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Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Week in Ink: 7-26-06

Normally I try to keep well away from indulging in the usual diatribes about the devil's bible that is Wizard Magazine. Honestly, they wouldn't pander so much if The People didn't demand it, and if there wasn't a place in the world for jokes about monkeys disguised as legitimate comics criticism, you wouldn't be reading the ISB in the first place.

Yesterday's issue, however... Yeesh. Not only did it send a shock through the cutthroat world of magazine binding by switching over to staples, but there was a cover blurb advertising a story about Lost Girls, or, as their fine employees put it, "Alan Moore's Steamy Sex Comic."

Just... Just.. Jesus Christ, Wizard. Even the folks at Maxim are wondering how low your common denominator has to be to bring that out.

Plus, as Tug said yesterday, what's going to happen to the casual Wizard reader who really liked that LXG movie drops seventy-five bucks for three slipcased hardcovers worth of, as you said, "hardcore pornography," and gets really confused by all the literary references, the subtle shadows in the scene with Wendy and her husband, the nine-panel grids, the backdrop of World War I, and the fact that one of the characters is an elderly woman?

He's going to bring it back to me, that's what. And I'll have to explain to him that, sorry, but all sales are final.

Especially on the porno.

One can only hope that this guy has access to that last bastion of truth and journalistic excellence, The Internet! Because if you read it on the 'net, kids--especially in the ISB's Comics Reviews for the 4th Week of July--it's gotta be true!


52: Week Twelve: Someone came into the store today asking me how many issues 52 was going to be. Seriously. That happened. Anyway, this week's issue was reasonably underwhelming for me right from page one. I'm not sure if it's a strict interpretation of Giffen's stylized layouts or what, but I seriously have my doubts that Renee Montoya would be cowering in terror with a quivering lip, even in the face of being yelled at by Maggie Sawyer. Moving on through the issue, we've got the return of Isis (which I fail utterly to care about), couched in a scene with an over-the-top scenery-chewing Billy Batson that probably sounded a lot better in theory than it actually worked out.

On the plus side, however, Donna Troy is nowhere to be seen, and instead we've got Adam Hughes drawing Wonder Woman that--while it does manage to include both bullet-deflecting and bondage in the span of two pages--doesn't really do much in the way of revealing her Secret Origin for "New" Earth, like whether or not it was still Hippolyta during World War II, and the font for her profile makes it look like someone's GeoCities fan-page, but hey: It's really pretty.

Action Comics #841: Considering that it has Superman punching a giant robot, Firestorm, and an offhand mention of Santa Claus, this issue's tabloid-style Dave Gibbons cover might just go down as one of my favorites of 2006. Storywise, the whole thing reads like a weird Silver Age Superman adventure ("Giant aliens are stealing Alcatraz!"), and while that's all well and good, I feel like the villain of the piece owes a little too much to Manga Khan for my tastes, much in the same way that while it's nice to see Firestorm confident and in control, it's a far cry from the way he reacted to Batman in his own book a few months back. It's not what I'd call spectacular, but it's a good, solid read with fine art from Pete Woods--and again, that cover's great.

All New Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z #7: Finally, the hard questions have been answered. MODOK, for the record, is 12 feet tall, weighs 750 pounds, can travel via email, and rates a solid one in Fighting Skills. All that and more, a mere 33 pages after we find out that Grant Morrison's Marvel Boy did in fact take place in the mainstream Marvel Universe. Although they got Oubliette's name wrong.

Astro City Special #1: Forty pages of Kurt Buisiek and Brent Anderson's Astro City for a mere four bucks would be a bargain anyway, but this one goes that extra mile to be great. The story's sharp and clever, revolving around the Samaritan's opposite number, The Infidel, and structuring it along the "Eagle and the Mountain" metaphor was highly enjoyable as well. I've mentioned it before, but I really like Evil Opposite stories, and with Busiek's thorough attention to making the Infidel an opposing force for Samaritan in every way, this one was easier to enjoy than most.

Batman #655: What?! Batman by Grant Morrison and it's not my Best of the Week?! What strange madness is this?! Well, it might not have met my relatively arbitrary criteria (you'll see why about eight entries down), but believe me when I say that yes: It is totally awesome. The Joker's dialogue--much like his shoes--is both hilarious and menacing, and for a guy who gets shot in the face on page four, he almost steals the whole comic. Andy Kubert's art is downright amazing (although I'm still a little confused as to why Kirk Langstrom's rolling around in a Victorian-era traveling cloak), and while I've always loved his work, this is the best stuff I've ever seen him do, and I suspect that it has a lot to do with Dave Stewart's always-fantastic coloring.

I do, however, feel that in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I cannot stand Man-Bat. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I'm adamantly against animals-who-are-also-people, seeing as I also do not care for the Lizard and I loathe the very concept of centaurs. The only exception to this rule is, of course, Swarm, who is simply made of bees. To be fair, though, before Grant Morrison came along, I had never heard the word "Man-Bat" immediately prefaced by "an army of ninja." And that might just be enough, True Believer.

Battle Pope #9: I've mentioned before that it's interesting for me to go back and read Battle Pope from the perspective of a fan of Robert Kirkman circa 2006, but as the series goes on, the novelty's rapidly wearing off and I'm not sure how much longer I'm going to stick with it. It's funny--especially the part where the Pope tracks down and brutally jumpkicks a would-be papal assassin--but I'm not sure if it's funny enough to warrant a monthly $3.50 cover price.

Birds of Prey #96: I'm not trying to say that Jerry Ordway's completely lost it or anything, but Black Alice is a teenage girl, and on the cover to this week's Birds of Prey, she bears a striking resemblance to my grandmother. Black Alice, incidentally, is awesome. Not only is she the best thing to come out of Gail Simone's underwhelming "Hero Hunters" storyline from last summer, but with a great set of interesting and visually exciting powers, she might just be my favorite new character in recent memory. And it's great to see her back, especially in a story that also includes the wondrous joy that is pancakes, and the shocking (read: hilarious) revelations about Barbara Gordon's online sex life. Cover aside, it's an excellent issue.

Captain America #20: All You Need To Know: Captain America punches the living hell out of Super-Nazis aboard a blimp right before the Red Skull unleashes his ridiculously awesome secret weapon from the pages of the highly underrated 65th Anniversary special. Union Jack guest stars.

Civil War: Young Avengers & Runaways #1: To be honest, I've never been a fan of Zeb Wells, and everything that I've read of his has struck me as being reasonably annoying, and Stefano Caselli's art doesn't do a heck of a lot for me, so I was pretty much set to just enjoy half of a cover by Jim Cheung, read the story to keep up with a bunch of characters I really like, and end up being mildly disinterested. And that's how I felt right up until Flagsmasher showed up.

Flagsmasher, for those of you who don't know, is the leader of the single most awesomely-acronymed terrorist organization in comics history, the Underground Liberated Totally Integrated Mobile Army To Unite Mankind, known colloquially as ULTIMATUM, and I cannot get enough of that guy. You win this round, Wells.

Corporate Ninja #3: I liked the first two issues of Corporate Ninja a heck of a lot, but let's be honest here: When you put the wrong issue number on the cover to your comic, that's not a good sign. And really, Matt Mocarski: A Max Headroom joke? That's a comedic vacuum from which there is no escape, bro.

Crisis Aftermath: The Spectre #3: Will Pfeifer continues to work through his problems with the Spectre, and with this issue's climax (and the twist ending of the series), he manages to wrap up the Cris Allen/Jim Corrigan storyline in the most absolutely unsatisfying way possible. And even with Cliff Chiang's awesome art and the fact that I came in actively wanting to like Cris Allen as the Spectre, the whole thing feels like a massive letdown.

Daredevil #87: I've been saying it for months now, but Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark have quickly made Daredevil one of the best and most exciting books that Marvel's publishing, and this issue's no exception. There's not a single page that didn't have something I thought was awesome, and Brubaker does more with the Punisher in one panel--heck, in one line--than a lot of people think to do in entire stories. Excellent, excellent stuff, and one of the most surprising shock endings in a long time to round it all out.

GØDLAND #12: The first year of Godland comes to its titanic conclusion featuring an all-out slugfest in a giant evil space pyramid between a man made of explosive energy and an insane cultist who quotes The Warriors, and I just have to ask: What's not to like?

Hawkgirl #53 & 54: Diamond finally decided that it might be a good idea to "emergency ship" last month's issue of Hawkgirl to us a mere four weeks after they forgot to put it in the boxes in the first place, and all I can say is: No, I have no idea why Kendra Saunders is wearing the laciest purple bra I have ever seen underneath her costume. Well, if we're honest, I do: Because Howard Chaykin, that's why. Anyway, as much as I want to like this book, #54 continues to leave me confused and slightly irritated. Mostly because we're four isssues into it and I have no frickin'idea what's going on. It does however, have a guy banging a stick against the floor and turning into Hawkman, so I'll at least stick around to see what's up with that.


Jack of Fables #1: Considering that Fables is consistently one of the best comic books on the stands, I was pretty sure that the spin-off book was going to be a solid read. But then I actually read it, and realized that it's Fables meets The Prisoner, and if that's not one of the best high concepts I've ever heard, I don't know what is.

They are, in fact, the two great tastes that go great together. Taking it from the top, we've got a cover by the always-amazing James Jean that not only features his beautiful art, but also crams in the best fourth wall-breaking gags since She-Hulk threatened your back issues. It's hard to beat the logo's assertion of "Nobody Deserves His Own Book More Than..." but Rose Red's "You were a lousy lover" picket sign cracks me up every time.

Inside, Bill Willingham and co-writer Matthew Sturges kick things off with a brief recap before pushing it straight into highly enjoyable McGoohan country, and it's awesome. Even without the Prisoner structure, the script's got some great moments, and Tony Akins' pencils compliments Fables artist Mark Buckingham's excellently, and he does the same good job of littering scenes with the background eye candy that I like so much. And to top it all off, it's got what may well be the most shocking return in comics history--and I'm not talking about the one on the last page either. It's an awesome comic book, and trust me: You'll hate yourself if you miss it. Or at the very least, I'll hate you.

JLA Classified #25: Aquaman is completely useless to the point of tripping over his own feet and having to be saved from certain death by rain, Gypsy sees the future and thinks Gypsy thoughts, Martian Manhunter completely forgets that he can turn invisble, walk through walls, read people's minds, and punch through a wall, and I'm left wondering where the last fifteen minutes of my life went. To be fair, the story ends with--as Scipio points out--a great Vibe panel, but mostly I was just glad that the whole thing was over and done with...

JSA Classified #14: ...OR WAS IT?! Yes, because one title's biweekly story-arc wasn't enough to contain the sheer Englefury of the Detroit League, we now have this. And man, Steve Englehart wrote some of my favorite Batman stories ever, but this stuff is rough. Between some of the most awkward dialogue I've ever seen and a plot that I liked a heck of a lot better when it was on the Justice League cartoon, I'm going to go ahead and sit the rest of this one out.

Neverwhere #8: I don't usually mention Neverwhere--mostly because it's the third time I'm getting through the story and I don't have much new to say about it--but while I've never been a huge fan of Glenn Fabry, his version of Down Street in this issue is incredible. I think that guy might be going places.

Red Sonja #12: Despite the fact that it was probably solicited with some sort of wildly inappropriate adjective tacked onto it by the fine folks at Dynamite's marketing department (which seriously needs to stop, as it's the worst thing in Previews outside of Avatar's two-page spread of Lady Death variants), the John Romita Sr./John Romita Jr. cover for this issue is awesome. And it's even got word balloons, which--combined with last week's talkative cover for Shadowpact gives me hope that they're on the way back. It's fantastic. Unfortunately, the story inside completely failed to keep my attention, and I ended up just skipping through Sonja's lengthy ruminations about her goddess to the part where Kulan Gath shows up. ***SPOILER WARNING***: Kulan Gath shows up.

Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #8: You know what the best thing is about this book? It's got great, consistently well-done high school romance drama from Sean McKeever along with fantastic art and coloring from Takeshi Miyazawa (who seems to be getting better and better with each issue) and Christina Strain. But then, right when Mary Jane's rehearsing her lines from Twelfth Night, drawing on her own experiences realizing she likes Peter Parker just as Gwen Stacy shows up in the picture, Spider-Man shows up and talks about how he's trying to track down the Looter, and that completely justifies my manly purchasing habits and makes me feel like much less of a total girl for loving it as much as I do. But man, is it good.

Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #39: ...And speaking of comics that need justification, we have what may be the least enjoyable issue of Tarot ever--and that's saying something. Oddly enough, it's bad for the same reason as last week's Justice League of America #0, in that this issue focuses on imaginary futures for each character, including: One where Jon fathers children with both Tarot and her sister, which is something I think we're supposed to be cool with but yet still manages to give me the jibblies; Raven Hex building a new civilization after the government gets mad just because the witches take over one little town, a scenario that includes Raven Hex liberating witches from concentration camps; and the postmortem adventures of the Skeleton Man, the World's Most Retarded Supernatural Avenger. So yeah: Not exactly Shakespeare. On a more serious note, though, this issue also includes a disclaimer that I hadn't noticed before that expressly forbids the electronic reproduction of any of the contents without written consent of the creators. Which sucks, because I was totally going to scan that picture of Tarot being puked on by a zombie warthog and use it as my sig file on Girl-Wonder.org.

Ultimate X-Men #72: With as enjoyable as Ultimate Longshot was, and with Ultimate Cable just around the corner, am I the only one hoping that Magician actually turns out to be Ultimate Adam x?

I am? Yeah, I figured.

Wasteland #1: I picked this one up last week after missing out on the initial order, and I'm glad to report that it'd be worth your three bucks even if it wasn't double-sized. I suppose that means that it's actually worth double your three bucks, but regardless: It's good stuff. I've liked Antony Johnston ever since Alan Moore's The Courtyard, which was hands-down the best of Avatar's "Alan Moore" adaptations, and he doesn't disappoint in this one, taking the standard tropes of the post-apocalyptic western and having fun with them, ending up with a slick, well-done product that has its fair share of exciting and clever moments. My personal favorite was a bit in the text piece after the main story that refers to the world changing after "the New Killer War." It's the kind of fun wordplay that I can't resist, and it's got me hooked for the next issue. Great stuff.


Cromartie High School v.6: Seeing as how Cromartie is the funniest manga on the shelves, and this particular volume opens with four guys in KISS makeup talking about how cleaning a smudge off the wall makes you a total badass before moving into a story arc about a gorilla who gets a job at a sushi restaurant, you really shouldn't need me to tell you to buy it. It is, in fact, the best thing ever.


Blogger Phil Looney said...

I don't see how you of all people can't get excited about the phrase League of Assasins army of Ninja Man-Bats. I totally freaked out over that.

7/28/2006 8:31 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Holy shit, someone else remembers Adam-X the Extreme?

Someone else remembers him fondly?

If it is the Extreme One, I hope he gets his backwards baseball cap and knifed shoulder pads back.

7/28/2006 9:04 AM

Blogger Edward Liu said...

re: ninja bats. Stan Sakai did them first. And they were awesome. As is Usagi Yojimbo.

re: wrong issue # on Corporate Ninja. Dude, SHHHHH!!!! When Corporate Ninja saw that, he totally flipped out and killed an entire town. DON'T mention it to him, DON'T point it out, just DON'T SAY ANYTHING about it or he'll just flip out again and kick you in the head.

7/28/2006 10:36 AM

Blogger JG said...

Haha, you cheat like me when it comes to blog posting times.

7/28/2006 11:21 AM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

Although that is true, Cheeseburger, I actually opened up the window at 11:15 and set the post time forward. I just wasn't finished writing until later.

7/28/2006 1:50 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

To be honest, I've never been a fan of Zeb Wells, and everything that I've read of his has struck me as being reasonably annoying

Even FF/Iron Man: Big in Japan? I realize the late great Seth Fisher really made that one, but Wells did write it, and I can't believe that you of all people would reject its glorious celebration of fifties-era monster shlock. That would be like seeing Santa kick a puppy.

7/28/2006 9:27 PM

Blogger Dorian said...

But...but...JSA Classified has Wildcat in it...

7/28/2006 10:06 PM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

Lomie: You are not the only one who remembers Adam X. You are, however, the only one who remembers him fondly. Sorry.

Moose N Squirrel: Didn't bother to read it. It's an unpopular opinion--especially in light of his death--but I really hated Seth Fisher's artwork, ever since I made the mistake of paying actual money for Green Lantern: Willworld. It's just not for me, and since I already don't care for Zeb Wells, I just skipped it entirely.

Dorian: This may come as a shock to you--it certainly was to me--but that's no guarantee of quality. It's just a good rule of thumb.

7/28/2006 11:06 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're a heart breaker.

7/28/2006 11:46 PM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

Dream maker?

Love taker, don't you mess around with me?

7/29/2006 1:03 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Today there is no Santa Claus.

As someone who has never read an issue of Tarot, I have to ask: are there typically in-story reasons provided for her constant nakedness (a la The Simpsons' "Save me, Hercules, the cyclops tore off all my clothes"), or is her costume basically a hat?

7/29/2006 4:04 AM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

Tarot doesn't provide a lot of reasons for anything that happens in the story, Moose.

The first issue I ever got was also, from what I understand, the issue where Jim Balent just said "Fuck it" and decided to draw them naked most of the time from then on.

I should note that the hat makes up roughly a third of Tarot's costume, which also includes 1) A fetching bra and panty set with concentric golden circles on her breasts, and 2) thigh-high boots with crazy giant spikes that stick out on the side and make navigating doors a tricky proposition indeed.

By this point in the series, it's been pretty well established that Tarot just likes to hang out naked most of the time. There's a minor attempt to explain how full-frontal nudity is more in tune with nature, but mostly, I think Jim Balent just really, really enjoys drawing naked women.

More than should be obviously apparent, I mean.

7/29/2006 10:59 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope the mysterious figure who calls himself "The Journalist" turns out to be Ultimate Neal Conan.

7/29/2006 4:21 PM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

Anonymous, you have officially blown my mind.

7/29/2006 10:49 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

superhuman levels of integrity = enough to blow anyone's mind…

7/30/2006 6:24 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone came into the store today asking me how many issues 52 was going to be. Seriously.

Oh, I hear ya, Chris. That's right up there with the person who came into my store, walked down the aisle past the wall of new releases and 60 bins of back issues, took a left and came up the opposite aisle, past the 5000 trades and the very same 60 bins of back issues, came up to the counter, looked at the wall of single issues behind me, looked at me square in the face and asked... wait for it... "Do you sell comics?"

Killllll meeeeeeeeee.

7/30/2006 10:34 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

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9/22/2007 2:16 PM

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