The Week in Ink: 1-10-07
Before I get started with this week's comics reviews, there's something about my tastes that you guys might want to know.
Not too long ago, I mentioned that I'd never seen Predator, and while I was taking time off last week, I made an effort to rectify that little pop-culture oversight, and I've got to say: That flick is overrated.
Don't get me wrong, it's not horrible or anything, but once you get past the first twenty minutes or so (where Arnold Schwarzenegger takes his team of pro wrestlers, character actors, and Carl Weathers and goes to blow up a section of the South American jungle), that movie slows to a crawl to become the most boring movie I've seen in a long, long time. I'm not even saying that it's the movie's fault, but really: The reveal of what the Predator looks like doesn't really mean much to someone who works at a comic book store, and it doesn't really take a lot of thinking to work out that everybody's going to die except Arnold by the time the movie finally gets around to ending. Meanwhile, there's a couple high points, but for me, there just wasn't enough to overcome the incredible, dragging boredom.
Commando, on the other hand, was fantastic.
But enough of this cinematic nonsesnse! It's
...Phonogram got my back. But will it be enough to earn it an unprecedented three-time Best of the Week honor? Find out now as the ISB punches its way through the first set of comics reviews of 2007!
52: Week 36: I tend to enjoy 52 on the whole, but I don't think I've ever seen a story that lost my interest quite as completely as the bits that revolve around the heroes that were lost in Outer Spaaaaace. It started well enough, and the idea that Animal Man, Adam Strange, and Starfire were going to team up and fight Devilance was pretty exciting, but here we are eight months later, and it's rapidly become clear that the entire sequence has absolutely nothing to offer me. Personally, I blame the string of interesting ideas that turned out to be really, really stupid, like the Emerald Eye of Ekron just being a piece of some random Green Lantern's head, and Lobo being a pacifist right up until he got really mad. Even this issue's apparent death of Animal Man, a character that I've got a great amount of affection for, is blunted by the fact that I couldn't care less what happens, and unfortunately, this one's almost entirely built around that story.
To make matters worse, this issue also features Power Girl's origin--in the only example so far of the two-page backup being broken up by an ad--and while I'm all for Adam Hughes drawing Power Girl, the story itself is one of those ridiculously convoluted pieces of Infinite Crisis that we were a lot better off without. It's a chore to get through at best, and there's really no reason aside from completism not to skip it and hope it works out a little better next time.
Agents of Atlas #6: I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that this issue opens with the single best Frank Sinatra-based action sequence since Hudson Hawk.
Okay, so it's actually a Cole Porter-based action sequence, but the fact remains that Jeff Parker and Leonard Kirk have crafted a near-perfect ending to one of the best mini-series of the past year. The whole thing's been incredibly solid since the first issue with its exceptionally fun take on a group of all-but-forgotten characters like Marvel Boy and the Human Robot, but the twists that wrap it up have proven that it's as well-done in execution as it was in concept, right down to the text pieces that close each issue. Kirk's art is fantastic, and even the wordplay that Parker uses in his reveal that the Yellow Claw's real name is "Master Plan" is a great touch, and the way it leaves itself open for more action to come is exactly the sort of thing I love about the Marvel Universe. If you haven't already, it's well worth your time to put a run together at your local store, or to jump on the trade when it comes out. It's worth it for Gorilla Man alone.
Batman #662: With this issue, "Grotesk" has finally reached its conclusion, and for a for a four-part story that came out every two weeks, this thing sure felt like it dragged on forever. I've mentioned before--often while reviewing this very comic--how much affection I've got for John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake, but with the shining, brilliant exception of Johnny Karaoke and his Geisha Grrls, this thing's been one cliché after another since it started, and ranks as one of the most worthless fill-in arcs that I've ever read. But hey, on the bright side, it's over! And... Well, I guess that's not really much of a bright side at all, really.
Gen13 #4: It probably doesn't bode well that we're not even through the first story arc and we've already got someone filling in for Talent Caldwell on pencilling duties here. It's not a very jarring change from Caldwell to Sunny Lee--who worked on the last issue as well--and it's not like Caldwell's the reason I'm picking it up, but much like the situation with Blue Beetle and alleged regular penciller Cully Hamner (who's only around about half the time), it's a noticeable inconsistency that bothers me for some reason. As for the story itself, Gail Simone continues trucking along with the origin story, and while it's a pretty big divergence from the way the original team got started, that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's completely lacking in any kind of subtlety, but let's be honest here: It's Gen13. Subtlety would only hold it back.
Justice Society of America #2: Last time around, I was pretty convinced that I was the only person on the comics blog circuit who thoroughly hated the JSA relaunch, but I stuck around for this issue, and I have to admit that I liked it more than the first. Not much more, considering that there's still a lot that doesn't make sense about it, but enough to keep me on for the next issue to see where it goes. Specifically, the part with Wildcat and his new son actually worked out a lot better than I thought it was going to, and Wildcat's "Did ya win?" and its response were good reminders of the things I used to really like about Geoff Johns.
The flipside, of course, is that there was just as much of a reminder of what I don't like about him in the character of Starman. It's hard enough to read with the constant reminders of how much Johns loves the fun-but-overrated Kingdom Come, but the apparent reveal that it's actually KC Starman only makes slightly more sense than my original theory that it's pre-Crisis Starboy from the Legion of Super-Heroes, and I'm not entirely sure that's not the case. It's pretty needlessly complex, and only barely ties in with the stuff from Starman where we find out that Post-Crisis Starboy's going to come back and--well, you know the rest. Suffice to say that it's convoluted, and that his "mental problems" put him right up there with Maxine Hunkel on the Characters I Wish Would Stop Talking Now list.
The Nightly News #3: Kevin and a few other folks I know have been unfavorably comparing this book to Brian Wood's Channel Zero, which I own but haven't read. I plan on knocking it out tomorrow, but in the meantime, I'm still really enjoying Jonathan Hickman's debut. The most striking thing about it, of course, is the design, but in this issue especially, the way he works the graph- and chart-filled "informational" sections into the opening segments is amazingly appealing, to the point where I found myself pulling out a Post-It note to work through the provided equation and find out if my education was worth it. As a side-note, yes, it was, but keep in mind that I dropped out of college to devote my time to conquering the seedy underbelly of Vice City and may--may--have underrated my job-related unhappiness.
Phonogram #4: One of the things that's been really interesting for me as a reader of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie's Phonogram is that--like I've said before--I'm coming to a lot of the music that the story's based around completely cold, having missed out on the rise and fall of Britpop almost entirely in my wayward youth. In a way, it's great; for the past few months, I've been listening to the albums that Gillen reccomends in each issue's text pieces and totally loving them, but when it comes to an issue like this one, my lack of knowledge puts me at a disadvantage of figuring out what exactly's going on most of the time. Case in point: Tug had to explain to me that the guy being told that he's so funny is Jarvis Cocker, and I was listening to "Common People" while I read it.
Yeah, I sometimes miss a lot.
Fortunately, it's a good enough comic that reading it twice--or more, really--isn't something that I'm not up for, and with Gillen's comprehensive and enjoyable notes at the end of each issue, the second time through had the same great feeling that the rest of the series has brought through so far despite a few jumpy moments. McKelvie's art, as always, is clean and thoroughly enjoyable, and I'll cop to being a little surprised that he handled the huge visual metaphors of Gillen's dream-sequence script as well as he did. It's a great series, and in case you somehow missed the praise I've been throwing at it for the past few months, you can read the entire first issue for free at Newsarama. Get on it!
The Punisher #43
Runaways #23: It's not that I don't like stories where two hot teenage girls are about to make out and then one of them turns out to be a Skrull or anything--in fact, now that I think of it, that may actually be my ideal comic book--but there's a pretty noticeable flaw in the opening sequence, in that Karolina refers to Xavin as "Nico" twice, and the latter only gets confused about it on the second time through. That nitpick aside, though, it's another fantastic issue as Vaughan builds to his departure from the book, and pretty much every panel serves as a reminder of why Adrian Alphona, Craig Yeung, and Christina Strain are one of the tightest art teams in the industry. It's definitely going to be a shame to see them go, but in the meantime, "Live Fast" is shaping up to have some incredibly entertaining stuff to it.
Stormwatch: PHD #3: One of the nicest things I can say about a comic--especially when it's a WildStorm book with a focus on the gritty, street-level side of super-heroes--is that it's a pleasant reminder of Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips' Sleeper, and with this issue, Christos Gage and Doug Mahnke nailed that. Specifically, the scene where Paris relates his "secret origin" and its aftermath had the same type of feel as the similar sequences that Sleeper was peppered with, and as I said, that's good company to be in. It's excellent, solid stuff, and it's easily the best Wildstorm book coming out, despite not having a main character who kicks Hitler right in the junk.
Tales of the Unexpected #4: Look: You can throw in as much of Batman kicking the Spectre in the face as you want, but after three solid issues of me trying desperately to give a crap about what happens in the book and utterly failing, it's not going to fool me into getting excited. Admittedly, this issue's Spectre story is better than it has been, based soley on the fact that the plot actually advances for once, but if nothing else, it's hampered by the fact that the police know it's a white ghost with a green cowl and phenomenal cosmic vengeance powers, and yet nobody goes: "Oh, right, the Spectre. He was in the JSA, remember?"
The backup, meanwhile, continues to be Brian Azzarello's best work ever, with a hilarious scene where Dr. Thirteen tries desperately to pass a dollar off for ten dimes and is thoroughly mystified when it doesn't work, and what may actually be the best "Statue of Hitler" gag in comics history.
Huh. That's two comics in a row where I mentioned Hitler. I should stop watching Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade while I write these things.
(Welcome To) Tranquility #2: I'm pretty sure that this series was originally solicited as just "Tranquility," but according to the shipping lists and the indicia, it's now metamorphosed into "Welcome To Tranquility," just like the members of Nextwave eventually became Agents of HATE. This, of course, has no real bearing on the quality of the book itself, but I'm curious as to why the change came around, especially given that the original title was a little snappier, and the addition of "Welcome" really only seems like the kind of thing you'd want on the first story arc. Maybe there's a pending lawsuit from the 813 citizens of Traniquillity, CA? Either way, it's a fun comic, and as you've probably already heard, the inimitable Dr. Scott of Polite Dissent helped out with the medical dialogue in this issue, which would be reason enough to pick it up, even if it didn't have Gail Simone's awkward, self-conscious version of the Cryptkeeper kicking around.
Champions Classic v.2: In case you missed my discussion of its merits from the other day, allow me to explain why you need to shell out twenty bucks for this one in four words: First. Appearance. Of. Swarm.
For those of you who remain unconvinced, I just don't know what to say. I knocked the whole thing out Thursday afternoon, and found myself cracking up at panels like the one where Iron Man apologizes to Ghost Rider by punching him in the face and yelling at him. It's something you need to own.
Degrassi Extra Credit v.2: Suddenly Last Summer
Showcase Presents the Justice League of America v.2
And that's it for the first Week in Ink of 2007. As always, if you've got any questions about something I didn't mention, or just want to tell me that I'm wrong about Predator (which I'm not), feel free to leave a comment.