him, I'd only consider myself a casual fan of Captain Marvel, and I'm only vaguely aware of Dr. Sivana's family from the stories my friend Chad's recounted from his reading of the Shazam! Archives, one of which involved an attempt to kill Billy Batson with the use of, and I quote, a million tons of dynamite. Still, any family where the kids argue about who gets to use the highly volatile and Waverider-infested time portal to fix their elementary school traumas before going upstairs to have dinner with the guy who ripped Terra-Man in half six months ago probably has a lot of entertainment value built right in, even if they do share their home with someone who really ought to be fighting Spider-Man.
Agents of Atlas #4: There's really no getting around it: Jeff Parker, Leonard Kirk, Kris Justice and Michell Madsen are doing one of the best series Marvel's putting out right now, and while it doesn't feature a scene where a killer robot and an ape with four machineguns take on SHIELD, this one's easily my favorite issue so far. It has a lot to do with the fact that all of the time-consuming explanation seems to be out of the way by now, and without having that to weigh it down (as enjoyable as it's been), the story really kicks into all-out action, and it's fantastic. Even the characters are getting more likeable as the book progresses, and with six action sequences and a fun, one-page text piece detailing the stuff that was left out, Parker's cramming more fun into this book than anything else outside of Nextwave. Incredible stuff.
The All-New Atom #5
American Splendor #3: I've mentioned before that while I've found myself really enjoying everything I've read from Harvey Pekar, I can't exactly pin down why I like it. With this issue, though, I think I finally put my finger on it. It might not be that obvious from your end, but one of the things I try to do when I write is to come off as conversational as possible, and Pekar does conversational writing better than just about anyone else I've read in comics. Of course, I imagine it's a lot easier to be conversational when you're relating an autobiographical story directly to the reader rather than, y'know, detailing the Hulk's all-out gamma-powered battle against the Avengers or whatever, but the casual way that his anecdotes are delivered goes a long way to keeping Pekar's stories interesting, even when they're just about a night of insomnia.
BEYOND! #5: Right now, Marvel's running a crossover where government stooges led by Iron Man enforce an American law that, for some reason, specifies that they go to Egypt and round up N'Kantu the Living Mummy because he apparently did not register his super-powers. Meanwhile, from that very same company, we have BEYOND!, which continues to slip below at lot of people's radar while quietly being one of the best mini-series of the year. Every issue's been top notch, and this one fits that bill perfectly as it ramps up to the climax, with a twist ending that, while certainly surprising, wasn't entirely unexpected. Seriously, it's got just about everything that I like about the Marvel Universe. And the Space Phantom.
Blue Beetle #8
Criminal #2: I mentioned in my review of the last issue that my least favorite part of a heist story is the whole "getting the team together" bit, but this issue focuses on what I do like: The heist itself, and how either everything goes right, or everything goes spectacularly wrong, and this issue nails it. Of course, it's no surprise that this issue's awesome; it seems like all Ed Brubaker does these days is write good comics, and the last time he teamed up with the incredible Sean Philips for Sleeper, the result was one of the best crime comics I've ever read, and with the triple-cross ending that comes from this issue, it's shaping up to be every bit as good. Excellent stuff.
Detective Comics #825: With the rare exception, like the Hercules story that comes in the middle of Walt Simonson's run on Thor, fill-in issues are generally pretty annoying. It's even worse when you're enjoying a run as much as I've been with Paul Dini's, because they can't help but be a little disappointing, and this one really does nothing to mitigate that, as it's the textbook definition of a mediocre fill-in story. It's not the worst thing you're ever going to read by a long shot, but Royal McGraw's script is a a simple, done-in-one structure that's full of the standard Batman clichés that reads like it was made to sit in a drawer somewhere until needed, and to be perfectly honest with you, the art's pretty rough. Marcos Marz's pencils aren't terrible in and of themselves (but really, they're not that good, either), but it's Luciana Del Negro's inking that really ruins it. The outlines for all of the characters are done in thick black lines while the interiors are barely shaded at all, which has the effect of making everyone look like cardboard cut-outs in a lot of places. So like I said: Typical fill-in material, and incredibly skippable.
Ex Machina #24: On his weekly MySpace Bulletin--which is by far the best reason to sign up for your own network of fake internet friends--Brian K. Vaughan said that this issue featured his favorite last page of the series so far, and for a book that's been largely defined by its last-page reveals, that's a pretty bold statement to live up to. Fortunately, while it's not my favorite, it is a good one, and much like everything that's gone before in this book for the last two years, it's an excellent cap to a great story, and while it's not on the last page, there is a fantastic reveal that's got me pretty excited.
Incredible Hulk #100: "Planet Hulk" kicks off its third arc in an issue with everything that's made it such an awesome story. A bunch of dudes try to fight the Hulk, people talk about how he might be the messiah, secret origins behind his motley crüe are revealed, and things, as you might expect, are irrevocably smashed. What really made it enjoyable for me, though, was the backup story. After all, the Mastermind Excello backup story from Amazing Fantasy #15--wherein Greg Pak and Takeshi Miyazawa resurrect a forgotten Golden Age Marvel character in the form of a teenage moped-riding super-genius who wins a gameshow and then takes on the government--was the first thing of Pak's that I'd ever read that I didn't immediately hate. It's a great character concept, and Pak does it excellently in that story and in this one, with art by Gary Frank, is every bit as enjoyable. It's nice to finally see someone in the Marvel Universe call out the bad guys behind Civil War (you know, like Reed Richards) on the utter nonsense that they've been pulling for the past year, while backing it up with references to some of my favorite stories was an unexpected surprise that really made the book for me.
The Irredeemable Ant-Man #2
Jonah Hex #13: Alas, no pie this month for Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray. Anyway, the second year of Jonah Hex kicks off with a departure from the done-in-one style that's marked the last twelve issues, and for me at least, that's a pretty welcome change. Don't get me wrong: I love stand-alone stories, and I think that by and large, those guys have been turning out pretty quality work in that format, but I'm really interested in seeing where they go with a long-form arc. To say the least, this first issue's pretty interesting, as it sets up a new orign for Hex (previously, it'd been established that he got his infamous scars by being burned with a red-hot axe by Apaches) that ties him to the Civil War in a much more concrete way than we've seen before. As for the art, I remember flipping through Jordi Bernet's issue of Solo and not seeing anything that really caught my eye, but his work is fantastic in this book, with a great Joe Kubert feel to it. If it keeps up the current pace, this could very well turn into the best story of the run thus far, and do a lot towards getting more people onto the book.
Justice League of America #3: Let's go ahead and break this down into convenient bullet points, shall we?
Things I Like:
-The last-page reveal.
-Ed Benes's art, which--by and large--lacks the odd missteps of the previous issues, which probably relates to the fact that the Metal Men don't appear.
-The Phantom Stranger.
Things That Need To Go:
-Brad Meltzer's incredibly annoying insistence on the characters referring to each other by their first names at all times.
-The overwritten first-person narration that hearkens to the subtle drama of a Mexican soap opera.
-Red Tornado crying. Seriously, there's no crying in super-heroism.
-Pretty much anything involving the Red Tornado, now that I think of it.
-Black Lightning's Street Fighter-esque new Air-Block powers.
-Vixen saying the name of the animal whose powers she's using. That is no good.
-Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman still sitting around a table four months into the series.
So yeah, my distaste for the current series continues to build at a pretty brisk pace, but the sad fact of the matter is that I really like a lot of these characters, and I'd like to see them in a good story, a prospect that's looking increasingly unlikely as this one rolls on down the road.
Local #7: Don't get the idea that I didn't like it, but this one was actually my least favorite issue of Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly's Local so far. I think it's got a lot to do with the departure from series heroine Megan, who's essentially a likeable screwup who's constantly on the run from her own mistakes, and the shift in focus for this issue's star, Megan's cousin Nicky. It's probably by design, but he comes off as a thoroughly unlikable punk whose problems are entirely of his own making, but the contrast of his life with Megan's, revealed through her ever-changing postcards that promise phone calls and a permanent address but never deliver, makes for an incredible look at both characters. Kelly's art, as usual, and only gets better as this issue builds to a climax that sees Nicky almost crashing through the page. It's the usual stuff, and for a book like Local, that means it's pretty incredible.
Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #21: I've always had the feeling that while they've all but cornered the teenage market, Marvel lags behind DC when it comes to marketing their characters towards kids. After all, between Kelly Puckett and Mike Parobeck on The Batman Adventures and some of Mark Millar's best comics ever on the corresponding Superman title, DC pretty much had the '90s on lockdown as far as kid-friendly titles that were actually excellent comics in their own right, while Marvel's "Marvel Age" imprint stuttered, collapsed, found itself reborn as "Marvel Adventures," and didn't seem like it ever quite found its footing.
Even so, with the upcoming MODOK story in Marvel Adventures: The Avengers and the arrival of Fred Van Lente (the writer of the truly incredible Action Philosophers and the co-creator of the new Scorpion) to tell a Black Costume story geared towards the kids, I decided to give the Spider-Man title a closer look, and found it to be a highly enjoyable read. Van Lente manages to cram a story where Spidey fights the Rocket Racer, Stilt-Man, and Leap-Frog and still throw in the black costume without even having to bring it back from the Moon. It's fun stuff, and while it was certainly an odd place for a Hulk #100 promo insert (featuring a story involving genocide and the Hulk being worshipped as a god) and the Guiding Light backup, it's worth checking out.
Midnighter #1: I like The Authority a lot. I like Garth Ennis a lot. But in the past, it's been my experience that I pretty much hate the combination of the two, so when this one got solicited a few months back, I was pretty well set to pass it up, even with the art of the phenomenal Chris Sprouse thrown in to sweeten the deal. Of course, that was before I recieved emails from two people informing me that the Midnighter fights a tank in an opening sequence that also includes him kicking a bullet in the face. Apparently, I've got a reputation as the kind of person who likes that sort of thing.
Needless to say, I decided to give it a shot, and as you might be able to tell from the Kick of the Week, I found myself enjoying it an awful lot. It's certainly full of the typical Garth Ennis tricks that you'd expect, and the idea of the Midnighter going up against some people that he (gasp!) can't outfight is one that we've seen before, but really, that's pretty much all you can do in a story with that guy. Still, it's a lot of fun, and the last page twist is an old trick that's still exciting after all these years. Give it a read.
Mystery In Space #3
The Nightly News #1: When I originally saw the preview pages for this one, my first thought was that it was going to be ridiculously hard to read. Of course, that was before I realized that the preview was actually four pages, not two, and once I cleared that up, the striking design of the book alone was enough to get me to sign up for it. And trust me: It's toally worth the effort you put into it.
Right from the start, Jonathan Hickman's throwing an astounding amount of information at the reader in the form of rapid-fire information captions, footnotes, and even the occasional pie chart right on page two that makes Casanova seem like a liesurely flip through USA Today, and it's almost overwhelming. A few pages into it, though, you realize that it's not Hickman himself (for the most part) throwing the information out there, but rather the lead character, the all-but-literal right-hand man of a cult leader set out to destroy the modern media. Once that hits, this issue shifts into a highly enjoyable story based around the responsibilities (and irresponsibilties) of the 24-hour news cycle and their sinister corporate masters, and it's incredibly enjoyable.
And what makes it even more impressive is that it's the first comic Hickman's ever written or drawn--although I'd be utterly shocked to find out that he didn't have a background in graphic design--and as you might have heard from Kevin, it's very reminiscent of what little I've seen of Brian Wood's early work. You can find out more about it at Hickman's website, where he's even running a contest for readers to appear in the book, but trust me: it's a great read, and if the series maintains this kind of quality for all six issues, it's going to end up being pretty phenomenal.
Seven Soldiers #1: Normally, this would be one slot above in the "Best of the Week" position, but really: If you need me to tell you that the long-awaited culmination of Grant Morrison's 30-part mini-series is pretty awesome, then you're probably beyond the help that my reccomendations could offer. Even beyond that though, I couldn't help but be a little disappointed in this one. Is it awesome? Yes. Does it have some absolutely incredible moments, including Shining Knight's line on page two and a truly fantastic moment for the Guardian later on? Yes. Is J.H. Williams' art phenomenal, especially in the way that it shifts to mimic the styles of the artists on the mini-series? Yes. But for all that, I just can't shake the feeling that it would've been a lot better if there was more of it.
From what I understand, one of the reasons for the six-month delay was that Morrison originally wrote a lot more than what actually appeared in the book, and there are a lot of places in the story that seem to bear that out pretty well. Bulleteer and Frankenstein are barely in it, and the ending for Klarion left me a bit confused as to what exactly happened with him. Even ten more pages could've cleared up a lot of the questions and allowed for more moments for each character, rather than just the awesome ones we got for half the cast. So yes, I think it's a great comic, and I got a lot of enjoyment out of it. But it could've been better.
She-Hulk #13: I'm very, very glad I included that last sentence in my reveiew of She-Hulk #12, because with this issue, Dan Slott not only addresses my concerns, but does it in one of the most entertaining issues of the series thus far. It's an incredibly fun trip through Thanos's history, only made more enjoyable by the fact that I re-read The Infinity Gauntlet this week for Comics Club, and Slott does a great job of tying it all into the current story, even going so far as to (slightly) redeem Starfox for the way he's been kicked around over the past few issues. Rick Buchett, of course, is vastly underappreciated and does a great job in this issue, and even the cover's Greg Horn's best offering for the book so far. It's incredibly solid stuff, and my faith in Dan Slott is once again restored.
Street Fighter Legends #3: I may in fact be the only comics blogger who actually really likes the Street Fighter comic, but I have to say: This is one of the rare cases where a spin-off mini-series is actually far more enjoyable than the original. I'm sure it all boils down to the fact that Sakura's a character that lends herself a lot more readily to lighthearted stories revolving around hot-dog eating contests and Iron Chef parodies than the other SF characters, but all through this series, Ken Sui-Chong's just been running with it, and the end result is a comic that's incredibly fun and genuinely enjoyable. Plus, it's got Dan, and the opening sequence for this one may be the funniest joke that character's ever been involved with.
Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #23
Superman Confidential #1: Darwyn Cooke and Tim Sale are about as close to a no-brainer combination as you can get, so instead of commenting on the story itself and the presence of the ridiculously curvy Lois Lane, I'd like to focus on the sheer ludicrous amount of inserts that came in this thing. Seriously, I'm guessing the promotional materials, which include a pair of 3D glasses for viewing a HeroScape ad (or giving yourself an instant aneurysm by putting them on and taking a look at my dubious attempt to add depth to Vampirella) and a six-page Teen Titans Go! story about a girl with dyslexia who has to rescue her father, Indiana Jones, from a pyramid full of deathtraps. Now I'm not going to say that that's more exciting than Superman duking it out with the Royal Flush Gang and going on a two-day stakeout, but, well you can draw your own conclusions. What really perplexes me, though, is why these ads ended up in this particular comic in the first place. Clearly, they're directed at kids, and while there's nothing in Superman Confidential that I'd consider to be inappropriate by any stretch of the imagination, there's nothing about it that screams "Hey Kids! Comics!" either. So yeah: slightly unusual choice of advertising there.
Tales Designed to Thrizzle #3: When Dork #11 came out a few weeks back, I mentioned my opinion that Evan Dorkin's the funniest man working in comics today, and while I stand by that statement, one should never discount the work of Michael Kupperman. It's hard to compare the two, though, because while both seem to specialize in comics that deliver joke after joke without letting up, Dorkin works primarily with the premise-escalation-punchline structure, while Kupperman works with jokes like this issue's section on "Porno Coloring Books" that barely have any premise attatched to them at all, and the end result is a different product that's still pretty frigg'n hilarious. It's excellent stuff, and lest you forget, Kupperman's also doing new work in every issue CRACKED Magazine (which you can subscribe to now for the insanely low price of just $11.99!).
Uncanny X-Men #480: With a guy like Robert Kirkman, who took time out of his busy schedule of writing about zombies and teenage super-heroes to defend Rob Liefeld by comparing him favorably to Jack Kirby and once wrote a story called "1991" that featured Cable, it's pretty clear that there's a lot of love in his heart for early-90s Marvel Comics. But while it's taken me a while to get to this point, I'm starting to think that Ed Brubaker may in fact be the same way. Why? Because with his run on Uncanny, Brubaker's taking pretty much every crappy X-Men idea from the last fifteen years and, in a story revolving around the Third Summers Brother™, he's working them into an incredibly enjoyable story. It's a theory I've been kicking around since Deadly Genesis came out, but with the fact that this one features Gladiator punching Vulcan's eye out, which is then replaced with a cool scar and a cybernetic eye that glows when he uses his powers--which bears a pretty strong resemblance to his nephew from the future--I've become pretty convinced. Either way, it's extremely entertaining stuff for everyone's favorite merry mutants.
And that's pretty much the end of my stack. If you have any questions about the ones I didn't mention, feel free to ask, and I'll catch up with you guys tomorrow.
You know. On Friday. Which is tomorrow. Not today.