The Week In Ink: 12-06-06
(NOTE: Technical difficulties with the post cutting off after the Detective Comics review should be fixed now)
Before we get started tonight, I've got a quick question for the Midnigher: Sir, why do you love kicking people so much?
Ah. Well, that makes sense.
What doesn't make sense? The staggering amount of comics that I bought for this, the first week of December! For a full list of everything I intended to purchase, feel free to click here, and for reviews of what I actually managed to drag home, read on!
52: Week 31: And now, the ISB presents an Open Letter to Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc.:
While we certainly appreciate the extra 125 copies of Midnighter that you sent us, I think that, all things considered, we could've really used our order on 52 instead.
Agents of Atlas #5: With an issue that focuses on the Secret Origin of Venus--differentiating her from the one that was running around with the Champions that one time--and also caps off with a two-page text giving us the Marvel Universe analog for Art Bell's Coast to Coast AM, it's another fantastic issue of what is, hands-down, one of the best comics of the year. With its focus on smoothing over the slightly bumpy continuity surrounding characters like Marvel Boy, it's easy to make the comparison to a book like Avengers Forever, but the nature of the team as a group of lesser-known characters leaves a lot more room for Jeff Parker and Leonard Kirk to have fun with it and tell a really compelling story. It's great stuff, and if you haven't already, track down the back issues. It's well worth it.
The All-New Atom #6: As readers of Seven Hells! are already aware, this issue features the dynamic return of Liza Warner: Lady Cop right there on page one, and while I don't have the level of devotion that you'll find over at Devon's, I know enough to realize that that is awesome. And that's pretty much par for the course for the book that appears to be written solely for the comics blogger internet, and as the first storyline wraps up (with a lot less Byrne than previously expected), Gail Simone's set up a lot of really interesting possibilities for where to go next. It's a fun, extremely quirky read, and everything seems to be settling into place nicely, even allowing for the lack of Karate Kid references this time around.
American Splendor #4
Batman Confidential #1: Apparently, somebody over at DC got the idea that there just weren't enough stories floating around that revealed untold stories from Batman's early career, and that what we really needed was another title to do jus that. Surprising nobody, this was probably a bad idea.
Needless to say, this one left me a little underwhelmed, which is a shame, because I'm actually like Andy Diggle a lot. His work on The Losers is undoubtedly going to go down as one of the most underappreciated comics of the decade, and his his four-issue Lady Constantine mini-series makes him one of the few writers I'd jump back on Hellblazer for after the amazing end of Mike Carey's run. But the fact remains: He's not really covering any new ground here, and Whilce Portacio's not helping things out much by drawing characters that look like some kind of human/raccoon hybrid with a mysterious penchant for eyeliner. I was hoping for Diggle to bring the same kind of energy to Batman that he had on The Losers (and with that book's penciller, Jock, he might well be able to do it), but this one's redundant at best, and annoyingly mediocre and repetitive at worst--and I say that as someone who really, really likes Batman.
Beyond! #6: Every time I start to write that something is the best mini-series of the year, I think about Agents of Atlas, or Phonogram, or Nextwave, or Union Jack, but now that it's all over, I think it's safe to say that BEYOND! is going to be very high on the list. Without exception, Dwayne McDuffie and Scott Kolins have been phenomenal for the entire run, and with the growing fiasco that is Civil War, it'd be great to see a book that captures the feel of an old-school Marvel crossover done--on time--with this kind of talent behind it, even without the sheer amount of entertainment that those guys put into every issue. It's an amazing example of what you can do with third- and fourth-string characters, and this issue's big finale feels more like an "event" than anything Marvel's slapped that label onto in years. It's excellent comics, and if you haven't been reading it, you're definitely going to want the trade.
Desolation Jones #8: As anybody who read the Bad Signal can tell you, Warren Ellis is a guy who thinks a lot about the ways that he structures his comics, and with this issue at least, I noticed that the focus has shifted towards the dialogue as the driving force of the story. It could be that that's just the way this issue's set up--the first story arc certainly had its talky bits--but it goes a long way towards easing the jarring transition between J.H. Williams III's art in the first six issues and Danijel Zezelj's here. Despite the fact that his name's a little hard to type, Zezelj is actually growing on me a lot in this issue, and I suspect that that's got as much to do with the fact that I'm breezing over his art as it does with the masterful coloring by Jose Villarrubia, which, art-wise, has really become the book's visual signature. So far, though, I didn't like it as much as that first story, but it's stil worth reading.
Detective Comics #826: I've been trying to write about this issue for about half an hour now, but the only thing I can really say about it is that Paul Dini is very, very good at writing the Joker--which, really, is no surprise to anyone who's ever watched his episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, which contained what I'd consider to be a pretty difinitive version of the character. This one, then, is pretty much a no-brainer, especially since it's highly reminiscent of "Soft Targets" from Gotham Central--one of the best Joker stories of all time--which saw another genuinnely horrifying Christmastime rampage. Fantastic stuff.
Dr. Strange: The Oath #3: So here's the best thing about Dr. Strange: That guy is so awesome that his high collar has a high collar. There aren't a lot of Sorcerors Supreme that can pull that kind of look off. Regardless, Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin turn in another spectacular job--which is pretty much what you expect from those guys--for an issue where we learn that Masters of the Mystic Arts really don't take too kindly to being shot with Hitler's Handgun. And that sentence alone should be enough to tell you why I love this comic.
Incredible Hulk #101
Irredeemable Ant-Man #3: I've mentioned before that I'm not quite sure how Robert Kirkman plans to write a successful title featuring a character with what appear to be no redeeming qualities whatsoever, but Sweet Christmas! Trying to have sex with your dead best friend's girlfriend on his grave on the day of his funeral? There's really not a whole lot you can do that's worse than that, and while it's almost to the point of wanting to see if Kirkman can top himself every issue, that's a formula that's going to run its course pretty quickly and leave us with a thoroughly loathsome protagonist. And really, if your only interest in a book is wanting the hero to get the crap kicked out of him, there's not a lot of incentive to stick around for the next issue, which is a shame, since Kirkman's telling an interesting story that's accompanied by some great Phil Hester artwork. I just have the feeling that between me and Kirkman, one of us is missing the point, and I'm honestly not sure which.
Jonah Hex #14: When I first read this issue, I got the idea that each of the three parts of Palmiotti and Gray's origin of Jonah Hex was going to include a different reason for his scars as a sort of nod to Joe Lansdale's sarcastic retorts for Hex every time someone would ask how he got them (my favorite being "Damn toothpick slipped"), since this one seems to draw a few elements from the previous origin sory from Jonah Hex v.1. However, that's not the case at all, and what we get instead is another interesting chapter from Hex's childhood that stands on its own very well and--except for a scene where Hex literally claws his way out of the bottom of an outhouse in a scene that reminds us that Palmiotti and Gray have probably never seen the word "subtle"--solid and very entertaining. As for the art, I mentioned last month that I wasn't too familiar with Jordi Bernet, but the work he's doing here has moments that are straight from the Joe Kubert playbook, and for a Jonah Hex origin story, you really can't ask for something more appropriate than that.
Justice Society of America #1: If we can all just set aside our differences and agree that "Hey Rebel. Now who's crying like a bitch?" is one of the stupidest lines ever written in comics by someone other than Frank Miller, I think we can get a lot more done around here. Anyway, after a catastrophic attempt to streamline the DCU with the wall-punching antics of Infinite Crisis, Geoff Johns has returned to the JSA, and apparently forgot to bring anything that would resemble "making sense" with him. Highlights include Ma Hunkel's granddaughter, who ensures in five pages that I never want to see her again; what appears be Pre-Crisis Starboy from two Legion reboots ago; and a promise that we'll get to see Earth-2 Superman again in the next year. Because, y'know, that worked out so well last time. I really used to like the JSA a lot, and there are a lot of characters in this book--like Rick Tyler and Jesse Quick--that I still have a lot of affection for, but there's nothing here that gets me excited at all, other than the fact that the JSA's "Big Three" don't sit around the table playing trading card games for the entire issue. In this one, they stand around the table. Totally different.
Manhunter #26: I'll be honest with you: When Manhunter first came out, I actually kinda hated it. Mostly, my complaints centered around the fact that in those first few issues, where she's chainsmoking, ignoring her kid, and, y'know, murdering Copperhead in the sewer, Kate Spencer didn't strike me as being very likeable. That's what the key to Manhunter really is, though: Over the two years of the series thus far, Kate's had a very interesting, very rewarding character arc. And hopefully, her return this week marks the start of a much longer run, because this is one of the best issues of the series. Marc Andreyko really does a great job of getting back into the swing of things, immediately setting up new plots and subplots that make you forget there was such a long hiatus between this one and #25, and Javier Pina and Robin Riggs look great in this issue. It's great stuff, and if you missed out for the first run, it makes a great place to jump on. Give it a shot, it's got Cameron Chase in it.
Marvel Holiday Special 2006: With books like Beyond!, Manhunter, Detective Comics, and Nightly News out this week, you may well be wondering if this one just got a pass based on my well-documented love of Christmas comics. To that, I would like to respond with a short list of things that made my heart grow three sizes this week:
1. Fin Fang Foom and Wong teaming up to fight a giant robot Santa Claus unleashed by HYDRA.
2. MODOK getting drunk at the AIM New Year's party and hitting on a woman.
3. A poem by Mike Carey entitled "A is for Annihilus."
And, perhaps the most awesome thing ever...
4. Santa's entry in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. (First Appearance: STRANGE TALES #34!)
Plus, there's a gallery of previous Holiday Special covers, where you can see Art Adams drawing the Punisher holding a cartoon-style bomb with his logo painted on it, and that's just way too festive to pass up for $3.99. Seriously: I love this thing.
Midnighter #2: In this issue, the Midnighter goes back in time, beats up a bunch of French guys, kicks Hitler in the balls, and then runs into what appers to be the Wildstorm equivalent of the TVA. Consider my previous misgivings about this book eliminated.
Mystery In Space #4
The Nightly News #2: Jonathan Hickman's second issue shifts slightly from the first in that it doesn't feature as many of the charts and tables that contributed so much to the first issue's distinctive feel, but the tradeoff is a bigger advancement to the plot, and it's every bit as good. The fact that this is Hickman's first comic work just astounds me, as he not only uses photo-referenced artwork in a more dynamic and cinematic style than some artists who have been working in comics for years, but manages to tell such a compelling, interesting story with it as well. If you haven't already, give his website a look and find a copy of #1 for your shot of disenfranchised anti-journalistic terrorists. It's actually a lot more fun than it sounds.
The Official Handbook of the Invincible Universe #1: One of the best things about Invincible is the incredible amount of fun supporting and background characters that Robert Kirkman, Cory Walker, and Ryan Ottley create for each issue. It's a trick that gives the book a much larger feel than you'd usually get from your standard teen super-hero book (including my personal favorites, Dupli-Kate and Damien Darkblood, Demon Detective), and having a nifty little reference to them all is a pretty interesting prospect. Throw in some fantastic art, and it's worth a look even for those of you who don't compulsively buy anything with the words "Official" and "Handbook" in the title.
Of course, for those of you who follow the comics blogger internet, the real news here is that this issue features contributions from noted semi-professional alligator wrestler Dave Campbell! So go out there and support--
Wait a second. That guy was in NewsWeek. Yeah, eff that, read it in the store.*
Superman Confidential #2: With the exception of the way he draws the Joker, I like Tim Sale's artwork a heck of a lot, especially on Superman For All Seasons, which is undoubtedly the best of his collaborations with Jeph Loeb. That said, what exactly is going on here with Jimmy Olsen? Do Major Metropolitan Newspapers routinely employ eleven year-old street urchins? Can an unaccompanied minor be left in charge of a stakeout without hijinks ensuing? Don't get me wrong: For the most part, I like the art in this issue fine, but you'll be cruising along wondering what Jimmy Olsen's doing out of the 7th grade on a school day and suddenly hit a panel so jarring that it pulls you out of the book completely, like when Superman shows up at the Kent Farm in this issue. It's entirely possible to draw Superman looking upset without reducing him to a caricature of "sad kid," complete with nervous fidgeting with his cape. I'm just sayin': Dude could dial it back a shade.
Tranquility #1: I gotta say: If I never see another term for super-powered heroes, I think I'll be all right. In my time as a comics reader, I've read stories about supers, metas, ultras, and now "maxis," and despite my continuing abuse of the comma, I think it's time we exercised a little economy of language. Terminology aside, however, Tranquility's take on retired Golden and Silver AGe super-heroes and super-villains was a fun read all over, right down to the requisite goofy, hip-for-the-kids 2006 update of an equally goofy Golden Age villain. Gail Simone's script is enjoyable as always, and Neil Googe's artwork was a pretty pleasant surprise; it's off in places, but it's a fun mix of Scott Kolins and Rick Burchett that'll lend itself well to the series, assuming the first issue's any indication. Fun stuff.
Uncanny X-Men #481
And that was the week that was, as far as my comics were concerned. As for the trades, tune in Saturday when I catch up on reveiwing those, and be here tomorrow for the shocking return of the ISB's All-Out Audio Slugfest! You dare not miss it!
* Just kidding. Go buy it.