Is there anything that sums up what I do on this site more accurately than a picture of a wolf-man jump-kicking a talking panda bear in the face?
No, I do not believe there is.
Of course, I realize that pandas aren’t actually bears, but I think we can let that slide for the sake of awesomeness. Anyway, before we get started tonight with the Internet’s Most Pugilistic Comics Reviews…
…some of you might have noticed that the usual ad in the sidebar has been replaced with a link to my eBay auctions. Considering the amount of comics I buy every week, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that I occasionally need to make some room, so if you’d like to help me out with that (and give me your money, which every right-thinking American should want to do), cruise on over there and check ‘em out. The auctions end on Sunday, and this week I’m getting rid of the entire Planet Hulk saga and a full run of JSA (both of which, by the way, are comics I like an awful lot), and I’ll be throwing some more cool stuff up there next week.
…give me your money.
END OF PLUG TIME
Okay, now that that’s over with, here’s this week’s reasons why I will one day be found crushed under a long box full of Power Man and Iron Fist…
…but will it all be worth it? Find out now!
Annihilation: Conquest – Quasar #3: So here’s what I love about Christos Gage: That’s a guy who got the job to write a four-issue mini-series about super-powered space lesbians, thought “Now how can I make this concept better,” and came up with the idea of turning one of them into a space dragon, which is okay because her mental powers still allow for some hot girl-on-girl space action. That is pure genius.
But I kid. What I really like about Christos Gage–besides the stuff above, which, c’mon, is pretty fantastic–is that ever since he came on the scene a couple years ago, he’s been one of the most consistently awesome writers working today, and the space-faring saga of Moondragon and Phyla-Vell taking on an unstoppable enemy led by the Super-Adaptoid is no different. It’s exactly the kind of solid, action-packed stuff that’s made Annihilation so enjoyable, and Mike Lilly’s art works beautifully with Gage’s script. Also, and I may have mentioned this before, there’s a space dragon involved. A space dragon… from the moon. God bless you, Comic Books.
Captain America #30: At this point, it really goes without saying–especially given that it’s still the only comic to feature this very website in its hallowed pages–but Brubaker and Epting’s run on Cap just never stops being awesome, even with the absence of its title character.
That in and of itself is a difficult trick to pull off, as evidenced by that one issue of Batman by Larry Hama about a crazed sculptor wherein Batman appears on one (1) page–which, seriously, is one of the worst comics I’ve ever read–but Brubaker’s able to pull it off. It’s amazing to watch it happen, too: The plot threads themselves read like soap opera scripts, with all the false memories and unexpected pregnancies that you’d expect from a story involving Stefano DiMera, but Brubaker pulls it off beautifully, using the impact of Steve Rogers’ life to drive the story in his absence.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that it also involves the Winter Soldier’s quest for vengeance (which in this issue involves a brutal throwdown with the Red Skull’s lackeys) and a portrayal of Tony Stark that casts him as a man of conviction and regret rather than the cartoonish fascist that showed up in Thor. It’s a great issue of a great run, and if you haven’t read it yet, this week’s Captain America Omnibus is an easy way to get it all at once.
Catwoman #71: Those of you who followed the rage that consumed the internet in the wake of the not-that-bad Amazons Attack may recall that even the folks who were frothing at the mouth over how Will Pfeifer had totally ruined Wonder Woman were generally pretty positive towards his run on Catwoman, which just goes to show one thing: Even the most bat-shit crazy comics reader can occasionally recognize when something’s awesome.
Such is the case here. Every month, Pfeifer and Lopez deliver a book that’s easily one of DC’s best titles, even in an issue like this, which, to be honest, didn’t strike me as Pfeifer’s best work. It might just be me, but Batman’s tactics for faking Selina and the baby’s death seem a little overboard, not to mention traumatic for the witnesses, but the more I think about it, the more I’m coming to realize that’s probably the only way it could’ve happened: big, noisy, and memorable in order to throw off suspicion. And besides, I guess if you live in Gotham City, seeing a super-villain explode is probably just something you have to factor into your daily commuting time. Slam Bradley in AA, however, just doesn’t seem to fit with the character.
Even with my misgivings about that, though, Pfeifer doesn’t disappoint. The scenes with Batman and Helena are just fantastic, and in a panel as simple as Batman smiling down at a baby, Lopez’s art carries so much emotional weight that it becomes something that really humanizes the character, which–aside from Beechen’s great portrayals of him in Robin–is really something we don’t see enough.
Checkmate #18: I’ve mentioned before that I think of Checkmate as the modern equivalent of John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad, but lately, the comparison between the two has been impossible to ignore. After all, with a new Squad mini-series by Ostrander hitting the stands last week at the same time that Greg Rucka pits Sasha Bordeaux’s Checkmate against Amanda Waller’s Task Force X, Checkmate‘s tying into it more now than it ever has.
And it really holds up: The twists that come along with a story of espionage in a world of super-heroes and make this book so fun are the same ones that Ostrander used in his, and while it’s always been obvious that Rucka draws a lot of inspiration from his predecessor–right down to the current story’s tension with China reflecting the original run’s underlying conflict with Russia–it never feels like a rehash. Instead, it reads like a logical progression of one of the best DC comics ever published, and believe me: That’s no small praise.
Dynamo 5 #7: Attention, Internet Users! This issue of Dynamo 5 features…
A Goth Girl In A Swimsuit Wrestling a Dinosaur.
Say what you want about Jay Faerber, but that guy knows what the people want.
The Flash #232: So here’s the problem: Mark Waid’s first run on The Flash not only defined the character, but was one of the better runs of comics in the ’90s. And really, while that might not sound like much given the connotation of “the ’90s” in the world of comics, but when you consider that it’s stacked up against Morrison’s JLA and James Robinson’s Starman, it really is saying something.
Regardless, it’s a run that has a lot of nostalgia attached to it, and whether or not it’s fair, there’s not going to be any way around comparing Waid’s current run on the book to that one. In fact, I’d say that’s probably the idea behind the whole thing, leading to the re-numbering of the book with last issue and quietly sweeping the Bilson/Dimeo relaunch neatly under the rug.
That said, two issues in and I’ve got to say that I don’t think I’m really enjoying Waid’s return to the Flash, and I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I don’t really like his kids. Don’t get me wrong, Waid’s certainly not writing them as unlikeable characters or anything, but to be honest, the whole thing just seems to come off a lot like warmed-over Incredibles, but without the charming beacon of light that is NPR’s Sarah Vowell.
To be fair, though, I don’t really like the idea of Wally West even having kids to begin with, and the fact that I don’t like Daniel Acuna’s art on this book just adds to the problems that begin with a pretty by-the-numbers plot spiked with a scene of the Flash spitting on his wife. Still, it’s only two issues, and while I’d much rather have a book that grabbed me right from the start like Waid’s first run did, there’s still hope that it’ll get better. For now, though, it’s not a bad comic, but… well, that’s all it is.
ISB BEST OF THE WEEK
JLA/Hitman #1: And speaking of the best comics of the ’90s, welcome back, Tommy. We missed you.
If you’ve read the ISB for any amount of time–or, heck, if you’ve even looked at the header image once–it’s probably pretty obvious that I’m a big fan of Garth Ennis’s run on the Punisher (as well as a lot of his other stuff), so don’t think I take this sort of thing lightly when I say that for my money, Hitman is that guy’s best work ever. For those of you who have never read it–a number that’s criminally high, given that DC hasn’t bothered to put it out in trade, and the ones that they did are long out of print–the book concerns the adventures of Tommy Monaghan, a Gotham City hitman who was abducted by aliens and given superpowers, thus becoming the only good thing to come out of Bloodlines except for jokes about Gunfire.
Jokes, I might add, which appear in Hitman.
In any case, Ennis and penciller/frequent collaborator John McCrea used that as a springboard to create one of the most enjoyable books of all time, packed full of zombie seals, demon bartenders, and–again, no exaggeration here–the best Lobo story in the history of comic books.
So needless to say, I’ve been excited about this thing since it was announced, and it lived up to every one of my expectations. Essentially, it’s built as a sort of sequel to a couple of stories from the original run, which stand out as the few issues outside of the time he threw up on Batman in #1 that he crossed over with the rest of the DCU. The Green Lantern story… well, it’s not my favorite, and as funny as it is, it’s just dripping with Ennis’s ill-hidden hatred of the character. Hitman #34, on the other hand, where Tommy meets Superman on a rooftop and they talk about their problems? That is hands down one of my all-time favorite issues, and seeing those events come back around for this issue was just a joy.
It’s amazing to see that Ennis hasn’t missed a step coming back to the character after six years, but it’s not just Tommy that’s great in this one. Sure, he takes the Wally West/Kyle Rayner rivalry from Morrison’s JLA to the extreme, but his Superman is perfect, and the scene where he and Wonder Woman talk to each other about how they define themselves is great. And of course, it’s very, very funny.
Simply put, it’s a great comic book, and if you’re a fan of the old series, you’ve probably already got it already, but if you haven’t, it shouldn’t be too hard to follow, and even if it is, it’s well worth it. Now if only they’d get those trades out…
Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #6: I’ll be honest, folks: I’ve pretty much just been buying this one out of brand loyalty. After all, I’ve got a box of Legion comics and a shelf of archives, and as much as I like to think I can drop comics that I’m not enjoying at the drop of a hat, there’s still enough of a completist in me that I want to own everything. And really, aside from a few of the character designs (and by that, I mean Brainiac), I really do like what I’ve seen of the animated series, especially the great episode I caught a few weeks back about the Substitutes.
That said, this book hasn’t lived up to its potential at all… until now. This issue is easily the best of the run so far (and quite frankly, the first one that I’ve really enjoyed), and not coincidentally, it’s the first one where writer J. Torres has been able to expand the universe and introduce some great new concepts to the run, and he does it in one of the most enjoyable ways possible: Twenty-two pages of people with rings just wailing on each other. And it pays off: As crazy as it is that Teen Lantern turns out to be a descendant of both Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner, it’s a great concept (and a great name) that introduces a whole new element to the team’s universe, and it allows for the first time that the comic’s featured every one of the animated Legionnaires.
Including Blok. And yes… Tyroc has a speaking part. It’s great stuff, and it’s giving me hope that this book’ll take a turn for the better. Or that they’ll let me write it, at which time I’ll finally get to bring back Bizarro Computo. Either way, good times ahead.
Marvel Adventures Avengers #16: With this issue, Marvel Adventures Avengers bids a fond farewell to writer and ISB Favorite Jeff Parker, whose run on this title saw him bring us the greatest story ever written, and he’s pretty much been rocking the house ever since.
As for this particular issue, it’s as good as the others, and although I’ve never been a big Hawkeye fan, that probably has more to do with me not reading a whole lot of Avengers in my time than anything about the character in particular. Regardless, he’s pretty entertaining here, showing up and promptly getting all makey-outey with a third of the team in a show of the suave charm that circus people are so famous for.
Also, and perhaps more importantly, it includes this:
That’s right: The dramatic return of Karl: Agent of AIM! Someone get that guy a mini-series toute suite.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch #88: I know I don’t usually bother to review the Archie comics I pick up, but, uh… Did you guys know that Sabrina the Teenage Witch is involved in a magical junta led by her ex-boyfriend whose purpose is to overthrow the Queen of the Magical Realm and inform the populace that she’s been hiding the truth about how the source of magic is dying? I mean, yeah, I know that this thing is written for eight year-old girls and all, but come on: That’s awesome.
No, seriously: I actually do like this book a lot, and I’ve been wanting to read more of it ever since Archie released the first trade of writer/artist Tania Del Rio’s run a while back, but since Del Rio told me that there weren’t any immeidate plans for a second trade anytime soon, I decided to jump on the singles. Originally, it was just out of curiosity over whether or not a series involving the Archie characters could actually work with stuff like, you know, actual plots, an ongoing story and the ever-looming spectre of continuity, and I was pretty pleasantly surprised to find out that not only does it work, but it’s actually really good.
Of course, it may just be that I got a stack of issues just in time to fill the void left by the end of the Harry Potter books, but come on! A blue-haired magical Che Guevara whose actions lead to Harvey getting mind-wiped? That’s exciting! And almost manly!
The Umbrella Academy #1: Longtime ISB readers might recall that I’ve been excited about this book ever since the Free Comic Book Day special came out, and that was before I knew that it was going to involve children with super-powers born spontaneously when a pro wrestler elbow-dropped a space-squid. So needless to say, this thing is awesome.
I think a lot of it has to do with the beautiful artwork of Gabriel Ba. After all, even though the inclination to make fun of something written by the lead singer from My Chemical Romance is a perfectly natural one, it becomes a lot harder when the work in question looks absolutely gorgeous, and this one fits that bill pretty perfectly. It won’t come as a surprise to anybody who read the first arc on Casanova, but Ba’s pages are great, stylish and full of energy. And also monkeys. At least two.
Of course, a pretty face’ll only get you so far, but even with the FCBD special and the pages that ran in Previews it still came as a pleasant surprise that Gerard Way’s story actually matches up to it. The best way I can think of to describe the plot is that it reads like the New Mutants filtered through the lens of the BPRD: A group of super-powered youngsters taken in by a vaguely sinister mastermind and dressed in creepy uniforms, at which point they fly off to go fight–and I will type this phrase at every opportunity because I love it that much–Zombie Robot Gustave Eiffel and his rampaging tower in the streets of Paris.
So yes: This is a comic where a schoolboy punches out one of the wonders of the modern world. And if you still don’t understand why this book is so fun, consider this: That happens on page twelve.
I won’t go for the cutsey cop-out of comparing it to Way’s music, but it’s pretty obvious just from reading the book who his influences are, just as it’s obvious that he’s having a lot of fun with it, blending the great, fun insanity of super-hero comics with the dark secrets and sinister masterminds (and Frankenstein Monkeys) of Mike Mignola, and it makes for a great read. Give it a shot.
And that’s the week. And yes, I realize that I once again skipped World War Hulk, but really: Every issuse thus far can pretty much be summed up by:
a) Holy crap, that was a lot of punching!
b) Holy crap, this book is awesome.
In any case, if you have any comments or questions about something I read or skipped over–like why there’s an unusually high number of stories about women turning into giant lizards this week, and whether this trend should be considered alarming–feel free to yammer on about it in the comments section below.
As for me, I’ll be over here inserting the dialogue from Sin City into the first few pages of the Black Canary Wedding Special, because seeing someone start making out with the person who just slapped ‘em around… well, it just feels wrong without the dulcet tones of Frank Miller setting the scene.