Zut alors, y’all! C’est Batroc Ze Leapair!!!
Or at least, c’est pied de Batroc ze Leapair, but close enough, non?
Anyway, before we get started with another round of the Internet’s most Faux-Francophonic comics reviews, I just wanted to let everybody know that this Wednesday wasn’t just a New Comics day at your local shop, it was also New Comics Day… in the Action Age!
Click on over to read my latest collaboration with Matthew Allen Smith, whose art you might remember from Exterminape, and while it’s only a one-page strip, it’ll hopefully tide you guys over ’til Monster Plus drops. And rest assured, we’ve got more in the pipeline, so if you like what you’ve seen so far, let us know!
Now then, here’s what everybody else was putting out this week…
…and here’s what I thought of ’em!
Captain America #43: In this issue of Captain America, Bucky leaves a nude Black Widow in bed so that he can go fight Batroc the Leaper, and from this, we can learn two very important things: 1) That Cap continues to be a totally awesome comic, and 2) that Bucky has the exact same kind of priorities that I do.
I mean, don’t get me wrong here: Having a hot immortal Russian ballerina who’s good to go is nice, but a fight with Batroc? That’s the kind of opportunity that only comes around once in a while, and really. It’s the Black Widow. She’ll be there when you get back.
…And at this point, I’m really just digging this weird little hole deeper. Time to focus on an actual review, I think.
Brubaker, of course, is the guy who killed off Steve Rogers and replace him with a back-from-the-dead Bucky with a cybernetic arm and somehow managed to make it not only good, but one of the best comic books on the market, so it should be no surprise to anybody that he turns in another fine script for this one. As to the art, Luke Ross’s style makes him a natural to fill in for Steve Epting, but I do have to question the redesign for the Leaper’s costume. I mean, this might just be another sign of my rapid descent into becoming a cranky old man comics reader, but Batroc’s old suit is a classic, and the redesign makes him look like he’s running aorund in snow boots and a pink Members Only jacket. It’s not without a certain charm, but I don’t think it’s quite the effect they were going for.
Final Crisis #4: After almost three months since #3, the latest installment of Final Crisis hit stands this week, and coming off the issue that I didn’t much care for, this one’s got me hooked again. Admittedly, the standard caveat applies here: Grant Morrison’s essentially building an event around Jack Kirby’s DC work, and I like that stuff more than just about anything else in comics, period, so there’s a good chance that this thing is speaking to me more than it does to the average reader. I mean, I’m the kind of person who gets a little thrill from the way he’s managed to tie the Command D bunker and its animal-human hybrids to Darkseid, and I may–may–have said the words “oh snap” out loud when Mr. Terrific referred to Checkmate as a “Global Peace Agency.”
But beyond that, there’s just a lot in here to like. Thematically, this issue represents a turning point for the series, and it does so by shifting everything up into Big Action mode, although Morrison gets us there by skipping over the Big Fight, which isn’t something you’d get from a lot of “event” books. Instead, we go straight from the start of the attack to a world that’s been thoroughly taken over by Darkseid’s Justifiers, who work here just like they did in the ’70s: the direct, literal example of people who give into fear and hatred and let the mob do their thinking for them. And unsurprisingly, I love that stuff. Add to that the fact that the rebirth of Darkseid is literally coming from inside humanity–or at least, from inside a human–that’s been faced with crushing, overwhelming despair, and there’s barely even a curtain over the metaphor anymore. We are our own worst enemy, and only we can stop us.
Sounds familiar, but I just can’t think of why.
So yeah, it’s a great little read with the same sort of emotions that made Morrison’s World War III one of my favorite stories, and it moves along at a very brisk pace, unlike this week’s Final Crisis: Submit, which is bizarrely overwrriten, downright boring, and eminently skippable.
GI Joe: New Beginnings #1: I think it’s safe to say that I’m a pretty big fan of America’s Daring, Highly Trained Special Missions Team, but even I’m a little skeptical about the comic book market’s need for three ongoing monthly GI Joe titles. But then again, despite a bid that included a full run of US 1 AND a vintage Destro in very fine condition, I didn’t get the license to make the comics, so it’s not really up to me.
Regardless, there’s a taste of all three of ’em in this one, and while it’s not bad for the dollar it’ll set you back, it’s about what you’d expect on every front: Chuck Dixon’s has an explosion and reads like something that’d be equally well-handled by the military or Nightwing, Larry Hama’s features the maximum daily allowance of footnotes about military terminology and a special appearance by Crack Stuntman, and Christos Gage’s is, by the standards of five-page GI Joe stories, pretty cerebral.
The best bit of the whole thing, though, is the “memo” in the back of the issue to the creators from IDW, done up in the style of a mission briefing to the GI Joe team. I mention this only because it seems like kind of a neat, in-character gimmick, right up to the point where you suddenly realize holy crap they are referring to the readers as enemy combatants and ordering the writers to hunt us down and take us prisoner. Prisoner of good stories and dynamic art, yes, but still. That’s the most confrontational sales pitch I’ve ever gotten from a comic. And I’ve read Milk & Cheese.
Marvel Adventures Super-Heroes #4: Over in one of his great One-Sentence Synopsis articles for the ISS, Dr. Puppykicker writes that the Marvel Adventures line “s about superheroes teaming up and fighting crime, the way they used to back before every single comic book had to have someone being dismembered, raped, or both,” and while that’s pretty accurate, it doesn’t quite get to the heart of the matter. This would be because it’s a joke and it’s got to fit in one sentence, but bear with me on this one.
Unlike the DC characters, the Marvel books never really had that goofy sort of Silver Age past to reflect back on, because when Superman was still fretting over Lois stumbling onto his identity and whether or not the new Swami in town was actually a con-man, Marvel had already moved into the then-revolutionary soap-operatic style that would set the tone for comics from that point forward. And that’s why it’s always struck me as a little odd that the best kids books from DC–Batman Adventures and Superman Adventures–boiled the characters down to their essences and told rollicking adventure stories, while the quality Marvel books–and Marvel Adventures Super-Heroes in particular–seem to be more about the characters just kind of hanging out with each other.
And yet, they are heroes. In this issue, Paul Tobin provides the perfect setup for an ending where the good guys prove that an ex-super-criminal will always go back to their old tricks when they’re pushed, but that’s not the route he chooses to go with it. Instead, the heroes realize that they’re the ones who did the provoking and they own up to their mistakes and help out a guy that, in a lot of ways, they might be better off just throwing to the wolves to save themselves the trouble. It makes for a fantastic ending, and there’s a little bit of a not-preachy lesson in there mixed in with a story where Klaw forms a country and western band.
Thor: Truth of History: For those of you who need a Thor comic where things happen and the title character actually does stuff to tide you over until the next metal-inspired epic springs from the mind of Matt Fraction, you might want to consider grabbing this one, wherein an archaeological debate between Laurel & Hardy is interrupted to show the God of Thunder rolling around Egypt punching people in the face and hitting things with his hammer. And since Alan Davis does the script and the art, it’s gorgeous, too.
That said, there is a slight problem. While the Warriors Three do accompany Thor on his face-punching tour of Giza and the plot revolves largely (!) around Volstagg, he eventually gets tied up and almost sacrificed without putting up even a hint of a fight. Admittedly, this probably rankles me more than pretty much anyone else–what with me being the Internet’s #1 Volstagg Fan, which I can assure you is a very hotly contested title–and I realize that it ain’t his name on the cover and that between everyone in Thor’s supporting cast, he is the most likely to wander off and get kidnapped, but come on, man! He’s still the Lion of Asgard! Couldn’t he at least clobber somebody with a turkey leg?
… Yeah, I know. Best to be moving on.
Wolverine: Manifest Destiny: So out of everything I read this week, the single best comic was a Wolverine mini-series tying in to the latest strangely named X-Men crossover.
Yeah, I know. I was surprised too.
But, like I mentioned a couple of days ago, it was the solicit for the third issue, which had an Enter the Dragon-inspired cover and billed it as a story where everyone’s favorite X-Man has to “unite all the kung fu schools in the city.” That’s enough to pique my curiosity, especially with the involvement of Jason Aaron, a writer that I’ve been wanting to read more from ever since everybody and their brother started telling me how great he was. And the result is even better than I could’ve expected.
Why? Well, for one thing, it’s got the Sons of the Tiger in it, and I’ll tell you right now: If more Marvel crossovers starred characters from Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, there’s a pretty good chance that more Marvel Crossovers would be totally fucking awesome. And for another, Aaron seems like he’s having an absolute blast writing the book, taking the idea that Wolverine has all of his memories back and spinning into a whole new world of possibilities for past mistakes to rear their ugly head, which in this case takes the form of a riled-up archery club, a kung fu student with a chainsaw, and–I swear to God–what appears to be David Lo Pan’s three sidekicks from Big Trouble in Little China.
If, at any time in the next three issues, Wolverine uses a Six-Demon Bag, I’m willing to declare this the comic of the year.
Aetheric Mechanics: Well, if you’ve ever wondered what Warren Ellis’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen fan-fiction looked like, here you go.
Ah, but I kid. Not that that thought wasn’t running through my head almost the entire time I was reading it–it was, although I imagine that’s purely by Ellis’s design–but because it undercuts the fact that this is the best thing Ellis has done for Avatar since Crecy. I’m hesitant to discuss the plot at length, as the fun of it’s pretty easy to spoil, but for those of you who weren’t planning on picking it up, here’s the broad stroke: What starts out as a pastiche of Sherlock Holmes and a mix of gaslamp fantasy takes a sudden twist at the end that’s perfectly typical of Ellis, followed closely by yet another twist that’s less so but equally enjoyable, and it all makes for what’s actually a really fun read that has very, very little in common with the text you’ll find on the back cover. And while I’ve blown at least that little surprise for you, I got a heck of a kick out of it.
Even better, it’s one of the best looking books I’ve seen from Avatar. Instead of the usualFaux-Geoff Darrow, detailed-to-the-point-of-distraction style that a lot of their books come with, Gianluca Pagliarani gives the book a genuinely beautiful look: Strong, crisp lines, expressive faces, and backgrounds that are more textured than detailed.
I’m not sure if it’s a book I’ll read again and again, but even at the $7 price point, it’s got some meat to it, and while I’m normally more frustrated than anything else with a book that suddenly becomes a completely different story in the last five pages–and make no mistake, that’s pretty much exactly what happens here–the combination of skill and surprise from the creators hit me just right. Give it a shot.
Showcase Presents World’s Finest v.2: Whenever I get one of these big black and white reprint books, I always like to do a little thing I call the Random Page test, where I judge the quality of the entire volume by flipping it open to a random page somewhere in the middle and reading the first panel that catches my eye. With this one, here’s the result:
I think we can call that a pass.
And that’s the week. As always, comments, thoughts, etc., you know where to leave them.
Please note that I chose not to go with “you know where to stick them,” because hey: I’m just a heck of a guy.