I think it’s been pretty well established over the past couple of years that I read a lot of comics, but man, some weeks I even suprise myself with how many I’m getting.
I mean really: When five Archie titles ship in a single week it’s never a good sign for my entertainment budget, and when you throw in a mini-bust and a ridiculously expensive hardcover… well, allow me to explain with the following visual metaphor, wherein my desire to own everything I want is represented by the excitable little girl, and my impulse control is represented by the policeman:
Oh, kicks to the face. Is there nothing you cannot teach us?
Yes, despite the fact that I had to hire a team of oxen and a Sherpa to get them back into my house, it’s Thursday night, and that means that it’s my sworn duty to provide you with the Internet’s Most Fiscally Irresponsible Comics Reviews! So let’s quit wasting time and get to it! Here’s the senses-shattering list of what I bought this week…
…and these are my spine-tingling snap judgements!
All Flash #1: When Dan DiDio announced at the DC Nation panel at HeroesCon that Flash: The Fastest Man Alive was being cancelled and replaced with the return of Mark Waid to the title, it was met with a pretty enthusiastic round of applause from most of the folks in the audience. I, however, was a little apprehensive. It’s not that I don’t like Mark Waid on The Flash, though; I think that his run is easily one of the best super-hero comics of the ’90s, with an eight-year run that rarely dropped off in quality.
But that’s the problem: I’ve already seen Mark Waid on the Flash, and while I know we were all excited when Animal Man showed up in Grant Morrison’s JLA, I’m still a little leery of creators returning to characters they were done with, especially since I distinctly remember reading an interview back in 2000 where Waid talked about how he was having trouble relating to the character.
Still, it is Mark Waid on The Flash and while that’s enough to get me to check it out, I still don’t know whether to look forward to next month’s restart or not. Waid’s up to his old tricks in the dialogue right from page one, and while those are enjoyable enough, the story’s de rigeur Ironic Punishment for Bart’s murderer makes Wally come off as more vindictive than heroic. It’s par for the course in a DC Universe where people get their arms ripped off every week, I guess, but I was hoping for more from the character that Waid consistently wrote as, well, the most likeable member of the Justice League.
The art, though, is a different story: Karl Kerschl–who’ll be doing the regular series, if memory serves–is absolutely on top of his game, with a style that’s simultaneously surprising and darn near perfect for the story. I haven’t seen him do work like this before, but it’s bright, colorful, and just beautiful in the way that it captures both emotion and movement. His backgrounds are completely static, but Wally’s always dynamic, moving through them so fast that everything else stands still. Even Ian Churchill’s pages were pretty surprisingly well-done, given my feelings about his work on Supergirl.
Those last two pages, however, were eye-searingly horrible, and I say that as someone who doesn’t really mind Daniel Acuna in general. This, though, is literally some of the worst comic book art I have ever seen in my life. It’s jumbled, flimsy, and I’m pretty sure he used the same face for Wally and his daughter, which adds a whole new level of laziness to it. It’s two pages, Acuna. Try to give a crap next time.
Avengers: The Initiative #4: I’ve often lent my voice to the chorus of readers clamoring for tie-in heavy “events” to just stop for a while–which probably seems hypocritical of me, given that virtually every Marvel comic I read has a banner across the top identifying it as a tie-in to Annihilation, World War Hulk, the Initiative, or Endangered Species–but the truth of the matter is, the big crossovers aren’t necessarily the problem in and of themselves. Instead, the actual annoyance lies with the way that they steamroll over everything like the literary equivalent of Katamari Damacy, crushing perfectly good storylines under their weight and replacing them with nonsense that serves the copyright.
But then there’s books like this one, which manages to pull double duty as both a World War Hulk AND Initiative tie-in and actually pulls it off beautifully. Dan Slott does an incredible job here, telling a story that has a huge impact on WWH and still manages to advance his own ongoing story in a seamless example of crossovers done right. It’s huge, fun stuff, and while I still wish the coloring was a little better, it’s well worth the read.
Birds of Prey #108: You know, just when I was starting to think that Gail Simone had lost her touch–given how boring I’ve found Gen13 and Welcome to Tranquility lately–she goes and writes a story like this one, which consists almost entirely of a brutal, beautiful throwdown between Oracle and the new Spy-Smasher, and I find my faith restored anew. It’s a well-done punch-out through and through, and Nicola Scott’s art for the actual fight boasts some of the hardest hits I’ve seen since Holly fought it out with Blitzkrieg over in the pages of Catwoman, and with as much as I liked that issue, this one’s close behind it in terms of pure entertainment value. It’s the perfect resolution to the storyline, with Oracle finally breaking out with the anger that’s been building ever since Katarina Armstrong made her bid to take over, balancing the combat with a great scene explaining why one should probably think things through very carefully before taking on someone who used to be the information center for the Justice League. It’s a great bit of fight comics, and makes a great high note for the end of Gail Simone’s run.
Black Canary #2: My opinion on this book hasn’t changed that much since I wrote about the first issue, except that I’m feeling even more positive towards it now that the “Lone Canary and Cub” aspect of the story seems to have kicked into high gear, but there is something I’d like to say. I’m enjoying it an awful lot, but if you’re actually coming here for information that helps to inform your own purchases, you may want to consider the source here. After all, as you can probably tell from the image that led this post, this book contains a lot of kicking, and, well, that’s not exactly something on which I can give an unbiased opinion.
Brave and the Bold #5: Lately, I’ve been finding myself gripped with the increasingly popular opinion that a DC Universe built around Countdown and a series of purely nonsensical “teaser images” is quickly going to devolve into an unreadable mess marked with endless tie-ins that do their level best to crowd out the bright spots in the line, but every now and then, a book comes along and reminds me that as bad as things might be getting, the DCU still has the potential for boundless action and fun.
Brave and the Bold is that book.
If All Flash was Mark Waid going through his standard bag of tricks, this is him putting the same tricks together better than he ever has before. Even the instances where Waid allows himself to indulge in scenes that rely on forty year-old references to make the joke work–in this case, Batman tying up Triplicate Girl in the Siamese Human Knot–it’s done in a way that comes off as fresh and unexpected rather than the pointless wallowing that drags so much of the line down these days. And that’s not even the high point; it’s honestly like he sat down and made a list of every awesome thing he wanted to see from the characters and then somehow managed to write a story that pulled it all off in the most entertaining way possible. It’s all here, too, as a half-robot Batman travels to the 31st Century, gets turned back into Normal Batman, steals the Flight Ring right off Brainiac’s hand, takes out Legionnaires with the most low-tech weapons possible, and then fights Karate Kid in midair in a scene that is easily fifteen times more awesome than the Batman/Karate Kid fight in Justice League.
And I can prove that. With math.
George Perez’s art requires no further boosterism from me than the fact that it’s drawn by George Perez.
It’s the epitome of fun comics, but in an effort to temper my shameless love for this book, I will point out that Batman shouldn’t have been able to use Brainiac’s flight ring, since those things are keyed to the wearer’s DNA. I wouldn’t even bother to mention it, but since Waid’s the guy who actually created that feature in his run on Legion of Super-Heroes, it struck me as an odd contradiction. Even so, it hardly broke the book and did very little to distract from the fun of the comic, and besides, there’s always that possibility that either a) Batman’s a perfect genetic match for Brainiac 5, or b) the need to see Batman engaging in anti-gravity karate battles supercedes every other rule of comics.
I think you guys can figure out which side of the debate I’m on here.
Catwoman #69: I know I say this virtually every month, but if you’re not reading Catwoman–and statistically, you’re not–you’re really missing out. Will Pfeifer routinely turns in some of the sharpest scripts in comics (which explailns why I’m still reading Amazons Attack, even though I’m only getting half of the story), but the real star of this issue is the art team of David and Alvaro Lopez. Their work’s always gorgeous, but this one’s got a scene Selina walks into a room to find Batman holding her baby, and there’s a little smile on his face that’s… well, it’s just perfect. It’s a great piece of a great issue of a great run, and if you’re one of the poor suckers who’s missing out, jump on. Assuming that you like things that are totally awesome, I doubt you’ll regret it.
Cover Girl #3: Given that Cover Girl co-writer Kevin Church is the current sponsor of the ISB, I am contractually obligated to say something nice about this comic book, so here goes: Despite allegations from certain parties, Cover Girl is a fast-paced action adventure with a great Hollywood twist that will not–repeat: NOT–give you “cancer of the soul.”
But I kid. In all honesty, Kevin, Andrew Cosby and artist Mateus Santolouco have been doing a bang-up job with this one, making it a series that hit the ground running and just gets better with every issue. It’s highly enjoyable, and if you buy it, Kevin will get more money that he can then give to me, and really: That’s a Win-Win-Win situation.
Dark Xena #3: Oh, John Layman. You are the wind beneath my wings.
Giant-Size Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #1: I feel silly for even bringing it up again like it actually matters, but weeks like this make it crazy difficult to actually pick out a Best of the Week. Sometimes its’ really clear-cut, and sometimes I feel like a moron for doing it in the first place and limiting myself to one comic that stands out above all the rest, when there’s so much great stuff out there.
Needless to say, Marvel Adventures: The Avengers is consistently one of those books, and with this issue’s team-up with the Agents of Atlas–characters that Parker seems bound and determined to work into every single book he touches in the most noble goal in comics since Wally Wood drew Power Girl–he turns in what may be the most solid story he’s done for the title. It doesn’t have the flash and mind-blowing joy of the All-MODOC issue, but it does feature Leonard Kirk’s always-fantastic pencils, and as we learned this week from the saga of the Marvel MegaMorphs, everything is better when it’s Giant-Sized. I have, after all, been singing Jeff Parker’s praises for months now, and believe me, he’s one of those rare writers that earns it every time he puts pen to paper with stories that embody the pure fun of comics. I mean, how else could you describe a comic where a talking gorilla saves the future by putting Wolverine in a headlock and making fun of Spider-Man? Plus, as the record will show, Kang is totally awesome.
One thing I’m confused about, though: When Venus uses her powers to calm everyone down, how come she doesn’t appear to the other super-heroes as a giant floating naked woman? I mean really, Parker: if there’s one thing kids love, it’s nudity. And you can take that to the bank, Frank.
The Goon #19: SAINTS BE PWAISED! Eric Powell has returned!
Of course, it’s not like he was ever actually gone. Even in the months since the last issue of the Goon, he’s done work in Dwight T. Albatross Presents the Goon Noir, not to mention the perfect, unrepentant beauty that was Satan’s Sodomy Baby, and with an upcoming arc on Action Comics and the first original Goon hardcover in the works, there’s a lot more to look forward to. Still, even with SSB, it just wasn’t the same, so it’s nice to see things back as they should be: With Eric Powell taking on Oprah and The Goon (with a hatchet) taking on a hobo (with an aligator) in scenes that are even more awesome than you expect. Man, I love this book.
The Order #1: After Punisher War Journal, Immortal Iron Fist and Mantooth!, it’s become pretty clear at this point that Matt Fraction is a writer whose style appeals to me on such a fundamental level that he could write a four-issue mini-series called Gambit and Wonder Man Read Dianetics and I’d buy it, read it, and scan panels for Friday Night Fights.
Fortunately for me, Gambit, Wonder Man and comics in general, that won’t be necessary, as Fraction has instead turned his efforts to The Order. It’s a book whose premise reads like a cross between X-Statix and Strikeforce Morituri: A team of TV-friendly celebrity super-heroes tasked to Los Angeles who get powers for one year and one year only before they burn out and head back to civilian life. Throw in Pepper Potts recast as the team’s coordinator in a role reminiscent of StormWatch‘s Weatherman, and you’ve got something that at first strikes as, well, pretty derrivative.
And yet it all seems fresh: This is, after all, the first work that Fraction’s done for Marvel that focuses on new characters, which means that instead of just going all-out from page one with an RPG upside Stilt-Man’s head or a giant metal spider from HYDRA, he’s focusing on establishing the characters, and it makes for some fantastic pieces. The scene where the potential recruits to the Order are discussing what they most want out of their super-powers alone features some great characterization, with one exchange telling you everything you need to know to get started with the group, and the book’s almost worth it for Henry Hellrung’s stories of boozing it up on the town with Tony Stark. And speaking of Tony, there’s actually a concerted effort made to him come off as someone who actually believes in responsibility, and for the first time in a while, it actually works.
Plus, I’m pretty sure the next issue’s going to have someone fighting a bear. So, y’know. There’s that.
Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil #4: So Captain Marvel grows to a hundred feet tall and then punches something so hard that it creates a black hole.
I, uh, don’t really have a review here or anything. I’ve just wanted to type that sentence all day long.
Super-Villain Team-Up: MODOK’s 11 #1: You know, I like to think that I’m doing something useful with these little chats we have every week, but occasionally I just have to drop the pretense of “reviewing” and admit that I’m only mentioning something on the off chance that you forgot it was coming out and didn’t pick it up yourself. And that’s what we’re working with here.
This, my friends, is a book where every single thing about it just screams “READ ME.” Let’s take it by the numbers, shall we?
1. Fred Van Lente (of Action Philosophers, The Weapon and the surprisingly dark Fantastic Four/Power Pack) writing a story where
3. recruits a gang of d-list “super”-villains
4. Including Rocket Racer
5. For a heist
6. To avenge his broken, grotesquely oversized heart.
7. Also appearing: Monica Rappacini, the new Scorpion’s mom, and
8. Super-Human Lucha Libre.
Congratulations, ISB reader: You now have an itemized list of reasons to buy this. You’re welcome.
And with that bit of friendly public service, I’m done. After all, all I can say about World War Hulk is that there’s a bunch of fighting and it’s pretty awesome, and that WWH: X-Men pulls off a joke about the Juggernaut that just cracked me right up when I read it. If you still want more, though–assuming that there’s someone out there with the burning urge to talk about how nice it was to see Nite Lite show up in Checkmate or how mind-blowingly awesome Darwyn Cooke’s The Spirit is every month–feel free to leave a comment.
As for me, I’m going to go try and figure out why the Wonder Woman encyclopedia has no entry under “bondage.” Come on, Fleisher: Who do y’think you’re foolin’?