The Week In Ink: October 24, 2007

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:

 

The solid crack of a Kick to the Face!

 

 

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!

 


 

Comics

 

ISB BEST OF A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO OR WHENEVER THE HELL IT CAME OUT

 

 

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, Superboyman 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“?

That’s genius!

 

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.

 

ISB BEST OF THE WEEK

 

 

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.

Right, Ollie?

 

 

Thought so.

 

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.

40 thoughts on “The Week In Ink: October 24, 2007

  1. Oh, I can’t resist. Shamelessly: FIRST POST! Re Phonogram, is that “unreadable” in a good way, or in a bad way?

  2. No no no, see, I meant that even if Suburban Glamour was unreadable (unlike Phonogram, which was excellent), it would still be worth it, but it’s not unreadable, so it’s even more worth it, so…

    Maybe I should just stick to writing things like: “Good stuff! Great job, McKelvie!”

  3. Yeah, you know, when I read War Journal #13, and saw the “Gun that shoots swords” I had a feeling that this was going to be a Sims-approved book.

    But…what do you think about Frank Castle using a sort of Venom suit to dismember an evil alien?

  4. Gun that shoots swords? Mildly amusing. Frank Castle weilding chainsaws akimbo against giant bug aliens? FUCKING BAD ASS TO THE NTH POWER. Fraction’s PWJ is one of three books I activelly LOATHED when they started, but thanks to the writing I keep being tempted to add them to my pull list (the others being Ellis’ Thunderbolts and Slot’s Initiative). But still the basic back story all three tie into I find so irredeemably stupid I keep just skimming them in the store…

    Oh and since I missed the chance to say it last week, you should be buying ps238

  5. Great reviews, as usual.

    And everyone knows that Gen13 attained perfection in Adam Warren’s run. It’s a scientific fact.

  6. “Blue Beetle #20: I seriously could not care less about the Sinestro Corps War.”

    I could have sworn two warring sentient planets would have been right up your alley. “Thinly veiled slash fiction”? Cripes…sounds like a few too many kicks to the face there, Chris.

  7. Is there really a big that shoots freakin’ laser beams out of its eyes when Luorno Durgo pulls its tail in that Legion book?

    ME WANTEE.

  8. Just seconding your praise for Blue Beetle #20. Despite all the complaining of the Ted Kord fan club, this series just gets better and better.

    No love for Flash #233? I thought the end of this arc was stellar.

  9. “I’d seen the Peacemaker before and never really read about him–owing, of course, to the fact that he looks like this”

    I always thought his helmet made him look like Orion in rollers.

  10. “Fraction’s PWJ is one of three books I activelly LOATHED when they started, but thanks to the writing I keep being tempted to add them to my pull list”

    I don’t remember exactly how the line went, but I fell in love with PWJ when I read something like “Did you know that before Civil War Stamford, Connecticut, was listed by the FBI as America’s safest city? If someone were writing this, I’d think it was the cheapest, hackiest kind of irony.” The line was much more understated, but the sentiment was still there. I was just like “Take a freaking burn, Millar!”

  11. I asked it before, but I’ll ask it again. Do you read The Walking Dead? Or do you just not care for the whole zombie genre Granted most the titles out there are lame. But this one (for the most part) has been really good. Especially the most recent issues. What are your thoughts Mr. Sims?

  12. You’ve got a good point about Peter David and puns. Someone once said that the pun is the lowest category of humor. Not sure I agree, but one thing I’ve definitely noticed over the years is that people who like puns tend to really, really, REALLY like puns. So much that they tend to drive away everyone who merely likes or is indifferent to the form….

  13. So, obviously there’s no ROM in Annihilation:Conquest:Wraith#4…
    but are there ANY Spaceknights?

    And if so, how are they handled?

    ~P~
    P-TOR

  14. Ladies and Gentlemen, CHRIS SIMS!
    She-Hulk’s holding up pretty well. It’s a new direction (complete with a couple of nice twists thrown in for good measure),

    I think you have accidentally made a pun yourself. Or is this a non-spoiler overtone to one of the major events in this issue?

  15. I couldn’t agree with you more about Sinestro Corps Chris. I just don’t get all the excitement. I bought the first one shot, and when I got to the last reveal page with the Anti-Monitor, I laughed out loud. Obviously I’m in the minority, but I’m glad I’m not completely alone.

  16. I believe that was Gail Simone’s last issue on Gen13. Maybe she just wanted to cram 2-3 issues worth of story into a denouement. It’s a shame she’s off the book, as well as the apparent death of Welcome To Tranquuility, which I haven’t seen on future schedules. At least she tried to put a spin on the kids, especially Grunge as child prodigy-turned-slacker. Would it be too weird to pair him with Caitlin?

    I do agree with quelonio…the best run of that book was with Adam Warren. How come he doesn’t get to write for the major companies? Think of books with tech-based characters, and he’d probably run amok with it.

  17. Just where in the holy heck is that image of a chick wielding a squealin’ pig as a weapon from?

  18. I have a hard time supporting Peter David’s first issue of She-Hulk, which isn’t really fair, since it’s decent enough in and of itself…but no matter how noble his reasons for doing so, I can’t help but be crushed that David is ditching almost everything that made the book unique and enjoyable. Including the lack of decompression.

    I think we’ve all gotten too accustomed to the idea of writers reinventing a superhero every time they take over, when this particular book really would have benefited from David pushing himself to keep up with what Slott had done. Granted, if this run stinks, it’ll sink into the ether and no one will remember it, and probably someone will come along later and try and restore the Slott status quo, but in the meantime, I have to go without my Awesome Andy, and that’s just not cool.

  19. mmm…

    No love for the Luna Brothers’ The Sword ?

    The twist ending was uncannily similar to Suburban Glamour’s (in story timing at least) and their art is also crisp yet expressive.

    Girls was easily one of my favorite comics in the latest years and apparently also here at ISB. What is your opinion?

  20. Sorry to be dense, Chris. This is what I get for posting a comment when I’ve just got into work, rather than waiting until my brain has kicked in three or four hours later…

  21. But…what do you think about Frank Castle using a sort of Venom suit to dismember an evil alien?

    Oh, I thought it was awesome. Top to bottom, that was a fantastic issue.

    What are your thoughts on Shadowpact?

    It’s fine, although it seems like it’s in a bit of a holding pattern. I do enjoy it, though, even though it’s definitely nowhere near the quality you get from Willingham’s work on Fables. But really, what is?

    No love for Flash #233? I thought the end of this arc was stellar.

    I’m pretty sure that story’s still going on, since the solicitation in the new Previews said it was the conclusion to “The Wild Wests,” but beyond that, it still didn’t grab me. Freddie Williams is a definite improvement over Acuna (even though this issue looked a little rough and rushed compared to his work on this week’s Robin), but the story itself isn’t doing it for me. It just doesn’t hold my attention, and when Wally immediately assumes that the Justice League is there to steal his kids rather than just to hug it out, it gets even more tenuous.

    I asked it before, but I’ll ask it again. Do you read The Walking Dead?

    Not anymore. I read it for about three years before I dropped it and sold the run on eBay. I don’t consider it especially poorly written or anything, but if I hadn’t already lost interest by the time the “Man… is the REAL monster!” story was going on, then the scene where Rick turns to the camera and yells “WE!!! ARE THE WALKING DEAD!” would’ve done the job just as well.

    You’ve got a good point about Peter David and puns. Someone once said that the pun is the lowest category of humor.

    It’s not even that: I enjoy a good pun (and a look back at my blog will show that I tend to enjoy the bad ones just as well), but with David, they are unrelenting. They ruined Young Justice for me (Fite ‘n’ Mad! APES! HA HA HA!) and by the time I got to the name “Anita Little Moore” in SpyBoy, I was ready to start setting things on fire. They’re best used sparingly, but with a lot of David’s work, they’re constant and driven wholeheartedly into the ground.

    I think you have accidentally made a pun yourself. Or is this a non-spoiler overtone to one of the major events in this issue?

    Huh. So I did!

    I do agree with quelonio…the best run of that book was with Adam Warren. How come he doesn’t get to write for the major companies?

    Here’s a chilling fact for you: Adam Warren pitched a Master of Kung Fu series to Marvel that was rejected.

    Adam Warren. Shang Chi. REJECTED.

    I will never fully understand this industry.

  22. Trust me when I say you’re not the only one who couldn’t care less about the whole Sinestro Corps thing. It’s just an awful idea, and it isn’t helped by the umpteen trillion crossovers.

    That and I’m not a big Geoff Johns fan. Sorry, I’m not.

    Jamie McKelvie does draw cute girls. More to the point, they look like normal girls, which is apparently difficult for most comic book artists.

  23. Hey, cut the Green Lantern fans some slack. When was the last time they had a reason to be excited about anything?

    And I’m glad to hear someone mention the lack of fun that is Gen13 and have someone point out that Gail Simone is not perfect. YOu hear that Birds of Prey fans, Gail Simone’s not perfect!

  24. I did! And I liked it quite a bit, especially the scene where the Nazis are dogpiling on him and he just kinda sighs and goes about his business. Fun stuff.

  25. In David’s defense, “She-Mail” as the title of the lettercol isn’t original to him. Byrne’s run used “Sensational She-Mail” for awhile.

  26. Am I the only one who, upon sounding out the “She-Mail” pun, didn’t associate it with “She-Hulk” or “E-mail” but instead went straight to “Shemale”? And what does that say about me as a person?

  27. Chris, comment 25, that bit about a Walking Dead character turning and yelling into the camera/directly at the reader….tell me, please tell me that’s not true? Please?

  28. Oh, no. It’s true. Not only that, but you could tell Kirkman really thought he’d hit on something profound there. That’s when I switched to trade and started to lose even more interest. The ending of the latest trade might just have severed (sorry about the pun) my last remaining link of interest.

  29. Yeah, Brian, did that blow your mind? Because that happened.

    Admittedly, Kirkman didn’t use the exclamation points like I did, but it’s in huge boldface letters, so I think it’s a pretty accurate translation.

    And yeah, but why not leave the letter column title as “Gamma Gamma Hey?” It’s still a pun (as are most lettercol titles, from “Detective Comments” to “Re:Action” and so forth) but it’s clever and more obscure.

  30. Oh, ouch. OUCH.

    Have I ever mentioned in these comments how the last issue of ‘Promethea’ I ever bought was the one where Mercury turns and addresses the readers? I’m feeling the same instinctive “Ugh!” reaction.

    It’s one thing when it’s She-Hulk or Squirrel Girl chatting with us as sorta-narrators, but when you can feel the writer giggling and thinking “Now I’m going to break the fourth wall and *freak them out*”, that’s when the hatin’ starts.

  31. Oh, well, to be fair, Rick’s actually saying it to the other characters rather than addressing the reader directly. The net effect, though, was about the same.

  32. You liked Blue Beetle #20? Really?? Not one page of that issue did I know what was supposed to be going on! It honestly bordered on being unreadable for me. It just seemed really slapped together and sloppy.

  33. Actually, the “loves peace so much he’ll kill for it” thing was the Peacemaker’s tagline back in the 1960s. Somewhere I have a copy of Peacemaker #1 from the 60s laying around. If I ever find it, I’ll send it to you. It’s one of the most demented things I’ve ever read.

  34. agreed on most counts!

    but peter david’s puns aside, did u honestly enjoy bounty hunter She-Hulk? I thought that ground was covered well-enough in Daughters of the Dragon.

    and yeah, a gun that shoots swords! and actually shown in a way to make it believable!

  35. Have I ever mentioned in these comments how the last issue of ‘Promethea’ I ever bought was the one where Mercury turns and addresses the readers?

    Alan Moore is allowed to break the fourth wall, he’s earned it.

    I actually thought that bit worked in context.