And now, further evidence to support my theory that The Immortal Iron Fist is a thing of purest beauty:
That, my friends, is Danny Rand kicking a HYDRA soldier through a pneumatic subway train while his comrades look on, and that’s not even the most awesome thing Matt Fraction wrote this week! But can any amount of kicking even begin to approach the radiant genius that was last week’s Dark Xena? There’s only one way to find out, folks, and that means it’s time for the Internet’s Most Two-Fisted Comics Reviews, right here on the ISB!
This, for the record, is what I bought yesterday…
…and this, just between you and me, is what I thought about it:
Countdown #51: Hot on the heels of 52 is DC’s new weekly epic, and considering that it’s got Paul Dini running the show and guys like Sean McKeever and Adam Beechen writing good chunks of it, I’ve had pretty high expectations ever since it was announced. Until yesterday, that is, when it hit the shelves and landed with a resounding thud.
Of course, that might not be entirely Dini’s fault here. I’ve got my suspicions that–without even a week to separate the two–the start of Countdown‘s receiving the brunt of the reader fatigue brought on by the shaky, nonsensical ending of 52 and the utter mess that was World War 3, and while using the 52 logo for the numbering was a very clever gag for the cover, it doesn’t make it any easier to differentiate. Add to that the fact that it’s a) a first issue that b) tries to lay the groundwork for four or five different plotlines featuring c) a bunch of characters that, with the exception of Darkseid, I don’t really care about–and I’m looking at you here, Duela Dent–and the odds are stacked against it from the outset. Beyond that, it’s not glaringly bad in any way, and with another issue thudding into the racks next week and the promise of stories involiving characters I actually do like, it’ll be easy to give it another chance. At this point, though, I’m really not holding out much hope.
Well, except for Jimmy Olsen vs. the Joker. Surely that’s pretty much foolproof, right?
Cover Girl #1: The more astute readers among you may recognize this one as being co-written by comics blogger and Friend of the ISB Kevin Church (alongside “Hollywood” Andrew Cosby), and while Kevin’s got a few of Boom!’s What Were They Thinking remix scripts under his belt, this one marks his debut as the scripter of a more serious title. So needless to say, I was really, really hoping to be able to tear it apart tonight, thus preserving my source for free advice on coding my notoriously cranky site layout.
The problem with that theory, though, is my commitment to a relative amount of honesty when it comes to my reviews, and aside from the fact that Rachel’s pants aren’t nearly as tiny in the interiors as they are on Rafael Albuquerque’s slick cover, there’s not a lot to have a problem with here. The story’s immediately engaging, following failing actor Alex Martin as he rescues a woman from a firey car accident and is promptly rewarded with fame, riches, and a few attempted murders. It’s zippy and well-paced for the most part, and Martin comes off as likeable right from the start as he vents his frustrations on an automated phone tree, and the only part I didn’t particularly care for was the last page, where Rachel Dodd–the “girl” of the title and Alex’s new bodyguard–shows up and the issue comes to an abrupt end, which is sort of a necessary evil when it comes to introducing a lead character as a last-page reveal. Of course, it pretty much makes up for it by also featuring this panel:
Now that’s how you hook ’em.
Gen13 #8: He’s taken out super-heroes, super-villains, and entire armies singlehandedly, but apparently, the Midnighter is utterly stymied by the whining of a petulant teenager.
I kid, but there’s probably more truth to that than I’d like to admit, so I’ll be honest here: At this point, I’m just buying Gen13 because in theory, I should like it a lot. I like Gail Simone, and as I thoroughly chronicled back on ISB Classic, I really like Gen13, and I think that may actually be the problem here. Eight issues into the original run, the heavy-handed stories about growing up isolated and only having each other to turn to had pretty much been thrown by the wayside in favor of stories about fighting dinosaurs and pirates, and while those sorts of plotlines would’ve been a perfect match for the slapstick panache Simone used on Agent X–which had its share of well-done serious moments mixed in–she seems to want to go in a direction where everything’s really super serious and built around teenage rebellion rather than teenage fun.
Not that it doesn’t have the fun stuff in it, either, and in fact, this issue’s got the best gags of the run thus far, but I’m already using up a lot of my hope on Countdown, so holding out for Gen13 to get better in a story where it crosses over with Welcome to Tranquility–another one that I’m buying purely out of brand loyalty to Simone despite the fact that it leaves me pretty cold–might just be turning out to be more effort than it’s worth.
Immortal Iron Fist #5: So not to spoil anything, but in this issue, we find out that Danny Rand, the Iron Fist, has to battle the Immortal Warriors of the Seven Lost Cities while learning new techniques from a magical book made from the scale of a dragon that resonates with the power of his kung fu, and that means that essentially, this is the script to what would be the most awesome video game ever made… and I could not be happier with it.
Seriously, you might as well just throw in a handful of Magic Crystals and a kidnapped princess into that plot, but I could barely type that sentence for being so excited about it. And with good reason: Brubaker and Fraction know exactly what they’re doing with this thing, building up a mythology around the City of K’un L’un and spinning it out into its own awesome corner of the Marvel Universe, and they’re doing it in the most fun way possible. Even better, they’ve got David Aja drawing it, and if there was any more proof needed that he’s the perfect artist to capture the street-level intensity of an Iron Fist comic, then this issue’s double-page splash should pretty much seal the deal. Come on: A book of kung fu written on a dragon scale. That’s awesome.
Marvel Zombies: Dead Days #1: Quick show of hands: Was there anyone who read the solicitation that promised a “top-secret double gatefold” homage cover by Arthur Suydam and didn’t immediately know it was going to be X-Men #1? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Not a lot of famous double-gatefold covers out there. I just can’t for the life of me figure out why they bothered to keep it secret.
Anyway, for those of you who read last year’s smash-hit Marvel Zombies, but were left with questions that you felt needed answers, well, here they are, and as always, there’s nothing that quite defeats the purpose as thoroughly as explaining a joke for forty-eight pages. Don’t get me wrong: I thought Marvel Zombies was a riot, and it’s safe to say that I liked it as much as the next guy, assuming that the next guy isn’t one of those habitual point-missers complaning about how Wolverine shouldn’t have been turned into a zombie because of his healing factor, but the events leading up to the story are largely inconsequential, and, quite frankly, come off as really boring. To be fair, there are a couple of good jokes (“You saying you don’t want any of this Jarvis meat?” springs to mind), but on the whole, there’s not a whole heck of a lot in here that’s worth reading. Worse, it looks like the immensely talented Sean Philips knocked the art out in about fifteen minutes, which is fine with me since I’d rather have that guy turning out new issues of Criminal than squeezing the last few dollars out of a craze on its way out the door.
As much as I loved the fast-paced deep-space adventure of the first issue of Nova, this one tops it, if only for the scene where Nova–who just led the armies of half the universe in a life-or-death conflict that saw the collapse of galaxy-spaning empires and the death of billions at the hands of an unstoppable horde–calls out Tony Stark–who just led the Sentry and Tigra in a mild sequence of fistfights that ended when Wonder Man accidentally put a hole in somebody’s wall–for being a total punk. It’s the sort of thing that I think we can all be excited about.
But that’s not really what’s important about this issue, and that, my friends, is the shocking return of Diamondhead, whose skull resembles a crystalline phallus and whose real name is–according to his first appearance, Arch Dyker. That’s enough to keep the Comics Blogger Internet going for months.
Phonogram #6: You heard it here first, folks: Phonogram is the best mini-series of the year. Admittedly, there’s still quite a bit of 2007 to get through–including a stretch that’ll see Fred Van Lente’s MODOK’s 11–but I honestly can’t imagine myself enjoying anything else quite like I’ve loved this comic, and this is the issue that made sure of it.
It’s not really about the music, either–although it certainly didn’t hurt that I’ve listened to and loved most of the stuff that Kieron Gillen references in the footnotes–but just the idea of a guy who has to literally fight to keep his own personality, even when he knows that his best years are behind him and that he’d probably be better off as someone else and that–to be honest–it’s not that great a personality to begin with just appeals to me on a basic level regardless of the context, and Gillen and McKelvie pull it off amazingly well. Add to that the fact that everybody gets the happy ending that they deserve, and you’ve got a book that I love every single part of.
Also, on a purely personal note, this issue actually marks the first time I’ve gotten one of Gillen’s references before it was explained, but really, when you toss out a reference to a song about kung fu movies that was used under the closing credits to Jackie Chan’s Rumble in the Bronx, I’m pretty much the exact target audience. And if that didn’t put my tastes in music-themed mystical adventures about introspection and self-identity into enough context to be highly dubious, then the next review probably will:
ISB BEST OF THE WEEK
Punisher War Journal #7: So the Punisher knocks out a freakin’ bull with a two-by-four in this issue, and that’s still not the best thing that happens.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Look, I’m a guy with pretty specific tastes, I know, and as much as I like to consider myself a thinking man’s comics reviewer (see above), I think it’s become painfully clear by this point that I am all about the visceral reaction that comes from well-deserved violence, so believe me when I say that Frank Castle infiltrating a gang of Neo-Nazis led by the Hatemonger with the promise to shoot him in the face probably skews a little bit more towards me than anyone who’s going to be reading this. I know this. But I would be flat-out lying to you if I said that this issue–which is done with all the glorious, over-the-top style that you’d have to expect from a story where the Punisher starts dressing up like Captain America–was not one of the most entertaining, fun, and downright exciting comics I have ever read. Right from the recap page that promises the “all-new, all-racist Hate-Monger” to a last panel that had me laughing from the sheer badass dialogue and wild-eyed sincerity from the Punisher.
Also–and I might have mentioned this–he knocks out a freakin’ bull with a two-by-four:
A NAZI Bull. Sweet Christmas, I love this comic.
RexLibris #8: It’s been a while since I’ve mentioned the world’s toughest librarian, but while we’re on the subject, I feel compelled to point out that this issue opens with Rex kicking zombie Nazis (or is that Nazi zombies?) right in the face with a gun in one hand and a machete in the other, and that’s one of the many reasons why it’s the best issue of the series thus far. It could be that I’m still on a high from Frank pulling an X-Treme Hemingway up there mixed with this issue’s all-action premise, but while Rex Libris has always been a book with a concept so high that its execution almost has to fall short, this issue hit its stride perfectly. It’s highly entertaining stuff, and if you get a chance to check it out, do so.
Tales of the Unexpected #8: A few months ago, I mentioned that the only thing that would qualify as unexpected in this book would be if anything had actually bothered to happen in the Spectre story, and while the basic logic behind that statement might be sound, it turns out that there was something even more surprising about this book. I’ve said it before, but my opinion of Brian Azzarello as a writer dropped sharply over the past couple of years thanks to a lack of interest in 100 Bullets and what I found to be pretty incomprehensible stories in the pages of Superman and Batman, so I wasn’t going into this thing with any hope to enjoy his story. Eight months later, and I’m hoping he gets a new ongoing out of this thing.
Of course, it’s not all Azzarello. Cliff Chiang’s art has been absolutely phenomenal in this thing, with gorgeous pages–including one last month that featured both OMAC and Jimmy Olsen, thus qualifying it as my favorite page ever–and some of the cleanest work in comics today. It’s astonishingly good stuff, and if it’ll help me get more of it, I’d just like to point out once again that right now, I’m paying $3.99 just to read the backup. I’d get a regular series in a heartbeat.
The Riverdale Experiment
Betty and Veronica Double Digest #151: For those of you who don’t remember from the brief hullaballoo when it was announced a few months back, this is the issue featuring debut of the “new look” Betty and Veronica, and while it does actually feature somebody getting kicked–which surprised the heck out of me, I assure you–I can’t say that I’m really that into it. The problem isn’t my attachment to the Dan DeCarlo/Stan Goldberg “house” style that the Archie books primarily use, though, it’s the opposite: I don’t think they went far enough.
I don’t mean to knock penciller Steven Butler or anything, but in going for “modern,” the story loses the distinctive character of the DeCarlo designs, but with nothing as visually interesting to replace them, whereas going in a more stylized direction, like Tania Del Rio’s manga-style Sabrina stories, would’ve probably had a better shot. Even Andrew Pepoy’s Katy Keene stories have more flair to them, and he’s essentially drawing a paper doll for eight pages. Of course, that’s just based off the first part, so maybe it’d be wise to hold out judgement until Archie and Jughead show up. This, if you’ll remember, is generally my standing policy for all aspects of life.
As for Melanie J. Morgan’s story, “Bad Boy Trouble,” it features Veronica, Betty, and Midge–tragically stranded somewhere between Emo and New Wave–encountering Nick St. Clair, the eponymous bad boy, who rides a motorcycle and–gasp!–sneaks into a movie without paying. The best part, though, is when Betty tells him that’s wrong, and he replies by telling her he’s done a lot worse in his time, giving the impression that he may in fact have shot a man in Midvale just to watch him die. Sadly, the story doesn’t involve Wendy Weatherbee or the Elevenaire (who makes his shocking return in this week’s Veronica, incidentally), and thus remains pretty uninteresting at the start.
And that’s the week, and now you know why I tend not to review my Archie books every week. As for the rest of you Jugheads, the usual deal applies: If you’ve got any questions about something I read, didn’t read, or just want to talk about how great Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, Stormwatch PHD, or Y – The Last Man were this week–or if you suspect, like I do, that I’m missing a page of dialogue from Jack of Fables–feel free to leave a comment or hit me up at the email address in the sidebar.
Seriously, though: Wendy Weatherbee and the Elevenaire have got to get together.