The Week In Ink: July 1, 2009

Only slightly less well-known than the Wild Agents of Marvel (or W.A.M.) was the House of Ideas’ most obscure official fan-club, an oddly specific group started by Artie Simek in 1964: Friends Of Ol’ Marvel’s Pants…



…or FOOMP.

And that’s tonight’s history lesson. But now we move onto more recent history, as we take another round of the Internet’s most Long-Lasting, Semi-Permanent Comics Reviews!

Here’s what I picked up this week…



…and this is the last part of the intro that nobody reads! Suckers.






Batman and Robin #2: The second issue of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s new Batman series dropped this week, and surprising absolutely nobody, it was totally awesome.

The standard disclaimers apply here, of course: I am, as the kids say, “totally in the tank for Morrison.” Then again, that probably has a lot to do with the fact that the guy routinely turns in amazing comics that I absolutely love, and this one’s no exception, as he’s in top form here. The whole thing’s fantastic, from the great action of an evil super-circus troupe attacking police headquarters to the throwaway continuity nods, but the best bit comes in Alfred’s conversation with Dick.

Instead of laying on some melodramatic line about “the mantle of the bat” or whatever, Morrison offers up the idea of Dick–and that’s the second time I’ve typed “Nightwing” and had to go back and erase it–playing the role of Batman, which is not only a great way to distinguish his character from Bruce Wayne (and further reaffirm the contrast of having a lighthearted Batman and a super-serious, anger-driven Robin), but a great acknowledgment of what we all already know. Dick’s not Batman. He’s just Batman right now, and in that one scene, Morrison not only addresses the characters’ concerns, but all but tells the readers “Hey, we all know how this is eventually going to go, but for now, let’s have some fun with it.”

And speaking of fun, Quitely is killin’ it on the art. I mentioned last month that while his layouts were dynamic (see this issue’s double-page spread of jagged panels during the big fights) had the seemed to be cutting down on the distinctive cutaway-style shots that he used in All Star Superman (and especially We3), but the more I look at his art in this issue, the more complex it gets. The level of detail is incredible, to the point where I’m noticing new stuff (Nightw–Dick jumping over the desk using two fingers, the separate sound-effect smoke trails for the rocket launcher) even on the fourth time reading through it. It’s just gorgeous.

The only thing I don’t like about this issue is the last panel on the penultimate page, where the scene suddenly cuts from Robin at the evil circus to some of Pyg’s doll-people suicide bombing a different part of Gotham City, which seems like an abrupt jump to a scene that didn’t previously appear in this issue. But for that being the only flaw I can see, I’m willing to look past it and to the scene where Batman fights kung fu acrobat triplets.


Captain America Reborn #1: The much ballyhooed return of Captain America starts here, and again, it’s not really going to surprise anyone that it’s good. Not just because Ed Brubaker is a fantastic writer–which he is–but because it plays to one of the greatest strengths, which is to take the most ludicrous aspects of comics and play them straight enough that they seem perfectly normal.

In this case–and this is a spoiler, so if you haven’t read the issue yet, I suggest you do that before you read any more, you know, reviews–it turns out that Cap was shot with time bullets. Which, considering that it was all orchestrated by an immortal Nazi who lives in a businessman’s imagination and a guy with a face where his chest should be a and a camcorder where his face should be, doesn’t really seem that strange after all. Point being, as loopy as it sounds on paper, Brubaker pulls it off with his usual excellence and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all pulls out.

The art side of things, though, was a bit of a letdown. I like Bryan Hitch and Butch Guice both quite a bit, but this issue seemed rushed in a lot of parts. There are some great pages, but then you’ll suddenly get something like the odd, emaciated Sharon Carter on page twelve that’s only made more noticable by the fact that it comes right after a pair of very-Bryan-Hitch close-ups. I suppose the tradeoff for getting rushed art by Hitch is that there’s a chance this book’ll come out on time, but between that and getting yet another redesign for Golden Age Cap (and no, I don’t know why it bugs me so much, but it does), I think I would’ve really preferred it if we’d gotten Steve Epting to draw it instead. I mean, I like Epting enough that I’d prefer most stuff if he drew it, but the same part of me that wanted Steve Dillon to come back to close out Garth Ennis’s run on Punisher wants the symmetry of the team that “killed” Steve Rogers (with time bullets!) to come back for his resurrection.

Beyond that, though, it’s solid stuff. But if you’ve been reading Cap for the past four and a half years, that’s probably not much of a surprise.


Fantastic Four: Giant-Size Adventures #1: I honestly don’t have much of a review here, because if you want fun, lighthearted Fantastic Four stories, you’re probably already aware of Paul Tobin’s work, and if that’s not what you want, then there’s a good chance you’re reading the wrong blog. Anyway, all I really want to say here is that Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover’s Go-Go Hydra Girls (as pictured above in the shopping list) are probably the best anything ever.

And that’s real.


Justice League: Cry For Justice #1: I’m not going to lie to you, folks: As much as I was looking forward to this one, it is not very good.

Then again, I’ve had my doubts about this one since those preview pages first cropped up last month, because man, there’s nothing that makes me want to read a comic more than five pages of people standing around being petulant to each other. Seriously, that’s what they put in to sell the book. Five long pages of Hal Jordan standing around whining, and then closed it with “THE BATTLE CONTINUES!” Like Rachelle said, “I don’t want this battle to continue. If I were in the room with these superheroes I would want to leave.”

If that were just the lead-in to an otherwise exciting issue (or a reaction to a strong hook in an introductory sequence) that’d be one thing, but no. The whole issue’s like that, and it combines the worst parts of the Brad Meltzer relaunch with the worst parts of James Robinson’s dialogue. And really, I like James Robinson’s work. I’ve been re-reading Starman lately, and not only was it one of the high points of an era that included Mark Waid’s Flash, Morrison’s JLA and Ennis and McCrea’s Hitman, most of it still holds up really well today. But it is a talky book, and that carries over here, where everyone sticks to Robinson’s slightly stilted “Compared to you, I’m Chris Isaak” speech patterns.

And to make matters worse, these just don’t seem like characters I really want to read about. I mentioned before that Green Lantern comes off as petulant, and that’s even without anyone reminding him that the last time he wanted to be more proactive and crack down on the bad guys, he ended up killing like 3000 people and blaming it on a giant yellow space-bug. And I don’t really need to see the Atom torturing a suspect by stomping around their head, which is, you know, exactly how his ex-wife killed someone.

I hate to be the guy who pulls out old continuity to show how people are acting “out of character” (NOTE: This is a lie. I love doing that. It’s why I have a blog, for cripe’s sake.), but Robinson’s not only a guy who built his career on referencing the past and making it capital-I Important again, he’s a guy who puts flashbacks to a recent Major Event on page three. And even if you get past those guys, there’s the scene with Mikaal Tomas. I mean, I’m glad to see him back, and I’m excited to see what he does here, and I get that he’s upset, but you know who could use some of that justice that he’s yelling for on page 16? The guy whose car he just blew up on page 15. It’s like Robinson’s going out of his way to cast these guys as pretentious, unlikeable jerks who throw temper tantrums instead of actually doing anything, and that’s not really a comic I want to read.

Even if there’s a talking gorilla out for revenge. And believe me, it takes a lot to get me to turn against a book with that in it.


Uncanny X-Men #513: So Matt Fraction totally just did a story featuring an appearance by ADAM X THE X-TREME. Seriously. This is a thing that happened.

And you know what? I’m just gonna come right out and say it: This is the single best comic that ADAM X THE X-TREME has ever been in. I know, I know: I’m like a lightning rod for controversy, but damn it, I’m prepared to stand by that statement. I know there are some of you who are going to point to X-Force #30, and I understand that it says on the cover that things have never been deadlier, but as visceral and heart-rending as ADAM X THE X-TREME‘s duel to the death with Shatterstar was, it can finally lay down its burden. A new champion has been crowned.


Betty and Veronica Double Digest #172: Pop Quiz! Is this the “new look” version of Veronica’s mother, Hermione Lodge, or Pete White from The Venture Bros.?






And that’s the week. As always, any questions can be left in the comments section below, as well as comments about the fun 100-Page Super Spectacular format for this week’s Savage Dragon, or how this month’s issue of Buffy was the best of the recent ones (which is still sort of like being the healthiest meal at the State Fair), or how the latest Classic GI Joe trade just makes me confused.

I mean, the reprint quality gets bad and then gets good again three pages later. How the heck does THAT work?

The Caffeine-Free Jimmy Olsen

Hi, everyone! I’m Christopher, and apparently, this is my website.

You’ll have to forgive me. I decided on a lark this morning that I was going to skip out on having any caffeine today–marking the first time I’ve done that in… well, let’s just round it off to seventeen years–and I’ve been in something of a fog all day. In fact, to be honest, the past few years are all sort of a blur at this point.

But anyway, it seems I’ve got this website, and I vaguely remember something about updating daily, so I’d better get to it. It’s almost eleven, after all, and I’m starting to get awfully sleepy.

Fortunately, over here by the computer, there was a stack of… well, I guess they’re comic books, but they’re all in black and white and look to be the size of a phonebook. The one on top–Superman Family v.2–had a Post-It stuck to the cover (I’m assuming I wrote it) with “GOOD FOR THE BLOG” written on it next to a drawing of what I think is supposed to be Eddie from Iron Maiden using a “signal watch,” so I guess that’s what I’ll be posting about tonight.

Let’s see here…



From what I understand, this Jimmy Olsen character is Superman’s sidekick, so seeing him become any sort of “outlaw” would certainly be out of character, especially if it’s going to bring him into conflict with his “pal!” That’s definitely something you don’t see every day.

But still, I’m sure there’s a good reason for it. I mean, I wouldn’t be buying so many of these things if they were full of nonsense and explanations that were tenuous at best, right? Let’s press on!

The story proper starts Jimmy paying a visit to a recurring Metropolitan scientist named Professor Potter. The ol’ memory’s still a bit fuzzy around the edges, but I recall that this Potter is something of a genius inventor, with accomplishments ranging from computer science to time travel, so this visit should prove to be very educational.

Today’s invention? The Twin-Maker Ray!



Sadly, Potter’s invention is slightly flawed, and while I’m not sure why, I can’t shake the nagging feeling that I’ve seen a flawed duplicator ray somewhere before.

Either way, Potter’s produces copies that are visually identical, but differing in their qualities, to the point where they become opposites. In an interesting study in duality: An apple produced is sour rather than sweeet, a black rabit is reproduced from a white one, and an ostrich provides…



…a greedy ostrich?

The opposite of “ostrich” is “greed?” What an odd plot point.

Oh well. As you might expect, Professor Potter, who is turning out to be a very irresponsible scientist indeed, eventually turns the ray on Jimmy himself, using him to test the ray’s effectiveness on human beings, without even asking his permission first. I guess it’s obvious now just why he never got his doctorate.

The results are about what you’d expect:



Unlike the simple distinctions that mark the apple, rabbit and ostrich, Jimmy and his double (or as I’ve nicknamed him, “The Deuce”) appear to be exact copies.

The keyword, of course, is “appear,” as it quickly becomes evident that the Deuce is, in fact, evil. So evil, in fact, that he sends Jimmy home by telling him that he’ll cover his job, and then promptly starts doing crimes.

He starts by crashing through a skylight and using his connections with Superman to blackmail a thief into handing over half of his loot, but quickly moves on to more daring exploits, like… Wait.

This can’t be right.

It looks like the Deuce is climbing up a giant statue of Superman that serves as some kind of signpost in order to steal a safe using a giant magnet.



Well that’s just silly!

I mean, that’s not even the airport! It’s an apartment building! What kind of books are these?!

Maybe I should just get through this and move on. With his crimes escalating as he uses his connections to Superman to aid and abet them, the Deuce decides that it’s time to plot his big score: Discovering Superman’s identity and selling it to the mob. And in order to accomplish this task, he elects to take one of Jimmy’s chunks of Kryptonite–though I’m not sure why Jimmy hangs onto a fist-sized rock that can kill his best friend–and wander around the city waiting to see who is weakened when he passes by. The logistics of this plan are… well, it’s awful. Just awful.

Defying all logic–which I’m sensing is a trend in these stories–the plan works almost immediately, and the Deuce discovers that Superman is in reality Clark Kent, mild-mannered etc.

Before he can sell the information, though–thanks in large part to using a sentence so convoluted that it puts mine to shame–he pulls a fadeout, courtesy of Jimmy Classic:



Thus, Jimmy Olsen essentially murders himself with a radioactive meteorite.

Ridiculous. And looking around the house, I see that I’ve got stacks–stacks!–of the same, and I’m starting to get the feeling that I never finished college! Clearly, a change of lifestyle is in order.

But we’ll get to that tomorrow. For now, I’m getting awfully sleepy, and perhaps a trip to bed is in order. But first, I’m a bit parched.

What’s this…? “Starbucks Double Shot Espresso and Cream?” Sounds delicious!







In order to disguise himself while he commits grand theft magnet, the Deuce uses a hood that looks strangely familiar:



Let’s see. Between the hood, the bizarre crimes, and the fact that he’s running away, I think I might’ve stumbled onto something here. Could Evil Jimmy Olsen actually be… Cobra Commander?!




Great Failures of Villainy, Volume One

When you think about the great, lasting villains of comic books, a few names come to mind. Doctor Doom, with his egomaniacal genius and melodramatic speeches; Magneto, who went from a goofy villain in a purple cape to a complex character with a morality twisted by a need for revenge; and of course, the Joker, whose bright colors and permanent smile would be creepy even if they didn’t stand in direct contrast to the dark, grim hero that he battles against.

You do not, in all likelihood, think of this guy:



And there’s a pretty good reason for that.

Say hello to Sylvester Sepastopol, folks! And yes: He’s a teenager, despite the fact that he has the bearing and combover of a middle-aged insurance salesman. First appearing in the pages of Teen Titans #19’s “Stepping Stones of a Giant Killer”–conveniently reprinted in second Titans Showcase–Sylvester here was the brainchild of writer Mike Friedrich, who brought us the pure genius of Vampires on the Moon, and the artistic dream team of Gil Kane and Wally Wood. And really, with a legacy like that behind him, how could he fail?

As it turns out, he manages to pull it off pretty spectacularly. So here’s how it all goes down:

Sylvester doesn’t have an origin as much as he just shows up one day on page one looking for The School of Criminology, which appears for exactly ten panels and is then never heard from again, despite the fact that it has the truly awesome distinction of being run by someone called Headmaster-Mind:



One assumes that unlike other Schools of Criminology, this one is devoted to the practice of crime rather than the study thereof, but that’s pretty much left up to the reader to suss out from the fact that Sylvester rolls in there and announces that he’s got a plan to destroy the Justice League, as seen above.

Sadly, the Headmaster-Mind doesn’t have time for a kid with a dream of world domination, and thus, Sylvester’s quite literally given the boot. However, despite his age, Sylvester isn’t the kind of guy who gives up easily, and resolves to make his own way in the world of Super-Villainy, finally learning the lesson that Will Smith struggled so hard to teach the children of the ’90s. Take it from me…



Adults just don’t understand!


Yeah, yeah, it’s actually parents. I know. Anyway, a few pages later, Sylvester’s plan goes into action as he uses the time-honored tradition of sending his “hang-ups” to the Teen Titans to lure them into a trap. Said hang-ups?

Campus Nazis!



Given that there’s nothing the heroes of DC Comics like better than busting up a couple of Ratzis, the Titans are quick to roll out in full force, but it’s never really made clear whether that actually happened, or if it’s just something Sylvester made up or orchestrated as bait.

Either way, it works, and once the Titans put the kibosh on the fighting, which includes Wonder Girl making the best joke of her entire career…



…Sylvester easily lures them into his secret lair, where they are promptly conked on the head via reversed gravity, tied up, and threatend with death at the hands of a genius gone mad.

This, for the record, is where Sylvester’s plan goes completely off the rails.

Why? Because this is where he decides to adopt his own villainous identity, and while I could explain how it all goes wrong, I think you’ll be able to tell for yourselves. Behold! I give you… Punch!



Man. Where do you even begin with this thing?

I’ve written extensively about the steps one has to take in order to ensure success in the world of diabolical schemes, but it never even occurred to me to advise against a ruffled collar and matching dunce cap. I just assumed it was a given.

And that’s even before we get into the fact that the whole “Punch and Judy” thing really only works when there are two of you.

As should be expected, Sylvester’s brief career as a super-villain is all downhill from there. Because really, you can have all the teleporting belts and anti-gravity rays that you want, but as soon as you slip into your thoroughly researched 14th century jester doublet, there’s really only one way things can end.



So ends the brief, ill-concieved criminal career of Sylvester Sepastopol, and we at the ISB salute him, if only for the fact that he was able to make even Robin’s costume seem like a respectable set of threads.



BONUS FEATURE: The ISB Picture Quiz!

Sylvester Sepastopol or a young Stephen Colbert?




Chris vs. Previews: May, 2007, Round Two

I covered the major publishers in last night’s post, and while I think we can all agree that it was a Herculean effort on my part, that still leaves around four hundred pages of stuff to get through in tonight’s post, including this little gem from page 524:


Zounds! A Bomé figure that’s actually fully clothed! What other mysterious wonders lay in wait from the indy publishers and merchandise sections? Find out now!



Comics & Graphic Novels


P.239: Avatar Press, Inc.:
A few weeks back, Warren Ellis sent an email out on the Bad Signal where he offered to answer any three questions that “any comics website” cared to ask about his new retro-futurist mad science wingding, and while I’m pretty sure I’ve missed my opportunity to generate some relatively exclusive content for the ISB, I really should’ve jumped on and asked:

1. Does the K in “Doktor Sleepless” stand for “Kicks People In The Face?”

2. If so, will he kick them with an expert marriage of force, mass, and acceleration that each kick in and of itself will be an experiment of brutality so awesome that we learn new things about the universe from their perfect beauty?

3. Um, do you remember that part in NextWave where Devil Dinosaur tries to drink the champagne, but he can’t? That was awesome.


P. 268: Dynamite Entertainment:
Normally, this is where I’d call D.E. out on the fact that they’re soliciting nine comics this month with twenty-eight covers between them, but, well, how can I stay mad at the people who publish Dark Xena? Oh D.E., you are a delight!

P.298: Express Publications:



Parody Press Comics returns, setting their satirical sights on NBC’s tremendously popular TV show, Heroes! Meet Cheerleader Klair Bendit, Mohinder Night Shalaman, Internet Weathergirl Sniki Sanders, meek office-worker Hewoe Chaka-Khana, and the mixed-up Pastrami Brothers, as they go on a quest to save the world and find out the source of their crazy powers! This hilarious book is offere with two collectible first-issue covers–a “good Hewoes” version and a “bad Hewoes” version–shipped in a 50/50 ratio. Make sure this comic is on your list!


That sound you just heard? The deafening silence, shattered by your own choking sobs? That was the death of joy.


P.304: Fantagraphics Books:

CRACKED Editor Jay Pinkerton and I have an ongoing debate over whether Michael Kupperman or Evan Dorkin is the funniest man in comics, and while it’s a pretty moot point since they’re both pretty amazing, you can gather your own evidence here with the re-offer of Kupperman’s Tales Designed to Thrizzle #1 and 2. They are fantastic.


P.331: Oni Press:

Two years after the first one hit shelves, it looks like we’re finally getting the second installment of Sharknife, and that is awesome. Corey Lewis somehow managed to boil video games and comics down to their purest form (which, as we all know at the ISB is fighting), crammed it into a universe where people have to get jacked up on stimulatnts to follow a game of International Kickball, and made a comic so fun that I’ve been looking forward to the second installment since about fifteen minutes after the first part hit the shelves. So that one’s a given.

What really caught my eye here, though, was Apocalipstix, by Ray Fawkes and the totally awesome Cameron Stewart, which looks to be something along the lines of Josie and the Pussycats meets The Road Warrior. And really, there’s nothing about that sentence that I don’t think is awesome.


P.353: Tokyopop:

Let’s be honest here, folks: Despite the fact that I can barely contain my excitement about the new volume of Yotsuba&! solicited back on p.217, I generally skip over the major manga publishers, and except for picking up DramaCon, Steady Beat, and Mail Order Ninja on a lark (and enjoying them), there’s not a lot that I’ve really wanted from Tokyopop in a long while.

Of course, every now and then something catches my eye:



That, my friends, is a solicitation for a comic where the main character fights everything. Normally, that’d be enough to get me on, but my Previews Order already boasts two hardcovers worth of Jack Kirby and a full notebook page of other stuff, so I’m still on the fence. And that means that for the first time ever, I’m leaving my comics buying habits up to you!

Should I Buy Bombos vs. Everything?

Just leave a vote in the comments, but keep in mind that if I get it, I’m gonna have to write about it.

P.368: Top Shelf Productions:

And now, a glimpse at the thought process that brings you Jeffrey Brown’s The Incredible Change-Bots: “Hey, you know what would make the Transformers better? If they stood around coughing and whining about all the girls they have sex with!”

P.374 – Viper Comics:

Again, I don’t really have a joke for this one, but considering that I love The MiddleMan and yet completely missed the solicitation for v.3 on my first flip-through, I thought I’d point it out for everyone. I mean, c’mon Josh Howard, I know ad space in Previews ain’t cheap, but wasn’t it popular enough to get a better space than the inside corner opposite a full-page ad for some blue dude with a compound bow?



This month, the Apparel section isn’t the non-stop barrel of laughs (or “laffs,” as I like to call them), but mixed in amongst painfully unfunny Clerks II merchandise modeled by Greg From Accounting’s sister and a Batman shirt with a bunch of skulls (which apparently represent all those people that Batman doesn’t kill, or something) comes the funniest thing in the entire catalog:



“Still celebrates the American spirit.” Just… Just wow.

Also, for those of you who thought the “Jimmy Olsen Must Die!” t-shirt made it look a little too much like Jimmy was peeking out from the wearer’s pants, then allow me to introduce you to a shirt that didn’t bother to think that little problem through at all:



Never before has Darkseid’s helmet design been so terribly, terribly inappropriate.



And that is the kind of joke I like to close on. If anything stuck out to you this month, or if you just want to advise me to give Bombos vs. Everything a shot, feel free to leave a comment. Otherwise, I’m gonna try to find a pair of pants that has the lower half of Jimmy Olsen’s face on it.

Uh, I mean… Oh forget it.