The Week In Ink: 12-20-06
Normally at this time every week, I like to lead off my comics reviews with a panel from that week's comics of someone getting kicked in the face. But tonight, although there's a perfectly good one in the pages of Checkmate, I'm going to change things up a little.
After all, it's Christmas!
Yes, I've made my list for the third week of December, and now it's time to dole out the presents and coal!
52: Week 33: It might just be the long-term effects of subscribing to a book like Tarot, but I'll be honest with you: I've been waiting for Batwoman and Renee Montoya to start making out for about eight months now, so I think we can go ahead and file this one under "Christmas Miracle." On a more serious note, though, 52's back on another upswing for me, and the Question sequence, while heavy on references to the totally awesome O'Neil/Cowan series, was a high point for me. Unfortunately, it's all balanced out by the Lex Luthor bits, which come close to dragging down the whole thing with some of the worst art we've seen in the series so far.
Or maybe it was the harsh realization that while everyone else in Black Adam's running crew wears clothes in their civilian identity, Black Adam himself, well... doesn't.
The Bakers Meet Jingle Belle: I'm not sure, but after reading almost everything he's done, I'm pretty much convinced that Kyle Baker has the most adorable children ever. Really, though, a review of this one is almost completely unnecessary, as you can get pretty much everything you need to know right from the title. Paul Dini, of course, used to be one of the brains behind Batman: The Animated Series, and it really shouldn't surprise anyone that I'm a huge fan of Jingle Belle, which details the hijinks brought about by Santa's rebellious, perpetually teenage daughter. As for Kyle Baker, he's Kyle Baker, and with books like The Cowboy Wally Show, he's proven pretty well over the past twenty years that he's up there with Sergio Aragones as one of the best cartoonists in comics history, and in this one, there's a panel where Baker draws the Grinch. That, friends, is worth $2.99 alone, and the rest of it's not half bad either.
Birds of Prey #101: You know, I'm not exactly sure when Big Barda switched to a V-neck for her chain mail, but considering she's on the team to replace a woman who fought crime with the power of judo and fishnet stockings, that sort of thing's to be expected. Either way, I like the new team a heck of a lot, and Gail Simone and Nicola Scott are doing a fine job of keeping things exciting, especially with the new Taskmaster. The idea of giving Oracle an opposite number to play against is always an appealing one, but with the new Spy Smasher knowing Oracle's identity right off the bat tends to kick things up a notch, especially with the way Simone's already laying the groundwork with two issues of pretty sharp characterization.
Catwoman #62: I wasn't originally going to say anything about this one, since I tend to just sing the praises of Will Pfeifer and David Lopez every month, but I just realized that the #62 of the previous Catwoman series--featuring Jim Balent, of course--is the story where Nemesis shows up, acts completely out of character, and then dies. So just in case you were wondering, Catwoman v.2 is way, way better than its predecessor.
Checkmate #9: In this issue, Greg Rucka and Jesus Saiz give us a story that includes the all-new Madamoiselle Marie, a bunch of DEO agents running around in a standard-issue uniform based on Nemesis's costume, and a contender for the most unexpected team-up of all, and that's exactly the sort of thing that I want to see from a spy thriller set in the DC Universe. It's absolutely fantastic stuff, and the new storyline that kicked off last issue's shaping up to compare with the best parts of John Ostrander's Suicide Squad. And since Squad was one of the best comics of the '80s, that's no small achievement.
Conan #35: I'll go ahead and do this one in one sentence: The Wazir tells the Prince a story about how Old Man Conan killed pretty much everybody and was awesome. NEXT.
Criminal #3: Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips come out with another excellent issue of their crime story, and while it keeps the same sense of tension and danger that really kicked in with last issue's spectacular heist failure, Brubaker keeps upping the ante for his characters, continually twisting the plot like a knife to make a bad situation worse, much like he did on Sleeper, and it works just as well here. Excellent stuff.
Fables #56: I'll be the first to admit that my choices for the "Best of the Week" title can come off as a little arbitrary, and are often just as influenced by my love of novelty or the amount of attention I was able to give when I read something as by the quality of the work itself, but let's be honest with each other for a minute: James Jean's fantastic cover gave this one a good chance of wining before I even opened it up, and with Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham doing a Christmas story revolving around Santa Claus and his influence on the cast, there's not even a contest.
I'm going to go ahead and put this out there: When it's all said and done, Fables may go down as the best Vertigo series since Swamp Thing, and with issues like this one that are built around lighthearted holiday cheer but still take the time for emotionally charged and extremely ominous moments and a hint that we may actually see Santa battling the forces of the Adversary--which, if it happens, will cause me to freak out harder than anything since OMAC #2--it's easy to see what makes it so good.
The Punisher #42
Secret Six #6: Since this is the last issue of Secret Six, there's a small blurb on the last page that invites you to let DC know if you'd like to see more, so please allow me to be the first to say that I've always been a little confused as to why it wasn't an ongoing series in the first place. After all, I'll take as many comics Gail Simone cares to write about a team of super-villains (preferably including Deadshot) that fights other super-villains. It's just how I roll.
She-Hulk #14: She-Hulk's been consistently well-done for the past two years, so I'll just say this: If there's a super-villain name better than The Mad Thinker's Awesome Android, then I have yet to hear it. If only he had been designed only for killing...
Teen Titans #42: With as much as I've been disappointed by Geoff Johns over the past year--thanks largely to my distaste for the phenomenally stupid Infinite Crisis and my lone hatred of the new Justice Society--Teen Titans has only stuck around the Sims household out of curiosity over how the upcoming "Titans East" story's going to work out, especially given how shaky that last arc was. This issue, though, was actually pretty good, and I say that as someone who likes Blue Devil quite a bit. The parallel between Kid Devil's new powers and BD's downfall in Underworld Unleashed is an interesting touch for the story, and if nothing else, there's a complete lack of Jericho, which means that Teen Titans is off the chopping block for another 30 days. It's A Christmas Miracle!
Union Jack #4: I've mentioned before that 2006 has been a great year for mini-series, and while Christos Gage has been laying on the "working-class hero" stuff way thicker than he needs to over the past few issues, he and Mike Perkins have done one of the most purely enjoyable super-hero action stories that I've seen in a long time. The characters for the whole thing have been fantastic, from the interactions between Sabra and the Arabian Knight right on down to the way he's portrayed the legendary Batroc Zee Leapair and d-listers like the Death-Throws, and while the twist at the end is one that you'll see coming a mile away, it works out exactly the way you want it to. It's excellent stuff, and if there's any opportunity to get more from the same creators, I'll be first in line.
Wasteland #5: I believe my thoughts on this series have been well-documented by this point.
...Man, I am way too smarmy for my own good sometimes. But fortunately, the quote they pulled for the back cover still applies: Johnston and Mitten are doing a fantastic job, and although it opens with all-out action for eleven pages, there's still enough meat to the rest of it to keep driving the story. It doesn't feel like the story pauses for the action, and it doesn't feel like the action's been lacking in favor of Johnston detailing the setting either, which is a difficult trick to pull off.
X-Men: First Class #4
Y - The Last Man #52
Action Philosophers! Giant-Size Thing v.2: If you've left your Christmas shopping to the last minute and you're trying to figure out a good gift for the person who likes comics, philosophy, learning new things, or stuff that's awesome in general, you could do a lot worse than to pick up a copy of Action Philosophers v.2, especially since it comes it at $8.95 for the second trade and even less for the first one. And if you haven't read it, then trust me on this one: you should. I say it every time it comes out, but Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey have created one of the most entertaining and enlightening comics on the stands today, and even without the scene where Karl Marx pulls out a machinegun and shouts "I Kick Ass For the Proles," it'd be a bargain at twice the price.
And that's this week's comics. As always, feel free to ask about antything I left out, and be here tomorrow for the ISB's extra-sized Christmas Special podcast! You DARE not miss the possibility of fifteen minutes of me drinking spiked eggnog and slurring my way through the Bing Crosby catalog in rich monoural sound! Be there!