The Week In Ink: 1-24-07
After two pretty light weeks, I ended up coming home with more than twenty comics this Wednesday, and even more shocking? As far as I can tell, not one of them included a good solid kick to the face.
Fortunately for our purposes here on the ISB, there was a scene where the Punisher stumbles across the Satan Claw and punches the living bejeezus out of the Rhino, and that'll do just fine in a pinch:
Sweet Lady Violence, you ain't never done me wrong!
Now let's get on with it: Feel free to follow along with the ISB's own shopping list as I take on the fourth week of January, 2007 with the world's snappiest comics reviews! Believe it!
52: Week 38: After the almost interminable interlude where we had to deal with the alleged "adventures" of the Space Heroes, 52's focus finally switches back to the Island of Mad Scientists, and I couldn't be happier with it. Admittedly, I'm having a hard time with the fact that nobody on an island populated entirely by super-geniuses can figure out what Will "The Thrill" Magnus is doing with Lead shielding, three hundred Mercury thermometers, and a massive pile of Tin cans, but if a giant talking egg was making me create crazy Morrison-style Horsemen of the Apocalypse, I imagine I'd start to miss out on the details too. It's fun stuff, and it's far and away the plot I'm most interested in out of everything going on in the book.
On the flipside, though, there's the stuff with the Question and Renee Montoya, which is rapidly losing my interest as the weeks go on. We talked about it for a while at work today, and although it only took Vic Sage about half an hour to go from having a bad cough to a hallucinating, emaciated zombie, he sure is clinging desperately to that last bit of life. Chad mentioned tonight that after the scene in the New Years' Eve issue--which would've made a fine, well-done death scene for the character--it's useless to keep bothering with him, as he's almost dying every single week. There are still some nice touches to each scene, I've got to agree; at this point it's just starting to grate on my nerves.
All-New Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z Update #1: They keep adding more and more words to the title and I keep buying them, fully aware that I will never read these books. But, y'know, there's two pages on Nextwave, and considering the pressure of a daily-updated comics blog, there's the distinct--however remote--possibility that I'll need some handy information on Huntarr from the Micronauts or something one day.
Checkmate #10: The comparison between Greg Rucka's Checkmate and John Ostrander's Suicide Squad gets easier to make every time an issue comes out--especially with this month's lighthearted scene with the new Madamoiselle Marie--but this time around, there's really no denying it. By bringing in the Shadowpact for a crossover, Rucka's thoroughly exploring the nature of what an espionage book set in the DCU can be, just like Ostrander did when he sent the Suicide Squad to Apokalips, or like Rucka himself did before by smashing procedural crime drama into a world of super-villains in Gotham Central. It's one of Rucka's greatest strengths as a comics writer, and with this story, it's been working out to be a pretty spectacular read.
The Damned #4: It's the penultimate issue of Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt's "Three Days Dead," and while it does delve into the mandatory expository bits that you'd expect from a supernatural Mafia story--in this case, a well-written but standard issue Secret Origin of Demons sequence--it's a testament to how entertaining the book is that it doesn't lose any momentum when it stops to explain a little of what's going on. That may not sound like a great compliment, but for the past four issues, this has been a series that's thrived on keeping things tense, and with scenes like Eddie's no-nonsense response to being threatened with a knife on page seven, it's obvious that Bunn and Hurtt have no trouble on that front.
DMZ #15: Since its inception, DMZ's been a book about Matt Roth dealing with life in a war zone, but since "Public Works" started, Brian Wood's just been jacking up the danger factor, involving Matt more and more with the ongoing story so that he's not just an observer any longer. It's an excellent piece of character work, and as the story comes on the heels of Wood's text-heavy Secret Files-esque story in #13, the sheer amount of momentum he's bene able to build with this one has totally blindsided me. On the art side of things, Ricardo Burchielli's work is great as always, especially seeing how much emotion he's able to work into the facial expressions of a character who spends the majority of the pages running around and gritting his teeth. It's excellent as always, and if you're not reading, you're missing out.
Doctor Strange: The Oath: Even discounting that it opens up with Dr. Strange pulling out Hitler's handgun and shooting a giant tentacle monster on the streets of New York City, this one's worth every penny just to see Strange totally jack some dude up with his bare hands. After all, sorcery is more than the learning of ancient spells. It also stresses muscle power and fighting skill.
Dwight T. Albatross's The Goon Noir #3
Fables #57: In the interest of speeding things up around here, I've gone ahead and made a checklist to run through instead of saying the same "blah blah excellent comic blah blah best Vertigo book ever" stuff that I normally go through when Fables comes out. Let's see... Beautiful and innovative James Jean cover? Check. Well-done, engaging story by Bill Willingham? Check. Fantastic art by Mark Buckingham? Ch--wait, what? Fill-in artist?! Well that's not going to--
Oh, it's Mike Allred? Yeah, that'll be awesome then.
Helmet of Fate: Ibis the Invincible #1: I like to think that I'm pretty well-versed when it comes to third-tier Silver Age characters, but the sum total of what I know about Ibis the Invincible can be illustrated with two bullet points:
1. His name is Ibis.
2. We like the same adjectives.
And that's really it. Essentially, I was just picking this one up because I like the rest of the characters involved in the crossover, and to be honest, Tad Williams didn't really do a lot to spark my interest. He turns in a competent enough script, but aside from the final shots right out of The Neverending Story, the whole thing utterly failed to make any kind of impact on me whatsoever save for killing five minutes of time that I could've used to stare blankly into space. Theoretically, I suppose there could be some old school Ibis fans who got a lot out of the details, but as for me, I'm pretty sure I could've skipped out entirely and been just fine with that.
Mouse Guard #6: With this issue, David Petersen wraps up the first series, and I'm going to go ahead and say it: Mouse Guard may in fact be the single finest piece of mouse-based entertainment since Steamboat Willie.
It's been one of the darlings of the Comics Blog scene since the first solicitation hit, and it's no real stretch to say that it not only lived up to everyone's expectations, but actually exceeded them, and this issue's the perfect encapsulation of why. With its amazing execution of a classic big climax scenario, Petersen's thrown in literally everything that I want to see from this sort of situation, working from classic archetypes and blending them into something incredibly enjoyable. There's crafty heroes gearing up to take on an army with the odds stacked against them, a good guy coming back for revenge, a grizzled old hero trying to reclaim his legacy, and--perhaps most importantly--an attack by a swarm of bees. It's certainly familiar stuff, but Petersen's art and storytelling are fantastic, and the twists he sets up in each issues are well worth the price of admission. It's a wonderful piece of comics, and if you haven't already, you owe it to yourself to give it a shot.
Mystery in Space #5: Despite a pretty rocky start, this one's been getting better pretty steadily over the past few issues--unlike its sister title, Tales of the Unexpected, where the abysmal main story is totally overshadowed by the pure joy of the bcakup--but this one just clicked for me. It might just be the revelation of what the psychic assassins really are, or the big sci-fi explanations for the first issue's murder mystery, or just the fact that it's finally gotten to the point where there's no more backstory to go over, but for the first time since the series began, I had a blast reading through it and was ready for more as soon as I put it down. It's still a little shaky in places, and it's not exactly what I'd call a great comic just yet, but there's a lot to be said for a steady issue-to-issue improvement.
Punisher War Journal #3: This issue's flashback sequence--wherein Captain America shows up during Frank Castle's Basic Training days from before he served in the Vietnam War--sparked its share of conversations around the shop after a quick flip-through. On the first impression, of course, this throws off Marvel's tenuous "thirteen-year" time frame, but I was pretty sure that I'd seen mention somewhere of a Vietnam-Era Cap who was retconned to have been Cap while Steve Rogers was still on ice, and there's some dialogue in there that supports that theory pretty well.
Point being, of course, that I tend to think way too much about things like Punisher War Journal. Welcome to the ISB, folks.
Robin #158: Ever since the One Year Later jump, I've been of the opinion that Adam Beechen's run on this title has been both fantastic and vastly underappreciated, mostly due to the divisive nature of Cassandra Cain's heel turn as the new leader of the League of Assassins. As much as I liked Batgirl, I honestly don't have a problem with it at all, but I can see how some folks might, and how that could present them with a pretty big obstacle when it comes to enjoying Beechen's excellent work on the title.
That said, if you can stand there and tell me that Robin teaming up with Grant Morrison's version of Klarion the Witch Boy to fight some sort of world-conquering Chimaera drawn by Frazer Irving is not ridiculously exciting, then I fear that we may never be able to agree on anything.
Huh. There's still four comics to review here, but I'm very, very sleepy. And you know what that means...
Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #14: My letter to Mary Jane hasn't been printed, and I am heartbroken.
Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #26: Mark Waid Storytelling Tip #32: When in doubt, giant Dominator robots.
Wetworks #5: I've been drinking since lunch, but I could swear this cover had a glowy-eyed bull-man in a skirt on it.
X-Factor #15: Siryn + Monet + Women's Prison = Best Story Idea Ever, Peter David.
The Chronicles of Conan v.11: The Dance of the Skull: Conan trade paperbacks are conquering my bookshelf at roughly the same rate that Conan himself conquered Aquilonia, and yet I still haven't read more than half of them. I got to that one where he hit that guy really, really hard and then quit, presumably because I didn't think that could possibly be topped. One day, though, I'm going to read the whole thing, and then you'll all be sorry.
Modern Masters: Kevin Maguire: I've only got a couple of the Modern Masters books (Bruce Timm and Walt Simonson, for the curious among you), and much like the Conan trades, I doubt I'll ever actually get around to doing more than just flipping through looking at the pictures. This one, though, I was really looking forward to, as Kevin Maguire is easily one of the most talented yet underrated artists of the modern age. As much as the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League was, well, the Giffen/DeMatteis League, Maguire's art is an integral part of what really defines that series, and with good reason: The guy's incredible. His facial expresions, of course, the best in the business bar none, and his dynamic, clean art for characters like Batman is flat-out astonishing.
Unfortunately, the Modern Masters book doesn't have nearly as much of a gallery as I'd like it to have (although what is there is quality work), but I did manage to stumble on a piece of the interview where Maguire mentioned that he wanted to do a Metal Men series. And seriously? That should happen now.
Penny Arcade v.3: The Warsun Prophecies
Showcase Presents the Brave and the Bold: The Batman Team-Ups v.1: It should be clear by this point that I'm buying anything DC wants to slap the words "Showcase Presents" onto, but for those of you who trying to decide whether you need this one in your braincase, here's a handy checklist of what's involved:
1. Bob Haney.
3. Everybody Else In the DC Universe Up To And Totally Including Sgt. Rock.
4. Panels scientifically calibrated to make Ragnell's head explode:
And that's real.
And that's another week knocked out! As always, if you've got any comments or questions, or if you just want to know what I thought about Civil War: The Return (Hint: Not Very Good), feel free to leave a comment.