The Week In Ink: 1-17-07
As you've probably already heard, Manhunter's been cancelled again, and while I'll be the first to agree with anyone who says that this is a major loss for comics readers everywhere, I don't think I'll be writing any letters.
Don't get me wrong: Over the past few years, Manhunter has grown on me to the point where I think it's easily one of the best character-driven comics of the DC Universe and that a lot more people should be reading it, but the fact of the matter is that if a book isn't selling, there's really no point in publishing it. Besides, do we really have that much of a reason to keep Kate Spencer around?
Oh, right. Well in that case, I might just have to write a letter after all.
But if I do, it'll have to wait until tomorrow--Tonight belongs to the world's snappiest judgements, complete with your own clip-n-save shopping list (featuring a special note to YOU, the reader, about the future of the ISB)! Because when it comes to comics reviews...
52: Week Thirty-Seven: There's been a lot made over the past couple of days about this week's cover, which spoils a pretty major reveal that's been brewing since last June, but I really don't have much a problem with it. The mystery surrounding Supernova's true identity was simultaneously extremely obvious and inherently unsolvable, and while it was certainly enjoyable to toss theories around, the who isn't really the interesting part of his story when compared with the how and the why. Of course, even the "how" is a little problematic--I like that Supernova's powers are built around the Phantom Zone projector and all, but I have no idea how that's supposed to work. Still, there was a lot of fun stuff rounding out this issue which is a welcome change from the stuttering, nigh-incomprehensible issues from the past few weeks. Even the segment with the Space Heroes had something interesting to it, but let's be honest here: That sequence has a pretty thorough track record of taking interesting ideas and mercilessly grinding them down to their most boring, Lobo-filled components, so my hopes aren't that high just yet.
Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #48: I like to think I've made it pretty clear that I've been enjoying Kurt Busiek's run on this title so far--a young Aquaman wandering around the ocean with a squid-faced prophet and a talking shark and getting into swordfights is probably the best idea for a revamp in DC history--but for some reason, this particular issue left me cold. There's a distinct possibility that I'm just not cut out for a story about a face-hugging symbiote that turns people into a villain called "The Fisherman," but really: Who is? That said, the level of craftsmanship Busiek's putting into his scripts is still evident just from the subplots alone; Arthur's flashback to his first attempt at saving someone's life says a great deal about his character and does a lot to humanize him as a sort of underwater Peter Parker. Even Ricardo Villagran's artwork, is interesting and reminiscent of Moebius--in style if not quite in quality--but the whole thing missed me to the point where I set it down after I finished, and then picked it up again thinking that I hadn't gotten to the end of the issue yet, so I guess you could say that the Fisherman... just didn't hook me.
... Yeah, I'd like to apologize for that. Best to just move on.
Birds of Prey #102: It could just be my choice of reading material for this week, but it totally looks like this comic opens up with Manhunter getting the crap kicked out of her by Luke Cage. It's the bandage across Miguel's forehead that does it, because in at least a couple of panels, it looks a lot like Power Man's circlet at a glance, but really, if that's what it takes to keep seeing Kate Spencer on a monthly basis, then I am all for it. Anyway, when it's not dealing with Big Barda chucking a limousine across a room, a lot of this issue is focused on Barbara Gordon and Lois Lane playing a sort of cat-and-mouse game with each other, and while those scenes are certainly well-done, I couldn't help but wonder why there was even a conflict between those two. Oracle was, after all, in the Justice League with Superman, and in a post-Brad Meltzer DC Universe where the Atom's ex-wife knows Robin's secret identity, I can't imagine why Lois--who, again, has Batman on speed dial--and Barbara wouldn't at least be passingly familiar with each other from the exciting world of super-heroics. It's an odd choice of characterization from Gail Simone, and I can't help but think that it could've been better if Lois had just dropped the pretense, given Oracle a heads-up, and turned instead to uncovering something about her "anonymous source," the Spy-Smasher.
Catwoman #63: Say what you want about Will Pfeifer, but there's no denying that he's a guy who likes to make bold choices, as evidenced by his decision to follow up a longform story featuring the cinema-themed villainy of the Film Freak with a multi-part epic concerning Lex Luthor's paperweight. I'm not sure, but I think that might be genius. I actually do mean that, too. Pfeifer's run on this title with David Lopez has been remarkably entertaining throughout, and even the joke on page one about the fan reaction to the father of Catwoman's child comes off as a lot less snide and self-serving than it could. It's fast-paced, action-packed, well-done, and even features the return of a pair of characters that I last saw kicking it in the pages of Suicide Squad. What more could you want?
Fantastic Four #542: I remember being excited at the idea of ISB favorite Dwayne McDuffie coming on as the new writer of Fantastic Four, but since I wasn't expecting him to show up until after the Civil War tie-ins, this issue came as a pleasant surprise. Then again, maybe "pleasant" isn't quite the right word; if anything, this was an awesome surprise. It doesn't hurt that McDuffie's first order of business is to address, clear up, and in some cases eliminate the truly ridiculous justifications for supporting the Registration Act that former FF writer J. Michael Straczynski was using during his run. The idea that Reed Richards--who stole a space shuttle in his first appearance and has since deposed the rightful monarch of sovereign nation at least three times--was supporting a law simply because it was the law was laughable at best, and from the point where Johnny Storm calls out Reed for exactly those reasons right on page six, McDuffie's able to craft a sense of reason and logic behind his actions that's been completely absent from the series at large. That alone would be worth the price of admission, but the scenes with the Mad Thinker are incredibly enjoyable through and through. It's an excellent read, and if McDuffie can keep up the same pace as his run continues, he'll easily be able to get FF back on track at the forefront of the Marvel Universe. If you haven't, pick it up.
The Helmet of Fate: Detective Chimp: Mark your calendars, friends, because in January of 2007, it's possible to go into your local shop and pick up two comic books starring Detective Chimp, and that has never happened before. As for the story itself, it's a heck of a lot of fun--especially Bill Willingham's great opening sequence where DC solves a quadruple-homicide in the span of two minutes--but it's held back a little by the fact that the helmet itself is shown spending an entire year careening around space, without any mention at all of how it's able to do this while still hanging out with Ralph Dibny for the majority of that year, as seen over in 52. Admittedly, it's not a hard fix to just say that that was a section of the helmet's crazy journey, but it doesn't quite fit, and that's a pretty major plot point to contradict in the series that's supposed to lay the groundwork for what's going on in the DCU. Aside from that, though, it's a fun read that's well worth picking up, and Shawn McManus does some excellent work with the art--which is no surprise, considering that he's had a little experience working with the character.
Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #9: In this issue, the Avengers are all turned into MODOKs and subsequently battle ROMMBU on the streets of Manhattan. So congratulations, internet: We won.
Seriously, everyone I know has been excited about this issue since the solicitation hit based on the cover alone, and Jeff Parker and Juan Santacruz have delivered a story that's every bit as entertaining as I wanted it to be. You can never really underestimate the comedic potential of MODOK (or in this case, MODOC, whose kid-friendly acronym is skewed more towards Conquest than Killing), and Parker's script is just loaded with one amazing gag after another, including WOLDOC's inability to stab anything with stubby arms and my new favorite character, Karl, Thoroughly Inept Agent of AIM. It's like Nextwave for kids, and brother, that's something you're going to want to be a part of. Get it.
She-Hulk #15: One of the most enjoyable aspects of Dan Slott's She-Hulk over the past couple years has been its supporting cast--which until recently included both the Mad Thinker's Awesome Android and the Two-Gun Kid--but after the last issue kicked most everybody to the curb in favor of a new direction (at least for the time being), I was interested to see how it turned out. The result, of course, was a new supporting cast, and it's the same engaging mix of old and new characters that I've come to expect from Slott for another solid read. Also--and I feel I should note this as something of a recognized authority for this sort of thing--this issue features She-Hulk busting out some radical kung fu that involves beating the crap out of the Abomination with a lamp-post. Just thougt you guys would be interested.
The Spirit #2: Last night, Kevin went ahead and posted what might be my favorite panel from this issue (complete with a link back here where you'll find out why I like it so much), but with a book like this, it's hard to narrow it down that far. The whole thing's gorgeous from top to bottom, and even though I've had nothing but faith in Darwyn Cooke since this project was announced, I'm still finding myself amazed at how well his style fits with the characters, as evidenced by his absolutely amazing splash pages. It's a truly incredible book, and for the record, not wearing the mask doesn't stop anything, but that's probably just as well. I'm pretty sure getting beaten up a lot is one of the Spirit's super-powers.
X-Men: First Class #5: I'm not saying it's something that I want to see in every comic, but if Jeff Parker wanted to do an issue of this series where the original X-Men were turned into MODOKs, I would have absolutely no problem with that.
Actually, who am I kidding? That's totally something I want to see in every comic.
Y - The Last Man #53: As much as I like Y, and as much as I've been enjoying the final stretch before the whole thing ends at #60, this issue struck me as one of Vaughan's rare missteps for the series, which I imagine is a risk you're going to inevitably run into when you go back to revisit themes and characters that haven't been seen since a book's first story arc five years ago. And that's really where I think the problem starts: I like the first issue of Y a heck of a lot, but the "high concept" ciphers of the supermodel reduced to what essentially amounts to a corpse collector without men to objectify her and sports stadiums being converted to mass crematoriums for the men of the world--while fun--have always struck me as being slightly too cute for their own good, and that feeling seems to hold up pretty well. It's not a bad issue, and it's certainly not a bad comic, but it falls short of what I've come to expect from a book that's always one of my favorites, and Vaughan's signature dialogue tricks seem a lot more like tricks than they usually do.
And that was this week's comics. As always, if you've got any questions about anything I might've read this week, or if you've somehow been turned into a MODOK and need my help formulating a plan to crush the microbrains, feel free to leave a comment. But just so you know?
I'm totally going to need my own hoverchair.