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?
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!