The Week In Ink: March 12, 2008

Huh. Who knew everybody liked Pulp that much?

Anyway, you know what else people like? A good ol’ fashioned kick to the face!

 

 

Oh relax. She’s a ninja. They get that all the time.

Anyway, it’s Thursday night, and that means that it’s time for another round of the Internet’s Most Common Comics Reviews! Here’s what I picked up this week…

 

 

…but were they any better than dancing, drinking, and screwing? Well, no. But some of ‘em were pretty good anyway!

 


 

Comics

 

Amazing Spider-Man #553: So, it’s the second part of Bob Gale’s first three-issue term as writer on Amazing, and it looks like I might’ve been a little too harsh in the judgement I handed down last week. It’s still my least favorite of the three stories thus far, but I ended up enjoying this issue far more than I expected to.

Admittedly, I’m sure a lot of that comes from nostalgia. For all my talk about forward momentum and not wanting to see the same thing we always see from a character–and make no mistake, the thrice-monthly Spider-Man has all the earmarks of a “Greatest Hits” run, albeit an enjoyable one–there’s always going to be a big part of me that gets a kick out of seeing Peter Parker figuring out new ways to use his camera or being forced into an extremely awkward social situation by his boss. Of course, it helps when the stuff I want to see is actually written in a reasonably competent manner, and at the very least, “reasonably competent” is certainly something that Brand New Day’s brought to the table each time.

Er, not to damn it with faint praise or anything. You guys know what I mean.

Anyway, that said, it’s not as though this issue’s without its faults, most notably the way that this issue goes even further than last in its depiction of the grotesque. And by that, I mean the fact that an inside-out monster-man with giant, grub-like intestines hanging out of his body gets shot in the head right there on page four. To be fair, the headshot is silhouetted, but the part with the guts is right there in glorious Marvelchrome, and from a book that was joking about having to cut away from one of the Enforcers putting the squeeze on a bookie last month to keep its “All Ages” rating, it seems like the team’s either pushing an joke that wasn’t that funny to its logical extreme or just not paying attention.

Just to put it in context, though, I imagine it’s still a lot more kid-friendly than Spider-Man throwing a tantrum where he threatens to murder the Kingpin by choking him on his (Spider-Man’s) bodily fluids and then sells his soul to the Devil, but man. I coulda done without the guts.

But then again, this is a comic where a key plot point is preceded by the line “Hey! Spider-Man’s pants!” How can I stay mad at that?

 

Atomic Robo #6: You know, I don’t generally single out individual lines or panels as being the best of the week type of thing with my reviews–the closest I get is the weekly kick, and those are more for my enjoyment than anyone else’s–but brother, if I did, then this issue of Atomic Robo would win hands down for this exchange between Helsingard and Robo:

“Are we not men of SCIENCE?”

“I’m a robot and you’re a brain in a jar. Is this a trick question?”

In my book, that’s as clsoe as you’re going to get to a perfect bit of pulp-action comedy, and more than anything else, it captures the spirit of what Clevenger and Wegener are doing with this one. I’ve had a couple of minor problems with the series as a whole–mostly in the way that Clevinger’s issues seem to just stop rather than end–but in this issue, they’re doing something that just grabs a fight comic and throttles it until there’s nothing left but the fun. It’s good stuff, and I’m more than a little excited at the fact that there’s a second volume coming down the line later this year. Give it a read.

 

Booster Gold #7: I know I say this every month, but for real, you guys: If you’d told me two years ago that I’d be reading a book where Booster Gold and a resurrected Ted Kord fight an army of OMACs in a dystopia where Maxwell Lord made Alfred kill Batman and that I’d be telling everyone it was one of DC’s three best titles, I would’ve–ah, the hell with it. You know the rest.

By this point, with half a year (and a Zero Hour tie-in) of solid, highly enjoyable issues from Johns, Katz and Jurgens, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that Booster Gold‘s this good, but it’s one of those rare comics that’s always better than I expect it to be. Which, I suppose could just be a subconscious grudge I’ve been holding ever since I decided to read through a run of Extreme Justice back in ’06, but I’m pretty sure that Booster actually is just that good.

Yeah, I know. Weird, isn’t it?

 

BPRD: 1946 #3: One of the things that I talk about pretty often over the course of these little chats we have every week is the relationship between a great high concept and said concept’s execution, and–more often than not–how the execution can fail to live up to the premise. With Mignola, Dysart and Azaceta’s story of the origins of the BPRD, though, it’s the exact opposite.

Bear with me here. Mike Mignola is, after all, no stranger to the great high concept, as his most famous creation has one of the best ones that the world of comics has ever seen: A demon summoned by Nazis but raised by Americans to become a paranormal investigator who hunts down ghost stories and beats them into submission with a giant stone hand that may or may not be the key to Armageddon. That’s supernatural action boiled down to its core elements and mixed with a liberal dose of pulp–the fiction, not the band–that sells itself even without the fact that Mignola’s one of the medium’s greatest craftsmen.

With 1946, though, it’s different. This issue in particular is about a beleagured academic and a Little Girl Who Is Actually A Demon investigating an asylum run by Nazis who secretly created insane half-vampires in a hidden laboratory. That, my friends, is a litany of cliches so done that I’m pretty sure it’s also the description of the starting adventure that came with the new edition of the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game. And yet, it’s being pulled off so well that it’s quickly become second only to Universal Machine as my favorite installment yet of the BPRD series entire. And really, that all comes down to how well it’s actually done, and for tense, genuinely frightening storytelling, it doesn’t get a whole lot better than this.

 

Fantastic Four #555: I’m going to go ahead and cop to being mildly shocked that this one actually shipped on time, but after reading the issue, the word that springs immediately to mind is “boring.”

I mean really, for all the excitement that Millar tries to capture with his Serious Business talk of the world coming to an end–but not in a way that’s silly, like you’d find, you know, in a comic book–this thing amounts to little more than twenty-three pages of paint-by numbers plotting that offers up everything you’d expect and nothing more. It opens with dialogue that could be spoken by virtually any woman Millar’s written in the past five years and continues into a story that tries its level best to pass off grand, sweeping visuals and pseudoscience as storytelling, with a quick stop at a conversation with the Thing. And we know it’s the Thing, because he says “Stretcho” and “wuz,” which is a handy signifier that saves the time of actually having him do anything. And while I had originally thought that Sue wasn’t in the issue, well, she is the Invisible Woman, so I guess she could’ve been in every panel.

And then there’s our presumable villain, which–let’s be honest here–might as well have had the announcer and musical stings from the 1966 Batman show to introduce it: “What’s this? A robot designed to eliminate crime? But all is not what it seems at the Earth Trust, as our heroes are about to discover!” It’d be fun if it wasn’t supposed to be good, and for this issue at least, that’s a goal that it falls well short of, if only by virtue of not being anything.

 

GI Joe: America’s Elite #33: This, on the other hand is not boring at all, for the simple reason that it is the only comic book I own that features none other than Rowdy Roddy Piper. Yes, friends: The star of They Live, Hell Comes To Frogtown and–no foolin’–Super Sweet 16: The Movie, the ring veteran from Winnipeg Glasgow who duked it out with Mr. T himself at WrestleMania VI has finally been formally enshrined in the comic book pantheon that is COBRA.

And who, I ask you, is responsible for this turn of events? Who brought the Rowdy One into the Iron Grenadiers to counteract the edge given to the Joes by their training under Sgt. Slaughter?

Who else? DESTRO!

 

 

Truly, it is a wonderful time to be alive.

 

The Goon #22: Okay, look: Now I’m not complaining by any means, because trust me: I’m as happy as anyone about the fact that The Goon is coming out monthly with Eric Powell turning in the same great level of quality, humor, violence and dynamite-related hijinx. And I’m thrilled by the way that he’s advancing the series, tearing down the Zombie Priest and replacing him with something even worse. That’s all well and good. Great, even.

I’m just saying, if I was having burlesque dancers over for “modeling” sessions where I “sketched” them and retaining the services of my own personal cagefighter, I’d be way to happy to write a story where a guy’s mom gets shot down in the middle of the street.

S’all I’m sayin’.

 

The Punisher #55: High on the list of clichés in comics advertising–just under its cousin, “A Bold New Direction!”–is the phrase “The End of an Era,” but every once in a while, it applies. And with this issue being the start of Garth Ennis’ last arc on The Punisher, I think it’s safe to say that an era is coming to an end. And at this point, I’m perfectly okay with that.

It’s not that I don’t think Ennis is doing a good job with the character. Far from it: This is, after all, a guy who convinced me long after I’d caught onto the formulaic aspect of his stories that he could still do some of the most gut-wrenching, emotionally brutal scenes I’ve ever read, so as far as I’m concerned, that guy could stay on the Punisher for the rest of our natural lives and I’d buy it every month.

But I doubt that’s what Ennis wants to do. He’s been writing about Frank Castle for almost eight years now, and even for a guy who’s known for long runs, that’s got to wear on you after a while. But by the same token, ninety issues–with a couple of fill-ins–is no small achievement, so if Ennis says it’s time to go, it’s time to go.

I just wish Steve Dillon would’ve come back for the last arc, if only for the symmetry. Well, and the fact that Steve Dillon is pretty awesome. I don’t know if you guys have noticed, but I’m kind of a fan.

 


 

Trades

 

ISB BEST OF THE WEEK

 

 

Empowered v.3: So by this point, all I should really have to say is “Hey. The new volume of Empowered is available for purchase,” and then any stragglers (or latecomers to a comic shop that under-ordered it–sorry, everybody) would rush out, get it, and then we could all bask in its warm, life-giving glow.

Because for real you guys, this is a book that’s been pretty much universally praised, and for that to happen with a series that spins out of Adam Warren getting commissioned to draw super-heroines in bondage, that alone should serve as a better indicator of how good it is than anything I could write. Still, for those of you who haven’t jumped on yet, let me assure you: This book has everything you never knew you wanted to see until you heard about it, at which time you needed to see them.

I speak, of course, of things like the pirate-themed supra-bondage specialists of A.R.R. Of scenes that will show you what it would be like if Adam Warren had drawn Sin City instead of Frank Miller. Of yaoi drawn by Runaways and Buffy the Vampire Slayer cover artist Jo Chen. Of a fight scene that, seriously, I don’t want to spoil it, but I never thought I’d get to use the word “stump-punch” to describe anything but 1979′s Crippled Masters. I speak of a world where we get three brand-new Adam Warren graphic novels in one year.

Although to be fair, I always knew I wanted that last one.

 

Gumby v.1: I’ve spoken about the pure, beautiful joy that is Bob Burden and Rick Geary’s Gumby before, but just a reminder, folks: This is a story where Gumby–brainwashed into becoming a Golem, complete with –has to save his girlfriend Cuddles by battling evil carnies alongside the astral form of Johnny Cash, who descends from heaven to help him in his time of need.

 

 

And it is now collected in trade. You have no excuse for not owning it.

 


 

And on that vaguely threatening note, that’s the week! But while you’re here, why not go check out Say It Backwards to find out how you can help raise some money for a very good cause? It’s what Superman would want. And probably Gumby, too.

Then, when you get back, if you’ve got any questions or comments about something I read or skipped this week, feel free to drop a line in the comments section below. As for me, well, Super Smash Bros.. You know how I roll.

38 thoughts on “The Week In Ink: March 12, 2008

  1. I agree completely about the “end of an era” tagline for Ennis and Punisher. Y’know, Chris, I’ve heard you wax nostalgic on Ennis’ work on Hitman (and probably Preacher, too), but I must insist: if you’ve never read the Ennis/Dillon run on Hellblazer, you really – really – need to.

  2. 3 items.

    1. I think the part of my brain that enjoys Geoff Johns got a virus or something. Because I’ve got Flash trades that say I once enjoyed the guy quite a bit. But I can’t think of a SINGLE thing he’s done in the last FIVE years I’ve liked. Nothing with Green Lantern, Booster Gold, Superman, NOTHING. And people whose taste I respect more than a little keep praising it. And I don’t see it. AT ALL. I mean he has a time travelling super-hero getting drunk with Jonah Hex. He has the Subs fighting way out of their weight class and being awesome doing it. He has a DAXAMITE GREEN LANTERN. And it all draws at most a resigned sigh. Its got to me…

    2. It would be nice if just once, JUST FRICKEN ONCE, something I pre-ordered thru Amazon that WASN’T HARRY POTTER would arrive the same week as its general release. Why do I have Prime Membership? Oh yeah, to avoid shipping charges. Still, why the hell do I have to wait several weeks for Empoweredvol.3?

    3. A week with Nova, Annihilation: Conquest, Keith Giffen & Joe Casey’s Last Defenders and THE THREE GREATEST TASKMASTER/ANT-MAN PANELS EVER in Avengers: Initiative and you only give attention to Millar on FF? That just makes Stan Lee cry Sims. Why do you hate Stan?

  3. Sorry, that should be instead not only. You do talk about the slightly above average Spider-Man book and Ennis finishing up on Punisher as well. Still, NOTHING for the other four? C’mon!

  4. Yeah, I end up repeatedly asking myself, “Why does Phil Jimenez draw Spider-Man so oddly?”

  5. Roddy Piper as a member of COBRA? Awesome. The only way that could possibly be any better is if it were the Iron Sheik instead, and he cut an incoherent promo on Cobra Commander about wanting to butt-rape B. Brian Blair, and what a jabroni Hulk Hogan is.

  6. I’m shocked at the lack of JL International HC, you’re blog was the reason I was made aware of it :(

  7. Rowdy Roddy Piper and Destro! It is a good week to be Scottish, I suppose (or even pseudo-Scottish).

    Destro really is awesome. There’s a man with a metal face that hangs out in Edinburgh and does robot dancing to some sort of motorik music. Perhaps they are related.

    Favourite review line of the week: “It’d be fun if it wasn’t supposed to be good”

    Nice.

  8. So, what about Nova? You teased us with the ‘That’s how we do things in the Racooniverse’ (which is pretty awesome) and then … nothing …

  9. Wasn’t Captain Britain and MI:13 supposed to be out this week? If it was, I’m guessing you didn’t get it. :(

    Also, Chris, Super Smash Bros… any good? Sadly it doesn’t come out in the UK until next month. :( :(

  10. Oops! CB & MI:13 is out in May not March. Damn stupid months beginning with the same two letters and me not having enough sleep! Grr!!

  11. “if you’ve never read the Ennis/Dillon run on Hellblazer, you really – really – need to”

    Typical Ennis if that’s your bag. Personally I thought it took the sophisticated character development and disturbing horror that Jamie Delano built up from Alan Moore’s cool original concept and turned the comic into a gratuitously gory Guinness advert.

    Geoff Johns has been cranking out some genius on Green Lantern, some solid entertainment on JSA, but Booster Gold has been really disappointing. I’m a little mystified by the praise it gets in these quarters. Great concept – don’t get me wrong – but crushingly disappointing in execution (although I’d be lying if I said I ever found Dan Jurgens artwork better than pedestrian).

  12. So, what about Nova? You teased us with the ‘That’s how we do things in the Racooniverse’ (which is pretty awesome) and then … nothing …

    that scene is from Annihilation: Conquest, actually. Nova’s busy over in the Technarch home world.

  13. Roddy Piper as an Iron Grenadier sounds awesome–why aren’t I buying G.I. Joe anymore? Speaking of which I heard that Larry Hama has been hired as a writing consultant to the movie… maybe with the Hama touch it’ll be worth paying to see in the theatres now. And Ray Park (Toad from the X-Men movies), who plays Snake Eyes–which also sounds promising–has signed on to play Danny Rand in an upcoming Iron Fist movie! In this tangled web of movies could Cobra Commander truly be only six degrees away from Kevin Bacon?

  14. I didn’t read FF, because I was so sure it would be shipping late all the time that I might as well wait for trades this time, but did Thing say “wuz” instead of “was”? Because aren’t they, like, pronounced the exact same?

  15. I don’t know how you can make fun of cheesecake comics like Tarot and many others and yet praise Empowered, which is maybe a half step above. Empowered is nothing but boobs and a tattered costume ad nauseam.

  16. I’ll second the “boring” verdict for Millar and Hitch’s Fantastic Four. Having read enough of them by now, their collaborations have a very “plastic” feel to them, not to mention an irritating X-factor I can’t quite put my finger on.

    Maybe it’s the sense I get that Millar’s take on the characters come across more as impressions than a genuine sense the character is speaking in their own “voice”. Add to that Millar’s preoccupation with wealth, status, and devil-may-care characters, and his F.F. becomes yet another dreary performance of his puckish smuggery.

    On a technical level, I can appreciate the skill of Bryan Hitch, but really….his stuff leaves me cold much of the time. Much like Millar’s interchangeable character personalities, Hitch’s visuals also have an odd “sameness” to them…especially the slightly almond-shaped eyes for some reason. When he does introduce an element of spontinaity, it seems forced and obtuse…a good example is when he stuck in that shot during that flashback when Alyssa licked her teeth with her toungue. What was probably intended to look “sexy” just came off as goofy and tonedeaf to the scene’s emotional demands.

    Also, have you ever seen a *worse* Ben Grimm than Hitch’s? You can really see the trap many of the “hyper real” artists can fall into as their drive to impose their level of realism to fundmentally unreal, unfamiliar forms (such as Grimm’s rocky face) makes it almost impossible for them to relax “the rules” for intentionally distorted forms. You can see this in Hitch’s compulsion to give Ben Grimm a more conventional nose structure and facial muscles that don’t work with a face made of rocks.

    I think this’ll be my last issue of F.F. for awhile…at least until the inevitable delays lead to yet another new creative team.

  17. Could someone please explain to me what exactly is so gosh darn terrific about Adam Warren? All his characters talk like a bunch of brain-damaged wiggers with advanced philosophy text books, and look like a pack of collagen-addicted Muppets.

  18. I’d rather read something with a blindfolded, drunken, coked up Rob Liefield than something done by Steve Dillon.

  19. If you’re taking requests, I’d like to ask your impression of the new Suicide Squad book.

    This old-school fan is seriously enjoying the book, and I’m glad that, in this instance, you CAN go back home again.

  20. I dig Steve Dillon in controlled quantities, but there is no denying that he has a repertoire of approximately two faces for “normal” looking people. He’s much better when drawing really freaky, outlandish character designs (Preacher was the perfect vehicle for the guy, really).

    Also: Empowered is great, if you can’t tell the difference between the wry, satirical cheesecake of Empowered and the embarrassing exploitation cheesecake of Tarot, well, that’s your problem.

    huff huff huff, huff huff huff, scathe

  21. Chris, I think the line you were looking for on the Empowered review was ‘Let us all bask in its warm glowing warming glow.’

    Simpsons Treehouse of Horror, The Shinning.

  22. After the Helsing manga, you wouldn’t think there were anymore stories to tell about Nazi vampires. Nice to be proven wrong.

  23. So, what about Nova? You teased us with the ‘That’s how we do things in the Racooniverse’ (which is pretty awesome) and then … nothing …

    That was actually from Annihilation: Conquest this week, not Nova, but they were both very, very enjoyable comics. Beyond that, though, there’s not a whole much to say about them that I haven’t already: I’ve never been as big a fan of Cosmic Marvel as I am of Cosmic DC, but over the past few years that’s totally switched, and a lot of that has to do with how good Annihilation and its aftermath has been. It’s good stuff.

    Also, Chris, Super Smash Bros… any good?

    Yeah. And once I get my Wii online, I will take on ALL COMERS. You want some of Princess Peach? Then make like Kirsten Dunst and BRING IT ON!

    Roddy Piper as an Iron Grenadier sounds awesome–why aren’t I buying G.I. Joe anymore?

    To be fair, that doesn’t ACTUALLY happen in the issue. He’s just included on the cover because–like Sgt. Slaughter and Refrigerator Perry–he’s a real-life celebrity that’s been made into a figure. The stuff about the Iron Grenadiers only exists, sadly, on his filecard.

    I totally need to get me one of those.

    I’d rather read something with a blindfolded, drunken, coked up Rob Liefield than something done by Steve Dillon.

    Then you are–and I say this as a doctor–completely insane.

    If you’re taking requests, I’d like to ask your impression of the new Suicide Squad book.

    You’re dead-on: I was worried about Ostrander coming back on this book with as much as I love his original run (and as bad as some returns to titles after a long absence have been) but he’s knocking it out of the park on Suicide Squad with the same style and panache that he brought to the original.

    The only thing I didn’t like about it was the scene where Deadshot claims he can’t shoot with one eye, when his mask only has one eyehole to begin with. But then again, that’s the eye he sights with, so it’s plausible. Great stuff.

  24. I’m shocked at the lack of JL International HC, you’re blog was the reason I was made aware of it :(

    Well I’m shocked by your poor use of homophones.

    Seriously, though, I didn’t buy the JLI Hardcover because I a) already own all the issues, and b) own the first bit in trade already, from the one they put out a couple of years ago (and the Secret Gospel of Maxwell Lord trade from the late 80s, too). If they get past the second hardcover–which includes the Suicide Squad issue that crosses over–that’ll be the most that’s ever been collected, and while I’d love to get it all in a more accessible format, I don’t need it thrice over.

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