The Week In Ink: 11-15-06
Well, it's not exactly a kick to the face, but really: How often do you see this happen?
For the record, Archie's dealing out harsh justice to a couple of guys who kidnapped Veronica while disguised as a stalker and a private investigator, thus proving that he learned a thing or two from his time with the Punisher. And you guys were wondering why I buy those books.
But enough Riverdalean Chin-Checkery! It's the third week of November, and comics reviews are GO!
52: Week 28: Much to my dismay, this issue marks the return of Lobo, who promptly drops one of the strangest lines I have ever read, presented here with my emphasis added: "See now, if I could only relax my vow of non-violence, I could deal with this in about how many gore an' gizz encrusted seconds?" Confusing syntax aside, I'm not sure how you'd pronounce that word, but I know what I think it says, and--Sweet Christmas, man, they don't even use that kind of talk over at Vertigo! Even beyond that, though, the whole subplot with Lobo has completely lost me. The idea of the Emerald Eye of Ekron coming from the Emerald Head of Ekron was one that I really thought was intriguing, but now the head's become a spaceship that's also a Green Lantern, and the whole thing's gotten to the point where even Adam Strange flips out about the plot twists, and I can sympathize. The Question(s) and Batwoman sequences, however, continue to move along at a nice brisk pace, and Bruno Manheim's crazy Intergang with its cannibalism, prophecies, and all-around nuttiness makes for a pretty great foil to them.
Unfortunately, I'm rapidly losing interest in the Secret Origin backups. Don't get me wrong, I like the new Cat-Man and Dale Eaglesham's art is worlds better than what Howard Chaykin turned in last week, but more than half of his origin is stuff that happened last year, and I doubt that a whole lot of people really need a refresher course on the faraway events of 2005.
Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter: Guilty Pleasures #2: Hands down, this is one of the most enjoyably horrible comics I've ever read. It's like an equally fetishized, yet far less pornographic version of Tarot, and it's just as hilarious for all the wrong reasons. But I'll go into more detail on that
Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #45: I've been enjoying Kurt Busiek and Butch Guice on Aquaman a heck of a lot over the past few months, so the news that Tad Williams is coming on to replace him next year isn't exactly thrilling me, especially since I utterly failed to enjoy his work on The Next. Really, though, it's more a matter of how much I've been enjoying Busiek, and this issue--with its huge battles, excellent character moments, fun use of the underwater environment, and the Sea Devils--pretty much encapsulates everythinge I like about it. Of course, I'd like it a little more if it wasn't a month late, but it still a very, very good comic book.
Astonishing X-Men #18: For me, there's not a whole heck of a lot better than the idea that Cyclops wakes up, figures out that the X-Men have been taken down, and then decides it's time to put on his Grant Morrison/Frank Quitely clothes and go kick some ass. It's thematically appropriate for the story, since the whole shebang revolves around the X-Men slugging it out with the villain that defines their run on the title, but, well, I talked about my fondness for costume changes last week, and it doesn't hurt that those are some of my favorite costumes. It's great stuff, and it only gets better when Hisako--who's rapidly becoming one of my favorite new characters--and Wolverine team up for a massive throwdown against Ord and Danger. It's like Whedon and Cassaday are making exactly the X-Men comic that I want to read, and as I've said before over the course of the series, they're doing a pretty fantastic job with it.
Astro City: The Dark Age, Book Two #1: One of the things that I really like about Astro City is the way that Kurt Busiek's set up a timeline that allows him to play around with trends in the comics, and a story that focuses on the decade that brought us the Grim Vigilante has a pretty big appeal for me. It's got it all, too: Karate vigilantes on a mission of revenge, a thinly-veiled Daredevil analog who went from a wisecracking swashbuckler to a brutal, street-level crimefighter, and a universe-shattering cosmic event that the general public really couldn't care lessa bout. It's an interesting premise that forms the cornerstone of the usual interesting and highly enjoyable story, and it's well worth a read.
Birds of Prey #100: Gail Simone turns in her usual entertainig script, and while it's a lot of fun to see who she pegged for possible membership in the Birds of Prey--including two "Planet DC" characters--and her method of contacting them, I've got to confess that I have no idea who the woman in Panel 4 (the one from Gotham City) is supposed to be. I thought it might be Maggie Sawyer, but she doesn't really fit the pattern.
Of course, the real draw of the book is the new team, and if the lineup presented in this issue is one that's going to stick around for a while, I have the feeling that a lot of people are going to be very happy with this book, me included. And it's not just because I suspecta groundswell of support for the new Judomaster, either. It's a group of characters that makes for a pretty interesting dynamic (although my favorite one of them is referred to with a term used in card games and MMORPGs, a technique that's cropping up with alarming frequency lately), and it's almost exactly the team that I would've picked if you asked me who I wanted to read about every month. Even better, the story that introduces them's well-done, clever, and reasonably self-contained, and the last-page reveal was one that I was almost unreasonably excited about. It's excellent stuff, and the backup story with Paolo Sequiera's well worth the extra buck on the cover.
Catwoman #61: Ever since I jumped on with the "One Year Later" issues, Will Pfeifer and David Lopez's Catwoman has been one of the most surprising and consistently entertaining comics I get, this issue's big finale to the Film Freak story (which is really the same story that's been going on for the past nine issues) is immensely satisfying, even if there are a few panels where Holly's girlfriend Karon bears a striking resemblance to Aunt May.
Civil War #5: Let's face it: If there was any way that Marvel could turn Civil War around for me, it would be throwing the Punisher into the middle of it and having him be totally awesome, And to be fair, I like just about everything that guy does in this issue, and the idea that he's sort of the poster boy for when costumed vigilantes go wrong is a neat one to explore in a series like this. But you know what? Aside from that, I actually think it's getting worse. Here's an itemized list of why:
1. Try reading this thing back-to-back with the latest issue of Amazing Spider-Man--a high-selling flagship Marvel Universe title that leads directly into page four--and playing a little game called "Spot The Contradiction." There's at least two.
2. Peter Parker's wearing his "Iron Spider" costume, which is--as you may have guessed--made of metal. In fact, it's made of metal that has stopped bullets. And yet by the time he's running through the sewers, the whole thing's shredded and "battle damaged" like his old costume would be. You know, the one made of cloth.
3. ...Or maybe it was the glass that shredded it. The glass that couldn't be broken by a guy who once shot steel girders from a giant slingshot, but explodes pretty quick when it's appropriate for the plot.
4. Just in case it wasn't already obvious who the villain of this piece was (Hint: It's Iron Man. You can tell because he's fighting Captain America, and fighting Captain America pretty much makes you a villain regardless of who you are), the fact that he commissioned a group that includes Venom, Lady Deathstrike, and multiple nun-killer Bullseye and allowed them to be sent after his friends should be a pretty huge clue.
5. Hey, remember how Spider-Man has that super-power that warns him about danger? Yeah, well Mark Millar doesn't.
6. Reed Richards' speech to the She-Hulk about how Hank Pym's on anti-depressants and his "darling Sue wouldn't have left" if he hadn't taken a side has almost as much emotional resonance as the "What sin could a man commit in a single lifetime" speech from The Amazing Collossal Man. Almost.
7. Oh, and Clone Thor wasn't a clone, he was a cyborg. Or a cyborg clone. Or a shitty plot device. Nobody's quite sure yet.
8. The whole thing with Daredevil/Iron Fist and the silver dollar he's been keeping under his tongue--presumably for the duration of the series thus far--and then giving it to Tony Stark so that he can call him Judas is, without question, the most laughably convoluted metaphor I have ever read. And I read Anita Blake this week.
And that's just the stuff I don't like about it. At this point, the only things this book has going for it are the big, exciting moments like the Punisher showing up and claiming to be a guy in a ski mask that I didn't even notice, and with two issues left to go, those are running out pretty rapidly. It's phenomenally stupid, reads like Millar has no idea of how the characters are supposed to work, and aside from Steve McNiven's very pretty artwork, is probably one of the worst comics Marvel's putting out right now.
The Escapists: And now, to balance things out a little bit, we've got the consistently-amazing Escapists. I've said it all before, but this book's filling the shoes of a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel pretty darn well. If you read enough of Vaughan's comics, you realize that he's the kind of writer who loves to play with language and metaphors, and the way that he's making an Escapist story set within a story of the creators taking on the identities of the heroes in order to free themselves the way their character does is the kind of plot that he can just go crazy with, and the rapid-fire sequences of plans, romance and a suspense-filled ending all work out to be some incredible comics. The art, too, is incredible as always: Steve Rolston does a great job, and the setup for Matt and Case in the elevator is a great piece of comics, and when it combines with Alexander's "in-character" sequences, it's downright excellent.
Jack Staff #12: If someone walked up to me and asked for one single comic book that embodied everything I love about the medium, this is the one I'd give them. Why? Because Jack Staff IS comics.
I've often said that if it came out more often it'd be the best thing on the stands, and after a four-month gap between #10 and #11, it finally looks like it's getting back on track, and I couldn't be happier. It's got action, drama, mystery, humor, horror, it breaks the fourth wall, and as far as innovative page layouts go, there is nobody better in comics today than Paul Grist. And this issue, which kicks off on the inside front cover and doesn't stop going until it hits the inside back cover, is one of the best issues of the series. It's the cap of a story that started with Morlan the Mystic--a barely-veiled homage to Alan Moore who writes horoscopes for the local paper--warning Jack that if he bought eggs while grocery shopping, things would go horribly wrong. He does, they do, and this issue culminates in an all-out brawl between Britain's Greatest Hero, his World War II-era foe Kaptain Krieg, a demon, an immortal warrior charged with protecting the universe, a trio of supernatural investigators, and Tom Tom The Robot Man. And as awesome as that might sound, I can assure you: It's even better when you actually read it.
It's amazing stuff, and if you haven't been reading it, you need to.
Robin #156: Adam Beechen wrote this week's issue of Legends of the Dark Knight, and while it's very good, this issue of Robin blows it away simply by being one of the best PSA comics I've ever read. It might be the best compliment to say that it doesn't really feel like a PSA at all, despite the fact that there's an ad for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline right there in the last panel. Instead, it comes off as another well-done issue, and while it's fairly slow-paced compared to the rest of Beechen and Freddie Williams II's run, it's the kind of breather issue that's necessary for a book's pacing, and it does a lot to advance the ongoing story, with some incredibly enjoyable character development thrown in for good measure. Very well-done stuff.
Shadowpact #7: This is the kind of book where the characters decide they need to work out some foolproof battle tactics, and so turn to Nightmaster and Detective Chimp while sending Rex the Wonder Dog on an undercover mission to the pits of Hell itself.
Point being: Bill Willingham is quite possibly the raddest dude alive.
Union Jack #3: I mentioned last week that Christos Gage has been doing nothing lately but writing comics I love to read, and this issue's no exception. Right from the "previously-in" page, there seems to be a pretty obvious effort to establish Union Jack as the "people's hero," and while that's the kind of thing that can go wrong very easily, Gage handles it excellently in a snappy two-page sequence before moving on to a fantastic last page. Of course, to be fair, there's a lot to like about this book beyond Gage, too: Mike Perkins and Andrew Hennessy's art is fantastic, and Laura Villlari does an excellnt job with the coloring, and if there's any chance of getting an ongoing with Union Jack and the rest of his international strike team with that group of people working on it, I'd be more than happy to buy it every month.
X-Men: First Class #3: One of the things I've noticed over the past few months--and with this issue in particular--is that First Class is written and paced a lot like you'd expect from an animated series. It's not necessarily a bad thing, either, and while this issue's plot is pretty standard fare--the idea of a dream-world where everyone has what they always wanted and which quickly falls apart under scrutiny is the basis for one of my favorite episodes of Batman: The Animated Series--Parker and Cruz do a great job with it, setting up all the right bits and dropping in all the right challenges, and end up with a story that's a lot of fun.
Avengers and Power Pack Assemble: I forgot to mention it last week when I picked up Spider-Man/Power Pack #1, but I've actually been enjoying the heck out of Marc Sumerak and GuriHiru's Power Pack stuff since it kicked off last year, and this one's the best one so far. Not coincidentally, it's also the one with the most in-depth storyline that actually continues through the whole series, and since it involves everyone's favorite kids-given-powers-by-a-space-unicorn going up against the Taskmaster with Captain America and then facing off against Kang the Conqueror and hanging out with their future selves, the appeal here should be pretty obvious. It's great stuff for kids, but flip through it: It might surprise you with how good it is for everyone else, too.
Captain America: The Swine: Much as I hate to admit it, I'm a little behind on my Jack Kirby Captain America, and haven't even started Bicentennial Battles yet. Fortunately, instead of skipping ahead, I've employed my method of reviewing via flipping to a random page. The result? This:
Tell me you don't want to know what that guy's all about, and I'll call you a liar, bucko.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Volume 1: Tania Del Rio's run on Sabrina is something I've been wanting to take a closer look at ever since she jumped on with the manga-style revamp a couple years ago, and while you could argue that Archie Comics has been putting out digest-sized trades for the past thirty years, getting an actual trade paperback collection out of 'em isn't something that happens often. If the "1" on the spine to this one's any indication however, there'll be more forthcoming, and I've got to admit I'm excited about that. What really makes it interesting for me is that Del Rio's actually doing continuing stories with the characters, and while Sabrina's a bit of a special case (what with being the only Archie character to undergo pretty massive revamps due to her ties in other media), it's interesting to see how that sort of thing works out.
To Del Rio's credit, it works out pretty well (in the first volume at least), and while I'm not sure I'd like to see the same sort of storytelling style applied to the core Archie cast, it's certainly got potential for a book like Josie and the Pussycats, which, while it's also written by Del Rio in the pages of Archie & Friends, still doesn't have the kind of story-to-story continuity that you find in Sabrina. Either way, it's well-done and a heck of a lot of fun, if you're into really girly comics about witches.
And the record will show that I totally am.