…and we’re back!
I know what you’re all thinking: “With Dave Campbell gone, you’ve changed, man! Taking three days off in the middle of the week?” And I know, it’s a confusing and frightening time for all of us. But I can assure you that the fact that I have utterly defeated my archrival and gained a crucial victory in my quest for Total Internet Domination will in no way change me. I’m still the same old Chris.
Hm. That’d probably be funnier if you could see that I was typing this from a sedan chair borne aloft by a team of concubines with truly prodigious upper body strength. Oh well, limitations of the format. Whatcha gonna do, right?
But none of that matters! All you need to know is that it’s Thursday night, and that means it’s time for another round of the Internet’s Most Triumphant Comics Reviews! Here’s what I bought…
And now I’m going to review my comic book collection, and you’re gonna like it!
Army of Darkness/Xena: Why Not? #2: If Dark Xena was the pinnacle of comic book art–and it was–then John Layman’s follow-up where he takes advantage of the fact that Bruce Campbell pretty much plays the same character throughout the Sam Raimi Universe–is the mellow snifter of brandy that washes it down. So intense are my feelings for this, the third installment of Layman’s Xena saga, that I have difficulty expressing myself in traditional review format, and have instead composed a traditional Rondelet:
Battered and Bruced!
Fey realms conquered by ersatz Ash!
Battered and Bruced,
Whilst Xena and Sidekick are goosed,
None can tell from the lack of ‘stache,
John Layman shall have all my cash.
Battered… and Bruced!
I think that about says it all.
Batman #675: In theory, the phrase “Grant Morrison’s run on Batman” conjures up something along the same lines as chocolate and peanut butter: Morrison’s body of work speaks for itself, and with JLA, he wrote what are probably the best Batman moments of the ’90s. In practice, however, the run’s more than a little lacking, and this issue’s a perfect example of why.
Don’t get me wrong: I’ll be the first to say that Morrison’s recent Club of Heroes three-parter was the best Batman story in the past five years hands down, but since then, nothing’s been able to get to that height, and this one might actually be a new low. There are good moments in the story–I think we can all agree that Batman taking out one of his enemies with tempura makes for some entertaining reading–but the overall story with Jezebel Jet fell completely flat. As Kevin mentioned, a lot of this probably has to do with the fact that we haven’t seen much of her, but I think an equal share of the problem goes to seeing it all before, and I liked her better back when she was called Silver St. Cloud. There’s been virtually no buildup to what is now a pretty tiresome cliché, and to be honest, I just don’t see why I should care.
Or maybe I’m just taking my cues from the art, because Jet spends most of the issue looking bored out of her mind in what should, by all rights, be pretty tense moments. It’s bad enough that Batman’s sporting a grimace straight out of the Rob Liefeld School of Dentistry on Tony Daniel’s cover, but Ryan Benjamin and Saleem Crawford don’t miss a single opportunity to drop the ball on art chores, and with Batman and his huge thighs giving a 26-tooth smile at the issue’s climax, it starts to read like a very well-colored issue of X-Force.
It’s pretty terrible, but what really stings is that there’s absolutely no reason for it to be anything but great. It’s a top-tier book with a top-tier writer and… well, there are people drawing it, and we’ve seen how good it can be. And yet, we get this. Go figure.
Birds of Prey #117: The last time I reviewed Birds of Prey, I mentioned that I was thinking about giving it up after buying it for almost a hundred issues, and while the last couple of months haven’t done a whole lot to change my opinion, this issue was exactly what I wanted.
With this issue, it feels like Sean McKeever’s finally hit his stride with the title, to the point where I actually forgot that Gail Simone wasn’t writing it anymore. Admittedly, I’m a forgetful sort of guy in matters that don’t directly relate to comics written by Bill Mantlo, but I’d like to think that in this case, it has a lot more to do with McKeever rebounding from some poor character work in the previous issues to get everyone right in this one, especially Misfit.
But really, that’s nothing special, and neither’s the way that he introduces a new set of villains–including my personal favorite, Mind Bullet, whose powers are pretty self-explanatory–or the way that he leaves Manhunter’s hallucinations to the reader’s imagination, but it all works well and comes together to make for some pretty sharp comics. And hey, if they stay this good for two more months, we might just break that hundred-issue streak after all.
Checkmate #25: I’ve often said that Greg Rucka’s run on Checkmate (along with Nunzio DeFillipis, Christina Weir and Eric Trautmann) is the modern successor to John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad, and if there’s any better illustration of that point than the fact that this issue opens by revealing that Checkmate’s badass super-commandos are, in fact, Gravedigger, Cinnamon, Sebastian Faust and G.I. Motherfucking Robot, then brother, I’d like to see it.
Admittedly, I have a very specific sort of love for the DC Universe that allows me to get crazy excited about relatively obscure characters Sebastian Faust–who I don’t think has been seen since Day of Judgment–or genre-specific legacy heroes like Gravedigger–whose predecessor has the honor of being on one of the all-time greatest “that guy is about to get jacked up” covers in history–but seriously: G.I. Robot. He is a robot who kills Nazis in the jungle with his machine-gun arm, and that’s something everyone can enjoy.
Beyond that, though, it’s just a great, solid story with an ending that I’ll freely admit suckered me right in for the twist, and while I hate to see Rucka & Co. leave–especially to be replaced by the generally useless Bruce Jones–it makes for a fantastic ending to a truly great run that did a great job combining the sense and style of Rucka’s more espionage-oriented work with the elements of the DC Universe. If you haven’t already, give it a read.
Hulk vs. Hercules: When Titans Collide #1: And now, an itemized list of things that are awesome about this comic:
1. It takes place in the aftermath of Hulk #300, which, as we all know, is the best Hulk story ever.
2. It features a scene where Hercules is participating in an Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation event, where he applies the dreaded ankle lock to the Thing, thus showing his integrity, intensity and intelligence.
3. During the course of the story, the Hulk meets the happiest giant in the world.
4. The main story ends with the Hulk, Hercules, Athena and Ares all teaming up to beat the crap out of a bunch of giants, thus beginning a giant-wrecking trend that continues in next week’s Thor: Ages of Thunder.
And of course:
5. There is a scene where Hercules punches the Hulk twenty-six times in one panel. That is so so rad.
Uncanny X-Men #497: I’ve been enjoying the heck out of Ed Brubaker and Mike Choi’s latest story, and while I’ve mentioned before that it’s the first time in a while that we’ve seen the X-Men doing something that they don’t usually do–except for the highly enjoyable parts where Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Collossus fight giant robots, because we’ve seen that pretty often–but for this issue, it really just boils down to one fact:
This should totally be Cyclops’s new costume. And that’s real.
Wolverine: First Class #2: I’ll admit that when the first issue of Wolverine: First Class came out last month, I was a little underwhelmed. It wasn’t bad by any means, but it didn’t have the same kind of punch that I was expecting from a new series by the co-writer of Incredible Hercules, let alone the guy who wrote Action Philosophers!. Maybe it was the way Van Lente devoted the opening bit to explaining the premise of the series–a problem that its sister series never seemed to have–but while it was enjoyable, it wasn’t great.
This issue, however, is the best Wolverine story since Darwyn Cooke had him in a crushed velvet suit a few years back. And yes: I’m including the one where he fought zombie ninja super-heroes when I say that.
Simply put, this is as close to my Platonic ideal of what a Wolverine story should be as I’ve ever seen, and while it’s not just because the series structure allows Van Lente to forget all the baggage of the thirty years and present a version of the character that’s a badass with a core of nobility (which is what made him so appealing in the first place), that’s a big part of it. When you throw the sharp dialogue, great humor, explosions, it’s darn near perfect.
But when you add in Caitlin-San the Ninja Waitress, that just pushes it right over the top. Seriously, she’s my pick for Sensational Character Find of 2008, and if I had my way, it’d be her and Karl from AIM in an ongoing series toute suite. Call me, Marvel. I work cheap.
ISB BEST OF THE WEEK
X-Men: First Class #11: I’ve mentioned before that every now and then, I get the feeling that there are comics out there that are being marketed directly to me–like that one issue of Iron Fist where the solicitation promised girls, pirates and kicking in one comic at last–but this time, I know for sure that I was the target audience for this one. Why?
Because last week, writer and ISB Favorite Jeff Parker decided to take a more grassroots approach and started advertising the new issue of XMFC to one person at a time, starting with me. But it wasn’t just me: Parker also appealed to the rampaging Graeme McMillan and Bully the Little Stuffed Bull before he switched back to advertising to the masses, but still, it’s nice to know my love of Francophonic Facekickery has spread to the heart of Marvel.
Of course, I was planning on picking this issue up anyway–and with good reason, it’s consistently one of the most enjoyable comics Marvel’s putting out, let alone one of the best X-Men books in years–but brother, he wasn’t kidding: This might just be the best issue of the series. Nick Dragotta does a phenomenal job filling in for Roger Cruz, and, well, my feelings regarding Colleen Coover and why she should be drawing Every Single Comic Ever have been pretty well-documented, and seeing her draw Man-Thing and Fin Fang Foom on the same page fulfilled a dream I didn’t even know I had. And the story…. Well, I never thought I’d get a chance to use this sentence, but Jeff Parker’s created a kid-friendly metafiction that goes from being solidly funny to absolutely hilarious if you’ve ever worked in a comic book store.
And if that still doesn’t convince you, then Parker’s got plenty of others waiting at his site, and…
I just noticed that Colleen Coover drew the Rick Barry/Dr. J “Street Ball” ad in her section.
Clearly, this is the greatest comic book of the New Willennium.
And on that note, I’m calling it a night. As always, any questions on something I read this week–like speculation on what Veronica’s “older friends” that she moved in with when she ran away were really up to in this week’s Betty & Veronica–feel free to leave them in the comments section below.