Occasionally, when Gail Simone writes a scene where the Atom references Karate Kid or Matt Fraction throws a scene where the Order fights a bear in a jetpack, I’ll make a joke about how today’s comics creators are pretty much writing things just for me.
When you actually know one of the guys that wrote the comic, however, it’s a lot easier to convince people that they really are:
Thanks, Kevin! But don’t worry: we here at the ISB pride ourselves on our journalistic integrity¹, so don’t expect that sort of thing to influence my reviews more than throwing in a chops to the face normally would. Of course, considering that my reviews are generally based entirely around the presence of foot-on-face violence, that might not be saying much.
That’s right, folks: It’s Thursday night, and these are the Internet’s Punchiest Comics Reviews! Here’s what I picked up this week..
…And here’s what I thought of ’em:
BPRD: Killing Ground #2: This one may have narrowly missed its chance at bringing home an unprecedented Best of the Week Trifecta², but the fact remains that when you can walk into a comic book store for three weeks in a row and pick up a new comic written by Mike Mignola each time, it is a good time to be alive.
Of courese, I’m pretty sure that we all knew that already, but if there ever was any doubt, this week’s BPRD would’ve overturned it pretty quickly. It’s great stuff from Mignola, Arcudi, and Davis, but that’s hardly news since BPRD‘s been unfailingly solid for the past few years; what’s remarkable is how it manages to stay that way. The characters–which were interesting to start with back when they were just the supporting cast of Hellboy’s various adventures–just keep getting moreso as the stories move on, and with the underlying thread of the Plague of Frogs linking the series together, their world’s matching them every step of the way. Even Johann latest bit of character development–which was used as a gag for Bender in an episode of Futurama–has a sinister, underlying air of danger rooted in his relationships with the other characters, and it makes for some fantastic reading.
But like I said, that’s hardly news: It’s a great series, and if you haven’t been reading, you’re missing out on some of the best horror comics ever printed, hands down.
Casanova #9: As the record will clearly show, Matt Fraction has spent the last year and a half becoming one of my absolute favorite comics creators, but before my recommendation here is dismissed as the by-product of my action-packed man-crush, allow me to assure you that while Casanova is a great comic, this is by far its greatest issue.
Don’t get me wrong: I like the first story arc a heck of a lot, but in the two issues since Casanova‘s returned to the shelves with Fabio Moon on art and electric blue highlights, it has been blowing that stuff away with the sheer amount of fun and excitement poured into every issue. And it’s not just because there’s a throwaway reference to a character called Sister Fister, The Kung Fu Voodo Queen either, although believe me, that goes a long way around here. That aside, Fraction ups the stakes with every issue, building off of what’s already been established but taking it one step further at every turn: Zephyr Quinn’s awkward post-breakup encounter with Newman Xeno turns into her accepting a contract for a hit on her father, Kaito struggles with being a substitute for a missing Casanova, and perhaps most importantly, there is a sex scene set in the body of a giant robot. It may actually be the definition of “Fun Comics.”
As for Fabio Moon’s art, it’s every bit as fantastic as his brother’s was on the first arc, and maybe more. He does, after all, manage to pull off Sasa Lisi, a character who wears both an old-fashioned space-bubble helmet underneath a cowboy hat, and that’s just to start with. His designs for the characters and the clothes they wear alone is fantastic, and everything that’s built around them has the same great talent applied to it. Put simply, it’s a beautiful comic.
And what’s more, it’s a comic that’s meant to be read as a comic: It works beautifully as a single issue, and even at a dollar less than most everything else on the stands, the “slimline” format of sixteen story pages never feels short in this book. And that’s not even counting the notes from Fraction at the end of each issue, which in this case also include a bit from Moon explaining why one of the characters looks like, and I quote, “Dragonball Wolverine.” Seriously, when even the conversations about how the comic comes together are entertaining, you know you’re doing something right.
Or at the very least, something awesome.
Cover Girl #5: With this issue, Andrew Cosby, Kevin Church, and Mateus Santolouco close out their story of action and adventure in Tinsel Town by getting the eponymous girl into the tiniest possible shorts and, well, you saw the picture up at the top of the post. It’s pretty much that kind of thing for the entire issue.
Nah, I’m just kidding. And in this case, it’s appropriate: For the whole five issues, Cover Girl‘s read–by design, I’m sure–like an action movie with a sharp sense of humor, and it’s made for a very entertaining series. To be honest, the ending comes off as more than a little predictable in the sense that it’s the only happy ending that could come from this story, but even with that, it takes a fun route getting there. Plus, there’s a neat twist on the story’s roots of image and deception that manages to neatly circumvent the de riguer shootout with the bad guy. It’s the type of thing that puts Cover Girl a step above what it easily could’ve been, and it ends up working out pretty well.
To stretch the action movie metaphor to its absolute limit, I’ll just say this: It’s worth at least two and a half Starsky and Hutches, and Church and Cosby didn’t even have to bring out Snoop Dogg to pull it off.
Daredevil #100: Maybe it was just the folks around my store, but I was surprised when the last issue of Daredevil came out by the number of people who didn’t seem to know who Larry Cranston was. Admittedly, the costume was the giveaway for me rather than Daredevil’s great, almost spit-take reaction upon seeing him with the Enforcers, but really. Mr. Fear’s kind of a big deal. I mean, he framed Karen Page for murder in the last issues of Daredevil v.1, and while it occurs to me that fewer people probably read that story than any other DD arc in the past ten years–seeing as it came right after a pretty rough Joe Kelly yarn in which Daredevil lost his memory, got his eyesight back, and worked for SHIELD in Paris–it’s still a little surprising.
In any case, those of you who were confused out there need worry no longer, as this issue’s giant-sized spectacular includes reprints where you can see Cranston show up and promptly get the living crap kicked out of him by Matt Murdock. But of course, that’s not really the draw when the rest of the book is taken up with the truly fantastic Ed Brubaker writing an artist jam issue that actually has a reason behind the different art styles, including two pages of Bill Sienkiewicz drawing Elektra that are worth the extra dollar alone. Oh, and also: The Enforcers. So you’re pretty much gonna want to buy this one.
DMZ #23: In at least the five months since I’ve moved everything over to the new website, I haven’t actually reviewed an issue of Wood and Burchielli’s DMZ once, and to be honest, it’s probably a little bit longer than that. That should not, however, be taken as a sign that I don’t like the book; on the contrary, it’s been as enjoyable as it ever was, with the last two storylines–one of which hit the shelves in trade last week– standing out as incredibly well done, and they’re probably going to go down as the best of the series.
Not coincidentally, they’re also some of the heaviest, and while this might come as a shock, my reviewing style often leaves me at a loss when it comes to talking about stories built around a character infiltrating a terrorist organization or investigating the truth behind a civilian massacre in the middle of a war zone. Go figure. Anyway, I think that’s one of the reasons I enjoyed this issue so much. If memory serves, it’s the first time since the text-heavy “guide to the DMZ” issue that Wood did solo that the book’s shifted things up for a single-issue story, and by DMZ‘s standards, it’s relatively lighter fare.
Then again, that means that it’s a story set in a bombed-out New York that ends with a character getting hauled off to a prison camp for what will probably be the rest of his life, but still, there’s at least a sliver of optimism there that’s been understandably absent in the last storylines. And it’s great timing: “Friendly Fire” was nothing if not an emotionally draining experience, and with an issue like this to act as a breather, the next story has a chance at hitting even harder. And given the track record here, it’ll probably do just that.
Gen13 #12: Be warned, gentle reader! Some things, once seen… cannot be unseen!
Justice League of America Wedding Special: Lo, and the clouds did part, the skies did open, and choirs of angels could be heard singing… for the Justice League was good again.
And really, I never would’ve guessed that it’d happen in a special ostensibly revolving around Green Arrow and Black Canary getting hitched, if not for the fact that it was written by Dwayne McDuffie. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of his, dating back to his work on the crazy / awesome / crazy-awesome Prince comics and his work on the Justice League animated series, but with his current run on Fantastic Four, he has just been knocking it out of the park on a monthly basis, and I’ve been excited about seeing what he’d bring to the JLA.
And here’s the thing: It was even better than I expected. That probably has to do with the fact that, despite the name, there’s actually very little that relates to the wedding in this thing. Instead, what you get is what McDuffie had planned as the first two issues of his Justice League run, which kicks off with a great parody/homage to Brad Meltzer’s interminable scenes of the heroes sitting around the table picking out a team. Unlike Meltzer’s, though, McDuffie doesn’t drag it out for three months, but wraps it up in two pages and moves on to the more pressing concerns of–and you might want to prepare yourself for total radness here–Lex Luthor, the Joker and the Cheetah throwing down on Firestorm.
And it’s darn near perfect if you overlook the fact that McDuffie’s keeping around the annoying trope of having the Leaguers refer to each other by their first names even while they’re out in public–which I guess is just what those guys do now–with some fantastic fight scenes and great character moments, all beautifully drawn by Mike McKone. It’s absolutely fantastic, and with the prospect of having something that good from the Justice League for the first time in five years, I’m more excited about this title than anything else on the stands.
Suicide Squad: Raise the Flag #1: …except this one. I’ll admit it: Ever since it was announced that John Ostrander was going to be returning to the Suicide Squad, I’ve been a little nervous about it. Ostrander’s original run on the Squad was easily one of the best comics of the ’80s–and believe me, that’s saying something–and probably one of the best DC series of all time, with a full five years that rarely if ever missed a step. That said, it’s been a long, long time since the book ended, and for every time Grant Morrison comes back to the JLA, there’s far more instances that work out like Chris Claremont coming back to the X-Men. Add that to the fact that Greg Rucka’s work on the obviously Squad-inspired Checkmate–another truly fantastic and often-overlooked series–had moved to fill the void left by its predecessor, and I was left wondering if it was even necessary, let alone whether or not it’d be any good.
If this first issue’s any indication, I really shouldn’t have worried. Ostrander is completely on form for this one, and it is classic Suicide Squad. Literally, in fact; this first issue serves as an “untold story” from Ostrander’s original run, set sometime after Rick Flag’s apparent death in SS #26, right down to the archetypical team that everyone knows and loves from the initial run. In fact, it’d be very easy to label it as a “greatest hits” approach for Ostrander, seeing as the story even pits the Squad against their longtime enemies in the People’s Heroes, but it’s so well-done that it just seems like an actual lost issue. The fighting’s clever and brutal, the setup fits right in with the storyline of the time, and the characters are perfect, right down to Deadshot’s constant, cold-as-ice demeanor through the whole thing. And it looks great too: In the absence of Luke McDonnell (who I really, really would’ve liked to see return for this one), Javier Pina turns in the same great-looking work that I came to expect from him on Manhunter, and it turns out great.
As a fan of the Squad, I’d like to say that this is exactly what I was hoping for out of this series, but I can’t, because I honestly didn’t think it was going to be this good. Here’s hoping it holds up!
Now if we only got that Showcase…
The Adventures of Red Sonja v.2: And now, the ISB proudly presents what may actually be the worst cover blurb of the ’70s:
Confessions of a Blabbermouth: Okay, I don’t know if you guys know this or anything, but apparently, kids today are into these things called “blogs” where they go online and talk about stuff. You ask me, it’ll never catch on.
Clearly, I’m in a kidding sort of mood tonight. Anyway, I’ve mentioned my affection for Mike Carey’s work pretty often here on the ISB, and not to knock the other people working on the titles or anything, but if DC just went ahead and got him to write all the Minx books, I think I’d be pretty okay with that. ReGifters, after all, is easily the best book to come from Minx yet, and while I don’t think it’s in danger of being dethroned anytime soon, Blabbermouth–which he cowrote with 15 year-old daughter Louise–is a pretty enjoyable way to knock out an hour.
Our main character for this one, Tasha, is the terribly smart and occasionally petulant girl that seems awfully familiar, but instead of failing where Lottie (of Clubbing) did, there’s some nice character moments for her that see her feeling bad about her flaws and trying to be a better person. It’s zippy and entertaining, and Aaron Alexovich’s art is highly reminiscent of Sonny Liew’s, but with an entirely different style of expressive faces that really do a great job of bringing it to life.
Of course, it does have its problems, most notably in the ending. The biggest problem is that Jed, from all the evidence presented in the book, is a pretty unrepentantly horrible person who bullies both Tasha and his own daughter pretty mercilessly right up to the end. There are even scenes that come off as genuinely creepy about the guy, and although the implication is later cleared up, it sticks with him. He’s unquestionably the villain of the story, and yet he never gets punished–heck, he never even apologizes–and is instead rewarded with love and success.
The more I think about it, the more it seems like a major flaw within the story, especially given that the payoff for the girls of standing up to Jed and exposing him as a fraud is that he stops being quite such a jerk in the end, which I guess is a happy ending after all. It just doesn’t seem like enough.
And that’s the week. As usual, blah blah blah, comments and questions about something I read, skipped, or didn’t bother with are welcome in the comments section below.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go find a way to voice my displeasure at the utter dearth of plots based on vengeance and retribution in the Minx fall line. Seriously: Girls love that stuff.
¹ : This is a lie.
² : An award which does not, technically, exist. But if it did, I’m sure Mignola’d prop it up on the mantlepiece right next to his Eisners. His Eight. Freakin’. Eisners.