Say what you want about the ill-fated plot of Sylvester Sepastopol, but when you get right down to it, is there any villain who steadfastly refuses to make sense quite like Razor Fist?
No, I submit that there is not. I mean, how does he even get anything done?
Truth be told, it’s probably best not to worry about it. After all, I’m already a day behind on bringing you this week’s installment of the Internet’s Most Chin-Checking Comics Reviews!
Here’s what I picked up this week…
…and here’s what I thought of ’em!
All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder #8: Can we all just pause for a moment and bask in the sheer poetry of the Joker’s massive dragon tattoo?
Ah. Man. That thing is beautiful and terrible. I love it… and despair.
Unfortunately, the rest of the issue doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the Joker’s Yakuza tats. For the first time in a while–a long while, considering how often this thing bothers to come out–the majority of the story here is just bad, and not in the hilarious way that brought us gems like “Sweet Jesus, it’s the Goddamn Batman!”
I think it all comes down to the scene with the Joker, because really, with the exception of Frank Miller going ahead and dropping a line like “She’s a sad old WHORE” right there in the second caption box of the issue–because, y’know, Frank Miller–the whole thing just falls flat. Batman driving around in a car and calling Dick Grayson retarded for eighteen hours, that’s funny. Seeing the Joker date-rape, punch out and murder a woman in a pretty awkward sequence? Not so much.
To be fair, though, the scene with Hal Jordan being interrupted while enjoying a hot dog is darn near perfect.
Authority Prime #2: Two issues in, and at this point it’s pretty obvious that Authority Prime is going to be one of those classic team-up stories where two opposing groups run into each other and then, despite being on the same side and generally friendly with each other, start to fight for what is essentially no reason. Ah, tradition.
Of course, while it’s easy to dismiss this one as just another cliche, it’s important to remember that this thing’s being done by Christos Gage–who has blown up hugely over the past couple of years for the simple reason that his comics are almost always phenomenally entertaining–and Darick Robertson, who takes a break from drawing guys in 90s-esque super-hero costumes getting beaten up over in The Boys to draw… well, guys in 90s-esque super-hero costumes getting beaten up. Funny how that works out.
Either way, it works, and this issue shows why. From Jackson King putting on his crazy costume at the end of the last issue to Robertson’s great facial expression when Apollo defeats Winter with the power of expository monologues, the whole thing’s a hoot. Heck, it’s worth the price of admission just to see the way Gage handles the problem of fighting a team with Jenny Quantum and the Doctor. It’s a lot of fun, and to be honest, it’s just nice to have a comic that actually has the Authority in it that’s a) good, and b) comes out more than once per epoch.
Batman #671: This is, without question, the best tie-in to “The Resurrection of Ra’s al-Ghul” yet.
Of course, as the expression goes, that’s a lot like being the prettiest waitress at Denny’s. Needless to say, I’m still not thriled one bit with Zombie Ra’s walking around, and after last week’s nigh-incomprehensible issue of Robin, I was ready to toss the whole thing and be done with it. This issue, though, is actually pretty good. To be fair, it doesn’t do a whole lot to redeem the story (and in fact manages to complicate matters even further with the fact that the Sensei is Ra’s al-Ghul’s father), but it’s served pretty well by the fact that it skips explanation almost completely and just gets on with Batman–in chainmail for reasons that still haven’t been satisfactorily explained–throwing down with an old man.
And as much as it surprised me, it’s actually helped along quite a bit by Tony Daniel. I’m not a huge fan of his, but I think he acquits himself nicely in this one, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that the last page of the story is an homage to one of my favorite Batman panels of all time. So who knows? Maybe this Grant Morrison guy has a future in this business after all.
Blue Beetle #21: I’ve said before that Blue Beetle is probably DC’s most underappreciated title, and the fact that even the fill-in issues keep things this enjoyable is a pretty good sign that I’m right.
And that, my friends, is all I’m going to write about this one, because if I type one more sentence, my willpower’s going to completely fail and I’ll end up making a joke that I’m desperately trying to avoid.
Casanova #11: So let this be a lesson to you, prospective super-assassins! Should you ever find yourself cornered and unable to conquer your enemies through bacarat, just, y’know, whip ’em out and kick ’em in the face.
And that, my friends, is why this might just be my favorite comic on the stands. At this point, there’s really no more praise I can heap on Casanova than I already have, but man: it’s flat-out great, and as much as I liked the first volume, this one’s blowing it away. And considering that it’s a story where the title character’s been missing in action for the past three issues, that’s no easy feat to pull off.
And yet, here we are with one of the most enjoyable books of the year. It’s like reading an explosion: Fraction’s got the sex and violence meter turned up to eleven, and Fabio Moon’s character designs–from Kubark Benday and Sasa Lisi to this issue’s beautiful work on Suki Boutique–are flat-out incredible. It’s just a joy to read, and while I know I say this every time it comes out, but come on! It’s two bucks! It’s everything comics oughtta be, except more!
Dan Dare #1: Back when this one was solicited, I mentioned that the strategy behind Virgin Comics pretty much mystifies me (you know, what with the upcoming Jenna Jameson comic and their “Masked Magician” one-shot), but occasionally, they’ll put something together that I really want to see.
That’s the case here: Garth Ennis, of course, needs no introduction from me, and given the amount of fun I had with last year’s Battler Britton, I was interested in seeing his take on another classic adventure hero. The result is something that I can probably best describe as being, well… familiar.
At first I assumed that it was because of the character’s influence on pop culture in general and the osmosis that leads you to pick these things up. After all, even without knowing what the Mekon really is, I’ve heard it mentioned in places before. It wasn’t until after I’d finished the issue and thought about it for a bit, however, that I realized that the sense of familiarity comes from the fact that the first issue reads an awful lot like the beginning of Ennis’s Enemy Ace: War In Heaven, but in space.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, either: War In Heaven is probably one of the most underrated things the guy’s written, and even the simliarities between the two–ace pilot Hans von Hammer being recruited by the Luftwaffe after retiring following World War I, as opposed to ace pilot Dan Dare being recruited by the British government after retiring following the war with the Treen–allow for pretty divergent storylines once you get the main character back in action. Either way, it makes for a pretty compelling start, and aside from a couple of odd facial expressions here and there, Gary Erskine handles the art pretty well. Hopefully, it’ll stay this good through the run, because really: If this one lets me down, then where’s the incentive to try Shadow Hunters?
Daredevil #102: I’ve said it before, and I will no doubt say it again, but there’s nothing that makes a great Marvel comic faster than throwing in the Enforcers.
So what happens if the comic’s already great? You get this, which not only features the world’s greatest thugs-for-hire, but throws them against the Wrecker and Razor Fist, with Daredevil caught in the middle. In any other book, that’d be enough to carry a whole issue–and considering that this one manages to make even Razor Fist enjoyable, that’s no mean feat in itself–but that’s only a small part of what’s going on. Heck, with Mr. Fear leading this off, that’s not even the main story.
And that’s what’s beautiful about this one. Maybe it’s a side effect from the fact that he’s been forced to focus Captain America on the supporting cast after the death of its protagonist, but Ed Brubaker’s loaded this book with great characters, and he somehow finds a way to have them all fit into the plot in enjoyable ways, each and every month. And even with that, I’ve never felt shortchanged as a fan of Daredevil: Matt Murdock’s always in the midst of things, and it makes for an incredible read.
Plus, and I’m not sure if I mentioned this, but three guys known for their abilities in karate, rope tricks, and punching things show up to fight a guy with an enchanted Asgardian crowbar, and then a blind guy hits somebody with a parking meter. I’m not a hundred percent on this, but I’m pretty sure that’s everything beautiful about the Marvel Universe wrapped up in once sentence.
Hack / Slash #6: I like Tim Seeley’s art a lot–based on, you know, the (cough) forgottenrealmscomics (cough)–but every time I’ve made the effort to give Hack/Slash a shot, I’ve come to the conclusion that, well, it’s not very good.
Then again, I’m not really the target here: I don’t care much for horror movies (and even less for the sub-genre of slasher flicks, and without that love for the genre to contextualize it that Seeley’s obviously playing off of with his scripts, there’s no amount of tarted-up goth girls that’ll make the book do anything but fall flat for me. Archie parodies, however, are far more my speed, so when I found out that this issue saw said tarted-up goth girl (plus lumbering, monosyllabic sidekick) heading to Haverhill, the real-life town on which Riverdale was based, I decided to give in and try it again.
As for how it works out, well, it’s about like you’d expect for me: More enjoyable than the last time I gave it a shot, but not quite enough to sell me on the book as a whole. There are a few great bits on both sides of the story–like when Chris, the ersatz Archie, shoves his Veronica stand-in through a hedge to keep her from finding out about his double-booked dating plans, or when this issue’s serial murderer is continually frustrated by the clean minds of Haverhill and the lack of opportunity to butcher fornicating teens–but I don’t think I’ll be coming back for more. Just not my bag, I guess.
Jack of Fables #17: I could probably spend the next year writing about how much I love Fables and never run out of new things to talk about, but I think it says an awful lot about that book that even its spin-off is pretty unrelentingly awesome, even with a completely different approach.
I may not have mentioned it lately–what with the fact that, like its mother title, the quality of Jack of Fables pretty much goes without saying at this point–but Willingham and Sturges have been knocking it out of the park on a fairly regular basis lately, right down to the jokes with Babe the Blue Ox, which I honestly can’t believe are still pulled off as cleverly and fun as they are here. This one, though, with the prospect of Jack’s crew, Hillary Page and Paul Bunyan tying up their bindles and hopping on the rails in search of the Great American Hobo Story? That pretty much sells itself.
Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #47: Thus, the worst story arc in the history of Tarot comes to a close with what is quite possibly the funniest isuse of the run.
I think by this point, we’re all pretty familiar with how Tarot works at this point–and to be honest, we’re probably a lot more familiar than any of us would like to be–so I’ll skip the basics and get right to it: In this issue, Tarot and whole slew of witchity types get together to fight the guy who’s been messing with Tarot over the past six months or so. Sounds basic enough on paper, until you realize that every one of the other witches is actually based on a real person, with Balent lightboxing photos for an end result both hilarious and mildly horrifying. And when you throw in the fact that these are onstensibly Balent’s pals–with a handy photo guide in the back crediting them all–and around half of them are brutally dismembered over the course of the issue, you can probably throw “super-creepy” onto the pile of adjectives too.
What saves it, though–at least as an artifact of genuine comedy–is the incredibly turgid prose that runs through the issue, which stops just short of announcing that the bewitching Belly Dancing Witch has achieved a spell-power level of over 9,000. Here, have a sample, from my favorite bit: “The skyclad one generates her spells from the Earth through her body, while the others cast spells they larned from a far distant land out West.”
Yes. A far distant land out West. Friends, not since The Eye of Argon has their been a use of language as righteous as this issue. It’s fantastic.
And really, how do you top that? So, that’s the week. And as always, if you have any questions or comments–like, say, about how “One More Day” is turning out to be exactly the same as an issue of Mark Waid’s Flash (#129) from ten freakin’ years ago where the Flash saves Keystone City by trading his love for Linda to Neron–feel free to bring them up in the comments below.
As for me, I’ll be over here ripping the pages out of my misprinted copy of X-Men: First Class and putting them in the proper order. The things I do for a new Colleen Coover story…