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Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Week In Ink: 3-07-07

And now, the ISB proudly presents yet another reason why Paul Pope is awesome:

Yes, that's Johnny Storm, Spider-Man, and the phrase "Foot Meet Face," and that can only mean that it's time once again for the ISB's uncompromising, slightly informative look at this week's comics! To say the least, it's been a pretty big week, thanks largely to the unstoppable hype machine that is Marvel Comics, so let's not waste time!

For those of you keeping score at home, here's everything I bought...

...and the World's Snazziest Comics Reviews start now!


52: Week 44: As much as the climax of the last issue was telegraphed well in advance, this week's 52 managed to get a few surprises out of me, even if they do have their own small share of cheating. Specifically, I'm talking about Sobek here, who I'd originally suspected was the "new look" version of Mr. Mind, which I'm sure was the intent of the creators. Still, revealing him as the last of the Horsemen of Apokalips (or the "Monster Society" as they're called here) was a nice touch, coming just long enough since we've actually seen the Mad Scientist plotline that I'd almost forgotten Famine was sent out early, and it's going to make a nice catalyst for all of the stories to come together.

The "cheating," of course, comes from the fact that Famine totally doesn't fit in with the other three Horsemen. Sure, a six-foot talking crocodile who eats people is a frightening sight, but when he's thrown in a lineup with a twenty-foot robot made of machine-guns and a giant, goat-skull-headed embodiment of death, it's not hard to figure out which one of these things is not the same. Still, it's a fun read and it does a nice job of providing some forward motion to the story.

The Authority #2: Yes, a mere five months after the line relaunched, the second issue of Wildstorm's alleged flagship title finally hit shelves, and surprising everybody who read the first issue, things actually happen in this one. Don't get me wrong: I'm about as big a fan of Grant Morrison and Gene Ha as you're likely to find, but with the slow-paced setup issue that came before and almost half a year waiting on this one, it's hard to keep any kind of excitement for the title built up. Fortunately, that's exactly the kind of task that Morrison and Ha excel at, and with this issue (which might as well have been the first one), they do a pretty darn good job of it. The idea of the Authority showing up on "Earth Prime" and trying desperately not to eradicate evil and create a world where Warren Ellis maintains order with an elite army of murdervixens while the Midnighter chomps at the bit is one that lends itself easily to Morrison's style and could provide for some truly fantastic pages.

If, of course, it ever bothers to actually come out. I mean, really: I want to be excited about the Midnighter kicking so much ass in the next issue that it has the possibility of starting World War III, but there's no reason to believe it won't be another five-month wait, and in the meantime, my attention can be better served with, say, Garth Ennis's Midnighter solo title. I'm still going to buy The Authority, of course, but, man, can't we get Zander Cannon in there to do inks and speed things up a little?

Captain America #25: A friend of mine told me today that a set of both covers for this one sold for over a hundred bucks on eBay yesterday, and down at the shop, I've been fielding non-stop phone calls asking if we've got it in stock, and there was even a comment on my MySpace page from one of my old high school friends about this issue. Heck, even as I sat down to start writing up tonight's post, Stephen Colbert was talking about it, and that's just one of the national news outlets that have been covering the book's release. Which I can only think means one thing:

It is amazing what two panels featuring Batroc ze Leaper can do for a book.

I mean, that's what everybody's flipping out about, right? Because the only other alternative would be that there's nationwide media coverage and rampant speculation over a "major death" tied into a storyline, which would mean that society has learned absolutely nothing about comics in the past fourteen years, and that people bought into cheap hype for absolutely no reason despite the fact that we've been down this road with Superman, Phoenix, Hawkeye, Thor, Green Lantern, Reed Richards, Norman Osborn, Cyclops, Magneto, Bucky, and dozens of others without catching on to how comics work, and that would just be depressing.

Maybe it's best to ignore it. I will say, though, that like every issue for the past two years, Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting knock this one well out of the park. My initial thought was that at worst, it's a bad idea that's being done very well, and I'm not even sure that applies here. With Captain America turning himself in at the end of Civil War, Brubaker's options are pretty limited: Cap can either break out, thus defeating the entire shaky purpose of CW #7, or he can do a title about a super-hero in prison, which he literally just did last year in the pages of his truly phenomenal first arc on Daredevil. Instead, we get this, and while there's no way in Creation that Cap's "death" is going to stick, the sheer quality of the issue speaks volumes about Brubaker's ability to craft great stories with these characters. It's an excellent read, but right now it stands as one of the few books that's getting all the attention it deserves for exactly the wrong reasons.

Criminal #5: While we're on the subject, if anyone ever asks why I have such utter faith in Ed Brubaker's writing, all I'll have to do is point to Criminal. I've mentioned my love for crime fiction before, and while Brubaker and artist Sean Philips did a note-perfect heist story, this issue's sudden, inevitable turn into a hard-boiled tale of revenge had me excited to an almost ridiculous degree. It may not come as a shock to anybody, but from I, The Jury on down to Payback, there's not a whole lot I like more than somebody going on a rampage of bloody vengeance, and the way it's all built up here with the source of Leo's cowardice being revealed is simply a fantastic piece of comics. Excellent, excellent stuff.

Dynamo 5 #1: I've never really cared for his work on mainstream titles, but it's no small stretch to say that Jay Faerber does some pretty amazing work on creator-owned books like Noble Causes, and from the first impression, that's a category that Dynamo 5 falls into pretty solidly. For me, the premise--built around a philandering super-hero who dies, leaving five illegitimate kids who each inherit one of his powers--was intriguing enough, but with Noble Causes just now starting to climb out of a slump that bogged it down until around #25, I decided to hold off and reserve judgement until I was acutally able to read it. I should've had a little more faith: From the interaction of the characters to the highly enjoyable last-page shock, Faerber's at the top of his game with this one, and Mahmud Asrar's art is a nice, clean style that could almost pass for Ryan Ottley's smooth pencils for Invincible in some places. It's a fun read, and with 28 story pages, it's well worth taking the risk on, even at $3.50 a pop.

Fantastic Four #543: There's something to be said about an Anniversary Issue that manages to hit the shelves a year after it ought to, but that aside, Dwayne McDuffie's doing some great stuff here. Two issues in, and so far he's been saddled with the unenviable task of making sense of Civil War, and while the last issue featured Johnny tearing down J. Michael Straczynski's nonsensical characterization of Reed Richards, this one sees him directly confronting the readers through Tony Stark. It's an interesting moment, and in the hands of a lesser writer, it's the type of thing that could come off as an annoying bit of defensive self-congratulation, but McDuffie manages to pull it off. The backup stories, as seen above, pretty much speak for themselves, and if Paul Pope doesn't make the extra dollar on the cover price worth it by himself, then seeing Nick Dragotta and Mike Allred illustrating the oddly charming hucksterism of Stan Lee certainly does it.

Hulk / Power Pack #1: Despite the fact that I don't particularly care for the new artist here, I don't really have much of a review of this one. Instead, I just wanted to point out that the backup story by Chris Giarrusso and Banana Sunday's Paul Tobin features a rare cameo appearance by the ISB's favorite Golden-Age Z-Lister, The Vagabond. Adjust your buying habits accordingly.

Manhunter #29: Let the rejoicing commence: Manhunter has been uncancelled again. I'm starting to think that cancelling this book might actually end up being some sort of annual event for DC, sort of like Christmas but with letter-writing campaigns and blog-based complaining instead of presents. Even so, it'll be worth it if the tradeoff is more issues of what's easily become one of my favorite DC Comics, and I say that as someone who never expected to be that excited about Dylan Battles kicking down a door in a full-page entrance shot. The only problem in this issue comes from the otherwise-fantastic artwork, which at one point suggests that Superman was just hanging out outside Kate Spencer's window in exactly the same pose for a few hours. Even that's relatively small, though, and when it's put up against stuff like the way that Wonder Woman's characterized, the nice reveal that ties into 52, and the Cameron Chase sequences, it's easy to overlook in favor of a great, well-done comic. Good stuff.

Midnighter #5: Despite the fact that I drop f-bombs like a drunken sailor with a stubbed toe, I do try to keep things at least moderately "safe for work" here at the ISB. And that, my friends, is the sole reason why this post didn't lead off with the kick to the face featured in this awesome little piece of badassery, which is set up with such a great parallel to Charlie Brown that I could't stop laughing after I read it. Oh Garth Ennis, your violent dismemberments are a delight!

Phonogram #5: At this point, it's been well-established that David Kohl is a bastard. It's sort of a central theme to the story, and it was even the main thrust of Gillen and McKelvie's great ad campaign, which had Kohl cast as a smarmy, self-important jerk even before page one hit. It's one of the things that makes him so likeable, and that's what makes this issue of Phonogram so great, as it's all based around the idea that someone's taking that horrible personality and everything else that goes with it.

It's a device that Mike Carey used towards the end of his run on Hellblazer with Stations of the Cross, but while John Constantine jumped at the chance to get away from being the biggest bastard in comics for a change, Kohl has nothing else to go to, and seeing him fighting to keep his abbraisive self-identity is amazingly entertaining, even before the resurrected zombie goddess in Adidas kicks shows up. It's another excellent issue of the best mini-series going, and if you haven't already jumped on, you're going to want the trade.

Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil #2: As much as I loved the first issue, this one features six pages of Captain Marvel just wailing on a gang of evil talking crocodiles, thus making it one of the greatest comics DC has ever published. Seriously, though: Wonderful stuff.



Nat Turner v.2: I never learned about Nat Turner in school. Admittedly, this may have been as much a product of my lack of attention as it is of the South Carolina public school system, but I distinctly remember doing fifteen minutes on the Stono Rebellion in the 8th grade, so I think I'd remember if it was covered.

Kyle Baker's book, then, is the first time I've read up on the subject, and like most of Baker's work, it's a truly astonishing pice of graphic literature. The first volume was essentially a traditional origin story for Nat Turner, buildilng him up as a man who rose above being enslaved to at least temporarily conquer his oppressors--setting him up as "America's favorite new comic book hero," as it says on Baker's website. This one, though, dives into the revolt itself with an uncompromising look at the sheer brutality and violence of the event, as Turner and his men kill fifty-five people, including the murder with an axe of a sleeping infant. It's a shocking moment to see from the same artist who does the "Family Circus done right" gag strips of The Bakers, but it's in there, just like everything detailed in The Confessions of Nat Turner, with Baker's phenomenal art taking over when the words of story aren't evocative enough, and it's all part of a truly amazing, thought-provoking, and accessable work that should be part of every library in the country.

It's a phenomenal work from one of the true masters of the form, and it was well worth the wait.

And despite the fact that I'm pretty weirded out by ending an allegedly humorous review column with high praise for a book full of historically accurate axe-murders and lynchings, well, them's the breaks. As always, if you've got any questions, or just want to talk about why the latest Justice League of America might be the most hilariously awful comic ever, feel free to drop a line to my email, or leave a comment.

If I could be real for a moment, though? Red Tornado sucks so hard.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Chris-you can't mean that Jl is more hilariously awful than Anita Blake? Say it isn't so!

3/09/2007 3:48 AM

Blogger LurkerWithout said...

Damn that Brubaker! I was finally getting my netflix queue down to a managable number and he comes along with his cronies. Blah blah classic blah blah perfection blah blah Elliot Gould...

Then they start talking about a director's cut for Payback, where Gibson is even more of a bastard? I've got a budget people!

3/09/2007 4:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I mentioned this on Kevin's blog already, but it bears repeating...

In this week's The Initiative one-shot, Iron Man tells Ms. Marvel point-blank that Captain America is still alive. So #25 itself might be a fakeout. I dunno.

It's getting lost in all the hype and justified complaining about why it's silly to kill off Cap, but it is a solid issue. It's really a great reminder of how good a job Brubaker has done of setting the book up with a supporting cast -- it hasn't really focused on Cap in months, but it still works, because you've got Nick Fury, Maria Hill, the Falcon, Sharon Carter, the Skull, Lukin, Crossbones, and Bucky to pick up the slack.

3/09/2007 4:42 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not just from comics that mainstream journalists seem to have learned nothing: "dies-and-comes-back" is a common trope in any sort of storytelling that involves continuing characters. Consider Sherlock Holmes, Mr Spock, Bobby Ewing, Buffy, Den Watts ...

So either mass media journos are the most collosally ignorant and unobservant people on Earth (not impossible) ... or they want a slice of that hype for themselves (even less impossible). How many extra copies did the New York Daily News sell on Wednesday, I wonder?

BTW, does anyone else worry, when filling out those "word verification" strings of letters, that they'll be pitched back to the Fifth Dimension?

3/09/2007 6:26 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris, would your brain explode if Brubaker started writing Anita Blake?

3/09/2007 6:32 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm pretty weirded out by ending an allegedly humorous review column with high praise for a book full of historically accurate axe-murders and lynchings
Funny, I hadn't thought of This Week in Ink as having an especially humorous approach - I just thought that was you writing capsule reviews in your own style. Your voice is very distinctive, whether it's an Awesome Ninjitsu Article or a Relatively Serious Review - the shifts in tone are seamless and unforced. Thus, I didn't raise an eyebrow when I came as far as the Nat Turner review, I found it to be just another example of this column being one of the best places for weekly comics reviews. Including both facekicks and historical fiction.

Brown-nosing out of the way, a question: I've been curious about the Planet Hulk storyline - is it just a lead-in to the summer crossover? Or will it read like a self-contained story in the trades?

3/09/2007 6:37 AM

Blogger Jeff said...

Cap's death is hardly a big shock, and precisely because we understand it as comic fans to not be permanent (should have been followed with apanel of Logan saying "He'll get better.") What does disturb me about it is Quesada's comments to news outlets in which he says that Cap was irrelevant to today's America, which really means that the dreck thrown Steve's way in Frontline was the opinion of the Marvel Bullpen. That's truly depressing.

3/09/2007 6:43 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

And just why did Hal & Batman "wargame" cutting off the Flash's legs?

3/09/2007 7:30 AM

Blogger Dweeze said...

Shouldn't that be Red Tornado blows so hard?

3/09/2007 7:38 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I learned that Captain America was "killed," the first thing I thought of Nick Fury getting killed in that "Double Edge" special from the late 90s with the Punisher.

Is that weird?

I really hope that Mister Mind turns up alive and well in some form at the conclusion of "52," because Mister Mind is awesome.

3/09/2007 7:52 AM

Blogger Shon Richards said...

My favorite stupid part of JL was when they explain that Amazo's pointed ears are shaped that way to collect power. If the issue was any longer, Brad would have tried to explain that Amazo's color-blind uniform is powered by 5th dimension physics.

3/09/2007 8:20 AM

Blogger Siskoid said...

Captain America, blablabla...

Red Tornemo, blablabla...

Kicks to the face, blablabla...

5th dimensional word verification: fypxm...


I'm just happy to see another James Kochalka Superstar fan on the blogosphere! :-D

3/09/2007 8:43 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quoth anonymous: Chris, would your brain explode if Brubaker started writing Anita Blake?

Perhaps Laurell K. Hamilton should take over Captain America instead. She's used to writing about the dead.

3/09/2007 9:12 AM

Blogger chrishaley said...

Aww, Dweeze, you beat me to it.

Did I read wrong or did Meltzer actually have Tornado talk about Batman's "nuggets"?

3/09/2007 10:54 AM

Blogger Jeff said...

simeon, the answer to your question is that he's Batman. Batman wargames everything. On a sheerly recreational level. Like, you might see him relaxing by the pool with a grin on his face, and he'll be thinking, "How do I take down Zauriel...in case he goes bad?"

The more prescient question is how Batman and his bat-torch get the drop on a super-speed robot. Of course, the answer to this is also that he's Batman.

3/09/2007 11:15 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

chrishaley: You read it wrong -- the narration about Batman's "nuggets" is Roy's, not Reddy's.

3/09/2007 2:42 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

chris haley: Which is why each issue should come with a "legend" in the front breaking down the color-coded narration boxes (red tornado's are computer font red in yellow boxes).

steve flanagan: I didn't worry before, but I do now. bastard.

3/09/2007 3:59 PM

Blogger Nirmal said...

red tornado was cool in young justice

3/09/2007 4:28 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can someone tell me what comic the Johnny Storm-Spiderman "foot meets face" panel is from? Because Chris posted it I have to go buy it now.

3/09/2007 7:37 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oxy, it's one of the backup features in Fantastic Four this week.

3/09/2007 8:22 PM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

You know, if you hover your mouse over most of my pictures--including the covers for The Week In Ink--additional jokes or information'll pop up.

The Kick of the Week always has the writer, artist, and issue number in there.

3/09/2007 9:05 PM

Blogger rachelle said...

The thing that I really liked about Authority #2, as opposed to #1, was that it actually features members of The Authority. That's definitely an improvement.

3/09/2007 10:14 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Payback? If you haven't already you guys better go see Point Blank starring Lee Marvin. The Gibson film was a remake of it, and much inferior IMO.

3/10/2007 12:18 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris, you left out the best part of Shazam!#2-- 10-yr-old Mary Marvel! And a kid who actually looks and acts like a kid!

3/10/2007 1:13 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris, there are dudes making out on the cover of Phonogram. Wiki has failed, what is this about?! *awaits patiently for the internet to provide*

3/10/2007 3:20 AM

Blogger lostinube said...

anonymous: all of the covers to phonogram are tributes to britpop. If you look at the phonogram link Chris provided you'll note that some of the covers resemble album covers. Number five is from Suede's (or London Suede to people in the US) first album Suede.

3/10/2007 4:14 AM

Blogger Jon Hex said...

I totally called the Yurrd being Sobek thing, so I'll expect my kudos at the earliest convenience.

Not to spoil anything major, but I think Bendis is really playing up Iron Man's ego in Mighty Avengers. Having a gold and red Helicarrier is the height of ballsy. As is asking a god to register. Didn't Tony learn anything from his encounter with the Eternals?

Hmmm, I wonder why my word verification is "xehnoj"? Can't be too important.

3/10/2007 8:38 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

JLA was painful. Six isssues that coulda been told in four, and it still wouldn't have been good. Easy throwdown with Amazo, bad narraton, and the Red Tornado bits felt like something that came out of an Extreme Studios Image title. "He tore off and ate his arm? That's haaard! He tore him in half? Exteeeme!" Heck, the double-page spread was totally a Youngblood Strikefile cover.

3/10/2007 3:06 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the parallel universe where I obtain the Cosmic Cube, an appearance by Batroc the Leaper *would* cause this much of a media stir.

It's also a universe where newspaper publishers would be as interested in comics as we are and the Wall Street Journal would routinely have big J. Jonah Jameson-style headlines like "'Civil War': Farce or Fiasco?" instead of putting out "ZOMG Marvel killed a good guy DED!!!" pieces, but that's another story.

3/10/2007 4:31 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks lostinube, I've actually talked with the Jamie McKelvie and had no idea he drew this!

3/10/2007 5:24 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: The Authority

but there's no reason to believe it won't be another five-month wait,

It turns out that's a bit too optimistic. The artist mentioned in an interview before #2 came out that after this issue, the title will be going on hiatus.

Which, apparently, the first five month delay didn't actually qualify as.

3/13/2007 7:46 PM


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