The Week In Ink: 11-08-06
Last week, when my desire to update daily finally collapsed under the weight of my ridiculous purchasing habits, I actually got a phone call from my pal Dr. K wondering if I was all right, and there were at least a couple of you who felt so strongly about missing my weekly reviews that you felt like you had to post a comment, gnashing your teeth and wailing at the blogger who abandoned you.
And to that, I say: Really? I mean, seriously?
Don't get me wrong: I am absolutely thrilled that there are people out there who put so much stock into my dubious opinions that you feel like you can't make an informed purchase without me, but let's be real for a second here. Was there really anybody standing in a shop last Friday with a copy of Fables in one hand and Lady Death: War of the Winds in the other, desperately wishing they had me there to guide them?
Well, to those people, I have only one thing to say:
THAT is Batman punching a wolf, and THESE are the internet's most awesome comic book capsule reviews for the second week of November, 2006!
52: Week Twenty-Seven: At this point, the saga of Skeets turning out to be some kind of sinister mastermind is treading a very thin line between being annoyingly grim and so ridiculously over-the-top that it's hilarious. I'm honestly not sure if it's supposed to be taken seriously, but I've got to think that when Booster Gold's goofy, football-shaped robotic tourist guidebook turns into an Imperial Probe Droid and tortures Waverider to death while chuckling menacingly, it's hard not to think that it's a knowing parody of what happened with Max Lord and the rest of the JLI. Of course, the net effect seems to be just another Giffen/DeMatteis-era character getting all grimmed up for no particular reason other than to do it.
As for the stuff with the Question, well, I can't say that it really comes as a shock (considering that it's a possibility mentioned as far back as Denny O'Neil and Denys Cowan's The Question #1), and with Renee Montoya's glaring line a few weeks ago about how she's going to be holding Vic Sage's dead body before this adventure's done with, it seems like my theory that she's going to end up being the new Question is right on the money. That's not necessarily a bad thing--I like Renee Montoya and I like the Question--but much like the situation with Cris Allen, I'll proabably like Montoya a lot more as a Gotham City cop than as a super-hero.
Another thing that stuck out to me was the fact that there's already somebody who fits the description of a "twice-named daughter of Cain" pretty frigg'n literally, especially considering the Crime Bible's focus on murder, and, well, it ain't Batwoman. But that, I suppose, is just how New Earth rolls.
And finally, we have the backup story, and really: Who thought Howard Chaykin drawing Black Canary's origin was going to be a good idea? Because, and I cannot stress this enough, it wasn't.
Action Philosophers #7: And speaking of good ideas, we've got this month's offering from Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey, which features the biographies and philosophies of the six Pre-Socratics in ten pages, which I suspect was something of a warm-up for #9's "lightning round," where they intend to cram as many philosophers into the book as they possibly can. Even better, you can vote on who gets in at their website, which'll come in handy if you, like me, have long been harboring a secret desire to see Lao Tzu's entire body of work boiled down into one-page of fun, joke-filled sequential art. It might just end up being the perfect comic.
Batman #658: For those of you keeping score at home, this issue features Batman and his son the ninja fighting against Talia and her army of Man-Bat assassins--who are also ninja--and ends, as all things should, with something very large blowing up. Needless to say, it's pretty ridiculously entertaining.
Batman and the Mad Monk #4: As you might expect from the cover and the picture that led this post, this issue of Matt Wagner's amazing mini-series features Batman beating the living hell out of a pack of wolves, and even without the parts where Batman gears up to fight vampires and gets dropped into one of the all-time classic deathtraps, that is even more awesome than previously thought possible. I've said it before, but Wagner's work on this title and Batman and the Monster Men has been absolutely fantastic in every way possible, all the way down to Dave Stewart's colors and Rob Leigh's lettering, and is absolutely essential.
Civil War: Young Avengers and Runaways #4: I've been complaining about this book pretty solidly for the past three months, but now that it's all said and done, I think I can go ahead and make the call here: This is the worst story these characters have ever appeared in. It's not overly horrible, but Zeb Wells' script slid further into mediocrity with every issue, and this one caps it off about like I expected from the start. The whole thing ends in pretty much the exact same way as Grant Morrison's Marvel Boy but without the cosmic jihad against Disneyworld and makes a stop along the way at one of the worst attempts at writing tough-guy dialogue that I've seen in a long time with "When the world goes crazy, you run... You runaway." It's the sort of awkward pause and completely unnecessary addition that totally ruins the line, and makes it sound like Nico's either a complete idiot or thinks that Patriot is, especially since she's staring directly at the reader while saying the name of her own series in boldface type. Which, for the record, is a noun, and not a verb.
The art side of things doesn't help matters much either--or at all, really. Stefano Caselli's pencils are fine in and of themselves (although a little too stylized for my tastes), but like I've said, they're all but ruined underneath Daniele Rudoni's migraine-inducing colors, which manage to be washed out and monocromatic and still clash with everything hard enough to induce physical pain into the reader in any scene that's not depicted as being in direct sunlight. I can't imagine that it's even necessary to say now that it's all over, but if you like the characters and you're thinking of picking this one up, don't bother. It's not very good, and it's incredibly skippable.
The Damned #2: When I was talking about this comic with Dr. K, he mentioned that the plot of the first issue draws a lot from the movie Miller's Crossing, except with demons. Admittedly, taking a pre-existing story throwing in a few supernatural elements isn't really a great way to go about crafting a comic book, but as Tug pointed out to me yesterday when I brought it up, the first six issues of Desolation Jones are just The Big Sleep with a different set of McGuffins, and that's one of my favorite stories of the past few years.
And that's the way it's working out for me and The Damned, too. Admittedly, I haven't seen Miller's Crossing, so I'm in a pretty poor position to make a comparison, but I can't imagine that it includes a scene where an unkillable gangster takes on a thirty foot tall demon in a waterfront brawl, but if it does, it's probably the best movie ever. Either way, Cullen Bunn's continuing to do an incredibly enjoyble take on demonic crime noir, and Brian Hurtt's art is an absolutely incredible mix of Rick Burchett and Eric Powell that fits the script perfectly. If nothing else, it's a fun read, and I'm really, really enjoying it.
Doctor Strange: The Oath #2: I'm just going to put this out there: Dr. Strange is a man who is so incredibly cool that his eyebrows curve three times. That, my friends, is the power of Agamotto. Anyway, much like its first issue, the second installment of the mini-series by the incredible Brian K. Vaugahan and the ridiculously underrated Marcos Martin is pure joy to read with a look at Dr. Strange's past, a battle with a suit of Iron Man armor with buzzsaws for hands, and--right there on page three--one of the single greatest throwaway lines in recent Marvel history. It's a heck of a lot of fun, and for a guy like me who's always enjoyed Strange in theory (and in appearances in other books, like Infinity Gauntlet) but never really had the inclination to sit down and knock out a good chunk of his own adventures, it's the perfect comic to get me excited about the character again. It's excellent work, and it makes for some top-notch comics.
Eternals #5: Admittedly, the allure of the Black Celestial being drawn by John Romita Jr. is enough to get me to read a comic on its own, but for $3.99 a pop, I was certainly hoping for a story that didn't feel like a rehash of a lot of Neil Gaiman's other ideas. After all, if I remember correctly, this is Gaiman's attempt to fix a story that he didn't think Jack Kirby quite got right (a statement that I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on until I finally get around to knocking out the original series for myself), but if his master plan pretty much involves slightly less entertaining versions of Dr. Destiny from Sandman and Croup and Vandemar from Neverwhere, then I have my doubts that it's going to end up working out in the last issue.
Fables #55: Normally, I'd skip this one, since my reviews of Fables over the past year could pretty much all be summed up as "This book is really, really good," but without even opening this issue up, the sheer awesomeness of the cover design deserves a comment on its own. It's not just James Jean's art, which, while fantastic as usual doesn't really stand out as one of his best, but the layout of the logo just makes the whole thing. I complain a lot about the covers on a lot of DC's books, but whoever it was over at Vertigo who decided to lay out a minor detail like the issue number that way totally earned their paycheck this month. Beyond that, everything pretty much works out to Willingham and Buckingham's usual standards of excellence, including the backup story with Inaki Miranda that crams as much fun as is physically possible into a three-page adventure of the Three Blind Mice.
Fantastic Four Presents: Franklin Richards, Son Of A Genius: Happy Franksgiving!: In addition to the usual fun, kid friendly entertainment that you get from every installment of Marc Sumerak and Chris Eliopoulos's "Calvin and H.E.R.B.I.E."-style adventures, this issue also features a turkey that is also The Thing.
Let's go through that one more time: A turkey... that is also The Thing.
So yeah, you're going to want to pick it up.
Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #31
Gen13 #2: The reboot of the ISB's >favorite mid-90s super-teens continues, and while it's still dabbling in a little more melodrama than I'm used to from the characters, that sort of thing is pretty much required in a book about genetically-endowed teenagers. What really sticks out about this issue, though--and I'm sure it was Gail Simone's intent that it's a focal point, since it was built up for a few pages and then occupies one of two full-page shots in the book--is the scene where the sinister masterminds force Caitlin to model various outfits in order to market her to their equally devious clientele. It's remarkably creepy, and only made moreso once you realize that the four outfits she's wearing are actually from the original series (including issues 2, 4 and 5, and the Superman/Gen13 crossover), in which her sexiness was marketed to, well, me. The single tear running down her cheek in the third outfit is just the icing on the cake, but as it comes in a book that features Caitlin Fairchild in her de riguer torn outfit and bra right there on the cover, it comes in with three layers of creepiness attached to it, and while it's certainly not as lighthearted and fun as previous enjoyable takes on the book, it's certainly nice to see that kind of technique in action.
Marvel Legacy: The 1980s Handbook: Just so you know, this thing kicks off with two pages worth of information on Ulysses Solomon Archer, the single greatest trucking-based hero in the history of Marvel comics. And that is astonishing.
Phonogram #3: There is a certain technique in the world of comics that creators often use as shorthand to let you know that the shit is about to be on, and that technique... is the Costume Change. Clearly, we all know that when Bruce Wayne's been investigating something undercover, and he finally puts that last piece together and pulls on his Batman mask, things are about to get real serious real quick, but it's not something that's limited to super-heroes. Neil Gaiman does it in Sandman, when Dream puts on his helmet (for one of like three times in eighty issues) before going down to hell and confronting Lucifer, and although it's far less well-known, Mike Carey's first arc on Hellblazer features an amazing scene where John Constantine, after coming back to London from being away for several issues, finally pegs what's going on at an apartment building tainted with evil magic, and finally pulls his trenchcoat back on and heads upstairs to--as you might expect from John Constantine--beat the living hell out of an old lady.
Point being? This issue of Phonogram is capped off by what may be the most enjoyable and funniest costume changes of all time, all set to one of my favorite songs, and that is ridiculously exciting.
Even beyond the comic itself and Jamie McKelvie's awesome art, though, Kieron Gillen's glossary of terms and essays that fill the last seven pages of the comic are almost worth the cover price alone. They're sharp, informative, and I'm not ashamed to admit that a lot of the music I've been listening to over the past three months is stuff that's been reccomended in his "liner notes" to the series, and he hasn't steered me wrong yet. It's excellent, excellent stuff, and it's up there right now as one of my favorite comics coming out.
The Punisher #40
Rex Libris #6: It's another entertaining installment of the World's Wordiest Comic Magazine, but the funniest part of the book hits before you even get to the adventures of everyone's favorite gun-toting immortal librarian, right in the "Barry's Brain" section on the inside front cover. I've always liked the odd little bits that come along with Rex Libris, and--not to turn tonight's post into a discussion of great things in comics that aren't actually comics--this one's got the best ones yet. The back cover (featuring The Immovable Man) is great, but the list of comics Rex'll be crossing over into--which includes My Breasts Came From Mars, a title that had me laughing even harder since Teen Titans was next on my list--is one of the better bits in a series that's marked by clever wordplay. As for the story itself, it's a much quicker read than usual, which I didn't mind one bit, and it's still highly entertaining stuff from the world ov Advanced Visicomboics.
Stormwatch: PHD #1: I remember being a little underwhelmed by Christos Gage when he broke out with the Deadshot mini-series a while back, but lately it seems like all he does is write comics that I want to read, and the new Stormwatch seems to fit that mold pretty nicely. Stormwatch has always struck me as the kind of book that's always getting pushed in a new direction, whether it's Warren Ellis coming on for one of the best runs of the '90s, trimming the team down from a bunch of early Image-style goofballs to a bunch of early Image-style goofballs that were really, really good, or noted liar Micah Ian Wright coming on for the underrated Stormwatch: Team Achilles, and now this one. It's got a great hook, it's a logical progression of the restructuring that Ellis started with, and the concept of Jackson King trying to start up bare-bones groups of operatives equipped to handle super-human crises in every major city is certainly one that'll lend itself to interesting story ideas, even if the focus stays on the core group that we start with. It's a promising lead for what looks to be a good series, and as someone who doesn't usually like Doug Mahnke, I've got to admit that even he does a good job with this one, aside from his annoying insistence on drawing King to look exactly like Morpheus from The Matrix, which he seriously needs to stop doing at his earliest convenience.
Superman #657: Whether it's this, Avengers Forever, or his stint on the otherwise-wretched Superman/Batman, it's become pretty clear to me that Carlos Pacheco is really good at drawing dystopian futures populated by unlikely super-teams. Of course, now that I think of it, Carlos Pacheco is really good at drawing pretty much whatever he wants to draw, so that shouldn't come as a surprise. Regardless, this issue's well-done and packed full of action. Even so, while I'm not sure if it's the fact that it's almost entirely a flash-forward or just the mood I was in when I read it, I'm having a lot of difficulty connecting to this one in any sort of way that makes me care about what's going on. It's entertaining, especially with how much of a prick Arion's turning out to be, but--and I realize that this statement isn't really going to clear things up ont he matter--there's just not a whole lot here that's doing it for me.
Tales of the Unexpected #2: And speaking of things that aren't doing it for me, we have this. I'll cop to not being overly familiar with David Lapham's work, but every time I decide that I want to sit down and check out Stray Bullets, which I've heard great things about, he goes and does something like "City of Crime," or this story of The Spectre, the World's Most Impotent Super-Hero, any desire I've got to follow up on the guy goes straight down the drain. I like Cris Allen a lot, and I like the Spectre a lot, but it's amazingly frustrating to read a comic where he just stands around doing nothing while a guy beats the hell out of his girlfriend and her kids, only to finally get around to brutally murdering him in front of some other kids when he shanks a drug dealer later in the book. I'm certain that's completely intentional on Lapham's part, but the fact that the payoff to the frustration is so small--not to mention that the idea of evil acts being a necessary component of the Spectre's existence was pretty thoroughly explored by John Ostrander in his Spectre series--makes this a book that I have absolutely no interest in reading any further.
Unfortunately, and it's shocking me to type this, I am absolutely loving the Dr. 13 story. I've always thought Brian Azzarello was something of a one-trick pony (with that trick, of course, being 100 Bullets), but he's taking the problems I have with Dr. 13 and just blowing them out to their logical extremes in a story that reads like he's just opening to random pages of Who's Who and writing in whoever shows up. It's got great art from Cliff Chiang, and in case you missed it on page 9, there's a Nazi Gorilla involved. It's exactly what I want from the book, and the only thing wrong with it is that it's the backup, while the abysmal Spectre story is the lead.
Teen Titans #40: Spoiler Warning Time, Kids!
Okay, still here? Good, then I'll just come right out and say it: I fucking hate Jericho. Not to knock George Perez or anything, but he's got to be one of the worst-designed characters in the history of the comic book, and his appearance as the frighteningly garish deus ex machina almost ruins the otherwise-amazing "Judas Contract." He's no good, and the best thing he's done in a 20-year existence was to come back and then die in the mercifully short span of four issues that kicked off the current Teen Titans series. So believe me when I say it, the shocking return of a mute bodysnatcher a purple sequined vest does absolutely nothing to mitigate my growing distaste for this series.
Okay, Spoilers Over. But seriously, can you believe that Pantha came back and betrayed the Titans?!
Ultimate X-Men #76
Y -- The Last Man #51: The countdown to the final issue of one of the best ongoing series in comics today continues, and while there is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that this series is going to end with Yorick and Beth reuiniting (and her subsequently forgiving him for hooking up with all those chicks on the way, which really wasn't all that much for the last man in the world), Brian K. Vaughan keeps upping the stakes in every issue. It's excellent, fun stuff, and with Yorick's propensity to get tied up a lot, this issue really feels like it's leading towards the moment Vaughan's been building up to with four years of establishing him as an escape artist. Pia Guerra, of course, is excellent as always, and really shines in issues like this, which moves from fight scenes to talky sequences, and manages to hold the same amount of suspense and tension into both to keep the story moving.
So that's this week's stack, and as always, feel free to ask about anything I didn't mention, if you really feel the need to know my thoughts about TOKAMAK, THE HUMAN REACTOR, or whatever.
And speaking of asking quesitons, tomorrow night, it's the grand finale of the ISB Q&A... and this one's for all the marbles!
Or possibly back issues of Wild Dog. Which are way, way better than marbles.