Hey ROM, do you mind if I take a break from talking about you to review this week’s comics?
Thanks, ROM! You’re a peach!
After all, even a week set aside for celebrating the Greatest of the Spaceknights can’t stop the inexorable march of time, and a Thursday night on the ISB can mean only one thing:
It’s time for another Dread Mission of Comics Vengeance! Here’s the (disturbingly ROM-free) list of what I bought this week…
…And these are the Internet’s Most Senses-Shattering Comics Reviews. Believe it!
Annihilation: Conquest – StarLord #2: Now that the pages of Wraith have been officially un-ROMed (a word that even I never thought I’d get to use), StarLord has quickly and definitively risen to become the best Annihilation tie-in on the stands, which is a lot more impressive than it sounds when you realize that this is a crossover where every part so far has been a pretty awesome comic. Me, I suspect that it’s got more than a little to do with the fact that with Rocket Raccoon and Bug from the Micronauts, over thirty percent of the team is composed of Bill Mantlo creations, but by and large, you can probably pin most of the credit on Keith Giffen.
He is, after all, at least partly responsible for some of the best team books in comics history, and while I’ll cop to not being a huge fan of his run on Suicide Squad, he’s creating something amazing here with the same concept thrown into outer space. And to make matters even better, it’s all wrapped up in the beautiful art of Timothy Green II, whose nifty designs and expressive faces come together for some truly beautiful panels. It’s great stuff, it stands on its own even if you don’t follow the rest of the crossover, and–as previously mentioned–it’s a full third Mantlo. If you haven’t already, jump on!
Batman #668: So you guys remember when the first part of this story came out a couple of weeks ago and I flipped out about how much I loved it? Yeah, well not only does everything I said then still apply, but I think I actually like this issue even more.
For one thing, it’s actually early, and given that this is a comic by Grant Morrison and J.H. Williams III, I don’t think any of us were expecting it to come out a mere two weeks after the first part hit the stands. And yet, here it is, and not only is it a welcome surprise on that front, but it works for the story, too. It might just be that I’m a person who devotes an awful lot of time to thinking about Batman, but with the issues coming out so close together, everything from the first issue’s still fresh on my mind, from the creepy villain masterminding the plot to the death of the Legionary, but the off week between issues has given it all enough time to settle in.
Beyond scheduling, though, it’s just an amazing comic: A classic locked-room mystery blended with a super-villain deathtrap and presented to the World’s Greatest Detective is just about everything I want to read about in a Batman comic, and it’s done beautifully. Morrison’s Batman is note perfect, drawing the lines to connect the clues and reminding us that he makes the other characters better heroes just by being there, and all with a respect for his comrades that’s so often missing from his actions.
And then there are the things that I just don’t have the words for: The hints about a Club of Villains to battle the Club of Heroes, the references to adventures and tragedies that we’re never going to see, the last-page return of Batman’s signature “hh,” it’s all awesome stuff, and that’s just the script. Williams’ art is just flat-out fantastic, with the innovative page layouts that I loved so much on Desolation Jones brought back in full force, and his continued use of varying styles for every character. It’s just gorgeous in every way.
All that, and one of the better lines about life in the DCU that I’ve seen in a while. It’s great, great, stuff, and I can already tell that it’s going to be a story I read over and over again for years.
Birds of Prey #109: I generally have a pretty positive attitude towards Tony Bedard’s work–even moreso lately thanks to an actual good issue of Supergirl–but as you’ve probably already heard from the rest of the Internet, the managed to drop the ball pretty hard in this one. It’s the sort of thing you can’t talk about the issue without mentioning, but, well, it’s like that for a reason. Shado isn’t Connor Hawke’s mother, and while that might be an easy mistake, it’s not one that should be able to get through a writer and two editors, especially when there’s a comic that came out less than a year ago with those two characters making out on the cover.
A cover that, admittedly, was run with the blurb reading “WICKED STEPMOTHER!” that caused no small amount of eyebrow-raising around my neck of the woods, but that’s beside the point.
And it’s a shame, too, because the rest of the issue is actually pretty decent. I mean, it features a scene where Big Barda and Sin discuss the merits of both the Mega Rod and Charizard, and that’s usually the sort of thing that overshadows everything else. With this, though, even thoughts of what would happen if Jack Kirby had created Pokemon gets pushed to the side.
Although really, now that I’m actually writing that down, I’m never going to be able to stop thinking about it. Ever.
Blue Beetle #18: You know, Blue Beetle is one of those comics that I pretty much write the same review for every month, and with good reason: John Rogers and Rafael Albuquerque are doing a pretty phenomenal job with one of the most underrated comics on the stands, and out of everything DC publishes, this is one of the few books (along with The Spirit and Brave and the Bold) that I think you could give to someone to show them what fun super-hero comics were all about.
This issue, however, involves Lobo.
I mentioned during his appearances in 52 that there’s not a whole heck of a lot in comics I like less than Lobo, whose leftover ’90s toughness has continued to grate on the nerves long after it had obliterated any actual character potential he displayed back in JLI, and with the lack of interest I’ve had in the Teen Titans lately, I was pretty iffy going into this one. Here’s the thing, though: It’s every bit as good as the rest of the series. Lobo functions in the best way that he can: a Macguffin on a motorcycle, and Jaime’s interaction with the Teen Titans is handled with Rogers’ customary wit and humor, shown in scenes that alternate from literal, laugh-out-loud funny to very well-done action sequences. It’s an amazing book month in and month out, and if you have any nostalgia for the Waid/Ramos heyday of Impulse (or, y’know, good comics in general), you ought to be reading it.
Green Arrow: Year One #4: Diggle and Jock are still knocking it out of the park with this one, but I just wanted to say: Ollie Queen snapping off two shots on armed killers from his make-shift bow before they can even get a bead on him with their guns while he’s going through opium withdrawl? That’s awesome.
The Immortal Iron Fist #8: So nobody gets kicked in the face this issue. I know, I was surprised too, especially sice Brubaker, Fraction and Aja have–by my reckoning, which is pretty solid in matters like this–have maintained an otherwise perfect record of foot/head violence in the series thus far.
But really, that is the only conceivable flaw I can see in this book, and even that’s pretty well balanced out by the fact that a man named Fat Cobra beats the living crap out of “a hundred Shaolin Terror Priests” in the span of three pages, and while I have no idea what those are supposed to be, I already know it’s awesome. In fact, the whole conceit behind the story arc that begins here just appeals to me to an incredible degree, as Iron Fist takes on the champions of six other mystical cities in a battle that’s half Mortal Kombat, half Game of Death, and all radical, with characters so striking in their design and names that you automatically want to know more about them, but have all that you need to get through the story just from the look. It’s mind-blowing martial-arts mayhem in the Mighty Marvel Manner as per usual, and like always, it’s one of the most fun comics you can buy.
Marvel Adventures Avengers #15: And speaking of the most fun you can have with $2.99 in your pocket, Jeff Parker and newcomer Cafu have knocked another one out of the park with this month’s installment of the best Avengers comic in years. For those of you who missed the solicitations, this one involves the first appearance of Marvel Adventures Thor, and honestly, I’m surprised it took this long to get around to him. I mean, the second trade for MA Avengers is a big four-issue story where the Avengers take on Loki, so you’d expect him to show up there.
Regardless, it was worth the wait, and Parker does his usual fantastic job of storytelling, bringing in Malekith, writing clever sequences where Storm geeks out over the God of Thunder, and crafting a battle that not only involves Wolverine fighting Frost Giants, but also doubles as a musical number. And if that wasn’t enough, that’s about when this guy shows up:
STATUS: NECESSARY PURCHASE
The Order #2: When I met Matt Fraction at HeroesCon, I heard the opening strains of “Close to You” as our eyes locked, and I suddenly knew what it was like to know true lo–wait, no. Sorry, wrong story. Hang on, let me start over.
When I met Matt Fraction at HeroesCon, I talked to him about this issue, which he described as, and I quote, “the one where the robot fights a bear.” That was, for the record, everything I needed to know about this comic book, but just so we’re all on the same page here, it’s a bear in a jetpack. A Communist bear in a jetpack. Status: Awesome. Review: Over.
…Okay, okay, a little bit more: Like the first issue, which focused on Henry Hellrung and how he got to the point where he’s leading California’s initiative team, this issue’s focus is on Becky Ryan, the pop-starlet turned super-hero who actually does the majority of the bear-fighting, charting her life from the pre-school beauty pageant circuit to Britneyesque success to her motivation for joining up with the Order. Just like the last issue, it’s a good bit of character development intercut with all-out action against leftover Soviet super-weapons, and it works just as well and provides an interesting counterpoint as he introduces the characters. Barry Kitson’s art is, of course, top notch, and with the advent of the Zobos coming next issue, I can only imagine the book’s going to get better from here.
Superman #666: Believe it or not, I do have certain immutable standards when it comes to reviewing comics, and one of them is this: If it is drawn by Walt Simonson and lettered by John Workman, then it is a good comic, no questions asked. Fortunately, that’s actually the case here with what is undoubtedly the most metal Superman comic ever, as Kurt Busiek writes a fun, fast-paced story of devils, destruction, and the incorruptable Superman that’s every bit as entertaining as it ought to be. It’s done with just the right amount of over-the-top self-awareness, with Simonson’s frowny Superman meandering his way through a story that gives you the idea that while he’d never act on it, Clark Kent’s given a good bit of thought to how he’d take out the non-stop danger magnet/chatterbox that is Jimmy Olsen and the other minor nuisances you tend to attract as the most powerful being on Earth. It’s something that could easily come off as meanspirited and directly contrary to the character, but this is a team that manages to pull it off quite well.
There is, however, one thing that sticks out as wrong about it: the discussion over whether or not Superman’s killed someone before. He has, of course, and not only that, but it was three people, and it happened in one of the better Superman stories of the past twenty years. Admittedly, that was something like four General Zods ago and may not fit in to “New Earth” continuity (if such a thing even exists), but it’d be nice to know all that before we started getting into it.
The Weapon #3: I’d just like to point out that in the last issue of Fred Van Lente and Scott Koblish’s unexpected little gem of a comic, the guy who can make kung fu weapons out of lasers crashed a speedboat into a helicopter. And there is nothing about that sentence that is not totally awesome.
X-Men: First Class #3: I’ve mentioned before in this very post that Jeff Parker’s usual output is pretty excellent, so it should come as a surprise to no one that he and Roger Cruz have turned in another excellent issue of what’s quickly becoming the most purely enjoyable X-Men comic on the stands. And seriously, there’s like twenty-seven of ’em, so that’s saying something. Anyway, it’s great fun–and it features the original X-Men duking it out with the population of Monster Island–but the real star of this issue, of course, is the backup Parker does with ISB favorite Colleen Coover.
It’s a great little story about Jean Grey and the Scarlet Witch from back before they both went crazy and tried to blow up the world, and right from the title–“A Buddy In Scarlet”–it’s four pages of pure comics joy. Coover’s art, of course, is the same clean, beautifully stripped-down work that she’s known for, and she handles the great visual gags of the script wonderfully, like Warren Worthington’s casual pile of cash and Wanda’s limited wardrobe selection. It’s the kind of thing I’ve been dying to see more of ever since she added a few stories to the XMFC Special, and while I don’t want to take anything away from Cruz (who does an excellent job pencilling the series), I’d love to see her do a full issue these days. It’s great stuff, and if you’ve ever had any affection for the X-Men–and seriously, don’t lie; we’ve all been fifteen–then it’s something you’re going to love.
Comic Foundry #1: As some of you may remember from when it was solicited back in July, I’ve been looking forward to Tim Leong’s bold foray into the world of comics magazines for quite a while now, and I’ve got to say: It’s turned out to be a pretty solid mag that does a great job of bridging the generally mindless content of Wizard with the impenetrable Comics Journal and comes up with something that, more than anything else, is just plain fun to read.
There are, of course, some stumbling blocks in the first issue, like a sidebar interview with Avril Lavigne (the Canadian and alleged musician behind Avril Lavigne’s Make Five Wishes Starring Avril Lavigne) that does absolutely nothing but take up five square inches and remind us that she’s a vapid teenybopper, which, really, nobody needed reminding of.
That, however, is the exception to the rule for this one, which–when you get right down to it–comes out guns a-blazin’ with features on ISB favorites like Bryan Lee O’Malley and the inimitable Kyle Baker, and one page with articles by Kieron Gillen and Matt Fraction that have nothing to do with comics (aside from being written by comics writers), and yet are probably the most entertaining things in the whole issue. And that’s really where the beauty comes in: Rather than just sticking with dry comics coverage or printing what essentially amounts to press releases spiked with midget jokes (looking at you here, Wizard), Leong switches it up with tangent pieces that keep things lighthearted. Even the aforementioned Avril Lavigne bit faces a page with a bit called “Sex Scene or Comic Cover” that’s worth a few laughs, if only for the inclusion of Elric and his albino abs.
It’s a great mix of “serious” comics journalism and the kind of enjoyable diversions we’ve been known to come up with out here on the fringe of the Comics Internet, and if Leong and his contributors can keep it as good as their debut, it’ll be well worth picking up every month. After all, it’s a penny cheaper than Wizard and contains roughly 94% less Michael Turner.
Seriously, though? It could use more ROM.
But then again, what couldn’t use a little more Spaceknight? The ISB certainly could, so that’s it for the reviews this week. Join us tomorrow when the ISB rejoins Friday Night Fights with a bone-shattering throwdown you have to see to believe, from a story you wouldn’t even believe if you saw it!
Until then, however… Hey ROM, should people feel free to leave any questions or comments about something I read this week in the comments section?
Oh, don’t listen to him, he’s just tired. Leave ’em anyway.