The Week In Ink: 3-07-07
And now, the ISB proudly presents yet another reason why Paul Pope is awesome:
Yes, that's Johnny Storm, Spider-Man, and the phrase "Foot Meet Face," and that can only mean that it's time once again for the ISB's uncompromising, slightly informative look at this week's comics! To say the least, it's been a pretty big week, thanks largely to the unstoppable hype machine that is Marvel Comics, so let's not waste time!
For those of you keeping score at home, here's everything I bought...
...and the World's Snazziest Comics Reviews start now!
52: Week 44: As much as the climax of the last issue was telegraphed well in advance, this week's 52 managed to get a few surprises out of me, even if they do have their own small share of cheating. Specifically, I'm talking about Sobek here, who I'd originally suspected was the "new look" version of Mr. Mind, which I'm sure was the intent of the creators. Still, revealing him as the last of the Horsemen of Apokalips (or the "Monster Society" as they're called here) was a nice touch, coming just long enough since we've actually seen the Mad Scientist plotline that I'd almost forgotten Famine was sent out early, and it's going to make a nice catalyst for all of the stories to come together.
The "cheating," of course, comes from the fact that Famine totally doesn't fit in with the other three Horsemen. Sure, a six-foot talking crocodile who eats people is a frightening sight, but when he's thrown in a lineup with a twenty-foot robot made of machine-guns and a giant, goat-skull-headed embodiment of death, it's not hard to figure out which one of these things is not the same. Still, it's a fun read and it does a nice job of providing some forward motion to the story.
The Authority #2: Yes, a mere five months after the line relaunched, the second issue of Wildstorm's alleged flagship title finally hit shelves, and surprising everybody who read the first issue, things actually happen in this one. Don't get me wrong: I'm about as big a fan of Grant Morrison and Gene Ha as you're likely to find, but with the slow-paced setup issue that came before and almost half a year waiting on this one, it's hard to keep any kind of excitement for the title built up. Fortunately, that's exactly the kind of task that Morrison and Ha excel at, and with this issue (which might as well have been the first one), they do a pretty darn good job of it. The idea of the Authority showing up on "Earth Prime" and trying desperately not to eradicate evil and create a world where Warren Ellis maintains order with an elite army of murdervixens while the Midnighter chomps at the bit is one that lends itself easily to Morrison's style and could provide for some truly fantastic pages.
If, of course, it ever bothers to actually come out. I mean, really: I want to be excited about the Midnighter kicking so much ass in the next issue that it has the possibility of starting World War III, but there's no reason to believe it won't be another five-month wait, and in the meantime, my attention can be better served with, say, Garth Ennis's Midnighter solo title. I'm still going to buy The Authority, of course, but, man, can't we get Zander Cannon in there to do inks and speed things up a little?
Captain America #25: A friend of mine told me today that a set of both covers for this one sold for over a hundred bucks on eBay yesterday, and down at the shop, I've been fielding non-stop phone calls asking if we've got it in stock, and there was even a comment on my MySpace page from one of my old high school friends about this issue. Heck, even as I sat down to start writing up tonight's post, Stephen Colbert was talking about it, and that's just one of the national news outlets that have been covering the book's release. Which I can only think means one thing:
It is amazing what two panels featuring Batroc ze Leaper can do for a book.
I mean, that's what everybody's flipping out about, right? Because the only other alternative would be that there's nationwide media coverage and rampant speculation over a "major death" tied into a storyline, which would mean that society has learned absolutely nothing about comics in the past fourteen years, and that people bought into cheap hype for absolutely no reason despite the fact that we've been down this road with Superman, Phoenix, Hawkeye, Thor, Green Lantern, Reed Richards, Norman Osborn, Cyclops, Magneto, Bucky, and dozens of others without catching on to how comics work, and that would just be depressing.
Maybe it's best to ignore it. I will say, though, that like every issue for the past two years, Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting knock this one well out of the park. My initial thought was that at worst, it's a bad idea that's being done very well, and I'm not even sure that applies here. With Captain America turning himself in at the end of Civil War, Brubaker's options are pretty limited: Cap can either break out, thus defeating the entire shaky purpose of CW #7, or he can do a title about a super-hero in prison, which he literally just did last year in the pages of his truly phenomenal first arc on Daredevil. Instead, we get this, and while there's no way in Creation that Cap's "death" is going to stick, the sheer quality of the issue speaks volumes about Brubaker's ability to craft great stories with these characters. It's an excellent read, but right now it stands as one of the few books that's getting all the attention it deserves for exactly the wrong reasons.
Criminal #5: While we're on the subject, if anyone ever asks why I have such utter faith in Ed Brubaker's writing, all I'll have to do is point to Criminal. I've mentioned my love for crime fiction before, and while Brubaker and artist Sean Philips did a note-perfect heist story, this issue's sudden, inevitable turn into a hard-boiled tale of revenge had me excited to an almost ridiculous degree. It may not come as a shock to anybody, but from I, The Jury on down to Payback, there's not a whole lot I like more than somebody going on a rampage of bloody vengeance, and the way it's all built up here with the source of Leo's cowardice being revealed is simply a fantastic piece of comics. Excellent, excellent stuff.
Dynamo 5 #1: I've never really cared for his work on mainstream titles, but it's no small stretch to say that Jay Faerber does some pretty amazing work on creator-owned books like Noble Causes, and from the first impression, that's a category that Dynamo 5 falls into pretty solidly. For me, the premise--built around a philandering super-hero who dies, leaving five illegitimate kids who each inherit one of his powers--was intriguing enough, but with Noble Causes just now starting to climb out of a slump that bogged it down until around #25, I decided to hold off and reserve judgement until I was acutally able to read it. I should've had a little more faith: From the interaction of the characters to the highly enjoyable last-page shock, Faerber's at the top of his game with this one, and Mahmud Asrar's art is a nice, clean style that could almost pass for Ryan Ottley's smooth pencils for Invincible in some places. It's a fun read, and with 28 story pages, it's well worth taking the risk on, even at $3.50 a pop.
Fantastic Four #543: There's something to be said about an Anniversary Issue that manages to hit the shelves a year after it ought to, but that aside, Dwayne McDuffie's doing some great stuff here. Two issues in, and so far he's been saddled with the unenviable task of making sense of Civil War, and while the last issue featured Johnny tearing down J. Michael Straczynski's nonsensical characterization of Reed Richards, this one sees him directly confronting the readers through Tony Stark. It's an interesting moment, and in the hands of a lesser writer, it's the type of thing that could come off as an annoying bit of defensive self-congratulation, but McDuffie manages to pull it off. The backup stories, as seen above, pretty much speak for themselves, and if Paul Pope doesn't make the extra dollar on the cover price worth it by himself, then seeing Nick Dragotta and Mike Allred illustrating the oddly charming hucksterism of Stan Lee certainly does it.
Hulk / Power Pack #1: Despite the fact that I don't particularly care for the new artist here, I don't really have much of a review of this one. Instead, I just wanted to point out that the backup story by Chris Giarrusso and Banana Sunday's Paul Tobin features a rare cameo appearance by the ISB's favorite Golden-Age Z-Lister, The Vagabond. Adjust your buying habits accordingly.
Manhunter #29: Let the rejoicing commence: Manhunter has been uncancelled again. I'm starting to think that cancelling this book might actually end up being some sort of annual event for DC, sort of like Christmas but with letter-writing campaigns and blog-based complaining instead of presents. Even so, it'll be worth it if the tradeoff is more issues of what's easily become one of my favorite DC Comics, and I say that as someone who never expected to be that excited about Dylan Battles kicking down a door in a full-page entrance shot. The only problem in this issue comes from the otherwise-fantastic artwork, which at one point suggests that Superman was just hanging out outside Kate Spencer's window in exactly the same pose for a few hours. Even that's relatively small, though, and when it's put up against stuff like the way that Wonder Woman's characterized, the nice reveal that ties into 52, and the Cameron Chase sequences, it's easy to overlook in favor of a great, well-done comic. Good stuff.
Midnighter #5: Despite the fact that I drop f-bombs like a drunken sailor with a stubbed toe, I do try to keep things at least moderately "safe for work" here at the ISB. And that, my friends, is the sole reason why this post didn't lead off with the kick to the face featured in this awesome little piece of badassery, which is set up with such a great parallel to Charlie Brown that I could't stop laughing after I read it. Oh Garth Ennis, your violent dismemberments are a delight!
Phonogram #5: At this point, it's been well-established that David Kohl is a bastard. It's sort of a central theme to the story, and it was even the main thrust of Gillen and McKelvie's great ad campaign, which had Kohl cast as a smarmy, self-important jerk even before page one hit. It's one of the things that makes him so likeable, and that's what makes this issue of Phonogram so great, as it's all based around the idea that someone's taking that horrible personality and everything else that goes with it.
It's a device that Mike Carey used towards the end of his run on Hellblazer with Stations of the Cross, but while John Constantine jumped at the chance to get away from being the biggest bastard in comics for a change, Kohl has nothing else to go to, and seeing him fighting to keep his abbraisive self-identity is amazingly entertaining, even before the resurrected zombie goddess in Adidas kicks shows up. It's another excellent issue of the best mini-series going, and if you haven't already jumped on, you're going to want the trade.
Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil #2: As much as I loved the first issue, this one features six pages of Captain Marvel just wailing on a gang of evil talking crocodiles, thus making it one of the greatest comics DC has ever published. Seriously, though: Wonderful stuff.
Nat Turner v.2: I never learned about Nat Turner in school. Admittedly, this may have been as much a product of my lack of attention as it is of the South Carolina public school system, but I distinctly remember doing fifteen minutes on the Stono Rebellion in the 8th grade, so I think I'd remember if it was covered.
Kyle Baker's book, then, is the first time I've read up on the subject, and like most of Baker's work, it's a truly astonishing pice of graphic literature. The first volume was essentially a traditional origin story for Nat Turner, buildilng him up as a man who rose above being enslaved to at least temporarily conquer his oppressors--setting him up as "America's favorite new comic book hero," as it says on Baker's website. This one, though, dives into the revolt itself with an uncompromising look at the sheer brutality and violence of the event, as Turner and his men kill fifty-five people, including the murder with an axe of a sleeping infant. It's a shocking moment to see from the same artist who does the "Family Circus done right" gag strips of The Bakers, but it's in there, just like everything detailed in The Confessions of Nat Turner, with Baker's phenomenal art taking over when the words of story aren't evocative enough, and it's all part of a truly amazing, thought-provoking, and accessable work that should be part of every library in the country.
It's a phenomenal work from one of the true masters of the form, and it was well worth the wait.
And despite the fact that I'm pretty weirded out by ending an allegedly humorous review column with high praise for a book full of historically accurate axe-murders and lynchings, well, them's the breaks. As always, if you've got any questions, or just want to talk about why the latest Justice League of America might be the most hilariously awful comic ever, feel free to drop a line to my email, or leave a comment.
If I could be real for a moment, though? Red Tornado sucks so hard.