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Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Week In Ink: 2-07-07

As we all make our way through this crazy world, it's comforting to know that there are still some things that are so beautiful that upon seeing them, I am moved to openly weep.

Bruce Wayne kicking a shark in the face while rescuing a pirate is one of those things.

Bless you, Paul Dini. Bless you and your hot magician wife.

Feel free to bask in the glory that is Batman for as long as you'd like, but don't take too long: It's the first week of February, 2007, and it's time for the snappiest comics reviews on the internet!

Here's what I bought:

And now, the reviews!


52: Week 40: For those of you out there wondering why the people who edit comics have an important job, I refer you to this week's 52, which features a scene where Beast Boy stands over the (presumably) dead body of Everyman and offers up the wisecrack, "Not enough room for two shapeshifters around here." Even discounting the fact that this makes Gar Logan seem like a total jerk--which you could write off as one of his poorly-timed attempts at dark humor--the line seems pretty ridiculous when it's spoken while he's standing right next to Offspring, who, much like his father Plastic Man, has the ability to change his shape. The editor's job, then, is to make sure that that kind of thing doesn't happen.

Don't get me wrong: Even with Chris Batista's obviously rushed artwork, I actually found this issue to be pretty entertaining. Then again, I'm easy to please when it comes to a big throwdown, and there's enough to this issue that completely falls apart under any kind of thought (like why a guy who once figured out how to wear the entire JLA Watchtower as a suit of armor didn't think things through a little more, or whether or not Luthor's metagene therapy could be defeated by standing next to a microwave) to start getting on my nerves the longer I think about it.

The All-New Atom #8: According to a blurb on the cover, Etertainment Weekly named this the best new ongoing series of 2006, and to be perfectly honest, my first reaction to that was: Really? I mean, I like The All-New Atom a heck of a lot and want nothing but success for the book--and writer Gail Simone--but last year brought us the debuts of books like Jack of Fables and Darwyn Cooke's relaunch of The Spirit, and those titles ain't no joke, so I have my doubts. What I am sure of, however, is that it's a solidly entertaining comic book every month, especially for me. With each issue and its references to The Karate Kid or reappearance of Lady Cop, I'm convinced that Simone is scripting this thing specifically for me and Devon, or--at the very least--for the comics reading internet at large.

I mean really, how else do you explain a plot that climaxes with a futuristc battle between Bat-planes and the second-stupidest super-hero toy of all tilme, the Super-Mobile?

Cthulhu Tales: The Rising: As you've probably heard from his non-stop deluge of self-promotion, this one includes an all-new 8-pager spawned from the bourbon-soaked pen of ISB pal Kevin Church and Joe Abraham, and while it might just sound like I'm shilling for a friend with this, his story, "The Art of Noise," was the best one in the book. Admittedly, I'm not really a huge fan of Cthulhu stories--what with the fact that my interests rest solidly with the Unnamable King in Yellow--but this one suffers in the way that every anthology suffers, in that the rest of the stories tend to be middling in quality, a necessity brought on by their short length. Ther eis, however, one other great bright spot with Hans Rodionoff and Tim Hamilton's "Pull of Insanity," which I think can be pretty accurately described as being like Die Hard in a comic book store, but with unspeakable horrors instead of terrorists. It's a hoot.

Detective Comics #828: I think I made my opinion about this one pretty clear up at the top of the column, but it bears repeating: Paul Dini's work on this title is resulting in some of the most enjoyable Batman stories in years. It's the sort of book that--outside of the fill-in issues--has yet to disappoint, simply because it's literally everything I want from the series, right down to the way the self-contained, mystery-driven structure that mirrors his work with the animated series. Beyond that, though, his decision to upgrade the Riddler from the Rogues Gallery to a position in Batman's supporting cast was a stroke of genius, and in this issue alone he provides more interesting moments for the character than the last ten years combined, along with a healthy reminder that while he might just be a guy in a green coat with question marks on it, he's also a dude who fights Batman on a regular basis. And to put it mildly, it's nice to know that that still counts for something.

Fell #7: It's been six months since the last issue of Fell hit the shelves, and from what I've heard, that's a result of Warren Ellis reworking the script to this issue over and over until it came out the way he wanted it to. It's the kind of dedication to the craft--and to the "slimline" format that causes him to wrangle these stories into sixteen pages--that shows in the final product, and it was worth every second of the wait. At its heart, this is Ellis taking on the Parlor Scene, and reminded me more than anything else of his version of those segments from the last ten minutes of Perry Mason or Matlock, where they get The Real Killer on the stand and go through what he did in meticulous detail, invariably causing him to break down and confess on the spot. Unfortunately for Richard Fell, Matlock never had to try a case in Snowtown, and that's not exactly how things work here. It's got a tightly written script, with a story that takes place entirely in one room with four characters, and Ben Templesmith's art is fantastic as usual, illustrating every line of the incredible tension. Also, in case you missed the memo, it's only two bucks, and it's really something you ought to be reading.

Iron Man: Hypervelocity #2: When you get right down to it, there are really only about six plots anyone ever does with Tony Stark, and right at the top of the list is Man vs. A Suit OF Armor That Is Going Crazy For Some Reason. Much like Man vs. Booze, this isn't exactly a new idea for Iron Man, but when there's a guy like Adam Warren writing it, it's one that I definitely don't mind seeeing a fourth time around. With his experience doing stories about crazy futuristic technology, Warren's just about the perfect guy to handle something like a sentient Iron Man armor, and he's clever enough to acknowledege that we've been through this before right in the story in this issue, which is where the story starts to unravel in earnest. It's an excellent, fun read and seeing as it comes at a time when it's pretty hard to actually like Iron Man, it's certainly a breath of fresh air.

Jonah Hex #16: Longtime ISB readers might recall that my biggest complaint with this book is the almost constant depiction of sexual abuse towards women to the point where I've attempted to bribe Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray with delicious baked goods if they'd just knock it off for a while. Unfortunately, while the three-part origin story was refreshingly free of rape as a plot point, this issue brings it back in full force, and it's almost enough to make me want to drop the book just so I don't have to deal with rolling my eyes every month. The sad part, though, is that I actually think this is Palmiotti and Gray's best work by far, and really enjoy their take on the character when he's involved in a story that doesn't revolve around violating a frontier housewife, but it's something that's quickly moved from tiresome to phenomenally annoying, and I know for a fact that there are plenty of stories they could tell that didn't have that one overused, simplistic plot device driving them. I'm planning on sticking with it through this story, but like the man says, I'm putting Jonah Hex on notice.


Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil #1: Earlier today, I spent a few minutes on the phone with my good pal Chad while I was at work, trying to figure out how long we've been waiting for this thing to come out. I think I may have actually been in high school when it was first announced, but either way, it's been years.

I've mentioned it before, but there was a time when I was a kid that I'd pretty much given up on DC Comics and switched to a steady diet of Clone Saga Spider-Man and--of course--Gen 13, which held up until I managed to check out a copy of Jerry Ordway's Power of Shazam! graphic novel from the county library, which immediately hooked me back in.

Since then, I've come to the conclusion that it's very rare that I actually get a version of Captain Marvel that I actually enjoy reading about from DC, up to and including the current Judd Winick "bring it down hard" iteration. Of course, I've also become a fan of Jeff Smith in the intervening years, thanks to his handy One Volume Edition of Bone, and I'm glad to say that this first issue's hot dog-eating, bully-trouncing Big Red Cheese is as close to how I want him as I'd hope for. Smith's art, of course, is fantastic under Steve Hamaker's wonderful coloring, with the end result being a book that's absolutely gorgeous to look at and a pure joy to read. So yeah, like I'm sure pretty much everybody's going to be saying: It was definitley worth the wait.


Mighty Skullboy Army v.1: I first became aware of Jacob Chabot's Skullboy when he made an appearance in one of Chris Giarrusso's G-Man backups in the pages of Savage Dragon. That strip, which involved Skullboy attempting to get G-Man to kick a puppy to prove he was evil enough for a part-time job at SkullCo, had one of the funniest punchlines of the series, and I've been wanting to read more with the character ever since. And now I can, thanks to Dark Horse and a pretty affordable volume collecting Chabot's earlier strips, and i was not disappointed. It's phenomenally enjoyable, and essentially revolves around the premise of what Dr. Doom would be like in elementary school, and if that premise doesn't already have you excited, I'd just like to point out that on page 13, a turnip-man rips off a robot's head and hits a monkey with it.

And that is awesome.

Trust me, it's a riot, and I really can't recommend it enough. Give it a shot.

And that's it for tonight's reviews. As always, if you have any questions, comments, concerns, or just a desire to bribe me with delicious baked goods, don't hesitate to leave a comment or email using the address in the sidebar.

And don't forget to be here tomorrow, when the ISB finally takes on the much-delayed unholy matrimony of Lois Lane!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if you used to read this title or not, but by chance did you pick up New Avengers #27? If nothing else, I suspect you might be amused by the scene where Luke Cage appears to kick Elektra full-force in the crotch.

And it says something about me that the ISB and the Absorbacon were the first things I thought of when I saw the Batman Vs. Sharks panel in the store.

2/09/2007 3:21 AM

Blogger LurkerWithout said...

So what do you think of Maintenance? And am I the only one who after reading the new Astro City: the Dark City was reminded that they want An Alien Invaders Guide to Astro City style source-book?

2/09/2007 3:27 AM

Blogger Siskoid said...

So the question I'm now asking myself is... what is THE stupidest super-hero toy?

Spider-Mobile? Marvel Super-Heroes figures whose insignias could be scratched off? What?

2/09/2007 8:10 AM

Blogger Jacob T. Levy said...

Since then, I've come to the conclusion that it's very rare that I actually get a version of Captain Marvel that I actually enjoy reading about from DC

Which I assume means you didn't like the Power of Shazam ongoing, which gave us more Marvel than everything else in DC combined has for decades?

If you didn't, why not? All the hosannas for Smith (which I'm on board with) and disdain for Trials (which I'm definitely down with) seem to be coming with a "first time Shazam's been done right since the Golden Age!" attitude, which I'm not. I thought the Power ongoing was almost-consistently terrific. For a while in the mid-90s it and Kesel's Superboy were the only high-quality four-color superheroics DC was putting out. Cap was Billy but not dumb, the Marvels lived in a world that had some whimsy without being made the butt of jokes, and the DCU was a big and varied enough place to have Opal City and Fawcett City at the same time, and to acknowledge how different they were.

2/09/2007 8:17 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The thing to remember about "Entertainment Weekly" 9regarding "The All New Atom") is that when they write about comics, they pretty much only focus on mainstream stuff which theoretically might be adapted into a film, so that they can turn around and say "We already reviewed this and it was awesome!"

My father subscribed to "EW" for a while when I was in high school, and it amazed me week in and week out that the book was worse about being a hype machine-shill than Wizard.

2/09/2007 8:17 AM

Blogger Jeff Rients said...

Yo, Chris! Two quick questions:

1. What's the angriest rainbow you've ever seen?

B. How was Midnighter #4? The third issue didn't do much for me, apart from the artillery piece sequence.

2/09/2007 9:04 AM

Blogger Arm-Fall-Off-Boy said...

The editing in 52 has been execrable for a good long while now. The level of inattention to detail is inexcusable.

I shot right past the fun of a good throwdown and right into the realm of workin' my last nerve almost immediately.

This was the culmination of the "Luthor's quest for super powers" storyline? The (arguably) greatest criminal mind in the DC universe, and all we get is a few pages of cheap megalomania and monologuing and Republic serial villainy? It all comes down to this? Tossing around a de-powered superhero and then getting his ass handed to him?

Hell, if you want to do a story about Luthor getting super powers, do a god*^$@ed story about Luthor getting super powers. Give him the powers early on, and play out what that would really be like.

Really, the only way this sequence even works is as a bookend to the first One Year Later Superman story, where Big Blue more or less says, "Look, Lex, you're always talking about all the great stuff you would do if you weren't distracted by trying to kill me. I was gone for a year. What did you do?"

Similarly, this is how they chose to resolve the Natasha Irons story? Finally, on the 800th repetition, the @#$%ing light finally goes on, and the character finally parrots back the "it's not your gifts, it's how you use them" [wait, haven't I heard that somewheres before? With great something comes great...wait, I know this one...] lesson that's been thrown at her since this series began. I mean, woo hoo, the light went on, but willful stupidity to pad out a plot is just hackwork.

2/09/2007 9:11 AM

Blogger joncormier said...

Phew, I'm happy they managed to obscure that penis on the cover of The All New Atom.

2/09/2007 9:12 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


After checking your ISB buy-list, I saw that you DIDN'T get the week's "best" comic.

You have GOT to run out and snag a copy of New Avengers 27.

If it doesn't warrant the full-on, blown-out ISB treatment, nuthin' does!

- You like superheroes kicking people?

- You love improper sexual innuendo in comics?

- You crave onomatopoeia of a dynamic nature?

- Are you a Friend Of Ol' Marvel?

Oh, Yeah...I thought so.
Go get it.




2/09/2007 9:35 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

With ten weeks left of "52", I just don't see it pulling out of the mediocrity that's defined most of its run. From the stupid editorial gaffes and the C-minus artwork to the meandering plots and drunken pacing, it's safe to say I'm not clamoring for another weekly series from DC. Other than a nice, reliable cash stream, I can't imagine why the wizards at DC are thinking another weekly is just what the doctor ordered.

As for the two "BIG ITEMS" of the week, Jeff Smith's "Shazam" and Stephen King (et all's) "Dark Tower" books, I'm sorry to say: Two big disappointments.

With Dark Tower, I'd never read any of the books...basically because that still, small voice inside of every sci-fi/fantasy fan warned me off of it. Well, after reading the first issue and Marvel's "Spotlight" companion piece (featuring a synopsis of the whole Dark Tower enchilada), color me "not impressed". I honestly think it's one of those classic "love it or hate it" kind of things, and I'm just not into King's quirky amalgamation of cowboys, giant crabs, metephysical wonkery and All Things 1958. Beautiful artwork by Jae Lee, but not good enough to keep me interested in this almost laughably grim story.

Shazam: Monster Society of Evil was something I was really looking forward to, especially considering Judd Winnick's chainsaw massacre in "Trials of Shazam". Sadly, while Smith's artwork was generally nice to look at, the story didn't do much for me. I prefer to think of Billy and Cap as, somehow, the same individual (despite some clear evidence to the contrary in the Golden Age stories), and the scene with Billy riding on Cap's back just took the "separate people" thing too far. Some of the magic breaks down when that happens (for me, at least), and makes me wonder what the purpose of Billy Batson is, if Cap is a separate entity altogether who has apparently existed before.

The hotdog scene, while undoubtedly intended to be Endearingly Cute-n-Quirky, just seemed kind of indulgent and, frankly, kinda lazy. It seemed like a Sunday funnies bit Smith might have had floating around in his head and stuck into the book to...what?...fill up space? Serve up the Endearing Quirky Cuteness he was known for on Bone? It's a mystery to me.

Of course, there were some genuinely good moments sprinkled here and there...such as the old man at the beginning of the story who may (or may not be) Shazam in disguise searching for "worthy souls"...or the summit of the Rock of Eternity spouting the Moment of Creation...but on the whole, it wasn't enough to live up to the expectations I had for this thing.

Jeff Smith is undoubted a talented guy, but I guess I'm just not in synch with his vision for the Shazam mythos. Granted, I like it a helluva lot better than Winnick's Marvel Comics audition....but not as much as I was hoping I would.

2/09/2007 10:16 AM

Blogger Brett said...

The King In Yellow. Huh. I had you pegged as a Yog-Sothoth guy. Go figure.

2/09/2007 11:00 AM

Blogger Celia said...

This might be old news to you, but I noticed yesterday that nerve.com has a little thing on Sex and the Single Superhero"

2/09/2007 11:58 AM

Blogger Siskoid said...

Just one last thing to say before I head out for the weekend:

Go Nyarlathotep!

Word verification: zcqzaap
Too bad my post wasn't about Shazam!

2/09/2007 12:36 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love me some Iron Man, so I really really want to like Warren's Hypervelocity. But the writing, and particularly the style of humor, feel so contrived, it's hard to get into it. Stark talking about his "hotties" and his heavy metal collection, and the forced Napoleon Dynamite gag... well, they just make me gag. Disappointing.

2/09/2007 1:09 PM

Blogger Devon Sanders said...

Y'know, last night, I was reading 'Tec and saw that panel and immediately thought of you, Chris.

I do beg to differ with you on Batista's art. It wasn't his fault the art looked rushed. Look at his inkers, Rod Ramos & Dan Green. I don't think anyone could impress under those conditions.

2/09/2007 1:37 PM

Blogger nicholas reed said...

I bought a few of the Mighty Skullboy Army mini-comics from J.Chabot at a con last year, and they are some of the funniest things I've read that don't have the word "Nextwave" in the title. I didn't even know a collection had come out.

2/09/2007 2:06 PM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

This is what happens when I invite you people to ask questions?! Can't you just take my opinion as law in this new society?!

Nah, just kiddin'. Let's see...

patrick and P-Tor: I did actually flip through that issue and laugh harder than I laughed at anything except the best jokes in Mighty Skullboy Army at Luke Cage kicking Elektra in the crotch. I get the feeling, though, that this was more of a "laughing at" then "laughing with" deal for me, but I will say one thing.

A while back, some guy was arguing with Ragnell that society was sexist against men because men getting kicked in the crotch is usually played for laughs on TV and movies, but how funny would it be if you saw a woman--and I quote--"getting kicked up the vagina"?

Answer: Really funny.

Lurkerwithout: Maintenance was enjoyable--and the second issue far more so than the first--but I still don't think it's quite there yet. There are a lot of little dialogue quirks that are annoying, but it's a fun enough story that you can overlook a lot of them and just focus on, y'know, a caveman riding a Segway. Funny stuff, but just not "there" yet for me.

Siskoid: Easy. The Justice Jogger. (Watch out for pop-ups.)

Jacob: They keyword there was "rarely," but I actually haven't read a lot of Power of Shazam. I've got the Starman crossover issues, but beyond those, what I've read of the run just seems a little scattershot as to what it's got that I really like. Plus, it's a pretty hard run to put together so I've never really tried. I mean, last night I saw some dude selling #1,000,000 for two hundred bucks on Amazon, and seriously, that guy must've cracked his crumpet.

Jeff Rients: 1. What's the angriest rainbow you've ever seen?

This one.

As for Midnighter #4, I thought it was highly enjoyable, although not so much as the previous. I was actually mentioning to Kevin the day before I read it that I love that Nazis are a group of villains that you can do pretty much whatever the hell you want to and not feel bad about it in a story because, well, they're Nazis, but the adorable little kid tankbusters were a pretty funny refutation of that. I did keep expecting the Midnighter to just clock one, though.

Also, I almost used that panel where he goes "I can only walk past so many Nazis" as the Shopping List image this week, but there IS a dude with a massive hole in his face in it, so...

Devon: That could be. I didn't even think to check out the inkers, which is my failing, but I think we can both agree that the finished product was rough there.

2/09/2007 3:09 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff Smith's Captain Marvel was pretty cool, but I disliked how they changed the roster of the 7 "deadly" sins. Why Mr. Smith?

2/09/2007 4:36 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Admittedly, I'm not really a huge fan of Cthulhu stories--what with the fact that my interests rest solidly with the Unnamable King in Yellow"


I mean I just found this place a week ago and was enjoying the columns a great deal but this just makes me feel at home. (Don't get me wrong, I love the rest of the mythos, but the King In Yellow is my favorite entity lying in wait for humanity.)

Out of curiosity what did you think of the KIY story from Cthulhu Tales #1? (I thought it had some cool moments but suffered from not being long enough to properly build up to the final debacle. And if you're a Lovecraft/Chambers nerd you know how it's going to end about 5 panels in, but that seems to be the way a lot of stories there unfolded.)

2/09/2007 5:20 PM

Blogger Kris said...

Not to be demanding or anything, but I need my Archie (and friends) update.

2/09/2007 6:13 PM

Blogger Mike Haseloff said...

"Paul Dini's work on this title is resulting in some of the most enjoyable Batman stories in years."

I was talking about this very recently, and your post has me curious.
When was the last time prior to Dini you read Detective? More often than not the answer seems to be thirty years, or not at all.

And that kinda makes sense... :-p

It's good, not not that great.

2/09/2007 9:21 PM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

The last time prior to Paul Dini that I read 'Tec? I read it solidly from "No Man's Land" up through when Ed Brubaker left the book in 2003, as I thought Anderson Gabrych's stories were boring, and while I made an attempt to jump back on for "City of Crime," I thought that was pretty rough.

2/09/2007 10:12 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still enjoyed it, but my immediate reaction to Midnighter #4 was "I see Ennis saw the movie Downfall". It's not just becuase both showed the events inside of Hitler's bunker, but because both showed a Hitler Youth anti-tank unit complete with a little blond girl with two long braids.

2/10/2007 2:16 AM

Blogger Mike Haseloff said...

Hah! Ironically it's roughly between No Man's Land and City of Crime that I think Detective was a comparable, and very enjoyable read.

Some comparable asthetics between Dini's current work and those stories help at least highlight that these aren't THAT amazing and rare. Even if only in a recent context.

2/10/2007 4:02 AM

Blogger Billscomics said...

I am with Patrick - I am not sure if the Batman vs. Shark or Cage vs. Elektra is the panel of the week for 2/7

I've linked your blog on mine - hope you don't mind!

2/12/2007 11:42 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, Skullboy is awesome. Kinda reminds me of PS238 with some of their kookier characters.

I certainly hope there's more collections of his stuff coming out soon.

3/23/2007 5:26 PM


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