The Week In Ink: April 16, 2008

When you get right down to it, summing up what’s so awesome about the Joker is harder than it seems, because really: Where do you start with that guy? Do you talk about the tragic clown who had one bad day from Killing Joke? Do you try to explain Grant Morrison’s “super-sane” villain who re-invents himself with every appearance? Do you just mention the Surf Jams and leave it at that?


But for me, I think it all boils down to this: The Joker is a guy who routinely fights the world’s greatest super-heroes…



…while wearing high-heeled spats. Genius.

But enough about footwear! It’s Thursday night, and that means that once again it’s time for the Internet’s Most Fancy-Footworked Comics Reviews! Here’s what I picked up this week…



But does anyone even read this part? Find out now!





Annihilation: Conquest #1: You know, once you’ve seen Ultron get beaten to death with a stick by Daredevil, it’s easy to see any of his other fights as something of a letdown, but man. This right here is good comics.

Admittedly, I’m as weary of the hyperbole surrounding “event” comics as the next guy, but I don’t think it’s understating it to say that Annihilation (and by extension, Nova and the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy) has thoroughly revitalized Marvel’s “cosmic” side, just by virtue of solid, exciting storytelling. And even better, Abnett and Lanning–along with Keith Giffen and Christos Gage–have done it using the last characters that anybody would’ve expected. I mean honestly: If you’d sat down three years ago and listed the heroes involved in Annihilation, you would’ve gotten all the way down to Rocket Raccoon before you hit somebody I cared about even a little bit–and if you’d told me that Nova was going to be one of my favorite Marvel titles, I would’ve thought you were crazy–but here we are.

The greatest appeal, though, is that the story they’re using these characters for actually is cosmic: There are entire worlds in danger, and while the stories focus on a very small group of heroes, they never lose that grand sense of scale, and since this is a story that ends with a woman fighting a giant genocidal robot with a sword made of revenge, I think it’s safe to say that it doesn’t lose its sense of fun, either.


The Batman Strikes! #43: For the past couple of years–ever since the Marvel Adventures line became a going concern under guys like Jeff Parker, Marc Sumerak and Fred Van Lente–the presence of kids’ comics that really are fun and appealing for all ages has shifted away from DC and over to the competition, and while they’re still a long way from recapturing the heyday of Batman Adventures, it looks like Josh Elder’s doing his best to have fun with ’em.

Elder, of course, is the Friend of the ISB that brought us the entertaining and offbeat Mail Order Ninja, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that his return to the title is marked by a fun attempt at an animated-style World’s Finest. It’s good stuff, and while it’s certainly a light read, it’s a kid’s book, and, well, they can’t all have rich girls that gain godlike power and usher in a Huxleyan dystopia, now can they?

And hey, even Dave Campbell likes it!


Catwoman #78: By now, word’s gotten out from Will Pfeifer that Catwoman‘s canceled as of #82, and that, my friends, is a damn shame.

And it also makes no sense. Not that they’re canceling it for low sales, but why a book that’s consistently been one of DC’s absolute best titles has low sales to begin with. I talk about Pfeifer’s stories a lot in my reviews–and with good reason, as they’re consistently and thoroughly entertaining–but this is really a book that excels on every level. David and Alvarro Lopez are an amazing art team, and they provide some of the cleanest and most expressive art in comics today, and heck, this thing even has great covers by Adam Hughes every month, so why it doesn’t just jump off the shelves is a complete mystery to me, and this issue’s no exception. A great bit of scheming from Selina, Slam Bradley smacking somebody with a phone book, and a great super-villain battle to top it all off? What more do you want?

It’s great stuff, and while it outright sucks that it’s not long for this world, I’m certainly going to be enjoying it while it lasts.


The Damned: Prodigal Sons #1: Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt are back with the sequel to 2006’s Damned, and while that was a series that hooked me immediately, I’m pretty sure that I like the start of the second series even more than the first.

For those of you who haven’t read Three Days Dead, here’s the plot: Eddie’s a low-level hitman for the mob during the ’20s, but with a couple of catches. For one, the Mob in the world of The Damned is made up not only of humans, but of demonic gangsters who thrive on the sin and vice of the Prohibition era, and for another, Eddie’s preferred M.O. involves allowing himself to be killed, since anyone who touches his corpse brings him back to life at the cost of their own.

It’s one of those deceptively simple high concepts that I just can’t get enough of, and Bunn and Hurtt just nail it. The scripts are fast-paced and intense, and the art strikes a great balance of clean linework and heavy mood that’s awfully hard to come by. It’s good stuff, and while the first series followed Eddie’s attempt at rising through the ranks, this one focuses on his origins and his family, the lengths he’ll go to to save their souls and the risks he’ll take with their lives. The end result is something that makes a great follow-up to one of the most underrated mini-series of the past couple of years, and if a cross between Hellboy and Criminal sounds like your thing–and come on, that sounds awesome and you know it–give it a read. It’s worth it.


Hellblazer #243: And now, the ISB proudly presents “Why I Love Hellblazer,” in one panel:



Incredible Hercules #116: A couple of weeks ago, someone mentioned that there was a flaw in my reviews, as all of them were, and I quote, “glowing,” and I responded by pointing out that, well, that’s one of the problems with reviewing the stuff I buy every week: As fun as it is to get a run of, say, Justice League of America and vent my frustration with it here, I tend to only buy the stuff I like, and the end result is that I’m just reviewing the stuff I enjoy anyway. The snag here is that, unless you’re just going to take my word on everything–which is a perfectly acceptable course of action, especially when coupled with the use of the ISB’s Amazon Store–reviews that are universally positive don’t actually tell you a whole lot. The question, then, is how do you guys know when something really is as awesome as I say it is?

This, of course, assumes that anyone’s actually basing their purchases on what I say, so bear with me here, and check this out: If you listen to me about one book–just one–it should be this one, because The Incredible Hercules is one of the best comic books on the market today. Not just one of the best Marvel books–although it’s certainly up there with the likes of Iron Fist and Captain America–but one of the best comics, period.

And it’s been that good for the past few months–since it made the switch from Hulk to Herc, though the former was no slouch either–and while I’ve gone over the reasons time and time again, the same stuff applies here. It’s great, you should be reading it. End of story.


Iron Man: Legacy of Doom #1: Despite the fact that it does not contain the words “Armor,” “Wars,’ or “Two” in the title, this issue is fairly close to my platonic ideal of what an Iron Man comic should be for a few reasons: a) It starts in outer space, finishes in Hell, and makes a stop in Latveria during the middle, b) at no time does Tony Stark act like a massive tool to anyone who is not a super-villain, an c) it’s about Iron Man fighting Dr. Doom, and I could pretty much read about that all day.

Come to think of it, that’s actually what I did on the day that the Doomquest hardcover came out, and while the story from Iron Man #149 and 150 sets the bar pretty high, this one didn’t disappoint. Admittedly, it’s a little early to say that it lives up to its predecessors–if nothing else, there’s three more issues for MIchelinie and Layton to drop the ball–but a first issue that gets just about everything right in its attempt to capture the feel of those late-80s Marvel stories is a darn good place to start.


Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files: Welcome to the Jungle #1: I wasn’t originally planning on picking this one up, since I have something of a checkered past with comic book adaptations of urban fantasy novels. Still, I decided to give it a shot after I consulted with pals / novelists Richelle Mead and Caitlin Kittredge (whose novels are available now), and they assured me that this Butcher fellow was good people.

As for how it worked out, well, it was actually a lot better than I expected, though to be fair, the bar had been set pretty low. This is my first time encountering Harry Dresden, but the story itself was accessible enough that I didn’t feel like I was missing anything, outside of the intentionally cryptic flashback. As a character, he obviously suffers by comparison to John Constantine–and really, if you’re going to walk around in comics solving magical crimes and wearing a trenchcoat, that’s gonna happen–but that probably wouldn’t have been quite so prevalent in my mind if I hadn’t just finished this week’s Hellblazer right before I started reading it. Still, there’s an appealing sort of lovable-loser weariness of someone who’s been kicked around a little that comes through to set him apart. Sort of the Al Bundy to Constantine’s Archie Bunker, if you will.

Painfully stretched metaphors aside, it was going along as a pretty sharp read that didn’t fall into the trap of overexplaining itself, and while it didn’t quite thrill me, it wasn’t half bad.

And then Harry Dresden totally punched a lion in the face.

Status: Awesome.


World of Warcraft #6: Okay, seriously you guys… what am I doing here?

I’ve often said that based on his work on Thor and Fantastic Four–both of which are some of the most entertaining comics ever printed–Walt Simonson had earned a spot as one of those creators that I will buy anything they care to do, but man. I just can’t take this thing anymore. It’s… It’s just awful, you guys. Just the pits.

The whole thing reads like someone just printed out a stack of terms that Walt had to throw into each issue and then requested the most clichéd, paint-by-numbers fantasy plot that money could buy, so long as it met the required number of references to Ashenvale or White Plume Mountain or The Forest of Wood or whatever. And the names! As if “Valeera Sanguinar” wasn’t bad enough, this issue sees people talking to gryphons and hippogriffs with names like Blackklaw and Stormwing and Falcon Crest, dishing out plot exposition in speeches that would make Charlie the Parakeet shoot himself in the head and…

Sorry. Lost it for a minute there. Suffice to say that the Casket of Ancient Winters, this ain’t, and while I was holding out hopes that Walter, Son of Simon could pull out a grand fantasy epic that would fall in line with his truly legendary run on Thor, I think it’s time to admit that that ain’t gonna happen and cut our losses. Because after all… “Ghost Wolf.” I mean really.








Nixon’s Pals: So yesterday, I got an email from Nixon’s Pals artist Chris Burnham that read as follows:

I might be coming off as a prideful father here, but Nixon’s Pals, the graphic novel about a parole officer for supervillains that I co-created with Joe Casey came out today… and it may very well have been scientifically designed to rock YOUR world. There’s enough ass-kickery for you to rule Friday Night Fights for a month… and enuff left over for Dave Campbell to reminisce about ten years hence in his F*&^ Yeah Files.

Not sold? There’s a bit where Nixon (the main guy) knees a dude in the groin and headbutts that same dude SIMULTANEOUSLY. And that’s AFTER Nixon has already been simultaneously suplexed and kicked in his OWN groin. Verily, this book is for you.

Now, I was already planning on grabbing Nixon’s Pals anyway, but if there was any doubt left in my mind, Burnham’s email erased it immediately. And trust me on this: He was not kidding. I’d go on, and explain how this thing hits like a freight train with one of the most fun scripts we’ve gotten from Joe Casey in a long while and how Burnham’s art is just fantastic, handling everything from a guy who looks like a rampaging potbellied stove to a woman with what I can only describe as nuclear-powered breasts, but really, that email says it all.

And it’s even crazier–and believe it or not, better–than it sounds.


Showcase Presents the Legion of Super-Heroes v.2: And while we’re on the subject of the craziest things I’ve ever seen, I’d just like to point out that not only does this volume contain the story of Computo the Conqueror–also starring Hate-Face and the Weirdo Legionnaire–but that it actually made the cover.

And with good reason: The only way it could be a more beautifully perfect, absolutely insane Silver Age Story would be the addition of Jimmy Olsen and a couple of chunks of Red Kryptonite. And that’s real.



And hey! Speaking of the Legion of Super-Heroes and the things I’ve written about them, if any of you are headed up to the New York ComiCon this weekend, stop by the SequArt booth and check out their new book Teenagers From The Future!



In addition to an introduction by Matt Fraction and columns from guys like The Physics of Super-Heroes‘ James Kakalios and Scipio Garling, there’s a piece I contributed about the often arbitrary rules and charter of the Legion of Super-Heroes.

See, it’s just like reading the ISB, except now you get to pay for it! Everyone wins!

And of course, if you have any questions about something I read this week–or if, like me, you’re just wondering whether Kate Waynesboro’s transformation into the Oldstrong is going to last longer than her transformation into Ms. MODOK–feel free to drop a line in the comments section below.

55 thoughts on “The Week In Ink: April 16, 2008

  1. I really liked how a drunken Hercules was still able to out think (and outfight) one of the eternals.
    The next storyline where Herc and a bunch of other earth gods go and fight the skrull gods should be awesome.

  2. They’d best go talk to Thor. Thor and Herc go way back. Though . . . it might mean that Thor would have to back down since he’s stuck in doing his own thing . . . so maybe not talking to Thor would be best. But I mean, c’mon. We want to see the Thunder God and Lion of Olympus kicking ass, taking names, and wondering “forsooth, what be gum?” together again, right?

  3. Comparing Dresden to Constantine is a bit like the whole apples and oranges. Both are fruit and round and thats it. In this case both are wizards. Sure Harry hasn’t managed to condemn any of his family or friends to Hell. But then John hasn’t burned down a vampire whorehouse in a beserk fit of revenge fueled rage…

    Harry Dresden. For those who like their wizards to make things go BOOM…

  4. Glad your dream regarding Hate-Face and Computo came through.

    By the way, Chris, you played Freedom Force for the PC? I remembered this game recently and I wondered if you knew about it. Awesome stuff.

  5. I’ve got an outfit that would go great with those high-heeled spats. I wonder if they’re available in my size…What did I tell you, Chris? You can tell a lot about a person by the shoes they wear!

  6. Why I never bought Catwoman:
    1) I don’t care about Catwoman
    2) The early run was drawn by Cameron Stewart, who, in his on-line persona at least, is something of a total dick. (At one point, getting pissed off because someone referred to his style as “cartoony” and then claimed not to know what this meant.)

    So, a combination of a character I don’t like and a creator I really don’t like meant no amount of kick-ass costume design would make me buy the book.

  7. Dude, your reviews are highly influential. I swore an oath in 1990 that I would never buy current comics again. Your positive reviews of Captain America changed my mind and I’ve recently started reading that title as well as Hercules on the basis of your recommendations. They’re really good! I might try Criminal next.

  8. Yep, I’ve bought things that you’ve recommended. Of course, it was more of an “I didn’t know that existed, it sounds like my cup of tea, and Sims says its fun…”

    And it’s a shame Bizarro-Computo didn’t make the cover…

  9. As to your influence on your readers buying habits? I’ve bought stuff you’ve recomended, HATED IT and then went and picked up something new after you recomend that. I’d say you manage to bat about 80% with me which is pretty damn good…

    And thats not even counting stuff that I get because Kevin Church says its good but then I mentally credit you for the kick-ass recomendation…

  10. I’ve NEVER regretting buying something on your recommendation. You’re always right; damn you!

  11. The catwoman thing is precisely why something like Countdown needs to:
    a) Exist
    b) Contain characters that appear in other books at the time
    c) Be good.

    If you have a character that, really, isn’t going to stand on the name- then you have to get people interested in the character. You get people interested in the character by putting them in other books, and having them exude the charm that makes them such a great read.

    I have no interest in reading a book about Catwoman. It’s DC’s job to MAKE me interested about reading a book about Catwoman. That means, perhaps, showing me some interesting Catwoman outside of the book called Catwoman.

    Look at it this way: The number of people who would have bought a Booster Gold ongoing before 52 is a lot lower then the number of people who are probably buying it now.

    To look at it another way: How many people would read Green Lantern based on Countdown? Two? But how many people would read Green Lantern books based on his appearance in Brave & The Bold? Lots more.

    This is why I hate the idea of Trinity: How many people already read a story about Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman every month? It doesn’t need to exist.

  12. Dear Cameron Stewart,

    I have read on the internet that you are a prick. Therefore, I will no longer be supporting titles you have worked on, as your online conduct is all that matters to me, and you have BADLY dropped the ball on this aspect of your professional life. I am sorry about this, Cameron, but it is your own fault. Maybe next time you will think twice before disagreeing with somebody on the internet.

    Yours sincerely,

    -Peter S

    In seriousness though, I bought the first few Catwoman trades and loved them (always liked the character, loathed every page of the Jim Balent version I’ve seen), but I didn’t read past the artist change to Paul Gulacy. I kind of fell out of touch with the title due to a total disinterest in DC’s million-and-one crossovers, and I’ve found the Adam Hughes art on the recent covers VERY offputting (sorry, I think it’s horribly inappropriate, to put it mildly; just look at that cover, for god’s sake, she’s biting Cheetah’s lip in some kind of freakish superhero lesbian hate-makeout session), so that added to my general ennui toward the title. It’s sad to see it go, regardless. I guess it’s my fault for not supporting it, I’m sorry everyone :(

  13. I’ve maintained that, of any character, the Joker should be the one that is self-aware that he is just comic character. All of the deaths he’s caused, none of them are real. He’s not really in control of his own actions (it’s the writer pulling the strings) and he can’t ever be killed (too popular) and none of the other characters, particularly Batman, know about this. THAT’S hilarious. It’s like controlling the guy in Grand Theft Auto; in that world he’s an amoral menace, but to us it’s just a way to have some fun.

    Oh, and as an internet trendsetter, the mainstream is just catching up:

  14. Two questions:

    1. Have you given up on Doctor Who? The third issue came out on Wednesday, with catkind galore.

    2. Is your disdain of Countdown To Infinite Crisis so great as to miss Jimmy Olsen as Turtle Boy fighting Darkseid, followed by Orion going triple bigfuck with cheese against his biological father? Hey, I got most of the series on the cheap, but I figured to get the last few issues from the rack.

  15. That should’ve read “bugfuck.” “Bigfuck” would be a Gim Allon-type deal. And yeah, I’ll look for Teenagers this weekend at the NYCC.

  16. “GQ” said:
    “The early run was drawn by Cameron Stewart, who, in his on-line persona at least, is something of a total dick. (At one point, getting pissed off because someone referred to his style as “cartoony” and then claimed not to know what this meant.)”

    Yeah, I don’t know what you read, but not only is Cam Stewart a fantastic artist who has drawn two of the best comics of the last decade (Seaguy and The Other Side, for those of you playing at home), but, from what I’ve seen, (and I do read Barbelith a lot), he’s been nothing other than a nice fellow online. At worst, he’s come off as– Heaven forbid– a regular guy.

    So maybe you should think things through before randomly creating online grudges.

  17. That Salvation Run cover (splash? I haven’t been to the shop yet this week) is totally a riff on a panel from The Dark Knight Returns.

    Nicely played by Sean Chen as he puts the Joker in Batman’s position and Luthor in Superman’s.

  18. Oh wow. I just realized I recognized Chris Burnham’s art from seeing it on posters for shows by the House Theatre in Chicago. He’s good.

    I’ll definitely pick this up.

  19. “This is my first time encountering Harry Dresden,”

    Oh, dear. Knowing what you like from your blog posts here, I think we can safely say that you absolutely need to start picking up the novels *now*.

    Not only plenty of punching, kicking, clobbering with his staff, shooting, blowing nasty critters up in various ways with his magic (e.g., wind, fire, pure force, concentrated gravity squishes), but in one of the later books he actually rides to the rescue on a freaking *zombie tyrannosaur* he reanimated from a skeleton at the Museum of Natural History.

  20. Chris, will the LoSH essay collection be available to order online after NYCC?

  21. I had no idea there was a Dresden comic and I love the books. I read like three of them during jury duty.

    If you, Chris Sims, had never told me to buy Iron Fist, I would not be in love with it as much as I am.

  22. Well, since everyone takes my recommendations to heart, you know what’s a really good read? A little thing called Let’s Give Chris Sims All Of Our Money.

    And now, a question:

    Chris, will the LoSH essay collection be available to order online after NYCC?

    It will, but I don’t know exactly when. It should be available from Amazon before it’s available through Diamond (although Tim Callahan tells me that’s coming too), and rest assured that I’ll be linking the heck out of it when it is.

  23. I pretty much started reading comics again, after 10 years, because of this blog. Not neccesarily the ones recomended, but still…ISB reminded me that I really, really liked comics. And why.
    Only sort of on-topic,Is there a trade that explains what happened to everyone after the last issue of Power Man and Iron Fist? Is it any good? If it isn’t, can someone just tell me what happened to, um, all the characters? I’ve been wondering for a real long time. Thanks.

  24. And that, Zachary, was the all-new ISB’s 10,000th comment. Congratulations.

    No, there’s no trade, but you can track down the issues of John Byrne’s Namor where Iron Fist comes back pretty easily.

  25. Hey, isn’t that Jason Statham the Joker’s kicking in the face with his high-heeled spat?

  26. “Hey, isn’t that Jason Statham the Joker’s kicking in the face with his high-heeled spat?”

    And if not, why not?

  27. I’d jump on the bandwagon of people who buy stuff because of your infectious enthusiasm, but I think it’s probably full to capacity. That, and I haven’t bought any of Pfiefer’s Catwoman, so I kinda feel like a dick.

  28. Well, thing is, Chris, you’re the only guy on the old internet saying good stuff about comics. According to, like, everyone else out there . . . there’s nothing worth reading.

  29. No, sorry, but I’m swinging knowing that Catwoman – at leas in its current format, is going, and here’s why

    -The horrific payoff to the pregnancy story. I don’t care if it was editorially mandated or what – the father should have been Bruce, or Slam Bradley. End of. Not the idiot kid.

    -Pfeifer’s decision wipe away the work the Brubaker did and turn Selina into a vilain again.

    -Pfeifer making Selina a background player in her own book


    -The stupid Adam Hughes covers.

    -I could go either way on the art.

  30. Maybe you mean Darwin Cooke, who drew Catwoman before Stewart ever did. Although, anyone who scorns either artist for being “cartoony” deserves all the rudeness that can be heaped upon them.

  31. Catwoman is actually being canceled? Shit. That has been such an amazingly strong title, making me care about a character I never was fond of before.

    Oh – a technical correction – because it’s what we nerds do – it’s The Physics of Superheroes, not Science of Superheroes (that’s the one by Gersh and Weinberg). Looking forward to reading your contribution, and everyone elses.

    Keep your eyes peeled on the site in a couple of weeks. May have a piece of Ironman physics on the site.

    Your Friendly Neighborhood Physics Professor,


  32. Had the chance to show Burnham your review at NYCC earlier today, and he was utterly thrilled… he hadn’t had the chance to check the site yet. So we both made his day. :)

  33. Nuclear-powered breasts?

    Dear God… that’s the purest untapped “high concept” in comics in 25 years.

    Eat your heart out, Howard Chaykin.

  34. PS:

    Well, since everyone takes my recommendations to heart, you know what’s a really good read? A little thing called Let’s Give Chris Sims All Of Our Money.

    Frankly, it reads a lot like Li’l Bruce Wayne.

  35. Holy shit there’s a Dresden Files comic now? Why wasn’t I informed?!

    Chris, go read the books now! Although I suspect you have already been told that in the comments because I went straight to posting this after reading your review.

  36. “she’s biting Cheetah’s lip in some kind of freakish superhero lesbian hate-makeout session”

    But that’s *exactly* what it should be like.

  37. I’m glad Catwoman’s being cancelled. I swear to god, every month I get tricked into buying it because of am amazing cover, and every month the book is the worst thing in my Wednesday pile.

    (Also I love Catwoman and very much wanted the book to succeed, but Will Pfeiffer is just a crap writer.)

  38. DAMMIT. Got to my “local” comic book store, and the one thing they’d sold out of? HERCULES. NOOOOOOOOOO!

  39. True story.

    I was introduced to Harry Dresden in “Storm Front” when I was called to jury duty three years ago. It was one of two books she recommended I read while we were sitting in the little room they reserve for juries.

    The other book was Anita Blake in “Guilty Pleasures”.

    Thask you Chris for bringing me back full circle.

  40. Chris, you owe it to yourself to check out the Dresden Files books.

    Why? Because in one of the later books, Harry Dresden goes to fight necromancers on a zombie Tyrannosaurus Rex named Sue, that’s why.

    I could go on for a while on that – but knowing your tastes, I figure that will probably be enough.

  41. For what it’s worth, I bought a Cameron Stewart painted Kid Robot monkey from an ebay charity auction. It’s a sad-eyed cosmonaut monkey, and it’s been sitting on my desk for a while, probably preventing me from getting fired a few times- the boss loves to come in an stroke its chin. I wrote to Stewart about a year after the auction and he was gracious in his reply. Now, you’d have to be a Dave Sims level psycopath to be an asshole in response to a thank you note, but it was still very nice.

    I do see his style as being cartoony in what little I’ve read of his work (some of 7 soldiers, Seaguy, the monkey), but it’s gorgeously cartoony and eye-popping.

  42. I don’t know why everyone is hating on Cameron. I meet him at SDCC and he was super awesome and effing HOT in person! He even showed me 4 pages of Seaguy 2 sketches. He was sweet and gracious. I love all of his work.

    He seems to come on a bit strong, and have a strong personality, but he’s definitely anything but an asshole.