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Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Week In Ink: 1-31-07

It might be hard to believe given the scurrilous nature of the final product, but the weekly comics reviews are by far the most time-consuming posts that I write. It's not a complaint--everything I do on the ISB is based on my own self-imposed deadlines, after all--but it's not uncommon for me to be putting the finishing touches on a Week in Ink piece just in time for sunrise, and as it turns out, I really like to sleep.

So to that end, I've decided to screw around with the format I'm working with here a little bit. After all, since I've started offering a full list of comics I bought for every week, there's really no need for me to post about everything I get. Instead, I'm thinking of just hitting the highlights (and the dregs) of each week.

Of course...

Some things will never change.


52: Week 39: The Mad Scientists are back again, T.O. Morrow has finally caught up to what I was thinking about last week, and I am thrilled with the prospect of the Four Horsemen of Apokolips duking it out with a set of action figure-sized Metal Men. Unfortunately, there's not a whole lot else in this issue that got me excited. At this point, there's not a whole lot of suspense left as to where the Black Adam plot is heading, and while the Lex Luthor scenes are more interesting than they've been since the debut of E.S.Pete four months ago, they're pretty well overshadowed by the pretty graphic scene that works as the crux of the story. For a series that's headlining the new, post-Infinite Crisis, cleaned-up DC Universe, there are a lot of full-page shots of corpses in various states of dismemberment that stick out as unnecessary shock value more than anything else, and at the point where that becomes something you roll your eyes at, it's become utterly meaningless. It was, however, pretty nice to see Aquaman show up.


Batman and the Mad Monk #6: With this issue, Matt Wagner's "Dark Moon Rising" saga finishes up, and I honestly don't think it's an understatement to say that all together, it's been easily the best Batman mini-series of the past five years.

This issue, after all, opens up with Batman crashing his car into a cult meeting and then throwing down on some vampires and doesn't quit until it hits an amazing character moment from Julie Madison, and if that's not the closest thing to my ideal version of What Batman Should Be, then I really don't know what is. It might just be Wagner's best super-hero work since his phenomenally overlooked Doctor Mid-Nite mini-series, and if there's any justice in this crazy world, it'll go down as one of the definitive "Year One" portrayals of the character. The only real problem with it? There isn't another issue coming next month.

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #214: While we're on the subject of Batman, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this week's final issue of LotDK, a series that was cancelled in favor of Batman Confidential, which is essentially the same comic. Either way, this one goes out with a well-produced done-in-one Deadshot story by Christos N. Gage (who scripted 2005's Deadshot mini-series) and Phil Winslade, and while it feels a lot like an inventory story, it works out to be a pretty good one. The only thing that struck me as odd in the story was the fact that Deadshot is said for a fact to be willing to kill someone's family, and while Suicide Squad certainly set up Floyd Lawton as a pretty amoral character, that runs contrary to how I normally think of him. Then again, after the past few years, I'm more used to seeing Deadshot as a protagonist (in the pages of Villains United and Secret Six) than as a killer for hire. Either way, it's not a bad way to kill some time.

Blue Beetle #11: A while back, Mike "Sugar Bear" Sterling talked about "sure sells," which he defined as things that are guaranteed to get you to buy a comic, and as evidenced by my growing excitement for Dwayne McDuffie's upcoming Firestorm arc, you can pretty much slap "_____ Meets the New Gods!" in the solicitation and have me hooked. And this time out, I wasn't disappointed. It took a few issues to hit its stride, but Blue Beetle's been steadily improving over the past few months, and if the page Kevin posted (and that I used for this week's list) shows anything, it's how well John Rogers is developing the rhythm of the story. It's an incredibly enjoyable read, from the way the over-the-top Kirby-esque dialogue of the New Gods bounces off the natural style he uses for the other characters right on down to the fact that it's got an army of Midget Devilance the Pursuers.

I'm not sure, but that might just be genius.

Ghost Rider Finale: Despite the fact that I've got more than a passing interest in the Johnny Blaze version, I'm not sure that I've ever read more than two 90s-era Ghost Rider stories in my life. Still, given my obsessive reading habits and the demands of daily updates, it's not out of the question that I'd suddenly decide to put together a run, and, well, the risk of not having the much-delayed final adventure of Dan Ketch is not one that I'm willing to take. Seriously, though, it's interesting to see how this sort of thing gets to be left on the shelf for so long--and how it's finally brought into the light just in time for a movie--and Tom Breevort's one-page introduction is well worth reading just to see how things were working at Marvel back in 1998. The fact that the cover's mocked up in a style that matches the originals--with the old Marvel logo and the old "catch-up page"--is just a happy bonus.

As for the story itself, well, it's '90s Ghost Rider. If you're going to like it, you probably already know.

The Official Handbook of the Invincible Universe #2: This issue contains 35 profiles of characters from Robert Kirkman's best book, and as you've probably heard, 13 of them were written by Friend of the ISB (and my sworn nemesis), Dave Campbell, so if you want to show your support for a guy who will not shut up about being in Newsweek, this is the way to do it. From what I understand, Kirkman gave the guys he picked to write this thing a lot of leeway when it came to creating the backstory for characters that hadn't been entirely fleshed out, and when it comes to Campbell's entries, the result is a lot of really fun little touches, like Matroyoshka, a Soviet super-villain with the powers of a Russian nesting doll, and Shrinking Ray's constant battle against the League of Miniature Assassins. The record'll show that I always think it's worth it to buy a Handbook, but this time, I'm willing to take it a step further: This one's actually worth reading.

Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #42: Look, I know I say this every two months, but this time I mean it: This is, without question, the worst issue of Tarot yet, and I really don't see how it'll ever be topped. Given past experience, this might be a little hard to believe, but trust me, because I am about to blow your mind with a one sentence plot summary:

In this issue, Tarot and Jon team up with the 3 Little Kittens (who are like Charlie's Angels filtered through the veil of madness that is Jim Balent) to stop a nuclear weapon from going off in New York, where they are aided by the ghosts of firemen killed on September 11th.

That sound you just heard was your jaw hitting the floor.

Teen Titans #43: After the lackluster string of issues that's followed the One Year Later jump, this issue was going to be Teen Titans' last chance to pull off something enjoyable before I gave up on the title. Of course, that was before I found out that Adam Beechen--whose run on Robin has been amazingly entertaining--was going to be taking over as the new writer, thus rendering it a pretty moot point. Still, I was curious to see how "Titans East" was going to work out, and while Geoff Johns and Tony Daniel didn't do a lot to impress me with it, it wasn't half bad. I've said before that I'm a sucker for an "Evil Opposite" story, so the idea of a team led by Deathstroke that's made up entirely of almost literal antitheses of the Titans has a lot of appeal to me, especially if you're going to go so far as to have an evil opposite of somebody's headquarters.

Unfortunately, there were some things I didn't like, most notably the scenes of Cassandra Cain being jacked up on Deathstroke's crazy serum. Don't get me wrong: the idea that she'll have all of her amazing fighting skills as per normal, but that those'll be augmented by nine times what they were before is pretty exciting, and it'll make for a great showdown, but I have the sneaking suspicion that it's all leading up to a redemption for Batgirl using the convenient Mind Control Drugs excuse. Whether you like the changes that came with the end of her series or not--and while I like the character and loved her series, I have no problem whatsoever with the big change--I'd still rather have that than what essentially amounts to "Oh, a wizard did it."

And that's it for this week's comics reviews. As always, feel free to ask if you've got any questions about something I didn't cover, but for the most part, it's safe to assume that if I didn't talk about it, I liked it. Except in the case of, say, Jack of Fables or Wasteland, where it's safe to say I loved it.


Blogger LurkerWithout said...

No rundown on the finale of Annihilation? I mean the Nova vs. Annihilus fight took punches to the face to its most extreme conclusion...

2/02/2007 5:14 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am 100% behind you on the 52 thing. I saw that scene and my first thought was, "man, they need to pack that shit in". While 52 is a great comic, and I look forward to it every week, they seriously need to stop it with the graphic death and whatnot.

2/02/2007 5:29 AM

Blogger Flidget Jerome said...

I must beg to disagree - Black Adam's about to be betrayed by the grown-up version of Mister Mind who's posing as his sidekick's sidekick, which just happens to be a giant talking aligator. I don't care if you can see it coming 10 issues in advace, there is no way that is not brilliant.

2/02/2007 6:10 AM

Blogger notintheface said...

I disagree with you about Cassandra in Teen Titans. I think "Slade's hypos" could replace "Superboy Prime's punches" as their all-purpose answer to character inconsistencies.

Why did Jean Loring kill Sue Dibny? Slade's hypos.

Why is Supergirl acting like an unlikeable trollop in her own book? Slade's hypos (with special Kryptonite needles).

CIVIL WAR? Let's just say Slade has an interdimensional travel machine - and lots of hypos.

Mark my words: "Slade's hypos" will be the new comic catchphrase of 2007!

2/02/2007 7:41 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wait...wait, thats the final issue of Ghost Rider, the one where he goes to Hell and takes Blackheart down and the origin of Ghost Rider, Zarathos the Spirit of Vengance... is revealed (which was quite good)?

At least they released it I suppose, even if its officially the latest comic ever. I prefer Dan Ketch as by the time he came along Johnny Blaze looked like a massive unwashed ponytailed douche, where as Dan ketch was... well, Peter Parker. original Blaze is still Emperor of radness though.

2/02/2007 7:55 AM

Blogger Siskoid said...

You lose less time writing it, I lose less time reading it... everybody wins.



2/02/2007 8:12 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't wait for the Mad Monk trade. Well, actually, I can, and I might as well now -- I've waited this long -- but I wish I didn't have to. Nothing against Morrison or Dini, but in my parallel reality where comics are always awesome all the time, Matt Wagner writes and draws one of the monthly Bat-books, with Englehart and Rogers on the other. Also, Eliza Dushku reads them to me. In bed. And she's naked. And then we make out.

Make out HARD.

2/02/2007 9:22 AM

Blogger Gordon D said...

This is a dumb question, but who writes "Tarot"?

That way, I know to avoid this person's works in the future.

2/02/2007 9:52 AM

Blogger Julio Oliveira said...

Me, I would be just fine with a "it was all a dream" excuse to explain away that stupidity that was Cassandra Cain villain. But I don't think is the case here. I think "drugs messed my brain" is not a attempt to bring her back to the side of good but to give a more credible reason than: "I had a sister that was trained just like me and got jealous", that is really dumb especially in the light of her last arc on her own book. "Drugs messed my brain" is also way much better explanation than "Didio thinks that since both of her fathers are villains she must be a villain herself".

2/02/2007 10:01 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who writes Tarot? Probably the same guy who draws it.

2/02/2007 10:40 AM

Blogger Brett said...

I tried the Slade's drugs excuse at work today when I screwed up. It didn't work. Comics suck.

2/02/2007 10:57 AM

Blogger David Campbell said...

Thanks for the props, Macho Man. I'm glad you liked The Handbook, but what the hell? How can you diss Tarot? That issue was a loving tribute to our nation's fallen heroes and tits. 100% class.

2/02/2007 11:11 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That sound you just heard was your jaw hitting the floor.

What's awesome is that as I read that sentence my jaw, while not literally on the floor, had indeed dropped as far as it physically can.

I consider this a great moment in comics blogging history.

2/02/2007 11:17 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

No. I refuse to believe that ANYONE would go so far as to get married in the full Vader suit. Garb is one thing, but the Vader suit? How the hell are you supposed to kiss your bride without breaking character? not to mention the annoyance and expense you just put the rest of the wedding party through.

Also, that fact that this guy can make a living off of Tarot makes me feel very, very sad.

2/02/2007 11:18 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

To be honest, that issue of Tarot sounds a LOT like the last Tarot/3 Little Kittens crossover, in which they had to save Saddam Hussein from 'Latex', a fetish model/supervillain with nuclear weapons in her breasts, activated by tweaking the nipples of her latex outfit, and Raven Hex saves the day by simply magically removing Latex's costume. Again, that was one bizarre sentence. Also: Jon fights ninja schoolgirls!

2/02/2007 12:13 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That issue of Jack of Fables rocked my socks off. It's good to see Bill Willingham going back to the world of Vegas gambling, since his Proposition Player graphic novel was so awesome and underrated.

2/02/2007 1:36 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to ask: the newest issue of Ex Machina; awesome or wicked?

2/02/2007 2:20 PM

Blogger Richelle Mead said...

In this issue, Tarot and Jon team up with the 3 Little Kittens to stop a nuclear weapon from going off in New York, where they are aided by the ghosts of firemen killed on September 11th.

Wait...isn't that the plot of Heroes?

2/02/2007 2:35 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm FILLED with tinier men!

2/02/2007 2:47 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That issue was a loving tribute to our nation's fallen heroes and tits. 100% class.

I would prefer a tribute to our nation's fallen tits.

2/02/2007 3:07 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, too, loved Matt Wagner's Batman books.

Best Batman limited series, at least of the last decade - along with Paul Pope's Year 100.
Come on... Paul Pope. Batman.

As for the recent Tarot... wow.

2/02/2007 3:24 PM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

jayunderscorezero: The villain of the piece--such as it is--is Latex Red again, and the Satanic Ninja Schoolgirls are back, but they're wearing... bikinis made of teddy bears. I really don't know how it's supposed to work. Also, at one point, Jon grabs one of them and spanks her until she has an orgasm, but I figured it was best to just get things over with quickly. Like ripping off a band-aid, or quitting heroin.

mw: I'd actually forgotten about Proposition Player, but you're right: That thing is good.

Anonymous: I'm going to go with wicked awesome.

2/02/2007 4:39 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...there are a lot of full-page shots of corpses in various states of dismemberment that stick out as unnecessary shock value more than anything else..."

I think Geoff Johns gets paid by the limb.

2/03/2007 12:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm still waiting for the review of the latest Mary Sue...err Anita Blake comic disaster.


2/04/2007 1:03 PM

Blogger Shamus said...

If you read Tarot as a form of public service you can stop now. It's better to ignore it and let it die.

2/04/2007 11:06 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did anyone else's copy of 52 have the phrase "Montoya fights a Dragon!" on it? I know that stories get cut or moved back all the time, but... seriously. It would have been like that "ringless Guy Gardner versus Batman" battle, except awesome because it has Richard Dragon fighting a lesbian cop in her effort to save her dying conspiracy theorist... boyfriend.

Also, the Cassandra Cain story would make the best anti-drug PSA ever. Not, "I got high and didn't make the football team", but "I got high, turned evil, and kicked my best friend in the face."

2/05/2007 5:41 PM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

Did anyone else's copy of 52 have the phrase "Montoya fights a Dragon!" on it?

Yeah, it's on there. I meant to mention how it got my hopes up and then didn't deliver, but totally forgot.

Also, the Cassandra Cain story would make the best anti-drug PSA ever. Not, "I got high and didn't make the football team", but "I got high, turned evil, and kicked my best friend in the face."

Wait, how would that encourage kids to not do drugs?

2/05/2007 11:34 PM


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