The Week In Ink: January 7, 2009

Welcome to the ISB, 2009!

 

 

Hope you survive the experience!

That’s right, folks, tonight brings us the New Year’s first installment of the Internet’s Most Auld Acquainted Comics Reviews, and my resolution this year was to write shorter intro posts.

Thus, here’s what I got this week…

 

 

…and here’s what I thought about it!

 


 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #21: Before I get started with a review of this issue, I think a few words about the last arc are in order. Over on Twitter, someone–and forgive me, but I don’t recall who–said that it was like a six-issue brick wall that the series ran headlong into, and that’s the best summary of it that I’ve seen. For those of you who weren’t reading it, the story was a crossover between Buffy and Fray, the far-future slayer that Joss Whedon created for comics while the show was still running, and man. It was rough stuff.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a big fan of Fray to begin with, but to be fair, I read it back before I’d watched the show. I got it for a friend of mine for Christmas one year, and because I’m a terrible but well-read friend, I figured I might as well knock it out before I wrapped it, and I wondered ever since if I would’ve liked it better once the show had a chance to grow on me, which it did–not unlike a fungus–once John Ritter showed up in Season 2. “Time of Your Life,” however, pretty much proved I was on the right track, and also showed that Whedon could teach even Jim Shooter a thing or two about writing mind-numbingly annoying future slang. Seriously, I read every issue and I’m not even sure what happened in that damn thing. Buffy went to the future to get her axe back and then it’s all a blur. Fray’s there, and Willow’s evil and in charge of the Demon Mafia or something, and then they fight and I think Evil Future Willow died? But then Buffy went back in time and maybe none of it never happened because a time paradox is a lazy writer’s best friend? All I know is that there’s no real flow to it, and it comes off as not so much a story as just some stuff that happened one time, but maybe didn’t, and so I don’t really give a fuck.

I say all this so that you know that this month’s issue is facing a pretty steep climb. You’d think that a bad story would make for an easy act to follow in the same way that a really good story can make the stuff that comes after it pale in comparison, and while that can be the case, it’s not here. Buffy Season 8 is meant to be just that, a single story made up of multiple arcs, and while it was running along at a decent clip up through the highly entertaining Wolves at the Gate, a story as bad as “Time Of Your Life” and last month’s Jeph Loeb issue (which was actually pretty decent, until a caption on the last page suddenly made it one of the worst pieces of fiction ever committed to paper) can completely derail things and make it a lot harder to build the momentum back up.

Thus, “Harmonic Divergence,” which was hobbled at the gate like a three-legged racer whose partner was catatonic, morbidly obese, and currently standing in a bear trap. There’s a lot stacked against it, and while a spectacular issue could’ve had a shot at blowing away the previous bits, the fact of the matter is that this one is just not very good. And I don’t mean that in the way I usually do, as a codeword for “horrible,” but just that: It’s just kinda there, with a plot that’s tepid at best and probably sounded a lot better as a hook than the focus of something you actually had to write down.

 

Invincible Iron Man #9: All you really need to know here is in this issue, Tony Stark quotes Caddyshack, which makes it the new Best Iron Man Comic Ever.

Beyond that, though, it’s still a pretty solid issue. One of the things I’ve heard more than anything else about Matt Fraction’s work on Invincible Iron Man is that it’s made Tony Stark likeable again after he was cast as the villain of Civil War, and while that’s more or less true, it doesn’t stop with Iron Man. In dealing with the fallout of Secret Invasion, Fraction’s taken the opportunity to flesh out Maria Hill, too, a character that I’ve never really thought much about, because she’s been so damn annoying every time she showed up. But compare the interaction in this issue to, say, the end of Civil War, when Tony Stark orders her to go get some coffee for no other reason than to be a total dick. In that, they’re caricatures; in Invincible Iron Man, they’re actual characters, and it makes for a pretty darn entertaining comic book.

Now if only it ended with Pepper Potts turning to the camera and saying “Hey Everybody! We’re all gonna get laid!”

 

Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files: Storm Front #2: I didn’t review the first issue of Storm Front when it came out, but the overall impression that I got from it was that it moved fast. Adapting a novel to comics can be a pretty tricky proposition, and as we’ve all seen from the Anita Blake comics, it’s easy to go wrong when you’re deciding what to leave in and what to cut out. For the first issue, the solution Mark Powers–formerly of GI Joe fame–apparently hit upon was to just leave as much in as he could, and the result was something that I described to my friends as an audiobook read by the guy from the Micro Machines commercials.

Even stranger, the chapter break came when Harry was getting ready to call up Toot-Toot the Fairy, which isn’t exactly the height of suspense. Admittedly, the target audience for the comic probably isn’t going to be surprised anyway since they’ve read the books and there’s only so much you can do in the space, but four pages later, when Morgan shows up and threatens to decapitate the hero? That’s a cliffhanger, and if I’d been interested enough in Welcome to the Jungle to keep following the comics but not read the novels, I would’ve been far more intrigued by that than Harry setting out some bread for a fairy.

That said, the second issue does proceed at a much more relaxed pace, and it’s a better read for it. Morgan might dress a little nicer than I figured him for, but the scene where he shows up is well done, with menacing conversation and a couple of almost slapstick punches. The scene with Bianca, too–while a little clipped–does the job pretty well, although the handkerchief bit–my favorite part of the novel–could’ve been staged a little better. All in all, not too shabby. Sure it’s a little unnecessary, but what adaptation isn’t?

Besides Conan.

 

ISB BEST OF THE WEEK

 

 

Marvel Zombies 3 #4: This right here is everything you need to know about Marvel Zombies 3:

 

 

I gotta say: I love this book. Everything about it, from the way Fred Van Lente swept aside the humdrum melodrama of MZ 2 and Dead Days and brought back the most appealing aspect of the original to the way that it’s as much a sequel to Nextwave as anything else. Or maybe that’s unfair. After all, the original Marvel Zombies succeeded largely on its use of dark comedy and gross-out humor–a fact that John Layman twigged to when he did the surprisingly enjoyable Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness–and that’s what comes back in full force in MZ3. But on the other hand, Machine Man blows up a zombie Lockjaw by stuffing a grenade into someone’s brain and playing fetch so that he can go make sweet robot love, and… yeah, that’s totally Nextwave.

In any case, it’s phenomenally enjoyable, and while I heard a couple of people complaining about how it ends with a big, anticlimactic teaser for Marvel Zombies Four, I say bring it on. I mean, seriously: “The Midnight Sons must return”? That’s like turning over the safety of the universe to Team America and the Black Marauder. It’s gonna be a hoot. Because if we’ve learned anything from this one, it’s that even though Marvel’s taken a novel idea and done it to (sigh) death, there’s still a lot of fun to be had here.

 

Secret Six #5: You know, I always wanted more full frontal nudity in my DC Universe books, but not like this…

Not like this.

 


 

And that, as far as I’m concerned, is the week. As always, if you’ve got a question about something I read this week–or even something that came out over the holidays, if the burning desire for knowledge strikes you–feel free to ask about it in the comments section below.

In the meantime, I’ll be busy with my other New Year’s Resolutions: To stomp more yards, and step up 2 more streets. Wish me luck!

55 thoughts on “The Week In Ink: January 7, 2009

  1. “jake_bell: This Fray crossover in the Buffy comics is like a five-issue-long brick wall the series ran into at full speed.”

    I’m helpful!

  2. The Buffy covers make me miss Mr. Muggles on Heroes. He only popped up a few times this past volume. Friggin’ Lyle made more of an impact than him.

    Gail Simone rocks. Didn’t see the last page revelation coming, and I should have based on where Junior sleeps all the time. I also figure that Junior should’ve gotten the “Face of Evil” cover; Deadshot isn’t that evil by comparison. And has Bane ever been that hardcore in the past? That’s not rhetorical; I’d really like to know.

  3. Two questions for MZ4. Do you know if Van Lente will write that one as well? And who was the woman in the Midnight Sons group shot?

    And the Harmony one-shot wasn’t ALL bad. Theres a pretty good chance she killed Andy Dick. I’d be willing to pay three or four bucks to have a vampire kill Andy Dick…

    Oh and one more thing. I’ve only been skimming Fraction’s Iron Man book. So where does he make Tony likeable again? Because so far all I’ve seen is that he’s not making him MORE dislikable…

  4. So, I’m on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one – big hitter, the Mandarin – long, into a ten-thousand foot crevasse, right at the base of this glacier. Do you know what he says? Gunga galunga… gunga, gunga-galunga.

  5. I had money riding on Junior’s ID, and although I lost, I have the satisfaction of being thiiiiiiiiissssss close to right. Stupid, traitorous full-frontals pulled a fast one.

  6. Hmm. I would have gone with “Zompire.”

    As for BtVS, yeah, it’s the one comic I’m reading right now where I’m honestly not certain why I’m reading it because it frankly is not very good. I’m reading it in the trades so I’m a little behind right now, but its nice to know that things won’t change much in the near future.

  7. It was actually a surreal experience to find someone writing a Marvel Zombie book better than Kirkman. MZ2 felt kinda stale. I also think the four issue format fit the storyline better and it didn’t have that ‘dragged out’ feel to it.
    Vambie! the NEW R rated Disney film!

  8. I guess I’m not alone in finding the Buffy Season 8 book has run its course. I was thinking of dropping this right after the Fray arc ended for largely the same reasons you state here. Then when the Loeb issue followed the decision was made.
    Secret Six is in my opinion the most enjoyable book out there of it’s genre. it’s one of the few I really look forward too each month.

  9. I wish you – or anyone! – would review Fraction’s final Punisher War Journal. ‘Cause it was sweet.

  10. I liked X-Men Noir. I think it’s an interesting alternate reality. Especially since there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of actual “Powers” running around.

    Frankly, I think the characterizations are more fun in Noir than in the 616 X-Men. But lately they’ve been annoying me.

  11. Chris, I’m with you about Marvel Zombies 4. I thought it was the best one yet! Too bad it doesn’t look like Machine Man will be in the next one.

  12. Now I’m going to have to dig out that Loeb issue of Buffy and re-read it (*there’s* a phrase I never thought I’d type) to check that caption out. When a regular reader of Tarot calls something ‘one of the worst pieces of fiction ever committed to paper’, you wonder how it got to the shelves without the CDC coming in and quarantining it.

  13. “LurkerWithout”,

    I’m pretty sure that the female member of this new “Midnight Sons” is STEEL WIND (or her sister “STEEL VENGEANCE”).

    She/they are/were old Ghost Rider foes (with a sometime soft streak which could be why she’s “good” now).

    I’ve seen commenters thinking that it’s Jennifer Kale (who was in issue # 1 of this Marvel Zombies3 mini), but the outfit is neither what she was wearing in the issue nor her original outfit).
    It much more closely resembles STEEL WIND.

    My blog comments about this issue (and more from the week) can be found here:

    http://tinyurl.com/7z4qts

    Or just go to my blog and surf around.
    (y’know… if you feel like it)

    ~P~

  14. Jeph Loeb could suck the cool out of anything… even Lando’s pimp cape.

    Anyway, what was this issue’s cover of MZ3 an homage to? It’s the only one I haven’t been able to figure out (he typed, realizing his palm would be smacking his forehead upon being given the answer).

  15. I gots to know!

    What is the caption that could destroy a decent book so totally?

    What Caddyshack line did Tony quote?

    Who is Junior? What was revealed?

    I thought Deadshot was dead. Did he get better?

  16. I buy Buffy because I am an unrepentant Whedon fangirl.

    I couldn’t finish the shitty Loeb one, even though it was based off the storyboards for the animated series pilot that like, three people have been able to see.

    You know, in these tough economic times, I don’t want to cull my pull list but good goddamn! I don’t think the publishers could be trying HARDER to make me drop titles.

    Ah, well. I’ve got a comic budget and I’m sticking to it. And if that means I have to buy everything Faith Erin Hicks ever published, then by God I will! (and an extra issue of Zombies Calling, because killing zombies with sporks will never get old).

  17. Okay, I’m probably going to regret asking this, but who gets naked in “Secret Six”? Surely it can’t be worse than the nightmare scenarios my imagination is currently conjuring up.

  18. Just wait until the next Marvel Zombies issue, where the hunter shoots Vambie’s mom!

  19. 4Alan Says:

    Out of curiosity…what’s X-Men Noir and is it horrible?

    X-men Noir’s interesting, but I recommend re-reading the previous issue before reading the new one. The art is distinctive and fits the theme, but other than one or two people the characters kind of blend together visually.

    What this means is that I was having trouble keeping track of who was who, and it was further complicated by having read Spiderman: Noir recently as well.

    But as a Marvel-style “Elseworlds” series it’s pretty good.

  20. Brian said: Now I’m going to have to dig out that Loeb issue of Buffy and re-read it (*there’s* a phrase I never thought I’d type) to check that caption out.

    Feel free to share it with the rest of us. I’ve developed a morbid fascination for all things Loeb and I’m dying to know what he did this time!

  21. If it gets as bad as you say, I’m dumping Buffy S8. I buy it in trade and have already realised that I don’t actually like a lot of Whedon’s comics output, especially compared to his TV stuff.

    Except Racist Dracula. I’d buy that series. He was pretty much the most (/only) enjoyable part of the comics.

  22. Now I’m going to have to dig out that Loeb issue of Buffy and re-read it (*there’s* a phrase I never thought I’d type) to check that caption out

    It’s:

    “For one brief shiny-shiny, it was nice to go home again.”

    Jesus wept.

  23. I think I was numb to Loeb’s attempts at Buffy dialogue by that point, so that line didn’t have as big an impact on me as it did you, Chris. On this week’s issue; I liked it better than you did, and it did at least have a nice face kick panel, I thought.

  24. Between Andy Dick being killed (though I’m surprised Harmony was able to lure him anywhere without being a walking pile of cocaine), Andrew’s introduction of a slayer to the world of the Vampyr, and Anderson Cooper introducing Queen Puffles of Pomerania, I liked this issue quite a bit.

    I think Loeb should just stick to kid-friendly stuff from now on. It’s when he expects to be taken seriously that problems arise.

  25. I liked it better than you did, and it did at least have a nice face kick panel, I thought.

    Yeah, like I said. It’s not bad, it’s just… not very good, either.

  26. Oh, good, I’m not the only one who has to stare at the pages of X-Men Noir trying to figure out who it is on any given page.

    It’s an interesting premise, how it’s unfolding is clever and well-handled (if not noir as I’ve learned from Criminal). Plus, I tend to think Van Lente can do very little wrong.

  27. “I’m a vampire”
    (Slap)
    “I’m a zombie”
    (Slap)
    “A vampire”
    (Slap)
    “A zombie”
    (Slap) “I want the truth!”

    “I’m a vampire and a zombie!” (sob,sob)

  28. As much as I want to collect Fraction’s Iron Man (I did find the Spidey team-up enjoyable), it means buying something set in the current events of 616, and I just can’t support Marvel Proper anymore. At least someone over is trying to make Tony a decent character again.

  29. People are missing out.

    I agree about Maria Hill. In only two issues, I feel I know more about her than in two or three years of Bendis issues.

  30. Am I the only one who read the HOLY SHIT TENTH ANNIVERSARY MAYBE FINAL ISSUE of The Goon, or did it come out LAST week, and I didn’t see it covered?

    ‘Cause it seems like something you’da mentioned.

  31. I don’t think Buffy is quite going off the rails. The Fray arc brought up a lot of questions that I feel will be answered in by the end of “the season.”

    Spoilers… Chris, nothing that happened was undone. Buffy kills Future Willow, which was Future Willow’s purpose in bringing her there. “It’s about who kills you.” She does something bad in the past, and feels death at Buffy’s hands is the only just punishment. Something we’ll find out in the course of the series.

    I liked seeing Xander scoring a win after the knocks he took in Japan.

    The Jeph Loeb issue proved nearly scientifically that very few people should attempt to write in Whedonspeak. But at least he did better than the hack writing “Angel: After the Fall.” Man, if you guys don’t like Season 8, you’d really hate the crap going on in that book.

    As far as “Harmonic Divergence” goes, I felt it was slight on the whole, though I liked the Latino slayer’s story. And I knew Clem would be back eventually.

    Chris, what do you think of the new Hellboy mini?

  32. I’m glad I’m not the only one who finished that Buffy arc and just went “…what?” What makes it more confusing is that the artist, while good, doesn’t always do a good job of drawing characters looking like who they’re meant to be, so the big cliffhanger of the penultimate issue was killed because I was just thinking, “…Well, who is it!? Is it meant to be Willow? I guess it must be because she’s got evil Wil black eyes and veiny face, but the face looks more like Dawn, is it Dawn? Is it somebody else I’ve forgotten?”

    I’m not sure if even my sheer love of the series and desire for more slayage can overcome just how awful the comic has been lately. Depressing.

  33. Man Chris, I’m totally not on the same page with you at all. I thought “Wolves at the Gate” was pretty lousy by Buffy standards (which means it was uneven with some good bits, but also a lot of dumb ideas) and that “Time of your Life” was a HUGE improvement. The time paradox isn’t a lazy “it never happened” (they saved that for the Loeb issue)–it’s supposed to be a creepy bit of foreshadowing. There’s no guarantee that the future we see here, with Willow going bad, won’t still happen–that’s the whole point. In fact, if Whedon wants to do more “Fray” stories, we are pretty much guaranteed that it WILL happen. That’s what’s supposed to be creeping us out about this. The future of “Fray” is a mistake, something that should be prevented, and yet there’s a comic book series about it, which kinda means that it won’t be prevented. Furthermore, whatever pushes Willow over the edge is presumably going to be dealt with in the course of Season 8. So it’s not like this is a random story–it ties into the current ongoing plot.

    That said, I do think that they need to push the plot forward now. I guess, structurally speaking, we’re still in the first half of the season, which with Buffy tends to involve standalone storylines, but of course with the TV show that usually represents a few months of time investment, not two years.

  34. I didn’t really mind the future-slang so much in the original “Fray” mini – I thought it was downplayed enough so that it wasn’t too distracting. And I quite enjoyed the mini, but I generally find that most of what Whedon does clicks with me.

    As for “Time of Your Life,” though…ugh. I did enjoy the arc quite a bit, but Whedon REALLY took the future-speak to a whole new level. I get where he was going – hundreds of years have passed, the language has evolved (or devolved, as it were). But it was just so PROMINENT. Every other word was shortened or modified in some way – like, I GET IT – to the point where I didn’t even care what was going on because the dialogue was so distracting.

    That said, though, I have been enjoying Season 8 quite a bit, and I did enjoy the arc overall.

  35. I really enjoyed Xmen noir. I see what people are saying about the charactres, but i Mean, hey, theyre not wearing costumes. So pay a little close attention and you’ll be fine.

  36. I noticed Secret Invasion: War of Kings wasn’t on your pull this week. Are you planning to skip War of Kings, or did you have no interest in this particular one-shot?

    I did pick it up, on reflection probably shouldn’t have. I found myself not really wanting to root for anyone in the issue (though Pelletier draws a nice city turned space battleship).

  37. Are you planning to skip War of Kings, or did you have no interest in this particular one-shot?

    Pretty much skipping. I mean, the one-shot was by Abnett & Lanning, but there’s really nothing about it that seems like it’d hold my interest beyond just the issues of Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy that I’ll be getting.

    But then again, I felt the same way about Annihilation.

  38. I hear that Gail Simone’s printed collection of You’ll All Be Sorry! columns will be out this month. Hope it’s true!

  39. Yeah, I picked it up last week and I’ve been twittering about it off and on. It’s got the old stuff as well as some new Condensed Comics. Well worth it.

  40. bookrats . . .while some of my fave columns didn’t make it into the book — like the quartet of comic pros getting stuck on a life raft, the panel that tries to talk a delivery girl into completing a Green Lantern script while Ron Marz is knocked out, the whole “Thpawn” debacle — it’s still a good collection. And yes, there are creator-written “Condensed Comic Classics” and a new edition of Buzzline. I’m really hoping for a second volume in the coming year.

  41. More or less what Eamon said, except that I was a bit more worried a few months back about going off the rails given that I hadn’t read Fray until December. I still think that arc wasn’t very good, but it’s nowhere near as confusing and brick wally. And I did like the whole Buffy having to kill Willow thing. I’ve still got faith in the comic, because Wolves at the Gate was outstanding and nobody can write Whedonverse like Espenson.

  42. Huh. I understood the end of the Fray crossover just fine (I think), but thought the rest of it was pretty painful to read. Not because of the dialogue, but because I spent most of it wondering “Who the hell is that?” It had a huge cast of characters, some sizable percentage I’d never seen before (not being a reader of Fray), the artist sucked at making them look distinctive, and the dialogue did not do an adequate job of explaining what the art was not showing.

    I think that’s actually the general problem with Joss’s comics output — he doesn’t have that old comics pro knack of writing around the flaws of the artists he is working with. Given the number of current comic book artists who are lousy graphic storytellers, this creates frequent problems…

  43. I spent, I think, way too much time thinking that Fray’s older sister was Adjusted-to-Future-Life Buffy.