The Week In Ink: August 19, 2009

Step away from the edge, folks! Your lives have meaning again!



Yes, after taking a week off, it’s once again Thursday night and time for the Internet’s Most Salacious Comics Reviews!

But let’s be honest here, folks: Who wants to hear about the comics that are already out? I mean, those things are a day old already, which means that they are quite literally yesterday’s news. The real action is in comics that haven’t even come out yet, and that’s why last night’s update at Action Age Comics had previews for not one, not two, but three titles Chad’s been working on, including the fan-demanded return of Danger Ace!



He’s also got quick previews up for the return of Impossible!, and an all-new series that you’ll have to see to believe. So check it out, Action Agents, and then get back here to see the list of comics I bought yesterday…



…and my undoubtedly indispensable thoughts about them!






Atomic Robo: Shadow From Beyond Time #4: Straight up, you guys: I love Atomic Robo.

There have been a lot of comparisons of Robo to Hellboy–some flattering, and some less so–and on the surface, that’s a pretty easy line to draw. After all, they’re both about more-or-less indestructible protagonists who wage battles with forces Beyond The Reach Of Science while being far more sarcastic than one would normally expect from a demon and/or robot, but it’s the differences that really make them stand out. Hellboy, at its heart, is a horror comic. I’ve mentioned before that there’s no better summary of the series than Mike Mignola’s dedication in the first book to H.P. Lovecraft and Jack Kirby, and while the humor that he works into the series is great, there’s no mistaking it for a comedy.

Robo on the other hand, is not only more action-oriented (and since we’re talking about the story of a demon who has a giant right hand made of rock that he can punch out werewolves with, that’s saying something), but there’s a baseline lightheartedness to it that Brian Clevinger frequently pushes into hilarious. Everything he’s learned from his long-running webcomics about comedic timing in print is on display here. It’s fantastic, and as excellent as the first two series were, this one’s managed to top them.

And really, it all comes down to the guest stars. HP Lovecraft and Charles Fort in the first issue were funny enough, but this issue’s appearance by Carl Sagan might just be the best real-person guest star since Goody Rickles, if only for the the chance to see the host of Cosmos deliver the supremely badass “Tell them Carl Sagan sent you.” It’s awesome, and you should be reading it.

Even if it does derail my plans to have Neil deGrasse Tyson team up with Penny in Woman of A.C.T.I.O.N. #3.


Daredevil #500: With this issue, Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark end their run on Daredevil and it should surprise absolutely nobody that it’s a great comic. But first things first: The fact that I’m not a big fan of Alex Ross is a matter of public record, but from a purely objective standpoint, I’ve got to wonder why anyone would even bother with his cover for this issue. It’s not that it’s bad, if you like that sort of thing–although it is the same monochromatic Screamin’ Protagonist style cover that he’s done for just about everything lately, albeit with a Daredevil that looks significantly less doughy than I was expecting–but it’s just a static image slapped on the front cover, while Marko Djurdjevic dropped a beautiful wraparound gatefold with everyone from Power Man and Iron Fist to the Gladiator on it. Put them next to each other and, for me anyway, it’s no contest.

But back to what’s inside. By this point, most people know already that Andy Diggle’s going to be taking over writing chores on the title, and if you’ve ever read The Losers or Green Arrow: Year One, then you probably recognize this as Good News. Still, despite the fact that nothing about it would fit with his previous work, I wondered if Brubaker’s departure would give Diggle a chance at bringing back a little of the swashbuckling Daredevil that was last seen in Karl Kesel and Cary Nord’s criminally underrated run.

And this issue answers that with a pretty definitive no, which is about what I was expecting. Not that it’s a bad thing, Daredevil works just fine as a tragic vigilante, and for his last issue, Brubaker pulls out all the stops to set a new status quo that opens up some really interesting possibilities. But again, it’s Brubaker: Excellent stories are pretty much all that guy does.

Along with the extra-sized main story, this one’s also got some back-up material, and I was pleasantly surprised to find a new Ann Nocenti story in there with art by Immortal Iron Fist’s David Aja. Nocenti’s run on Daredevil seems to be pretty polarizing among comics fans: You either love it or you’re stupid and I hate you. As you might expect, I’m in the former camp, and while this story certainly lacks the stories of DD beating Ultron to death with a stick and fighting a demonic vacuum cleaner for two or three issues that her run had, it’s a nice little callback to, again, a very underrated piece of the title’s history.

There’s also the all-but-mandatory Frank Miller reprint, and while I can’t imagine that there’s anyone out there who likes Daredevil but doesn’t have the comic where he plays Russian Roulette with a paralyzed Bullseye in one form or another, it’s still one of the best single issues ever printed, and it’s worth rereading.

All in all, it makes for a pretty good way to cap off Brubaker and Lark’s run, making it slightly easier than you might expect to say goodbye to yesterday.


Archie #600: I don’t normally review the Archie books, as I’m reasonably certain I’m the only one who reads the ISB that actually cares about Archie comics. This, however, is the much-touted issue where Archie gets married, so it’s probably worth talking about just to answer a few questions.

For starters, this one’s interesting to look at from a retail standpoint. Normally, when there’s a book that gets a lot of press coverage, it happens right when the comic comes out. This was the case with Captain America #25 and the infamous Amazing Spider-Man Obama issue, and it’s the sort of thing that puts retailers in an awkward position. Yes, the solicitations said it would be a big issue, but that’s what the solicitations say for every issue. It’s their job to get people interested in buying it, and unless you’re willing to believe the ad copy every time it says something will bring an Earth-shattering change that people won’t want to miss (300 times a month, give or take) or take unscrupulous rumor-mongers at face value, it generally pays to be cautious.

This one, however, got press back when it was solicited, which is a different beast entirely. On the one hand, it gives retailers enough time to get a sense of customer interest before they make their orders, and I’d be lying if I said that we didn’t get a lot of phone calls on the day the story went out asking about it. The problem is that the people who were calling wanted it right now, not in three months, and while a few people did put their names down to get a copy ordered for them, most of them didn’t bother. The three-month lag is more than long enough for the general public to forget that they ever cared about a funnybook anyway, and of the people who ordered it, I’ll be pleasantly surprised if any of them actually bother to show up to get it.

Comics are a strange business.

But if there’s one thing that I’m sure the ISB die-hards care less about than Archie, it’s the process that goes into figuring out how many copies of Archie to order, so let’s move on to the contents. The story, which I’ve previously referred to as What-If Wedding of the Willennium, is written by Michael Uslan (who produced the Batman movies), and–you might want to sit down for this one–it is not very good. Really, that’s not much of a shock; most Archie books tend to fall somewhere between Decent and Annoying, with the occasional trip into Mildly Terrible.

SIDENOTE: Man, the last issue of Archie? That thing was all about the 40th anniversary of a hippie music festival in Riverdale called Riverstock, and it was dire. Not only did they reveal that in the Archie universe, Jimi Hendrix didn’t die, but in surviving, he was eventually reduced to opening for the friggin’ Archies. What a world.

To be fair, there’s nothing glaringly wrong with what Uslan is doing here, and in fact, the way it’s set up is actually pretty clever. Archie goes to Memory Lane–which is a literal street named Memory Ln. that leads to pedestrian time travel, a plot device that’s been used over the past year to celebrate anniversaries by having the Archie characters of 2009 meet up with their original counterparts, which, again, is something only I would know or care about–but instead of walking down he walks up, and gets to a fork in the road that obviously represents the Betty/Veronica choice. He picks one way at random and we get the story of his wedding to Ronnie, which sets up the future issues where he’ll go right instead of left and we’ll get the story of his marriage to Betty.

Beyond that, though–and beyond the fact that Future Ronnie’s haircut looks like Superman’s mid-90s mullet–it’s just boring.

SIDENOTE 2: You know, back in the ’40s and ’50s, Veronica rocked the Bettie Page style haircut with the bangs and all. Considering that it’s sort of come back into fashion–at least among girls who want to look like Bettie Page, which is a pretty noble goal–they really should’ve used it here for Future Ronnie as a way to set her apart that didn’t look like she was about to fight Kismet or the Millennium Giants.

Anyway, it makes me wonder what we would’ve gotten if they’d brought in Batton Lash, of Freshman Year and, more importantly, Archie Meets the Punisher fame. As strange as it might sound to those of you who haven’t read it, there’s a genuine love of the characters in there that’s combined with a knack for tying things together that one would think would’ve made him perfect for this type of story. But like I said when I reviewed Batman RIP, there’s not much point in arguing what might’ve been; this is what we’ve got, and it’s pretty sub-par.

And worst of all, it came out a year after I did my Common People mash-up. There’s like five panels in here I could’ve used!


Killer of Demons: Okay, okay, we already know that this series was a lot of fun. Yost is an extremely talented writer with a great sense of humor, Wegener’s a phenomenal artist (as we previously saw in Atomic Robo, and the trade has some fantastic bonus stuff that’s worth taking a look at even if you’ve got the original issues. None of that is important.

What matters to you, the discerning blog reader, is that this is the first trade paperback that I’ve written the foreword to. That’s right, folks: Pop this sucker open and the first thing you’ll see is an introduction by me, the Internet’s Chris Sims. So you’re probably going to want to buy two (or three) and keep them sealed in mylar so that you can use them for currency in the World That’s Coming.

Seriously though, it was a thrill to be asked to write the foreword because I really do think it’s a fun comic that came as an extremely pleasant surprise, and it’d be worth checking out even without seven rambly, half-nonsense paragraphs by me slapped into the front. But, uh, if anyone asks, tell them that’s why you got it.


The Middleman: The Doomsday Armageddon Apocalypse: Long-time ISB readers will recall that I’m a pretty big fan of Javier Grillo-Marxuach’s Middleman as both a comic and its (sadly short-lived) television incarnation, owing to the fact that it’s almost scientifically tailored to my tastes, what with all the kung fu luchadores and talking gorillas, not to mention the TV show’s ridiculously attractive cast. And before you ask, yes, I’m specifically thinking of Matt Keeslar here. Seriously, have you seen that dude’s abs? I was like dang.

What? Google it. You’ll see.

Anyway, given how I feel about the series thus far, this is less a review and more of a reminder that it came out for any like-minded fans who may have missed it, but I will say that as a fan from the beginning, it’s sort of an odd experience to read. It’s certainly not bad–it’s quite fun–but rather than a continuation of the comics (which were all collected in a handy omnibus that I’m not even going to bother linking to, as the only one on Amazon is a hundred bucks), it’s definitely a sequel to the TV show, with Armando Zanker’s art drawn to reflect the actors. Again, that’s not bad at all, and it does provide a nice bit of closure, but it gives it a weird sort of Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game sort of feel. Except for the part where it’s not terrible.

All in all, it reads like exactly what it was meant to be: A series finale for the TV show that ties everything together, and while it doesn’t quite have the zing of the Grillo-Marxuach/Les McClaine stories, it’s well worth picking up.



And that’s the week! As always, any questions or concerns can be left in the comments section below, but before I go reward myself for getting through another round of reviews, here’s something I forgot to mention when I came back after my vacation:

For those of you who aren’t sick of hearing my voice on War Rocket Ajax, I was interviewed on another podcast while I was out! Check out Geek Speak for the roundtable discussion and interview they invited me to, where I talk about everything from RoboCop 2 to my unabashed love of Christian Bale’s Batman Voice.

So basically just the stuff I talk about all the time anyway.

The Clutches of Doctor Doom!

One of the side effects of working in a comic book store for as long as I have is that when it’s time to hit up the cheap books at a convention, there’s not a whole lot that I’m looking for anymore. Unlike previous years, where I’ve gone up looking to fill out runs of Legion of Super-Heroes or Power Man and Iron Fist, there aren’t too many holes in my collection that need to be patched, and so I ended up coming out of HeroesCon with a mere two comics.

And they were both issues of Life With Archie.

I’ve mentioned Life With Archie and my affection for it before–as recently as yesterday, in fact–but for those of you just joining us, I’ll explain. Life With Archie and its companion series, Archie at Riverdale High, abandoned the alleged humor of the main series in favor of having the title character deal with serious issues like racism, bears, and the occasional “Aura of Satan” that crop up in Riverdale on a monthly basis.

Of course, this being Archie, the word “serious” might be a little strong. Half the stories essentially function like Very Special Episodes of Saved by the Bell, with time-honored plot hooks like someone being framed for thievery, but the other half are just bizarre.

Case in point: Life With Archie #190, featuring Archie’s showdown with Doctor Doom.



Of course, the Dr. Doom in question is not Victor Von (or Viktor Vaughn), or even the Mad Doctor Doom, who appeared in the pages of Little Archie a year after the first appearance of the Marvel character, which means that there are at least two Doctors Doom in Riverdale, which is actually pretty awesome.

There’s probably like six J. Jonah Jamesons.

No, this is Doctor Cyrus P. Doom, but rest assured: Just like the other two, he is up to no good.



But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The whole thing starts with… well, it actually starts exactly like the opening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but without the wedding at the beginning and the really annoying people insisting that you watch it: Archie and Betty get stuck in the mud outside of a sinister-looking mansion and attempt to take refuge within when they’re greeted by one of the occupants:



Playing the part of Riff Raff this evening is young Jason Doom, who initially tries to give our heroic young couple the brush-off, but is stymied when his Uncle Cyrus shows up and invites the kids in, which is a pretty generous move for a guy named Doctor Doom.

Then again, perhaps he has an… ulterior motive.



That’s right, Betty. You haven’t been made cozy until a guy who looks like a wayward clone of Benjamin Franklin has made you cozy.

Before he can put his sexy, sexy master plan into motion, however, Betty stumbles on a secret passage and, being the nosy young snoop that she is, wanders down into the de rigueur secret laboratory below the mansion:



How exactly she manages to get into Doctor C.P. Doom’s bell jar remains unrevealed, but we’ll have to put that aside for the moment, because this is about where things start to get weird.

Why? Because it is at this point that we find out that Dr. Doom has discovered the secret of immortality. And, purely by coincidence, that he might not be the most stable guy in the world.



Yes, it turns out that the kindly Dr. Doom is–surprise!–a raving, murderous lunatic, but while he’s perfectly willing to kill Archie and Betty to keep the secret of eternal life, the real threat turns out to be Jason, who is not only egging his loopy uncle on, but taking advantage of his scientific knowhow for his own sinister goals:



Okay, look: Criticizing the plot of an issue of Life With Archie is sort of like checking the nutrition facts on a Big Mac in that it’s pointless and you knew what you were getting into anyway, but really? Counterfeit Perfume?

I mean, is that really that lucrative? And even if it is, does it really warrant Betty’s “That’s Evil!”? Yeah, it’s pretty shady, but I don’t think a bottle of bootleg CK One quite counts as evil, even in Riverdale.

My theory is that Jason only became a perfume counterfeiter (or “scentlegger” as they’re called in the trade) after the Comics Code Authority had a look, and that in the original script, Jason was totally running a meth lab.

Anyway, Archie isn’t about to let some tweaker hassle his girl, so, true to form, he goes apeshit…



…and smashes up enough stuff that everything works out okay. Thus, Betty is freed, Jason is jailed, and Dr. Doom is sent to a mental institution, which… is kind of a crappy ending for him, but he seems happy so whatever.

Plus, we all learn an invaluable lesson, and that is this: In Archie Comics, “perfume” is a code-word for “crystal meth.”

And that’s real.

I Swear I Am Not Making This Up

Everything I am about to write is true. No panels have been edited.

The latest issue of Jughead and Friends Digest opens with a story called “Getting His Goat,” credited to long-time Archie writer and Sabrina the Teenage Witch co-creator George Gladir and artist Tim Kennedy.

In the story, Riverdale High School is having a “Pet Day,” where the students are encouraged to bring their pets to school, which will encourage literacy in a way that isn’t exactly made clear. Jughead, of course, wants to bring Hot Dog, but is stuck minding a trio of goats named Amos, Bobby and Donny that were left with him by his uncle, who is apparently a farmer, albeit an irresponsible one.

Rather than just skipping Pet Day, Jughead enlists Archie and Chuck to help out, and after labeling each goat with its initial, they head to the school. Predictably, chaos ensues when the goats spook the dogs and the dogs spook the cats, and all the animals end up trampling the visiting superintendent, who orders Principal Weatherbee to get every last animal out of the school.

And then this happens.



Yes: Since they’ve gotten rid of Goats A, B and D, Weatherbee assumes they missed one, and begins searching for Goat C, as seen in the right half of the story’s last panel:



Meanwhile, on the other side of the panel:



There may be some of you out there who don’t understand why this is kind of a big deal. You are the lucky ones.

For the rest of you, I know. I couldn’t believe it either. This is Archie Comics, the people who make jokes about text messaging that only seem to have the vaguest understanding of what it actually is, and since Gladir’s been working there for at least 47 years, it’s not like he’s a new renegade trying to subvert the system. And yet, there is no way it’s not intentional, especially in the wake of Adam Koford’s Laugh-Out-Loud Cats doing the same joke in 2007.

[EDIT: Actualy, there’s a chance it’s an amazing coincidence. See Chuck’s comment below.]

Either way, I am now freaking out.

And Now…

Jughead Jones


Fashion Icon


Yes, that is real. And what’s more, it actually came out this week. Even better, it came out in one of the digests, and since everything but the lead story in an Archie digest is a reprint, that means that, unless some clever Dan went in and updated Jughead’s shirt from its original “Where’s The Beef?”, that it may have actually happened in the full-size mags months ago.

Either way, I’m calling it: At only a year and a half since the event being referenced, this is the most current pop-culture reference that Archie Comics have ever made, beating out the same issue’s American Idol joke by a good five years.