For two terrifying weeks, Thursday nights on the ISB have been suspiciously quiet, but tonight, the scares and skeletons of Spooktoberfest move aside for the return of what everyone really shows up for:
Oh, and there’s also some reviews I usually toss up here too.
Yes, a fortnight of silence on the latest titles has finally given way to the return of the Internet’s most explosive comics reviews! Here’s what I picked up this week…
…and in addition to those, I’ll probably throw in my thoughts on some of the titles I missed over the past couple of weeks to boot. Except, of course, for Punisher War Journal #13.
Because really, if you don’t already know what I think of a comic where Frank Castle uses a gun that shoots swords, then you probably won’t be getting a lot out of the reviews around here anyway.
Now let’s get on with it!
Action Philosophers #9: The Lightning Round: Thanks to a slight mistake in the store’s ordering, I wasn’t even aware that this issue had hit the stands until AP artist/bon vivant/friend of the ISB Ryan Dunlavey swung by the ol’ comments section to ask why I hadn’t bothered to pick it up yet. It was three weeks after that that it finally showed up on the invoice, and another week after that that the folks at the Warehouse finally figured out that, yes, we were serious about wanting what we ordered and actually shipped it to us, so all told, the amount of time I’ve been waiting on this issue clocks in at somewhere around eleventy billion days.
And now that I’ve read it, I can assure you that it was worth every second.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love Action Philosophers with a passion–hence the utterly shameless namedropping in the paragraph above–but even for a series that consistently manages to be funny and educational on a level that comics have rarely (if ever) seen before, this one stands out. A lot of that, I think, has to do with the format for this one: It’s the last issue, and so Dunlavey and writer Fred Van Lente take the kitchen sink approach to things, setting aside their usual three-thinkers-per-issue format in an effort to cram as much deep thought into 32 pages as humanly possible. I can’t imagine that it’s ever easy to condenese these things into the short form the book uses and still keep them as zippy and fun as these guys do, but when your longest entry (Baruch Spinoza) weighs in at seven pages and several others (like George Berkeley and Gottfried Leibniz) don’t even get past one, the task has to be absolutely herculean.
And yet, they pull it off. And what’s more, they make it look easy with some of the best work of the series thus far. I won’t go into too many details (since you really ought to see for yourself), but if you don’t think that “The Foucault Circus” and “Six Degrees of Francis Bacon” are works of purest, two-page genius, then I’m not sure if we’ll ever agree on anything.
It’s funny, it’s informative, and it solidifies Action Philosophers as the must-have item for everyone’s–yes, everyone’s–bookshelf that we’ve always known it was. Great work.
Authority Prime #1: You know, I don’t think I ever thought I’d be that excited to see Jackson King put on his goofy-ass Jim Lee-style Batallion costume (complete with thigh-straps and a Cable-esque gun), but it just goes to show that these comic book things never really cease to surprise.
Of course, I knew going into this one that there was a good chance I’d enjoy it, what with the fact that it’s a WildStorm book written by Christos Gage, and as we learned from Stormwatch PHD, that tends to work out pretty well. I’ll admit, however, that this one’s not quite up to Gage’s usual standards right off the bat, but given that it’s an issue that’s largely given over to setting up the story and opens with the Authority fighting off Things That Should Not Be at H.P. Lovecraft’s Rhode Island estate, I’m willing to give it a little more than the benefit of the doubt.
As for the art, well, Darick Robertson’s always been a little hit (Transmetropolitan) or miss (Wolverine) for me, but he acquits himself pretty well here. It’s got his usual quirks, but one thing I love about it is that he never shies away from emphasizing the absolute craziness inherent in the leftover StormWatch costumes from its early-’90s Image days which makes for some great visuals. It’s good stuff, and even if Gage dusts off the tired cliche of a fight-then-team-up dealie for the teams, I’ve got to think that it’ll still be pretty fun.
Blue Beetle #20: I seriously could not care less about the Sinestro Corps War.
I know, I know: I’m pretty much the only one, and while I’ll cop to the idea that it’s just not for me–given that my interest in Green Lantern outside of titles featuring Tommy Monaghan has dropped to zero over the past couple of years–but I just don’t get what the fuss is all about. I mean, look: I love an Evil Opposite story as much or more than the next guy, but when it’s getting to the point where you dredge up a bad guy analogue of Mogo so they can ram into each other in a thinly-veiled bit of slash fiction put to print, it starts to get a little ridiculous. Throw a cast of characters that features such luminaries as Cyborg Superman, Super
boyman Prime and the Anti-Monitor and other folks I never, ever need to see again and, well, you get the idea.
That said, I do care an awful lot about Blue Beetle, and while it’s one of the true tests of a comic’s quality to see how a great run holds up when it’s pulled into a crossover, Rogers and Albuquerque pass with flying colors. It’s easy to say that it works so well because they throw the focus onto the Peacemaker for this issue, but with the way they use the context of the Sinestro Corps War to advance the ongoing plot of the series, it stands as a nice example of a tie-in that’s easy to follow even on its own, and I definitely appreciate it.
And really, while we’re on the subject here: I’d seen the Peacemaker before and never really read about him–owing, of course, to the fact that looks like this–but the description Rogers uses in this book of “The man who loved Peace so much he’d kill for it“?
Casanova #10: The second arc of Casanova continues rocking right along, but this issue swaps out the usual giant robots and karate sex dolls for magic words and the cruelty of the Secret Cinema in a story that reads more like The Invisibles than anything else. Except that, y’know, you can actually understand what the hell’s going on.
Ah, but I kid Grant Morrison. The comparison stands, though: Fraction and Moon open this issue with members of an anonymous elite joyfully ruining an innocent girl’s life for the sheer fact that they can, led by a character who oozes decadence from the top of his tiny little fez to the bottom of his spherical body, a problem that can only be solved by someone going undercover, beating them at their own game, and then killing everybody. And brother, if that doesn’t capture the spirit of at least half of The Invisbiles, I don’t know what does.
Of course, Casanova gives you a scene where our leading lady for this arc quotes Ice T for a cover price of only $1.99, and is therefore infinitely superior.
Gen13 #13: And now, a brief visit from Cranky Old Man Comics Reader Chris Sims:
You know, back in my day, when the first Gen13 ongoing series hit #13, it was broken up into a three parts that each cost $1.30 and featured thirteen sets of guest stars, including Archie’s crew and motivational speaker Tony Robbins. This time around, however, Gen13 kicks off its second year with eight straight pages where dialogue is forsaken in favor of the most overwritten, angsty narration that I think I’ve ever read.
Look, you can say what you want about the quality of the original Gen13 books–and believe me, I have–but at least they had a sense of fun that defined the book more than anything else. And to say that this book–which has seen the introduction of great concepts like the Authoriteens by the writer who brought fun back to Deadpool when it got too emo–comes as something of a disappointment when it studiously avoids fun every month is a pretty big understatement. There’s just no reason for the characters to stand around telling us that they’re good people instead of going out and having adventures that show us they’re good people, and the brief spikes of enjoyment that crop up every few months only make it worse when the story backslides into its repetitive, self-congratulatory standard.
It may just be my affection for the old stuff–which is a problem in its own right, I think–but Gen13 stands as one of those rare titles that has characters I like in a story by a writer I like, and yet consistently annoys the hell outta me every time I read it. Nostalgia notwithstanding, there’s no reason whatsoever to keep buying it, and while I’ve rewritten this sentence three or four times trying to think of a reason to give it one more shot, a year’s worth of disappointing issues seem like enough of a trial run to me.
Green Arrow: Year One #6: Yeah, I know: I never thought I’d see the day when Green Arrow Year One beat out Casanova for Best of the Week either.
But really, I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, I actually do like Green Arrow a heck of a lot. It’s not something I mention too often–which is pretty easy considering how lousy he’s been over the past four years or so–but as a concept, come on: Who doesn’t love Robin Hood, even without the added bonus of a singing bear?
And that’s what Green Arrow is: A modern-day Robin Hood with a desert island. That’s the core of the character that Andy Diggle and Jock have nailed with this series, and while Ollie Queen doesn’t necessarily rob from the rich, he certainly takes on those who make their money by exploiting and terrorizing the poor, using the time-honored method of the boxing glove arrow.
It’s been a great series top to bottom, but–and I know I say this virtually every time an issue comes out–with a team that has a track record like The Losers, I don’t think it was anything we weren’t expecting.
Madame Mirage #3: Those of you who pay attention to these things–or, to be honest, those of me who pay attention to such things–might recall that Madame Mirage #3 was solicited as the issue where you find out that everything you know about Madame Mirage is wrong, and I’ve got to say, it lives up. After all, who would’ve expected that Mirage was, in fact, a woman who looked entirely different using holograms to project the image of her dead sister, but with much, much larger breasts?
Oh, and in one panel she has a sword. So in case you were wondering if this thing had moved from “bad” to “delightfully awful,” the answer, my friend, is yes.
She-Hulk #22: This marks the first issue of Peter David’s run on She-Hulk–taking over for ISB favorite Dan Slott–and as predicted, it only takes seven pages for him to start in with his usual aresenal of loathsome puns.
Seriously, I hate those things like Indiana Jones hates snakes. I just hate ‘em. And it’s not even the puns themselves that really set me off, it’s David’s insistence on them. Both the “FBI” joke and the references to the Absorbing Man’s “little woman” are funny… once. But they’re never just written and left alone, no, they’re brought out again and again, hammered mercilessly into the ground by a man desperately in love with his own clever wordplay until you just want to–
Ahem. Sorry. Never happens on X-Factor, s’all I’m sayin’.
Anyway, my all-consuming hatred of David’s punnery aside, I actually do enjoy a lot of the guy’s work, and so far, She-Hulk‘s holding up pretty well. It’s a new direction (complete with a couple of nice twists thrown in for good measure), and while I like the cast and stories of Dan Slott’s run a heck of a lot, I can appreciate both his desire to avoid following too closely in Slott’s very distinctive footsteps and the letter to the reader at the end full of praise for Slott’s work. It’s a very classy thing to do, and it made a nice cap for an enjoyable issue that–hopefully–will set the tone for what’s to come.
Unless, of course, it’s set by the fact that the letter column itself’s been renamed as “She-Mail,” which I’m pretty sure takes the cake as the worst pun in four hundred years. And you guys wonder why I get so mad…
Suburban Glamour #1: I really wish Jamie McKelvie would draw me a girlfriend.
Uh… There’s a good chance I shouldn’t have actually written that down, so it’s probably best to just move on. Besides, what with the fact that my wardrobe consists largely of t-shirts with Batman on them and my complete inability to grow sideburns, I don’t even think I could make it to the background of this book.
Anyway, last week I mentioned that Suburban Glamour was almost certainly awesome. Of course, I already knew the art was going to be fantastic, as did anyone who’d seen the previews McKelvie had done, or seen the cover when it was solicited, or read Phonogram, and even if the story was darn near unreadable, it still would’ve been worth the cover price for me. McKelvie’s art is just that good: Clean lines, stylish attention to detail, and some of the most expressive faces since Kevin Maguire, wrapped up in Guy Major’s colors to create something that I don’t mind just looking at.
Fortunately, that wasn’t the only selling point for this thing: The story’s engaging right off the bat, with characters that manage to act authentically youthful without coming off as full of themselves or excessively petty jammed right up against bizarre encounters with the supernatural that are equally well-designed and drawn. It’s fun stuff, and like I said, it’s easily one of the prettiest books you’ll find on the shelves anywhere. Pick it up.
And that’s the week (or so)! As always, if you have any questions or comments on something I read–like how funny it was that Bruce Banner and the Hulk finally solved their differences in the time-honored manner of sitcom apartments or whether this week’s Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century was inspired by Greek myth or Laser Cats–feel free to strike up a discussion in the comments section below.