If you pay attention, comics will teach you many important lessons, and this week, we learn that even a man wearing what is essentially an extremely garish quilt can be taken down with the judicious application of a kick to the face.
Now you know, and knowing is half the battle when it comes to the Internet’s Most Uniformed Comics Reviews!
Here’s what I got this week…
And here’s what I thought about ’em!
Age of the Sentry #3: Jeff Parker makes me jealous.
This probably doesn’t surprise anyone; if you’ve ever met Jeff Parker, you know that he’s tall, handsome, and unfailingly nice to his fans, whereas I’m more like an extremely high-strung tree sloth. That’s not where the jealousy comes from though–or at least, not most of it. No, that comes from the fact that Parker writes the comics I wish I could write. There’s not an issue of Age of the Sentry yet that I’ve been able to read without thinking “man, I wish I’d thought of that,” and this time out–with its story of super-powered mountain men who strike it rich to become Hillbillionaires–is no exception.
But here’s the thing: The book’s so darn good that the jealousy doesn’t last too long before I’m back to the joy and amazement that comes with reading the Apex of the Artform. And it’s not just Parker, either: Cowriter Paul Tobin and artist Colleen Coover–or to use their Official Celebrity Couple Name, Pauleen Toover–bring more than his share of the fun to the second story, giving us something I honestly never thought I’d see: A team-up between the Sentry and Millie the Model. It’s just phenomenal stuff, and it’s shaping up to be one of my favorite series of the year.
Amazing Spider-Man #578: Given the amount of time I’ve spent reviewing the last few issues of Amazing, it should probably have become pretty apparent that I tend to think about Spider-Man stories more than just about anything else I read. Although to be fair, that’s also a function of the fact that they come at the beginning of the alphabet, so I get around to reviewing them while I’m still awake and before I descend into sentences like “Zatanna good, like legs and magic stuff.”
Even so, I do tend to take the Spider-Man books a little more seriously than other titles, not only because he’s been one of my favorite characters since I was a kid, but because I truly believe that when he’s good, he’s the best. And this one is a textbook example of how to do Spider-Man right.
For starters, there’s Mark Waid, who–besides being, you know, Mark Waid–is a guy that I’ve been wanting to see on a Spider-Man book since he did a great Spidey/Torch bit during his phenomenal run on Fantastic Four with Mike Wieringo. It’s no surprise that a guy with his track record knows how to put together a fun comic, but he manages to pull off the neat trick of hitting all the familiar beats of a classic Spider-Man story–from the way Peter Parker has to ditch the buxom, red-haired model on the subway to the thrill of the last-page reveal–while still keeping everything fresh and exciting.
But again, just like last week’s issue, the real star here is the art. Marcos Martin is a treasure, folks, and while everybody already knew that from his work on the Paper Doll story with Dan Slott, he’s still in top form here, doing pages with everything from a wondeful, kinetic sense of motion and timing–watch for the burger on page three–to his detailed, claustrophobic subway crowd. He’s great, and while his art alone would make the book worth reading, the way he pulls off every beat of Waid’s scrpit is just a joy to read.
Again, you might want to take that with a grain of salt, because like I said: my emotions about Spider-Man stories tend to get a little more extreme than they probably should. When they’re bad, I hate them, but when they’re good, I don’t think there’s a whole lot out there that’s better. And this is one of the latter.
Firebreather #3: And speaking of things that I love to an almost irrational extreme, we have Phil Hester and Andy Kuhn’s Firebreather, which, as far as teen super-hero books go, is right up there with Impulse and Invincible as one of the best. In case you haven’t been reading it–or you’ve missed it when I’ve talked about it before–the premise of Firebreather is one of those great high concepts that I love: What would happen if a rampaging, kaiju-esque dragon mated with a normal human woman and they had a kid who was trying to lead the life of a normal American teenager?
Don’t get me wrong: It’s a crazy idea, but Hester’s scripts work with it amazingly well, and the best part is the clash between how Duncan’s mother and their normal suburban life, and the upbringing he gets from his world-conquering monster of a father. It’s… Well, it’s not exactly played straight–there’s a lot of inherent comedy in that sort of thing, and Hester doesn’t let it go unremarked by any stretch of the imagination–but even with its built-in strangeness, it’s presented in a way that feels authentic and relatable in the way that the best teen hero books are.
And in this issue, a dragon fights a robot, and this is one of the few times that something like that is actually as awesome as you want it to be.
The Punisher #64: Well, on the one hand, Gregg Hurwitz’s scripts for Punisher still read like pretty much every action movie from the 80s, right down to the momentary emotional breakdown that’s quickly forgotten and doesn’t actually address any of the conflicts within the character and the lurking super-badass boss in the shadows (in this case Jigsaw, but it might as well be Bennett from Commando) and his attendant ethnic stereotypes.
But on the other hand, the Punisher totally kills a dude with a shark in this one.
Folks, I am torn.
Uncanny X-Men #504: Despite the fact that I’ve been reading and enjoying Uncanny–especially since the new direction that began with the team’s relocation to San Francisco, storywise–I haven’t really felt the need to review it because… well, because it’s X-Men, and odds are, you already know whether you’re going to be reading it or not based on that fact alone.
I’d be remiss, however, if I didn’t at least point out that in this issue, Matt Fraction and Terry Dodson deliver what is unquestionably the Sensational Character Rediscovery of 2008 with the addition of Dr. Nemesis, a Golden Age character who co-created the Human Torch, fought the Invaders, and then spent the intervening time building new eyes and then using them to hunt down cloned Nazi super-soldiers and shoot them in the face with his guns made of science. And really, I don’t think I’m overstating matters when I say that a crotchety old super-genius hitman is exactly what the franchise has been lacking all these years.
Crogan’s Vengeance: Longtime ISB readers might recall that this is one that I’ve been excited about since I met Chris Schweizer back at HeroesCon and heard the guys from Oni describe what he wanted to do: A sixteen-part series of graphic novels, each one focused on one member of the illustrious Crogan family through the ages. It sounded like a neat concept, and given what I saw of the book back then, it’s been something that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. What surprised me, though, was that the finished product is actually even better than I expected.
Simply put, it’s great, fun comics, telling the story of a reluctant–but very skilled–pirate, related as an object lesson to the latest generation of the family after an unfortunate encounter with a neighbor’s birdfeeder. That was, one of the things that surprised me the most, actually: the idea that the Crogan family wasn’t just a group of luminaries from the past, but that there would be a connection to the modern day that to tie things together. But while that’s a nice touch that I wasn’t expecting, the real action here is on the high seas, and that’s where Schweizer excels.
I imagine this is a comparison he’s going to get a lot, but his art reminded me a lot of Jeff Smith’s Bone: Strong lines and cartoony, expressive features against detailed backgrounds that add up to beautiful pages of stark, black and white linework. And while Schweizer did a lot of research for the book, the script is organic and doesn’t fall into the trap of letting the research become the focus.
But like the man says, you don’t have to take my word for it: There’s a preview on Schweizer’s website that, at 26 pages, is longer than most comics. So give it a read and then pick it up. It’s worth it.
Spider-Man: Kraven’s First Hunt HC:
IT’S A FAUX HAWK YOU BIRD BRAIN.
And that’s the week. As always, any questions about something I picked up or dodged this week can be left in the comments below.
In the meantime, I’m going to try and figure out what exactly Lady Kraven is a new look between.