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Thursday, January 25, 2007

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.

Criminal #4

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.

Invincible #38


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...

The ISB One-Sentence Comics Review Lightning Round!

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.

2. Batman.

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.


Blogger LurkerWithout said...

1. The only reason The Return isn't the stupidest part of "Civil War" is because Clor and Penance set the bar so gods damned high.

2. How the hell do you afford all those trades? Do you exchange comic reviews for rent?

1/26/2007 6:15 AM

Blogger Zach said...

Ibis isn't actually a Silver Age DC character--he's a Fawcett hero who debuted in the same issue as Captain Marvel and whose only appearance in the modern DCU (as far as I know) was in Ordway's Power of Shazam! til Morrison killed him off in Zatanna #1. If there is a genuine Ibis Fan left on Earth, I'd be fairly surprised; he's a pretty generic character with a handful of post-1950 appearances. And I'm seriously not getting the whole Tad Williams thing--his writing strikes me as "just sort of there." The best part of IBIS #1 was easily the Serpopards--anyone can merge leopards and snakes, but it takes guts to actually call them Serpopards.

Verification: xorhuxsy I don't know what it is, but I think I'm going to try to say it in conversation tomorrow

1/26/2007 6:33 AM

Blogger Michael said...

Re: Ibis.... he was a part of that ultra-cool JLA/JSA/Earth-S teamup in JLA 140-something, recently reprinted in Crisis on Multiple Earths vol 4 (along with Mr. Scarlet & Pinky, Spy Smasher, and Bulletman&Bulletgirl).

1/26/2007 7:28 AM

Blogger Philip Looney said...

Batman better listen to those guys - they are totally right.

1/26/2007 8:49 AM

Anonymous Chad said...

Sorry about you Spidey Love MJ letter, Sims, but I just found out this morning we got McKeever for February!

1/26/2007 9:09 AM

Anonymous Brian said...

You can read the Civil War books without actually buying them, right? I'd love to hear your opinion, but there are some blows no one can expect you to take.

1/26/2007 9:17 AM

Anonymous prof fury said...

Re: the Captain America thing... there were three fill-in Caps before Steve Rogers came back: the Patriot (Jeff Mace) and William Naslund (the Spirit of '76) both wore the Cap costume in the waning days of WW2. Then there was the racist, paranoid, red-baiting Cap of the 50s, who emerged in the Englehart-penned and Buscema-drawn Captain America 154-156 both as a way of explaining how there could have been a Captain America running around in the 50s when Cap was on ice then and as a way for Englehart to explore conflicting notions of "Americanness". Jack Monroe, aka Nomad, aka Scourge, aka the body in the trunk of the Winter Soldier's car, was the 50s' Cap's Bucky.

I suppose, given the compressed timeline and all that, that current continuity could put have him operating in Vietnam instead of just in the 50s.

The best story featuring this character is What If? vol 1 #44, which everyone should have three copies of.

1/26/2007 9:39 AM

Blogger Mr. Allison Blaire said...

I like that there are people brave enough to quiet Batman down cuz they wanna see a cat fight. Thats both brave and bold.

1/26/2007 9:59 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know, Clor is just normal stupid, and Penance is good for a laugh, but The Return is a bad book in every conceivable way.

It's too bad I don't think I can The Return it to the store.

See, a) the story makes no sense, b) there's no actual returning going on by any normal sense of the word c) half the book is a back -up story about the Sentinel melting absorbing man and d) the story makes even less sense then point A suggests.

1/26/2007 10:17 AM

Blogger webrunner said...

what the, that anonymous was me, even though I'm logged in and didn't select anonymous.

1/26/2007 10:18 AM

Blogger Steven said...

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

To me, that implies that Morrow DOES know what's going on, and brought Will to the Island TO make his metal friends (which is why he gave him the "soul code" to begin with) AND that no one else on the Island is as smart as they think they are.

1/26/2007 10:47 AM

Anonymous Mark Engblom said...

I'm with you on the interminable Montoya/Charlie storyline in 52, especially when it reached the levels of unintentional humor in this issue. Those shots of Montoya dragging a corpse up a mountain to Shangri-La, K'un Luhn, Kuala-Lumpoor, or whatever Mountain Utopia it was she was bringing him to.

I thought the Mad Scientist Island stuff was pretty boring, actually. It seems the writers are assuming the sheer nuttiness of the concept is going to be reward enough for readers, but the novelty wore off after the first couple of appearances. We get it. They're Mad Scientists who do zany things and talk in campy, megalomaniacal dialogue. Let's start connecting what they're doing to what's going on in the rest of the surprisingly low-key world of 52. In other words...let's kick it up a notch! (or ten)

Funny you should mention Dr. Strange's fighting skills, since I just finished reading a Marvel Masterworks collection of the Lee-Ditko stories, one of which featured Dr. Strange in a knock-down, drag out "no sorcery" fist fight with the Dread Dormammu.

I was also pretty disappointed in the new IBIS book. I've always been fond of the various turbanned magicians of the Golden Age, but this had none of the elegance or charm of that long-gone archetype. Instead, we get version 4,367 of the "young teen hero learning the ropes"...which was cool when Peter Parker was doing it, but now? Pretty cliched stuff. I know there's a school of comics writing that can't get enough of the Jokey McQuippy dialogue in the face of cosmic evil (ala Ghostbusters), but it's just so old hat. So...no thanks. I don't need to see another young, impetuous kid slowly become a hero. Been there 4,367 times, done that 4,367 times.

1/26/2007 10:55 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, man. You had to show me that Conan panel again. He knocked his skull out of his head!!! Aaahhh!!!

1/26/2007 11:21 AM

Blogger PMMJ said...

Oh, man. Punisher. Satan Claw. I think... I think I need to lie down.

PS: if I end up buying Spider-man Loves Mary Jane because of you, I'm going to personally make you explain it to all my friends.

PPS-> Verification: pqdwxbvs. Which, if you trick me into saying it backwards, sends me back to the 5th Dimension.

1/26/2007 12:17 PM

Blogger gorjus said...

I really liked the old Ibis--the Golden Age one that appeared in Whiz--for the weirdness/Hawkmanness of the story and the magic wand. But Mark Engblom's comment is enough to make me not pick it up--I could absolutely care the hell less about learning the ropes. I want cool superheroes, not lame, "what does this button do" ones (see: the all-new, all-lame Blue Beetle, which I have been LONG overdue in dropping).

Also, the Ibis logo is the worst piece of crap I've seen in years. Embarassing.

1/26/2007 12:21 PM

Blogger Kevin said...

Brave and the Bold is quickly becoming my favorite Showcase so far, and with it fighting against the Teen Titans and Metamorpho for that title, thats saying somthing.
Best part so far was in story #1 where at the end, Green Lantern erases both Batman's AND his own memory because during their adventure they discovered each other's secret identities. And not only that, there was a note by the editor that said, "All members of the justice league have agreed to these mind wipes whenever they learn of their teammate's secret identities." Take THAT Identity Crisis!

1/26/2007 12:22 PM

Blogger Dorian said...

I'm honestly surprised the Brave and the Bold Showcase wasn't your Pick of the Week.

It's...it's like I don't even know you anymore...

1/26/2007 1:16 PM

Anonymous ignatiusmonkey said...

Taking a quick scan of "The Return" at my local shop was like getting beaten up by a midget and then having him crap in my face after drinking all my cold beer.

Not that I'd know what that was like personally.

1/26/2007 1:33 PM

Anonymous Mary Sue said...

I used to like Renee Montoya.

I don't anymore.

I'm not sure exactly who at DC needs to be punished for that, but I will find out.

1/26/2007 2:18 PM

Blogger Richelle said...

Mouse Guard may in fact be the single finest piece of mouse-based entertainment since Steamboat Willie.

That's fantastic.

When's the next Anita Blake gem due out?

1/26/2007 3:00 PM

Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

Clarke's inadverdent "escape" from Bridge in Punisher War Journal is the most hilarious bit of the week.

1/26/2007 3:12 PM

Anonymous "Starman" Matt Morrison said...

I'm not sure exactly who at DC needs to be punished for that, but I will find out.

That would be Greg Rucka. Just one kind of punishment did you have in mind?

1/26/2007 3:46 PM

Blogger Paul McCall said...

The interview in the Kevin Maguire book is not all that illuminating. He wasn't prepared for it in that he doesn't recall a lot of the information asked of him regarding books he's drawn. What you will get from reading the interview is that Maguire is a slow meticulous artist and is very much aware that what he does is a business and thus he doesn't get caught up in a lot of the "artist angst" you hear from other comic artists. It is interesting to read of his reactions to the dramatic shift in characterization of two characters thought of as "his," Blue Beetle and Max Lord and the latest Crisis.

1/26/2007 3:53 PM

Blogger Brit said...

Just want you to know that there WAS at least one kick to the face in this week's comics. It was in Connor Hawke Dragon's Blood #3 I believe.

1/26/2007 4:21 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

They keep adding more and more words to the title and I keep buying them, fully aware that I will never read these books.

I felt the same way about these OHUTMU until I realizied one fact:

Each character has only a page or two = a perfect bathroom read!


1/26/2007 4:33 PM

Blogger ZC said...

The Return was really just dumb. Not even bad, just dumb. Why would you bring him back? I mean, the only good Captain Marvel story that was ever written was the one that killed him.

Random: Didn't Ibis show up in The Books Of Magic? (the original Gaiman miniseries, not the underrated Rieber series that-Peter-Gross-took-over and I-dunno-what-happened-after-that)

Also, I was rereading Seven Soldiers (I got ahold of the 4th volume so I'm reading the whole thing through at once for the first time), and I realized a HUGE plot hole thingy:

Doctor Thirteen is one of the people killed in Seven Soldiers: Zatanna.

Therefore: bwar? I hope this gets addressed, because of the Dr. 13 backup is any indication, the filling of those hole will be priceless.

1/26/2007 6:46 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have not read any of the Dr. 13 back-up (I'm just here for the buffet, really), but from what I understand, we want to stay away from filling any holes in that book.

1/26/2007 7:36 PM

Blogger Caleb said...

Ibis the Invinicible's last name is "The Invinicible," and his weapon of choice is a stick he calls "the Ibistick"...how could you not love him?

He was killed off in the Swamp Thing seance slaughter issue, brought back to life in the Ordway run on POWER OF SHAZAM!, killed again in 7S ZATANNA (I THINK...or was that Sargon re-re-dying?), and was spotted in 52 #10 during a big meeting of international super-people at Black Adam's palace, back when he still put bros before hos.

1/26/2007 8:10 PM

Blogger Mark Engblom said...

Actually, that was Zatarra's head bursting into flame during the Swamp Thing seance.

1/27/2007 12:38 AM

Blogger LurkerWithout said...

And the turbaned guy from Books of Magic and Swamp Thing is Sargon the Sorceror, wielder of the Ruby of Life...

1/27/2007 4:08 AM

Blogger John Bligh said...

Dontcha think Mystery In Space would've been way better as a 5 issue mini-series than an 8? There's way too much extra junk in that book...

1/27/2007 9:38 AM

Blogger Jacob said...

A friend pointed out the Dr. 13 (and Taia) problem to me. He said "I think one could plausibly argue that their magical, mostly-dead states were reversed when that demon they were confronting was stopped," which would require me to have understood 7SoV to understand. My view is: 7SoV was originally out-of-continuity, or at least only opportunistically in continuity. It's really hard to tell what the hell happened in or as a result of the end of 7SoV. And that was followed by the cosmic reset in Infinite Crisis (despite the latter having come out months before), which does provide a certain number of get-out-of-continuity-jail-free cards: Dr. 13 was dead on earth-post-Zero-Hour but didn't die in the new history of New Earth.

I didn't at all like the slaughter in 7SoV: Zatanna anyways, and have no objection if it's been continuity-bobbled away, or declared to be part of Z's bad acid trip, or something.

1/27/2007 10:11 AM

Blogger David C said...

To me, the most fascinating part of the Kevin Maguire book is, paradoxically, how little Maguire has to say about his own art technique.

It seems like he's truly some sort of genius when it comes to drawing. Surprising (at least to me) compared with other artists who get lumped into the "photo-realistic" category. Does he use lots of photo reference for characters? Look in the mirror to get those facial expressions down? No, he (boringly but fascinatingly) pretty much "just draws!" For "things" (cars, buildings, etc.) he uses lots of reference, but for people, it seems like they just come straight from his head to the page.

1/28/2007 10:59 AM

Anonymous buttler said...

the best thing about ibis was always his tendency to yell out commands to his "stick." stuff like, "ibistick! take us to the cave of the holocaust!"

i also do this.

1/29/2007 1:10 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Chris

i'm a pretty big fan, i agree with almost all of your stuff, and i'd say we have a pretty similar taste in comics, even though i've only read this thing for like a month, webtard, what can i say.

anyway, i did find one thing you said niggled at me, that the red tornado is really emo. i disagree. thumbing through 52, he has clearly gone above and beyond emo, and become premium emo, or "premo" if you will

p.s thanks for getting me into Aparo Batman, before my time, but i'm oh so much the better for it

1/30/2007 8:49 AM

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12/13/2008 1:14 AM


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