The Week In Ink: March 3, 2010

Some people question the logic behind continuing to write these comics reviews a solid four weeks after I told everyone I was quitting, but to those people, I say this:

 

 

Yes, it’s another round of the Internet’s Most Schadenfreuderrific Comics Reviews, but this week I’m doing things a little differently and only reviewing one comic, for the simple reason that–as good as a lot of the comics I read this week were–it’s the only one I’ve really got something to say about.

So let’s get to it!

 


 

Girl Comics #1: The release of Girl Comics #1 is probably the biggest news in this week’s comics, and I’ve got to say, I am all for this stuff. Throwing the spotlight onto female creators in an industry that’s perceived–fairly, for the most part–as being overwhelmingly male-dominated and male-oriented is an excellent way to get some attention for creators that really deserve to be more prominent, and it dovetails in nicely with what I’ve seen as a recent drive to recruit a lot of talented women.

And visually speaking, it’s paid off: If nothing else, this is a good-looking comic book, from Amanda Connor’s cover all the way down. Ming Doyle (the artist on pal Kevin’s Loneliest Astronauts) does an excellent, moody job on the opening Nightcrawler story, Stephanie Buscema’s poppy take on Venus was great, Agnes Garbowska’s art for the Franklin and Val Richards story had a storybook quality to it that was just beautiful, and Emma Rios is just as good here as she was in Strange. Plus, Colleen Coover does the introduction, and as long-time ISB readers already know, I’m a big enough fan of hers that I will buy literally anything she cares to draw. She could do Gambit and Wonder Man Deny the Holocaust and I would be the first person in line to put $3.99 down for it. She’s just that good. So artwise, this thing is top notch, and worth the money alone just to look at.

As to the stories themselves, they’re the mixed bag that usually comes with an anthology title. The standout for me, though–aside from Coover’s introduction–was Lucy Knisley’s Dr. Octopus story, which took up a quick two pages with some fun sight gags that woudld’ve been equally at home in Marvel’s last anthology, the indie-friendly Strange Tales. Beyond that, though, a couple of the stories just flat-out Aren’t My Thing, including the X-Men story by Devin Grayson that… well, it’s certainly a story by Devin Grayson all right.

And then there’s Valerie D’Orazio.

The fact that I don’t personally care for D’Orazio is one of the ISB’s worst-kept secrets–it was the entire joke behind her interviewing me about Solomon Stone last year–but if Marvel wants to hire loudmouthed comics bloggers to write their comics, that can only be a good thing for me, so good on her for getting the work. But even so, the antipathy’s there, and along with the fact that there’s nothing to keep me from swallowing my own tongue and dying when the inevitable rage-induced aneurysm hit, it’s one of the reasons that I’m opting out of reviewing Punisher Max: Butterfly this week, as you can never really trust someone with an axe to grind. With the Girl Comics story, however, the problem is one that I think I can be a little more objective about.

It’s certainly the best comic D’Orazio’s written so far, but as it’s the only one that doesn’t feature some version of herself in the starring role, it sort of wins that dubious honor by default. To be fair, it does have a pretty nice first page, although the idea of Frank Castle being on the other end of a Chris Hansen-esque Instant Messenger conversation is one that already seems a little played out. Also, the subterfuge of it doesn’t really feel like the sort of thing the Punisher would do. If nothing else, he’s direct, and always struck me as the kind of character that would be more about action rather than laying a trap that did not explicitly involve ordnance, even one as simple as registering for Facebook. But again, that’s just my interpretation as a guy who’s read an awful lot of Punisher comics, and hell, if he can be a Frankenstein, he can be “sadprincess14.” So yeah: The first page is just fine. The problem is that there are pages after it.

That’s not sarcasm, either: With the punchline that comes at the end of the first page, D’Orazio has told her entire story. From the moment Frank Castle shows up on the other end of the chat, you know how it ends, and yet it drags on for another three pages. Admittedly, you could argue that we know how every Punisher story ends–Garth Ennis’s landmark run on the title is entirely predicated on there being nothing that can stop the Punisher from killing the people he’s going to kill–but the other three pages just don’t add anything to the narrative. It’s the exact, literal, no-subtext-necessary ending that you expect right from the start, with the only surprise being that the normally terse Punisher actually offers a few pleasantries and talks about flowers. It’s a four-page story that ends on page one and then lingers, doing nothing but taking up space.

It’s not terrible, per se, but it is aggressively, pointedly mediocre, especially for a story described by the writer as “a little unsettling at first, then darkly humorous.” But again, to be fair, with the exception of a couple of the prestige-format one-shots, I’ve read every single Punisher comic Marvel’s put out, and this is by no means the worst I’ve ever read.

That would be Butterfly.

 


 

And that’s the week. I’ll be giving a few more of my thoughts on this week’s books on the next episode of Ajax, but if you’ve got any thoughts on this week’s books, or if you’re like me and just want an excuse to use the phrase “multiple Deathloks,” feel free to leave a comment below.

51 thoughts on “The Week In Ink: March 3, 2010

  1. I actually am very curious to hear your thoughts on Butterfly, as I thought it was reeeeallly stinky too and I didn’t even make the D’Orazio connection till reading your post.

    Oh, and right, multiple Deathloks.

  2. Fun fact: Valerie D’Orazio was an assistant editor for Identity Crisis!

    I, too, would like to hear your thoughts on Butterfly. First, though, I want to get my hands on these books so I know what the hail you’re talking about.

  3. I wouldn’t mind hearing more about Butterfly either. I mean, I had no intention of buying it anyway, so really I just enjoy reading angry reviews. SUFFER FOR OUR ENTERTAINMENT!

    On the other hand – if all non-Ennis Punisher stories could end after five pages, I’d be a happy man. I still have fond memories of a three-page PSA from a late-80′s Punisher annual where the Punisher advocated seatbelt use, by killing the gangster on the passenger side holding a gun on him while NOT wearing a seatbelt. Check and mate!

    So the idea of a bored Punisher using Facebook to lure out pedos…to me, that sounds like Frank’s version of a quiet night in. And if you can’t tell a good five-page story about the Punisher’s quiet night in, what good are you?

  4. >> Fun fact: Valerie D’Orazio was an assistant editor for Identity Crisis! >>

    And New Frontier.
    And the editor on Dan Slott’s Arkham Asylum.

  5. I can only assume that if Chris does review Butterfly, it will include the words “I never had dinner with the president”

  6. I think the heart to heart between Wolverine and Captain America was one of the best character scenes I’ve read in ages. And Aaron broke it up with some action ala MULTIPLE DEATHLOKS.

  7. Nice review, though I don’t think that the characterization of Punisher should be such a big issue; I mean, no one complained when Wolverine slashed Beast’s head in Strange Tales, so why can’t Frank Castle of Earth-Whatever be a more badass version of Chris Hansen?

  8. Put me in the minority–it’s not great, but I thought Butterfly was a tidy little story that happened to barely feature Frank Castle.

    Chris’ beefs aside, what’s everyone else’s problem with the book?

  9. I enjoyed Butterfly, quite a bit. And, it seemed to do really well at Forbidden Planet. I was hesitant about it, but IGN had a nice review, and I took the plunge. I bought that last copy – and they are trying to order more. In New York, I’ve heard it has done pretty well. I wouldn’t mind seeing D’Orazio on longer Punisher stories.

    On shorter stories, however, I think she needs dramatic improvement. The first page was fine, but nothing happened in those last three pages – I’m sorry, but two men driving cars is not what I consider ‘advancing the plot’ to any considerable degree. If she only had four pages, why did she waste them like that? The premise I thought was a good one – Punisher as a vigilante John Walsh – but the execution really needed serious work, especially when it came to all of those silent panels.

  10. Just to elaborate about what I liked about Butterfly, just in case people think I’m gushing like a schoolgirl, I felt the mood was very solid. The art alone was very good and conveyed the story masterfully. In the hands of a lesser artist, I don’t think I would have been so kind. I also think not knowing that much about D’Orazio, apart from what I read of her book and on the internet, made me digest this differently that maybe some other folks. It felt very stream of conscious to me – and that’s not something I get to see as often in American Comics. (I’m originally from Korea, by the way).

  11. I read Weapon X #11 think of You the entire time Chris

    -Batman XTREME clone in the opening pages
    -Logan & Steve going on a pub crawl
    -Deathloks Hunting the Future
    -the cover for the next issue

    Golden

  12. XD this week’s kick.

    also I know you dropped it after Johns left, but on the off chance you care, new Adventure retcons Querl’s origin

  13. I think I liked D’Orzio’s “Punisher” story slightly more than Devin Grayson’s fairly pointless Cyclops/Jean/Wolverine one. Not that it couldn’t have been done in two pages. Then again I essentially paid the 5 bucks for the 2 pages of Coover with everything else being a bonus…

    As for terrible comics this week, I decided to flip thru the latest Buffy in the store. That’s who Twillight is? Seriously? No. SERIOUSLY?

  14. Gambit and WonderMan Deny the Holocaust left me slackjawed in admiration. Well played, mate.

  15. What in the world possessed Marvel to give Valerie D’Orazio of all people a writing gig?

  16. Do you read The Boys, Chris? If not, you might want to give this week’s issue a look over. Three words: Herbie. Popnecker. Analogue.

    (Who’s also a stand-in for Bouncing Boy).

    Also, @Lurker: did you somehow miss the giant spoiler storm? Kudos. I’m willing to give this a go though. It could go be the final death knell of a series that’s been in trouble since Brian K Vaughn’s arc, but it could actually be interesting – especially if it’s… hmm, how to phrase this without spoiling… the hero side rather than the villain side.

  17. Gambit and Wonder Man Deny the Holocaust #3 – Variant Deadpool Cover – $4.99 -

    “After traveling back in time and helping Nick Fury and His Howling Commandos stop Hitler cold, Gambit and Wonder Man are proud to say that they made sure the Holocaust never happened! But what will they say when Destiny tells them that they and their (s)Crappy Exiles were only supposed to keep the X-Men villain known as Holocaust.from riding – and breaking – the Matterhorn at Disneyland? And who is the mysterious Dark Lady Red Red Skull?

    Guest-starring Sleepwalker, Skids, The Whizzer, Gomi’s pet lobsters Bill & Don and a very special appearance by Donald Duck!”

  18. Does Gambit and Wonder Man Deny the Holocaust end with Magneto killing both of them? Because if so, I’m totally on board with this idea.

  19. >> What in the world possessed Marvel to give Valerie D’Orazio of all people a writing gig? >>

    As I understand it from what I read several places – Joe Q liked her book and called her up and offered her a series of books, based on what he had read. She had experience at DC and Acclaim – and based on all of those factors, she got a shot at the Punisher. Punisher is in Axel’s office with books like Fractions X-Men and Remender’s Frankencastle – and from what I’ve read on Bleeding Cool, Axel doesn’t suffer fools. Heck, he gave her an X-Men book to write too. So, they think she’s doing something right.

  20. Gambit and WonderMan deny the holocaust is a feel good buddy movie just waiting to be made. It would also make a fine ongoing comic series.

    As for the Punisher story in Girl Comics, you are absolutely right that it is a one page gag that is complete, and then goes on for more than one page. Once the reveal is made in the last panel, nothing else that you see is needed, and only serves to weaken it. I re-read it a few times, and am generally in the opposite camp from you regarding D’Orazio, but as a whole it was a weak effort. Had it finished in one page it sounds like you would have viewed it fairly positively as well. Also, I didn’t love the art on that one.

  21. Just wanted to chime in and say that GIRL COMICS #1 was a big disappointment for me. The art was terrific, but the stories…ouch. Everyone seems in agreement that the Doc Ock one was best, and I’m in agreement with everyone. Everyone’s great! I love Everyone. But:

    PORITAT – is that what it’s called? Couldn’t read that funky font. Can someone get Ming Doyle to do a fashion comic? She knows her clothes, and has great taste and I so prefer her clothes in this story to the droopy sweater orgy of the last story.

    VENUS – beautiful art but this is the kind of retro romance comic that gives girls a bad name. Girls only care about fashion and hot men? A million little boys just decided to become gay. Little do they know….
    (Note: A million little boys. My apologies. In the interest of the actual readership of this comic I should have said, 3,400 middle-aged men.)

    PUNISHER – two men with the exact same head meet in a park to…OMG pervert serial killers are on the internets sexing our children! This story has taught me I need to change the way I meet new friends or Punisher BLAM me too.

    DOC OCTOPUS – ha ha ha (for real)

    FRANKLIN RICHARDS – wouldn’t this have looked 5 billion times better if it was hand lettered? Surely there’s a lady version of Todd Klein who needs a job.

    LAST STORY WITH WOLVERINE AND SOME OTHER PEOPLE – it was only a dream…or was it?!?!? Just like the end of SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE II. Also, why is everyone’s sweater baggy and stretched out of shape? And why is Jean Grey rearranging two sofa cushions and a roll of light gray toilet paper with her psychic powers in the first panel? Her boyfriend can’t pick them up and move them around by himself. Plus: toilet paper in the living room. GROSS. Is she cleaning up after some kind of dirty sex act between the two of them? One that involved two plump pillows and a long piece of TP? The more I think about this the more I think they need a visit from sadprincess14.

  22. Given that I have no idea who D’Orazio is, my unbiased opinion is this- Butterfly wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t good either. Aggressively mediocre actually works for that one too. The story had some moderately interesting hooks, but nothing that hasn’t been done to death already. It’s an utterly “meh” story, and one that that seems disingenuous to sell as a Punisher story, when simply put, it’s not. In 1990, Butterfly would have been an average “grim and gritty” one-shot- in 2010, it’s cliched and uninteresting. Again, not awful…but certainly quarter bin fodder at best.

  23. I actually am very curious to hear your thoughts on Butterfly

    I did not care for it.

    On the other hand – if all non-Ennis Punisher stories could end after five pages, I’d be a happy man.

    Oh, I don’t think that’s fair at all. Yes, Ennis’s eight-year run pretty much defined the character in the same way that Walt Simonson did for Thor, and he makes for a darn hard act to follow, but Jason Aaron’s doing an amazing job stepping into his footsteps with PunisherMax, and Remender’s FrankenCastle stuff is… well, at this point, you guys all know how I feel about that.

    I mean, no one complained when Wolverine slashed Beast’s head in Strange Tales

    Apples and oranges, kiddo. Gurewitch’s story is a one-page gag strip in the style of Perry Bible Fellowship that’s clearly meant as a joke, while I assume–and I could be wrong here–that the Girl Comics story is meant to be taken more seriously. But as I said in the review, the characterization is certainly debatable and a pretty minor part of my problems with it.

    I enjoyed Butterfly, quite a bit. And, it seemed to do really well at Forbidden Planet.

    I’m glad!

    also I know you dropped it after Johns left, but on the off chance you care, new Adventure retcons Querl’s origin

    Legion fan that I am, I’m still reading it, actually. I thought this issue was good, although Robinson’s parts are so distinctive that it’s a little jarring.

    Do you read The Boys, Chris? If not, you might want to give this week’s issue a look over. Three words: Herbie. Popnecker. Analogue.

    I don’t, but.. well, I guess now I kinda have to.

    Also, HydrogenGuy and Discount Lad: You know me all too well.

  24. I clicked through to the interview (which somehow I missed at the time), and maybe it’s just my browser, but I have to say black lettering on a black background is a bold move.

  25. Also thank god, for a second I was beginning to think I was the only person who didn’t think Occasional Superheroine and Goodbye to Comics were not in fact mind blowing, insightful and revolutionary.

    “Legion fan that I am, I’m still reading it, actually. I thought this issue was good, although Robinson’s parts are so distinctive that it’s a little jarring.”

    Yeah. Also far as I know I don’t think you have to read the other superbooks for background, they kind of explain it all this issue (though latest Superman has Reep totally punk the US military)

    Random aside: Gates is quickly becoming one of my favorite new writers, I mean the guy took SUPERGIRL from being utterly unreadable to being halfway decent.

  26. Rick: You forgot: Nightcrawler and Cyclops betting on how long it would take for a bar fight to break out.

    Awesome book.

  27. I never thought of using the word schadenfreude (sp?) as an adjective.

    Well played.

  28. Wait a minute, wait a minute…

    Are you telling me that Punisher: Butterfly is not about Frank Castle hunting down and killing all the members of late-90′s, early 00′s lame alt-rap-rock band Crazy Town? Because I would have read the hell out of that if Marvel published it.

    (wow, I really went out of my way to make a joke about a band everyone has probably forgotten about already)

  29. A lot of people seem to be having that same reaction to the Punisher story in GIRL COMICS. Great one-pager, cut the rest. I was surprised how disappointed I was in the writing. The opener, the first page of the Punisher story, and the Dr. Octopus story were good, but the rest of the scripts were clumsy, sometimes embarrassingly so.

  30. How did you feel about the end of this week’s Iron Man?

    I really liked it. It’s crazy comic-book science, but in a good way, and it makes for a much easier way to get the Avengers back together after they’d gotten to a point where Captain America and Iron Man just cold could not trust each other. It made a weird, but great symbolic moment of the “death” of the Civil War-era Tony Stark that I think is going to underscore all this Heroic Age stuff.

    Are you telling me that Punisher: Butterfly is not about Frank Castle hunting down and killing all the members of late-90’s, early 00’s lame alt-rap-rock band Crazy Town? Because I would have read the hell out of that if Marvel published it.

    Slow clap.

  31. I kinda liked Seth from Crazy Town on Celebrity Sober House, so I’d be kinda bummed if Punisher killed him, even though Seth could be a big frustrating pain in the ass.

  32. I am a fan of Chris’ and a fan of Valerie’s. One can be both. :)

    I do get all of Chris’ points, and agree with the Mary Sue aspect of the story, but I can’t say I’m surprised…if I had a dollar for every comic book artist (the creator of MAGE comes to mind) who created a doppleganger of themselves for a story, I’d have maybe $12.00.

    Doesn’t excuse it, mind you. I enjoyed Butterfly. Didn’t pick up Girl Comics, so I can’t speak to that.

    I know, Diff’Rent Strokes!

    I too would pay for a Punisher story where he hunts down Crazy Town. Jerks.

  33. Let’s compromise and have him hunt down the cast of mid-’00′s children’s TV show Lazy Town. Die Sportacus, Die!!

  34. Now, I’m not the biggest Punisher fan, so I may be bias, but I think tis fair to say that, comically beating wolverine aside, Sportacus would kick Frank’s arse. The guys bought healthy eating to a generation of Europeans, Punisher’s only ever shot a whole bunch of people.

  35. As I write this, there are 47 comments in response to Chris reviewing a bad comic.

    There are four comments in response to his tribute to nut-shots.

    Priorities, people.

  36. I’m faintly disappointed that Butterfly is not a sequel to Firefly, but from the sounds of it I guess Whedon’s attention may be elsewhere…

  37. *Lazy Town. damn, i hate when i catch typos too late to do anything about them.