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.
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.