The Week In Ink: 4-04-07
As tragic as it might seem, there are some weeks where I don't read a single comic that features a kick to the face. It's shocking, I know, but as the internet's premiere outspoken advocate of sequential violence, I like to think that I'm doing my part to make sure it doesn't happen too often.
And then there are weeks like this one, where people are getting stiff-legged everywhere I look. All-New Atom, Spider-Man Family, 'Tec, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, heck, even Frank Castle takes a stiletto heel to the jaw in this week's Punisher, and it's leaving me with almost too much to choose from when it comes time to start things up around here. But then I stop to think about it, and realize that while there may be a lot of comics with face-kicks in them...
...there was only one that featured Iron Fist kicking somebody right in the jaw while another guy named Iron Fist jumped behind him shooting kung fu-powered handguns like lightning from the hand of God.
I don't know if I've mentioned this lately, but I freakin' love comic books.
So much so, in fact, that I bought all this...
...and now plan on giving up yet another night's worth of sleep to bring you the internet's jazziest comics reviews! It all starts here!
52: Week 48: With as good as this one's been over the past few weeks, the jarring return back to mediocrity was pretty much inevitable, and, well, here it is. The most noticeable thing, of course, is the art, and while Darick Robertson did a great job with the Ralph Dibny issue back in February and does a fine full-page shot of Renee Montoya's first official appearance as the Question, the rest of the issue's marked by scenes that just feel a little off. It's not all his fault, though: If Nightwing's hasty explanation for why the "twice-named daughter of Cain" doesn't refer to Batgirl (you know, the twice-named daughter of David Cain), there'd still be the Crime Bible to deal with. That thing gets more and more ludicrous every time it shows up, and I'm pretty sure that Bruno Manheim reading the reasons that it's taking him so long to get around to stabbing Batwoman out loud pushes the goofiness quotient right into critical mass.
Don't get me wrong: Normally, being way over the top in a story revolving around something called the Crime Bible would only make it better, but when it's a serious plot element that's coming off as a lot sillier than, say, the Cricketron, there might be a problem here. Fortunately, there is something that saves it. Unfortunately, it's the last-page teaser and the ad for next week's issue, which has one of the most radical covers I've ever seen. But I'll get back to that next week.
Avengers: The Initiative #1: I've been a fan of Dan Slott's since he was on Batman Adventures and up through his current run with She-Hulk, so I've been looking forward to his take on the post-Civil War super-hero scene since it was first announced. As for how it worked out, well, the word that immediately springs to mind is "underwhelmed." I don't actually think it's a bad comic by any means--it is, in fact, a perfectly interesting start for a new series that does a quick job of putting the characters together and doesn't waste a second before it gets around to introducing the element of danger--but it's not quite as good as I wanted it to be. For one thing, there are certain things that really ought to be addressed when they crop up in a script, like the fact that Gauntlet spends a good piece of time badmouthing the New Warriors while standing about ten feet away from Rage. And really, whomever it was over at SHIELD who thought of putting the new untrained super-hero proving ground at Stamford lacks planning skills almost commensurate with whomever it was who decided to just figure out what people's super-powers were by throwing them into a fully-operational Danger Room. And that's a bad move that's almost on par with covering up the members of Nextwave on the cover with the book's logo.
But like I said, it's not all bad. In fact, the most surprising aspect of the book comes from artist Stefano Caselli and colorist Daniele Rudoni. These are, after all, the same people who brought us the mind-shatteringly horrible art of Civil War: Young Avengers and Runaways, but Caselli's pencils are much tighter, and while Rudoni hasn't completely abandoned the idea of panels where everything's a certain shade of pastel pink, it's far less often and much more well-done than it was previously. There's a lot of room for improvement here, but it's not a horrible start, and at this point, it just feels like a matter of seeing when it gets better, not if.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer #2: "Season 8" continues to roll right on out, and while I liked the last issue a heck of a lot, this one pretty much blows it right out of the water. I mean really: The dialogue on the last page might as well have been "General, would you care to step outside?" Tell me that wouldn't have been great and I'll call you a liar, buster brown.
Anyway, if there's one thing we've learned from Joss Whedon over the past few years of Astonishing X-Men, it's that that guy knows how to write exciting comic books, and on that front, Buffy does not disappoint. It is, after all, a comic that opens with an all-girl ninja Royal Rumble, closes with a legion of unkillable zombies laying siege to a castle, and still manages to take time in the middle for conspiracy theories, a lengthy dream sequence, and witches fighting slayers in their pajamas. It's everything that's solid and fun about the show, done on the comics page without the constraints of a special effects budget, and if you're a fan, that works out to be a pretty awesome combination.
Detective Comics #831: I have never and will never pass up a chance to read a Paul Dini Harley Quinn story, but I just can't help imagining how much more awesome this issue would've been if it'd been drawn by Darwyn Cooke or Bruce Timm. I don't mean to dis Don Kramer here--because really, most comics would be better with art by Darwyn Cooke or Bruce Timm--but since he's stepped in to fill the gap that J.H. Williams III left after two issues, he's just sort of felt like a fill-in artist, and that's never really been more evident than here. As for the story itself, the plot plays out like the logical continuation of two of Dini's Animated Series episodes, "Harley's Holiday" and "Harlequinade" (minus the musical number), and while those represent some of Dini's best work on the show, it makes the whole thing more than a little predictable.
It's all worth it, though, for the two page flashback of the Ventriloquist in Arkham. It's the sort of thing that reminds you that Batman's got the most interesting group of villains in comics, and if you haven't been reading Dini's work with this book lately, you really ought to jump on the new trade. It's good stuff.
The Immortal Iron Fist #4: There's not really a whole lot I feel I can add to the picture that leads off tonight's post, but it always bears repeating: Immortal Iron Fist has got it all. I mean it: Hydra agents, giant robot spiders, Sal Buscema, two guys named Iron Fist... Heck, it even opens with a Victorian gentleman in a top hat crashing an Art Nouveau airship into a city of magical kung fu warriors and then threatening them with a crazy four-barrelled pistol, and if that's not the kind of secret origin that gets you excited, then why are you reading comics?
It's even got the Steel Serpent, and for those of you who don't know, here's the short version: he's a guy who showed up, stole Danny Rand's Iron Fist power, and then kicked the crap out of him for a while until Danny finally hit him so hard that he exploded, and the amazing thing about that is that it's not nearly as awesome as what actually happens in this issue. It's amazingly well-done from top to bottom, with Brubaker and Fraction delivering a story that hit the ground running in #1 and continues to roll along, not missing a single beat as they weave a whole new series of legends and adversaries for the character. It's no overstatement to say that this is Iron Fist as he was always meant to be, and every issue just makes me like it more. Great stuff.
Incredible Hulk #105: It's not often that I'm wrong--or at least, it's not often that I admit that I'm wrong--but this issue marks the end of a storyline that I was sure I was going to hate. Needless to say, that wasn't the case, but while I thought that this one made an enjoyable and satisfying--if a little predictable--ending for "Planet Hulk," there are some out there on this grand old internet of ours that felt differently.
I probably shouldn't even mention it (because really, I complain about more than my fair share of comics), but honestly: If you've ever found yourself complaining that someone at Marvel has totally messed up the the Hulk by having something bad happen to him, then you are probably retarded. He's the Hulk. Bad things happening to him is pretty much his entire deal, and is in fact what generally causes him to become the Hulk in the first place. You can't possibly want to read a story where nothing bad happens to the Hulk, because then he'd NEVER TURN INTO THE HULK IN THE FIRST PLACE, and there'd be no story. Add to that the fact that you're complaining about a writer killing off a character that he introduced to the book in order to give the Hulk the motivation to come back and go apeshit on everybody (which we all knew was coming well before the words "World War Hulk" were ever written down), and... Well, the mind boggles.
Okay, tangent over. Suffice to say that it's good stuff, and features a last page that is both scientifically impossible and scientifically awesome. Believe it!
Madman Atomic Comics #1: I hate to admit it, but up until his work on X-Force/X-Statix, I'd never actually read anything by Mike Allred, although I'd always been aware of his work. This means, of course, that I pretty much missed out entirely on Madman, and while I've already taken steps to correct this by ordering the potentially life-threatening Madman Gargantua, which I'd assumed would come out before this one to catch me up. Clearly, this was not the case, but Allred kicks things off here with a suitably crazy recap issue (complete with one of the best titles I've seen in a while), and it doesn't take any prior knowledge to enjoy that guy's artwork. It's beautiful, with the phenomenal sense of motion that characterizes Allred's work, and even if he wasn't going out of his way to make it accessable, it'd be well worth it.
Omega Flight #1: When Omega Flight was first solicited, I was holding out to see how it actually was before I picked it up since there's really only one character involved that I care about, but reading over Blood Oath again last week reminded me of how much I really liked Mike Oeming and Scott Kolins on that book, so I went ahead and picked it up Wednesday. It is, of course, nowhere near as awesome as that story was--which I think we can all agree is because of a complete and utter lack of Volstagg--but even taking that into account, this first issue misses its mark in a fair number of places. Some of the dialogue--especially in the scenes with Walter Langkowski and Agent Brown--is clumsy and poorly constructed, with run-on sentences that I had to read three or four times to make sense of. And while I'm all for seeing the Wrecking Crew, and freely admit that they have a long and storied history of making wild threats at Canadian super-heroes, a grand total of five exclamation points capping off the last sentence in the book seems like a little too much.
There's enough here to keep me around for the next issue--like the promise of Spacehorse and his magic hammer--but I'm not holding out a lot of hope here.
Runaways #25: I think I've mentioned it before, but when we were talking about how much it sucked that Brian K. Vaughan was leaving Runaways after it was first announced, Tug said, and I quote, "The only way it's going to be any good is if they get, I dunno, Joss Whedon or something." That, as it turns out, was exactly what they were doing, which brings us to Whedon's first issue, which does pretty well for itself. It's not much of a surprise, considering that Whedon's no stranger to writing about teenagers with super-powers (see above), but there are a few rough spots to mention, like the possibility that the move from LA to New York could be permanent, but for me, it really all comes down to one thing: The Punisher.
I'm not saying that I'm an expert on the character--although I did read through about 320 issues in the span of three weeks a couple years ago--but I have a hard time believing that Frank Castle would threaten children, especially given the actual reason he goes around killing people. There's no getting around the fact that he's not a good person, and that is in fact half the fun of the character, but for him to work, there has to be some possibility of sympathy, and hurting kids takes that away with the quickness. I'll buy him trying to shoot Chase; he's old enough to know better and has a dinosaur. But pointing a gun at a presumably defenseless twelve year-old girl like Molly Hayes? That's a bit of a stretch. Of course, it wouldn't be nearly as dramatic if he was just standing there hanging out, and there's a distinct possibility that I'm the only one emotionally invested enough in both the Runaways and the Punisher to be bothered by it, but it stuck out. Other than that, though, everything's swell.
And that's this week's roundup. If you have any questions on anything I bought but didn't mention, or if you just want to hear me talk about how much I love it when the Legion pulls a fast one on their enemies or gripe about the latest issue of Superman, feel free to leave a comment.
In the meantime, I'll be over here, thinking way too much about the fundamental aspects of Frank Castle as a protagonist.