Okay, folks, embarrassing confession time: When I was twelve and Super Street Fighter II came out on the SNES, I totally had a crush on Chun-Li, to what I would consider to be a completely inappropriate extreme.
Sort of explains a lot, doesn’t it?
But enough reminisces of chldhood! It’s Thursday,a nd that means it’s time for another round of the Internet’s Most Freudian Comics Reviews! Here’s what I picked up this week…
…and here’s what I thought about ’em!
Dr. Doom and the Masters of Evil #1: Y’know, I don’t know why they didn’t just call this thing what it is: Marvel Adventures Super-Villain Team-Up.
Actually, I do know why: Because they wanted it to sell, and the Marvel Adventures titles–despite often being the best versions of the characters on the stands–don’t really fly off the shelves, presumably because they’re kid-friendly and comics, as we all know, are serious business. But I’ll get into that some other time.
What matters tonight is that Doc D and the Furious Fiends is a Marvel Adventures title in all but name, and that’s a good thing. Just like he does in those books, Paul Tobin turns in a fun, continuity-free story of a Doctor Doom who shows up and just starts kicking the crap out of a gang of super-villains, rather than sitting in a basement waiting to be told what to do, and then polishes it off with the promise of the Circus of Crime next issue. And also, Iron Man fights a bear with a mop. Which is to say that Iron Man, with a mop, fights a bear.
Either way, it’s pretty rad, and I’m sure it’ll tide us over until Marvel Adventures Mopfightin’ drops in June.
El Gorgo! #2: Okay, this one’s cheating a little since it didn’t actually come out this week–it actually dropped January 4–but since I haven’t had a chance to mention it yet here on the ISB, I’m doing it now: El Gorgo! is without question one of the best comics you can read.
Long-time ISB readers and fans of things that are awesome might recall that I loved the first issue of Mike McGee and Tamas Jakab’s tale of a gorilla rock star luchadore super-scientist–for what I think are pretty obvious reasons–but I’ll confess that I was actually a little surprised that I liked the second issue as much as I did. Not because I have doubts about the creative team’s talent, but because the kind of manic energy that went into their creation is hard to keep up for twenty-four pages of one issue, let alone two. And yet, here we are with “Terror On Titan!!!” (that’s right: three exclamation points), a time-bending, dinosaur-fighting, face-rocking epic that lives up to the first issue’s potential and more.
McGee’s script is just flat-out fun, with a self-aware deadpan rhythm that only heightens the weirdness of his plot, full of lines like this:
EL GORGO: Perhaps we have not met!! You are bat-winged, lizard-faced, woman-sacrificing, reflexively sadistic would-be-world-conquering evil–whereas I… am EL GORGO!
And then he gives the bad guy a Double Axehandle. But as crazy as the scripts can get, Jakab’s art has the perfect, Kirby-inspired style to pull it off, with pages that are always solid and occasionally beautiful.
Of course, one of the best features about the book is that it’s completely free to read online in three formats, with a hard copy available at $3.95 plus shipping. Not just because it’s always nice to get something good for free, but because McGee and Jakab are the prime example of what the Internet can allow you to do with comics. They’re literally two guys doing it for themselves, and they’re putting out a project that’s better than a lot of what you’ll find from any of the major companies, and I don’t mind telling you that as someone who’s trying to do the same thing with my stuff, they’re an inspiration.
With El Gorgo!, Jakab and McGee are using the Internet as their proving ground, and when they hit it big–and they will–the people in charge are gonna kick themselves for taking so long to realize it. Give ’em a read.
Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2: The long-delayed Superman Beyond #2 finally hit this week, and while it would’ve made a hell of a lot more sense for it to come out before Final Crisis #6, I still thought it was a hell of a good read.
The nature of fiction is something that Morrison’s been playing with for his entire career. It’s a theme that runs through virtually all of his major works, to the point where some–Animal Man and The Invisibles spring to mind–are entirely built around exploring new ways to incorporate the fourth wall into the story itself, and that’s exactly what he’s doing here.
The basic beats of the plot–Superman fights, saves world, loves Lois–are all things that we’ve seen before, but the way that Morrison treats Superman as exactly what he is, a fictional character designed to win against evil, is something that you don’t get a whole lot of, and it’s I find it very appealing. Again, it’s stuff that Morrison’s done before. The entire point of JLA: Earth 2 is that The Justice League Always Wins, and it’s no coincidence that Batman RIP–which opens by literally telling us that Batman and Robin Will Never Die–was almost immediately followed by the release of a book where Batman dies.
Batman’ll be back. We all know it. Morrison knows it. DC knows it, which is why they put out a collection this week of all the other times Batman died and came back no worse for wear. And the same applies for everyone: We had Wally West as the Flash for twenty years, and comics just couldn’t let go of Barry Allen. We had Kyle Rayner for ten before Hal Jordan came back in a story that explained he’d been gone because–I shit you not–a giant yellow space bug lived in his head and outwitted God. It’s fiction. Anyone can come back for any reason, and to believe otherwise is the mark of an immature reader.
And yes, I realize the irony that the lecture about immature readers is coming from a guy primarily known for liking comics where guys in costumes punch sharks in the face, but hey: I know what I like.
Anyway, Superman Beyond doesn’t do that, and as a result it’s the exact opposite of Dan Didio standing in a room asking a bunch of fanfic writers how excited they’d be if Dick Grayson was the New Batman For Reals This Time You Guys. I don’t want to get too fannish here (too late!), but in putting that idea at the forefront of his comic and casting Superman as the guardian capital-F Fiction created to protect itself, Morrison strips away that last bit of artifice and treats us like we’re grown-ups who know how lowercase-f fiction works. And I thought it was great.
3-D still needs some work, though.
Mighty Avengers #21: With this issue, writer Dan Slott takes over Mighty Avengers, and while I’m usually a pretty big fan of Slott’s work, this thing did absolutely nothing for me.
When you get right down to it, I think the problem is that I just really don’t care about most of the characters that make up his team. I mean, sure, I like the Hulk and Hercules, but the rest of the team… USAgent? Don’t care. Stature and the Vision? My least favorite characters from Young Avengers. Jocasta? Only when she’s being romanced by a whiskey-drinking, zombie-chopping Machine Man. Scarlet Witch? Didn’t care even before she was reduced to a plot device in a one-piece. And Hank Pym? Could not possibly care less, and to be honest, the whole thing where he’s the new Wasp just strikes me as being monumentally goofy, and not in the good way.
Even the villain, Quicksilver turned evil by the Darkhold and used as the host body for Chthon, is the kind of throwback to c-list Marvel titles and their attendant villains that Slott excels at and that I usually like, but this time… nothin’.
All of which begs the question of why I bothered in the first place, and aside from the fact that I’m a guy who actually wants to read a book about a team of super-heroes, it’s like I said: I’m a fan of Slott’s work. Over the past five years, that guy has been turning in underappreciated classic after underappreciated classic, and the Avengers seemed to be the next logical step. And hey, raining blood seemed like a pretty good idea when Slayer and Matt Fraction did it, so why not?
But in practice, it just sort of sits there, asking me to care about Hank Pym whining through an issue in a red and yellow tail coat, and there are some things I cannot do.
Punisher (Frank Castle) #66: Okay, first things first: This issue marks what is quite possibly the most complicated renumbering ever. I went through it before, but for those of you who missed it: Punisher War Journal (v.2) was relaunched with a new #1 as The Punisher (v.8), while The Punisher (v.7) was changed without being relaunched or renumbered to The Punisher: Frank Castle (v.1), which was necessary because… You know, I really have no idea. I’ll get back to you on that one. Basically, the net result was that now, the MAX series has one of the worst-designed logos in comics. Seriously, it’s like they just put “FRANK CASTLE THE” above the regular logo in boldface Times New Roman, put a stroke around it, and then knocked off to grab some lunch. I mean, I’m not as design-oriented as a lot of people, but really.
Once you get past the needless complexities and the logo, though, this issue’s actually really good. So good, in fact, that I thought Gregg Hurwitz had stepped his game up astronomically before I flipped back to the cover to find that it was actually Duane Swierczynski, which made a whole lot more sense. Swierczynski is, after all, the guy who took over scripting Immortal Iron Fist after Matt Fraction and, despite my initial skepticism, has been doing a pretty bang-up job with it. And the same goes here, because while this is essentially Crank with the Punisher standing in for Jason Statham, it turns out that that’s exactly what I’d like to read. Who knew?
Uncanny X-Men Annual #2: Chad told me yesterday that he’d seen someone refer to this as the best comic that Matt Fraction had ever written, and while it is pretty good, I’m not sure that anything and wrench that title away from Mantooth, the story of a Kung Fu Gorilla and his battle with the World’s Greatest Grandpa Robot. Still, it does hold the distinction of being the Matt Fraction comic with the most focus on Emma Frost in her underwear (more than usual, I mean), so I suppose that oughtta count for something!
And that’s the week. As always, if you have any questions or thoughts about something I read this week, or if you just want to chime in with an opinion on Jeff Parker’s highly enjoyable Mysterius the Unfathomable or discuss how this week’s issue of Tiny Titans justifies the existence of the entire series, feel free to leave it in the comment section below.