The Week In Ink: 12-28-06
You know, it seems like just yesterday that I was posting the first-ever kick of the week back in January, but tonight marks the last new comics day of 2006. So please, join us as we bid farewell to 2006 in the only way we know how around here:
Yes, it's the fifth week of December, and there's a stack of comics on my desk that isn't going to review itself. But unfortunately, the Christmas shipping delay and my rigorous self-imposed update schedule both mean that I've had to read and review everything in a pretty short amount of time, so if tonight's snap judgements seem a little snappier or more judgemental than usual, that's why.
But enough talk! Follow along with the list of what I bought as I slug it out through the last Week In Ink of the year!
52: Week 34: With one of the better issues in recent memory, I'm going to go ahead and say that 52 has closed out the year on a pretty strong note. It's not without its flaws--and in fact, this issue sees a recurrenence of the biggest flaw of the series--but scenes like Lex Luthor's interrogation of Clark Kent are really helping to sharpen things up as we head into the final three months. For me, of course, the biggest thing about this issue is the apparent death of the Question, and while it's a well-done scene, one thing in particular struck me about it.
Right before the stroke of midnight, the Question--who has been deleriously quoting from his old series for a solid week now--starts weakly singing Danny Boy, and while that's neat in and of itself, Question fans and long-time ISB readers will recall that that's the same song that he sang when he came back from being beaten with lead pipes, shot in the head, and dumped in an icy river to die in one of the most badass moments in comics history. Whether this signifies the rebirth of the Question with Renee Montoya under the mask, or just an appropriate close to Vic Sage's second life, I don't know, but either way, it's a very nice touch.
The stuff with Osiris, however, left me feeling pretty cold. Not the plotline itself--that's been telegraphed for weeks now, and it's not like anybody's going to miss that version of the Persueder--but the graphic way that it was executed could've been done so much better. Believe it or not, I'm actually a firm believer in the power of subtlety, and there's a good reason why the best death scene in comics history only has a tiny little "snap!" to go with it, so a gory, entrail-filled shot of a low-rent bad guy getting torn in half--while oddly appropriate for the nigh-schizophrenic way that DC's been pushing for a brighter and more horrendously brutal editorial direction--was probably a bad idea.
Brian Bolland drawing Zatanna, however... That is always a good idea.
The All-New Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z #12
Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter: Guilty Pleasures #3: As always, expect more details to follow tomorrow (although not in the form of a match-up this time), but trust me on one thing: This book is gloriously horrible. Never before have I read a comic where the plot points have come in such a seemingly random order while the characters react to life-threatening situations with bored, slightly dyspeptic expressions and self-contradictory dialogue. It's like the whole thing was assembled with magnetic poetry and a blender, and it is beautiful.
Seriously, I love it. I hope it runs for years.
Astonishing X-Men #19: A few months ago, the fine folks over at Marvel's marketing department cooked up solicitations for this issue--which starts "Unstoppable," the last storyline of Joss Whedon and John Cassaday's run--that stopped just short of saying that if you did not read it, you may actually die. Admittedly, that's their job, but now that the issue's actually out, it really doesn't read like anything out of the ordinary for the title. Fortunately, "the ordinary" on Astonishing X-Men involves a highly entertaining story from Whedon and some truly phenomenal art from Cassaday, so it's got that going for it, along with the promise of all-out action for the next issue and a pretty fantastic moment for Collossus thrown in for good measure. It's excellent work, but from a title I enjoy as much as this one, I really expect nothing less.
Batman #661: TRUE FACT: All across this great nation of ours, flags will be kept at half-staff for the next thirty days in memory of Johnny Karaoke and his Geisha Grrls. Truly, he was too, too solid for this world.
Batman and the Mad Monk #5: I've mentioned before that with titles like Phonogram, Beyond! and BPRD: The Universal Machine, 2006 has been an awesome year for mini-series, and there's really nothing that exemplifies that more than Matt Wagner's recent work with Batman. Hands down, these are some of the best stories the character's seen in years, and this issue falls right in with the rest, kicking off as it does with Batman in dire peril of being killed by an old favorite of mine, the crushing wall trap (with optional spikes). It's amazingly fun, and with great scenes opposite Alfred and Jim Gordon, there's literally something on every page that reminds me why I love Batman so much.
Blue Beetle #10: After what felt like a pretty shaky start, it finally seems that Giffen, Rogers, and Hamner (along with various fill-in artists) have finally hit their stride here. Admittedly, I'm a sucker for a story involving the New Gods, but the past few issues have been a heck of a lot of fun, especially where Giffen's new direction for the Peacemaker's concerned. If you haven't already checked it out, the first trade's available, and while it's nothing all that spectacular, it's worth your time to give it a look if you enjoy, say, Firestorm, especially with the improvement it's shown over the last few issues.
Detective Comics #827
Hawkgirl #59: You know, there's not a whole lot that'll make me want to read a comic book less than a cover blurb like this issue's promise of "The Never-Ending Battles of the Rann-Thanagar War!" Believe me, I read six issues and a special of that little interplanetary conflict, and that's as close to "never-ending" as I'd ever like to get. Even beyond that, though--and you have no idea how much it hurts me to say this as someone who regards Walt Simonson's run on Thor as the pinnacle of modern super-hero comics and thinks that his Fantastic Four work has a good shot at being the most underappreciated run in Marvel Comics history--Hawkgirl is terrible. I've tried to make it work for the better part of a year now, and while there was a faint glimmer of hope when Chaykin left the book, there really hasn't been any improvement to speak of. So in the interest of starting the new year with a slightly smaller pile of comics to read each week, Hawkgirl's gone.
The Immortal Iron Fist #2: I don't know how you guys read comics, but the fact that I can go into a shop and walk out with two top-notch Marvel series featuring at least a guest appearance by the Night Nurse just thrills me to no end. Anyway, Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction--two guys who have pretty much gotten to the point where until further notice, they can do no wrong with me--continue fleshing out an interesting, compelling legacy for Iron Fist, while keeping things moving with a nod to Civil War and a highly enjoyable look at Danny Rand as the avenging kung fu disco businessman that I like so much in his earliest appearances. It's an excellent read, and with the plot lines of three different eras converging around Danny Rand, it makes for a surprisingly dense one compared to a lot of what's on the shelves, too.
Jack of Fables #6: With this issue's detailed explanation of the four seasonal queens, Willingham and Sturges are bringing Syksy back. And yes, that is the most awesome joke you will hear about this comic today.
Anyway, it's another fantastic issue of Jack of Fables from Willingham, Sturges, and new artist Steve Leialoha, and while gags like Priscilla Page's fourth wall-breaking interruption to offer up the backstory make it easy to think of this as the "fun" counterpart to Fables, the original series isn't exactly a chore to get through itself. Still, it's enough of a difference in tone and technique to make Jack feel like a more lighthearted take on the same themes, and it's working out to be every bit as awesome as its predecessor. Excellent stuff.
Nextwave: Agents of HATE #11: If you subscribe to the Bad Signal--and there's really no reason not to--it's abundantly clear that Warren Ellis spends a lot of time thinking about page layout, panel structure, and the actual ways that his comics are formed. So when he decides to have a twelve-page fight scene consisting of the most mind-bogglingly awesome enemies imaginable--including Evil Communist Monkeys, demonic chimney sweeps, and for the love of all that is good and holy, MODOK Elvii!--it should come as no surprise that he does not fuck around.
There's really no need for me to go on after that, but seriously, it's pure comics joy. Even the setup to the fight scene only just meets the minimum amount of plot to keep the story going, and manages to contain multiple explosions, the undead, and what is without a doubt the single greatest panel of Monica Rambeau's entire existence. Trust me: It's a fantastic piece of fight comics.
Public Enemy #2: Yes! The rhythm, the rebel! Without a pause, I'm lowering my level! The hard rhymer! Where you've never been I'm in! You want stylin', you know it's time again: D, the Enemy, tellin' you to hear it!
Or, in this case, read it. As you might know if you've been keeping up with Ye Olde lately, a signing for Public Enemy the comic turned into an impromptu concert by Public Enemy the band, and I'm willing to put money down that says that's the most awesome thing that hs ever happened in a comic book store parking lot by far. Either way, that alone is a reason to pick this up, even if I have to cop to enjoying it more than a little "ironically." But considering that it's got Flava Flav's astounding use of ninjitsu, it might not be as ironic as I think it is.
Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #13: Along with the new issue, Marvel put out second volume of SM <3 MJ in incredibly affordable digest format today, so if you haven't been listening while I've shouted its praises over the past year, there's really no excuse left for not reading it. One of Spider-Man's greatest strengths as a character has always been his rich supporting cast, and Sean McKeever's scripst read like he's having an absolute blast playing off of them, especially in this issue. There's a fantastic sequence illustrated by Rick Mays that's narrated by a teenage Gwen Stacy, and it's exactly that kind of enjoyable stuff that makes this book easily the best Spider-Man title of the last year. It'll definitely lose something when Takeshi Miyazawa leaves, but it's a fantastic little comic.
And to this day, the only one I've ever sent a letter to.
Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #25
Wetworks #4: It occurs to me that I don't usually give Wetworks a whole lot of attention during my weekly reviews, which can mostly be traced to the fact that I write them in alphabetical order, and I don't usually get around to W until, oh, daybreak or so. But the fact remains, Mike Carey's been doing a fine job on the title ever since it relaunched, and much like parts of his amazing run on Hellblazer, it seems like it's picking up steam as he gets further and further into the supernatural plots that are going to drive the series. If nothing else, it's a solid read, and while this one's all over the place--what with a vampire assassin, a ruined parallel Earth, and a flashback to a trial--it's the kind of inconsistency that comes off more charming than anything else as Carey moves quickly from one idea to the next, keeping the momentum of the story up as he goes. As for Whilce Portacio, well, I'm not a fan, and the nicest thing I can say there is that he's far more suited to this book than he was on Batman Confidentail, which only leads me to wonder how much more excited about it I'd be if Wetworks was drawn by Marcelo Frusin or Leonardo Manco.
Winter Soldier: Winter Kills: If you told me five years ago that Bucky was going to come back as a renegade Soviet super-assassin with a cybernetic arm and that I'd absolutely love it, I would've lookeda t you like you had lobsters crawling out of your ears. And yet, here we are in the final days of 2006 with an absolutely incredible one-shot to back all that up. Such is the power of Ed Brubaker.
Cromartie High School v.9
Lankhmar Book 1: Swords and Deviltry
And that, my friends, brings the new comics of 2006 to a close. As always, if you have any questions about something I didn't mention, or if you're wondering what my exact thoughts on this week's issue of Justice were, then feel free to leave a comment. As for me, I'm going to go read about Japanese delinquents and, time permitting, the Gray Mouser.