Before we get started with tonight’s slightly delayed comics reviews–which should finally amount to the first real post here on the All-New ISB–I’d like to take the opportunity to address one of the changes that I made: The ads to your left.
As any of my pals who’ve heard me go on at length about Bill Gaines and his steadfast refusal to allow any advertising in the pages of MAD while he was alive will attest, I generally have a pretty strong hatred of ads. In fact, one of the original goals for the ISB was to do as much as I could for as little money as possible, just to see if I could. I used free hosting for the blog and images, and even my trusty scanner was bought secondhand from one of my pals for twenty bucks. Now that I’m actually shelling out money for hosting, though, it was either that or do a Public Radio-style pledge drive, where I re-posted your favorite ISB entries and interrupted them in the middle so that I could beg you to buy a hundred and forty-dollar tote bag.
But don’t worry! My integrity remains largely untarnished, as does my commitment to bringing you the world’s most awesome comics blog completely free of corporate influence!
The only difference is that now it’s all brought to you by the delicious, refreshing taste of Pepsi.
Ah! It’s the pause that refreshes!
Anyway, enough chatter! You all know how it works by now, right? Here’s what I bought yesterday…
And here, at long last, is what I thought of them. Well, all of them except Dark Xena anyway, which was delightful.
52: Week 52: And here we are one year later, and the big blowout final issue of 52 is marred only slightly by the fact that, by and large, it doesn’t make a bit of sense. To be fair, there are a lot of enjoyable parts, and I think we all knew when World War 3 hit a couple weeks ago that we’d pretty much gotten all the good we were going to out of this thing, but I really can’t figure out why there’s such a big deal being made about the return of the Multiverse when we’ve known that was coming back since at least Justice League of America #0, where there’s a whole boring bit about finding parallel Earths.
Not that it makes much sense anyway: The 51 other worlds–which seems like an awfully small number to limit yourself to if you’re going to go around tossing in Kingdom Come or some kind of paradise where Judd Winick was never allowed to write Shazam!–originally start out as exact copies of the regular DC Universe Earth, but then Mr. Mind eats some time, and that’s how we get stuff like Earth-50 (which, seeing as it’s the Wildstorm Universe, has 196,000 parallel realities of its own thanks to a couple of books called The Authority and Planetary). And apparently, that’s a fact worth paying $130 to learn.
Beyond that, though, it’s a pretty good sample of the series as a whole, if you don’t hold the fact that it doesn’t have any dismemberment against it. There’s a couple of good ideas a couple of goofy scenes, and I’m still not sure why the Dominators are attacking the Legion in a thousand years.
Avengers: The Initiative #2: Okay, look: I can buy letting the guy who uncontrollably turns into whatever his teammates fear the most head out into a training session once, but a second time, after he’s already caused someone to be shot in the head? That’s the kind of well thought-out master plan that I think we’ve all come to expect from Hank Pym.
To be honest, though, I actually liked this issue a lot more than the first one, even though Daniele Rudoni’s coloring is thoroughly out of control in a lot of places. But aside from poor bureaucratic decision-making from Gyrich and the mind-boggling frequency of pastel pink in Camp Hammond, there’s a lot to enjoy, like Pym’s dilemma at being thoroughly praised by a Nazi scientist for his biggest failures, or the fact that the Initiative is willing to weaken the boundaries that separate Earth from the Negative Zone, which–for those of you not paying attention–is where Annihilus lives. It’s good stuff to have floating around, and at this point, it all feels like Dan Slott’s actually building towards something big for these characters.
The fact that it’s also got a scene where a bunch of teenage super-heroes with jetpacks fight HYDRA’s giant floating aircraft carrier? Yeah, that’s just a bonus.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer #3: Working in a comic book store, I’m always a little mystified by the folks who come in to buy Buffy and chat about how much they love Joss Whedon and everything he does, but return nothing short of blank stares when informed that the guy’s actually writing two other comics, including one with characters that the cast of Buffy was largely based on, and another that features lesbians, juvenile delinquents, and a teenage girl with magical super-powers that leads the team. I mean really: unless I’m watching it in a completely unique way, that’s everything people like about Buffy in the first place, right? And yet, no reaction. The mind boggles.
But that’s pretty well beside the point when it comes to my already tenuous goal of writing an actual review. All that really matters is that as far as purely entertaining comics go, this issue stands out even on a day when all three of Whedon’s comics hit the stands, and with as much as I’ve loved Astonishing X-Men, that’s no mean feat. Of course, this one does have the advantage of including the not-so-shocking return of one of my favorite characters from the show and the typically fun last-page reveal, all done up nice with art by Georges Jeanty, who gets the point of photo-referenced artwork much better than a few creators that I could mention. Solid stuff.
Checkmate #13: I’ve spoken of my love for this book pretty often over the past year, but brother, there’s nothing–not even the promise of more scenes where Mademoiselle Marie tarts around in her leather bra and mini-skirt–is going to make me pick up an issue of Judd Winick’s Outsiders at this point, thanks to that book’s charming combination of old characters that are completely unrecognizable from what I like about them (Metamorpho), new characters that fail utterly to make me care about them in any conceivable way (Grace and Thunder) and John Walsh (John Walsh).
I do think “Checkout” is a pretty great title, though.
Hellboy: Darkness Calls #1: At this point, nobody really needs me to tell them that a new Hellboy mini-series written by Mike Mignola is something worth getting excited about, but it just wouldn’t feel right to let this one pass without mentioning how awesome it is. And it is great: The thing I like most about Hellboy is the way that–even as a seven foot-tall demon with a giant stone hand that could bring about the end of the world–he remains so completely unimpressed by the supernatural.
It’s the kind of great attitude that’s given us a hero who beats monsters with his giant handgun while spouting pure genius lines like “Goddamn Nazi Frankenstein Monkey!” and needless to say, it’s something I love. And for this issue, it’s pretty perfectly encapsulated in the way that he spends this issue casually smoking cigarettes and half-listening to the ranting madmen out to bring the dead back to life until some unspeakable horror shows up and it’s time to punch something. Man, I love Hellboy.
ISB BEST OF THE WEEK
Incredible Hulk #106: Back before I jumped on “Planet Hulk” and revised my opinion of Greg Pak from “horrible writer” to “awesome writer who wrote two abysmal X-Men stories,” the Mastermind Excello story he did with the incredibly talented Takeshi Miyazawa in Amazing Fantasy #15 (reprinted for your convenience in this week’s World War Hulk Prologue) was the first thing of Pak’s that I read and absolutely loved, so the idea that Amadeus Cho was going to be a huge part of the Hulk’s return to Earth and subsequent six-month non-stop beat-down already had me excited. Imagine my surprise, then, when the execution of the first part was even better than I’d imagined.
Admittedly, it probably wasn’t a great idea to have this issue come out before the corresponding issue of She-Hulk that immediately preceeds it–let alone having it take place before something with the word “PROLOGUE” written across the top in huge white letters–but by the time She-Hulk goes from a great scene where she’s hitch-hiking down the ol’ lonesome highway to one where she’s uppercutting Doc Samson into the next county, the highly entertaining story and the clever arrangement of all the critical pieces make up for it by far.
Don’t get me wrong: I’ve been burned by crossovers before–twice already this year, actually–and the fact that we’re getting a Frontline mini-series by “Paycheck” Paul Jenkins doesn’t really bode well considering that his last effort under that title included the second-worst plot point of Civil War, but I’m excited. Why? Because when you get right down to it, Captain America and Iron Man punching each other isn’t something I like to see in my comics, and neither is Black Adam ripping people’s arms off while the Martian Manhunter cries out in space.
But the Hulk throwing down on everybody else in the Marvel Universe? Yeah, that’s something I love. Here’s hoping it stays this good all the way through.
Midnighter #7: With the impending end of Y – The Last Man and his departure from Runaways for the greener pasture that is writing for Lost, it was starting to feel like I wouldn’t be getting quite as much Brian K. Vaughan as I’m used to lately. Fortunately for me, though, we have this month’s issue of Midnighter, where Vaughan does an absolute bang-up job filling in for Garth Ennis. The trick that he uses here, telling the story backwards page-by-page, isn’t a particularly new one since it’s as simple as writing a normal story and flipping it around a little, but it works incredibly well for the character, especially with some great art from of Darick Robertson. It’s a fantastic stand-alone issue, and if you like comics where cyborgs get their heads bashed in while skydiving from the top of that crazy orange-slice hotel in Dubai–and really, who doesn’t?–pick it up. It’s worth it.
Omega Flight #2: Unlike Avengers: The Initiative, which started out shaky and seems to be straightening itself out with the second issue, Omega Flight looks like it’s started out shaky and just turned South with this one. It could be the fact that Scott Kolins’ art and Brian Reber’s coloring doesn’t pull off the “unfinished” look very well (as opposed to Cary Nord and Dave Stewart on Conan, where it looks amazing), or the scene where Simon Walters is described as an American soldier but drawn with a huge Canadian maple leaf on his helmet, but what really sticks in my craw with this one is Thunderball.
Correct me if I’m wrong–which I’m not–but Thunderball’s a brilliant physicist with a doctorate and, since this is comics, is usually written to reflect that with convoluted faux-genius speech. I’m not saying the guy’s not allowed to drop a little slang every now and then, but he comes off here as one-dimensional and monosyllabic, and that’s even considering the fact that he’s a super-villain with construction-themed powers. Making matters even worse is the fact that Mike Oeming’s a guy who wrote two really good Thor stories, and to reduce one of that guy’s enemies from the “smart one” of the Wrecking Crew to a grunting thug is annoying at best. Unfortunately, that’s not the only annoying element of the story either, and unless Beta Ray Bill shows up to smite Red Ronin next month or something, it’s headed for a droppin’ toute suite.
Runaways #26: Okay, look: I know I mentioned it last month and that I’ve probably done more actual thinking about the Punisher than anyone has a right to, but, well, he’s not a hard character to get right, and the only way that he works is if he himself has a shred of redeemable qualities somewhere, and the minute he’s running around on rooftops trying to blow up (mostly) innocent kids with rocket launchers and pointing guns at petulant youngsters, that whole thing tends to go right out the window. It’s not that I mind him getting laid out by Molly–which puts her well on the path to being the next Squirrel Girl, since she took out Wolverine the same way a while back–or the over-the-top first person War Journal narration, either. It’s pretty funny, and if nothing else, it’s well-earned payback for the way other characters were treated whenever they showed up in the Marvel Knights Garth Ennis run.
Other than that, it’s a perfectly fine issue for Joss Whedon’s second offering for the title, with some great ninja-related humor with the Kingpin. It’s just that, you know, I really like the Punisher, and there’s no reason this issue shouldn’t have been as fun as the time he teamed up with the Power Pack, when Katie Power convinced him to give a criminal a spanking and a stern talking-to. Ah, the magic of the late-80s Marvel Universe. Give me a second to be nostalgic here and I’ll meet you guys down at Spider-Man.
Sensational Spider-Man Annual #1: Oh Cloak and Dagger! Will you ever find your way in this crazy world of ours? Huh? Oh, right, Spider-Man. I’ve said it before–and from the looks of things, I’ll probably end up saying it again before it’s done–but while I truly believe that Spider-Man is the single greatest comic book character ever created, he is worse now than he has ever been in over forty years of publication, to the point where he’s almost unrecognizable.
Still, Matt Fraction’s one of those writers that’s been getting everything right lately in his books, so I gave this one a shot, and he acquits himself pretty nicely. Yes, there’s a lot of emo Spider-Man whining about how it’s come to this, and yes, there is a scene where he actually cries–which happens so often at this point that I could live quite happily without ever seeing again–but it all leads up to a great little sequence of Spider-Man coming to his wife’s rescue that comes closer to feeling like the “real” Spidey than any mainstream book in the past few years. Even better, it’s nice to see Mary Jane actually portrayed as a sharp-witted, genuinely lovable character who’s willing to go to bat for Spidey in a book that’s not specifically about how she loves him. If that was the rule, rather than the exception, things might actually shape up for the guy.
Superman #662: I was all set to drop this book this month if it kept on its current track of a plodding story of alternate futures punctuated by months of fill-in stories that didn’t make any sense, but, well, this issue sees Carlos Pacheco drawing Zatanna in her underwear.
I’m not made of stone, people.
Mail v.3: This is the final issue of Mail, and that can mean only one thing: From now on, there’s going to be significantly fewer nude corpses in my life. The strange thing is, I’m actually a little upset about that fact. Along with its sister title, the phenomenally entertaining Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, Mail has been one of the best new manga titles I’ve read in a long while, and with another great selection of Night Gallery-esque stories of detective Reiji Akiba and his all-new, all-horrifying sidekick.
It’s a great horror title, and if you skipped out on it, jump on. Seriously, it’s got a man in a trenchcoat shooting a ghost in the face while he rides his jetski, and that’s the second-most awesome thing in this blog post.
Showcase Presents: The War That Time Forgot v.1: HOLY BUCKETS!
That just about sums it up, doesn’t it?
And that’s the week. Don’t forget, tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day, and while I would’ve liked to spend tonight making fun of The Umbrella Academy–the debut effort from My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way–well, it’s got art by Gabriel Ba and it’s actually really, really entertaining. Make sure to snag one, along with the great Fantagraphics Unseen Peanuts book, the two new Scott Pilgrim strips in Comics Festival, and First Second’s preview of Eddie Campbell’s Black Diamond Detective Agency.
Heck, they’re free, grab ’em all. Well, maybe not the Keenspot one…
Anyway, as usual, any questions (such as “Why did it take you two freakin’ days to get this lousy post done, Chris?”) comments (such as “This column is rambling and disjointed, as though you went to go see Spider-Man 3 halfway through”), or other miscellaneous concerns and thank-yous to Kevin Church and Shane Bailey for their continued help with the new, incredibly fragile site design can be left in the comments section or sent to the email address in the sidebar.
As for me, I’m going to go prepare myself for thirteen hours of doling out free comics to people tomorrow. And by “prepare,” I mean “get hammered.”