The Week In Ink: 4-18-2007
As some of you may have noticed, the ISB just became Blogger's thousand-and-third Blog of Note, and between that and the spike in hits from last week's discussion of Chuck Norris Action Jeans, I figure there might be some new readers out there wondering just who the heck I am.
So before I get on with the post tonight, I'd like to take a moment to drink up all the Hennesey you got on your shelf, so just let me introduce myself: My name is Chris Sims, and I read a lot of comics. New ones, old ones, good ones, bad ones, I read 'em all. And then I
I post every day, so content varies from exhaustive histories of comics that really don't warrant that much attention to a crossword puzzle, a podcast, stick-figure recaps of major storylines done in crayon, and the occasional look at how the work of R. Kelly would be different if it had been written by William Shakespeare. Other than that, I'm also a freelance comedy writer and believe that Sonny Chiba was sent from Heaven to show us the way to a more awesome world.
Anyway, it's Thursday night, and for those of you who don't already know what's coming, that means that it's time once again for the Internet's Snappiest Comics Reviews, which usually lead off with something like this:
"Hey Batman! What are the odds that I'll ever stop using the phrase 'Mind-Shattering' in my post titles?"
And now that you've seen Batman kicking someone in the face, you've pretty much seen everything I have to offer.
But enough with the explanation! I've got reviews to get on with, and we're burnin' daylight! So here's this week's haul...
And here's what I wanted to talk about!
Birds of Prey #105: I think the record will show that I've enjoyed Gail Simone's work on a number of occaisions, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't pretty stoked about the news that Sean McKeever was coming on as the new writer once she leaves. Admittedly, my hopes for a shift in tone along the lines of McKeever's previous work--and a subsequent retitling of the book as Big Barda Loves Scott Free--might be a little unrealistic, but I think he'll do well with it. Of course, that's not to say that, with the exception of "The Hero Hunters," Simone hasn't done a pretty bang-up job on the series for the past few years, because she has, and this week's issue is just another example of how fun and solid her work can be, even if it does feel a little bit like it should be an issue of Secret Six (Guest Starring the Birds of Prey).
And speaking of, that's a team that just gets crazier every time it shows up. And by crazy... I mean crazy awesome.
The Brave and the Bold #3: You know, I'm not quite sure why Batman suddenly ditched Blue Beetle so that he could go fight the Penguin with Cal Ripken in the middle of this thing, but I'll be damned if the rest of it didn't make for some highly enjoyable comics.
And that, my friends, is a joke that will not work once this thing's out in trade. Anyway, I'm not sure whether I should mention this and put my status as a hardcore fan of Legion craziness, but I really don't like the Fatal Five. Well, that's not strictly true: I like the Emerald Empress a lot, and Validus, well, he's a giant super-strong "man-child" whose completely visible brain can shoot lightning and who is always flipping out! How can you not like that? The rest of 'em, though--and I'm looking at you here, "Persuader"--I could pretty much do without for the entirety of my comics reading career.
That's really beside the point, though, which is this: Huge, half goofy, half almost-unbearably exciting stories that blow through every corner of the DC Universe are exactly what Mark Waid and George Perez do best, and this one's been three solid issues of them at the top of their game. It's fast-paced, energetic, and incredibly fun stuff, with a last page that honestly had me cracking up at the sheer joy of it. Simply put, it's excellent, and I don't think it's a stretch to say that it's well on its way to becoming the best DC Universe comic on the shelves.
Conan #39: Conan is one of the rare books that's managed to maintain a consistent, high level of quality not just for the past three years, but even through the change of writer from Kurt Busiek to Tim Truman, so it's often pretty difficult for me to think up something new to say about it. Really, once you've reviewed one issue, you've reviewed them all: "Conan acts like a badass, kills a bunch of dudes, and it's really, really good."
This one, however, sticks out a little, as it's Tim Truman's first use of Janissa the Widowmaker, who might actually be the only genuinely controversial character left in comics. After all, the letter columns for Conan are still filled with people debating the propriety of her origin, which happened twenty-seven issues ago. Me, I like her a lot as a character, if for no other reason than she provides an excellent contrast to Conan, and that's what's brought to the forefront here with a classically-styled sword-and-sorcery adventure that sees them assaulting an ancient temple from opposite sides, each unaware of the other's presence until the end. Janissa's great in this one, too, all finesse and trickery while Conan, equally true to form, gets through with brute strength and some of the hardest lines since Public Enemy. It's self-contained, amazingly entertaining, and if you've somehow managed to get this far without reading it, it makes a great place to start.
Hellblazer #231: As much as I loved the last issue of Hellblazer--the first part of Andy Diggle's debut storyline--I really had no idea how he was going to stretch it into a second part. It ends, after all, with Our Anti-Hero calling up the spirits of a hitman's victims just when the poor guy thought he had Constantine beat, and if that's not the most Hellblazer-ish ending a guy can ask for, I don't know what is. I get the feeling that this one, though, is where Diggle's setting the tone for his run, with a story that's equal parts Constantine loathing himself for the bastard that he's become and reveling in it as he swaggers around five steps ahead of everyone else.
I've said before that as far as I'm concerned, this is a book that could've ended when Mike Carey left and been perfect, but it's stories like this one that make me glad it didn't.
Invincible #40: We can all agree that I like violence, right? I mean, in this very post, you can find a picture of someone getting kicked in the face, so I think that's a pretty safe bet. And what's more, I like super-heroes committing violent acts against villans, and--assuming we're still counting Batroc Ze Leapair as a villain instead of the Savior of Mankind that we all know he is--I like it when villains beat up super-heroes, too.
But Sweet Christmas could we maybe take a break here? Invincible's one of my favorite comics, bar none, but this issue's big fight between the Guardians of the Globe and the Lizard League--which I'd originally hoped would be a sinister-but-fun pastiche of COBRA, HYDRA and the Serpent Society--is just ridiculous, especially when you consider that Dupli-Kate alone is graphically murdered nine times, and that's not counting her various dismembered bodies laying around the floor. I realize that shocking and disturbing are the goals here, but if there's one thing I've learned from DC over the past few years, it's that on its own, excessive graphic violence is utterly meaningless, and the whole sequence just comes off as cheap and poorly done. To make matters worse, the other subplots running through the issue don't suffer from that at all, which just strengthens the contrast. It's not a book that I'm going to rush out and drop--one bad issue out of forty isn't a bad track record, after all--but it's a pretty huge disappointment from a book that I usually look forward to, and I'm hoping it's not the start of a downward trend for Invincible.
The Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #1: My earlier discussion of the Fatal Five aside, I like the Legion a heck of a lot. Not enough to go back to buying Brad Meltzer's nigh-atrocious Justice League of America or anything--I mean, I'm not crazy--but a series by two creators that I really like based on a cartoon that I've never seen? I'll give that a shot at the drop of a hat. Besides, until Chynna Clugston starts returning my calls, this is probably the closest I'm going to get to my proposed collaboration, The Many Loves of Triplicate Girl.
Manhunter #30: So, to sum up: Manhunter (which is totally awesome) has been uncancelled again. Suck it, Spider-Girl.
Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #12: Page 16, Panel 3:
EGO, THE LOVING PLANET (To Earth): I see your situation, baby. I know you got a shorty... I'm cool with that.
Jeff Parker, you are a delight.
Nightwing Annual #2: Despite the fact that I've never, you know, written fan-fiction about the guy, there was a time in my life when Nightwing was probably my favorite comic. Embarrassing, I know, but believe me: That time ended well before Devin Grayson showed up and decided it'd be a good idea to kill major supporting characters off-panel and began the downward spiral that made it one of the worst books on the stands. Still, I'll always have some shred of nostalgia for the character and the way that the Chuck Dixon run provided a fun string of adventures starring a younger, more fallible Batman, a void that's now being filled very well by Adam Beechen and Freddie Williams in the pages of Robin.
So that's what got me curious about this one, and it turned out to be a solid read. Of course, that's not really a surprise: Marc Andreyko regularly knocks it out of the park when it comes to solid, character-driven stories rooted firmly in the DCU over in the woefully underappreciated Manhunter, and his work here lives up to it very well, with a great retrospective on Barbara Gordon and Dick Grayson's relationship, and one of Barbara's best lines in years.
To put it bluntly, this is everything that World War III should've been: If you're not going to explain the "One Year Later" changes in 52--which, if you'll remember, was the original point of that series--then take some time and do them right and do them well instead of cramming them into a stupid, pointless fight that doesn't make any sense to begin with. But we'll get to that in a second.
The Spirit #5: Kevin pretty much covered the major plot point of this one already, but to be honest? I just wanted to post that fantastic cover, and take a breather before I got to...
World War III, Parts 1-4: I don't usually do a Worst of the Week in my comics reviews, but, well, you're looking at the comic that made me want to start. Last night I referred to it as an "incompetent clusterfuck," and that might actually be a little too positive, because This comic is a failure on every possible level.
Even without getting into the story, it's actually difficult to purchase. It's a four-part series that shipped all on one day with covers that have the exact same layout with minor changes. Honestly, did nobody forsee that there might be a problem with this? I mean, I worked the register of a comic book store last night, and there were several people who came up with just one issue, thinking they were just variant covers. Eventually, we just started bagging them up as sets for the people who wanted to get all of them, but it's a problem that could've been solved easily just by making it an Eighty Page Giant. Of course, nobody's going to buy an 80-Page Giant for ten bucks, so there goes that.
Not that anyone should buy this thing anyway: It's awful, and given that the actual fight with Black Adam happens in its entirity in the pages of 52 (which is where WWIII allegedly "begins"), it's thoroughly unnnecessary. It reads like it was written on someone's lunch hour who was given the vague instructions to explain all the changes from the OYL jump, but didn't bother to actually read the books to see what was going on in them. They're explained so poorly that I'd honestly rather they weren't explained at all. And to make matters worse, all these huge, major changes happen two weeks before the OYL books start, which means they could've been called "Two Weeks Later" with the same effect!
Example: I really liked Kurt Busiek's take on Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis when it hit the One Year Later issues, but cripes, man: Atlantis fell into shambles because Aquaman was gone for two weeks? You're telling me that guy lost his mind and became the mysterious Dweller in the Deep in the span of less one day? Really?
And that's not even getting into another good-natured round of Black Adam punching teenagers' hearts out--which, again, nobody seems overly concerned about two weeks later. It's utterly irredeemable, and suffice to say that if you haven't been suckered in yet, avoid it like the freakin' plague.
And that's the week, but as always, leaving questions or comments about something I read (or that you read and just want to chat about) should not be avoided like the plague. Instead, avoid it like delicious muffins.
Which is to say, don't.