The Week In Ink: 5-31-07

That ominous rumble of thunder that you may have heard yesterday as you approached your local comic book store? That, my friends, was the sound of a day when Anita Blake, Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose, and Dark Xena all hit the stands at the same time.

I call it… the Perfect Storm.



Yes, comics may have been delayed this week, and while words can barely capture the abject joy that I felt reading through this week’s stack, the Internet’s Most Mind-Shattering Comics Reviews can wait no longer! Here’s my highly dubious purchases from this week…



…and these are the even more questionable opinions that led me to those purchases!





Amazons Attack #2: The second installment of Amazons Attack is nowhere near as jarringly disjointed as the first one, but I was still pretty lost in a few places, and I’m really not sure whose fault that is. I mean, really: you can’t blame Will Pfeifer, whose run on Catwoman continues to be one of the best books DC’s publishing, for writing a footnote-laden story that doesn’t quite make sense if you’re not following the book it spins out of, what with its very nature as a spin-off. If anything, it’s Jodi Picoult’s fault for not appearing to have any discernable idea of what she’s doing on the main title, thus keeping me from reading it. Either way, it’s got its solid, exciting moments (like the Amazons being bad enough to bring down a fighter jet with a bow and arrow), and while it pains my heart to see Pfeifer have the Justice League referring to each other by their first names while they’re out in public, I guess that’s just what those guys do now. I just wish I wasn’t missing half the story.


Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter: Guilty Pleasures Handbook #1: Because apparently, there’s a market for a book of in-depth information on characters from a comic book less than a year old, read almost exclusively by people who have also read the twenty-eight part novel series upon which it is based. That’s why.


Countdown #48: As those of you who have been paying attention may remember, my policy with Countdown since the first underwhelming issue has been to wait out the first four to give the entire rotation of writers a chance, and while I can already tell that it’s going to be one of those books that’s perpetually on the chopping block, I’m just barely interested enough in it to keep going. At this point, despite what looks like Adam Beechen’s best efforts at dredging up something interesting, it’s succeeding solely on the fact that it’s posing a few interesting questions (like why Jimmy Olsen’s sprouting new super-powers, apparently at random), but it’s severely held back by the fact that the majority of the questions tend to involve characters that I just don’t care about at all, and while 52 did a pretty bang-up job of juggling the multiple storylines (usually by focusing them on different characters in each issue), Countdown just feels jumbled and choppy. Throw in yet another phenomenally boring back-up feature about how the Multiverse works now–because, y’know, we didn’t get enough of that last year with Donna Troy and her floating basketball–and it really just boils down to wanting to know what’s up with Jimmy and the New Gods.

Seriously, though: Perry White?! Is there anybody left who doesn’t know Jason Todd’s secret identity?


Daredevil #97: Ah, finally: For those of you wondering if I actually liked new comics anymore, allow me to reassure you with that most soothing balm to today’s discerning comics reader, Ed Brubaker. I generally have nothing but good things to say about Brubaker and Lark’s Daredevil, and this issue’s no exception, seeing as it involves a blind ninja acrobat lawyer fighting a mentally-disabled man who puts on a helmet, straps buzzsaws to his wrists and essentially becomes Master Blaster from Beyond Thunderdome on a rampage. That, my friends, is almost exactly what I want from a comic, and the only reason it doesn’t hit the mark dead on is that you just cannot feasably add a bear to the fight scenes of every comic.

Not yet, anyway. We just don’t have the technology.


Dark Xena #2: Words fail me whenever I try to convey my feelings about this, the greatest comic ever produced by the hands of men, but allow me, if you will, to just point out one thing about this issue: Evil Xena–who proves that she’s way more evil than Good Xena by quoting Evil Willow from that one episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer–is rolling around the countryside with her crew, which consists of Big German (?!) Guy, Hot Ninja Girl, and Ted Raimi’s Evil Twin Brother Who Is Also Portrayed By Ted Raimi, which is something I didn’t even know my life had been lacking until today. Truly, a world in which this comic exists is the finest of all possible worlds.




Hellboy: Darkness Calls #2: I probably mention this every time I talk about my love for Hellboy, but if you grab yourself a copy of the first trade, you’ll probably notice that it’s dedicated to H.P. Lovecraft and Jack Kirby, and in that one quick summary of his influences, Mike Mignola explains the aesthetic that makes Hellboy so great. It’s the conflict between the unfathomable horrors that lurk in darkness–always drawn in shadowed, dim tones–and the bright red stone-handed monster-punching hero, who continues to remain thoroughly unimpressed with the creatures of the night even as they attempt to reveal sinister prophecies about his own destiny.

Prophecies that he interrupts in this issue by telling them, and I quote:

“How ’bout this?
I let you finish your little meeting,
and I won’t shoot anybody
or burn the place down.”

How can you not love a character like that? Short answer: You can’t, and this issue’s Hellboy at his best, with Mignola’s fantastic script and some truly amazing art by Duncan Fegredo, who does a great job of keeping the look of the series consistent with the earlier installments. Simply put, it’s excellent stuff, but really: Nobody needs me to tell them how good Hellboy is.


Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #44: To put it mildly, Tarot is a book that often raises a lot of questions whenever I read it, and this month, I guess the one that springs readily to mind is this: Come on, Jim Balent, are you even really trying anymore?

Of course, the jury’s still out on whether or not Balent’s ever tried, but really: This one opens up with a scene that’s pretty much the exact same sequence as the last issue, but with a different background, as Tarot shows up for a witchity meeting and–finding herself stood up again–decides to go ahead and diddle herself for nine pages, at which time a big angry rock monster shows up to conk her on the head and introduce her to the wonderful world of bondage fetishism. Incidentally, it’s at this time that Tarot takes to referring to her vagina as both an “altar” and a “cauldron,” thus killing any joy that was left over from watching Balent’s difficulty with homophones. Also of note: Tarot’s new friends in this issue, Twizelpix and Twylynn, both of whom manage to make it through the issue naked and nearly pecked to death by crows in what Balent describes as a story that “celebrates women.”

So yeah, Countdown‘s lookin’ a lot better about now.


Teen Titans #47: This has been one of those titles that I’ve been buying more out of curiosity as to what’s going to happen next than actual enjoyment since before the One Year Later jump, but I’ve been looking forward to Adam Beechen coming on the title for a few months, especially given his stellar current run on Robin. Sadly, his first issue as solo writer seems full of wasted potential, and even forgiving last month’s ludicrous plot–where Deathstroke apparently got the bright idea that his kids would have a better life if he pretended to try to kill them, in what essentially amounts to Geoff Johns re-using Zoom’s motivation–there’s just not a whole lot here to like. It’s bogged down with tie-ins to Countdown and Amazons Attack, neither of which I particularly care about, and rounded out with a big fight that feels like it was thrown in just to meet a page count, and there’s no real reason to keep buying it unless a new direction hits soon.





Penny Arcade v.4: Birds Are Weird: Unless it’s your first day on the internet and you decided to see what happened when you typed “vampire batman punching dogs” into Google, you probably don’t need me to draw your attention to the fine comic strips of Penny Arcade. Seriously, though, even if you’ve been holding off on buying the print versions–which is a pretty understandable decision, given the fact that you can read the whole strip for free online–this one’s well worth the purchase. Why? Because for the bonus material, they’ve printed up some of Gabe’s downright Liefeldian Middle School work, when he was creating masterful super-hero work like Psy-Fox and a character that is “essentially Wolverine plus electricity.” I haven’t laughed so hard reading something since… well, since Satan’s Sodomy Baby, but man, it’s funny.



And that’s the week, and while there’s an awful lot of negativity up there, I guess it’s nice to be reminded that a set of standards that allows for enjoying Tarot can still find fault in… well, anything, really. As always, if you’ve got any questions or concerns about this week’s reviews–like, say, why I bothered to take the extra day when I had such a relatively small amount of comics to review, and whether or not it had anything to do with Super Paper Mario–feel free to leave a comment.

The Week In Ink: 5-23-07

Oh Dynamite Entertainment, why do you play with my emotions?

Yes, friends, despite the fact that it’s been three whole weeks since the skies opened up and bestowed Dark Xena to soothe the brow of a weary populace, the second issue still hasn’t come out.

I guess I’ll just have to distract myself with other concerns…



Ah, kick-to-the-face. You’re always there when I need you.

And I’m always here when you need me for the Internet’s Most Mind-Boggling Comics Reviews! Here’s what I managed to pick up this week…



…and these are the snappiest judgements on the Comics Blogger Internet!





Captain America #26: Captain America?! But I thought that series was over because he was permanently dead forever!

And that, dear friends, is exactly what it’s like to work in comics retail. But that’s beside the point, which is that Ed Brubaker and the art team of Epting, Perkins, and D’Armata have turned in a fantastic follow-up to Cap’s death, and that’s no mean feat. #25, after all, was shockingly well-done, even from a team that hasn’t made a misstep with the character in the past two years, and with an issue dealing with the aftermath of the book’s title character being gunned down in the middle of the street, it’s not difficult for things to go south pretty quickly. They don’t, though, and this issue’s focus on the supporting cast–from the angry and ashamed Sharon Carter to an increasingly bitter Luke Cage, all the way down to a painfully awkward Rick Jones–makes for a fantastic read for a book with a one-page cameo by the corpse of its star.

Plus, and I honestly never thought I’d be saying this, Bucky is awesome.


Countdown #49: Before I actually got a chance to read this issue, I saw someone on the Internet angrily mention that “Jimmy Olsen is the new Elongated Man,” which apparently means that despite my best efforts, there are still people out there who are unaware of Jimmy’s career as Elastic Lad, and that’s just depressing.

Anyway, despite my utter dislike for the first two issues of Countdown, I’ve decided to hold on for at least the first month, just to give the whole rotation of writers a chance to prove there’s something worthwhile here. After all, I stayed on Brad Meltzer’s Justice League of America for four issues, and that thing was nothing short of abysmal from page one, so how could I not give Paul Dini & Co. the same courtesey? The problem here, of course, is that while this issue’s a heck of a lot better than the first two, it’s still not really that good; a few decent scenes with Karate Kid and the Pied Piper do not a whole story make, and the “History of the Multiverse” story is already giving me flashbacks to the fun-sucking black holes that were the Donna Troy backups at the start of 52.

And really: If we’re not done with Black Adam ripping people in half after World War III, than that piece o’ crap has officially accomplished absolutely nothing. Also, a quick note to Jimmy Olsen: Discussing the Red Hood’s secret identity on a cellular phone while WALKING THROUGH ARKHAM ASYLUM? Yeah, not a good idea.


Cover Girl #2: As if in answer to my complaint that the first issue slammed into its ending a little too suddenly for my tastes, the latest from Andrew Cosby, Kevin Church, and penciller Mateus Santolouco hit shelves just two weeks after the first one, and it’s just as enjoyable as the first.

The story picks up with the same fun pace (and same slam-bang-style ending as the first issue) as Alex Martin finds himself targeted by sinister Hollywood assassins, and while Rachel and Dwight–his bodyguards–are sharp and sarcastic in their interactions with him, it’s played in such a way that it lets them be funny without undermining his inherent likeability, which is a tough trick to pull off. Oh, and there’s also an extended action sequence involving a Rachel in a designer dress shooting at Bad Guys while leaning out the passenger window of a speeding car, and darn it, that’s the sort of thing we like to see around here.

And if that isn’t enough incentive to buy this thing, then allow me to hip you to five words worth of knowledge:


Davita Campbell and Christopher Simms


If those aren’t the sensational character finds of 2007, then brother, I don’t know what is.


Criminal #6: When you get right down to it, the fact of the matter is that nobody in comics today does crime stories as well as Ed Brubaker does, whether it’s the cops who take on the super-villains in Gotham Central, the super-villains who take on the cops in Sleeper, or this title, which is made of just straight-up, hard-boiled, two-fisted stories of bad people in a worse world,l and it is fantastic. But where the first story-arc (conveniently available in paperback for those of you who missed out the first time around) started as a heist that turned sour, this one looks like a simple tale of revenge from a man so tough that he got kicked out of Iraq, and that’s one of the most exciting premises I’ve read in a long while. If you haven’t already, jump on: It’s phenomenal stuff.




Fantastic Four #546: I haven’t made a secret of the fact that I’ve been enjoying the heck out of his work on FF, but over the past few months, Dwayne McDuffie’s become one of those rare writers who manages to top himself with every single issue–and the fact that he’s doing it on the flagship book of the Marvel Universe just makes it more impressive.

The earnest attempts to redeem Reed Richards from recent portrayals as a total jerk, the spotlight thrown onto second-stringers like Gravity and Deathlok, the portrayal of Black Panther as an absolute master strategist who’s equally at home using the technology of Dr. Doom and the magic of King Solomon, heck, aside from the fact that it’s sporting a Michael Turner cover, there is quite simply nothing about this issue that isn’t a flat-out joy to read, even with the confusion over whether or not Stardust is actually a woman.

But really, when you’ve got Black Panther and Deathlok teleporting to Epoch with an Astro-Harness so that they can create a distraction that lets Gravity take on Galactus, that’s a tertiary concern at best, and it all ads up to one of the finest books on the stands. It’s excellent stuff, but from a team like McDuffie, Paul Pelletier, and Rick Magyar, I’d expect nothing less.


Hellblazer #232: I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve been wanting to see John Constantine return to his original look as the sharp-dressed sorceror with white gloves and three-piece suit look for almost as long as I’ve been reading Hellblazer, and it’s finally happened, if only for an issue or two. And of course, while that’s certainly no substitute for getting him to show up in Catwoman to fight the all-new, all-deadly Demons Three or something, Andy Diggle and Leonardo Manco certainly make it a heck of a lot of fun as Constantine does what he does best, manipulating and smirking his way through a story that builds to a pretty exciting ending for fans of the book. Right from the start, it looks like Diggle’s run is going to be built on a foundation of Constantine confronting his own sordid past, and with almost twenty years worth of screwing the forces of darkness under his belt, there’s a lot about that to be excited about.


Madman Atomic Comics #2: Hey, you know what would be awesome? If Madman Gargantua would finally come out so I could read it and know what the Samuel Langhorne Heck was going on here!


Marvel Adventures: Iron Man #1: It used to be my long-standing opinion–thanks to books like Puckett and Parobeck’s Batman Adventures and Mark Millar’s great run on Superman Adventures–that when it came to kids’ comics, DC pretty much had Marvel beaten by miles, but lately, things seemed to have reversed thanks to the talent they’ve been putting on the Marvel Adventures line, and there’s really no better example of that than this one. It’s a solid, enjoyable Iron Man story that manages to get an updated version of his origin knocked out with enough room to spare for a couple of fights with the sinister technology of AIM in there, and it succeeds for the simple reason that Fred Van Lente (with whom ISB readers should already be familiar as the writer of the indispensible Action Philosophers) doesn’t bother for one second to talk down to his audience.

Jeff Parker’s very much the same way in MA Avengers, but even that book suffers slightly from the restrictions of a “kid-friendly” series, like having Wolverine that has to provide him with a steady supply of robots to cut down instead of people, but here, it’s a complete non-issue: The way Van Lente’s set up the over-arching story, Van Lente could do the whole series with Iron Man fighting nothing but robots without making it seem forced, and he pulls it off with the same amount of nearly incomprehensible technobabble that’s served as the cornerstone of Tony Stark’s adventures for his entire career. And he even manages to fit in the New Scorpion’s mom. It’s surprisingly solid, even for a first issue, and if you’ve got an urge to see Iron Man in a book where he’s not launching a military coup, check it out.

And speaking of Iron Man being a jerk…


She-Hulk #18: So a mere three weeks after the comic that takes place immediately after this issue–which for those of you keeping score would be Incredible Hulk #106–this one finally comes out, and despite the fact that I already knew going into it how it was going to play out, this was easily one of the best comics I read all week. Dan Slott does a perfect job with the script, and while I prefer Rick Burchett’s Bruce Timm-esque animated-style art in a lot of ways to what he’s doing with She-Hulk, this issue features some of his best work on the title so far in the scenes where Jennifer storms off angrily to confront Iron Man about his scret club launching her cousin into space. It’s about time someone on his side finally calls Tony out on his hypocracy, and while it could just be Slott channeling the frustration of the readership, it’s amazing that he makes She-Hulk’s criticisms the forefront of the sequence, even while she’s throwing Iron Man through helicopters on the SHIELD Helicarrier. It’s the moment I’ve been waiting for since the start of Civil War, and in one line about tin-plated dictators remaking the world in their own image, Slott absolutely nails it. It’s great stuff, and it’s only getting me more excited about what comes next. Well done!





Diary of Indignities: I’ve never read Patrick Hughes before, but when I saw the solicitation for his book in Previews a few months ago, where it was described as a book of humor columns reprinted from his blog, it wasn’t exactly something that I felt like I could pass up, for obvious reasons. Of course, one of the bad things about doing reviews the day after I buy things is that I haven’t had time to really sit down and read it, but while I’ve only read the first few pages, I like this guy already. Why? Because the first sentence of the book is as follows:

Oh, I just remembered–one time I made out with this retarded kid in church.

Now that is an intro. Even better, it’s a mere ten paragraphs after that that he starts referencing The Four Horsemen. Even better than that? The tagline for his blog: “Striving to find a way to punch people in the face by using the Internet.” Clearly, this man is someone I can agree with. If anyone’s interested, I’ll post a full review once I’m done with it, but until then, feel free to read along in your own copy.

Whaddaya say, folks? ISB Book Club?


The Original Encyclopedia of Comic Book Heroes v.1: Batman: If you’ve ever wanted to see what a truly overwhelming amount of information on Golden and Silver Age Batman looks like, well look no further, friends: Here it is.

I, of course, have always wanted to see this sort of thing, so allow me to report that Michael Fleisher’s definitive 1976 reference book is everything I dreamed of and more. I literally spent hours today just reading through the hundred-page entry on Batman (which includes twelve sub-sections detailing his skills, equipment, and allies), and in addition to finding it fascinating, I was shocked by how thorough it is, with each reference meticulously cited and appearances faithfully noted for every major character.

Admittedly, it takes a certain kind of person to sit around reading a purposely dry reference tome on Batman, and I fit that demographic pretty squarely, but there are sections that are just phenomenally interesting, like Fleisher’s in-depth examination of why Batman’s relationships with Julie Madison and Vicki Vale dissolve, while Catwoman remains a fixture, or–probably my favorite part–the detailed list of everyone Batman killed (and how!) back in the early days when he did that sort of thing.

Plus it’s got what might be, outside of “S For Shakespeare,” the best panel ever:




And that’s the week. As always, if you’ve got a question about something I read (or didn’t read), or if you just want to confirm that, yes, I’m enjoying Madman despite an utter lack of context or chat about how great the plot concepts are in Wisdom despite my nagging feeling that there’s just something missing from it, feel free to drop a line in the comments section or at the address in the sidebar. As for me, I’ll be sitting here trying to figure out how that panel came about, and how I managed to make it this long without ever seeing it before.


The Week In Ink: 5-17-07

Oh, All-Star Batman… Why you gotta hurt me so good?



That’s right, folks: A mere three hundred and sixty-four days since I reviewed the last issue, Frank Miller and Jim Lee have finally gotten it together long enough to produce another installment of their mind-bending All-Star Batman, and a kick to the face like that can only mean that it’s time once again for another round of the Internet’s Most Senses-Shattering Comics Reviews!

Here’s a list of what I bought yesterday (which astoundingly includes a few titles that were shipping a mere month after their last issue)…



…and here’s what I thought about ’em!




All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder #5: And now, the ISB Proudly Presents a selection of actual dialogue from All-Star Batman #5:

Wonder Woman: You bastard! You bastard. I hate your guts. I hate your guts. You make me sick. You make me sick.

Its called being paid by the word, folks.

Anyway, at this point, I think at this point, we can all pretty much agree that ASBAR is just awful, but the debate rages on as to whether or not it’s actually awful on purpose, and I honestly don’t know which side I’m on. I mean, this is a book where the first piece of dialogue is Wonder Woman saying “Out of my way, sperm bank,” and it just gets funnier from there. Seriously, every single page of this thing is a riot, from the scene where Miller just goes ahead and re-does a scene from Sin City with Dwight and Gail re-cast as Superman and Wonder Woman to the page where Batman responds to a thug asking “What?” by punching him so hard that a nearby woman immediately falls in love with him. See? It’s amazing.

And yet the whole thing’s played so straight by Miller and Jim Lee that it’s impossible to tell if it’s genius or madness, and the only thing I really know for sure is that it’s absolutely freakin’ hilarious. Intentional or not, it’s a hoot, and while I hate to support a “monthly” comic that only bothers to come out once a year, it’s worth $2.99 just to get a line like Superman’s stirring: “Damn you, Diana! Damn you and your Amazon arrogance!” Delightful!


Batman #665: Prophetic dreams, maniac cops and an impending battle with The Devil Himself next month aside, if there’s anything that belongs in the Black Casebook, it’s a story where Batman and Superman go back to 1776 and try to have each other convicted of witchcraft so that they can beat an evil karate genie. Just sayin’.


Catwoman #67: Over at his highly entertaining blog, writer Will Pfeifer referred to this issue of Catwoman as a humdinger that never lets up, and brother, he ain’t lyin’. I’ve mentioned before that this book has been pretty much flawless over the past year, but with the last few issues, it’s been all-out action with beautiful artwork by David Lopez, and it’s just an absolute joy to read. I mean really: It might just be me, but seeing a pair of Russian super-villains whose real names are Boris and Natasha is just something that never gets old, and when said super-villains are also being shot, blown up and kicked out of windows while Holly drops another uppercut on Blitzkrieg, it all adds up to one of the most solidly entertaining comics on the market today.


Conan #40: I think it’s been pretty well established here on the ISB that my love for Conan and his adventures is second to none, but believe me: I have never seen things go from life-threatening to slapstick quite as fast as they do in this issue, and it is fantastic. Tim Truman’s been doing a great job with the series ever since he took over, but with this one, it’s like he decided halfway through to replace his script with a series of phenomenally violent Looney Tunes gags–complete with Thoth Amon falling, Wile E. Coyote-esque, off a cliff and showing up none the worse for wear on the next page, already hatching a new scheme–and while that could easily go wrong, it’s great here, right down to the Prince and Wazir reacting to it at the end. I’m not sure if I want every issue to be like this, with the evil wizards of Stygia trying to brain Conan with Acme-brand anvils, but…

…Aw, who am I kidding? That’d be awesome.


Countdown #50: So last week, I said that a story about Jimmy Olsen going up against the Joker was “pretty much foolproof,” and if there’s one thing I should know from reviewing comics for the past couple of years, it’s that saying that sort of thing will almost invariably result in the storyline in question failing miserably. So there you have it, folks: Countdown #50 sucks, and it’s all my fault. I apologize.

Well, maybe not all my fault. I mean, I’m not the one who thought that Jimmy Olsen knowing Jason Todd and Dick Grayson’s (and therefore Batman’s) secret identities was a good idea, nor did I suggest that Jim Calafiore completely forget how to draw during the Mary Marvel sequences, and I certainly didn’t tell anyone to just redo a couple of pages from Justice League of America. And now that I think of it, I didn’t sit down and write a script where Jimmy Olsen–a journalist–isn’t able to figure out that Duela Dent isn’t really the Joker’s daughter, or that included a darn near incomprehensible scene with the Rogues, so maybe I’m not to blame after all. One thing doesn’t change, though: It is not very good.

I’m doing my best to hold out for the first month just to see the full rotation of writers for this thing, but with two full issues of absolutely nothing worth reading, I can’t see myself sticking it out for the full year, even if I do still want that t-shirt.



Satan’s Sodomy Baby: You know, what can you really say about Satan’s Sodomy Baby that isn’t summed up right there in the title of the book?

How about this: It might well be the single funniest thing that Eric Powell has produced in his entire career, and as the cover suggests, it is astonishingly offensive. Of course, coming from a creator that responded to winning an Eisner Award by including a scene that saw “a simpleton playing in his own filth” in The Goon, it should come as no surprise that the story just gets funnier and funnier as Powell pushes the envelope in a story of the Devil’s back-door lovin’, the grim consequences that result, and the Goon’s quest to put that sucker right back where it goes.

It’s the kind of book that you imagine Powell could barely draw from laughing at the punchline on every single page, and I don’t blame him. I’ve read the thing cover to cover three times already today, and there are still panels that I burst out laughing when I see. It’s fantastic, and if you missed ordering it from your shop–what with it only being solicited in the pages of Previews Adult–I’d advise you to do whatever you can to get a copy. It’s awesome, and that’s as much as I can possibly say without spoiling the jokes.


The Ultimates 2 #13: You know, nothing says “Suck it, All-Star Batman” quite like an eight-page gatefold of super-heroes fighting an army of trolls on the White House lawn. Yes, it’s the last bone-shattering installment of The Ultimates from Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch, and despite the fact that those guys missed the perfect opportunity for the return of Ultimate Volstagg, it pretty much confirms my theory that today’s Mark Millar is at his best when there is no possible chance of people acting out of character in his stories. This is, of course, aided by the fact that everyone pretty much acts the same in this book, but the point stands: When it comes to big, stupid fights where things get blown up and nothing really has to make sense, there really aren’t a lot of people who do it bigger, stupider or better than those guys. It’s nothing but fun, from a story that allows Thor to kill Loki four or five times before it sticks to a scene where Scarlet Witch makes a date with an Ultron robot, and even though it never freakin’ comes out, I’m sad to see it go. Not sad enough to, y’know, jump on the Jeph Loeb run or anything, but still.


X-Men First Class Special #1: Between Official Handbook pages for the original X-Men, the shocking return of Bernard the Poet, and a class trip to Monster Island, it can finally be said: Truly, this one has it all. Of course, the real gems of this issue–which sees Jeff Parker writing yet another solid, highly entertaining kid-friendly comic with a team that I don’t particularly care for otherwise–are the three short gag strips that Parker does with Colleen Coover. She’s one of my favorite artists, and seeing her drawing a story where Jean Grey throws cars around with her mind so that she can harness the power of cuteness for good, instead of evil is almost everything that I want to see from a comic about the original X-Men. It’s great stuff, and with First Class set to return as an ongoing series next month, there’s a heck of a lot to look forward to.





The Plain Janes: As long-time readers of the ISB will probably already know, I’ve been as excited about DC’s Minx line as is humanly possible for someone who falls squarely into the diametric opposite of the target audience can be ever since it was first announced. Long-time readers will probably also be familiar with my love of Degrassi, Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, and pretty ponies, so this probably wasn’t too shocking, but that’s beside the point: With the release of The Plain Janes, Minx has officially launched, and after reading through it today, I’m still pretty darn excited about the whole thing.

The story, as you might expect from the title, revolves around a girl named Jane who moves to a small town from her big-city home in the wake of an undefined terrorist attack, leaving behind her old friends, her old personality, and a comatose artist whose sketchbook inspires her to join up with three girls at her new school–Jane, Jayne, and Polly-Jane–to form an “art girl gang” called PLAIN that secretly creates art in the new town. It’s a plot that borders on farcical in a lot of places with how unabashedly goofy it gets, but it’s engaging and might well be the definition of “charming.” Probably owing a lot to the fact that she’s a novelist, Castellucci relies a lot on Main Jane’s first-person narration, and does a pretty fantastic job of giving a her an immediately likeable voice that drives the story, and Jim Rugg’s art is great, even with a distinct lack of ninjas, which he used to great artistic effect in the awesome Street Angel. It reads quick, but it’s a lot of fun while it lasts, and with it being the title I was least excited about, it bodes well for the rest of the line.


Showcase Presents the Flash v.1: ATTENTION, CITIZENS:


Barry Allen’s Head is Freakin’ Huge.


That is all.



And that’s the week. Yeah yeah, I know, I only reviewed half of the titles on my list, but hey: Chronicling the devastating adventures of the Bat-Witch takes it out of a guy. Besides, if you have any questions, comments, or just want to talk about what a great hardcover Mouse Guard turned into or debate the merits of Giant Girl’s new costume, feel free to leave a comment or shoot an email to the address at the right.

As for me, I’ll be trying to figure out why wind resistance didn’t just snap Barry’s neck the first time he got up to sixty. I mean really.

The Week In Ink: 5-10-07

And now, further evidence to support my theory that The Immortal Iron Fist is a thing of purest beauty:



That, my friends, is Danny Rand kicking a HYDRA soldier through a pneumatic subway train while his comrades look on, and that’s not even the most awesome thing Matt Fraction wrote this week! But can any amount of kicking even begin to approach the radiant genius that was last week’s Dark Xena? There’s only one way to find out, folks, and that means it’s time for the Internet’s Most Two-Fisted Comics Reviews, right here on the ISB!

This, for the record, is what I bought yesterday…



…and this, just between you and me, is what I thought about it:





Countdown #51: Hot on the heels of 52 is DC’s new weekly epic, and considering that it’s got Paul Dini running the show and guys like Sean McKeever and Adam Beechen writing good chunks of it, I’ve had pretty high expectations ever since it was announced. Until yesterday, that is, when it hit the shelves and landed with a resounding thud.

Of course, that might not be entirely Dini’s fault here. I’ve got my suspicions that–without even a week to separate the two–the start of Countdown‘s receiving the brunt of the reader fatigue brought on by the shaky, nonsensical ending of 52 and the utter mess that was World War 3, and while using the 52 logo for the numbering was a very clever gag for the cover, it doesn’t make it any easier to differentiate. Add to that the fact that it’s a) a first issue that b) tries to lay the groundwork for four or five different plotlines featuring c) a bunch of characters that, with the exception of Darkseid, I don’t really care about–and I’m looking at you here, Duela Dent–and the odds are stacked against it from the outset. Beyond that, it’s not glaringly bad in any way, and with another issue thudding into the racks next week and the promise of stories involiving characters I actually do like, it’ll be easy to give it another chance. At this point, though, I’m really not holding out much hope.

Well, except for Jimmy Olsen vs. the Joker. Surely that’s pretty much foolproof, right?


Cover Girl #1: The more astute readers among you may recognize this one as being co-written by comics blogger and Friend of the ISB Kevin Church (alongside “Hollywood” Andrew Cosby), and while Kevin’s got a few of Boom!’s What Were They Thinking remix scripts under his belt, this one marks his debut as the scripter of a more serious title. So needless to say, I was really, really hoping to be able to tear it apart tonight, thus preserving my source for free advice on coding my notoriously cranky site layout.

The problem with that theory, though, is my commitment to a relative amount of honesty when it comes to my reviews, and aside from the fact that Rachel’s pants aren’t nearly as tiny in the interiors as they are on Rafael Albuquerque’s slick cover, there’s not a lot to have a problem with here. The story’s immediately engaging, following failing actor Alex Martin as he rescues a woman from a firey car accident and is promptly rewarded with fame, riches, and a few attempted murders. It’s zippy and well-paced for the most part, and Martin comes off as likeable right from the start as he vents his frustrations on an automated phone tree, and the only part I didn’t particularly care for was the last page, where Rachel Dodd–the “girl” of the title and Alex’s new bodyguard–shows up and the issue comes to an abrupt end, which is sort of a necessary evil when it comes to introducing a lead character as a last-page reveal. Of course, it pretty much makes up for it by also featuring this panel:



Now that’s how you hook ’em.


Gen13 #8: He’s taken out super-heroes, super-villains, and entire armies singlehandedly, but apparently, the Midnighter is utterly stymied by the whining of a petulant teenager.

I kid, but there’s probably more truth to that than I’d like to admit, so I’ll be honest here: At this point, I’m just buying Gen13 because in theory, I should like it a lot. I like Gail Simone, and as I thoroughly chronicled back on ISB Classic, I really like Gen13, and I think that may actually be the problem here. Eight issues into the original run, the heavy-handed stories about growing up isolated and only having each other to turn to had pretty much been thrown by the wayside in favor of stories about fighting dinosaurs and pirates, and while those sorts of plotlines would’ve been a perfect match for the slapstick panache Simone used on Agent X–which had its share of well-done serious moments mixed in–she seems to want to go in a direction where everything’s really super serious and built around teenage rebellion rather than teenage fun.

Not that it doesn’t have the fun stuff in it, either, and in fact, this issue’s got the best gags of the run thus far, but I’m already using up a lot of my hope on Countdown, so holding out for Gen13 to get better in a story where it crosses over with Welcome to Tranquility–another one that I’m buying purely out of brand loyalty to Simone despite the fact that it leaves me pretty cold–might just be turning out to be more effort than it’s worth.


Immortal Iron Fist #5: So not to spoil anything, but in this issue, we find out that Danny Rand, the Iron Fist, has to battle the Immortal Warriors of the Seven Lost Cities while learning new techniques from a magical book made from the scale of a dragon that resonates with the power of his kung fu, and that means that essentially, this is the script to what would be the most awesome video game ever made… and I could not be happier with it.

Seriously, you might as well just throw in a handful of Magic Crystals and a kidnapped princess into that plot, but I could barely type that sentence for being so excited about it. And with good reason: Brubaker and Fraction know exactly what they’re doing with this thing, building up a mythology around the City of K’un L’un and spinning it out into its own awesome corner of the Marvel Universe, and they’re doing it in the most fun way possible. Even better, they’ve got David Aja drawing it, and if there was any more proof needed that he’s the perfect artist to capture the street-level intensity of an Iron Fist comic, then this issue’s double-page splash should pretty much seal the deal. Come on: A book of kung fu written on a dragon scale. That’s awesome.


Marvel Zombies: Dead Days #1: Quick show of hands: Was there anyone who read the solicitation that promised a “top-secret double gatefold” homage cover by Arthur Suydam and didn’t immediately know it was going to be X-Men #1? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Not a lot of famous double-gatefold covers out there. I just can’t for the life of me figure out why they bothered to keep it secret.

Anyway, for those of you who read last year’s smash-hit Marvel Zombies, but were left with questions that you felt needed answers, well, here they are, and as always, there’s nothing that quite defeats the purpose as thoroughly as explaining a joke for forty-eight pages. Don’t get me wrong: I thought Marvel Zombies was a riot, and it’s safe to say that I liked it as much as the next guy, assuming that the next guy isn’t one of those habitual point-missers complaning about how Wolverine shouldn’t have been turned into a zombie because of his healing factor, but the events leading up to the story are largely inconsequential, and, quite frankly, come off as really boring. To be fair, there are a couple of good jokes (“You saying you don’t want any of this Jarvis meat?” springs to mind), but on the whole, there’s not a whole heck of a lot in here that’s worth reading. Worse, it looks like the immensely talented Sean Philips knocked the art out in about fifteen minutes, which is fine with me since I’d rather have that guy turning out new issues of Criminal than squeezing the last few dollars out of a craze on its way out the door.


Nova #2:

As much as I loved the fast-paced deep-space adventure of the first issue of Nova, this one tops it, if only for the scene where Nova–who just led the armies of half the universe in a life-or-death conflict that saw the collapse of galaxy-spaning empires and the death of billions at the hands of an unstoppable horde–calls out Tony Stark–who just led the Sentry and Tigra in a mild sequence of fistfights that ended when Wonder Man accidentally put a hole in somebody’s wall–for being a total punk. It’s the sort of thing that I think we can all be excited about.

But that’s not really what’s important about this issue, and that, my friends, is the shocking return of Diamondhead, whose skull resembles a crystalline phallus and whose real name is–according to his first appearance, Arch Dyker. That’s enough to keep the Comics Blogger Internet going for months.


Phonogram #6: You heard it here first, folks: Phonogram is the best mini-series of the year. Admittedly, there’s still quite a bit of 2007 to get through–including a stretch that’ll see Fred Van Lente’s MODOK’s 11–but I honestly can’t imagine myself enjoying anything else quite like I’ve loved this comic, and this is the issue that made sure of it.

It’s not really about the music, either–although it certainly didn’t hurt that I’ve listened to and loved most of the stuff that Kieron Gillen references in the footnotes–but just the idea of a guy who has to literally fight to keep his own personality, even when he knows that his best years are behind him and that he’d probably be better off as someone else and that–to be honest–it’s not that great a personality to begin with just appeals to me on a basic level regardless of the context, and Gillen and McKelvie pull it off amazingly well. Add to that the fact that everybody gets the happy ending that they deserve, and you’ve got a book that I love every single part of.

Also, on a purely personal note, this issue actually marks the first time I’ve gotten one of Gillen’s references before it was explained, but really, when you toss out a reference to a song about kung fu movies that was used under the closing credits to Jackie Chan’s Rumble in the Bronx, I’m pretty much the exact target audience. And if that didn’t put my tastes in music-themed mystical adventures about introspection and self-identity into enough context to be highly dubious, then the next review probably will:




Punisher War Journal #7: So the Punisher knocks out a freakin’ bull with a two-by-four in this issue, and that’s still not the best thing that happens.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Look, I’m a guy with pretty specific tastes, I know, and as much as I like to consider myself a thinking man’s comics reviewer (see above), I think it’s become painfully clear by this point that I am all about the visceral reaction that comes from well-deserved violence, so believe me when I say that Frank Castle infiltrating a gang of Neo-Nazis led by the Hatemonger with the promise to shoot him in the face probably skews a little bit more towards me than anyone who’s going to be reading this. I know this. But I would be flat-out lying to you if I said that this issue–which is done with all the glorious, over-the-top style that you’d have to expect from a story where the Punisher starts dressing up like Captain America–was not one of the most entertaining, fun, and downright exciting comics I have ever read. Right from the recap page that promises the “all-new, all-racist Hate-Monger” to a last panel that had me laughing from the sheer badass dialogue and wild-eyed sincerity from the Punisher.

Also–and I might have mentioned this–he knocks out a freakin’ bull with a two-by-four:

A NAZI Bull. Sweet Christmas, I love this comic.


RexLibris #8: It’s been a while since I’ve mentioned the world’s toughest librarian, but while we’re on the subject, I feel compelled to point out that this issue opens with Rex kicking zombie Nazis (or is that Nazi zombies?) right in the face with a gun in one hand and a machete in the other, and that’s one of the many reasons why it’s the best issue of the series thus far. It could be that I’m still on a high from Frank pulling an X-Treme Hemingway up there mixed with this issue’s all-action premise, but while Rex Libris has always been a book with a concept so high that its execution almost has to fall short, this issue hit its stride perfectly. It’s highly entertaining stuff, and if you get a chance to check it out, do so.


Tales of the Unexpected #8: A few months ago, I mentioned that the only thing that would qualify as unexpected in this book would be if anything had actually bothered to happen in the Spectre story, and while the basic logic behind that statement might be sound, it turns out that there was something even more surprising about this book. I’ve said it before, but my opinion of Brian Azzarello as a writer dropped sharply over the past couple of years thanks to a lack of interest in 100 Bullets and what I found to be pretty incomprehensible stories in the pages of Superman and Batman, so I wasn’t going into this thing with any hope to enjoy his story. Eight months later, and I’m hoping he gets a new ongoing out of this thing.

Of course, it’s not all Azzarello. Cliff Chiang’s art has been absolutely phenomenal in this thing, with gorgeous pages–including one last month that featured both OMAC and Jimmy Olsen, thus qualifying it as my favorite page ever–and some of the cleanest work in comics today. It’s astonishingly good stuff, and if it’ll help me get more of it, I’d just like to point out once again that right now, I’m paying $3.99 just to read the backup. I’d get a regular series in a heartbeat.



The Riverdale Experiment

Betty and Veronica Double Digest #151: For those of you who don’t remember from the brief hullaballoo when it was announced a few months back, this is the issue featuring debut of the “new look” Betty and Veronica, and while it does actually feature somebody getting kicked–which surprised the heck out of me, I assure you–I can’t say that I’m really that into it. The problem isn’t my attachment to the Dan DeCarlo/Stan Goldberg “house” style that the Archie books primarily use, though, it’s the opposite: I don’t think they went far enough.

I don’t mean to knock penciller Steven Butler or anything, but in going for “modern,” the story loses the distinctive character of the DeCarlo designs, but with nothing as visually interesting to replace them, whereas going in a more stylized direction, like Tania Del Rio’s manga-style Sabrina stories, would’ve probably had a better shot. Even Andrew Pepoy’s Katy Keene stories have more flair to them, and he’s essentially drawing a paper doll for eight pages. Of course, that’s just based off the first part, so maybe it’d be wise to hold out judgement until Archie and Jughead show up. This, if you’ll remember, is generally my standing policy for all aspects of life.

As for Melanie J. Morgan’s story, “Bad Boy Trouble,” it features Veronica, Betty, and Midge–tragically stranded somewhere between Emo and New Wave–encountering Nick St. Clair, the eponymous bad boy, who rides a motorcycle and–gasp!–sneaks into a movie without paying. The best part, though, is when Betty tells him that’s wrong, and he replies by telling her he’s done a lot worse in his time, giving the impression that he may in fact have shot a man in Midvale just to watch him die. Sadly, the story doesn’t involve Wendy Weatherbee or the Elevenaire (who makes his shocking return in this week’s Veronica, incidentally), and thus remains pretty uninteresting at the start.



And that’s the week, and now you know why I tend not to review my Archie books every week. As for the rest of you Jugheads, the usual deal applies: If you’ve got any questions about something I read, didn’t read, or just want to talk about how great Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, Stormwatch PHD, or Y – The Last Man were this week–or if you suspect, like I do, that I’m missing a page of dialogue from Jack of Fables–feel free to leave a comment or hit me up at the email address in the sidebar.

Seriously, though: Wendy Weatherbee and the Elevenaire have got to get together.

The Week in Ink: 5-2-07

Before we get started with tonight’s slightly delayed comics reviews–which should finally amount to the first real post here on the All-New ISB–I’d like to take the opportunity to address one of the changes that I made: The ads to your left.

As any of my pals who’ve heard me go on at length about Bill Gaines and his steadfast refusal to allow any advertising in the pages of MAD while he was alive will attest, I generally have a pretty strong hatred of ads. In fact, one of the original goals for the ISB was to do as much as I could for as little money as possible, just to see if I could. I used free hosting for the blog and images, and even my trusty scanner was bought secondhand from one of my pals for twenty bucks. Now that I’m actually shelling out money for hosting, though, it was either that or do a Public Radio-style pledge drive, where I re-posted your favorite ISB entries and interrupted them in the middle so that I could beg you to buy a hundred and forty-dollar tote bag.

But don’t worry! My integrity remains largely untarnished, as does my commitment to bringing you the world’s most awesome comics blog completely free of corporate influence!

The only difference is that now it’s all brought to you by the delicious, refreshing taste of Pepsi.

Rucka and Benett, CHECKMATE #13

Ah! It’s the pause that refreshes!

Anyway, enough chatter! You all know how it works by now, right? Here’s what I bought yesterday…

Bears?  No problem.  Little girls, however...

And here, at long last, is what I thought of them. Well, all of them except Dark Xena anyway, which was delightful.


52: Week 52: And here we are one year later, and the big blowout final issue of 52 is marred only slightly by the fact that, by and large, it doesn’t make a bit of sense. To be fair, there are a lot of enjoyable parts, and I think we all knew when World War 3 hit a couple weeks ago that we’d pretty much gotten all the good we were going to out of this thing, but I really can’t figure out why there’s such a big deal being made about the return of the Multiverse when we’ve known that was coming back since at least Justice League of America #0, where there’s a whole boring bit about finding parallel Earths.

Not that it makes much sense anyway: The 51 other worlds–which seems like an awfully small number to limit yourself to if you’re going to go around tossing in Kingdom Come or some kind of paradise where Judd Winick was never allowed to write Shazam!–originally start out as exact copies of the regular DC Universe Earth, but then Mr. Mind eats some time, and that’s how we get stuff like Earth-50 (which, seeing as it’s the Wildstorm Universe, has 196,000 parallel realities of its own thanks to a couple of books called The Authority and Planetary). And apparently, that’s a fact worth paying $130 to learn.

Beyond that, though, it’s a pretty good sample of the series as a whole, if you don’t hold the fact that it doesn’t have any dismemberment against it. There’s a couple of good ideas a couple of goofy scenes, and I’m still not sure why the Dominators are attacking the Legion in a thousand years.


Avengers: The Initiative #2: Okay, look: I can buy letting the guy who uncontrollably turns into whatever his teammates fear the most head out into a training session once, but a second time, after he’s already caused someone to be shot in the head? That’s the kind of well thought-out master plan that I think we’ve all come to expect from Hank Pym.

To be honest, though, I actually liked this issue a lot more than the first one, even though Daniele Rudoni’s coloring is thoroughly out of control in a lot of places. But aside from poor bureaucratic decision-making from Gyrich and the mind-boggling frequency of pastel pink in Camp Hammond, there’s a lot to enjoy, like Pym’s dilemma at being thoroughly praised by a Nazi scientist for his biggest failures, or the fact that the Initiative is willing to weaken the boundaries that separate Earth from the Negative Zone, which–for those of you not paying attention–is where Annihilus lives. It’s good stuff to have floating around, and at this point, it all feels like Dan Slott’s actually building towards something big for these characters.

The fact that it’s also got a scene where a bunch of teenage super-heroes with jetpacks fight HYDRA’s giant floating aircraft carrier? Yeah, that’s just a bonus.


Buffy the Vampire Slayer #3: Working in a comic book store, I’m always a little mystified by the folks who come in to buy Buffy and chat about how much they love Joss Whedon and everything he does, but return nothing short of blank stares when informed that the guy’s actually writing two other comics, including one with characters that the cast of Buffy was largely based on, and another that features lesbians, juvenile delinquents, and a teenage girl with magical super-powers that leads the team. I mean really: unless I’m watching it in a completely unique way, that’s everything people like about Buffy in the first place, right? And yet, no reaction. The mind boggles.

But that’s pretty well beside the point when it comes to my already tenuous goal of writing an actual review. All that really matters is that as far as purely entertaining comics go, this issue stands out even on a day when all three of Whedon’s comics hit the stands, and with as much as I’ve loved Astonishing X-Men, that’s no mean feat. Of course, this one does have the advantage of including the not-so-shocking return of one of my favorite characters from the show and the typically fun last-page reveal, all done up nice with art by Georges Jeanty, who gets the point of photo-referenced artwork much better than a few creators that I could mention. Solid stuff.


Checkmate #13: I’ve spoken of my love for this book pretty often over the past year, but brother, there’s nothing–not even the promise of more scenes where Mademoiselle Marie tarts around in her leather bra and mini-skirt–is going to make me pick up an issue of Judd Winick’s Outsiders at this point, thanks to that book’s charming combination of old characters that are completely unrecognizable from what I like about them (Metamorpho), new characters that fail utterly to make me care about them in any conceivable way (Grace and Thunder) and John Walsh (John Walsh).

I do think “Checkout” is a pretty great title, though.


Hellboy: Darkness Calls #1: At this point, nobody really needs me to tell them that a new Hellboy mini-series written by Mike Mignola is something worth getting excited about, but it just wouldn’t feel right to let this one pass without mentioning how awesome it is. And it is great: The thing I like most about Hellboy is the way that–even as a seven foot-tall demon with a giant stone hand that could bring about the end of the world–he remains so completely unimpressed by the supernatural.

It’s the kind of great attitude that’s given us a hero who beats monsters with his giant handgun while spouting pure genius lines like “Goddamn Nazi Frankenstein Monkey!” and needless to say, it’s something I love. And for this issue, it’s pretty perfectly encapsulated in the way that he spends this issue casually smoking cigarettes and half-listening to the ranting madmen out to bring the dead back to life until some unspeakable horror shows up and it’s time to punch something. Man, I love Hellboy.



Incredible Hulk #106: Back before I jumped on “Planet Hulk” and revised my opinion of Greg Pak from “horrible writer” to “awesome writer who wrote two abysmal X-Men stories,” the Mastermind Excello story he did with the incredibly talented Takeshi Miyazawa in Amazing Fantasy #15 (reprinted for your convenience in this week’s World War Hulk Prologue) was the first thing of Pak’s that I read and absolutely loved, so the idea that Amadeus Cho was going to be a huge part of the Hulk’s return to Earth and subsequent six-month non-stop beat-down already had me excited. Imagine my surprise, then, when the execution of the first part was even better than I’d imagined.

Admittedly, it probably wasn’t a great idea to have this issue come out before the corresponding issue of She-Hulk that immediately preceeds it–let alone having it take place before something with the word “PROLOGUE” written across the top in huge white letters–but by the time She-Hulk goes from a great scene where she’s hitch-hiking down the ol’ lonesome highway to one where she’s uppercutting Doc Samson into the next county, the highly entertaining story and the clever arrangement of all the critical pieces make up for it by far.

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve been burned by crossovers before–twice already this year, actually–and the fact that we’re getting a Frontline mini-series by “Paycheck” Paul Jenkins doesn’t really bode well considering that his last effort under that title included the second-worst plot point of Civil War, but I’m excited. Why? Because when you get right down to it, Captain America and Iron Man punching each other isn’t something I like to see in my comics, and neither is Black Adam ripping people’s arms off while the Martian Manhunter cries out in space.

But the Hulk throwing down on everybody else in the Marvel Universe? Yeah, that’s something I love. Here’s hoping it stays this good all the way through.


Midnighter #7: With the impending end of Y – The Last Man and his departure from Runaways for the greener pasture that is writing for Lost, it was starting to feel like I wouldn’t be getting quite as much Brian K. Vaughan as I’m used to lately. Fortunately for me, though, we have this month’s issue of Midnighter, where Vaughan does an absolute bang-up job filling in for Garth Ennis. The trick that he uses here, telling the story backwards page-by-page, isn’t a particularly new one since it’s as simple as writing a normal story and flipping it around a little, but it works incredibly well for the character, especially with some great art from of Darick Robertson. It’s a fantastic stand-alone issue, and if you like comics where cyborgs get their heads bashed in while skydiving from the top of that crazy orange-slice hotel in Dubai–and really, who doesn’t?–pick it up. It’s worth it.


Omega Flight #2: Unlike Avengers: The Initiative, which started out shaky and seems to be straightening itself out with the second issue, Omega Flight looks like it’s started out shaky and just turned South with this one. It could be the fact that Scott Kolins’ art and Brian Reber’s coloring doesn’t pull off the “unfinished” look very well (as opposed to Cary Nord and Dave Stewart on Conan, where it looks amazing), or the scene where Simon Walters is described as an American soldier but drawn with a huge Canadian maple leaf on his helmet, but what really sticks in my craw with this one is Thunderball.

Correct me if I’m wrong–which I’m not–but Thunderball’s a brilliant physicist with a doctorate and, since this is comics, is usually written to reflect that with convoluted faux-genius speech. I’m not saying the guy’s not allowed to drop a little slang every now and then, but he comes off here as one-dimensional and monosyllabic, and that’s even considering the fact that he’s a super-villain with construction-themed powers. Making matters even worse is the fact that Mike Oeming’s a guy who wrote two really good Thor stories, and to reduce one of that guy’s enemies from the “smart one” of the Wrecking Crew to a grunting thug is annoying at best. Unfortunately, that’s not the only annoying element of the story either, and unless Beta Ray Bill shows up to smite Red Ronin next month or something, it’s headed for a droppin’ toute suite.


Runaways #26: Okay, look: I know I mentioned it last month and that I’ve probably done more actual thinking about the Punisher than anyone has a right to, but, well, he’s not a hard character to get right, and the only way that he works is if he himself has a shred of redeemable qualities somewhere, and the minute he’s running around on rooftops trying to blow up (mostly) innocent kids with rocket launchers and pointing guns at petulant youngsters, that whole thing tends to go right out the window. It’s not that I mind him getting laid out by Molly–which puts her well on the path to being the next Squirrel Girl, since she took out Wolverine the same way a while back–or the over-the-top first person War Journal narration, either. It’s pretty funny, and if nothing else, it’s well-earned payback for the way other characters were treated whenever they showed up in the Marvel Knights Garth Ennis run.

Other than that, it’s a perfectly fine issue for Joss Whedon’s second offering for the title, with some great ninja-related humor with the Kingpin. It’s just that, you know, I really like the Punisher, and there’s no reason this issue shouldn’t have been as fun as the time he teamed up with the Power Pack, when Katie Power convinced him to give a criminal a spanking and a stern talking-to. Ah, the magic of the late-80s Marvel Universe. Give me a second to be nostalgic here and I’ll meet you guys down at Spider-Man.


Sensational Spider-Man Annual #1: Oh Cloak and Dagger! Will you ever find your way in this crazy world of ours? Huh? Oh, right, Spider-Man. I’ve said it before–and from the looks of things, I’ll probably end up saying it again before it’s done–but while I truly believe that Spider-Man is the single greatest comic book character ever created, he is worse now than he has ever been in over forty years of publication, to the point where he’s almost unrecognizable.

Still, Matt Fraction’s one of those writers that’s been getting everything right lately in his books, so I gave this one a shot, and he acquits himself pretty nicely. Yes, there’s a lot of emo Spider-Man whining about how it’s come to this, and yes, there is a scene where he actually cries–which happens so often at this point that I could live quite happily without ever seeing again–but it all leads up to a great little sequence of Spider-Man coming to his wife’s rescue that comes closer to feeling like the “real” Spidey than any mainstream book in the past few years. Even better, it’s nice to see Mary Jane actually portrayed as a sharp-witted, genuinely lovable character who’s willing to go to bat for Spidey in a book that’s not specifically about how she loves him. If that was the rule, rather than the exception, things might actually shape up for the guy.


Superman #662: I was all set to drop this book this month if it kept on its current track of a plodding story of alternate futures punctuated by months of fill-in stories that didn’t make any sense, but, well, this issue sees Carlos Pacheco drawing Zatanna in her underwear.

I’m not made of stone, people.



Mail v.3: This is the final issue of Mail, and that can mean only one thing: From now on, there’s going to be significantly fewer nude corpses in my life. The strange thing is, I’m actually a little upset about that fact. Along with its sister title, the phenomenally entertaining Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, Mail has been one of the best new manga titles I’ve read in a long while, and with another great selection of Night Gallery-esque stories of detective Reiji Akiba and his all-new, all-horrifying sidekick.

It’s a great horror title, and if you skipped out on it, jump on. Seriously, it’s got a man in a trenchcoat shooting a ghost in the face while he rides his jetski, and that’s the second-most awesome thing in this blog post.


Showcase Presents: The War That Time Forgot v.1: HOLY BUCKETS!


That just about sums it up, doesn’t it?

And that’s the week. Don’t forget, tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day, and while I would’ve liked to spend tonight making fun of The Umbrella Academy–the debut effort from My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way–well, it’s got art by Gabriel Ba and it’s actually really, really entertaining. Make sure to snag one, along with the great Fantagraphics Unseen Peanuts book, the two new Scott Pilgrim strips in Comics Festival, and First Second’s preview of Eddie Campbell’s Black Diamond Detective Agency.

Heck, they’re free, grab ’em all. Well, maybe not the Keenspot one…

Anyway, as usual, any questions (such as “Why did it take you two freakin’ days to get this lousy post done, Chris?”) comments (such as “This column is rambling and disjointed, as though you went to go see Spider-Man 3 halfway through”), or other miscellaneous concerns and thank-yous to Kevin Church and Shane Bailey for their continued help with the new, incredibly fragile site design can be left in the comments section or sent to the email address in the sidebar.

As for me, I’m going to go prepare myself for thirteen hours of doling out free comics to people tomorrow. And by “prepare,” I mean “get hammered.”