No, not the Rockstar Games chronicle of high school violence, the little stuffed bull who reads comic books!
Happy Awesomeversary, Bully. Show some love.
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.
Despite the fact that I don’t usually read comics news websites–which should be readily apparent to anyone who’s noticed the surprise on my face when I read through Previews every month–I did eventually get around to reading through Newsarama’s post-52 interview with Grant Morrison, and there was a bit that stuck out to me.
When he’s asked about which parts of the story were written by which writers, Morrison mentions that he “wound up with the space team because Animal Man was in there and the only way Vertigo would allow us to use Animal Man prominently was if I wrote the character,” my emphasis added.
Clearly, this can mean only one thing: Vertigo is holding DC’s characters hostage for their own sinister ends.
Admittedly, nobody wants to see more Grant Morrison Animal Man than me, and with the announcement that Adam Beechen’s going to be writing a mini-series about the Space Heroes, it looks like they’ve relaxed their stranglehold on Buddy Baker, but still: This aggression will not stand, man.
Don’t get me wrong: By and large, I love Vertigo and what they’ve done with most of the characters they’ve absorbed into their gothy, over-inked empire over the years, but you know what? Animal Man wasn’t a Vertigo book. It was a DC book for mature readers. And so was Hellblazer. And Swamp Thing. And yes, even Sandman.
I’m not saying that I want Jesse Custer to show up to teach the Teen Titans about self reliance or anything, but the characters that were imported from DC ought to be able to show up in the DC Universe for more than just a guest spot in Hawkman, especially if they haven’t had their own series in twelve years. I mean, come on: Dream of the Endless showing up to help the JLA fight Starro the Star Conqueror? That was awesome.
So tonight on the ISB, I’m taking a stand, and if you’re like me–if you want to see John Constantine teaming up with the Justice League like Tug, and if you want to see Swamp Thing show up and remind everybody that no, sorry, Geo Force is not “approaching Alec Holland levels,” no matter how much Brad Meltzer wants us to think he is–then gosh darn it, let ‘em know!
And perhaps most importantly…
You hear me, Karen Berger? Let My Swamp Monster Go!
As some of you may have noticed from the fact that the header logo for the ISB has featured a man socking a polar bear right in the face for the past year or so, there’s not a whole heck of a lot I like more than an old-fashioned super-hero/animal throwdown.
It’s sort of my trademark, as such, but I was still surprised to get an email last week wondering why I only rarely show the other side of things, where the animals come out on top. The simple answer, of course, is that I like super-heroes more than I like animals, and unless it’s, y’know, a gorilla beating the living crap out of a bunch of Nazis, I just don’t get that excited about it.
But never let it be said that the ISB doesn’t present a fair and balanced view of man-on-beast combat, friends, because there is an exception to that rule, and here she is:
Yes, Squirrel Girl!
Say hello to Doreen Green, folks, and don’t bother to adjust your monitors: Steve Ditko was the unparalleled master of sequential art who gave us Spider-Man, the Question, and Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos, so one can assume that when he got the script for an Iron Man story calling for a homely super-heroine, he went ahead and just made her a morlock.
It all works out, though. When she comes back for Great Lakes Avengers, she’s well out of her akward phase, courtesey of Paul Pelletier:
“Skinny little Doreen Green… She grew up. Filled out.”
In addition to the teeth–which can chew through solid wood–Squirrel Girl also boasts a retractable knuckle spike (for climbing, one would assume) and a prehensile tail, gains extra energy by eating nuts (which she holds in her belt pouches, or nutsacks), and, perhaps most importantly, possesses the uncanny ability to speak to squirrels.
This is, unquestionably, the worst set of super-powers ever.
And yet, in her first appearance–conveniently available as a bonus feature in the Great Lakes Avengers trade–she and her rodent running crew take out Doctor Doom:
Suck it, Victor.
And as awesome as that is, it is but a mere prelude to the awe-inspiring events of the GLX-Mas Special, which contains a scene that continues to entertain the entire Internet to this day:
And for that, Dan Slott will always have a special place in my heart. Now if only we could get her to fight some Nazis…
When I was reading through the second installment of Bob Kanigher’s Bat-Witch Saga last week, I came across this little gem…
…and if ever there was a panel that cried out for digital manipulation, that is it.
I mean, really: He might well be ordering his best friend and said friend’s famous ancestor to fight each other to the death for his own amusement, but can even that be the source of such intense mania? I think not.
No, I think that crazed gleam in his eye can only come from the anticipation of the Daily Planet’s Thursday lunch menu:
Of course, Mark Hale thinks the Man of Steel’s just psyched about passing a message of safety to The Kids:
What do you think, readers?
Ah, user-generated content. The lazy blogger’s truest friend.
In addition to the ones posted in the comments section, I always get a few of these in email, and then immediately forget about them. But not this time! Here’s what you guys had to offer:
Aaron Rushton brings some new shit to light with these two:
Filthy McMonkey violates the ISB’s standing “No Star Wars” Rule:
Jim “Flashback” Shelley offers up this trio:
Today I received an email that may well change my life.
Here, take a look:
I know you have seen our first film, Batman: Defenders of the Night. Perhaps you have seen our second film, Batman: Dark Betrayals. But I am about to unleash upon you what only a few men have ever seen before. I give you the final chapter in our legacy, Batman: Return of the Dark Knight.
Be careful in this journey. Do not underestimate the power you hold.
Yes, friends, your eyes do not deceive you: Not only have I gotten an email from Robin himself, but the epic trilogy that began with Batman: Defenders of the Night has finished.
And rest assured, friends: I do not underestimate the power that I hold:
And now, my commentary:
0.16: Apparently, Batman’s delivering this monologue via satellite from Brazil.
0.54: Okay, seriously: If you can tell me that this line…
“Our major products last year were smoke bombs and grappling hooks! You’re our only cusomter for grappling hooks! People don’t want grappling hooks, they want iPods!”
…is not the funniest joke about Batman and his corporate holdings ever written, then you are both a fool and a liar.
1.31: Bruce Wayne: International Playa.
1.36: The fact that Bruce Wayne’s would-be girlfriend finishes her line, snaps her phone shut, and then smiles directly into the camera makes me believe in joy again.
2.15: Believe it or not, there was a brief period in 1948 where “the Sinister Cuban” was listed at the forefront of the Dark Knight’s Rogues Gallery, thus confirming the filmmakers’ constant commitment to accuracy. Also, probably the most awesome fight music in the history of cinema.
2.53: Ah, the famous Gotham City skyline, with its towering three-story buildings.
3.05-3.50: BEST. ALFRED. EVER.
4.06: I wanted my commentary to be more than just quoting lines from this video and saying how awesome they were, but c’mon: “I ain’t comin’ back! I’m a lawyer that makes $30,000 a night!”? That is awesome.
5.18: What can I say about this video’s Joker that hasn’t already been said about Australian cult film icon Yahoo Serious?
5.36: These galoshes strike for justice!
7.04: At this point in the film, Batman and Robin inexplicably start speaking directly to the camera and giving updates on their search for the Joker. Why? No idea. Maybe in the movie, Batman and Robin have a popular reality show or something. Man, this thing’s got more layers than Heart of Darkness!
7.46: Walgreens paid an estimated $4.6 million for product placement in this movie. Starbucks? $8.9 million.
8.47: The Joker’s “What did I do to you?!” seems like just normal super-villain whining at first, but now that I think of it, I’m not sure what the Joker did to make Batman come after him. Sometimes you just gotta punch a clown, I guess.
8.56: Once again, Robin is inexplicably homicidal, but judging by his huge grin when Batman takes the gun away, I think he’s glad he didn’t pull the trigger. Also glad: That newspaper salesman from 2 minutes ago.
9.25: Have I mentioned my pure, undying love for this Alfred?
(Special thanks to Dave Campbell)