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Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Week In Ink: 3-29-06

Before we get started with another installment of two-fisted reviews of this week's funnybooks, I have a confession to make.

In the interest of full disclosure, I feel you should all know that over the past week, I've read the first half of a full run of 1991's breakout hit, Darkhawk. And what's more, I actually liked it. A lot.

Admittedly, it takes a downturn about the time Venom shows up--which pretty much everything does in that situation--but yeah. It's something to keep in mind if you've been using "The Week In Ink" to inform your own purchases.


Action Comics #837: The One Year Later story continues apace, and it's highly enjoyable. One of the things that I've always wanted to see more of was Clark Kent the journalist--a career that doesn't just allow him to know when trouble's happening, but to crusade against the larger injustices that punching a giant robot just won't solve. I like a big Superman punchout as much as--and quite possibly more than--the next guy, but it's an aspect of his character that I just don't think we see enough of. Which, of course, is why I'm ejoying "Up, Up, and Away" so much. When Lois asks Clark why he didn't fight back against Luthor last issue and he responds "I did. The article ran today, didn't it?" that single line does more for Clark-As-Journalist than we've gotten in quite a while. On the flipside, the old Toyman shows up in what feels like a step backward. I actually like the concept of the Hiro Okamura version of Toyman quite a bit, even though he's mostly appeared in lousy stories. Other than that, it's solid stuff from top to bottom--and it even has a cryptic clue to the missing year.

All-Star Superman #3: Ladies and gentlemen, the ISB proudly presents: Lois Lane Getting Bonked On The Head With A Rock:

Cracks me up every time I look at it.

Quitely's art in this issue is amazing, even when it doesn't involve Chuck Jones moments with rocks and Lois's noggin. There are just so many panels that are just incredible, especially the way he draws Superman's face in the various close-ups, with everything from the Jim Lee style red-eyes angry Superman to the casual show-off Silver Age superman, and they're just perfect. Morrison's story--and it pretty much goes without saying at this point--is a joy to read as the "12 Labors of Superman" structure is finalized within the story. And in case you missed it, it's finalized with a mention of SOLARIS THE TYRANT SUN, and that guy ain't no joke.

Blue Beetle #1: If we can go through the rest of our lives without a character slipping into his "native tongue" in order to denote his ethnicity, that'd be swell. Just sayin'. Anyway, I'm pretty sure that this isn't actually a One Year Later book, although it was certainly advertised as such. If it is, it seems awfully disjointed with the way the flashbacks work, and if it isn't, that seems like it'd be an awkward hurdle to jump within the next few issues of a new book. Regardless of those problems, I enjoyed this one, although it didn't really strike me as anything special, and Guy Gardner seemed to come off as even more of an unreasonable asshole than he usually does. And while I didn't think it was Cully Hamner's best work by far when I first read it, I find myself enjoying the art more and more each time I flip through. At the very least, it's enough to keep me around until we figure out what the new Blue Beetle's deal is.

Books of Doom #5: I enjoyed this issue a heck of a lot more than the previous four. It's not that they're bad, it's just that I have no particular desire to see Victor von Doom doing things that I could do. You know, bumming around Prague, getting kicked out of college. That sort of thing. What I want to see is Dr. Doom conquering all who oppose them and laying waste to the paltry things they hold dear, and on that front, this issue delivers.

Captain America 65th Anniversary Special: Hot on the heels of ISB readers clamoring for more Nazis getting the business end of a fist, we have this: the best Ed Brubaker Cap story yet, with beautiful art by Javier Pulido and Marcos Martin. It's gorgeous, and it's got everything you want from a World War II Captain America story, and by that, I mean it's got the Howling Commandos, Cap being awesome, and a giant magical Nazi robot. And it's even got a surprise ending that ties into the ongoing. It's great.

GØDLAND #9: I'd just like to say that I'm going to derrive endless enjoyment from the phrase "Funky Buster Round" by the time this is all said and done. The story takes a breather after the mind-shattering events of last issue (which was awesome) where Adam Archer learned the Secret Origin of the Universe. Of course, in the world of Godland, a "breather" consists of no less than five explosions. Yes. I counted. It's just how I roll.

Hysteria: One Man Gang #2: This is one of the best comics I've ever read in under two minutes, but since Mike Hawthorne has set out to create a hundred-page story with nothing but fast-paced karate action, I'm his exact target audience. It's a noble goal, as is his rule outlined in one of the most readable making-of sections at the end of the book that nobody gets killed in the story, and he's doing a fantastic job of it. The action scenes--in this one especially--are as close as you can get to a Jackie Chan fight sequence rendered on the page, and the book has a real sense of motion to it. I love it, and if you're not reading it, you should be.

Invincible #30

Iron Man #6: So you know how I like that time in Iron Man #200 where somebody gets their head blown off with a repulsor ray? Yeah. If this book would've come out on time, it would've been awesome, although with the great Adi Granov art and Warren Ellis's futurist modernization of Iron Man that still manages to involve a healthy amount of punching people through walls in between scenes of cell phone use, I imagine it's going to hold up quite well.

JLA Classified #19: I'll admit that I wasn't particularly thrilled with this storyline for the past few issues, but this one turned that all around, thanks largely to the fact that Wonder Woman gets what Dave Campbell would call a F*@% Yeah Moment that got me pretty excited--along with a setup for Batman to get one next issue. I'm just a sucker for "evil versions of the Justice League" stories. Plus, Sean Phillips is a major improvement over Klaus Janson's inks on Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez's art. It's similar, which I think comes from the coloring, but it's different enough that there's a noticeable difference.

Marvel Romance Redux: Guys and Dolls

The Middleman #2.2: Everybody and their brother knows by now that The Middleman is pretty awesome, so I'll just give you a short list of the things you'll find in this issue that'll support that very claim: Luchadores, a kung fu master in a luchadore mask, a cage made of diamond-powered lasers, scantily clad women serving chicken wings, and--my personal favorite--pretentious boyfriends getting their comeuppance. Read it, yo!

Queen & Country #29: Discounting the Declassified miniseries, this is not only the first issue of Q&C in quite some time, but also the first issue since A Gentleman's Game. I was actually pretty surprised that the novel that had such major ramifications for the comic, but at the same time, I can't imagine anyone who likes the comic not wanting to get the novel either. It's a solid return to the story, but I do think Tara Chace and Renee Montoya ought to get together for some group therapy, since they seem to deal with tragedy and frustration in exactly the same way. Fortunately, they are both in very, very good comic books.

Spike vs. Dracula #2: One day, I promise I'll learn. But really, the prospect of vampires in zoot suits duking it out on the wing of a flying airplane appeals to me in a way I can't deny.

Star Wars: The Return of Tag & Bink #1: This may just be a by-product of the fact that I hate Star Wars now, but I really thought the previous version of Tag & Bink in Return of the Jedi (from Star Wars Tales #13) was actually a lot funnier than it ended up in this one. That's not to say that this one isn't funny, and in fact it's got a lot of great gags; the one about the Bothans made me crack up almost as much as Lois getting bonked with a rock. It's solid, but I'm looking forward to the next one, where Rubio and Marangon take on Episode I a lot more.

The Surrogates #5: One thing I've learned about future dystopian crime dramas: They do not tend to have happy endings. But we all pretty much knew that, although we might not have known that Top Shelf's first monthly book was going to be as good as it ended up. It's been thoroughly enjoyable from beginning to end, and may well be one of my favorite miniseries of the year.

Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #37: After the sheer, abject horrorporn that was last issue, Tarot's adventures this month involve a fifteen-page adventure where she goes to the Fairy Realm and fights a tree. Not that I even need to tell you, but this results in Tarot walking around naked a lot. After that, she returns to the "Mortal World" and gets hated on by a lady for being a witch who walks around naked a lot--which from what I've seen is a fair criticism--in yet another object lesson on why we shouldn't discriminate against people who believe some stuff that I'm pretty sure Jim Balent made up. As a dubious bonus, this issue also features a backup story about "Spellarella," a cartoonish witch who--oh, imagine that--ends up naked a lot. And here's the kicker: Rhyming narration that works out just about as good as you'd think, followed up by a page of letters that attempt to assure us that this isn't just a book about witches and their breasts. And it can all be yours for a mere $2.99, folks.

The Thing #5

Veronica #169: The Riverdale Experiment continues, and I only now realize that I have become what I hate most: I'm a guy who buys Tarot and Veronica at the same time. Such are the sacrifices I make for you people. But anyway, this issue features apperances by a few lesser-known Archie characters, like Cricket O'Dell and Veronica's rarely-seen mother. But it also features an appearance by Betty, working down in the food court at a stand with the best corporate logo ever:

Not only is that thing adorable, but there is nothing that gets me hungrier than the idea of eating the soul of a righteous corndog. I really shouldn't have skipped dinner.

Walking Dead #27

X-Men: Deadly Genesis #5: If you would've told me five years ago that I'd be thoroughly enjoying a book about the Third Summers Brother, I doubt I would've believed you. And yet, here we are, and I'm liking it quite a bit. And why? Because Kitty Was Right.

X-Statix Presents Dead Girl #3

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Relatively Serious Comics Reviews: A.L.I.E.E.E.N. and Sardine in Outer Space

Last week I got an email from one of the fine folks over at First Second Publishing asking if I'd be interested in reviewing something from their Spring releases here on the ISB. Apparently, they'd gotten me confused with someone who actually finished getting his English degree instead of dropping out to devote more time to Grand Theft Auto, a fact that I'm pretty sure they might've tumbled to the third time I asked if they had anything with Batman.

Regardless, the people I dealt with were unfailingly polite about their mistake, and I managed to con them out of select a couple of their extremely well-packaged books for review purposes. So please, dear reader, pour yourself a fine glass of Chablis and put a little Mozart on the stereo as we diverge from our usual festival of karate explosions and attempt to treat tonight's subject as serious comics journalism.

Or as serious as you're going to get from someone who read Extreme Justice, anyway.

First up is Lewis Trondheim's A.L.I.E.E.E.N., which comes complete with its own great hook, detailed in the introduction (available along with the first ten pages for your free-of-charge online perusal). It was, according to Trondheim, not his creation, but a relic left at the site of an alien landing, a gimmick that not only provides a context for the story, but leads to the book's best gag: the critical reviews on the back cover.

So, as a comic that alien kids would read, the book starts off pretty much like you'd expect, with cute aliens having fun in an orange-and-purple forest. And then everything goes horribly wrong:

And it pretty much goes downhill for our principal characters from there.

The sparse dialogue is all rendered in a cryptographic alien script, leaving the story to be driven entirely by Trondheim's pictures, which jump from over-the-top sight gags to downright horrifying in places. To put it another way, it's essentially Owly with eye-gouging, and all that goes with it.

It's deceptively cute, and according to the First Second catalog (which is a slick, well-produced affair that's worth reading in its own right), it's a Young Readers book, but I'm not sure that's quite the audience it might appeal to. After all, children's books don't generally involve a cute alien being tied up and graphically beaten to death by a jolly, club-weilding mob. It's the kind of book that would've freaked me out as a kid, although to be honest, it freaked me out now.

It's definitely a European surrealist indy comic, which as you might know, isn't exactly my speed. But if you like that sort of thing, it's extremely well-done from a technical standpoint, especially the incredibly interesting visuals and the way Trondheim paces the story, and there are some genuinely terrifying moments in there--and some genuinely stomach-churning ones as well.

So yeah. Not exactly my thing. But fortunately, they sent along something that was.

Emmanuel Guibert and Joann Sfar's Sardine in Outer Space is the first collection in a series of kid-friendly space-pirate adventure strips from France.

The stories (the first of which is available in its entirity to preview) center on Sardine, a youngster who, with the aid of an older mentor, manages to escape from the orphanage of a sinister space-dictator and his evil mad scientist sidekick and then spends the majority of her time eluding them.

Yeah, that's right: It has what is essentially the same plot as Jack Kirby's Mr. Miracle. Unfortunately, there isn't a scene involving the phrase "Then let me be Sardine--and find myself!" but since the whole thing's a lot more lighthearted than the Fourth World, that's to be expected.

But I kid. With its fun, nonsensical 10-page stories, Sardine's a lot closer in tone to a particularly upbeat Bruce Coville novel than anything else, and the Supermuscleman--Sardine and Captain Yellow Shoulder's mustachioed nemesis--makes a great fall guy. But while the stories are cute and there's generally at least one great gag in every story, like a giant squid hidden in a bathroom or some good old-fashioned space-pirate cross-dressing, there's one sequence in particular that blows them all away:

"Planet Discoball" is almost worth the price of the book alone. More than anything else in the book, it's the one where everything works, from the wacky premise right on down to the translation, which is awkward in certain parts of the book but goes smoothly here.

And it's got everything I could possibly want in a story: Breakdance fighting, deathtraps, a frigg'n lightsaber. It even features a mix tape called "LASER DISKETTE PARTY TO THE MAX" as a plot point, and if that doesn't make you want to read it, then I have no idea what possibly could.

It's a quick read, but it's a good one, and in parts it borders on spectacular--especially for the first volume in a series. There's a lot of potential, and with the second volume coming out later this year, it's well worth checking out.

Plus, Sardine's cat is just adorable

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Two-Fisted Trifecta

You've thrilled to the ammo-belt whippings of Sgt. Rock!

You've freaked out at the head-exploding awesomeness of Barry Windsor-Smith's Conan!

And now, because I can't resist the allure of doing this sort of thing in threes, feast thine eyes on the Sensational Beatdown of 1954: Knockout Adventures #1, Starring Rip Carson!

I found this cover purely by accident just after it was uploaded to the GCD, and I know absolutely nothing about it other than its year of publication. And yet, somehow I think I've got everything I need just from the cover.

I mean, not only does it say "Two-Fisted Tales of He-Man Action" right across the top, but a man whose first name is a verb is giving four cream-puffs the thrashing of their lives, while actually saying the phrase "Let's Fight!"

And then there's the guy jumping off the speeding train in an effort to get the drop on him, but Rip clearly sees him coming, meaning he's about three seconds away from looking like the thug in the lower left-hand corner.

Tomorrow I'll try to rustle up some content that doesn't involve incredible amounts of physical violence, but for now let's just bask in the glow.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Barry Windsor-Smith: Man of Action

A while back on Of Course, Yeah!, Spencer Carnage requested that the internet comics community set aside these next few days to pay homage to one of the greats with Barry Windsor-Smith Appreciation Week.

I'm more than happy to go along with this, as it gives me a chance to go into a nice retrospective on one of the forgotten all-time classics of sequential literature. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you..


Who could forget this classic tale of Storm coming to grips with the loss of her powers, while finding a tender love in the arms of a Cheyenne mystic who had his own losses to deal with: the brave young men he fought beside in the 'Nam.


...Yeah, I'm just screwin' with you. That thing's got Storm, Forge, and the words "A Love Story" right there on the cover, pretty much ensuring that I won't be reading it anytime soon, even if it does feature Bill Mantlo's own ROM: Spaceknight foes, the sinister Dire Wraiths. This is the ISB, brother, and around here, we read comics with punching.

Fortunately, the world of two-fisted action is not exactly a stranger to Barry Windsor-Smith, thanks largely to his long stints as penciller on on Marvel's Conan the Barbarian, a book that over the years has featured more shirtless men stabbing each other than any comic ever published.

His work on that book's incredible, and when I asked Roy Thomas a few weeks back if there were any particular pages that Windsor-Smith had done that stuck out in his memory, he was able to answer with absolutely no hesitation:

The splash page to Red Nails. From the way the image interacts with the logo right down to the chips on Conan's sword, it's a beautiful image, especially when it's been recolored by the fine folks over at Dark Horse for their trades. And what's more, it may be one of the defininitve images of everyone's favorite Barbarian, and for good reason: With one picture, Barry Windsor-Smith tells you everything you need to know about Conan:

He is tough. He does not like to wear shirts. And he is probably going to stab you. Maybe with two different weapons.

Beautiful though it may be, however, it's not my favorite piece of Barry Windsor-Smith art. No, that honor belongs to a panel from the Conan the Barbarian #19, in a story called "Hawks From the Sea."

Interestingly enough, Windsor-Smith had just recently returned to the book after a stint by Gil Kane, who--not to dis Barry--had really raised the bar for Conan. There's one incredible page that rivals the one above for sheer awesomeness where Conan stands on a pile of bodies aboard a viking longship, swinging a mace and a sword while a storm rages in the background, all capped off by this great opening caption that ends with: "And towering over all: CONAN!"

If that doesn't get you excited about some Hyborian Age ass-kicking, nothing will, but that's a topic for Gil Kane week. Anyway, after an unexpectedly short two-issue run as regular artist, Kane was out and Windsor-Smith was back in, and in the very next issue, he proceeds to blow your mind.

That is the single hardest hit I have ever seen in a comic book, bar none. Conan is hitting that man so hard his head explodes.

And that's how Barry Windsor-Smith rolls.


Conan utilizes his dreaded "Million Dollar Dream" sleeper hold to subdue a giant monkey. Beat THAT, Kull!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Battlefield Action in the Mighty ISB Manner!

Longtime ISB readers will no doubt be familiar with my deep and abiding love of Sgt. Rock, but while I was surfing Wikipedia today in an effort to find out exactly how Blackhawk is supposed to work, I found something that makes me love him even more.

To the left, you'll see a Joe Kubert Sgt. Rock cover showing everybody's favorite bare-chested war hero as he's usually depicted, about four seconds away from dropping a serious beatdown on some lousy Ratzis. What's important, though, are those two ammo belts slung over his shoulders that give the Sarge his signature appearance.

Now I'm going to go ahead and assume that the majority of you don't have stacks of Soldier of Fortune laying around, but ever since that run of Punisher Armory, I find this stuff oddly fascinating, so bear with me while I go through it. Rock's usually shown carrying a .45 Thompson submachine gun and a .45 Colt M1911 pistol, but the ammo belts are full of .50 calibre rounds. Even Easy's heavy machine gun, a .30 cal Browning usually packed by Designated Big Lug and puppy enthusisast Bulldozer, wouldn't take that kind of ammo, which renders it pretty useless.

The official reason for the ammo belts is that they're Rock's lucky charms--which is pretty tough in and of itself, considering that most people get their luck from a rabbit's foot and not two hundred massive bullets--but we all know that those ammo belts have a very definite and ridiculously, mind-blowingly awesome purpose:


That is why Sgt. Rock is the baddest motherfucker in the history of comics, and also why you are now freaking out.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Dig It! The NEW Blackhawk Era!

There's a story about Alan Moore that goes something like this: When he was around seven or so, he was staying home sick from school when his mom offered to pick up some comics while she was out shopping. At the time, the only DC comic he'd never read was Blackhawk, so that's what he asked for, although he couldn't remember the name, so he just asked for a comic with four or five characters in blue suits. Mother Moore, in typical mom fashion, came home with the wrong comic: A Lee/Kirby issue of Fantastic Four, and young Alan's mind was blown forever.

It's a good thing, too, because if he actually would've gotten a copy of Blackhawk, there's a strong possibilty that he never would've read comics again.

Or at least, that's the conclusion I've come to after slogging through 1967's bold experiment in cross-genre revamping, The New Blackhawk Era.

The whole thing starts in Blackhawk #228's "Junk-Heap Heroes," which--unless I miss my guess--was an attempt to save the book from cancellation by turning everyone's favorite Polish war hero and his crew into a team of super-heroes. It doesn't work out, despite the fact that it's all written by my main man Bob Haney, mostly due to the fact that the Blackhawks become the worst super-heroes in the history of comics.

But more on that later.

All you really need to know is that it's rough. How rough? Well, I couldn't make it through more than six issues, and lest you forget, last week I read an entire run of Extreme Justice.

The strange saga begins with most of the Justice League going to the President and, in one of the all-time dick moves of comics, telling him that the Blackhawks suck and need to be forcibly retired, a sentiment that Batman expresses in an odd sequence of leftover Metamorpho dialogue:

When a man who spends the majority of his time beating up clowns and brooding in a cave tells you that you can't swing, you may have a problem. A problem that can apparently be solved by some good-natured racism:

And one more time for good measure:

Before we move on, I'd just like to point out that, yes, that's a giant metal spider robot that Blackhawk's using as a teaching aide as he attempts to modernize the 'Hawks for the grim and gritty world of 1967. It may not be his best work, but it's still Bob Haney, dammit. But anyway.

It may seem odd that Olaf's heritage comes under fire so much, but I figure they had their actual racism covered with Chop-Chop, who, in case you missed it, is named Chop-Chop. Me, I think it comes from the fact that Olaf is one of the most annoying characters in the history of comics. Even among an entire team of characters whose nationalities are defined by little more than facial hair and ridiculous accents, his dialogue is a frigg'n chore, full of unnecessary use of the word "ban" and his trademark epithet "Py Yiminy!," which no one has ever used ever.

Like I said, rough. But it manages to get rougher, when the New Blackhawk Era is kicked into full gear with the Worst Super-Heroes In History:

The best thing about this cover is that I don't even have to explain why this was a terrible idea. You can just look at it. Two things I'd like to point out, though:

Stanislaus's "Golden Centurion" armor is taken from worldwide criminal "The Emperor" after Stan, the Big Moose of the Blackhawks, drowns him and then pries the armor off of his dead body, at which time he starts killing the Blackhawks' enemies by blasting them with molten gold. Say what you want about today's comics, that shit is harsh.

And secondly, "The Listener." Jesus, Bob Haney, what made you think that was going to go over well? A word to the wise, chums: If your book's reduced to putting a war character into a pair of pajamas covered in little drawings of ears, it's time to let it go.


Ah, the Silver Age.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Where They Went Wrong: Extreme Justice

Over the past few weeks, I've been reading through every major Firestorm appearance, a process that suddenly became terrifying once I made it through Firestorm #100. If I wanted to continue, I was going to have to make it through quite possibly the worst series that DC ever published: Extreme Justice. And believe me...

...it's actually worse than it looks.

Seriously, when the title of the lettercolumn is "To The EXTREME," you know you're in for a rough time.

For the most part, I think you can lay the blame squarely at the feet of Marc Campos. He's the penciller for the first six issues or so, and while Dan Vado's scripts ain't gonna be bringing home any Eisners, Campos's art pushes this book over the line from "bad comic" to "crime against humanity." Admittedly, it was 1995 and everybody was doing it back then, but Good Lord, it's terrible.

In all fairness, Campos has done some good work in his time, like his recent work inking Ivan Reis in the pages of Rann/Thanagar War, but back in '95, his work was atrocious. I could sit here for hours scanning panel after panel of Blue Beetle jumping around with his knees up over his shoulders and Captain Atom constantly flying around on fire for no particular reason other than it allegedly looks cool, but there's one panel in particular that sums it all up. Have a look:

Not only does that panel give me the idea that Marc Campos had never actually seen another human being in his entire life, but it's the only piece of comic art I've ever seen that has a worse grasp of anatomy than Rob Liefeld's famous Captain America. Yeah, you heard me: Marc Campos out-Liefelds Rob Liefeld.

And it never gets any better. A few issues later, in a story by Ivan Velez and Jungle Fantasy's own J. Scott Campbell simulacrum Al Rio, we get what may be the most stirring portrayal of pregnancy in comics history:

I read the entire storyline, wherein Carol Ferris (newly-hired administrator for Extreme Justice's Mount Thunder facility) attends Plastique's bachelorette party and Neron-related hilarity ensues, and I have no idea what's supposed to be happening in that panel. All I know is that Al Rio's the kind of guy who doesn't let a little thing like a woman getting run through with a sword while Evil Dead 2 levels of blood shoot out of her thorax stop him from tossing in an upskirt shot.

But enough about the art! Let's see if we can't make some sense out of the story, and rest assured: we can't.

The main problem here is that Extreme Justice doesn't really do anything. They don't fight a lot of crime, and they certainly don't solve a lot of problems. Things just seem to work themselves out while they happen to be loitering in the general area, and on the rare occasion that they actually do manage to scrape out a victory through their own efforts, the problem was usually their own fault anyway.

Their first big adventure involves a vague and poorly-organized conspiracy to overthrow the government from a decommissioned high-level fallout shelter, which they subsequently move into. Yes, because the true mark of a hero is how fast he can come in and kick you out of your house.

After that, Firestorm shows up, and brother, if you've ever wanted to see a character you like act like a total jackass for twelve issues, Extreme Justice is for you. The issues where Ronnie Raymond (in his phase as hard-partying underwear model RonRay, a name that makes me want to punch someone into a coma) gets his powers back don't make a whole lot of sense, to the point where Scott and I had a two-hour conversation where we figured out exactly how Firestorm works. I'd explain, but trust me: It's long, involved, requires a detailed knowledge of Swamp Thing, and involves multiple uses of the words "metagene" and "Svarozich," and that's way more effort than anyone needs to put in to understand two issues of a book like this.

His main contribution to the story is a subplot about his alcoholism that's done with all the subtlety that you'd expect from Extreme Justice, by which I mean he drinks a lot of beer and then throws up on Maxima during a fight with the Wonder Twins.

Yes, the Wonder Twins: because we so desperately needed them in continuity. They show up in a story involving a "Jrxan Flesh-Driver" that's later merged with Skeets' software to become Booster Gold's new armor, and--guess what?--it doesn't make any sense. And what makes less sense is that the "extremification" of the SuperFriends cartoon continues with an appearance by the Legion of Doom.

So where'd they go wrong? Well, with Extreme Justice, it's not so much "Where They Went Wrong" as it is "who the hell thought this was a good idea in the first place?" It's a case where narrowing it down to just one problem would be pointless, because there'd still be everything else to contend with. But since we've come this far, I'll make a suggestion:

If you've got a telepathic super-gorilla robot, don't wait until the last issue to bring that bad boy out. It's what we're all here to see.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Week in Ink, 3-22-06

The targeted advertising that shows up in G-Mail wants to sell me Martial Arts Insurance.

I'm not sure if that's insurance for being the victim of a kung fu beatdown, or if it's like standard liability in case my awesome Fists of Fury accidentally destroy a passer-by, but what I do know is that my emails contain the words "karate," "ninja," and "Chuck Norris" enough times that a worldwide computer network thinks I need coverage. And that's real.

And that's why you're here for this week's comic reviews: Because my style... is invincible.

All-New Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe #3: You know, two years ago I would have had no real reason to buy this, even with the nice profile of Doop, considering that the characters in this run are the ones that didn't make it into any of the last set of Handbooks--and really, there's nothing about Death's Head II that I'll ever want to know that I can't just ask Scott about. But today? I write a comics blog, and I'm one slow day away from a Diamond Lil retrospective. Thanks, Official Handbook!

Batman #651: The One Year Later storyline goes into its second part with an issue that feels a lot like one of Scott Petersen's Gotham Adventures stories. That, of course, is not a bad thing by any means. It's highly enjoyable, with the focus on action, with a reasonably self-contained fight with Poison Ivy. It includes some very nice moments, too, not the least of which was Batman giving Robin the thumbs-up and telling him he knew what to do. I've been waiting for Batman to stop being a jerk to his friends for quite some time now, and that's the kind of moment that goes a long way towards making it happen, though the corresponding issue of Detective was sorely lacking in that regard. Plus, Batman doesn't end up socking Ivy in the jaw like he does in the Jordi Bernet issue of Solo, where he does it twice. I like punching, but come on, man, she was on her way to the floor after the first one!

Captain America #16: I'm not exactly sure what the deal is with Sin, the Red Skull's daughter, whether she's a five year-old in the body of a hot teenager, or an artificially-aged de-aged SHIELD agent, or what, but am sure of this: Even when he is making sweet love to a lady, Captain America is fully prepared to beat the living hell out of the science-terrorists of AIM. That's why he's leading the Avengers, and you're reading blogs.

Catwoman #53: The Brubaker/Cooke relaunch of Catwoman was one of my favorite books, right up until Paul Gulacy came on and Brubaker wrote a story about Catwoman going to Shangri-La with some cat people for a while. Not exactly the kind of thing I like to see in my noir-ish street-level crime dramas, so I jumped off when Brubaker left. Still, I liked the characters quite a bit, especially Slam Bradley, so I was pretty excited about jumping back on.

The deal, of course, is that there's a new Catwoman (whose identity isn't exactly a state secret, it seems), a change necessitated by the fact that Selina Kyle spends the first few pages giving birth to the largest baby I've ever seen. What really caught my eye, though, was another well-done moment where Batman comes off as a nice guy. That's twice this week, and that's almost a pattern.

Daredevil #83: Despite the surprise that was blown two months ago in Previews, the new team on Daredevil's turned in nothing but solid comics so far. Admittedly, we're only a couple issues in, but right now it feels like the best parts of the Bendis/Maleev run, but with things actually happening. Brubaker's story's not only interesting, but fun to read in the same way that "Born Again" is; It takes that story's idea of taking away everything Matt Murdock loves, and goes two steps further. Michael Lark is a perfect fit for the art, with gritty action scenes that are quite honestly far better than Maleev's ever were, handing everything from tense courtroom scenes and Jonah Jameson yelling at reporters to good ol' fashioned prison shanking. It's got me excited about Daredevil again, and after the church basement, that's no small feat.

Forgotten Realms: Sojourn #1: I'd just like to point out that while my affection for Drizzt Do'Urden is unmatched, the sensational character find of this issue is the most awesomely one-dimensional character in the entirity of fantasy literature: Roddy McGristle. Just from reading his name, you now know everything there is to know about the character. It's a beautiful thing.

Hawkgirl #50: Ever since I read his run on Thor, Walt Simonson could do a relaunch of Binky and I'd be first in line to buy it. Come to think of it, I'd be first in line for a Binky relaunch anyway, but the point stands: Simonson's a true genius of comics, and if there's someone out there that I'd pick to write a series about a woman who flies around with anti-gravity metal and capri pants bashing things with a mace, he's the guy. On the other hand, I'm not as big a Howard Chaykin fan as some people, and his art seems a little off to me in this one. The closeups are close, and I'm talking two eyes and half a nose, and they're oddly cluttered in places. Still, he's apparently trying to win me over by sheer nipple volume alone, and I consider that a worthy endeavor.

And a big hello to the new readers I'll get from that phrase.

JSA Classified #10: I like Vandal Savage a lot in theory, but my taste in immortal world-conquering villains has always leaned more towards Ra's Al Ghul. It's not a hard choice to make, really, since Savage's finest moment was unquestionably his battle with the JLA in Grant Morrison's JLA One Million, which everyone else seems to have forgotten about, despite it being totally awesome. There's potential for the character, it's just rarely tapped. I'm hoping that it might shine through in this story, though. I like Stuart Moore in general, the story's interesting, and Gulacy's art is a lot less stiff than it was the last time I read anything he drew.

Manhunter #20: Collectors, take note: This issue features an appearance by everyone's favorite bank-robbing psychosexual deviant Captain Atom villains, Punch and Jewelee, who were mentioned by me in this very blog a few months ago in a review of this very book. But moving on: The "One Year Later" stuff in Manhunter seems to have affected the supporting cast rather than the star, which works out to be a lot of fun when your supporting cast includes Obsidian, Cameron Chase, and Mr. Bones. Other than that, though, it's pretty much the same old book, which is to say, pretty solid.

Nextwave #3: Or, as I suppose I should call it, Nextwave: Agents of HATE. This issue actually threw me for a little bit of a loop, since the opening sequence seems almost grim-and-gritty for the first few pages, right up until cat-based hijinks and the new World's Greatest Deathtrap make everything right again. It's joyous even without Fin Fang Foom and his pants, and I'm going to go ahead and say that it's probably the best comic Tabitha Smith has ever been in. A cutthroat field, I know, but here on the ISB, we make those kinds of judgements. I would just like to point out one thing, though: I liked Elsa Bloodstone before it was cool. Then again, I probably shouldn't let that get around.

Noble Causes #18: So last month, Noble Causes had two girls making out on the cover and opened with one of them lounging topless on a beach. This month, we kick off the story with full-on sex right there on page one. Jay Faerber: MARKETING GENIUS.

Red Sonja #8: Every month it comes out, every month I buy it, every month I wonder why. It's not like it's bad, there's just nothing to it other than chainmail-covered breasts, which is apparently enough to get my three bucks every month. Still, I am pretty excited about the Roy Thomas Red Sonja: Monster Island one-shot in the April Previews, so I guess Sonja stays around a little while longer.

Robin #148: Surprisingly, this is hands-down one of my favorite One Year Later books so far. I've never really read anything by Adam Beechen before, but he nails the script for this one, with everything from a heart-to-heart with Batman to a bit on how the costumes work. It's exactly the kind of thing I love to read, and with as much of a fan of Cassandra Cain as I am, the story--and the references to the missing year--is certainly intriguing. Even better, Karl Kerschl's pencils are perfect. The main problem with the Willingham run, which I like for the most part, was the shaky art that accompanied every story, but in this one, Kerschl nails it. I don't think he's sticking around as the regular artist, which is a shame, because he's exactly what the book needs. It's excellent stuff, and well worth your time.

Sgt. Rock: The Prophecy #3: There's no getting around it: Sterling called this one from the beginning. But that's not important. What's important is that this issue shows Sgt. Rock having a throwdown with some nazis wherein he stabs one right in the throat with a piece of wood, rendered expertly by Joe Kubert. It's the kind of thing I live for.

She Hulk #6: Starfox, the Creepiest Avenger, takes center stage in a story that explains exactly why he's so damn creepy. And brother, that Greg Horn cover ain't helping your case. It's like one of those websites where they photoshop super-hero costumes onto naked men. Regardless, Dan Slott's in on the joke, and he turns in his usual fun script, and if the fact that this is a comic with a love triangle that involves the Two-Gun Kid and the Mad Thinker's Awesome Android--who has the word "awesome" right in his name--doesn't get you to read it, then you're beyond help.

Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #4: I'm not ashamed to admit that this is easily one of my favorite comics this week, to the point where I not only flipped out, but everyone thought I was kidding. It's just a great little book, and the fact that I noticed that Midtown High has the same school colors and mascot as Degrassi probably puts me square into the secondary target audience. You know. The slightly creepy one. Anyway, it's a joy to read: Mary Jane finally gets her date with Spider-Man that she's wanted since the first series, but lately she's been spending a lot of time with Peter Parker, and he's got a crush on her and wants her to go out with him instead! But, of course, Peter is Spider-Man, which makes it like every single Silver-Age Green Lantern story ever printed. Except it's interesting and readable.

Oh you heard me, Ragnell. I went there.

Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #16: According to the excerpt in the Legion Archives v.3, the Legion Constitution states that anyone who's kicked out of the Legion (which happens a lot) has to be "hypnotically brainwashed" to forget their secrets. That means that not only was the dreaded mindwipe prevalent amongst the teen super-heroes of The Future, but it was constitutionally mandated. We can assume, I think, that the current version of the Legion doesn't have that kind of draconian reconditioning rule, but what they do have is the best appearance of the Jeph Loeb Supergirl to date. She doesn't come off as irritating or ditzy like she does in Superman/Batman, she keeps her clothes on unlike her own book, and her costume even fits in with the Legionnaires'. It took Mark Waid and Barry Kitson to do it, but I may actually end up enjoying stories with her.

Supermarket #2: I enjoyed the first issue of Supermarket, but this one blows it away. Brian Wood's story kicks right in with the action, with the majority of the issue taken up by a chase scene involving the Yakuza, a Swedish porn cartel, and my new favorite character: Hai Boy. The clincher, though, is Kristian's art. It's amazing. It may be a weird thing to be fixated on, but I love the stylized smoke trails that constantly surround the Yakuza, and if I could, I'd frame this panel and hang it on my wall:

Also, the food court scene involves a restaurant called "Master Shake" and "Grill Bill vol.2." It's a fantastic book, and if you're not reading it, you should be.

X-Factor #5: Two weeks ago I subscribed to three Peter David books, but as we all know: There can be only one. And the fact that this one's got Ryan Sook art doesn't hurt its chances, either. But really, it's a solid book, with everything I liked about David's Madrox except--in the case of this issue--Madrox. It's a good read, and most imporantly, it actually feels like a mystery-oriented book, which is handy when your title's named after a detective agency.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Not That We Ever Need To See It Again...

...But how often does one like this come along?

Words by Mike W. Barr and pictures by Alan Davis from one of my all-time favorites: Detective Comics #571.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Cowboy Joe's Two-Gun Manga Round-Up, Volume 3

A few years back, some friends of mine that have their fingers on the pulse of the anime circuit reccomended that I check out Kiyohiko Azuma's Azumanga Daioh, since I tend to enjoy the funnier side of things and had just come off an brief obsession with Rikdo Koshi's Excel Saga.

My response, as it usually is to this sort of thing, was something along the lines of: "Begone, cretins! Batman's fighting a giant insect-man, and I don't have time for that manga nonsense!"

This, I think, is why I don't have many close friends. There just aren't a lot of people that can take being second to the Hellgrammite.

Regardless, skip to today and I still haven't bothered to read Azumanga, but I did manage to pick up the first volume of Azuma's other series, Yotsuba&! for tonight's rootin' tootin' cow-punchin' installment of everyone's favorite cowboy-themed manga review!

Yotsuba&! (apparently pronounced Yotsuba-to) is of course the story of Yotsuba, a hijink-prone little girl who appears to be slightly retarded.

Wait, that can't be right. Let me check my notes...

Well that's clearly taken out of con--

I mean, accidents could happen to any--

Huh. Yeah, you got me there.

But I kid. Yotsuba's cheery ditziness is the driving force of the series, and it actually comes off as pretty charming. The storyline kicks off as she and her father (a somewhat lazy translator with an aversion to wearing pants) move to a new neighborhood, with Yotsuba as a comical blank slate, experiencing virtually everything around her for the first time. It's more than a little unusual if you stop to think about it (see above), but Azuma manages to keep the humor running at a constant clip with an over-the-top brand of slapstick and wacky reactions, and it's to his credit that he has the skill to pull off earnest wide-eyed innocence without generating a single groan in the whole book.

The stories generally seem to revolve around Yotsuba's interactions with her neighbors: Pretty older sister Asagi, friendly middle sister Fuka, and little sister Ena, who--as the only other little girl in the seires thus far--serves mostly as a "control group," further highlighting how odd Yotsuba really is. Yotsuba's dad, despite working out of the home, is an apparent adherent of the laisez-faire school of parenting, and doesn't seem to be bothered by the fact that his small daughter occasionally wanders around the streets in her pajamas, so Fuka ends up hanging out with her quite a bit. Apparently that's how latchkey kids roll in Japan.

The neighbors are as new to her as we are as readers, and are therefore perfectly set up to provide the straight lines that fuel Yotsuba's wacky misadventures, like the time Ena explains global warming to her, prompting Yotsuba to burst into tears at the sight of her father's new air conditioner.

The whole sequence is probably my favorite bit of the book, from the outright strangeness of Yotsuba's apparent first encounter with air conditioning ("IS IT WINTER IN HERE?!") to Asagi's kid-logic explanation of how Yotsuba doesn't have to worry about the polar ice caps melting at the end of the story. It's the kind of setup-escalation-punchline-execution formula that Azuma uses throughout, but it works so smoothly and with so many additional bits thrown in that it's a joy to read.

It really hits all the highlights of simple comedy, and last I checked, Volumes One, Two, and Three are available to order from Amazon, or, of course, your Friendly Local Comic Shop.

Now if it only had an insect-man getting punched out...

Monday, March 20, 2006

Tired of Sticky Cubes?

Regular readers will know that I've got more than a passing interest in the advertising that litters the pages of whatever back issues I happen to be reading, whether it comes in the form of house ads, shills for Big Jim's P.A.C.K., or the inexplicably enticing full-page promo for Megaforce. They're just fascinating indicators of what things were like when the comics came out, sometimes even more than the stories themselves.

And sometimes, every once in a while, there's one that transcends all that and achieves a certain perfect beauty on its own, the kind of advertising nirvana that can only be attained by a product that fills a niche so small in such a narrowly-defined era that it could have no discernable use today.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is one of those ads. From the pages of DC Comics Presents #46, I give you...


Yes, 1982's modern science had met all challenges it was faced with and so set out to conquer the only remaining frontier: Rubik's Cubes that didn't turn fast enough.

Seriously. Cube Lube. What were they thinking?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Most Suggestive Panel You'll See Today

I've talked about the staggering amount of awesome that flows like wine from the pen of Bob Haney time and time again, and yet I've managed to completely avoid the Doom Patrol.

Yes, they were 1963's second-most popular team of freaks led by a guy in a wheelchair, and they were co-created by Haney, Arnold Drake and artist Bruno Premiani. The first volume of the Doom Patrol Archives, in fact, is one of two archives that I actually own, after Tug insisted that I experience it for myself. And with good reason: It is incredible.

There can be no argument the sheer majesty known as The Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man is one of the greatest characters in the history of modern comics, but those early Drake/Premiani stories are the kind of comics where a robot with no arms and legs kicks somebody's ass:

Unfortunately, quadrapelegic robot beatdowns are not what brings us here today. No, that honor belongs to the Doom Patrol's own Elasti-Girl. I'm not ashamed to admit I've got a little fiction-crush on Rita Farr, which probably owes a lot to Bruno Premiani's amazing art, but I'll be the first to admit she doesn't make a lot of sense. She's a beautiful actress and medal-winning olympic athlete, but retires from film after she gets her size-changing powers in an accident, thus becoming a freak.

But here's the thing: She's still a beautiful young woman, and it's not like her powers are disturbing at all. So essentially, she's a hot actress who does her own special effects. She should have no end to movie offers.

And that is why this panel, from Drake and Premiani's Doom Patrol #88 just made my night:

She just looks so shocked.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Tony Jaa: Headkicker

Earlier tonight, Scott was telling me about an interview where someone asked about the enduring popularity of Kung Fu (the television show, not the martial art), to which Lone Wolf McQuade's arch-nemesis David Carradine replied that it may be thirty years later, but people always want to see some ass-kicking.

And that, my friends, is why Tony Jaa will always have a career.

There was plenty of ass-kicking in last year's Ong Bak, Jaa's breakout hit, for which the commercials simply featured the RZA from the Wu Tang Clan hanging out and talking about how awesome it is. It was genius, and I loved the movie, despite the plot that aggressively avoided making sense and the shrill rantings of the female lead, but it raised a lot of questions. Specifically, I'm thinking of "Could there be more ass-kicking?" "Could there be some ass-kicking involving guys on rollerblades?" and "Could there be more ass-kicking that also involved elephants?"

The answer, surprisingly, is yes, as proven by Tony Jaa's new flick, Tom-Yum-Goong. I watched it last night, and I'm not ashamed to admit I got a bootleg, because really: If you're a fan of poorly-subtitled ass-kickings, that's the only way to do things. It's ridiculous, and makes even less sense than Ong Bak, but trust me: It's awesome.

Here's the plot, such as it is: Tony Jaa is Kham, a Thai villager set on a path of vengeance after his brothers are kidnapped and possibly eaten by Australian gangsters. His brothers in this context are, of course, a couple of elephants. Seriously, this movie has more elephants than any martial arts flick has a right to, to the tune of the entire first half hour and a CGI dream sequence (!) later on, but they figure pretty heavily into the alleged "story."

See, Kham and his dad are down at the "Annually Pouring Festival," according to the subtitles, when pops gets shot and their pachyderm brethren are taken by bad guys. Fortunately, Pops doesn't die after Kham comes across his body, because "Go find our elephants" is a pretty poor choice for last words no matter how you slice it. So, our hero hops a plane to Sidney with the goal of beating enough people up so that everything works out okay.

Surprisingly, finding a pair of elephants in a major metropolitan city turns out to be a lot more difficult than I would've previously suspected. Which is where Dirty Balls comes in.

According to the IMDB, he's one of Thailand's most popular comedians, but after playing Ting's sidekick in Ong Bak, he'll always be Dirty Balls to me. This time out, he's Inspector Mark, a good cop who finds himself on the wrong side of elephant-kidnapping gangsters. He runs across Kham during a hostage situation and ends up leading him to the elephantnapper, who--in accordance with the Martial Arts Movie By-Laws-- is named Jonny.

Kham eventually tracks Jonny down to warehouse, delivers what may be one of the hardest head-kickings I've ever seen.

So severe, in fact, that it screws up a drug deal he's got going on. At this time, and I promise you I'm not making this up, Jonny pulls the chain of his steam whistle to summon his minions: a pack of extreme sports athletes weilding flourescent light bulbs. And from then on out, it gets pretty crazy.

What's notable about the scene that follows is that it's one of two long one-shot fight sequences in the movie, as Tony Jaa leaps around a warehouse fighting rollerblading hitmen for a good few minutes without a single cut. Tom-Yum-Goong is much more focused on fighting than Ong Bak, which had more of an emphasis on the crazy stunt sequences, like the chase scene that involves Jaa leaping over cars and diving through tiny hoops of barbed wire, but the long shots like this are impressive on both levels. The next one's even better, as Kham fights his way up five flights of spiral stairs that line the walls of an otherwise open casino with the camera following him all the way. It's incredible.

It's constant fighting from that point on, as Tony Jaa goes through every single cliche Kung Fu movie villain there is: There's the Guy With the Crazy Style, the Guy With The Sword, and everyone's favorite, the Huge Bodybuilder Guy who ends up defeating him in a flooded buddhist temple. That is, for the record, the only time Kham comes close to being defeated. There's even one part where he gets stabbed, and it literally just makes him mad, leading to a sequence where about thirty black-suited bad guys just accumulate on the floor aroun Kham with various broken limbs. It may be the best thing ever filmed.

It all leading up to a showdown with a whip-weilding, corseted villainess and her trio of Huge Bodybuilder Guys, which, in turn, leads to the movie's Defining Moment:

Once he's reunited with his younger elephant bro, Kham walks around with it constantly, which you'd think would present more of a hassle for someone wanted by the cops than it actually does. He even brings it with him to the Big Punchout, during which one of his musclebound enemies puts the elephant in a headlock...

...and chucks it through a nearby window.

I have never before seen a movie where a man throws an elephant, and I likely never will again, because that is fucking insane. Not to mention that the window doesn't really go anywhere, and appears to have been constructed in the top-floor evil lair of an office building for the sole purpose of having a protagonist's elephant tossed through.

That kind of logic simply cannot be defeated. Trust me: it's a movie you need to see.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Great Moments in Irish Superheroics, Volume 1

Ah, St. Patrick's Day, when we all get blind drunk in celebration of that time Banshee drove Cobra Commander out of Ireland.

Or, you know, something along those lines.

Good thing NyQuil comes in green!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Week in Ink, 3-15-06

As The Grippe continues to hold me in its icy clutches, there will be no humorous introductory paragraph to lead into the reviews this week. Instead, please enjoy this picture of Superboy from that time They Gave Him Hitler's Brain!!:

In a finer world, that would be the dastardly event behind Infinite Crisis.

But it's not.


The Atheist #3: It's been a long while since the last issue came out, so it took me a page or so to remember what was going on in the story, but for those of you who haven't been paying attention, here's the rundown: Antoine Sharpe (the eponymous athiest and all around Warren Ellis-style badass) has been called in by the government to deal with a small problem brought on by the spirits of the dead returning from the afterlife and taking over the young, healthy bodies of Canadians. Even better, it's all brought to you by Phil Hester and John McCrea, and in this issue, those guys prove that they know exactly how to get Chris Sims excited by revealing the identity of the Evil Mastermind behind the whole plot. Trust me, it's one of the best villain reveals I've seen in a while, and it's worth picking up just for the scene where it happens.

Batman: Year One Hundred #2: Hey, check it out! Crazy Future Batman does stuff and talks to people in this one! Awesome! Seriously, though: it is awesome. Pope's drawing a lot from Year One, obviously--which gives me the sneaking suspicion that what happens to Jim Gordon at the end of this one won't go without reprisal--but he's twisting and adding more than enough to make it interesting on its own. It's thoroughly enjoyable, especially with Jose Villarrubia's colors blending with Pope's art to perfectly set the mood for his script.

Betty and Veronica #216: So, remember how I jumped on all but four of the "One Year Later" books? Well, I also thought it would be a good idea to jump on almost all the Archie books at the same time, because I am apparently completely insane. I have a lot more affection for the Archie books than I probably should, but I'm not sure why I thought it'd be a good idea to start buying them all. Until I saw this:

Feast thine eyes, friends, on Randolph, who may be the funniest character I have ever seen. Note that Veronica's totally into him despite the fact that he's under the impression that anime rules, and that wearing a top hat to school doesn't make you look like a total douchebag. Also, he has a mullet, and I'm reasonably sure he shops at the Wiz. He is, without a doubt, The Sensational Character Find of 2006.

Birds of Prey #92: Well, that didn't stick around too long. Still, this issue's a lot of fun and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Gail Simone does the best job so far of actually shaking up the status quo, if for no other reason than Oracle's line when she's asked about Black Canary. It adds a great bit of intrigue to an otherwise action-heavy story, and it makes for a nice hook to the Canary subplot. Plus, it's got the Crime Doctor and his crazy shades, and you can't really pass those up, now can you?

Conan #26: So the last issue of Conan ends with everyone's favorite Cimmerian facing certain doom as he's hunted down by a small army of angry Shadizarians. This issue, though, is a completely different story. It would've been nice to see how the other stuff turned out, but I suppose it's reasonable to assume that Conan beat the hell out of them, because generally, that's what Conan does.

Conan: Book of Thoth #1: And while we're on the subject, if "Conan" (the word) is on the cover of a comic book and Conan (the barbarian) doesn't show up in said comic, that does not make Chris Sims happy. Still, it's to be expected, as this book reveals the Secret Origin of Thoth-Amon, which is pretty enjoyable even if it does seem to drag a bit. I've never been a big fan of Kelley Jones, seeing as I don't like the way he draws Batman, but his work's very enjoyable indeed in this one.

DMZ #5: Brian Wood and Ricardo Burchielli bring out another stand-alone issue--this time in the form of a 22-page chase sequence--which makes me like this title even more. Instead of writing for the eventual collection (and I'm looking at you here, Marvel Comics), Wood seems to be using the single-issue format to its fullest, telling great single-issue stories that support his over-arching theme. There's a lot to be said for it, especially since it allows him to address the mechanics of the book's world--such as the fate of Central Park in #4 and the reason that we still have definable New York City landmarks in what's ostensibly a war zone this month--in a way that's less intrusive and more interesting than it could be otherwise. The hit-and-run storytelling is something he's doing quite well in a lot of his other books, and it suits his writing style. And although the next story comes in five parts--which I'm looking forward to--it's nice to have the shorter bits to break it up. Burchielli's art remains a perfect fit for the book, from the desperation on Matt's face as he runs around with a figurative and literal target on his back to big ol' explosions. And I love explosions.

Fury: Peacemaker #2: Hey, thanks for putting that four-page Squadron Supreme preview right in the middle of a two-page spread, Marvel! Rock on! Anyway, this is, for the record, maybe the fifth Garth Ennis story I've read about those deucedly charming British soldiers of World War II. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Infinite Crisis Secret Files 2006: So, for the record: Superboy Prime got mad and punched a wall, and that's why Hawkman doesn't make sense. Glad we cleared that up with a perfectly reasonable explanation.

JLA: Classified #18

Nextwave #1: Director's Cut: I won't even try to act like I'm not a sucker for this sort of thing. Especially when it includes a script. Especially when it's an awesome Warren Ellis script, and most especially when said script is accompanied by Stuart Immonen concept art and the story isn't broken up at all by ads. Well, except for another one of those frigg'n Squadron Supreme ads right in the middle of Elsa Bloodstone smacking things around with guitars. Rest assured, I will have my vengeance for that.

Nightwing #118: Bruce Jones is a writer that I'm mostly familiar with for his run on Incredible Hulk that included a lot of Bruce Banner walking around without a shirt on and very little of the Hulk rampaging, so I didn't really have high hopes for this title. And, well, that's about what I got. It's exactly what I expect: Dick Grayson runs around doing some man-whoring and, in a pleasant surprise, it does have hisex-landlady Clancy in it, which is nice, as I always liked her from the Chuck Dixon run. Of course, it also has what might be the worst dialogue I have ever seen. Have a look:

If that was a ">choke!<" instead, it would've been just over-the-top enough to be hilarious. As it stands, it's just weird and generally pretty stupid, especially since he's been fighting super-villains since he was a teenager. There's just no reason for him to be that shocked about fighting a metahuman, which is literally an everyday event for him, even if he didn't know the guy had powers beforehand. Seriously, that's bad.

The Perhapanauts #4

Runaways #14: I've talked about pretty much every aspect of this book, right down to how well it's colored (very), so I'd just like to point out, as Tug and I talked about, that this issue includes a reference to the Skrull Imperial Marching Band. Skrull Marching Band. If that thought does not bring you happiness, then you, sir, are devoid of a soul.

Seven Soldiers: Bulleteer #4: As longtime ISB readers will know immediately, this comic has something that I've been wanting to see for seventeen years. And surprisingly, it has very little to do with chrome-plated breasts, although rest assured: They generally make everything better. This was a dynamite issue, a much better exploration of the exploited-female-celebrity-superhero motif than the last one, which fell a bit flat for me on my initial read through. This one, though, hits the topic just right to get the message through in a highly entertaining way, even before the addition of a little metal mouse.

Spike vs. Dracula #1: One day, I will learn not to purchase liscensed comics written by Peter David. But not today.

Superman #650: Much like Detective Comics from two weeks ago, this is very much an issue about "everything's back to the status quo--but something's DIFFERENT!" With Superman, though, it's taken a few steps further, and there's enough up in the air at this point that I really want to see more before I make a judgement call on the story. There are certainly elements that I don't care for, and that really need to be explained before we go any further, not the least of which is the fact that Lex Luthor wasn't convicted after being on national television fighting the world's most beloved hero in a suit of nuclear-powered murder armor. That said, there's a lot I liked about it, and Pete Woods does a great job stepping up to the art chores, and it more than did its job of getting me intrigued enough to read the next issue.

Teen Titans Annual #1: Thrill to the most awkward sex scene since Fair Game! The New DC: That's How We Roll!

Ultimate Extinction #3: I really like Ultimate Misty Knight. I'm not sure whether it's the fact that I can describe her in one word as "Sassy!" or if it's how she refers to Captain America as a swear word from the TV edit of Scarface. Either way, I want her to get a miniseries out of this deal, assuming those crazy super-heroes can beat the Devourer of Ultimate Worlds.

Ultimate X-Men #68: And now, Robert Kirkman presents a page from Professor X's 100% Guaranteed Pick-Up Lines:

I am totally using that.

The Walking Dead #26

Showcase Presents: Superman Family v.1: The last time I bought a book that included the words Showcase, Presents, and Superman in the title, I was physically incapable of writing about anything but that book for about a month, and still can't make it a week without talking about Lion-Head Superman.

This one has Jimmy Olsen punching out a gorilla with his atomic strength.

You've been warned.