You know, I have no idea why these guys are wearing crazy Chinese demon masks with their business suits…
…but it’s exactly the kind of fashion statement that adds a bit of joi de vivre to a good ol’ fashioned facekick.
Anyway, enough with the clothes! After all, there’s plenty of time for that nonsense after we get through yet another installment of the Internet’s Most Pugilistic Comics Reviews! Here’s what I got this week…
…And here’s what I thought about ’em.
Amazing Spider-Man #547: Given the speed that it made the rounds on the comics internet, you’ve probably all heard about this one already, but on the off chance that you haven’t, here’s what Marvel Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada had to say in a recent interview that made it to CNN:
“When we first did it, the reaction was, ‘How could you do this? This is a terrible thing to do.’ But with the first issue of ‘Brand New Day,’ our letters very quickly changed to people saying, ‘This is fantastic. This is the Spider-Man we remembered. We didn’t know what we’d been missing.’
Okay, look: I’m not J. Michael Straczynski, so it’s not my job to sit here and argue with Joe Quesada about why “One More Day” is absolutely godawful in just about every sense of the word, and besides, I went through all that last week. I will, however, say this: As much as I’ve liked both parts of Brand New Day that have hit shelves so far, there’s nothing I like about them that couldn’t have been done with a married Spider-Man, and in fact, having to pretend like the guy I’m reading about didn’t just literally make a deal with the Devil last week is the biggest detriment to my enjoyment that the book has.
I mean really, what’s Dan Slott brought to the table that’s so fun? New villains? A desperate Peter Parker going back to work for an equally desperate Daily Bugle? The Spider-Mugger? All told, they make for a really fun read, and I’m glad to have them, but when you get right down to it, the only thing that makes the book different than it was two years ago is that now, it’s actually being written well. That’s what people wanted from the Spider-Man books, and the fact that it wasn’t happening when Peter and MJ were married says a lot more about the guys writing the stories than the characters that were in them.
But again, complaining about it now doesn’t solve anything. What’s done is done–until it’s undone at least; this is comics we’re talking about–but if we could get by without pretending like two good issues somehow make the bad ones any better, that’d be swell.
Atomic Robo #4: The awkward ending of the last issue aside, I think I’ve made my feelings on Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener’s tale of Robot Action Science pretty clear, but even if you missed my discussions of the earlier issues, the fact that all three words in the description I used are things that I love to see in my comic books, you’ve probably already been hipped to the fact that I like it a lot. It’s the kind of comic that just starts from a premise so brilliant that it was last seen in luchadore cinema–that being the timeless conflict of Robot vs. Mummy–and does it with such undeniable fun that even a backup story that seems to crib a bit from The Five Fists of Science doesn’t slow it down.
That said, it takes a special kind of comic to not only feature a robot in a disco medallion, but also create and explore a bitter spacefaring rivalry between the main character and Professor Stephen Hawking. Clearly, this is a comic we should all be reading.
Birds of Prey #114: You know, I just realized that right now, I’ve been reading Birds of Prey longer than I’ve been reading any other current comic book. I originally jumped on with #19 for a crossover with Nightwing and while I’ve hopped on and off virtually every other comic I read (not counting the ones that have been relaunched), I’ve stuck with BOP every month since for almost a hundred issues.
From this, we can learn two things: One, I am getting perilously old, and two, while I rarely have an occasion to recommend it over anything else I’m enjoying, the fact that I’ve stuck with it for ninety-four issues does speak well of its consistency and, with the exception of the issues between the end of Dixon’s run and the start of Gail Simone’s–the only parts of the run I’ve since gotten rid of–a baseline level of quality that runs through the series.
As for how I came to this conclusion, well, I’ve been thinking of dropping the book. Like I said before, it’s enjoyable enough at its high points, but it’s never really been one that’s wowed me on a regular basis, and right now, it seems pretty precariously balanced between “fun to read” and “buying out of habit.” On the one hand, you’ve got Sean “Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane” McKeever writing the book now, and at least one of the plots he’s exploring dates back to a Blackhawk story from the ’60s by one of the Two Great Bobs that saw Lady Blackhawk brainwashed into becoming Queen Killer Shark.
On the other hand, the main plot of his run thus far has led to a scene where Barbara Gordon breaks Misfit’s ankle, and even if it’s healed in the next panel, that seems pretty wildly out of character no matter what the end results of her “experiment” turn out to be. It’s not enough to make me drop the book at this point, but if it doesn’t pick back up in the next couple of issues, well, a habit can only keep a guy buying so long.
Booster Gold #6: You know, if you told me last year that I was going to see Jack Knight make a one-panel appearance in the pages of Booster Gold, and that I’d be happy about it, I would’ve thought you were out of your freakin’ mind.
But then again, Booster Gold‘s a book that’s full of surprises, and while it’s not often that I’ll admit to being wrong here on the ISB–mostly because, you know, I’m not–now that the first story arc is all said and done, I’ll cop to completely misjuding this one back when it was solicited, and if anything, this issue seals the deal even more than the ones before it. After all, for a comics reader, I’m a pretty big fan of characters who die actually staying dead, but an issue that sees Booster saving Ted Kord from getting shot in the head without negating anything about his story is a good sign, right down to the fun bits of pseudo-science (you know, the “chronal wave” that “breaks up” the “solidified time”) that flow through it. It’s good stuff, and seriously? I’m excited as heck for next month’s Zero Hour tie in, and nobody’s said that in fifteen years.
If they even said it then, I mean.
Checkmate #22: You know, the thing that really stuck out to me in this issue was the opening scene, where the Mademoiselle Marie of 1944–which is presumably the one we were already familiar with–is executed by firing squad in Nazi-occupied France. It’s something that I’d never really thought about before, but it’s a completely appropriate end for the character. Kanigher, after all, was fond of saying in his later years that Sgt. Rock dies at the end of the War as a victim of the last bullet, and it makes perfect sense that Marie–with whom Rock was in love, which he intended to follow up on once they’d gotten rid of the rather pressing concern of, you know, World War II–would meet a similar fate.
It’s an idea that’s always appealed to me. I mean, I like Sgt. Rock and Mlle Marie an awful lot, and while it’d be nice to reward their years of bare-knuckled Nazi-punching with a long and peaceful retirement, they belong to World War II. And unlike, say, Jeb Stuart and the Haunted Tank, who had a great, fun return in the pages of Garth Ennis’s Demon, they just don’t seem like they’d work outside of that specific idiom. It’s not what you’d call a happy ending, but it’s just as right to see them give themselves to the defense of their countries, right down to the very en–
Huh? This issue? Oh, Josephine beats a guy to death with a claw hammer. It’s totally awesome.
Flash #236: So, you guys remember how I was really apprehensive about Mark Waid coming back to the Flash, because I was worried about him falling far, far short of an incredible run that pretty much defined the character?
Turns out I was right. Go figure.
Immortal Iron Fist #12: Okay, true story: Halfway through reading this issue, I had to actually put it down and go find someone to talk to about how hard Davos just got his ass kicked. And brother, if there’s any better sign that you’re reading an awesome fight comic, I’d like to hear it.
Actually, come to think of it, I got interrupted when I was reading this one and ended up skipping the last bit until I went back to look through it tonight, presumably because the first sixteen pages had enough awesome for a full twenty-two. But anyway, at this point, we all know how I feel about Iron Fist and why, for my money, it’s the best comic Marvel’s putting out, but it always bears repeating that Brubaker and Fraction are doing things perfectly with it. The setup of the Tournament alone, with Danny going out in the first round and Davos utterly destroying his competition and then being thoroughly wrecked in turn by a man that turns into green lightning? It’s amazing, and David Aja’s art on the fight sequences flows with a pacing that makes it look like the greatest kung fu movie ever made.
It’s awesome. Read it.
Incredible Hercules #113: Long-time ISB readers might recall that I have an intense and abiding hatred of Wonder Man, so believe me when I say that seeing Hercules drop a Quinjet on him was quite possibly the highlight of my week. Especially since he dropped it right on his stupid face with his stupid glasses and his stupid jacket and I hate you so much Wonder Ma–
Er, sorry. Got a little distracted there. Point is, Greg Pak’s responsible for the most enjoyable Hulk stories in recent memory, and now that he and Fred Van Lente have shifted the book’s focus over to everyone’s favorite punch-drunk immortal, the way that they’re blending mythology and the Marvel Universe is downright Simonsonian. And believe me, that’s not an easy label to live up to.
And yet, they seem to be pulling it off with ease, and a lot of it, I suspect, comes from the great combination of characters. But really, who would’ve thought that the surly super-genius teenager with a pet coyote and the Avenger that’s only ever been really good when he’s drunk and/or punching out other super-heroes would work so well? Well, I suppose Van Lente and Pak did, obviously, seeing as they’ve given us a story where Amadeus Cho can be as surly as humanly possible, and Hercules can be completely justified in going crazy and punching out other alleged “good guys.”
Good guys like Wonder Man. Stupid, stupid Wonder Man. It’s a win-win!
Robin #170: So, Chuck Dixon’s back on Robin with this issue, and in case you couldn’t tell from the reliable ol’ Fight Scene – Exposition – Set Piece Fight Scene – Development – Cliffhanger story structure that he patented back in ’94, the fact that there’s a reference to Sundollars Coffee on Page 9 should’ve been a pretty big tipoff. This is, after all, the man who showed us the difference between Zesti and Soder Cola, and made sure we all knew that Curtains ’98 was an unreliable operating system.
I kid Dixon, of course, but to be honest, his use of stand-in products has always really appealed to the minutia-oriented section of my brain, and while I’m not sure why, they’ve always had a strong appeal for me. But alas, the return of Sundollars to the DC Universe isn’t the alleged “big” draw here, as that spot’s occupied by the possible return of the Spoiler (or at least Tim Drake sitting around thinking about the possible return of the Spoiler for the next few issues), which pretty much just boils down to pandering to the Internet.
Now don’t get me wrong: I’m usually well up for a good bit of pandering to the Internet, but it might help if this issue was actually, you know, any good. The whole thing starts off with Batman claiming that he accepts his losses and moves on, and while that’s pretty good general advice, the fact that it’s coming from a guy in his thirties who’s dressed like a giant bat-demon so that he can avenge his dead parents makes it ring a little hollow. Admittedly, Robin solving his problems with the aid of a giant bowling ball is a high point, but it doesn’t make up for what essentially amounts to a bland, boring read about a narcoleptic vigilante and his dead ex-girlfriend.
And that’s the week! If you have any questions or comments on something that I read or skipped over this week–like, say, throwing out some possible theories on why Matt Wagner’s such a freakin’ genius or whatever–feel free to leave a comment below.