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Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Week In Ink: 11-29-06

You know, it's probably just a side-effect of my jet-setting comics blogger lifestyle, but it feels like I was just doing weekly comics reviews yesterday. Huh.

Ah, well. Time and facekicks wait for no man!

Yes, it's the fifth week of November, 2006, and the question on everyone's mind is undoubtedly "Did Iron Fist punch enough people to become the ISB Best of the Week?!"

Short answer: Yes.

The long answer? That begins here! Now on with it!

52: Week 30: Aside from the scenes at the Mad Scientists' Thanksgiving dinner, last week's installment of 52 was my least favorite of the bunch, right up until this one came out. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure that the solicitations for every single issue for the past eight months have reminded us that this book solely exists is to chronicle a year without Batman, and even discounting the fact that I've seen that guy go on a spiritual journey to find himself at least twice by this point, an issue that catches us up on what Batman's doing seems to run contrary to the whole frigg'n point. Add to that the fact that the Bat-Crew was partying with supermodels in France while Black Adam tore Terra-Man into pieces (rather than, say, being on a mountaintop in Tibet meditating or something), and you've got 22 pages that leave me extremely unsatisfied at the expense of the stories in this book that I actually do care about.

Well, except for the Lobo story. You can pretty much keep that one.

Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #46: It could just be that I've gotten into the habit of comparing this book to Kurt Busiek's run writing everyone's favorite barbarian, but this issue's focus on one of the original Aquaman's adventures--which comes hot on the heels of the month-late #45 from two weeks ago--immediately put me in mind of the stories in Conan that cut back to the framing sequence with the Wazir and the Prince reading the Nemedian Chronicles. Either way, Busiek, Karl Kesel and Phil Winslade tell another highly enjoyable story that really captures all the underwater sword-and-sorcery aspects of this book that I've been enjoying so much, even if I'm still waiting for the Atlanteans to stop walking around like they're not moving underwater. Other than that minor, pretty personal nitpick, though, it's fun stuff.

Batman #659: I mentioned my general distaste for fill-in issues when the last issue of Detective came out, but I actually had pretty high hopes for this one. After all, John Ostrander is one of the great unsung talents of comics with his amazing runs on Suicide Squad, and his Spectre work with Tom Mandrake isn't half bad either. Unfortunately, this issue's pretty terrible. I've said it before, but one of the comic book clichés that we never need to see again is the panel where a new super-villain shows up and shouts their name in huge red letters, and sadly, that's the least of the hackneyed tricks that are pulled out over the course of this issue. There are a few interesting moments, which will hopefully be built upon over the next few parts of the story, but if the first issue's a good measure of what we're in for, you're probably better off waiting until Morrison gets back.

Batman/The Spirit: Back on Tuesday, Johanna Draper Carlson said that this one had the potential to be really enjoyable if "Darwyn Cooke’s influence overcomes the Jeph Loeb taint." That, my friends, is as good a setup as you're ever going to see, but I'm going to go ahead and let you write the punchline yourselves. What I will say, however, is that this book opens up with the single worst opening caption I've ever read, and while the dialogue doesn't really get much better, the plot's a goofy but serviceable way to get the door open for the real draw here: The beautiful, beautiful art of Darwyn Cooke.

With J. Bone working on inks, Cooke's art is amazing through the whole thing, including a fantastic splash page of the Spirit--complete with his name spelled out in the background, of course--that has no business not being a poster. It's worth the five bucks alone just to look at this thing, and it's given me even higher hopes for Cooke's Spirit ongoing, which will be mercifully Loeb-free.

Captain America #24


The Immortal Iron Fist #1: Even discounting the time where he charges up his fist like unto a thing of iron and punches seven guys in one panel--thus tying OMAC's record--Danny Rand kicks five Hydra agents in the face in this issue, and that makes for some fine comics. And yes, I counted.

Seriously, though, Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction are telling an incredibly enjoyable story here, blending kung-fu action with some intriguing revelations about a legacy surrounding Iron Fists's power. The idea that Danny Rand isn't the first Iron Fist is one that has the potential to take away a lot of what's unique about the character--namely that there's nobody else rolling around that was tough enough to bear-hug a dragon to death--but at this point, it's a risk that's more than outweighed by a very interesting and extremely well-done story by Fraction and Brubaker, who's currently writing some of the best Marvel comics in years. As for the art, I've heard David Aja's work compared to Jae Lee's, but since you can actually tell what's going on in this comic, I'd put it a fair step above that. It's in the same vein as Michael Lark's current work on Daredevil, and while there are some rough spots (like the picture of Luke Cage that bears a striking resemblance to that guy who dresses up like Superman), that's good company to be in. Even the flashback sequences by Travel Foreman and Derek Fridolfs are well-done and add a lot to the book, and Matt Hollingsworth's coloring is top notch, as always.

It certainly doesn't hurt that Iron Fist is one of my favorite characters, but really: It's action-packed, highly entertaining, and very much worth your time.

Nextwave: Agents of HATE #10: Warren Ellis sent out a Bad Signal email earlier this week that mentioned how much of a mess he thought Nextwave #10 was and how it didn't work out quite right, which struck me as a little odd, as it might just be my favorite issue so far. I absolutely loved the last issue, with its crazy super-teams and the shocking return of the crew from Not Brand Ecch, but this one goes in the diametrically opposite direction, and the only way I can think of to describe it is that it sort of becomes a "real" comic for eleven pages, and that's what's so awesome about it. It's a great sharp contrast between the goofy, self-aware stupid fun that marks Nextwave, and the fact that the dire, soul-crushing conflict is resolved in typical explosion-filled Nextwave fashion just makes it even better. Then again, what do you expect? This comic is like Hate Face for the modern world.

Ptolus: City by the Spire #2

The Punisher #41

Punisher X-Mas SPecial 2006: I've been doing the Week in Ink for over a year now, so the fact that I can't resist buying a Punisher Christmas Special should only come as a surprise if you mistakenly stumbled onto the ISB after Googling "Degrassi awesome punch" or something. Unfortunately, the fact that they appear at the nexus of two of my "sure-sells" is about the only reason to pick up any sort of Punisher holiday special, because they're never really any good. This year's--by Stuart Moore and CP Smith--does have the distinction of being a lot better than Andy Diggle's offering from last year, but whereas he sacrificed character and likability for the sake of humor, Stuat Moore makes the exact opposite mistake, going way too serious with it. The best Punisher stories--and, in fact, the whole Garth Ennis run--have a constant dark sense of humor to them, and a holiday special's the perfect opportunity to play with that, and this one reads like nothing quite so much as a wasted opportunity.

Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #41: Wow. Just... just wow. A few weeks ago, I made a comment that with its supernatural, oversexed attempts at witty dialogue, Anita Blake was going to be the new Tarot. But... no. No, this issue makes it pretty clear that Tarot will always be a thing unto itsel, and the fact that it's a holiday special means that I'll have no choice but to bring you an in-depth review in the near future. You might want to go ahead and start drinking now, just to prepare yourself.

Teen Titans #41: Let's not mince words here: I frigg'n hate Jericho, to a point that rivals the universally loathsome Terry Long. I think it all boils down to the costume, but the fact remains, I have no desire to ever see him again, and considering that he's a character with two big, plot-shattering death scenes--one of which written by the same guy writing him now--I think we can all join hands and agree that he should go away and never, ever come back. Or maybe it's just me. Either way, I'm rapidly losing interest in the Titans, even with the addition of the likeable and interesting Miss Martian, and the inconsistent fill-in art by Paco Diaz and Ryan Benjamin (replacing the inconsistent-but-improving Tony Daniel)--really doesn't help matters much on that front.

Wetworks #3: Even though it's at least an issue ahead of the rest of the Worldstorm books, I don't have the same familiarity with Wetworks to draw on like I do with Gen13, so Mike Carey and Whilce Portacio's run on this one is still in a sort of holding pattern while I try to figure out what exactly's going on. It's pretty unusual for someone who's used to making pretty quick snap judgements on comics, but the fact that I'm still reading it three months in probably says more for it than I can easily put into words.


The Dark Horse Book of Monsters: There's a new Mike Mignola Hellboy story in this one, along with new work from folks like Evan Dorkin, Kurt Busiek, Jill Thompson, Keith Giffen, and Affable Al Milgrom, so honestly? I'm just putting this here in case you somehow missed that it came out.

And that's the reviews for this week--But be here tomorrow, for a very special installment of the ISB, where everything will change! Or maybe not.

But something will, I'm sure. So I've got that going for me.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Last Week In Ink: 11-22-06

It's been almost a week since Thanksgiving, so I'm pretty sure that most of the American public has now returned from its incoherent, Tryptophan-induced haze, but for those of you still lagging behind, here's a little wake-up call:

There's only one way that could be better, friends: Mandroids.

That's right: In the interest of keeping things current, I'm going to go ahead and review last week's comics, but considering that you've all had a chance to actually go to the store and look through, say, Wonder Woman on your own, I'm just going to hit the highlights here. If you're curious, though, you can click here to find a full list of what I spent my money on this week.

Now then, on with it!


Action Comics #845: I think made my distaste for this book's new direction pretty clear in my comments on last issue, but right now, the only thing keeping me on this book is curiosity over how the 3-D issue's going to work out, and that really might not be enough, as this thing's a mess. Right from the opening shots of benevolent floating head of this year's version of Jor-El (#5 in a series!), there's absolutely nothing here that I care about, and for good reason: It's all stuff that I've seen before. To make matters worse, in the case of the "surprise" revelation that it's all a plot of the Phantom Zone criminals, it's something I've seen before from the same guy writing it now, and I've got my doubts that Richard Donner's going to do a better job of it now than he did it twenty-six years ago, and I'm certain that he and Johns aren't going to do it better than Byrne. It's nothing that I need to see again, and in all honesty, it's probably nothing I need to see in my stack of comics next month.

Daredevil #91: Yesterday, I was reading through an issue of the Dan Jurgens/Johh Romita Jr. run of Thor--the one where the crazy military guy transfers his mind to the Destroyer armor, beats Thor to death, and then has the courtesy to just knock out and tie up the rest of the Avengers--and I realized that one of the things I really, really like to see in that book is the moment where the bad guy has pretty much won, and Thor finally rises up from being beaten half to death with a big "I say thee nay!" or whatever, and then proceeds to kick everybody's ass. Admittedly, that kind of thing happens to everybody in the Marvel Universe every now and then, but Daredevil--a character that's as far from Thor that you can get in pretty much every respect--is defined by those same kinds of moments, and this issue, once he finally figures out that he's been played for a fool and comes down on the guilty parties like a hard rain, is one of the most enjoyable I've seen in a long while.

Or it could be that he just reminded me of Thor because he hit somebody in the face with a hammer really, really hard in this issue. Either way, it's awesome.

Jack of Fables #5: The first storyline for Jack of Fables has ended, and while it's rapidly becoming one of those books that I can't say enough good things about, every time I read it, I find something new to love. This time, it's the little one-line gags on the covers that are worked into the logo every month. I'd noticed them before, but the one for this issue just struck me as absolutely hilarious, and while I'm not sure if it's part of James Jean's department as cover artist to work those in (like he did with the equally funny protest signs on #1), but whoever it is does a great job with it. Inside, of course, things are kept to their usual high levels of quality to wrap up one of the year's best stories, even if I have no idea how Humpty Dumpty got super-powers. Excellent stuff!

But not as excellent as...


Punisher War Journal #1: I'm saying this as a guy who likes everything of Matt Fraction's that he's read, has wanted to see Ariel Olivetti on a comic that was actually good for a few years, and as someone who once read over 300 Punisher comics in the span of three weeks: Punisher War Journal #1 was even better than I wanted it to be.

As tied as he is to gritty, street-level crime stories, I've always thought that the way the desire to have militaristic "realism" in The Punisher--which sets him aside from the rest of the Marvel Universe as a vigilante rather than a super-hero and occasionally results in stories where he goes undercover as a meth-dealing biker so that he can kill an ersatz Charles Manson--isn't always a good thing. And that's where this book comes in, and if this is the way that the Punisher returns to interacting with the Marvel Universe, it's unquestionably going to be the best thing that comes out of Civil War.

Fraction's script is tight and well-done, cramming in a great amount of action with the same kind of intensity and humor that marks his work on a book like Casanova, and the scene where Frank Castle pulls on his white gloves and picks up a futuristic SHIELD-tech rifle after having a conversation with a guy who owns a horde of adorable Iron Man robots combines exactly what I like about the Punisher with exactly what I love about the Marvel Universe as a whole. Olivetti, of course, does his usual great job, with a style that fits the writing perfectly and with a great eye for detail. His Punisher looks great, and from the opening battle with Stilt Man to the last-page Frank Miller homage, it's a great-looking book.

Needless to say, if you like things that are awesome, you really need to get it.

Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #12: By now, it's no secret that I'm a total girl for loving this book, but the main thing to watch out for in this issue is the lettercolumn--or, to be more accurate, the lack thereof. Apparently, there just weren't enough letters to print in this issue, which means that after Sean McKeever and Takeshi Miyazawa's usual entertaining teen drama, we got a picture of a sad Mary Jane with Spider-Man telling us that she's upset because nobody's been writing her letters. It's a genius bit of guilt-trip marketing, and it's nothing if not effective. So here's the one I'm sending in:

Dear MJ Loves You,
Until Midtown High's new yellow-shirted student Luke starts hanging out with Danny, the foreign exchange student from K'un Lun, Make Mine Mary Jane!

...Wait... that would actually be totally awesome.


X-Factor #13: After I was done reading through this one, I went back and read its predecessor, the original psychoanalysis story from X-Factor v.1 #87, and I've got to say: As much as I find myself disenchanted with Peter David a lot of the time, when that guy's good, he's pretty darn good. It's this kind of issue that he really excels at, and as fashionable as decompression is as a storytelling technique now, it's nice to see how taking an issue that does nothing but get into the characters' heads as they react to the ongoing story should be done. As for the art, I've been wanting Pablo Raimondi on this book ever since I picked up Madrox in trade. He's a perfect fit for it, and this issue shows that off pretty well.


Degrassi Extra Credit v.1: Turning Japanese: Finally, the single most successful Canadian television show of all time is available in comic form, and if I wasn't already a total girl for loving Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, the fact that I'm absolutely thrilled about this thing would do it. Degrassi: The Next Generation, as longtime readers might recall, was the object of one of my customary obsessions over the past year, and I've been waiting for this pretty eagerly ever since it was announced. It actually works out really well: Canadian Firestorm fan J. Torres nails the show perfectly, right down to the flaws, and since the flaws are half the charm of the intense melodrama of the show, it works to his favor. Plus, he even throws in the standard Heather Sinclair reference for good measure and, thanks to the unlimited special effects budget of a comic book, tosses in a scene where the oh-so-emo Ellie Nash jumps through a skylight and throws down with a gang of ninja, pretty much assuring that I would love it.

No, seriously.

On the art side of things, Ed Northcott does a fine job handling pencils with a stripped-down style, although he manages to get every character to look like their live-action counterpart with the ironic exception of Ellie and JT, this volume's lead characters. It's not like there's any trouble picking out who they are, but everybody else looks exactly right, so the minor differences on those two stand out more than they would otherwise. Still, it's not half bad, and if you're a fan of Canadian teen drama and comics--and if you're reading this on the ISB, there's a disturbingly high chance that you are--give it a shot. It's worth it.

Marvel Holiday Special Digest: I've actually got both Holiday specials that are reprinted in this thing (and the other two issues are readily available in a few formats), but it bears repeating: Jeff Parker's "SANTRON" story is one of the best holiday specials ever, and if you don't have it, you need it.

Showcase Presents the Unknown Soldier v.1: I realize that nobody's tastes are quite as unique as we'd like to think they are, but really: I've got to be the only one who was equally excited about getting Degrassi and The Unknown Soldier, right?

And that's all for tonight's reviews! But be here tomorrow when the ISB takes on... Well, this, really, only with newer comics. But don't worry.

I've got a surprise coming for you on Friday.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Fourth-World Fashions

While I was enjoying my vacation last week, Sean Kleefeld started up one of those memes everyone's always talking about, and while I'm pretty sure I saw someone specifically mention my name, I can't for the life of me find where it was.

Regardless, I'm not one to disappoint, especially considering that this one's all about picking your favorite Jack Kirby character design.

It's a tough one, though: For sheer economy and flat-out awesomeness, it's hard to top MODOK, who manages to be hideous, mildly terrifying, and amazingly goofy all at the same time, while still pretty much embodying the definition of a physically weak but mentally powerful mastermind in a hovering orange chair. Really, the Kirby designs that I like the best are usually the ones that shouldn't work at all.

Take, for example, everyone's favorite engine of destruction from the World That's Coming, OMAC:

That's a seven-foot tall man wearing a blue shirt with an eye on the chest and a golden metal collar with what appears to be a remote control strapped onto his belt, orange tights and bright yellow boots and gloves, and the whole thing's capped off by the kind of hairstyle that haunts Kid 'n' Play's dreams even today. There is nothing about that suit that should work, and yet I can't imagine another costume that would work quite as well.

But surprisingly, that's not my favorite.

For great Kirby designs--especially for someone who prefers his early-70s DC work--there's not a whole lot that beats the Fourth World. From Darksied on down, with the exception of a small handful of characters that includes the Forever People and Virmin Vundabar, those guys have amazing designs. Case in point:

With Orion, it is all about that helmet. The rest of his costume's reasonably generic--once you get past, y'know, the Motherbox and the Astro Harness and all that--but the helmet alone is an amazing streamlined sci-fi version of Thor's Helmet, with a crazy logo thrown in for good measure.

It's the sole element that makes his look really work, and without it--like when he was briefly in an outfit so generic that you'd expect him to be in a poorly animated commercial for a used car dealership--everything that's visually striking about the character falls to the wayside.

Even better? This guy:

Again, Mister Miracle's got one of those costumes that has no conceivable reason to look as good as it does. Try describing it to somebody who's never seen the character before: "Yeah, it's got wide, horizontal stripes down his body in red, yellow, and green, and he's wearing Dr. Doom's cape, but with a high collar instead of a hood. Oh, and he's also got a red and yellow Luchadore mask."

The whole thing sounds like it's the worst costume since Gambit's pink-and-blue body armor, but it all comes together to form an outfit that's almost perfect, whether it's Kirby drawing it, or a guy like the phenomenally talented Kevin Maguire.

Unlike, say, The Black Racer's original armor, which, while totally awesome suffers a bit by being pretty much every color except the one in the guy's name.

For me, though, this one tops them all:

I have no idea why I love Kanto's costume so much, but the idea of a guy rolling around dressed like a sixteenth-century fop who is also the single deadliest assassin in the known universe just thrills me to no end. What can I say? Dude looks good in a jerkin.

As for my least favorite, that one's a lot easier: Kirby's Sandman.

No, the other one.

No, the other one. This guy:

Apparently, being able to turn your body into a living sandstorm also makes you think it's a good idea to wear what can only be described as the worst Oscar the Grouch costume ever, leading to the first time in history that a rugby shirt and a pair of khakis were actually a better super-villain costume than what the guy started with.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Season's Creepings From Terror, Inc!

Long-time ISB readers might remember a Dollar Comic Review I did last September in anticipation of Robert Kirkman's League of Losers story from Marvel Team-Up, where I did a pretty thorough rundown on the horrifying majesty that was Terror, Inc.

If you've read that one, though, you may have noticed that there was one part of the Terror's 13-issue run that I skipped over when I wrote that one, and that's a mistake I'm going to rectify tonight.

And yes. It's a Christmas issue.

That's right, folks: Thanksgiving's over, and 'tis the season once again here on the ISB. To be fair, though, if I had my way, I'd start celebrating Christmas sometime in mid-October and take the tree down just in time for St. Patrick's Day, but now that it's slightly more socially acceptable, I can finally unleash my collection of Holiday comics onto you, the discerning public.

Which brings us back to Terror, Inc. #8. The Terror, as you might recall from earlier discussions of D.G. Chichester's questionable sanity, is... surprisingly complicated. All you really need to know is that he's a phenomenally verbose German hitman with the face of a demon and the uncanny ability to swap pretty much every body part that isn't his torso or the majority of his head with the limbs of the recently deceased.

Even better, he gains the abilities associated with whoever's limbs he's co-opting at the time, a morbidly wacky premise that's stretched to its very limit right around the time he pops in a dead librarian's eyeball to save time at the reference desk.

Clearly, this is a character in dire need of a Christmas special.

Our story--which bears the incredible title "The Gift of the Maggia"--opens with the Terror in disguise, but only if you take the word "disguise" to mean "wearing a smock that does absolutely nothing to hide the fact that he has six foot-long whiskers sticking out the sides of his skeletal green head":

As it turns out, the Big T's slumming it as a prison barber in order to have a meeting with ex-mob accountant and current Death Row inmate Buddy Henry, who pays for the privilege by bribing a guard with a hundred bucks that he withdraws from what I can only describe as a very personal bank account.

See, despite the fact that the newspapers would lead you to believe that the Marvel Universe deals out some pretty strict punishments for white-collar crime...

...Henry's actually been framed for murder, and the New York Department of Corrections has decided to give him the electric chair roughly three days before Christmas, which, all things considered, is slightly more of a downer than only being able to find a crappy tree, Charlie Brown.

Anyway, Henry's understandably upset about missing Christmas with his family on account of being an electrocuted corpse, and decides to pay the Terror half a million dollars to, and I quote, "take parts of me, to give Christmas to Suze and Ollie from me... through you."

Admittedly, I'm single and don't have any kids, but I'm sure there are some fathers out there reading this, and I have to ask: Really? Is that what you'd want your wife and kid to have as their last Christmas memories of you? A half-demon hitman with your rotting hand stuck to the end of his forearm, kicking it on your couch and watching It's A Wonderful Life with the family? Because according to D.G. Chichester, that's the way to go.

And thus begins the parade of horrors that is Terror, Inc. #8.

While the Terror's assistant, Alexis Primo, is off having the coroner carve out Henry's eye and chop of his hand so her boss can go about his business of spreading alleged good cheer, the local middle-Maggia-management decides to ruin his chances by finding Mrs. Henry and the kid and having them brutally murdered. Fortunately, the Terror--dressed as Santa Claus and armed with a bucketful of gasoline--is there to save the day:

Charming! But it's about to get even worse.

A high speed car chase through a back alley ensues, and the Terror gets run over while saving Henry's kid, with the unfortunate side-effect that his legs ("borrowed" from the corpse of a suicidal Olympic sprinter) are crushed into a pulpy mass. On the bright side, though, Henry's kid is very, very stupid, and mistakes the Terror for the real Santa (owing, of course, to "facial hair and cellulite from a Yugoslavian circus's bearded lady") which allows the Terror to convince him to drag him into a nearby alley.

And that's when he asks little Ollie to close his eyes and think Christmasy thoughts, because it's time for Jolly Old St. Nick to break a bottle, shank a hobo, and--using a four-inch shard of broken glass--saw off the hobo's legs to replace the old ones.

Wow. Just... Just wow. No wonder they put that guy on trial.

That's not exactly the sort of thing you can top in 22 pages, so that's about when the Terror makes an appropriately dramatic entrance and ransom Mrs. Henry back from her sinister captors:

He gets her back, of course, by offering Henry's $500,000 in trade for her life, but--true to form--shows up a few days later to murder pretty much everyone involved except for Suzie and the kid, stealing the money back and then heading over to the Henry household to make paper ornaments, eat a cookie, and leave $150,000 for the family in a sequence that's both oddly touching and completely inadequate at overshadowing the brutal hobo-butchery of 7 pages previous.

And that's pretty much what passes for a happy ending in the reasonably disturbing world of D.G. Chichester and, now that I think of it, probably wasn't the right choice for my first Christmas special this year. But hey, it's still November, and it's all uphill from here, right?

Assuming nobody dismembers any vagrants in the Power Pack Holiday Special, I mean.

Relive the Magic! Last Year's Christmas Specials:

| Ant Man's Big Christmas |
| Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #17 |
| Santa Saves the DC Universe! |
| The Worst Christmas Song Ever |
| A Marvel Comics Christmas: Marvel Team-Up #127 and Marvel Two-in-One #8 |
| Starman #27: Because YOU Demanded It! |
| The ISB Christmas Card, 2005 |

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Thanksgiving Hiatus

As much as I hate to do it, I'm afraid that it's time once again for me to take a break from the ISB in order to spend some alleged "quality" time with my family. I assure you, however, that I'd much rather be here poring over back issues to find, I don't know, the best panels from Micronauts or something to entertain you guys.

Incidentally? The three best panels from Micronauts are as follows, and I quote:

(Special thanks to Mark Hale for that one)

So yeah, I'll be back on Monday. But before I go, I'd like to take care of a few things.

First, because you guys were apparently all out of love and so lost without me last time I was late getting the comics reviews in, I can pretty much assure you that Punisher War Journal #1 is going to be my pick for Best of the Week, seeing as it features Matt Fraction and Ariel Olivetti doing a comic book where the Punisher fights Stilt-Man, which is genius.

So it's pretty much either that or Jack of Fables.

As for what I've actually read, the shop got preview copies of Casanova, GØDLAND, Daredevil, X-Factor, and Runaways, which were all excellent, and Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, which was also excellent, but needs to be singled out for its heartfelt appeal to the readers to write MJ a letter.

With that out of the way, I'd like to take a few moments and--as is our custom this time of year at the ISB--talk about some of the things I'm thankful for this year.

First off--and this isn't just me sucking up--I'm thankful for you guys, who come by every day to see what I've written and leave comments or send me letters. Specifically, though, I'm thankful for the two-thirds of you who actually got the point of Anita Blake vs. Batman.

I'm thankful for the fine folks over at CRACKED Magazine for paying me to write jokes, and for the good people who write for the magazine and its affiliated blogs for being an incredibly entertaining group.

I'm thankful for the friendly members of the internet comics blogging community, who are a surprisingly friendly bunch. And of course, I'm thankful for Dave Campbell, who continues to serve as my own personal nemesis, and whose constant overshadowing of my work only drives me to greater heights, much like Shakespeare to my Marlowe.

Uh... you guys do know who Christopher Marlowe is, right?

And then there's all the standards: Good friends, certain members of my family, comics--even the bad ones--good health, all that jazz.

But finally, and... perhaps most of all... I'm thankful that a story in Archie at Riverdale High #2 has this title:

Happy Thanksgiving. Don't break anything while I'm gone.

Is This The End of OMAC?!

A few weeks ago, I got an email from a guy named David Morris who wanted to send me a copy of, as he described it, a "bootleg final issue" that he did for a little series that ISB readers might be familiar with called OMAC.

It arrived today, and it is awesome.

Despite the fact that it was one of the most astonishingly radical comics of all time, OMAC lasted only eight issues, ending in a sudden cancellation and a half-hearted resolution in the final issue that could charitably be referred to as "unsatisfying." And that's where Morris and penciller Dek Baker come in with their mini-comic version of OMAC #9, picking up right where the last issue left off.

Or, to be more accurate, it picks up where the penultimate panel of #8 leaves off, since the actual last panel pretty much amounts to, as Morris says in his note at the end, "then there was a big explosion and it was all over. The end."

Instead, they kick things off for an incredibly entertaining full-length 22-page story that does everything right. The story's done in the exact same style as Kirby's OMAC: The pages are laid out in the six-panel grid, the chapters are all kicked off with a splash page, and there's even a double-page spread on pages two and three--depicting the agents of the Global Peace Agency surveying the wreckage of Brother Eye--to kick things off right.

Even better are Morris's chapter breaks, done in the same fantastic over-the-top style that marked the original, like the one that leads into Chapter Two:

WHO ARE YOU?! What makes you you? What is the difference between a hero and a heel?
Questions of identity assume new and disturbing significance in The World That's Coming! That world will stand or fall depending on the answer to one such question...


Tell me that's not awesome and I will call you a liar.

The story itself concerns Buddy Blank--reverted from his form as OMAC by the apparent destruction of Brother Eye--being held at the mercy of Dr. Skuba, the mad eco-terrorist who stole all the water in the world in the final issues of OMAC, being faced with monsters, torture, and a girl named Seaweed.

As you might expect, the GPA eventually sends a guy with an icepick out into space to fix Brother Eye, and Buddy becomes OMAC once again, and proceeds to wreck everything in sight, as is his habit:

It's exactly the kind of finish the book needed, and Morris and Baker do a much better job "getting Kirby right" than Neil Gaiman did with Eternals, and all in the span of one black-and-white mini-comic.

Plus, this is the back cover:

You can contact David Morris at baronblack[at]blueyonder[dot]co[dot]uk to get your own, and trust me: You should.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Where Is ROM's Money?!

From the pages of the now-classic Power Man and Iron Fist #73, we find out what happens when some mark-ass trick tries to hold out on a Spaceknight:

As you might expect, there can be only one outcome to these shennanigans:

Why it got to be so hard for a brother from Galador to get over in the game?

The Rumble in the Concrete Jungle!

It's not often that I admit my mistakes here on the ISB--mostly because I never make any--but I might've been a little too harsh in my review of Laurel K. Hamilton's Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter: Guilty Pleasures #1.

If you recall from last time, I put everyone's fourth-favorite resurrectionist up against Marvel's own Dracula, Lord of the Vampires, who came out ahead in a best-of-five comparison, and that may not have been fair. After all, even in Anita Blake's native land of novels, Dracula's been around a long time, and by using an entire trade paperback for comparison, I could pick and choose the best bits from multiple issues to contrast to only one issue of Anita Blake.

So this time, I'm going to make things fair! Not only am I restricting the competition to one issue's worth of evidence, but I'm also giving her an opponent that lacks any kind of super-powers whatsoever, but has thematic ties to Anita's chosen enemies that ought to make things a little more even.

That's right, folks, tonight on the ISB, it's the brawl for it all! In this corner, it's the lady of the hour with the deathly pallor...

Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter!

And her opponent, because you demanded it...


And for the record, tonight's awesome will be supplied by The Batman Adventures #13.

ROUND ONE: Lookin' Good!

Batman, seen here wrecking the living hell out of a couple of Ubus, is drawn by the late, great Mike Parobeck, whose clean linework, incredible page layouts, and awesome storytelling style made him one of the most well-respected artists of the '90s.

Anita Blake, seen here cowering in fear of vermin, appears to have a lazy eye and thighs like a pair of Christmas geese.


ROUND TWO: Deductive Reasoning

Batman can look at two scratches in the floor, a busted mirror, and a notebook with some pages ripped out and determine not only exactly what happened, but where the parties in question are now:

Meanwhile, Anita Blake's called in by the local five-oh in her first issue to perform some crime scene hoodoo, but in #2, she reveals the true extent of her amazing detective skills:

Wow, you bet those are wererats? Was it the fact that they're giant, talking humanoid rodents that tipped you off, or was that just a lucky shot in the dark?

To be fair, though, she did determine it without having to look in the Monster Manual.


ROUND THREE: Love is a Four-Letter Word

If there's one thing these two have in common, it's a knack for ending up with star-crossed lovers. In Batman's case, it's the beautiful and deadly Talia, daughter of immortal ninja and all-around super-badass Ra's Al-Ghul, a relationship slightly complicated by her devotion to her father's goal of killing two thirds of the Earth's population.

Anita, on the other hand, has... this guy.

Meet francophonic Vampire and strip-club entrepreneur Jean-Claude, whose dialogue is best read in a voice not unlike James from Team Rocket's. He leads Anita into some kind of trap, has his friends smack her around a little bit, and ends up giving her super-powers before tossing her into a dungeon to deal with sentient vermin. Apparently, he hangs with Aubrey.


ROUND FOUR: High Fives to the Right, Make-Outs to the Left

After a pretty intense sequence of events involving a knife-fight, Anita Blake and Cap'n Wispy of the H.M.S. Lestat over there head out into the rain to enjoy a bit of quality time in what I assure you is the most Harlequin-Romancy scene of any comic I own:

Batman and Talia pretty much do the same thing. Except replace "in the rain" with "in the middle of a fire."


ROUND FIVE: Fightin' And Winnin'

Anita actually makes a pretty strong showing in this issue: Not only does she manage to produce a hidden blade and shank Aubrey when things get a little Road House down at the club...

...but a few panels before she breaks down into shouting for help, she's able to deal with the wererats with some good solid kicking:

Batman, your response?



Batman hit that guy so hard that he fell out of the panel.


Holy Cats! With an unprecedented five-to-zero shutout, your winner is...


I'm sure this comes as a complete shock to those of you who haven't been paying attention over the past week, but I assure you: Science got my back.