Spooktoberfest Special: Happy Halloween!

And to celebrate, please enjoy the following panels from what might just be my favorite spooky comic ever, Monster Cops, featuring Vampirella:

 

 

 

 

It’s that editor’s note at the end that just kills me every time.

 

The above panels–and many more just like ‘em–can be found in the Monster Cops one-shot by the vastly under-appreciated Chip Zdarsky. Ask for it by name at YOUR local comic shop!

Spooktoberfest Special: The Soul-Sizzling Terror of Halloween with Tarot, Part Two

And now, the thrilling conclusion.

 

 

For those of you who don’t recall where we left off last night, take heart: Repressed memories, no matter how painful, can often be recovered through years of intense therapy. But just to make the process go a little smoother, I’ll recap. Keep in mind, however, that this issue promises to be even more horrifying than what we’ve already seen in the first part, and if that possibility strikes you as too fearsome to even contemplate, feel free to follow this link to a “Safety Blog” where you can calm yourself with memories of how hilarious bad comics were in the ’90s. No one here will judge you.

Except me, I mean. And probably everyone else. Chicken.

Still here? All right then. Let’s get on with it:

When we last left our alleged heroine in the pages of Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #28, things were looking pretty dire. On a mission to transport Saddam Hussein through Salem, Massachusetts on Halloween–the reasons for which science may never be able to provide–a trio of government agent/fetish models called the Three Little Kittens were attacked by their nemesis, Latex Red, who then frees Hussein and gives chase through the crowded and famously witchity streets, where she’s headed off by the almost-as-busty Raven Hex, Tarot’s sister.

Interestingly enough–and again, I’m using the term loosely here–Raven Hex and Latex Red are both villains who were motivated to a life of super-villainy by the curse of being ridiculously well-endowed.

No, seriously. Raven Hex was teased as a girl and reacted by slapping a pair of giant metal spikes onto her rack and attempting to take over the world, while Latex, in a fit of jealousy over being rejected in favor of Catress, responded with what could charitably be called “overkill.”

 

 

And that, I regret to inform you, will be a plot point later.

Meanwhile, mistaking Tarot for a member of Red’s gang when she attempts to rescue them from their crashed ferrari, 3LK members Catress and… (sigh) Kitty Pop knock out the title character of the book with the absolute bare minimum of effort.

 

 

While all that’s going down, of course, Tarot’s utterly useless boyfriend Jon–better known to some as (actually a) Skeleton Man–has run afoul of Latex Red’s Satanic Schoolgirls, and seems dead set on proving that he is, in fact, the Worst Super-Hero Ever:

 

 

Incidentally, the sequence with John and the Schoolgirls is about the part where Balent suddenly realizes that he managed to get through the entirety of #28 without a single instance of nudity and decides to remedy that little oversight with gusto.

Needless to say, Tarot doesn’t stay knocked out for too long–she is after all the story’s protagonist, if only by default–and after paying back the 3LK (minus one) for their earlier attack…

 

 

…they decide that they’ve come to the latter portion of the “fight-then-team-up” plotline, and jiggle off to rescue Jon from one of the many, many humiliating defeats he’s been handed over the course of the last seven years or so. Except that this time, he helps by punching two naked women in the face with his crazy arm spikes.

So there’s that.

By the time they finally catch up to Latex Red, however, she’s given Raven Hex the slip (figuratively speaking; undergarments are rarely exchanged in the pages of Tarot) and re-captured Saddam, just in time to reveal her sinister master plan in what can only becalled The Worst / Best / Worst Again Dialogue Balloons In Comics History:

 

 

And you guys thought I was kidding about the explosive breast implants.

Of course, the trigger for Latex Red’s nuclear bosom is in her costume, so in typical Tarot fashion, the problem’s solved in about two panels when Raven Hex magically removes said outfit.

Oh casual nudity… is there any problem you cannot solve?

Thus, the Halloween plot to kidnap Saddam Hussein is foiled, and Salem is spared from being the first American city to be eradicated by rack-based warfare. Sadly, however, that all happens with eight pages left in the story.

It might be hard to believe, but it’s at this point–and not a moment before–that this story goes completely off the rails. Despite the pretty dismal lack of quality and a bat-shit crazy plot featuring Saddam Hussein, the whole thing’s been pretty normal fare for the pages of Tarot up to now. In fact, with this issue leading off with a gang of Satanic Schoolgirls distracting the notoriously lecherous Skeleton Man with their ladybits and a villain who can blow up the world by pinching her nipples, it’s a lot easier to chuckle at its sheer, unrepentant goofiness than actively despise it.

But then it hangs a hard left into Crazytown.

See, Jon’s nominal super-power is that he can see and talk to ghosts (hence his role as a super-hero who fights off Salem’s thriving grave-robbing industry), and while he’s congratulating the 3LK for a jorb well done, he suddenly realizes that Jaguara’s being haunted…

 

 

..by Jaguara herself.

Okay, time for Flashback Part Deux: Remember how Latex Red’s intervention in the last issue kept the 3LK from escaping from Baghdad before the bombs started dropping? Well, as it turns out, not everyone made it out.

What follows surpasses even the blood-soaked cannibal cookie monster masturbation scene from #16 in terms of all-out mind-shattering awfulness. I’m linking to it here solely for the sake of completeness, but I implore you not to click. With all this talking about it, you might think you want to see it, but trust me: You don’t. And really, if you’re going to use the Coward’s Exit, now’s probably the time.

Then agian, you might be better prepared for it than I was, since there was nobody around to tell me that fifteen pages of madcap witchity sex romp were about to turn into an exceptionally violent snuff film.

 

Please Do Not Click Here to be Horrified

 

I’m a fan of the Punisher who likes Garth Ennis an awful lot, so I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen worse, but when you line up Jim Balent’s exploitative, top-heavy sex objects and then suddenly throw in a cheerful round of dismemberment and massive skull trauma, the net result is something that’s, well… a lot like this actually:

 

 

And here’s the craziest thing about it: After that and the next few pages–which explain that the remaining Kittens decided to stick around Iraq and fight alongside the troops until they found Saddam and that the new Jaguara is actually the old Jaguara’s sister who joined up and is now engaged in a complex masquerade so that the news of Jaguara’s death won’t hurt Troop Morale–things go right back to normal.

Seriously: Five pages after Jaguara gets a brick through her left eye, we’ve got a double-page spread of goofy-ass Jon walking in on the 3LK as they get undressed in a hilarious attempt to get his comics signed. It’s like he doesn’t even realize what he just drew.

And that, I think… is the scariest part of all.

On the bright side, though, you do get a last panel that pretty much encapsulates the exact opposite of how I felt once I made it through the story:

 

 

The only similarity? We both feel a little worse for the wear. In my case, though, I think the scars were all mental.

 

Happy Halloween, Everybody!

Spooktoberfest Special: The Soul-Sizzling Terror of Halloween with Tarot, Part One

My month-long celebration of Spooktoberfest reaches its spine-chilling climax this week, and while there’s nothing I like better than a good round of Holiday-themed posts, each year that we plug away here at ISB Industries means that I’ve got to do my best to top whatever it is I did last year.

This time around, that presents something of a problem. After all, when it came time for the scares last year, I turned to The Super-Naturals (Part One, Part Two), a six-part chiller from the minds of Brian Pulido, Jim Balent, and Mark “Manhunter” Andreyko that featured both X-Treme BMX Champ Johnny Blaze and Groot, the Tree That Walked Like a Man. Because really, when it comes to all-out Halloween madness, it just doesn’t get a whole hell of a lot crazier than that.

At least, it doesn’t under normal circumstances. But what you are about to see, ladies and gentlemen… is not normal.

For you see, in an effort to bring you the most horrifying Halloween possible this year, I have descended into my own Vault of Fear and returned with a soul-searing saga so unrelenting that I am obliged to offer you a Free Coffin* if you die of fright while reading the next two posts. If this seems too…. intense for you, please go no further! For your own safety, a link has been provided that will take you away from the shocking sights contained below, to a place where the most frightening thing you’ll see is Ernest Borgnine with a switchblade.

Because, my friends, I have returned with the work of Jim Balent, and unlike last year–and I can hardly believe myself that I am about to type this–this time, he’s not subject to Brian Pulido’s mediating influence.

Submitted for your approval…

 

THE TWO-PART TERROR OF TAROT: WITCH OF THE BLACK ROSE!

 

 

Released just in time for Halloween 2004, “Witches and Kittens” was a two-part Halloween crossover between Tarot and Balent’s other Broadsword Comics creations the Three Little Kittens, and while I probably don’t even have to say this, it is not very good.

It is, in fact, one of the worst stories I’ve ever read, and until the release of the recent “Witch Key” storyline, it was in fact the worst Tarot story of all. Think about that. Not only is this story worse than your average comic, but it’s actually worse than every other issue of Tarot. Remember, folks: the Coward’s Exit is right here.

But maybe it’s best to start with the basics: The 3LK (as they’re often abreviated by the dozen or so fans of the book) are essentially Jim Balent’s way of saying “I drew a woman dressed as a cat for six and a half years, and you know what? Still not tired of it.” Essentially Charlie’s Angels in fetish gear, the original three-issue mini-series was described by Balent as an “all-ages action adventure” story, presumably because the lead characters refrained from hardcore nudity. This story, however, bears no such restrictions.

But anyway, all you really need to know about them (and “need” here is used in its loosest sense) is that you’ve got Cattress, Jaguara, and.. (sigh) Kitty Pop, and they go on missions for “Mommy Cat,” most of which revolve around stopping their nemesis, Latex Red, who responded to being booted from the 3LK program by putting together an army of satanic Schoolgirls and getting ginormous breast implants composed of semtex.

And really, you have no idea how much I wish I was making any of that up.

So, all on the same page? Good. Best to move on.

This story opens with Tarot looming bustily over Salem and fretting about whether or not Halloween’s gotten too commercial. Fortunately–or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it–her musings are interrupted before she can get around to asking Charlie Brown about the Great Pumpkin and/or duking it out with a cannibal gingerbread woman by the untimely arrival of the Three Little Kittens and their allegedly hilarious cat-themed sound effects:

 

 

What, you thought I was kidding? In the words of Mark Hale, “Wow. Even the motorcycles are sexist.”

Either way, the Satanic Schoolgirls end up causing the Kitten-Mobile or whatever to crash into a comic shop–which, of course, only stocks 3LK merchandise–knocking out the heroes and gaining the upper hand. Of course, this all just begs the question of just what exactly the 3LK are doing rolling through Salem on Halloween, and when the answer is revealed, it becomes the first jaw-dropping shock of the story.

Brace yourselves.

 

 

Yup. Saddam Hussein.

This, I imagine, is going to require a bit of explanation, presented for your edification as a handy flashback.

Cut to Baghdad, “minutes before the war,” wherein the way for the assault by American troops was paved by three women in PVC corsets:

 

 

Because really, if you can think of a more logical course of action, I’d like to hear it.

Yes, in an altruistic effort to prevent the war from occuring, Uncle Sam sent in the 3 Little Kittens to extract Saddam Hussein in what was to be a bloodless coup, but sadly, these efforts were defeated by the actions of (and again, you’re probably gonna want to brace yourself here)…

 

 

Latex Red.

 

 

Take away the painted-on whiskers, and that was pretty much my reaction too.

Needless to say, the operation does not go as planned, Saddam escapes to the hole in the desert where he was found later, and, mercifully, the flashback ends, without ever actually explaining why Saddam’s being transported through Massachusetts in a bright green Ferrari on Halloween. Devil’s in the details, I suppose.

To his credit, though, Balent does manage to pull off a pretty nice gag at this point as Hussein makes his escape from the palace:

 

 

It’s actually a pretty good sight gag–and by Tarot standards, it’s downright Mel Brooksian–and as much as I gripe about Balent’s attempts at humor, it’s well worth a chuckle.

Until, of course, you remember that it’s a joke made about a war that’s cost us the lives of almost four thousand American soldiers and countless Iraqi citizens in a book designed solely to present horrorporn starring large-breasted witches, at which time the crushing despair returns with a vengeance.

Anyway, back in the present, Tarot does her best to help the 3LK out of their crash, but they immediately assume that she’s a bad guy, because hey: How many women can there possibly be out there with F-cup rack and super-powers (the fact that this is a story drawn by Jim Balent notwithstanding)?

Thus: Bondage.

 

 

And from there–with the heroine of our story neatly incapacitated and tied up in the span of two panels–the litany of fetishes just keeps on growing, from the relatively common–Satanic Schoolgirls with ninja swords–to the downright horrendous:

 

 

Once that’s out of the way, though–along with a guest appearance by Tarot’s Boyfriend/World’s Worst Super-Hero Jon Webb and a shot of Saddam Hussein by Jim Balent by way of Salvador Dali–Hussein’s eventually captured by Latex Red, Raven Hex shows up, and that, thankfully is the end of Part One.

As for the conclusion to the story, well, you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see what happens, but at the very least, we can rest tonight knowing that after all that, there’s no way it could possibly get worse.

 

TOMORROW ON THE ISB:

 

It Gets Worse.

Spooktoberfest Special: The First Annual ISB Costume Contest!

For all my talk about ghosts and monsters–and, you know, skeletons–Halloween pretty much boils down to two things for most people: Costumes and Candy!

Yes, in a tradition dating back to ancient times when people would disguise themselves as monsters in order to scare ghosts out of their fun-sized Snickers bars, Spooktoberfest’s heart lies in celebrating the many rewards that we can earn through earnest, good-natured deception. And while candy doesn’t really translate well to an online venue like the ISB, the pure visual fun of costumes is tailor-made for something like this.

With that in mind, it’s my pleasure to take a break from the frights and sights to celebrate this year’s greatest costumes from the world of comics!

Let’s see, who do we have this year…

 

 

Bruce Wayne as
Superman

 

 

Miura Hayasaka as
Cardbo the Robot

 

 

Brainiac 5 and Sun Boy as
Prince Projectur and Saturn Lad

 

 

The Hulk as
Mechano, the Robot Clown

 

 

Princess Peach as
Luigi

 

 

Yukari Tanizaki and Minamo Kurosawa as
Japanese Schoolgirls

 

 

The Mindless Ones as
Tony Hawk, Rodney Mullen, Bucky Lasek, and Steve Caballero

 

 

Kraven the Hunter as
Spider-Man

 

All great costumes, everybody! But it gives me great pleasure to present this year’s award for Best Costume to…

 

 

Empowered as
Sexy Librarian!

 

Let’s have a big hand for Empowered, everybody!

Of course, they can’t all be winners, so this year’s Worst Costume award goes, once again, to…

 

 

Superman as
Hamlet

 

Man, Supes. I know you’re busy, but how about a little effort next year?

 

The costumes from this year’s contest can be found in DC’s Greatest Imaginary Stories, Yotsuba&! v.5, Azumanga Daioh v.4, Nextwave: I Kick Your Face, Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt and of course, Empowered v.2 among other places.

Why not join in and post YOUR favorite?

Spooktoberfest Special: Hitler’s Halloween Freakout!

Generally speaking, Weird War Tales #114 is not very good.

As another blazin’ battle blockbuster by none other than Robert Kanigher (a fact that’ll become readily apparent in a few minutes) and Fred Carrillo, this issue hit stands at about the same time I did (August, 1982) with a story starring the Creature Commandos.

I’ll admit right off the bat that I’m not all that familiar with the team. Why? Because the Creature Commandos represent one of the greatest gaps in quality between concept and execution in the history of comics. I mean really, on the one hand, they’re monsters fighting Nazis, but on the other, well, one of them is named “Velcro.” And he’s a vampire.

Velcro the Vampire.

Yeah.

And the rest of the team doesn’t really hold up either: You’ve got Dr. Medusa (who inhaled some vaguely sciencey fumes that turned her hair into snakes), werewolf Warren Griffith, “Lucky” Taylor (described as being a “mute” Frankenstein’s Monster despite the fact that he mumbles to himself off and on throughout the story), and they’re all bossed around by Lt. Shrieve, who is not a monster in the traditional sense, but manages to fit right in by being a total and complete dick.

So yeah, as we’ve all no doubt learned from Dave Campbell, even a character named “Dr. Medusa” can’t save this one from tanking pretty hard in its bid to become the finest of all Monster Versus Nazi Action Epics.

There is, however, one redeeming quality: It has what is quite possibly the greatest cover blurb of all time:

 

 

In my time as a comics reader, I’ve seen covers promising to shatter my senses and melt my mind, but before I grabbed this one, I’d never seen one that promised me HITLER WOULD FREAK OUT.

Unfortunately, once you get past that, there’s a pretty sharp drop-off in quality, owing mostly to the fact that Hitler never actually freaks out once in this thing. But I will say this for it: Whether or not it happens in the way that Kanigher & Co. intended, this is actually one of the most genuinely disturbing comics I’ve ever read.

After all, anything that opens with a scene like this

 

 

…probably isn’t going to end very well.

So here’s the deal: Sent on a mission to retrieve Professor LeClair–a nuclear physicist who was working on the atomic bomb before the war–the Creature Commandos and their complete asshole CO find out from his hot teenage daughter that he’s been captured by Nazis who, unaware of his previous work with Einstein, have sent him off to a concentration camp. This, as you might imagine, presents something of a problem, so the Commandos are reassigned to infiltrate Nazi Germany and rescue LeClair.

I’m going to go ahead and assume that everyone reading the ISB has seen the landmark triumph of cinema that is Snakes on a Plane, so bear with me here for a minute: You know that part where one of Ricky Verona’s henchmen voices his thought about how maybe taking out an entire passenger airplane with a bunch of pheromone-crazed snakes might not be the best plan, and Ricky responds by yelling “Don’t you think I’ve tried everything else?!”

That is, without question, my favorite part of the movie, because, well, actually no, I don’t think Ricky Verona tried every possible way of killing off the witness before he finally had to resort to snakes on a plane, because if he had, the movie would’ve been about sixteen hours long.

What does this have to do with Weird War #114? Everything. In order to get LeClair out of the clutches of the Ratzis, the top brass at the OSS decide that the absolute best course of action here would be to dress up the Creature Commandos as a traveling circus (complete with Shrieve whipping and berating them as a ringmaster, representing absolutely no change from his normal behavior) and send them behind enemy lines, where–after a stirring display of headstands–they get the okay from the Furher to tour the concentration camps.

 

 

Let’s stop here and think about that for a second, shall we? A Traveling Freakshow That Only Tours Concentration Camps. I’m not sure what exactly Kanigher was going for there, but that concept is absolutely terrifying.

Especially when you consider that it involves scenes like this:

 

 

 

And of course, my personal favorite:

 

 

Monsters… with machine guns… dressed as clowns. Enjoy your nightmares, folks!

 


 

BONUS FEATURE: The Official Reason

 

In the absence of the cover’s promised Hitler freakout, the absolute greatest thing about this comic becomes a missive sent to the letter column by Staten Island’s Mark Amundsen. Unfortunately, my copy’s stained and a scan wouldn’t be all that legible, so you’ll have to take my word on this one, but I assure you, what I’m about to write here actually appears word for word in the issue.

Anyway, after his disappointment in WWT #110 (the Creature Commandos’ first appearance), Amundesen writes (among other things):

 

Robert Kanigher is DC’s greatest and most versatile writer, yet ye takes so many liberties he is infuriating. I am a stickler for explanations.

For instance: When the Commandos looked into the lake, they saw themselves as they once were. This was a great device. The contrast helps us realize how sad their plight is. But why did the lake reflect their images in this way?
It’s all very well and good to say that Dr. Rhodes has a Medusa hair style. But why? I find it hard to believe that a mixture of chemical fumes could transform her hair into snakes. Humbug!

 

The actual response from editors E. Nelson Bridwell and Julie Schwartz is as follows, and again, I swear I am not making this up:

 

Why?

Why did the uniform of the Flash shed tears the day Barry Allen hung it up? Why did the Viking Prince scream “Kill Me–Kill Me!” in the heat of battle? Why did Herbert Small’s (silent) canary cry upon the deaht of the lonely postman? Why did the Metal Men die issue after issue after issue? Why did Rock kill Johnny Doe? Why did a GI metamorphose into a dinosaur? Why did Superman substitute for the State and act as prosecutor when Lois Lane was charged with murder? Why did RK gather photos of Wonder Tot, Birdboy, Merman, et al, stuff them in his desk and cause said characters to vanish? Why was Rex, the Wonder Dog, able to think coherent thoughts?

The Kanigher touches.

 

That’s right, folks, you heard it here first: DC’s official position on the matter as of August, 1982?

BECAUSE BOB KANIGHER. THAT’S WHY.

Friday Night Fights: Hellboy’s Spooktoberfest Showdown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When darkness falls across the land,
The midnight hour close at hand,
When creatures crawl in search of blood
To terrorize your neighborhood…
Bahlactus always stands his ground,
‘Cause he’s got the soul for getting down!

 

The greatest battles of punching versus monsters–including “The Corpse,” as pictured above–can be found in Mike Mignola’s amazing Hellboy v.3: The Chained Coffin and Others, the spookiest Spooktoberfest Special of all!

The Week In Ink: October 24, 2007

For two terrifying weeks, Thursday nights on the ISB have been suspiciously quiet, but tonight, the scares and skeletons of Spooktoberfest move aside for the return of what everyone really shows up for:

 

The solid crack of a Kick to the Face!

 

 

Oh, and there’s also some reviews I usually toss up here too.

Yes, a fortnight of silence on the latest titles has finally given way to the return of the Internet’s most explosive comics reviews! Here’s what I picked up this week…

 

 

…and in addition to those, I’ll probably throw in my thoughts on some of the titles I missed over the past couple of weeks to boot. Except, of course, for Punisher War Journal #13.

Because really, if you don’t already know what I think of a comic where Frank Castle uses a gun that shoots swords, then you probably won’t be getting a lot out of the reviews around here anyway.

Now let’s get on with it!

 


 

Comics

 

ISB BEST OF A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO OR WHENEVER THE HELL IT CAME OUT

 

 

Action Philosophers #9: The Lightning Round: Thanks to a slight mistake in the store’s ordering, I wasn’t even aware that this issue had hit the stands until AP artist/bon vivant/friend of the ISB Ryan Dunlavey swung by the ol’ comments section to ask why I hadn’t bothered to pick it up yet. It was three weeks after that that it finally showed up on the invoice, and another week after that that the folks at the Warehouse finally figured out that, yes, we were serious about wanting what we ordered and actually shipped it to us, so all told, the amount of time I’ve been waiting on this issue clocks in at somewhere around eleventy billion days.

And now that I’ve read it, I can assure you that it was worth every second.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love Action Philosophers with a passion–hence the utterly shameless namedropping in the paragraph above–but even for a series that consistently manages to be funny and educational on a level that comics have rarely (if ever) seen before, this one stands out. A lot of that, I think, has to do with the format for this one: It’s the last issue, and so Dunlavey and writer Fred Van Lente take the kitchen sink approach to things, setting aside their usual three-thinkers-per-issue format in an effort to cram as much deep thought into 32 pages as humanly possible. I can’t imagine that it’s ever easy to condenese these things into the short form the book uses and still keep them as zippy and fun as these guys do, but when your longest entry (Baruch Spinoza) weighs in at seven pages and several others (like George Berkeley and Gottfried Leibniz) don’t even get past one, the task has to be absolutely herculean.

And yet, they pull it off. And what’s more, they make it look easy with some of the best work of the series thus far. I won’t go into too many details (since you really ought to see for yourself), but if you don’t think that “The Foucault Circus” and “Six Degrees of Francis Bacon” are works of purest, two-page genius, then I’m not sure if we’ll ever agree on anything.

It’s funny, it’s informative, and it solidifies Action Philosophers as the must-have item for everyone’s–yes, everyone’s–bookshelf that we’ve always known it was. Great work.

 

Authority Prime #1: You know, I don’t think I ever thought I’d be that excited to see Jackson King put on his goofy-ass Jim Lee-style Batallion costume (complete with thigh-straps and a Cable-esque gun), but it just goes to show that these comic book things never really cease to surprise.

Of course, I knew going into this one that there was a good chance I’d enjoy it, what with the fact that it’s a WildStorm book written by Christos Gage, and as we learned from Stormwatch PHD, that tends to work out pretty well. I’ll admit, however, that this one’s not quite up to Gage’s usual standards right off the bat, but given that it’s an issue that’s largely given over to setting up the story and opens with the Authority fighting off Things That Should Not Be at H.P. Lovecraft’s Rhode Island estate, I’m willing to give it a little more than the benefit of the doubt.

As for the art, well, Darick Robertson’s always been a little hit (Transmetropolitan) or miss (Wolverine) for me, but he acquits himself pretty well here. It’s got his usual quirks, but one thing I love about it is that he never shies away from emphasizing the absolute craziness inherent in the leftover StormWatch costumes from its early-’90s Image days which makes for some great visuals. It’s good stuff, and even if Gage dusts off the tired cliche of a fight-then-team-up dealie for the teams, I’ve got to think that it’ll still be pretty fun.

 

Blue Beetle #20: I seriously could not care less about the Sinestro Corps War.

I know, I know: I’m pretty much the only one, and while I’ll cop to the idea that it’s just not for me–given that my interest in Green Lantern outside of titles featuring Tommy Monaghan has dropped to zero over the past couple of years–but I just don’t get what the fuss is all about. I mean, look: I love an Evil Opposite story as much or more than the next guy, but when it’s getting to the point where you dredge up a bad guy analogue of Mogo so they can ram into each other in a thinly-veiled bit of slash fiction put to print, it starts to get a little ridiculous. Throw a cast of characters that features such luminaries as Cyborg Superman, Superboyman Prime and the Anti-Monitor and other folks I never, ever need to see again and, well, you get the idea.

That said, I do care an awful lot about Blue Beetle, and while it’s one of the true tests of a comic’s quality to see how a great run holds up when it’s pulled into a crossover, Rogers and Albuquerque pass with flying colors. It’s easy to say that it works so well because they throw the focus onto the Peacemaker for this issue, but with the way they use the context of the Sinestro Corps War to advance the ongoing plot of the series, it stands as a nice example of a tie-in that’s easy to follow even on its own, and I definitely appreciate it.

And really, while we’re on the subject here: I’d seen the Peacemaker before and never really read about him–owing, of course, to the fact that looks like this–but the description Rogers uses in this book of “The man who loved Peace so much he’d kill for it“?

That’s genius!

 

Casanova #10: The second arc of Casanova continues rocking right along, but this issue swaps out the usual giant robots and karate sex dolls for magic words and the cruelty of the Secret Cinema in a story that reads more like The Invisibles than anything else. Except that, y’know, you can actually understand what the hell’s going on.

Ah, but I kid Grant Morrison. The comparison stands, though: Fraction and Moon open this issue with members of an anonymous elite joyfully ruining an innocent girl’s life for the sheer fact that they can, led by a character who oozes decadence from the top of his tiny little fez to the bottom of his spherical body, a problem that can only be solved by someone going undercover, beating them at their own game, and then killing everybody. And brother, if that doesn’t capture the spirit of at least half of The Invisbiles, I don’t know what does.

Of course, Casanova gives you a scene where our leading lady for this arc quotes Ice T for a cover price of only $1.99, and is therefore infinitely superior.

 

Gen13 #13: And now, a brief visit from Cranky Old Man Comics Reader Chris Sims:

You know, back in my day, when the first Gen13 ongoing series hit #13, it was broken up into a three parts that each cost $1.30 and featured thirteen sets of guest stars, including Archie’s crew and motivational speaker Tony Robbins. This time around, however, Gen13 kicks off its second year with eight straight pages where dialogue is forsaken in favor of the most overwritten, angsty narration that I think I’ve ever read.

Look, you can say what you want about the quality of the original Gen13 books–and believe me, I have–but at least they had a sense of fun that defined the book more than anything else. And to say that this book–which has seen the introduction of great concepts like the Authoriteens by the writer who brought fun back to Deadpool when it got too emo–comes as something of a disappointment when it studiously avoids fun every month is a pretty big understatement. There’s just no reason for the characters to stand around telling us that they’re good people instead of going out and having adventures that show us they’re good people, and the brief spikes of enjoyment that crop up every few months only make it worse when the story backslides into its repetitive, self-congratulatory standard.

It may just be my affection for the old stuff–which is a problem in its own right, I think–but Gen13 stands as one of those rare titles that has characters I like in a story by a writer I like, and yet consistently annoys the hell outta me every time I read it. Nostalgia notwithstanding, there’s no reason whatsoever to keep buying it, and while I’ve rewritten this sentence three or four times trying to think of a reason to give it one more shot, a year’s worth of disappointing issues seem like enough of a trial run to me.

 

ISB BEST OF THE WEEK

 

 

Green Arrow: Year One #6: Yeah, I know: I never thought I’d see the day when Green Arrow Year One beat out Casanova for Best of the Week either.

But really, I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, I actually do like Green Arrow a heck of a lot. It’s not something I mention too often–which is pretty easy considering how lousy he’s been over the past four years or so–but as a concept, come on: Who doesn’t love Robin Hood, even without the added bonus of a singing bear?

And that’s what Green Arrow is: A modern-day Robin Hood with a desert island. That’s the core of the character that Andy Diggle and Jock have nailed with this series, and while Ollie Queen doesn’t necessarily rob from the rich, he certainly takes on those who make their money by exploiting and terrorizing the poor, using the time-honored method of the boxing glove arrow.

It’s been a great series top to bottom, but–and I know I say this virtually every time an issue comes out–with a team that has a track record like The Losers, I don’t think it was anything we weren’t expecting.

Right, Ollie?

 

 

Thought so.

 

Madame Mirage #3: Those of you who pay attention to these things–or, to be honest, those of me who pay attention to such things–might recall that Madame Mirage #3 was solicited as the issue where you find out that everything you know about Madame Mirage is wrong, and I’ve got to say, it lives up. After all, who would’ve expected that Mirage was, in fact, a woman who looked entirely different using holograms to project the image of her dead sister, but with much, much larger breasts?

Oh, and in one panel she has a sword. So in case you were wondering if this thing had moved from “bad” to “delightfully awful,” the answer, my friend, is yes.

 

She-Hulk #22: This marks the first issue of Peter David’s run on She-Hulk–taking over for ISB favorite Dan Slott–and as predicted, it only takes seven pages for him to start in with his usual aresenal of loathsome puns.

Seriously, I hate those things like Indiana Jones hates snakes. I just hate ‘em. And it’s not even the puns themselves that really set me off, it’s David’s insistence on them. Both the “FBI” joke and the references to the Absorbing Man’s “little woman” are funny… once. But they’re never just written and left alone, no, they’re brought out again and again, hammered mercilessly into the ground by a man desperately in love with his own clever wordplay until you just want to

Ahem. Sorry. Never happens on X-Factor, s’all I’m sayin’.

Anyway, my all-consuming hatred of David’s punnery aside, I actually do enjoy a lot of the guy’s work, and so far, She-Hulk‘s holding up pretty well. It’s a new direction (complete with a couple of nice twists thrown in for good measure), and while I like the cast and stories of Dan Slott’s run a heck of a lot, I can appreciate both his desire to avoid following too closely in Slott’s very distinctive footsteps and the letter to the reader at the end full of praise for Slott’s work. It’s a very classy thing to do, and it made a nice cap for an enjoyable issue that–hopefully–will set the tone for what’s to come.

Unless, of course, it’s set by the fact that the letter column itself’s been renamed as “She-Mail,” which I’m pretty sure takes the cake as the worst pun in four hundred years. And you guys wonder why I get so mad

 

Suburban Glamour #1: I really wish Jamie McKelvie would draw me a girlfriend.

Uh… There’s a good chance I shouldn’t have actually written that down, so it’s probably best to just move on. Besides, what with the fact that my wardrobe consists largely of t-shirts with Batman on them and my complete inability to grow sideburns, I don’t even think I could make it to the background of this book.

Anyway, last week I mentioned that Suburban Glamour was almost certainly awesome. Of course, I already knew the art was going to be fantastic, as did anyone who’d seen the previews McKelvie had done, or seen the cover when it was solicited, or read Phonogram, and even if the story was darn near unreadable, it still would’ve been worth the cover price for me. McKelvie’s art is just that good: Clean lines, stylish attention to detail, and some of the most expressive faces since Kevin Maguire, wrapped up in Guy Major’s colors to create something that I don’t mind just looking at.

Fortunately, that wasn’t the only selling point for this thing: The story’s engaging right off the bat, with characters that manage to act authentically youthful without coming off as full of themselves or excessively petty jammed right up against bizarre encounters with the supernatural that are equally well-designed and drawn. It’s fun stuff, and like I said, it’s easily one of the prettiest books you’ll find on the shelves anywhere. Pick it up.

 


 

And that’s the week (or so)! As always, if you have any questions or comments on something I read–like how funny it was that Bruce Banner and the Hulk finally solved their differences in the time-honored manner of sitcom apartments or whether this week’s Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century was inspired by Greek myth or Laser Cats–feel free to strike up a discussion in the comments section below.