For a Stronger America

I don’t usually like to get too political here on the ISB, but let’s be honest, folks: There’s too much at stake this year to not pick a side. The economy, health care, the war; these are issues that really matter to me, and with opinions split even within the major parties, I feel like it’s time to make it clear where I stand.

So tonight, the ISB’s coming out in full support of a candidate we can believe in. A man who isn’t bogged down by years of cronyism and won’t put our country’s fate in the hands of the lobbyists. A man who, despite an apparent lack of experience, has a plan for America that transcends the old political boundaries. A man who believes in the power of hope.

 

 

Thank you for your time.

Friday Night Fights: The Mighty Thor: ACTION DENTIST!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let this be a lesson: Sometimes, Thor will knock your Goddamn teeth out.

And that’s why Bahlactus brushes twice a day.

 

More of Thor’s take on orthodontia–which mostly involves hitting someone in the mouth with a hammer–can be found in Walt Simonson’s run on Thor, which includes the all-splash awesomeness of Thor #380.

The Week In Ink: March 26, 2008

Man… I can’t for the life of me remember what I did last night. Oh well, it’s probably best to move on. And what better way to move on than with Wilbur Wang: Tree Surgeon?

 

 

That’s right, folks: It’s Thursday night on the ISB, and a kick to the face can only mean that it’s time once again for another round of the Internet’s Most Caffeinated Comics Reviews!

Here’s what I picked up this week…

 

 

So what did I think about it? Read on, gentle reader… if you dare!

 


 

Comics

 

ISB BEST OF THE WEEK

 

 

All-Star Superman #10: Well, that was an easy decision.

Really, though: As much as I like to shift the spotlight out a little bit when it comes to my seemingly arbitrary “award” that I hand out every week, there’s no getting around the fact that All-Star Superman really is the best comic of the week every time it comes out. So you heard it here first folks: The Eisners take their cue from the ISB. I wouldn’t be surprised if this year’s ceremony opened with Jackie Estrada giving somebody a boot right to the chops.

But back to the point at hand, which is this: All-Star Superman is a phenomenal comic book, and while everyone already knows that at this point, any book that can boil Superman down to his most essential elements and do it this well deserves all the praise it can get. Admittedly, the Bizarro World storyline wasn’t quite my thing, but this issue… man.

This one has it all, and for a book that did the best Jimmy Olsen story in thirty plus years, that’s saying something. I think Kevin put it best yesterday when he said that Morrison does the perfect summary of Superman’s relationship with Lois on page 8, the people he protects on page 12, and with Luthor on page 15. That’s three amazing moments in the span of eight pages, and the astonishing thing about is that none of those are even the best bit in the comic.

For me, that came on page twenty, when we see this:

 

 

This, of course, is Superman sending smaller Supermen out of his hand to deal with the problems that he himself can’t solve, and there’s no way that’s not a reference to “Superman’s New Power,” from 1958′s Superman #125.

 

 

This one’s been covered all over the Internet, and with good reason: If it’s not the most beautifully crazy story in the entire Silver Age of Comics, then it’s in the top two. This is probably why Morrison once said it was his favorite Superman story–and you can find out exactly why for yourself in the ridiculously awesome Showcase Presents Superman v.1–and while I knew that going in, seeing it pop up here caused me to freak right out at the fun of it all.

So yeah: All-Star Superman‘s great. In other news, water’s wet and this whole “Sun” thing? We’re thinking “bright.”

 

Army of Darkness / Xena: Why Not? #1: Ladies and gentlemen, you may now return from the edge of your seats: John Layman has once again descended from heaven amidst a choir of angels and delivered unto us a work of purest genius.

Long-time ISB readers may recall that Layman’s previous work, Dark Xena–wherein Xena is resurrected by Cthulhu, which forces Gabrielle to masquerade as her own hypothetical evil twin, Evielle–will be the cornerstone of future civilizations, but this one addresses more metaphysical matters. It’s a common misconception that the subtitle “Why Not?” refers to the kitchen sink nature of the crossover itself, but in reality, it’s a challenge to the reader. Why not forget your earthly concerns and pursue true happiness for the first time in your life? Why not transcend all that you know and experience pure joy? Why not read this comic book?

Incidentally, the title of this issue, wherein Ash (as played by Bruce Campbell) travels back in time to do battle with Mini-Ash (as played by Bruce Campbell) alongside Autolycus (as played by Bruce Campbell)? “Battered and Bruced.” Genius.

 

Blue Beetle #25: I realize that after those last two reviews, what I’m about to say is going to come off as hyperbole at best, but this is without question one of the best comic books I’ve read in years.

I’ve been saying for months now that Blue Beetle is at the top of the short list of DC comics that everyone should be reading, but with their latest story–and this issue in particular–Rogers and Albuquerque have topped themselves, and I’m gonna go ahead and say it: Their run on Blue Beetle has made it the best teen super-hero comic since Impulse.

For those of you that have read the original Mark Waid run on Impusle–or at least heard me go on about it before–you probably already know that this is pretty high praise, but when you get right down to it, the books are a lot similar, and for more reasons than just the way all teen super-hero books are alike. Mostly, it comes down to the way that both books deal with heroic legacies in a way that’s far more engaging and fun than other books even come close to, and on that front Blue Beetle‘s got it all over anything else on the stands.

It’s great, and the way Rogers is able to pull off big reveals like finally understanding the scarab after two years makes it well worth picking up, and the only thing I don’t like about it is that he’s off for a (hopefully temporary) hiatus after this one. Of course, the new writer’s going to be Will Pfeifer, whose run on Catwoman is similarly awesome and underrated, I’ll be looking forward to the day he gets back.

 

Jack of Fables #21: With this issue, Willingham and Sturges take us back a bit to the Golden Boughs retirement village and a story of the inmates putting on a play, and while that could’ve easily come off as an annoying diversion, they handle it in a way that makes for some highly enjoyable comics. Really, who would’ve thought that a comic would come out this week that would combine two of my favorite things so well?

I speak of course of a) Hamlet, and b) Alice (of Wonderland fame) using promises of sexual favors to get her way. I mean, up ’til I read this issue, I wasn’t even sure I liked that last one that much myself, although it probably doesn’t come as too much of a surprise.

I mean, I did shell out seventy-five bucks for Lost Girls.

 

Legion of Super-Heroes #40: I can’t speak for anywhere else, but around my shop, I’ve noticed that over the past couple months, there seems to have been a spike in interest in Legion of Super-Heroes, and I’m pretty happy about that. Not just because I’m a big fan of the Legion myself–although that’ll become readily apparent soon, even moreso than usual–but because over the past four issues, Jim Shooter and Francis Manapul have been turning in some incredibly solid work.

Admittedly, I wouldn’t mind at all if Shooter laid off the future slang, but when the worst thing about a guy’s script is his very, very liberal use of the alleged word “florg,” then that’s not a bad place to be, especially when it’s balanced out by issues that are packed full of future-action and teenage super-romance involving Karate Kid. It’s fun, and while it’s obvious that the break-neck pacing of the stories owes a lot to Shooter’s original run, the content falls right in line with the problems and humor of Waid and Kitson’s relaunch. So if you haven’t jumped on yet, I’m pretty sure they’re all still available, and between this and Ostrander on Suicide Squad, I’m starting to think that sometimes, you actually can go home again.

Unless you’re Chris Claremont, I mean. Let’s not go crazy here.

 

Power Pack: Day One #1: See, you guys? This is what happens when we let girls create comics. We get super-heroes who get their powers from a magic space unicorn that turns into rainbows.

Ah, but I kid Louise Simonson and June Brigman; I actually like the Power Pack a heck of a lot, and ever since the relaunch a couple years back by Sumerak and Gurihiru, it’s been one of the most enjoyable kids’ comics on the market. Seriously, there was an issue where Doctor Doom took over Franklin Richards’ body and then spent a day at Elementary School, and if that’s not a formula for good comics, then brother, I don’t know what is.

Beyond that, though, this one has an added selling point that I mentioned back when it first got solicited: Science lessons in the form of backup stories by Fred “Action Philosophers” Van Lente and Colleen “Banana Sunday” Coover, and while the main story is highly enjoyable–with Gurihiru’s art making a great return to form–I’d pay for a whole book of those backups.

Hear that, Marvel? I would pay good money for a whole book of Van Lente/Coover science lessons!

 

Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #49: So, Tarot‘s out again, and rather than risk my own sanity typing up a review of this month’s adventure of a real-life Witchity type–thus marking Tarot’s complete descent into Jim Balent doing fan-fiction starring his own characters–I thought I’d just offer up two quotes on the subject.

First, from last month’s Previews, a Diamond staffer’s opinion of the book:

What these impressionable young men don’t know is that they just put down, quite possibly, the most female-empowering book in the whole shop.

And secondly, from this issue:

When I awoke, I felt the slithering of a tentacle upon my chest.

You can probably see where I’m going with this. Clearly, someone has never read Dark Xena.

 

Usagi Yojimbo #110: I don’t usually talk about Usagi for the same reason that I skip over a lot of books: It’s so consistently good that I rarely have anything to say about it, and with over a hundred amazing issues and everything from an Eisner to a Parent’s Choice Award on Stan Sakai’s shelf, it’s not like that’s really news.

This issue, though, isn’t just everything I like abotut Usagi, it’s everything I like about comics. It’s a simple premise–Gen and Usagi are split up in a haunted forest and reunite with the possibility that one’s been replaced by a nine-tailed trickster fox–that belies the craftsmanship of Sakai’s work, and the end result is pure lighthearted enjoyment wrapped around a samurai battle. And honestly, if that sentence doesn’t convince you to jump on for this one, then nothing will.

It’s fantastic stuff, and if you’re a new reader, it’s a done-in-one that makes it ideal for jumping on. And if you’re not, well.. Pretty awesome, right?

Right.

 


 

 

JACK KIRBY’S FOURTH WORLD V.4:

EVEN GODS MUST DIE!

FINAL BATTLES ARE FOUGHT IN THE STREETS!
FINAL BATTLES ARE FOUGHT BY THE POWERLESS!
FINAL BATTLES ARE DECIDED BY…

THE HUNGER DOGS!!

 


 

And that’s more or less the week! As always, any questions or comments on this week’s titles–like whether Jonathan Hickman’s Transhuman maintains the words-to-awesome ratio of his other books (it does!) or if it was totally awesome when Damage Control took on the Chrysler Building in what I hope is a prelude to a new ongoing series (it was! I do!)–can be left in the comments section below.

The Caffeine-Free Jimmy Olsen

Hi, everyone! I’m Christopher, and apparently, this is my website.

You’ll have to forgive me. I decided on a lark this morning that I was going to skip out on having any caffeine today–marking the first time I’ve done that in… well, let’s just round it off to seventeen years–and I’ve been in something of a fog all day. In fact, to be honest, the past few years are all sort of a blur at this point.

But anyway, it seems I’ve got this website, and I vaguely remember something about updating daily, so I’d better get to it. It’s almost eleven, after all, and I’m starting to get awfully sleepy.

Fortunately, over here by the computer, there was a stack of… well, I guess they’re comic books, but they’re all in black and white and look to be the size of a phonebook. The one on top–Superman Family v.2–had a Post-It stuck to the cover (I’m assuming I wrote it) with “GOOD FOR THE BLOG” written on it next to a drawing of what I think is supposed to be Eddie from Iron Maiden using a “signal watch,” so I guess that’s what I’ll be posting about tonight.

Let’s see here…

 

 

From what I understand, this Jimmy Olsen character is Superman’s sidekick, so seeing him become any sort of “outlaw” would certainly be out of character, especially if it’s going to bring him into conflict with his “pal!” That’s definitely something you don’t see every day.

But still, I’m sure there’s a good reason for it. I mean, I wouldn’t be buying so many of these things if they were full of nonsense and explanations that were tenuous at best, right? Let’s press on!

The story proper starts Jimmy paying a visit to a recurring Metropolitan scientist named Professor Potter. The ol’ memory’s still a bit fuzzy around the edges, but I recall that this Potter is something of a genius inventor, with accomplishments ranging from computer science to time travel, so this visit should prove to be very educational.

Today’s invention? The Twin-Maker Ray!

 

 

Sadly, Potter’s invention is slightly flawed, and while I’m not sure why, I can’t shake the nagging feeling that I’ve seen a flawed duplicator ray somewhere before.

Either way, Potter’s produces copies that are visually identical, but differing in their qualities, to the point where they become opposites. In an interesting study in duality: An apple produced is sour rather than sweeet, a black rabit is reproduced from a white one, and an ostrich provides…

 

 

…a greedy ostrich?

The opposite of “ostrich” is “greed?” What an odd plot point.

Oh well. As you might expect, Professor Potter, who is turning out to be a very irresponsible scientist indeed, eventually turns the ray on Jimmy himself, using him to test the ray’s effectiveness on human beings, without even asking his permission first. I guess it’s obvious now just why he never got his doctorate.

The results are about what you’d expect:

 

 

Unlike the simple distinctions that mark the apple, rabbit and ostrich, Jimmy and his double (or as I’ve nicknamed him, “The Deuce”) appear to be exact copies.

The keyword, of course, is “appear,” as it quickly becomes evident that the Deuce is, in fact, evil. So evil, in fact, that he sends Jimmy home by telling him that he’ll cover his job, and then promptly starts doing crimes.

He starts by crashing through a skylight and using his connections with Superman to blackmail a thief into handing over half of his loot, but quickly moves on to more daring exploits, like… Wait.

This can’t be right.

It looks like the Deuce is climbing up a giant statue of Superman that serves as some kind of signpost in order to steal a safe using a giant magnet.

 

 

Well that’s just silly!

I mean, that’s not even the airport! It’s an apartment building! What kind of books are these?!

Maybe I should just get through this and move on. With his crimes escalating as he uses his connections to Superman to aid and abet them, the Deuce decides that it’s time to plot his big score: Discovering Superman’s identity and selling it to the mob. And in order to accomplish this task, he elects to take one of Jimmy’s chunks of Kryptonite–though I’m not sure why Jimmy hangs onto a fist-sized rock that can kill his best friend–and wander around the city waiting to see who is weakened when he passes by. The logistics of this plan are… well, it’s awful. Just awful.

Defying all logic–which I’m sensing is a trend in these stories–the plan works almost immediately, and the Deuce discovers that Superman is in reality Clark Kent, mild-mannered etc.

Before he can sell the information, though–thanks in large part to using a sentence so convoluted that it puts mine to shame–he pulls a fadeout, courtesy of Jimmy Classic:

 

 

Thus, Jimmy Olsen essentially murders himself with a radioactive meteorite.

Ridiculous. And looking around the house, I see that I’ve got stacks–stacks!–of the same, and I’m starting to get the feeling that I never finished college! Clearly, a change of lifestyle is in order.

But we’ll get to that tomorrow. For now, I’m getting awfully sleepy, and perhaps a trip to bed is in order. But first, I’m a bit parched.

What’s this…? “Starbucks Double Shot Espresso and Cream?” Sounds delicious!

 

I LIVE… AGAIN!!

 


 

BONUS FEATURE: Was Once A Man!

 

In order to disguise himself while he commits grand theft magnet, the Deuce uses a hood that looks strangely familiar:

 

 

Let’s see. Between the hood, the bizarre crimes, and the fact that he’s running away, I think I might’ve stumbled onto something here. Could Evil Jimmy Olsen actually be… Cobra Commander?!

 

 

U-DECIDE!

And Now…

An ISB Moment of Philosophy with The Badger:

 

 

Case in point: People who talk in the movies.

 

 

See Also: Every Single Comic Book Ever.1

 

For more on the virtues of non-stop face-kicking, see The Complete Badger v.1 by Mike Baron–who would go on to test this theory in around fifty issues of The Punisher–and a host of artists.

1: Exception: Comics by Adrian Tomine, Jeffery Brown, and other lesser works.

Relatively Serious Comics Reviews: North World and Life Sucks

Every now and then, a comic book publisher gets the idea that I’m someone people go to for advice on purchasing their comics, and not just a guy who talks about Destro all the time. When that happens, they send me comics to review, and because there’s nothing I like more than getting free stuff, I try to provide an honest opinion on them while doing my best to avoid making jokes about Marvex the Super-Robot or something.

Let’s see how I do this time.

 

 

To be fair, though, I think I’ve got a little room to work with, since both of tonight’s subjects involve some comedy. And, interestingly enough, they’re both stories where traditional fantasy elements have been paired with a real-world slice-of-life setting for pretty awesome results.

First up is Lars Brown’s North World, which hit the shelves last week from the good folks over at Oni Press.

As you might expect from the title, North World‘s distinguished right off the bat by its setting, which–if you’re into labels, man–could be described pretty accurately as “Modern Fantasy.” Conrad, the hero of the first volume, lives in a world with mass transit, telephone poles, burrito stands and all the other trappings of the 21st century that we all know and love, but it’s also a world where picking up your family sword and going off to the woods to fight Dire Rats is a pretty good career option. And that’s where it all starts for Conrad, a young adventurer with a knack for dealing with oversized animals who gets called back to his hometown to deal with a nasty bit of demon-summoning that also coincides with his ex-girlfriend’s wedding.

If you’re a regular ISB reader, you may already be familiar with North World from when I linked to its webcomic version back when the trade was first solicited (when I heard about it from Kevin), and honestly, if you haven’t already checked it out, do so. After all, Brown sells his own work better than I ever could with scenes like this:

 

 

And that’s within the first twelve pages.

Like all good comics, though, North World is more than just the sum of its parts, which aren’t just limited to a modernized fantasy setting and bear-punching. In fact, the beats of the plot are so familiar that they’re almost cliché: A guy who leaves home to escape bad memories and a dead-end small-town life looking for the one big score that’ll finally make it possible (which, now that I think of it, is the plot of every Bruce Springsteen song), the strained relationship with the father that thinks he abandoned the family, the ex-girlfriend who wants him to see how happy she is without him. It’s all stuff that we’ve all seen before, but Brown does a great job of making it fresh and engaging, and not just because he puts it in a different setting, and it all adds up to a pretty fun read.

But again, you can find that out for yourself by reading it online as a webcomic, and while that’s all well and good, I’m one of those people who prefers to get long-form story arcs like North World in complete chunks that I can sit down with. This is also why I love Phil Foglio’s Girl Genius but only read it in trade, and as a bonus to guys like me that goes against the trend of how webcomic collections usually work, Brown’s included a complete story that actually goes beyond what’s published online.

So take a look, read, enjoy, and then swing by your friendly local comics retailer (or use the handy Amazon link above) and check it out. It’s well worth it.

 


 

Next up on the agenda is an upcoming book from our old friends at First Second, and seriously? It’s pretty close to being the most enjoyable comic they’ve published since Gene Yang’s American Born Chinese.

Not too much of a surprise there, since Xeric winner Jessica Abel’s involved, and they tend to give those things out to people who know what they’re doing. I mean, she did do the art for the This American Life comic, which will no doubt stand as the greatest NPR tie-in to comics until Marvel finally decides to approve my pitch for Sarah Vowell Super Stories. Anyway, Abel, Gabe Soria and Warren Pleece’s Life Sucks is pretty easy to boil down to a one-sentence pitch: In essence, it’s Clerks… with vampires.

The story follows Dave, a college student who had the misfortune to wander into a convenience store while looking for a job, where he was promptly bitten by the shop’s owner, a vampire who now demands that he spend his undeath as assistant manager, shelling out lottery tickets and beef jerky to the night shift crowd forever.

It is, therefore, the closest approximation of Hell that I have ever seen.

 

 

There’s a lot of inherent comedy in the idea of a mid-20s slacker trying to balance his life as a minimum-wage Nosferatu–and there are a lot of really good sequences to that effect, especially at the beginning–but like North World, the team behind Life Sucks uses that as a backdrop for more mundane drama. Dave has a job that he hates that he can’t get out of, a crush on a girl that he can’t bring himself to do anything about, and an omnipresent nemesis who seems like he’s had everything handed to him while Dave himself gets stuck with the leftovers. I don’t know about you guys, but those are all things I can identify with–especially that last one–and for the most part, it’s all blended with the thin metaphor of the undead for some very enjoyable comics.

The problem is that the plot takes two sharp turns before it finally ends up. Halfway through, Dave and his aforementioned nemesis, Wes–a classic villain in every sense that at one point literally bites his girlfriend’s head off in a scene that’s pretty jarring given the lighthearted, off-panel nature of the violence that leads up to it–make a bet regarding the object of Dave’s affections and who can get through to her first, the conniving prettyboy or the earnest John Cusack stand-in. This is a conflict that ought to be familiar if you’ve, you know, ever seen a movie made for teenagers, and it plays out almost exactly the way you’d think, until the second sharp turn that leads to an extremely depressing ending.

It’s a shame–for me anyway–because there’s so much about the book that’s really enjoyable, and while it’s a pretty far stretch to say that the last few pages “ruin” the rest of it, it certainly seemed wholly unnecessary and thoroughly disheartening. To stretch out the Clerks metaphor to its logical conclusion, it’s a lot like the original ending where Dante gets shot and killed, and seems every bit as out of place here as it does in the film.

But then again, that could just be me and the eternal hope that you can one day break the chains of comics retail a menial job, and there’s more than enough that I liked about this one that it was worth reading.

And since I’ve made my opinions on vampire-based comics prettty well known in the past, that might as well be a stirring endorsement.

 

As mentioned above, review copies were provided by the publishers. That’ll show ‘em.