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Friday, March 16, 2007

The Week In Ink: 3-14-07

Say what you want about how they allegedly "ruined" Batgirl, but I'll go to bat for the post-OYL issues of Robin any day of the week.

Why? Because of the sheer poetry that is the Kick to the Face.

Is there any sweet sight in this grand old world of ours? I think not.

And that's only partially because someone getting a boot to the chops heralds yet another installment of the internet's zaniest comics reviews! Here's the truly shameful amount of stuff that I bought yesterday...

...and here's what I thought about it.


BPRD: Garden of Souls #1: It's been a while (specifically, about six months) since the last BPRD series finished, and while Universal Machine had some of the best work I've seen in the entire Hellboy franchise, it did nothing better than it got me excited about the next installment. Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, and Guy Davis haven't missed a step yet with the entire run, and considering that this issue features a monkey-demon thing in a mask breaking out of a glass jar with a .45 to fight a man undergoing accupuncture and a disembodied spirit in a rubber suit who is truly excited about going through some files, that doesn't look like it's about to change. It's exellent stuff as always, and if you've somehow missed out and want to see what it looks like when horror comics are done right, jump on the trades. You'll be glad you did.


Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 #1: Despite the impression I may have given with last night's post, I was actually pretty excited about this one, and I've got to say that it's pretty awesome.

As I've mentioned, I was catching up with the show on DVD when TV suddenly got good again with The Office and 30 Rock, so while I'm trying to jump back on the train and get up to speed, I haven't actually seen the last season and a half of the show. Still, with just a quick "here's what you missed" lecture from Tug yesterday at work that hit the high points, I was able to get through it pretty easily, which is always a plus.

As for the story itself, there's a lot that appeals to me here. Specifically, I'm thinking of the way that the story opens up with Buffy jumping out of a helicopter leading a team of multicultural sidekicks who sport Claremontesque accents and function like a demon-fighting teenage girl version of the Blackhawks, and the fact that I'm ridiculously excited about that concept ought to give you an idea of my particular biases here. It's fun, and even with a couple of double-page spreads thrown in for good measure, it's exceptionally well-paced, to the point where I thought there were way more than 24 pages of story involved until I actually counted them out. Georges Jeanty does a fine job handling art chores as well, and while he relies heavily on photo reference--which is something of a necessity when you're drawing characters that are based entirely on actors--he does a good job of blending them into his art style rather than having them stick out as obviously as, say, a Greg Land.

Of course, the fact that it's all wrapped up in an absolutely beautiful Jo Chen cover doesn't really hurt matters either, and while I do feel compelled to remind people that Nick Fury still had both eyes when he led the Howlers, it's fun stuff. At this point, though, I can't help feeling that a review's going to be pretty meaningless: If you like Buffy, odds are that you've got it already, and if you don't, well, a book with the same characters that's written by the show's creator probably isn't your speed anyway. I liked it, though.

The Damned #5: Between BPRD, Buffy, and the last issue of Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt's demon-noir crime story, it's been a heck of a good week for comics about the supernatural. I've seen the book criticized for just telling a standard crime story with demons in place of gangsters, but it's the fantastic way that Bunn blends the genre that makes the whole thing so much fun, whether it's the mystical interrogation of Eddie's snitch, the truly creepy aspects of the double-crosses set up as the characters betray each other over a book detailing who sold their soul and why, or--in what might be my favorite moment of the entire series--an eight foot-tall demon mafioso rolling up his sleeves and charging down a hallway while lesser monstrosities try to hold him back with a tommy gun.

How can you pass that up?

Gen13 #6: The first arc of Gail Simone and Talent Caldwell's Gen13 relaunch comes to a close, and while I've honestly been doing my best to enjoy the genuninely good bits that Simone works into the script--of which there are a few here and there--I just haven't been able to get into it as easily as I thought I would. Even looking at it through the lenses of nostalgia, I know that the original Gen13 comics that I read ten years ago weren't what you'd call "very good," but even re-reading them for my two-part "Brief History", there was a sense of goofiness and not taking itself too seriously that seems utterly absent in the relaunch. Of course, that sort of thing didn't really start showing up until the ongoing series launched, and since the first arc of this one essentially re-tells the mini-series, there may be hope for it yet. I just can't help thinking that in a market that aready has books like Runaways, which does the "teens with powers being hunted by and rebelling against oppressive forces" bit better than anything else, it's even more unnecessary now than it was when it was just another team of mutants back in the mid-90s.

Jack Kirby's Galactic Bounty Hunters #5: And speaking of books that I have a hard time getting into, we have another issue of Jack Kirby's Old Man With Knives Fighting Giant Lizard Monsters, and while that might sound really exciting in theory, it's a little underwhelming when you actually read the issue. To be fair, this is the best one so far, but even with my unabashed love of the King, I can't shake the feeling that I'm reading warmed-over Kirby ideas being executed by somebody else with loose character notes as a guide.

Which, unless I'm misinformed, is pretty much exactly what it actually is. That said, I'm still planning on buying it, because with as much as Jack's work has entertained me in my lifetime--and will continue to do so for years to come--Lisa Kirby could walk up to me on the street every month for the rest of my life and ask me for three bucks and get it every single time.

Punisher War Journal #5: Before we get to the actual review here, I'd just like to mention that Ariel Olivetti draws Frank Castle with the hugest arms I have ever seen. Anyway, Matt Fraction continues his non-stop drive to what internet-based fans of contractions are already terming "Capunisher" with a story involving the amazingly ludicrous Bushwacker. For those of you who haven't slogged through three hundred of Big Frank's adventures and aren't aware, allow me to hip you to the fact that Bushwacker, one of roughly two guys who could actually be called recurring Punisher villains, can turn his arms into guns--or flamethrowers if he thinks to drink kerosene ahead of time--which puts him just above Random on the scale of Most Mid-90s Super-Powers Ever. As such, he is one of the best bad ideas in comics history, and just seeing a chubby G.W. Bridge stumble out of a building and shout, and I quote, "BUSHWHACKERRRR!!!" adds a whole new level to the hilarity that is his existence.

As should be perfectly clear by this point, I really, really like this comic.

Tales of the Unexpected #6: Well, it's finally happened: After half a year of trying to get through the utter nonsense that is David Lapham's Spectre story, I've finally given up and decided to skip reading it entirely in favor of enjoying the Dr. 13 backup, and I don't think there's anyone out there who would question that decision at this point. I did flip through it on my way through the issue, though, and managed to see that this month's nerve-wrackingly trite installment revolves around a clown molesting a little girl--which was a cliche fifteen years ago--while the Spectre and the Phantom Stranger stand around doing... what's the word I'm looking for? Oh, right: Nothing at all.

But that, of course, is less than irrelevant as compared to the pure, unfettered genius of the backup story. After the massive letdowns that were "Broken City" and "For Tomorrow," I was honestly ready to write Brian Azzarello off forever, but six eight-page backup stories about Dr. Thirteen and Genius Jones, and I want that guy on any book he wants to write. It's a hoot, and the fact that he's willing to throw the Mount Rushmore Monster--his own creation, as Dr. K pointed out to me when I couldn't remember what it was from--in there alongside a bunch of characters that nobody really cares about is just the kind of self-depricating icing on the cake that makes it a joy to read.

Of course, when they turn into the guys writing 52 and start arguing about dialogue choices, that's just pure genius on the level of a vampire nazi gorilla. Man, I love this story.

Teen Titans #44: This is one of those books--like Irredeemable Ant-Man--that's lately become one bad issue away from getting dropped like a fresh beat, but despite some odd moments, it's at least interesting enough to get a stay of execution for another month. At the very least, it doesn't look like Geoff Johns is relying entirely on the amazingly cheap cop-out that would be using Deathstroke's mind-control drugs to explain a character shift that occurred well before One Year Later with Batgirl, even if it feels like a half-baked attempt to get things back to status quo rather than playing them out in a logical manner.

Which isn't to say that this issue is without its problems. We talked about his healing factor at work today, but if Deathstroke can be stabbed through the heart and stay on his feet throwing punches, then what exactly was the point of stabbing him at all, other than an homage to a scene that nobody really gives a crap about from the mid-90s? Admittedly, this could just be my thorough, unrelenting hatred of Jericho talking--because I seriously hate Jericho--but it would've been a much nicer moment if it had actually, y'know, affected the story at all.

But then again, if I drop the book, I won't get to see Risk's wicked sweet porn 'stache anymore. And that would be a tragedy.

What Were They Thinking?! Go West Young Man: Comics blogger, rising star and Official Friend of the ISB Kevin Church, who wrote two of the four stories in this volume of Boom! Studios' laugh-a-minute comic remix title, asked me to relay this prepared statement.* Be advised, though, he was very very drunk:

"Yo, tardos: If you want to read a book full of old, borderline offensive Western stories that Chris Ward and I have put a bunch of dirty words into--including stories of donkey worship, corporate gentrification, Civil War-era musical copyright violations, and vikings--then this is the place to do it. And if you don't, I will eat your family. Think about it."


American Elf: The Sketchbook Diaries of James Kochalka, v.2: By their very nature of being daily, James Kochalka's strips are often pretty hit-or-miss, which is concept that the readers of this very blog are no doubt all too familiar with. Even so, when they're good, they're hilarious, and when they're bad, well, you've still got Kochalka drawing his friend Jason X-12 to look like a little dog, and that's a good time that everyone can enjoy.

What everyone can't enjoy, though, is the fact that one of the strips in this volume has been censored. Admittedly, it's probably the dirtiest strip of the entire published Sketchbook diaries, but if I didn't already know the joke from a conversation I'd had at work when it was originally published in 2005, I'd be pretty upset about it, and as it stands, I'm pretty cheesed off. There are, after all, plenty of strips in this volume that feature Kochalka indulging in some full-frontal nudity in his self-portraits, so I can't think of a reason why the strip in question shouldn't have gone through without black bars across a full half of the dialogue. After all, when I pay twenty bucks for a book full of James (Superfuckers) Kochalka, I expect to get everything there is to it, and that's not what this is.

So as pointed out in the comment section below and an email that James Kochalka sent to me, I actually have no idea what I'm talking about here, and was totally misremembering the original strip. So, just to clear things up here: American Elf v.2 is uncensored, controversy-free, and a highly entertaining way to spend your twenty bucks. I, however, am ill-informed and should probably not be writing reviews at four in the morning.

Gunsmith Cats : Revised Edition v.1: One of these days I'm going to sit down with this book and go on at length about how much I love Gunsmith Cats, but for right now, I'll just put it this way:

Kenichi Sonada is a guy who gets up in the morning and draws guns, cars, and pretty girls all day long. It's all he does, and that somehow resulted in what's probably the single greatest action manga of all time. Thus, this volume is absolutely essential for anyone who likes things that are awesome, especially at $16.95 for what appears to be eight million pages.

It Rhymes With Lust: For those of you who were intrigued by my discussion of the late Arnold Drake's work on Monday night and wanted to read more of his stuff, you could do a lot worse than to pick up Dark Horse's beautiful reproduction of this 1950 original graphic novel. Written by Drake with Leslie Waller and Matt Baker handling the art, It Rhymes With Lust not only has one of the most amazing titles in the history of crime fiction, but stands as one of the earliest examples of comics designed specifically for older readers. It borrows beats from Raymond Chandler and Mickey Spillaine as it tells the story of a hard-luck newspaper reporter who gets caught up in the seedy world of his manipulative ex-girlfriend, Rust Masson in the aftermath of her political bigwig husband's death, and it holds up about as well as Chandler and Spillaine's works, even almost sixty years later.

It's a great reproduction, with the original cover (complete with the banner advertising it as a "Picture Novel") restored and re-colored, and even with a $14.95 cover price, it's well worth picking up.

And that's this week's haul. As always, any questions about things I may or may not have read, comments about my snappy judgements, or guesses as to what album I was listening to while I wrote tonight's post (and if you guess correctly, you might just win a prize!**) can be dropped into the handy comments section below, or--for the shy types among you--sent via email.

Now if I could just remember how that Alan Heinberg Wonder Woman story ended, I'd be doing pretty well.

*: This is not true. Kevin did not write any of this and is probably mad at me for making people think he calls someone besides Mark Hale a "tardo."
**: There is not actually a prize.


Blogger The Fortress Keeper said...

I am so jealous! I looked for It Rhymes With Lust everywhere out here and came up with zip.

Oh well, at least Buffy rocked.

3/16/2007 5:23 AM

Blogger Nirmal said...

I usually agree with you, but I disagree on the whole Teen Titans/Robin/Batgirl thing. I'm fine with them returning to the status quo on Batgirl, no matter how poorly explained it is.

After Batgirl's series finished they really should have just let the character dissapear. Sorry, but Batgirl's "transformation" into a villain in Robin OYL was utterly inconsistent with anything in over 70 issues of her own series.

I do agree that the current writer on Robin is talented and good at "fun" stories, despite disliking his portrayal of Batgirl.

3/16/2007 5:53 AM

Blogger LurkerWithout said...

I need to watch and read more Gunsmith Cats. Just so I can once and for all figure out if its the same Rally as in Riding Bean

3/16/2007 5:53 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

LurkerWithout: It's the same Rally. Bean's a recurring character in Gunsmith Cats, too.


Verification: All hail THAXR, lord of the Underverse!

3/16/2007 6:22 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing I like about Gunsmith Cats, that kept me buying the TPBs was that usually whoever the lead villians are are no chumps and in some cases neither are the henchmen. Our protaganists really have to work to outsmart or outrun the villians sometimes.

3/16/2007 8:03 AM

Blogger Siskoid said...

I've got the diaries in their original (seasonal) form. Which date is censored? I'm wondering if it got censored first time round.

Thanks Dave.

3/16/2007 9:17 AM

Blogger LurkerWithout said...

Then at some point in Gunsmith Cats do they explain WHAT THE HELL Bean Bandit is?

3/16/2007 9:45 AM

Anonymous James Kochalka said...

The strip was not censored for the American Elf book. You're remembering incorrectly, an "uncensored" version never existed. The original strip online had the censor bars over certain words as well. However, if you look at it, the censor bars don't really hide what is being said, it's pretty easy to guess what the words are under the black bars.

3/16/2007 10:34 AM

Anonymous caleb said...

The Mount Rushmore Monster was the early climax and all-around highpoint of Azz and Lee's "For Tomorrow"...it was actually just an Earth Elemental in an awesome form.

(Aquaman and his army of whales staring down Superman in a two-page spread was a close second).

Was the "how Heinberg's story ended" a joke? Cause you do know it didn't end, right? Wonder Woman was left staring at a two-page spread of all of her villains ever (Except Egg Fu), and we're left in the dark over whether the hero wins or is brutally killed.

3/16/2007 11:09 AM

Blogger Mark Engblom said...

Buffy: I'm proud to say I completely missed the Buffy train years ago. I literally haven't seen one second of the show...likewise, I'll just have to take your word for it on the comic book version.

Gen 13: Ditto.

Capunisher: So as an avowed Punisher fan, do you cry "foul" that Frank Castle has been some sort of Cap groupie all these years, and now wants to take over for the guy? Most Punisher fans I've read aren't too keen on the idea.

DC's Spectre character: Now that we have the second impotent, self-hating Spectre after impotent, self-hating Hal Jordan Spectre, can we either agree to return this character to his Old Testament intensity or just forget about the whole thing? I tell you, this philosophizing Spectre in these Modern, Caring, Gentle Times just isn't cutting it. I would maintain that the Spectre is an inherently divisive character with an actual point of view and the power to carry it out...and not suited to the whiny, weenie relativism that's defined the character ever since J.M. DeMatties got his New Age meathooks into him.

Oh...and dump that ridiculous goatee while you're at it.

3/16/2007 11:37 AM

Blogger Jeffrey Hardy Quah said...

So I guess I'm the only one here who enjoyed Broken City and For Tomorrow?

Oh, and Robin was awesome. It's just about the only comic I'm reading that feels very satisfying in monthly installments.

3/16/2007 11:59 AM

Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

As an avowed Punisher fan, I have no problem with Fraction's Castle being high on Cap. Punisher's crazy, thinks he's the sanest man around. I think it's hilarious.

3/16/2007 12:19 PM

Anonymous Brian said...

Speaking of divisive: imho, not having seen the last season and a half of Buffy is a GOOD thing. I feel the first three seasons were some amazingly fine television, but after that Joss got distracted with the other 1-3 TV and movie projects he always had going, the cast started feuding, and oh my god the suck. I know people who only kept watching because of a)Anya and b) curiosity about what Evil Fashion Nazi would force the actors to wear next.

3/16/2007 3:34 PM

Anonymous Ronald Dumsfeld said...

So what is it that rhymes with lust? Is it trust? Bust? Possibly crust?


3/16/2007 4:14 PM

Blogger Derek said...

"ludicrous Bushwacker"

I thought that said "Backwasher" at first glance. Instead of guns for arms, he has the ability to salivate like a fire hose.

Re: the alt text for It Rhymes With Lust

More like "Evil Telekinetic Transvestite Jimmy Olsen WILL SHOOT YOU." He/she can shoot you - and, apparently, participate in the democratic process - while keeping his/her hands flush at his/her sides.

3/16/2007 4:22 PM

Blogger Siskoid said...

Mark, I just made you Managing Editor on any further Spectre comics in the DC Comics Inc. in my mind.

3/16/2007 5:15 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lurkerwithout: If memory serves, Bean Bandit is just a crazy awesome driver with a tricked-out car. But then again, I'm pretty drunk.

3/16/2007 8:46 PM

Anonymous Daniel said...

y'know that the current Robin-writer, the awesome Adam Beechen, is taking over the writing of Teen Titans in a few issues?

3/16/2007 10:33 PM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

Daniel: Yes, actually, which is why my desire to drop the book is rendered more and more moot as each month passes. I'm really excited about it.

3/16/2007 10:50 PM

Anonymous Karl Ruben said...

Were you listening to the latest release from James Kochalka Superstar?

3/16/2007 11:43 PM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

Karl: No, but I did buy it last week. I'm totally going to use "This Is How We Rock In America" on one of my podcasts one of these days.

3/17/2007 12:52 AM

Blogger Jacob said...

No Fables review?? Of this issue, on this blog? I'm shocked.

and not suited to the whiny, weenie relativism that's defined the character ever since J.M. DeMatties got his New Age meathooks into him.

The current run is very bad, but whatever else it may be, it's not whiny, weenie JMD relativism!

It's such a shame that they didn't let Ostrander's final issue be the end of the character.

3/17/2007 8:54 AM

Blogger thatsthespirit said...

I was seriously disappointed with Broken City. Disliked it. Then I read it a couple more times, and suddenly found myself loving it. It's genius. Pure, under-rated genius.

3/17/2007 1:44 PM

Blogger RAB said...

Re Galactic Bounty Hunters: "I can't shake the feeling that I'm reading warmed-over Kirby ideas being executed by somebody else with loose character notes as a guide."

And after all, there's a really really good reason you have that feeling. Trust that feeling.

3/17/2007 5:30 PM

Anonymous James Kochalka said...

The two Allred drawn issues of Fables are awesome. I never read that book before but those two issues are just perfect. Is that all Allred is doing, just two?

3/17/2007 7:28 PM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

Nope, no Fables review, if only because I truly believe that it's generally the best comic coming out every month, and, well, it's hard to think up new ways to say that every week.

These Mike Allred issues, though... That guy's pretty fantastic. Of course, I've almost run out of ways to say that, too, and I want to save at least a few for when I get Madman Gargantua.

I do think he's only on for those couple of issues, but I'm all for Mark Buckingham, too.

3/17/2007 11:26 PM

Anonymous Nate_Birch said...

"Lurkerwithout: If memory serves, Bean Bandit is just a crazy awesome driver with a tricked-out car. But then again, I'm pretty drunk."

A crazy awesome driver who so bad-ass he gets *shot between the eyes* and it barely phases him in one story.

Anyways...what's "revised" about this Revised edition? I own everything Gunsmith cats (at least I think I do) but I'll buy this new edition if there's actually something new about it.

3/18/2007 6:13 AM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

The main thing about it is that it's been "unflipped" and presented in the original right-to-left style, and according to the Dark Horse website, they're "unretouched" versions of the new big omnibuses from Japan.

Aside from being translated, I mean.

3/18/2007 3:00 PM

Anonymous Talvalin said...

I prefer left-to-right as that's how my brain has been trained to read, so the recent trend towards translated un-flipped manga bugs me.

However, the flipped version of Gunsmith Cats contained numerous errors (guns being in the wrong hand, cars being on the wrong side of the road), as does Blade Of The Immortal, so I'd consider picking the new editions up.

Speaking of which, have you covered Blade of the Immortal before? Any comic featuring a virtually unkillable samurai who carries about 100 swords/knives and can cut someone into tiny pieces in a blink of an eye deserves a spotlight in this blog. Surely!

3/19/2007 7:01 AM

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12/13/2008 1:09 AM


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