The Week in Ink: 12-13-06
It's Thursday night on the ISB, and we all know what that means!
Yes, Darwyn Cooke knows what I like. And after reading tonight's comic book reviews for the second week of December, you will too!
And remember, kids: You can find a complete list of my purchases by clicking here!
52: Week 32: When last week's issue of 52 finally made its way to the shop, I found myself absolutely hating it, and yet I liked this one a heck of a lot, despite the fact that they're pretty similar in tone. It might have something to do with the fact that I tend to prefer stories where a super-hero battles a yeti alongside someone who can rend the very Earth by whistling to the predictable and almost nonsensically violent "first death of Captain Comet," but either way, it's trucking along at an interesting, brisk pace that has thankfully reduced the amount of Lobo I need to deal with to one panel per issue. And that, my friends, is what we classify as "improvement."
Batman #660: A couple of weeks ago, I was ready to dismiss the whole John Ostrander/Tom Mandrake fill-in story on this title as being nothing but a cliché-filled waste of time, and I went into this one fully expecting to be proven right. But that was before Johnny Karaoke, an all-new villain that might just be the sensational character find of 2006. The story itself feels like something Ostrander knocked out in fifteen minutes while laying in a hammock one sunny afternoon, and Batman's last-page tough-talk is groan-inducingly horrible, but an Asian hitman who travels with a gang of "Geisha Grrls" named J.Lo, Beyonce, and Mariah and who sings songs into his cane (which is also a sword) before killing people is simultaneously the most awesome and mind-bogglingly horrible thing I have seen all year, and that makes it all worth it.
The Damned #3
The DCU Infinite Holiday Special #1: As weird as it might be, my well-documented love of Christmas is almost entirely secular, so while I'm always a little perplexed when "Merry Christmas" is replaced by "Happy Holidays," it doesn't really bother me at all. With this one, however--which was originally solicited under the much better title "Infinite Christmas"--it's more than a little annoying to see such a great pun go to waste.
Beyond that, though, this one's pretty much your standard Holiday Special, right down to the emphasis on promoting new books. The Shadowpact story by Bill Willingham and Invincible's Cory Walker is highly enjoyable, and the Trials of Shazam and Flash bits are better than I expected, but as we should all expect by now, Joe Kelly's aggressively vapid Supergirl learning the true meaning of Christmas by threatening to kill a man doesn't do a whole heck of a lot to inspire yuletide cheer.
Fortunately, the very last story in the comic--a Kelly Puckett/Pete Woods Superman Elseworlds tale called "Yes, Tyrone, There Is A Santa Claus"--is hands-down one of the funniest Christmas comics I've ever read. It's taken every ounce of my willpower over the past couple of days to not just post the last page and spoil the joke for everyone, but trust me: it's worth the hefty $4.99 price of admission just to get to the fantastic punchline that caps it all off. It's a Christmas Miracle!
DMZ #14: When the first part of Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli's new story arc came out last month, Warren Ellis called it the most important thing that Wood's ever written, and it's easy to see why. If you're not reading--and you should be--"Public Works" revolves around lead character Matty Roth going undercover and joining a terorrist cell, and the whole thing's so well done that even when you know the trick that Wood's pulling with the story structure, it still comes off as remarkably sharp and well-written. Burchielli's art is fantastic as always, and it all comes together in a pretty incredible cliffhanger at the end of this issue.
The Escapists #6: Not to spoil anything for anyone, but in the last issue of Brian K. Vaughan, Steve Rolston and Jason Alexander's sequel to The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, you don't really get the happy ending that you want. That's not a bad thing, though: You don't really get the happy ending that you want at the end of Kavalier and Clay, either. Instead, Vaughan crafts an ending that's very similar in tone to what happens in the source material that manages to be really uplifting in the same way. It's excellent, and even among all the standout mini-series of this year, Escapists ended up as one of the best.
Ex Machina #25
Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #32: I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to Dwayne McDuffie coming on as writer next issue--especially since he's doing a story where Firestorm fights the New Gods that might as well have been called "Hey Chris Sims, Buy This!"--but I've really, really enjoyed Stuart Moore and Jamal Igle's work on this title over the past few months. Since I jumped on with the "One Year Later" break and the few issues before, it's been nothing but solid every time, and with a plot that revolves largely around a half-cyborg and a human nuclear reactor hanging around in a diner looking for apartments, their last issue makes for a fun, satisfying wrapup.
Gen13 #3: Gail Simone's reboot of everyone's third-favorite super-teens continues, and while it's starting to get really obvious which panels Talent Caldwell and Sunny Lee are rushing through to meet deadlines, I'm still getting a kick out of it. This, of course, should come as a shock to no one, as there was a time in my life where Gen13 spoke to me in a way I'll never forget, no matter how hard I might try, so you might want to consider taking my reccomendations with a grain of salt.
Justice League of America #4: And with #4, it's finally become less fun to make fun of this book on the internet than it is to actually read the thing, which means that I have no further reason to be buying it. Brad Meltzer continues with the phenomenally annoying dialogue trick of having all the characters refer to each other by their real names all the time, to the point where Green Lantern can't even remember to use Arsenal's codename during a fight, instead stuttering over it in a way that makes him seem even more like a retard with a power ring than he usually does when Meltzer's writing him.
Add that to the fact that he refers to Red Tornado as "Reddy" three times in the span of two panels, and you have a script that I just cannot stand to read any more, even before you get to this issue's thrill-packed highlight of the increasingly emo "Reddy" getting into an argument with his wife and the simple lack of internal consistency that allows for Superman to struggle to pull a starro off of someone's neck while Arsenal blithely shoots one off with an arrow a few pages later.
As evidenced by the fact that I read about 25 of them every week, I'm probably one of the easiest people in the world to sell a comic book to--especially if it includes a bunch of characters that I actively want to read about--but Justice League of America doesn't even have enough excitement to be considered a trainwreck, and with a promise that the team's going to debut in number seven, there's no reason to even bother holding out for improvement. It's an astonishingly terrible comic, and has no place being a flagship title for a company. So I'm done with it.
Robin #157: Adam Beechen's run on Robin has quickly become one of the DCU books I most look forward to every month, and with as much as I loved Klarion in his recent Seven Soldiers appearances, I've been excited about this one ever since I heard about it a few months back. It doesn't disappoint, either, as Beechen's use of the classic saving-a-cat-from-a-tree gag as a McGuffin to get the story rolling works out beautifullyl under Frazer Irving's art, with enough time left over for Robin to cleverly score a date in his civillian identity and a fantastic panel with Alfred. It's a fun read, and if you haven't been checking it out, trust me: Robin's DC's best-kept secret right now.
The Spirit #1: Unlike certain peers of mine, I had no misgivings whatsoever about Darwyn Cooke taking on Will Eisner's legendary mystery man. I've been a fan of Cooke's ever since I picked up Batman: Ego when it came out, and like my pal Phil said, that guy could draw a six-issue Shatterstar mini-series and I'd buy it in a heartbeat.
And even with all that, The Spirit was still better than I expected it to be. Cooke's art--especially under J. Bone's inks and Dave Stewart's always-stellar coloring--speaks for itself, but the real attraction here is seeing the way that he plays with all of Eisner's classic tricks. True to form, the Spirit himself is pretty incidental to the plot--there's even a piece of dialogue where he's referred to as a "big blue average with a distraction stuck to his face." Instead, he serves as just another storytelling device to move the plot along and bring out the interesting quirks of the characters around him. And it all falls into place around him, from Ginger Coffee's typical-for-Eisner awesome name to the fantastic splash page with the logo spelled out in the background.
But it's probably Ebony's appearance that really makes the book so great. For those of you who don't know, the Spirit's original sidekick could charitably be called a racial caricature that Eisner later went back to in an effort to redeem, and to be honest, his dialogue in the first Spirit story I ever read stopped me cold from going any further for years. Here, though, one line from the Spirit three panels after his appearance does more to reconcile the character for today than anything I've seen since. It's an absolutely phenomenal piece of comics, and one of the most enjoyable reads you're going to find on the shelf.
Stormwatch PHD #2: I'm not sure why, since I've liked everything he's done, but writer Christos Gage never ceases to surprise me with how good he is every time a new issue comes out, and Stormwatch seems to be teaching the same lessons I'm learning with Union Jack. I mentioned last month that I really love Warren Ellis's run on the title, and Gage and Doug Mahnke are doing an excellent job handing a story that really feels like a natural extension of the themes that started with that book and continued through series like Ed Brubaker's amazing Sleeper, especially now that the opening story's out of the way. Gage's hook for the series allows for a pretty open-ended plot structure, and I'm really interested to see where he goes with it next.
Street Fighter Legends: Sakura #4
Tales of the Unexpected: David Lapham continues to work his way through the Big Book of Crime Story Clichés in a story that gets less and less appealing every time it comes out, but man... that backup story is awesome. There's no way to talk about how great it is without spoiling it, so if you have any plans to read it--and I highly reccomend that you do--you might want to skip the next bit.
Still here? Okay. I've been heard to say that Brian Azzarello was put on this Earth to do one thing and one thing only--100 Bullets--based on the fact that whenever I've seen him stray from that path, like for "Broken City," the results have been disastrous. But the fact that I am right now looking at a an absolutely gorgeous page of Cliff Chiang art that features I, Vampire, Dr. Thirteen, Captain Fear and his Ridiculously Awesome Accent, Anthro, and the ghost of General J.E.B. Stuart all teaming up to fight the Goddamn Nazi Monkeys of the Primate Patrol has blown my mind and left that little theory shattered into tiny, tiny pieces. It's a hoot, and while I have no idea what the point of it all's going to be--or even if there is one, really--I can say with all certainty that Brian Azzarello is all right with me.
Wolverine #49: Remember when I said I was easy to sell comics to? Behold the evidence: A Christmas issue of Wolverine purchased solely for the reason that the joke about "Santa Claws" in the solicitation made me laugh. Even better, though, is the story itself, which, on its own, is a pretty standard yarn about Wolverine saving a girl from kidnappers while he's out Christmas shopping. If you've been reading the ISB this week, though, I have an even better summary for you, and I swear that it is 100% accurate: This issue of Wolverine is like Die Hard in a Department Store.
Edu-Manga: Albert Einstein: I've been curious about these weird little Edu-Manga books ever since I ordered the one about Anne Frank, but I've often wondered if Japanese culture holds Albert Einstein in the same kind of regard that we do in the West after his involvement with the Manhattan Project, a theory rooted in the time I realized that Dr. Wily from the Mega Man games was a parody of him. Admittedly, getting my sweeping cultural generalizations from a manga series where Astro Boy learns about historical figures like Mother Theresa and Beethoven probably isn't the most accurate way to go about an investigation, but there was actually a lot in there about Einstein's trip to Japan on a lecture tour and how guilty he felt for pushing for the creation of the atomic bomb. Unfortunately, the book itself wasn't that great as a whole, especially considering the vast chunks of it devoted to trying to simplify the theory of Relativity into a more understandable version, which--for me, anyway--didn't exactly have the desired effect.
It's got its moments, though, like this scene from Einstein's childhood, where he reads his first science book and realizes that one day, he must become...
That thing cracks me up every time I see it.
Mail v.1: Back in October, I reviewed Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service v.1 as being my favorite new manga title of the year, and I mentioned that I originally ordered it because I'd been interested in artist Housui Yamazaki's Mail, which features Reiji Akiba, an exorcist who gets rid of ghosts by shooting them in the face with a gun named Kagutsuchi, "The Tool Between God And Heaven."
Needless to say, it is awesome. It's very similar in tone to Kurosagi, and Yamazaki's art works even better in this one, pulling off Akiba's comedic, Columbo-esque introduction and then shifting immediately into some genuinely creepy pieces that are just amazing. The second story in the book involves the ghost of a little girl who plays hide-and-seek with the tenants in the apartment complex where she died, and while I don't consider myself to be a fan of horror comics in general, Yamazaki's story and art are simply amazing.
Dude, I've asked you like eight times: What's your favorite comics blog?
Rats! Oh well, at least it wasn't Campbell.