War Rocket Ajax #3: In the Details with Jess Nevins

 

 

On this week’s episode of the world’s most destructive podcast, Euge and I sit down with librarian, comic book annotator and Six-Gun Gorilla expert Jess Nevins for a conversation about the fun you can have with the details of comics!

Or at least, that was what we thought we’d talk about. As per usual, the conversation got away from us, but Jess is so entertaining that we’re probably better off than if it hadn’t. It’ll be obvious if you listen to the podcast, but I’m a big fan of Jess’s work: his annotations for League of Extraordinary Gentlemen are fantastic and fun to read (and in the case of Black Dossier, pretty much necessary) and his thorough index of Marvel’s Golden Age hipped me to both the Armless Tiger Man and, with the help of my pal Scott, Chauncey Throttlebottom III, the Vagabond. But even if you’ve never heard of the guy, he’s phenomenally entertaining to talk to, and we’ve got him discussing what it’s like to write an encyclopedia, the price of Internet Fame, and his strangest conversation with Alan Moore.

Plus, I discuss Batman: Arkham Asylum (surprisingly, I’m very positive), Euge and I talk about Jonathan Hickman’s first issue of Fantastic Four, we devote even more time to Chris Onstad’s Achewood, plus another installment of Big Ups To All My Haters!

Ajax is available on iTunes, but even if you’re subscribed, head over to the site to check out Rusty’s tabletop fighter versions of Jess and–if you didn’t see ‘em last week–Caitlin Kittredge, Euge and me. Enjoy!

The Annotated Anita Blake: The Laughing Corpse: Necromancer #4

Ever since my laziness led me to go through two issues at once to catch up near the end of the first series, it’s been my practice to tackle new issues of the Anita Blake comics over the weekend after they come out. This time, however, there was a problem, as my Internet connection inexplicably died Saturday night, with no technicians available to check it out ’til Monday.

Could it be that fate itself didn’t want me reviewing the latest issue of Laurenn J. Framingham’s vamperotic “master” “work?”

Apparently not. Just when I’d resigned myself to another night devoted to Batman: Arkham Asylum, the connection popped back up, so I guess fate has decreed that I will once again suffer through another 22 pages for your amusement shine the light of scholarship onto the mysteries of the story. So, you know, I’ve got that goin’ for me.

Now on with it! Grab your own copy and follow along!

 


 

1.1: When we last left Anita, she’d taken a hooker back to her apartment with Jean-Claude, but like most things in Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter (up to and including the title), this is not as exciting as it sounds.

 

 

That’s right, folks: It’s another eight pages of talking. I have to say, though, as much as I’ve pointed out how this book tends to dwell on the aspects of vampire hunting that involve neither vampires nor hunting, I actually would’ve liked to see the scene where Jean-Claude goes into Anita’s room, looks around at all the stuffed animals (some of which have been poorly laundered recently) and just getting weirded out.

 

1.4: In this panel, Anita claims that she feels “like a bully.”

 

 

Considering that Bully the Little Stuffed Bull is mostly known for stuff like Ten of a Kind, 365 Days With Ben Grimm and other upbeat comics blogging rather than badgering weepy hookers, it’s safe to assume that she feels like Jimmy Hopkins, and regrets not picking the flowers in front of the Girl’s Dorm before starting a social interaction.

 

2.5: And now, dialogue!

 

 

The gun in question is Anita’s Firestar nine milimeter, last seen in the book’s most recent scene that involved something resembling action, which was five issues ago. As to why Wheelchair Wanda–and yes, that is the character’s actual name–feels the need to ask if it’s the same gun, and why this made it into both a novel and its comic book adaptation without being cut as pointless busywork for letterer Bill Tortolini, take it up with Framingham. I just read ‘em, folks.

 

3.5: Aaaaaaaaaand we have our first reference to torture of the disabled for sexual thrills as a plot point. Rad. Reference #2, incidentally, will come on page four, but as it’s a reference to torture of the disabled performed by the disabled, it’s probably a matter to be addressed separately. Preferably by someone far less sober than I.

 

5.4: Prepare your mind for a literary technique, son:

 

 

Wow. That is deep. But it should be noted that before the author decided to blow your mindwith that stunner of a revelation, the passage was originally written thus:

Gaynor had done worse than killer her. He had hurt her. And he wished to go on hurting her. He shall leave her as she left him, marooned for all eternity in the center of a dead planet… buried alive!

 

7.1: At this point, it is revealed that this story has been driven by–no joke–lost pirate treasure that can only be found by zombies. Seriously. Zombie pirate treasure. That’s what this is about. Pages upon pages of standing around, washing stuffed penguins, making coffee, identifying guns, and it’s all been going on while we could’ve had what is essentially the plot of a Monkey Island game.

There isn’t a word for the level of frustration I’m feeling right now.

 

7.4: Anita refers here to the “hornless goat” in the context of a voodoo ritual. In previous issues, this has been referred to exclusively as a “white goat.” Now I might be the only one to notice this–I certainly don’t expect anybody else to read these things four or five times–but come on: If you can’t keep your kooky made-up terms for human sacrifice straight, why the heck should I?

 

11.1-11.2: You know, there’s been a lot of this book devoted to Anita waking up and getting out of bed.

 

 

One assumes that by having Anita constantly waking up to bad news–last time zombies, this time… a phone call, though admittedly an omnious one–the author is trying to set up a recurring theme, although it’s more likely that chucking in a few panels of Anita sleeping is just the most efficient way of showing her literally doing nothing, as opposed to the countless scenes where it only seems like she’s lost consciousness.

 

13.5:

 

 

Yep: Shit on a roll. Exactly what I was thinking.

 

15.5: Whoa! That seems a little uncalled for!

 

 

Yes, Anita and Merloni the CSI spend the next five pages trying to gross each other out by throwing chunks of mutliated suburbanites–you know, evidence–at each other in what comes as close as we’re likely to get to conflict…

 

20.3: …and Anita decides to vent her frustrations by throwing around racial slurs:

 

 

Yeah. And you know who else turned his frustrations to racism? That’s right: Adolf Hitler.

I think you see where I’m going with this.

Kirby

 

 

Today would have been Jack Kirby’s 92nd birthday. In the past, I’ve written of my feelings about the man and his work in a little more detail, but since I’ve already talked about what an inspiration he continues to be–and since nothing I could do would come close to matching Bully’s once-per-hour tribute to the King– I’m just going to sit down with some of his comics and remember how great he really is.

Thanks, Jack!

The Week In Ink: August 26, 2009

C’mon, c’mon, let’s get on with it!

 

 

All right, look: It’s Thursday night and that means it’s time for another round of the Internet’s Most Impatient Comics Reviews, but every minute I’m sitting here writing them is a minute that I’m not playing Batman: Arkham Asylum, which is a video game that is built almost entirely around Batman kicking people in the head in slow motion.

It’s a wonder I’ve bothered to write this much at all.

Suffice to say, t’were well t’were done quickly, so here’s what I bought this week…

 

 

…and here’s what I’ll tell you I thought about them while looking longingly at the 360!

 


 

ISB BEST OF THE WEEK

 

 

Batman and Robin #3: I’m not going to lie to you, folks: With as much good stuff as came out this week, I’ve had a hard time picking out which comic I liked best, which is not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination. The more I thought about it, though, the more I had to go with this one, and not just because it features the rarely seen double-bat-kick to the face, as pictured above. Admittedly, you could argue that I might just be in a Batman kind of mood this week, but if there’s one thing you should’ve learned over the past four years, it’s that I’m in a Batman kind of mood every week, and it’s comics like this that put me there in the first place.

With this issue, Grant Morrison wraps up the first arc with Frank Quitely, and it is an incredible book from top to bottom. I’ve mentioned before how much I’ve been enjoying the way the title characters’ roles have been set up, with Dick as a (slightly) more lighthearted Batman and Damian as the unrepentant bastard spawn of Bruce Wayne’s scowling ruthlessness, and Morrison’s done wonders with that in this one. Damian’s casual escape from being tied up and subsequent sustained and brutal beating of his captors–wherein he backhands one of Pyg’s dollies with the blunt end of a power drill–is exactly the sort of thing his old man would’ve done, but when it’s intercut with Dick doing something as flashy as interrogating a suspect while ramping an ATV into a jump, it makes a nice contrast. Both things are pretty awesome in their own right, but together they really reaffirm the roles nicely. And that’s not even the best thing about this issue.

No, that goes to the scene with Le Bossu, about which I was freaking out. I’m just gonna lay this out: If you don’t think Batman: R.I.P. is awesome, then you’re wrong, and getting the callback to one of my favorite sequences in the past decade at the end of this issue was, for me anyway, pure comics joy. It’s great stuff, and while I’m a little nervous about what it’ll be like when Philip Tan steps in for Quitely on the next arc, there’s not a thing wrong with these first three.

 

Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter #3: With Previews coming out this week, one of the biggest pieces of news is that Kieron Gillen wil. be taking over Thor, and I’m pretty excited about it.

We’ve known Gillen was a fantastic writer since Phonogram came out, but with Godhunter (and the “Green of Eden” one-shot that preceded it), he’s proven that he’s equally adept at writing thundering cosmic action, which I’ve got to admit came as a pretty pleasant surprise. In four issues with everyone’s favorite Space-Horse, he’s shown that he understands what makes Walt Simonson’s Thor–which might be my all-time favorite run on comics–so enjoyable without feeling the need to mimic its beats to make a good story. In other words, he gets it, and if we’ve got more of the fun he’s delievered with Beta Ray Bill to look forward to, I’m excited about Thor for the first time since Matt Fraction wrote down the words “blood colosusus.”

 

Fantastic Four #570: In pretty much any other week, this one would’ve easily been the best of the week, but my pretty-much-arbitrary rating system can be cruel. Suffice to say that this one is still pretty awesome.

This one marks the first issue for the new team of Jonathan Hickman and Dale Eaglesham, although it picks up where Hickman left off in the five-part Dark Reign: Fantastic Four. If you’re thinking of jumping on and you haven’t read that one, don’t worry: It’s not strictly necessary, but considering that it might end up being one of the best mini-series of the year purely based on its introduction of the alternate universe Chamberlain Grimm and his battle cry, “’tis the clobbering hour,” you should probably just go ahead and read it anyway.

I’ve been swept up in Hickmania ever since he made his debut with The Nightly News, and one of the most appealing things for me as a fan of his is seeing how he brings something new to every project he works on, whether it’s the distinctive visual style of his own stuff or the completely different take on badass espionage action in Secret Warriors. With FF though, it’s the first time I’ve really seen him work with established characters, and he’s able to combine that forward-thinking quality and still come away with, as Mark Waid, the guy who wrote maybe the best run on the title in the past two decades, put it, characters that I recognize for the first time in two years.

On the art side, I’ve got to admit that I’ve never been a huge fan of Dale Eaglesham, and when the first images came out when the book was solicited, I thought Reed especially looked pretty off. In practice, though, it works a lot better than I thought it would; Reed’s certainly built thicker than he’s usually played, but I can see where Eaglesham’s going with it, trying to give him a more Doc Savage-esque action scientist look, and while you could argue that Reed doesn’t need to look physically intimidating when he’s got the Thing standing right next to him, the effect isn’t bad at all. The one thing that does strike me, though, is that his Reed’s got a little stubble, and while I assume that’s there to reflect how Reed’s always busy with one thing or another, this is the guy who took time out for a shave when Galactus showed up to eat the planet. Dude doesn’t let a little thing like the end of the world keep him from looking crisp.

Other than that, the art’s great, except for a few panels where the background’s been replaced with what appear to be photographs run through a couple of PhotoShop filters. I’m not sure if that’s Eaglesham’s doing or a colorist filling space, but it jumped out at me as a reader, especially considering the detail Eaglesham puts into the backgrounds of other scenes, like the laboratory or the home of the Reedocracy. It’s the sort of thing that draws your attention once you notice it, and for me at least, it has the effect of pulling me right out of the story.

Overall, though, it’s highly enjoyable stuff. I’d never think to list FF as one of my favorite titles, but when there’s a good team behind it, it’s easily one of the best books on the stands, and I cant’ wait to see where this one goes.

 

Invincible Presents Atom Eve: Collected Edition: Every now and then, I’ll joke about how a creator put a kick to the face in a story just for me, but this is pretty much the only story where I know that’s actually true.

In any case, I’m not so much reviewing this one as putting it here to let everyone know they’ve got a second chance to catch Atom Eve’s origin by Benito Cereno and Nate Bellegarde, the Friends of the ISB who brought you Hector Plasm. It’s good stuff, and with the country gripped by Atom Eve Fever after the events of the last few issues of Invincible–who would’ve thought that comics fans would become so attached to a pretty girl character who’s in love with the main character, who also happens to read comics?–it’s a nice chance to jump on before Benito and Nate return for Atom Eve and Rex Splode later this year. It’s good stuff.

And speaking of good stuff from Benito, he’s going to be the writer of an all-new ongoing Tick series alongside Les McClaine (of Middleman fame) that kicks off with a Christmas special, and there’s nothing about that that doesn’t sound awesome. Believe it.

 

Ghost Rider: Trials and Tribulations: I’ve gone on and on about Jason Aaron’s run on Ghost Rider since I started reading it, but the facts of the matter are these: This is a paperback collection of stories that feature the return of a villain from US1 drawn by The Walking Dead‘s Tony Moore, the hilariously Sailor Moon-esque Skinbender, and–most importantly–GHOST RIDER SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT. If you like things that are awesome, you’re going to want this.

 


 

And that’s the week! As always, any questions or concerns can be left in the comments section below, so if you’re wondering if enough people are reading Marvel Adventures Spider-Man (no), whether Usagi Yojimbo is still awsome (yes) or if I think what happens in the second Jimmy Olsen special is going to stick (no, but I’m stoked to see Breach come back), feel free to ask. Otherwise… well, you know where I’ll be.

The Crank File: Jimmy Olsen and the Planet of the Capes!

Saying that an issue of Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen is crazy is like saying that the Pacific Ocean is wet, or that Rad, the Hal Needham bike racing picture from 1986 where young Cru Jones faces the Helltrack and goes on a prom date entirely on his BMX, is rad. It’s sort of a foregone conclusion.

Jimmy’s craziness, after all, is one of the things that makes him the iconic character Silver Age. But every once in a while, an issue comes by that involves a viking robot girlfriend or a trip through time to meet Hitler that’s so completely bat-shit insane that it transcends even the normal Olsen standards.

Leo Dorfman and Kurt Schaffenberger’s Jimmy Olsen #117 is one of those.

 

 

The fact that this cover has Jimmy being literally sold into slavery and yet the caption box is fixated on his potential owners’ fashion choices might just be the least crazy thing about this issue, and that’s saying something.

The whole thing gets kicked off with Jimmy tooling across the desert with Professor Lewis Lang (the archaeologist father of Superman’s ex-girlfriend who occasionally went to the future and turned into a horrible insect creature, because, you know, the Silver Age) when they stumble across a monolith left by an alien civilization. A giant pink monolith.

 

 

As it turns out, the giant pink monolith is in reality–no joke–the Dimension Penetrator, a strange device with the potential power to destroy the universe. As you might expect, the aliens are junking it on Earth so that they don’t have to deal with it anymore, and I’ve gotta say, that’s a dick move aliens. The crazy honeycomb tunnels that run through it are actually dimensional portals, and while they’ve written a warning in a complex mathematical code that I’m sure was a big tip-off to Mr. Brontosaurus up there, they didn’t actually bother to put any doors on it, apparently forgetting that a handle you have to turn will generally keep out most people who can’t figure out a puzzle that combines sudoku and cryptograms. One can only imagine that in the millennia that this thing sat around, all kinds of dinosaurs were wandering through to parallel dimensions and causing trouble, which….

Huh. Now that I’ve actually written that down, it seems like a pretty good plan to make other dimensions more awesome. Carry on, aliens.

Back in the present, Professor Lang translates the math into a warning, and despite the fact that they remembered to put the word “Dangerous” at the beginning of the warning, Jimmy is Jimmy, and this happens:

 

 

Once he’s through the dimensional honeycomb (which of course vanishes behind him), things seem more or less normal, until he and Professor Lang get to customs, and the TSA agent notices something awry:

 

 

Yes, Jimmy has entered a parallel universe whose main feature is a law that anyone not wearing a cape can be immediately taken into custody and sold as a slave. Now, I don’t make laws, but that seems to go beyond draconian and into the realm of the psychotic, which is pretty much the defining feature of this universe. Well, that and the fact that everyone’s an asshole, as we see when Parallel-Professor Lang totally pulls a St. Peter on him:

 

 

With no way to prove his identity–the Daily Planet building of this reality is the Daily Palate, a rooftop restaurant shaped like a globe–Jimmy is sold on the auction block for less than a dollar, and this is about where the story starts to get really weird:

 

 

For one thing, he’s sold to Clark Kent, who in this reality is a wealthy playboy who needs an extra hand to throw a pool party, which is strange for two reasons: One, it’s a pool party for people who wear capes, and two, as Jimmy finds out, all of the clothes in this dimension are made of metal threads, thus begging the question as to who the hell thought it would be a good idea to put on a cape and metal pants and then go swimming.

Thanks to the Comics Code, Clark’s drown party goes off without a hitch, and with no need for an extra hand, he bounces Jimmy off to a few more owners before he’s finally bought by…

 

 

Himself!

Yes, the stage is now set for a good old-fashioned doppelbang–the term coined by Kevin and Dr. K to describe just such an occasion–but it turns out that Cape-Jimmy (or as I’ve taken to calling him, The Deuce) just needs a stunt double. Also, the Deuce turns out to be the only non-douchebag on the entire planet, even going so far as to help Jimmy gain the attention of the mysterious Dr. X, who designs all the capes.

That’s right, folks: This story just became about Jimmy trying to entrap a mysterious fashion designer. Deal with it.

At long last, the mystery is revealed, as it turns out that Dr. X is none other than…

 

 

Jor-El of Krypton!

At this point, any shred of internal logic this story might’ve had is out the window. See if you can follow along: On Earth-Cape, Jor-El’s entire family came to Earth but didn’t gain super-powers (except that Clark, who is actually Kal-El and is living under an assumed name for reasons that are never explained despite the fact that he was never raised by the Kents, actually does have super-powers, except they’re not Superman’s, he has shape-shifting face-changey powers like Zartan), and while he came from an advanced culture with science far beyond Earth’s, Jor-El’s inventions are roundly rejected and he’s forced to live in a shack out in the desert, possibly because he wears the same green pantsuit every day.

Still with me? Okay, because this is when the Justice League shows up:

 

 

Except that it’s not really the Justice League. It’s Superman–the real Superman, or at least the Earth-1 version that Jimmy’s friends with–and a bunch of other super-heroes (all of whom wear capes), accidentally straying into a parallel dimension during a tour of the universe, mistakenly identified as an invading alien army by Jor-El, who tries to shoot them and instead uses a duplicator ray (did we mention he invented a duplicator ray? Because he did) at the exact moment they turn around, duplicating their capes as they leave. And since cloth is so rare on Earth-Cape, it is immediately ratified that all citizens will wear capes or be forced into slavery.

Then, in a move that’s perfectly logical when you consider the sequence of events that led up to it, Jor-El shoots Jimmy with the Dimenson Zone ray (did we mention he invented a Dimension Zone ray?) but instead of sending Jimmy to the Phantom Zone, it just blasts him back to the more-or-less normal universe of Silver Age Earth.

And all of this happens in three pages.

Take a bow, Jimmy Olsen #117: You’re the craziest Goddamn thing I’ve ever seen.*

 

*: This week.

A Brief History of Batman Video Games

 

 

Today was the release date for the Batman: Arkham Asylum video game, and now that you have that information, you can probably guess how I’ll be spending the rest of my night.

But before you jump into Batman’s latest button-mashing adventure, why not take a look back at the highlights (and lowlights) of his previous ventures onto consoles with my latest piece for ComicsAlliance: A Brief History of Batman Video Games. Rather than my usual style of scanned panels, this one takes advantage of that lazy blogger’s best friend, YouTube, to bring you gameplay footage from the early days of the movie tie-ins to the inexplicable Gotham City Racer.

So enjoy, and if you’re like me and you have a cherished memory of staring at the television on a bleary-eyed Friday night trying to master that friggin’ wall jump before you had to take the game back to Sycamore Video, feel free to leave a comment!