You know, there’s an Chris Hansen joke one could easily make about that panel, but we here at the ISB are slightly better than that. Besides, I’m saving all that for the Gunsmith Cats review at the end of the post.
But no matter! It’s Friday night, and with the comics shipping a day late this week, that means it’s time for another no-holds-barred round of the Internet’s Most Explosive Comics Reviews! Here’s what put the match to the powderkeg this week…
…Now brace yourselves, ’cause this thing’s about to blow!
The All-New Atom #13: As much as this book’s been hovering right on the line between fun and boring over the past few months, I’ve got to say that it’s about time somebody remembered that Ray Palmer spent a couple years as an ass-kicking barbarian king. I mean really, it’s not all little chairs and hanging out on Hawkman’s shoulder with that guy; he swings a mean broadsword for a theoretical physicist. It makes for some pretty decent comics, too, and the revelation of the tiny village’s Ray Palmer Impersonator (complete with a highly dubious vocabulary) makes for a couple of great punchlines along the way, but I can’t help thinking that the best stuff in the issue by far was the scene with Chronos at the beginning. It was interesting, well-written, and even referenced 1995′s all-but-forgotten Underworld Unleashed, but it’s over in four pages to make room for a story that ends up with Jason Todd and Donna Troy showing up to rope yet another unsuspecting victim into the neverending quagmire that is Countdown.
Needless to say, that’s a little disappointing.
All-Star Superman #8: You have no idea how much it pains me to say this, given the astounding amount of affection I’ve got for #4′s battle between Doomsday Jimmy Olsen and the Reverse Superman, but I’ve got to be honest with you guys: For the first time, an issue of All-Star Superman has just fallen flat for me.
“But Chris!” you may well be saying, as soon as you recover your monocle from its unexpected flight from your surprise-widened eyes, “This issue’s got the Bizarro Justice League helping Superman to build a rocket out of garbage so that he can escape Bizarro World, and what may well be our first look at the long-awaited return of Solaris the Tyrant Sun! You love Solaris the Tyrant Sun!” And I do, and I’m even excited about the fact that this one only took three months to come out, but it just didn’t do it for me.
It may be that I’m not sure why Bizarro, out of all the things that’ve been explored in the series so far, is what Grant Morrison felt he should spend two issues on, especially given the fact that reading Bizarro dialogue is always a pain in the neck, even with the added comedy of watching Superman try to muddle through it himself. It could just be that Zibarro’s plight as the only Bizarro sensitive enough to write emo poetry about sunsets didn’t strike the right chords. Either way, it just didn’t click. It’s not that it’s bad–and there are some wonderful touches, like the way Bizarro World’s oceans and continents are laid out in a mirror image of Earth’s, or the advent of the highly confusing Bizarro Sarcasm–but it’s certainly not up to the high bar set by previous issues. It’s just… Well, average.
But hang on a second. Maybe it’s not that good because it’s the Bizarro World issue, and on Bizarro World, the comics that aren’t great are the greatest comics of all! Why… That’s metatextual genius!
The Astounding Wolf-Man #2: And the parade of negativity continues. That’s right, folks: It’s gonna be one of those weeks.
Other than the fact that I thought it was pretty cool of him to launch it with the actual full-length first issue on Free Comic Book Day–which probably got it into the hands of a lot more folks than would’ve snagged it otherwise–I’ve been pretty ambivalent towards Robert Kirkman’s latest project ever since it was announced. That said, I like the guy’s other work (most notably Invincible and about half of Marvel Team-Up) enough that I went into this one expecting his usual style of relatively lighthearted adventure. And that’s exactly what it is, right up until a last-page shot that was jarring enough to put the kibosh on any enjoyment I’d had getting to it.
I probably shouldn’t have been surprised, though: This is a comic with a blood-soaked cover of a werewolf tearing into something, after all, so it’s probably on me that I didn’t see it coming. But even so, the violence in the FCBD special was far more subtle, and even the scene of Gary right after the initial werewolf attack–which was itself meant to look pretty horrific–doesn’t match an evisceration complete with trailing intestines and kidneys flying out. And it’s even worse when it comes from Jason Howard’s cartoony (for lack of a better word) style, as that just makes it seem even more remarkably out of place. It’s pretty annoying; the last thing I want to see as a comics reader after the past year is someone else getting brutally disemboweled in full color, and given that Kirkman himself has done similar scenes recently in his other titles, it’s got the added frustration of coming off like just another lazy trick that could’ve been done much better and to a far greater effect in a different way.
See what happens when you hire Dave Campbell, Kirkman? The whole thing just goes right down the tubes
Black Canary #1: I’ve been on the fence about getting this one for a while. On the one hand, as a long-time Birds of Prey reader, I actually do like Black Canary an awful lot. Not enough to think she should actually be the leader of the Justice League (because really, she wasn’t even the leader of the Brids of Prey, and there were only two of them), but still, I’ve got a lot of affection for the character and I’m curious about what she’s doing with her newly adopted “sister,” Sin. On the other hand, I have virtually no interest in finding out whether or not she’s going to accept Green Arrow’s proposal, especially given that DC’s pretty much tossed any suspsense on that front right out the window with this month’s solicitations.
What it really came down to was the team: Tony Bedard’s a hit-or-miss writer for me, but he’s actually doing a lot of stuff that I’m pretty interested in lately, and I thought Paulo Siqueira did a fine job handling pencils on BoP, so I figured I’d give it a shot, and the end result isn’t half bad. Sure, there are parts that don’t even bother to make a bit of sense–like where exactly Merlyn got a framed photograph of Green Arrow and Green Lantern walking in on Speedy while he was shooting up or the fact that Green Arrow is actually stupid enough to confuse a 19 year-old Dinah Lance with her mother, who he saw fighting crime back in the 40s-but if nothing else, it’s nice to see Bedard bringing up Dinah’s ex-husband, who was mentioned a grand total of one (1) time by Chuck Dixon in the pages of Birds of Prey like ten years ago. This is going to sound pretty obvious, but it’s very much like one of those four issue solo mini-series that DC used to hand out to their characters like Halloween candy back in the late ’80s, and while it could go either way at this point, I liked this issue enough to hope it’ll end up being good.
Detective Comics #834: Hey, you know what would be awesome? If the Joker from Detective Comics and the Joker from Batman didn’t appear to exist in complete isolation from one another.
Dynamo 5 #5: It’s been a while since I’ve talked about Jay Faerber’s work her on the ISB, since Noble Causes seems to have plateaued again after the frustrating series of issues that led up to #25, but everything I’ve said about Dynamo 5 in the past is still true: Faerber unquestionably does his best work on the titles he creates himself, and with this one, it’s like he’s hit the perfect balance of super-hero action and the character-driven family struggle element that made the earlier issues of Noble Causes so good. It’s become something of a trademark for him, and with good reason: When he’s firing on all cylinders, it makes for some highly enjoyable comics.
And that’s what’s happening here. Faerber never stops tweaking the book, adding new and interesting plot threads with every issue to create something incredibly entertaining, and Mahmud Asrar’s art compliments it perfectly. It’s excellent stuff, and if you haven’t already, give it a shot.
Jonah Hex #21: So here’s the thing: This book is probably the best thing that Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray have done, and the idea of putting out a Western book with a character that I really like starring in self-contained single issue stories is one that I’d be more than happy tor ead every month if they didn’t keep basing the entire series on stories about rape. It is ridiculous, and nowhere more than in this issue, where the rape and subsequent murders have absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the story, and seems to have been tacked on at the beginning and end for no other reason than to meet some sort of quota.
That’s the only thing that could possibly explain it, and so I’m done with the book. It’s already an overused plot device in comics, and any enjoyment that comes from the book is completely outmatched every three months when Palmiotti and Gray trot out the same reasonably offensive plot over and over again. It’s stupid, it’s lazy, it’s frustrating, and it’s dropped.
New Warriors #2: I’m going to owe my friend Brandon ten bucks after this review thanks to a bet we had going back in 2004 about sentences I didn’t think I’d ever say, but even I have to admit that I was pretty excited to see Jubilee show up in this one. Yes, New Warriors continues apace, and Underworld‘s Kevin Grevioux continues to surprise me at every turn with how well he’s managing to pull things off here. I’ve mentioned before how much I enjoyed the Nunzio Defillipis/Christina Weir run on New Mutants and New X-Men, and to see Grevioux and Paco Medina using a powerless Sofia Mantenga as his point of view character, complete with her dreams about the “good times” back before everyone she went to Xavier’s with was blown up or shot in the head makes for one of the most unexpected surprises of the summer. What’s more, the New Warriors themselves are actually a well-done mystery, with Beak showing up in the first issue and Jubliee making her appearance in this one–which itself leads to a genuinely worthwhile cameo by Wolverine–just begging the question as to who else made it to the lineup. It’s fast-paced fun, and it’s exactly the sort of thing I’d want from a Marvel team book right now.
And yet, it’s still New Warriors. Truly, these are wonderful times in which we live.
ISB BEST OF THE WEEK
Runaways #27: Any lingering doubts I might’ve had about whether Joss Whedon and Michael Ryan’s run on this title was going to be as fun and enjoyable as Vaughan and Alphona’s have been, in the span of this one issue, all but completely eradicated.
And I’m as surprised as anybody by it: Time Travel stories are notoriously difficult to pull off, but Whedon makes the absolute most of it in this issue, throwing in what appears to be a 1900s version of the Punisher, a foundation for the Age of Wonders to go right along with the Age of Marvels, and what is probably the most shocking return for a character I’ve ever seen. I honestly didn’t think anything could top Bill Willingham and Matt Sturges bring Sambo back from literary obscurity in the pages of Jack of Fables, but bringing back the Yellow Kid–the Yellow Freakin’ Kid, complete with words on his shirt!–as part of a turn of the century teenage super-team is pretty mind-blowing.
Well, mind-blowing for anybody who ever wrote a paper on the history of comics in high school, I mean. Hully Gee!
And the art matches right up: Ryan’s pencils are better than I’ve ever seen them, thanks in no small part to Christina Strain’s usual (read: amazing) job on colors. It’s a great-looking book, and it lives up to Jo Chen’s fantastic cover. It’s great, great stuff, and it’s finally got me excited about getting to the next issue, instead of looking back on the run that led up to it.
Y – The Last Man #57: And speaking of things I love about Brian K. Vaughan, we have Y, which continues its final story arc this month, three issues from the big finish. It’s always been one of my favorite titles, and ever since I found out it was ending, I’ve been talking about how upset I was going to be if it managed to finish without giving us a scene where Beth and Yorick reunited with a kiss.
We all feel a little bit of fan-entitlement sometimes, folks.
Anyway, that particular scene happened last issue, and since I was completely elated at the prospect of the big payoff for all the tribulations that Yorick’s been through over the past five years, I neglected to consider what was going to have to happen next, which is where this issue picks up, and it’s excellent. Beth’s revelation to Yorick and his reactions are almost perfect, full of the almost-too-clever-for-its-own-good dialogue tricks that are Vaughan’s trademark, from “I was just a straitjacket you were trying to get out of” to his wonderful response when she tells him he can’t be alone out there. The kicker, though, is the bit that leads to the last page. It’s excellent, and now that my own little requirement’s been met, I’m really, really excited about seeing where it’s going to go.
Anita Blake: Vamprie Hunter: Guilty Pleasures: Volume One: That’s right, folks: I am now the proud owner of the Anita Blake hardcover, despite the fact that I not only own every issue, but every second printing Marvel and DBPro have put out, based solely on the fact that the covers just kept getting more and more hilarious every time. After all, the hardcover contains Vampre Victim, an all-new nine-pager by Laurell K. Hamilton and whichever one of her assistants drew the short straw that day, and someone‘s going to have to go in there and wrench the answers between the panels out of it in the form of my incredibly dubious annotations.
But there is, however, another reason why you may want to pick this thing up:
Your eyes do not deceive you: I am quoted on the dust jacket of the Anita Blake Hardcover. No, really. And believe me, I’m as surprised as you are.
So, on the off chance that anyone out there is joining us after googling “Chris Sims” and “Annotated Anita Blake,” well… Surprise!
Gunsmith Cats Burst v.2: There’s been a minor buzz going around the ol’ Internet lately about Kenichi Sonada’s proclivity for putting out comics with highly sexualized and young-looking women, which just tends to get creepier and creepier the more you think about Minnie May Hopkins (18?) and her boyfriend Ken (30), who have been dating ever since she was a prostitute five years prior. I assure you, it creeps me out as much as the next guy, but the fact of the matter is that Gunsmith Cats is still one of the best comics to roar out of Japan in a bullet-riddled muscle car, and even with the fact that I feel nervous flipping through it in public, it’s awesome enough that I find myself not caring. That said:
That has got to be the funniest Parental Advisory Sticker placement ever.
And that’s the week. As always, any questions you may have about something I read or skipped over this week can be directed to the comments section below. As for me, I’ll be over here marveling at the folks over at Dabel Brothers (who are, in all honesty, being amazingly good sports about everything) and plotting my next move.
Look out, Dark Xena: You’re next.