For the second shocking week in a row, it looks like none of the comics I picked up this week featured anyone getting kicked in the face, and while I was originally planning on going with a shot from Thor and Herc’s battle in Incredible Hercules (because really, an Asgardian kick to the junkules is almost as good), that was before I heard that there was actual vampire face-kicking in this week’s Detective Comics Annual:
Brother, if that doesn’t say Dracula Week on the ISB, then I don’t know what does. And for bonus points, that’s Looker, the inaugural Nobody’s Favorite doing the kicking.
And that brings us to another spoooooky Thursday night installment of the Internet’s Most Draculawesome Comics Reviews! But before we get around to that, a bit of my own special brand of bloodsucking!
The ISB Fall Fundraiser is going again, with a new round of stuff on eBay for your purchasing pleasure. So if you feel like jumping on some back issues and giving me your money in the process, here’s what I’ve got up:
Livewires #1-6: A very fun, very underrated series from Adam Warren.
Catwoman #1-37 and Secret Files: And speaking of underrated comics, this is the entire Ed Brubaker run on Catwoman, which was consistently one of the best books DC was putting out at the time. Gorgeous art from guys like Cooke and Stewart, fantastic super-hero noir storytelling.
Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters #1-3: Hey, remember that time that Black Canary got chained up and smacked around and Green Arrow killed some dudes? Well, you do now. (That description notwithstanding, Longbow Hunters is actually really good.)
Empire #1-6: Mark Waid and Barry Kitson do a story that’s essentially what happens when Dr. Doom wins.
A Big Ol’ Bunch of Final Crisis! Both covers for #1-7! Both covers for Superman Beyond #1 and #2! Actual 3D glasses that have been punched out and worn by your favorite non-Dave Campbell comics blogger! Don’t ask! Just buy it!
Irredeemable Ant-Man #1-12: Robert Kirkman and Phil Hester bring you the world’s most completely unlikeable (but surprisingly fun) super-hero!
Daredevil: Guardian Devil paperback signed by Kevin Smith: Title pretty much sums it up there, I think.
And finally, Birds of Prey #56-127 and Black Canary #1-4: This is the other half of my BoP run, and out of everything I’ve sold on eBay these past few weeks, this was the one I thought the most about hanging on to. This is a title I picked up longer than anything else I’ve read ever (108 issues monthly), and this stuff, which includes the entire Gail Simone run, was highly enjoyable.
Okay, plugging over, let’s get back to it! Here’s what I bought this week..
…and in a moment, I’ll let you know what I thought of them! But seeing as this is Dracula Week, this time we’re going to be doing things a little differently: By seeing how my comics stack up against the spectrum of vampires that make up… The Draculometer!
Yes, from the awesome intenisty of Blacula to the wispy shirtlessness of
James From Team Rocket Jean-Claude from Anita Blake, vampires in popular culture vary pretty widely in quality, which makes them the perfect unit of greatness for a given comic! Or to put it another way, it’s exactly what I did during Bring It On Week, but with fangs! Now let’s get to it!
Adventure Comics #3: A few weeks ago, when the crew of War Rocket Ajax was invited to the Between the Panels podcast to talk about Blackest Night, I mentioned that there is a complete lack of subtlety endemic to Geoff Johns’s comics.
Now before I renew my hater status, I actually am enjoying Adventure Comics a lot–more than I was expecting to, in fact, as the Superboy story is turning out to be surprisingly strong. And to be fair, a lack of subtlety is not necessarily a bad thing. I mean, nobody was less subtle than Jack Kirby, and I could–and have–read his stuff all day and never get tired of it. But there’s a quirk that Johns has in his writing where every single thing not only has to have a deeper meaning, but that the deeper meaning has to be literally explained to the reader at the earliest opportunity.
In Blackest Night, it’s that Barry Allen can’t just be the Fastest Man Alive who’s always late because Kanigher and Broome thought that was a nice recurring gag, it has to be a deeper signifier of his character. And while that’s fine–and I actually do like it–having someone stand there shouting it to the reader is something that just grates on my nerves. The same thing happens in this issue with Robin. There’s a long, drawn-out conversation about why Tim Drake’s wearing the Red Robin costume that could’ve stopped after one line (“Not until Bruce is back”), but goes on for panel after panel, literalizing the metaphor for anyone too thick to figure it out themselves. And that’s what bugs me: It’s not just Johns telling you how clever he is for figuring this out, but also telling you that you couldn’t.
Which isn’t to say that Johns is wrong for doing so. He is, after all, writing for an audience that read a story where the first page had the words “BATMAN AND ROBIN WILL NEVER DIE!” and then complained when Batman didn’t die in it (not to mention their complaints about not being able to figure out who Dr. Hurt was when Batman literally says who he is in the last issue), so it’s safe to say that there’s a good chunk of them out there who don’t want to think too hard when they’re reading their funnybooks. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. Comics are meant to be fun, and having fun doesn’t always have to be hard work. But a good metaphor works even when it’s not spelled out, and there’s a definite difference between making something accessible and talking down to your readers, and when Johns has characters expound on how their past tragedies have led them to wear a particular pair of shoes, it feels a lot more like the latter.
Also, I will never understand why there’s an interest in having Krypto be a hassle. You want to talk about stuff that’s supposed to be fun? A flying dog is supposed to be fun, and instead we’ve got scenes where Superboy just can’t deal with him. He’s a source of angst. Krypto. The flying dog. A source of angst. I will never understand this.
But again: For all my grousing and complaints, Adventure has been a very fun read for the most part. To put it in Dracula Week terms, it ranks at a solid Spike From Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Better executed and far more enjoyable than than you think it’s going to be when it first shows up, but held back slightly by the annoyances of its quirks.
Hector Plasm: Totentanz: Regular ISB readers won’t be surprised by this one, as I haven’t exactly been quiet about being a fan of Benito Cereno and Nate Bellegarde’s previous work, especially their earlier stuff on Hector. And like the first collection, De Mortuis, this one is the perfect Halloween comic.
It’s alternately spooky and fun, and while Benito’s stories are more fantastic examples of the zippy, well-researched work that get him compared to Mike Mignola all the time, it’s Nate, the Paul Pope of Comics, that really stands out as the star of this one. His art has never looked better, whether it’s in the incredible two-page riff on Edward Gorey that starts things off or the absolutely gorgeous “Hector Contre la Danse Macabre,”–the book’s longest story–he just shines. The expressiveness, the figure-work, the way he lays out the pages (the silent nine-panel grid with Hector, the Skeletons and a fiddle-playing Death is about as good as they get), everything comes together perfectly. It’s a book I’ve read five times since I picked it up yesterday, and I just can’t stop looking at it.
Plus the bonus features are fantastic. The one-page “costume guide” by Dean Trippe and Jason Horn is a hoot, and while I would gladly read Hector Plasm every month if it was coming out, I’d read John Campbell’s stick-figure Hector strips extra hard.
To refer back to the Draculometer, this thing is straight up Dracula Himself. Not just because it’s the best thing I picked up this week, but because–like Dracula–Benito and Nate have shown that they can work beautifully with Hector in any idiom, from comedy to horror to silent film pastiches set to 19th century French compositions to recipes. And yes: There are a surprising number of recipes in this book.
Incredible Hercules #136: I’m just going to put this out there: Incredible Herc is the single best comic on the stands today.
I realize that’s nothing I haven’t said before, but in addition to the new issue, I’ve been reading through the previous stories and something struck me that made me love this book even more: I’m pretty sure that Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente have been re-doing the Twelve Labors of Hercules without ever coming out and saying it.
It’s just a pet theory of mine, so I could be wrong–or on the flipside, I might just be the last person to realize it–but the way they’ve structured their stories is mirroring the setup of the original 12: Herc’s battle with the Hulk that started things off has the air of his first labor, the Nemean Lion, as both see him tackling a seemingly unbeatable foe (though Herc came off quite a bit better against the lion). Then there’s the story where he and Atlas have their rematch from the 11th Labor, and he unchains Cerebus during his trip to the underworld, undoing the 12th. Even the current storyline, where Herc romances the queen of a fantastic race for somewhat devious reasons, is a mirror for the 9th Labor.
It’s not a one-for-one comparison (the Secret Invasion issues were far more like his trip with the Argonauts rather than one of the Labors), and it’s all vague enough that I’m not sure if I’m right or not. There are references to Herc’s myths, of course, but no more than you’d expect from an ongoing starring the Lion of Olympus. But it’s obvious just from the books themselves that they’re drawing a lot on the original mythology, so if there is a conscious parallel to the labors, it’s one that’s pulled off very subtly, and that makes me like it even more.
But that doesn’t have a whole lot to do with why this particular issue is so fantastic, which has a lot more to do with its role in the Marvel Universe than in Greek mythology, namely in that it’s another great Thor/Hercules smackdown. The twist this time is that Herc and Thor are both dressed as each other, and given their history, that leads to some amazingly fun interplay between the characters that’s so good that it might just replace even Thor #356 (the great “Walt Simonson is on vacation, and so art thou” fill-in where Thor drops the entire island of Manhattan on Herc) as my favorite of the two.
And that’s why, in Dracula Week terms, Incredible Herc ranks in as Blacula. Both of them are drawing on disparate traditions–Blacula combining vampire movies and Blaxploitation, Herc with its Simonsonian blending of Myth and the Marvel Universe–to create something that’s truly incredible, and pure joy to experience.
Nomad: Girl Without a World #2: And speaking of things that take their inspiration from strange places, who would’ve thought that a solo series about the Rob Liefeld-created Heroes Reborn Bucky would end up being this enjoyable? When the first issue came out, I mentioned in passing that it was engaging and fun, and I’m glad to report that the second issue has continued along in that vein for a variety of reasons, including the fact that with Rikki Barnes now re-cast as Nomad, we don’t have to worry about Bucky 1.0 adopting that as his code-name at the end of Captain America Reborn.
But there’s a good chance I was the only one losing sleep over that, so let’s just stick to what’s giong on here: Not only does this one prove once again that Sean McKeever can do books about teenage Marvel super-heroes darn near perfectly, it also provides us with the return of one of my all-time favorite third-string villains: Flagsmasher.
Seriously, I love that guy. For those of you who aren’t familiar with him, he’s a legacy villain that carries on the tradition of the former leader of the Underground Liberated Totally Integrated Mobile Army To Unite Mankind (U.L.T.I.M.A.T.U.M.), one of Marvel’s lesser known but still totally awesome acronymed hate groups. He carries a mace (which he presumably uses to smash flags), and his recent apperances have pretty much involved his ass getting handed to him by teenagers, which is a role that I’m perfectly comfortable with him having.
But really, he’s just icing on the cake here. McKeever’s doing great things on the script, carrying on the proud Marvel tradition of dropping big ol’ metaphors for teenage isolation in ways that could only work in a super-hero universe, and David Baldeon’s art style fits perfectly. It’s fun and good for the kids, but I get the feeling that it’s being sadly overlooked. So in Dracula Week terms, that makes Nomad our Count Chocula. One hopes that one day, Rikki Barnes too will decorate ironic t-shirts across this great land of ours.
Unwritten #6: This week’s issue of Unwritten opens up with two page of pullquotes from everyone from Fables writer Bill Willingham to ISB sidebar resident Blair Butler. And yet, even with two pages to fill, “Sandman without its head up its ass” didn’t make the cut. Oh well.
Regardless, after the enjoyable diversion of last month’s story about Kipling, this one’s back to the ongoing tale of Tom Taylor, and it’s as enjoyable as it ever was. I’ve talked quite a bit about Mike Carey’s scripting and the focus on literary trivia that he manages to not just work into the story, but make the main focus of the story without coming off as a pretentous know-it-all (no easy feat), but Peter Gross is doing an amazing job with the book, pulling off the neat trick himself of delivering clean-but-detailed art to the story. It’s excellent stuff, and I’m glad to see that–around my neck of the woods, anyway–a lot of people are really getting into it.
Engaging, fun, and even educational? Clearly, Unwritten will fit in quite nicely on the Draculomter as Count Von Count.
X-Men vs. Agents of Atlas #1: I’m going to keep this brief hre: This is a new series by Jeff Parker, and you all know how I feel about him. It’s about the Agents of Atlas and the X-Men, and you all know how I feel about them. It involves Wolverine fighting both a gorilla and a robot, and you all know how I feel about that. Carlo Pagulayan does the art, and given what you already know, you can probably figure out how I feel about his work, too.
(HINT: These are all very positive feelings)
To place our final book this week on the Draculometer, this one is a solid Count Orlock: Just as cool as Dracula, but with the added street cred that being an unlicensed bootleg vampire can get you.
And that’s the Dracula Week In Ink! As always, any questions or concerns can be left in the comments section below, and as I managed to disparage Geoff Johns and Joss Whedon, at the same time in this post, I imagine you’ve all got plenty to say, and I assure you that I will definitely not ignore it.