The Week In Ink: April 14, 2010

Amazingly enough, none of the monthly comics I picked up this week had a good solid kick to the face, which I guess is one of the hazards of cutting back my sub list when I quit the store. But fortunately for you, the cretinous loyal Week In Ink reader, I also got my hands on a copy of the new Fantagraphics collection of Basil Wolverton’s Culture Corner, a series of one-page instructional comics that includes the handy guide “How to Kick a Person In The Teeth”:



Now that faces have been properly booted, we can get on with another round of the Internet’s Most Needlessly Ritualistic Comics Reviews, but bear in mind: After reading, what I’m about to write about the Two Faces of Geoff Johns, there’s a good chance you might wish I’d taken the night off.

Here’s what I thought of a couple of this week’s titles!



Brightest Day #0: You know, I really hope that Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi take some time this weekend to sit down and write a Thank You note to James Robinson for being the one thing keeping them from being the guys who wrote the worst comic of the year. It’s just polite.

This is a terrible comic book. From the very first page–again, the first page of a book called Brightest Day–there’s a grotesquerie to it that is completely indistinguishable from someone doing a parody of what Warren Ellis called “Johns’s death-soaked shouting opuses.” Seriously, Brightest Day opens with a five-panel sequence of a baby bird bashing its head in on a tombstone and dying. There’s nothing I can possibly add to that, other than to say that while the name isn’t ever mentioned in the text, it’s all done as a setup for Deadman to move a step closer to his inevitable and groanworthy new role of “Lifeman,” and that in its own terrible way, it’s the perfect introduction for the rest of the book.

Because that’s what Brightest Day is: Pages upon pages of alarmingly stupid navel-gazing that underscores the fact that right now, with the exception of a few islands of good work, the DC Universe is experiencing a creative bankruptcy the likes of which the company has never seen. With this issue, a book that’s meant to set the tone for the DC Universe, Aquaman’s afraid to get in the water and the Flash tells someone he doesn’t want to run. They’ve gotten to the point where they’re not even telling stories anymore, they’re just showing people sitting around talking about things they used to do. And even that’s done wrong.

Take Firestorm. Johns and Tomasi make it clear that Ronnie Raymond is meant to be back from the dead from the moment he died in Identity Crisis. So why does he act like he did thirty years ago? Why did he ask where Professor Stein is, when Stein hadn’t been part of Firestorm for years at that point? Why does Ronnie, a recovering alcoholic, blow off Gehenna’s funeral to go to a kegger? And why, if the union between Jason and Ronnie is meant to be the new version of Firestorm, as seen on Batman: The Brave and the Bold, does Ronnie get control of the body? Well, I know the answer to that one: Because if Firestorm still had the body of a black man, he wouldn’t look like he did in 1978.

Beyond those problems, though, is the simple fact that Brightest Day is just poorly written. There’s a scene where Captain Boomerang talks about Shawshank Redemption in the vaguest, most Herb and Jamal-esque way possible, referring to it as “this film a few years back” before quoting its “Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin'” line in a scene that’s a lock for this year’s Eisner for Tritest Prison Conversation. And it gets worse: Hawkman plumbs the depths of explicitly stated melodrama with the line “I see all our ghosts–our past lives–they’re around us–reminding me that all this is… fleeting.” And then it gets even worse.

Here’s a brief re-enactment of me reading this comic:



“Oh my God, are they serious?”



“Oh my God, they are serious!”


It’s embarrassing, and the last thing it makes me want to do is read more.


The Flash #1: To promote the relaunch of the Flash, DC had house ads reading, completely without irony, “Barry Allen is back and it’s the worst thing that ever happened to him.” And brother, they ain’t lyin’.

I’ve come out pretty strongly before against the return of Barry Allen, and I think it’s pretty obvious why. There’s no reason whatsoever other than nostalgia to bring him back. His return was the only part of Final Crisis that I actually hated, and bringing him back not only undermines what was probably the best and most heroic death in comics (cheapening the cycle of death and resurrection in comics even more than it already is), but it devalues the work that creators like Mark Waid, Grant Morrison, and even Geoff Johns himself have done in making Wally West, if not better than Barry, then at least as good from a character standpoint as he ever was. It’s mind-boggling as to why anyone at DC wouldn’t want him back, or why they’d be willing to contort storylines into impenetrable continuity pretzels so that they could, in effect, get back the toy they played with as kids.

Needless to say, I wasn’t planning on picking up Flash, but hey: Free ring. And with all that said, I’ve got to admit: This is actually a really good comic.

That’s not too terribly surprising, I suppose; Johns did, after all, do some of his best work on the character, although that got tiresome at the end when he decided every aspect of every character had to tie into a one-note gimmick (Mirror Master does cocaine! OFF A MIRROR! DID THAT JUST BLOW YOUR MIND?!). Which, really, is what’s so frustrating about Johns: When he’s good, he’s great and when he’s bad, he’s abysmal, and it all stems from the exact same place and a very specific storytelling ideology he adheres to.

But here, he’s actually doing something fun. Even the title, “The Dastardly Death of the Rogues,” straddles that line between ridiculously self-referential and just goofy enough to get a genuine laugh, and the story, while it’s certainly hearkening back to stuff that’s been done before, has never quite been done in this sort of way, and never to this extreme. For the first issue, at least, this isn’t just a good story, but it’s very much the kind of bizarre Flash story that I really like.

A lot of the quality, though, has to do with artist Francis Manapul. Aside from a few of the costume redesigns, I loved his Legion of Super-Heroes work (which, ironically enough, was ended so that Johns and Brad Meltzer could have their cake with a pastiche of the late ’70s Legion), and he does a really great job here. There’s a sense of motion to his work (which is aided in no small part by colorist Brian Buccellato), and his take on all of Barry’s speed tricks is genuinely thrilling. He makes the Flash disassembling an entire car in mid-air while it jumps an unfinished bridge look exactly as cool as it ought to.

Plus, this page alone is just gorgeous:



It’s a great-looking comic that’s a lot of fun to read, but it’s not without its faults. For one thing, as much as I appreciate that the book hit the ground running (har har), I would’ve appreciated knowing why everyone was cool with Barry Allen coming back to life and having a secret identity, and why Iris wasn’t an old woman anymore, and maybe–just maybe–why he abandoned the kids that he has in the 31st century (which we know he has because his grandson, Bart Allen is back too). But that’s a minor dig on my part–I understand at least some of it was covered in Flash #0, which I skipped for the reasons laid out above–and it’s more than outweighed by an issue that actually feels like it has some momentum to it.

Far more problematic is the fact that, while the story around him is fun, Barry Allen has no discernible personality whatsoever. There are quirks–he’s always late! Boy, that sure was clever in 1954–but by and large, he’s a blank slate. Which means that as fun as this story is, there’s no reason for it to be about Barry Allen rather than Wally West, and we’re right back to where we started with the un-necessity of Barry Allen’s return. You could argue that this is only the first issue and that it needs time to develop, but there’s nothing more important for a first issue than establishing who these people are and why we need to care. Right now, we care because Geoff Johns cares, and for me, that’s not good enough.

But again: By and large, it’s a fun comic, and that buys an awful lot of leeway with me, and the only time I actually like admitting I’m wrong is when I read something that’s a lot better than I thought it was going to be, and this issue certainly qualifies there. I just wish it wasn’t a good comic mired in its own regressive storytelling.



And for me, that’s the week. I mean, sure, there were more comics, but I’ve already talked up Gillen and McKelvie’s Loki, and considering that I’m pretty sure I just murdered my chances of ever writing Jimmy Olsen or the Legion of Super-Heroes with those two reviews, I’m calling it a night. As always, if something caught your eye this week, then by all means, have at it in the comments below.

The Week In Ink: April 7, 2010

Jeez, a guy takes the night off after a hard day at work and you guys act like I abandoned you at the mall or something.



The kick to the face is like the chiming of the clock: it’s Thursday night in a week where Batman and Robin came out, so it looks like it’s time for another round of the Internet’s Most Negligent Comics Reviews! Here’s what I thought of some of this week’s titles!



Batman and Robin #11: Hey, what a surprise: Chris loves Batman and Robin! Yeah, I know you’re all well aware of this fact by now, but as the last couple weeks’ worth of ComicsAlliance content will show, I will never get tired of going on and on and on about Batman. Seriously though: I read Batman and Robin and Jack Staff back-to-back this week and once I was finished, I had a hard time remembering why anyone would bother to make other comics.

I think what sets them both apart from other books is just how much economy of storytelling there is going on there. I’ve said before about Jack Staff that one of its greatest strengths is that it’s got such an incredible cast beyond the title hero (something that Paul Grist realized himself when he retitled the book as The Weird World of Jack Staff to explain why so much space was devoted to Tom Tom the Robot Man, Unit D, Zipper Nolan, DI Maveryk, The Claw, Charlie Raven, Bramble & Son, my beloved Becky Burdock: Vampire Reporter ad more). When you’ve got a rich cast of characters, like Grist does, or like Walt Simonson was working with in his absolutely essential run on Thor, splitting scenes up is the perfect way to build tension and develop strong characters. It’s something that makes ensemble books really work well (like in Walt Simonson’s and plays a long game with storytelling that, despite being the best way to drive sequential fiction, has fallen out of vogue in favor of self-contained stories that try to encapsulate a hero’s best moments rather than letting them flow organically.

Which brings us back around to Batman and Robin, because this issue plays with that same kind of back-and-forth storytelling with multiple plot threads spinning together to make something that’s pure fun to read. There’s El Penitente (who may be the Black Glove), Oberon Sexton and Robin in the graveyard, Talia and this week’s awesome Mystery Villain remote controlling Damian, Alfred researching the Waynes and providing running commentary to link the stories, and–my personal favorite–Batman’s D&D adventure in the Secret Wayne Manor Catacombs.

There’s a thrilling tension to it, not just because of the last page reveal, but because of the way Morrison chooses his breaks. We don’t see what happens to Batman in the catacombs, but we know it was something big because the visual cues are there. And in the meantime we’re getting something equally important in the question of Sexton’s identity, the Domino Killer’s designs on Bruce Wayne, and Talia’s plan to kill Batman. It’s just exciting Clarke’s art compliments it beautifully.

Also, if for some reason you’re reading this and don’t have it yet, the first story is out in hardcover this week, and brother, that thing is a master class on how it’s done.


S.H.I.E.L.D. #1: I think we covered SHIELD pretty thoroughly in this week’s ComicsAlliance Roundtable Review, but just to make it official: This thing is off the chain.

It’s easily my favorite thing Hickman’s done since he started at Marvel, and considering how much I’ve been enjoying his work on Fantastic Four and Secret Warriors, that’s saying something. This, though, feels like the book that’s going to bridge what Hickman’s been working towards with each, and it’s got a love of the universe that comes through in every one of Dustin Weaver and Christina Strain’s beautiful pages. And not just a love of the stories, either–the paraphernalia and characters of which are easy to drop into any story with a wink and a nod–but a love of how those stories are told and what they mean to readers. Which is what I love about Hickman’s work in general: The understanding of the process and the trust in the reader to make connections and put things together that comes with his willingness to experiment with form.

But again, that’s pretty well-traveled territory by now. Just give it a read already, if you haven’t yet. It’s awesome.


Thor and the Warriors Four #1: I’ve been looking forward to Alex Zalben and Gurihiru’s Power Pack/Thor team-up since it was originally announced, mostly because the second issue has what might be the best cover of the year.

Really though, I’ve absolutely loved pretty much every bit of Marvel’s kid-friendly Power Pack relaunch, and getting a team-up with Thor that promises to also involve Beta Ray Bill and Volstagg the Lion of Asgard himself is about the only thing that could make them better. But the last thing I was expecting was for this one to take on a plot as serious as the death of a relative.

Stuff like this is incredibly tricky to pull off in comics. Well, to be honest, emotional content is often pretty tough to pull off in super-hero comics in general, but if someone makes a misstep in something that’s geared to adults or adolescents (or adults who still think like adolescents, as the case may be), it’s a lot more forgivable than if it looks like they’re pandering to–or worse yet, emotionally manipulating–kids. So when an issue opens with the Power Pack sitting in a hospital with a dying grandma, it immediately sets off a warning sign.

Fortunately, Zalben and Gurihiru are able to use that to build a story that does feel like it has some weight to it without being so heavy that it’s at odds with the silliness of stuff like a bunch of kids teaming up with the Thunder Frog. It’s extremely enjoyable, but I’m curious as to how Zalben’s going to be able to pull it off, because I’m pretty sure of what lesson the Power kids are going to be learning here, and it’s not a very happy one. It can go off the rails in a hundred different ways in the course of four issues, but if this one is an indication of how the rest of the story’s going to work, it’s going to end up being well worth a read.

Plus, there’s a backup story written and drawn by the imitable Colleen Coover that features Hercules wrestling a lion, and that’s pretty much just four things coming together at once. It’s a miracle, doggs.



And that’s the week! As always, any other questions or concerns about this week’s titles, like the return of Invincible’s original costume or Chris Roberson and Shawn McManus’s dynamite, clever wrap-up for Cinderella can be left in the comments section below!

The Week In Ink: March 24, 2010

I’ve been reading comics for 19 years, but until this week, I am pretty sure that I had never seen Volstagg, the Lion of Asgard, deliver a Kick to the Face.



Thanks to Thor #608, that’s another life goal I can cross off the list.

“Doing the last Week in Ink,” however, remains thoroughly un-crossed, which brings us to another round of the Internet’s Most Strangely-Fixated-On-My-Own-Mortality-This-Evening Comics Reviews! Here’s what caught my eye this week!



Jughead #200: I talked about this one during my appearance on the Awesomed By Comics podcast, but in case you missed it, Jughead #200 is awesome.

And I don’t mean awesome by my standards–it certainly means those, but admittedly, I’m already a guy who loves Archie–I mean it’s awesome by comic book standards. To start with, there’s the technical aspects that are only interesting to me, namely that it’s the first ever Archie book with a variant cover and that they printed it on glossy stock rather than Archie’s usual newsprint. It seems weird that they went that far for Jughead and not the recent (and highly disappointing) Archie #600, but I’m glad they did because this one deserves it.

And now the stuff that’s probably interesting to people who aren’t me: This issue’s written by former Twisted ToyFare and current Robot Chicken writer Tom Root and drawn by Archie veteran Rex Lindsey, who do what is without question the best Archie story since Archie Meets the Punisher. It’s the kind of story that plays to Archie’s strengths, with each of the characters selling off their defining characteristic to a witch in an attempt to get Jughead’s metabolism back after he swaps it for a truly ridiculous sandwich. It goofs on the established format in a way that’s actually really funny, to the point where it’s the first Archie comic I’ve read in a long time that I not only laughed out loud while I was reading, but laughed later when I was telling friends about it. Heck, it’s the first Archie comic I’ve read in a long time that I’ve actually wanted to tell my friends about. And I read every Archie book for like four years.

It’s exactly the sort of thing Archie needs to do more often: Find people who are willing to tweak the formula to build jokes, or allow the ones that are there to take the risks that lead to good comedy. If this issue shows anything, it’s that the Archie books still have the potential to be genuinely funny without losing any of what’s at their core, and it’s exactly what I’d like to see them follow up on. I might be the only one who wants the Archie books to be good, but believe me: I want it enough for all of us.


Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #61: And speaking of comics for kids that are totally awesome, this month saw the end of Marvel Adventures Spider-Man. It’s not really the end–along with Super-Heroes, the series restarts next month with a new #1 and the same writer for reasons that elude me–but Paul Tobin wraps up a plot that he started when he took over the book with #53, which, for a Marvel Adventures title, is pretty long-running.

If you haven’t been reading it–and really, if you like Spider-Man at all, you owe it to yourself to check out stories that are up there with the best of the “Brand New Day” stuff–the book’s been centering on a love triangle that’s been developing between Peter Parker, Gwen Stacy and Chat, a new character Tobin created for the MA book that can speak to animals. Things were going well, but then suddenly Chat forgot she and Peter were dating and Gwen started acting like she and Peter were, which ended up having a lot to do with the fact that Chat’s best friend is Emma Frost, who has been running around getting her kicks as a super-villain called the Silencer. It’s the perfect sort of blend of super-heroics and personal relationships that made me fall in love with Marvel Comics in general and Spider-Man in particular when I was a kid.

And everything’s just pulled off so well: The scenes with Peter talking to George Stacy are about as perfectly written as they can be, and between Emma’s confession and Peter’s response to Chat wanting to break it off with him at the end, Tobin, Christian Nauck and Terry Pallot put in more genuine emotion in a kid’s book than most of the comics aimed at adults. There’s just not a false note to it. Like Puckett and Parobeck’s Batman Adventures, this is the sort of kids’ comic that’ll make a kid love comics, and that’s about the highest praise I can give it.


Nemesis #1: Moving into the comics that are devoutly not for kids, this week saw the release of Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s latest project, and while we’re going to talk about it a lot on Monday’s episode of Ajax, I figured I might as well cover it here. As much time as I didn’t care for Kick Ass, I actually ended up really enjoying this one.

Like the best Mark Millar books, Nemesis is big, loud, dumb, and based around a premise so simple that Mike W. Barr did it twenty-five years ago: What if Batman hated cops? And it’s done so ludicrously over-the-top that you can’t help but enjoy it. I mean, there’s a scene where the eponymous bad guy is standing on the nose of a jet shooting out its windshield with a gun. That’s nonsense. That’s ridiculous by all but the most Fletcher Hanksian standards. But–as Millar well knows–it’s also exciting, especially when it’s just one of a series of exploits that keep getting bigger and louder and even more nonsensical.

It might just be the fact that he’s inking himself under colors by Dave McCaig rather than having inks by Dexter Vines and colors by Morry Hollowell, the team that did Civil War and Old Man Logan, but Steve McNiven’s art seems a little more rushed here. There’s a certain flatness to the coloring in parts, and while both of those sound like criticisms, I actually really like it. It lends a cartoonishness to the book that serves it well, because Nemesis is a cartoonish bad guy. And I don’t mean cartoonish like Dr. Doom, either; I mean he’s like Cobra Commander, who once literally attempted to blow up the ocean. He’s that kind of ridiculous, so when guys get shot and giant, Evil Dead 2ish blood fountains sprout from both entry and exit wounds, that only helps underscore the big fun silliness of it all.

The only thing I don’t like? Believe it or not, it’s the swearing. Believe me, I’m not opposed to it on a moral level–I have a mouth like a sailor with stubbed toe–but it just seems shoehorned into the scripts wherever to make sure it’s earning that mature rating. It’s Junior High swearing, where you’re not quite sure how to work in the words but you want to do it anyway.

But other than that? It’s a hoot.


Mysterius the Unfathomable v.1: I know I’ve mentioned this quite a bit over the past few days, but really: You guys need to read this.

I could write about how Tom Fowler’s art is just absolutely beautiful and how Jeff Parker’s script has an incredible dark wit to it that works as a perfect example of his range as a writer, but I’ve already said all that, and if I’m going to repeat myself, I’m going to repeat the most relevant part. Heck, I’ll even put it in boldface:

This is a comic where a bastard of a magician stops an invasion of Lovecraftian nightmares from Earth-Seuss by rooting out the pagan ritual that is Burning Man.

Here is the link to purchase it.



And on that authoritarian note, I’m calling it a night. As always, if anything caught your eye this week, feel free to mention it in the comments. But please! I haven’t picked up my copy of the Boy Commandos hardcover yet, and I don’t want any spoilers on this reprint collection of comics from 65 years ago!

The Week In Ink: March 17, 2010

Fun fact: The “baby talk” noises that Sugar & Spike make are the exact same as the noises a grown man makes…



…when he gets kicked in the face by a comic book analogue of Bruce Lee.

Valuable lessons like that are just one of the services I provide here at the ISB, and it’s because of my devotion to you, my loyal cretins readers, that I’m keeping the Internet’s Most Passive-Aggressive Comics Reviews going for yet another week!



Avengers vs. Atlas #3: Considering that I’ve been a fan of (the Agents of) Atlas since the original mini-series, I think it’s fair to say that I’ve spent a fair amount of time over the past few years singing Jeff Parker’s praises for his work on these characters. And that’s why, even though this issue was another great bunch of fun Marvel moments with the absolutely gorgeous art of Gabriel Hardman, I’m going to skip out on the main story and just focus on the backup.

With the untimely demise of Captain Britain and MI13 and the recent end of Dark X-Men, I’ve been worried that I wasn’t going to be getting enough Paul Cornell in my life, and this backup story was the exact shot I needed to take the edge off. The idea of a character addressing the reader while answering letters is one of those comic book tropes that I’m a total sucker for, and the fact that Cornell has Venus doing it on another planet is just icing on the cake. It’s the exact sort of sharp cleverness that Cornell excels at, especially once he turns the corner into rapid-fire Marvel Universe in-jokes.

Plus, it’s got art from OG Atlas artist (and Cornell’s CB&MI13 collaborator) Leonard Kirk, who takes what could have easily been a static, visually boring piece and does it with an expressiveness that really carries the entire story. It’s beautiful, it’s well-done, and it’s just the right kind of fun to compliment the lead story. It’s just great, and while it’s certainly tiding me over for now, I can’t wait to see Cornell and Kirk get back together in Age of Heroes and whatever comes after.


Green Hornet Year One #1: I’ve been at the truly ridiculous amount of Green Hornet comics Dynamite’s been gearing up for lately–at least five simultaneous series as of the last Previews in what I can only assume is a desire to pump out as much as they can before the upcoming movie hits–but I will say this for them: They’re doing their darndest to cover all angles.

Take me, for instance. You couldn’t pay me to read another issue of the Kevin Smith book (that’s a lie, if the record shows us anything it’s that you can pay me to read just about anything), but I’m on board for pretty much anything Matt Wagner cares to write. Between Mage and his Batman work, Wagner’s easily one of my favorite writers, and he’s turned in his typically excellent work here.

The story goes back to the character’s roots in the ’30s–it actually took me a minute to figure out why the action was set then rather than thirty years later, but that’s just because I think of everything in terms of how it relates to Batman ’66–and it’s told with a great hook of the Green Hornet and Kato’s mirroring origin stories. And even better, Wagner and Campbell manage to make nonlinear storytelling work for them, flashing forward so that you get the money shot of the Green Hornet and Kato throwing down on some mobsters in the first issue, rather than having to wait.

So yes: I actually do want to read a Green Hornet comic and right now, this is that one, but I’ve got to imagine that a lot of readers just aren’t going to bother trying to find one they like when there are four other series on the stands shouting it down.


Hercules: Fall of an Avenger: I know that at this point Incredible Hercules is matched only by Batman and Robin as far as series that I go on about how I love them ad infinitum–with Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak’s appearance on Ajax being the exclamation point for the end of that paragraph–but seriously. Guys, this is how it’s done.

Funeral issues are always a dicey road to go down, both because of the temporary nature of death in super-hero comics that makes any show of emotion seem to ring false, and because they tend to consist largely of people standing around having flashbacks, both of which combine to hobble them at the gate. But here, Pak, Van Lente and artist Ariel Olivetti manage to pull it off superbly. Under just about any other writers in just about any other book, a series of flashbacks–especially flashbacks to one’s own work–would be dead in the water. Here, though, maybe because of the fun of the character that they’ve been embracing for the book’s entire run, they do something that’s a joy to read, with short and occasionally hilarious scenes that start with Amadeus Cho pouring one out for his homey and just gets better from there.

It’s excellent, and it makes me even more glad than I already was that we’re getting Prince of Power and then the mysterious book that’s going to come after.


Marvel Boy: The Uranian #3:




And that’s the week. As always, if anything from this week’s stack caught your eye, like the truly amazing Mysterius the Unfathomable trade paperback, without which no fan of things that are awesome should be, feel free to leave a comment below.

The Week In Ink: March 10, 2010

One of the universal truths that we have acknowledged time and time again here on the ISB is this:



You can never have too many ninjas.

Yes, as the presence of my sloppy lasso-tool panel-cropping will attest, I’m keeping the Internet’s Most Anticlimactic Comics Reviews going for yet another week! Let’s get to it with a few of the comics I read from this week’s stack!



Batman and Robin #10: Yeah yeah, I know that every time this book comes out, I rave about it to the point where I’m considering campaigning for reform that would allow me to legally get married to it, but seriously, the fact that something this good is coming out this often is one of the best things going on in comics right now.

I’ve said it before about the Morrison run–specifically Black Glove–but these feel like the Batman stories I’ve been waiting my entire life to read. The stuff that he’s doing here–secret passages, hidden clues, a Batman legacy that stretches back into the history of the Waynes–is almost perfectly designed to appeal to the kid in me that gets thoroughly caught up in these big, sweeping plots that fit the larger-than-life scale of the Batman. Don’t get me wrong, I assure you that I like the idea of Batman as a street-level vigilante as much as anyone else, but the elements Morrison’s been doing with this book draw on this sense of wonder and intrigue that–particularly in the case of the Wayne ancestors and the secret secret passages below Wayne Manor–feel like the best parts of the Silver Age, but done with consummate skill.

And it is skillfully done; not just in the big concept stuff that’s set up here for the Return of Bruce Wayne, but in pure character work, which is just perfect. Damian’s sad “If my father returns… we can’t be Batman and Robin anymore, can we?” is a great turning point for the arc that’s been going since he was introduced, and his argument with Talia is fantastic. Her dialogue is so incredibly dismissive, both in referring to Dick and Alfred as “the circus oaf and his butler,” especially in the way it comes through when she says “crimefighter” like it’s the nastiest word in the language. And then there’s the fact that she actually identifies Batman as a crimefighter, not as a “detective” or even “vigilante.” It’s an archaic term that’s fallen out of fashion, but Morrison doesn’t shy away from the things that make comics comics, and that’s the true joy of his super-hero work.

As to the art, I’m not sure I’ve read anything Andy Clarke’s done before, but he knocks it right out of the park in this issue. The moodiness, the angles he picks for establishing shots, everything just looks so nice, and his Alfred is fantastic. There’s a great shot of him quirking his eyebrow that has just the right air of slightly smarmy theatricality to it, and then the lurid interest on his face when he talks about Thomas Wayne’s devil-worshipping makes for a wonderful touch of comedy to the whole thing. He does an excellent job, and following up behind Cameron Stewart, that’s not an easy thing to pull off.

Again, this is no surprise to anyone who’s been reading this blog, but these comics really are that good, and I just can’t get enough of ’em.


PunisherMax #5: And speaking of things that I’ve gone on and on about, this issue closes out Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon’s first arc on PunisherMax, and brother, does it ever. I won’t belabor the point too much, as I went through most of what I’m still loving about this comic last month–the brutality of Dillon’s fight scenes, the envelope-pushing of Aaron’s scripts–but the fact that they’re able to bring it to such a viscerally satisfying conclusion that leads into the next arc is an achievement all on its own.

Earlier this week, I wrote an article where I talked about the difficulties creators have had in establishing recurring villains for the Punisher, but the enmity with the Kingpin actually goes back to the early days of the first ongoing series under writer Mike Baron. It makes perfect sense–the ultimate embodiment of Organized Crime against the ultimate embodiment of Vengeance Against Crime–but it never quite seemed to fit, for the simple reason that the Kingpin doesn’t “belong” to the Punisher like he belongs to Daredevil, or even Spider-Man. Purely by virtue of who he fights, the Marvel Universe Kingpin is a super-villain, and as such he just outclasses the Punisher, which is actually where those Baron stories go, and what makes them so key in understanding how Frank Castle works in the Marvel Universe.

Cut to 25 years later, though, and it’s a different story: The Punisher–especially the MAX version that Garth Ennis spent so much time cultivating–is completely unstoppable, and the creation of the MAX Kingpin has complimented him perfectly: Just as ruthless, just as brutal, and–as Aaron beautifully sets up in this issue–just as lost in his own goals as Frank is. The shot of Frank laying on the floor, beaten nearly to death, realizing that he’s lost sight of the reason that he’s doing all this because the vengeance itself has become his purpose–let alone the fact that he just killed a man who was essentially doing the same thing, engaging in brutality and bloodshed to provide for his family–it’s just a note-perfect look at the character and what makes him work.


Street Fighter Legends: Ibuki #1: Okay folks, Confession Time: Despite my love of all things Capcom, I actually had no idea who Ibuki was before I sat down to read this issue. The fact of the matter is that when it comes to Street Fighter, my love isn’t exactly equal to my skill, so I actually haven’t played that many SF games since the era of the Dreamcast and all-night Marvel vs. Capcom sessions with my pals.

So why grab the comic about a character I don’t have an attachment to? Well, I haven’t exactly made a secret of my affection for Udon’s Street Fighter comics–especially the four-issue Sakura series, which, if you haven’t read it, contains pro wrestling, a hot-dog eating contest refereed by a Chaigman Kaga-esque E. Honda and Dan Hibiki–and it’s on the strength of those that I ordered this one back when it was solicited, and it is a hoot. It may not have the zaniness of Sakura, but I’m a total sucker for any fun, super-heroic action in a high school setting, and Jim Zubkavich and Omar Dogan deliver that by the truckload. It’s engaging, it’s zippy, it’s–as you might expect–heavy on the fights, and it blends the world of ninja training and text messaging better than any other comic I’ve read. It’s a hoot, and it’s well worth picking up.


SWORD #5: And finally, with this issue, the ISB mourns the passing of another great series canceled before its time.

It’s no secret that the “Cosmic Marvel” outer-space stuff that Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have been doing for the past few years have been some of Marvel’s best and most underrated comics, and SWORD was not only the perfect bridge between those and the rest of the Earth-bound Marvel universe, it was also a brilliantly engaging book in its own right. For a universe that’s been using aliens as a plot point since about three months into its existence, it was a brilliant concept, and for evidence of that, you need look no further than the fact that this was a book that contained both Death’s Head and ADAM-X THE X-TREME.

And aside from just playing with the toys–which this issue in particular did very, very well–Kieron Gillen’s scripts were able to capture the sense of the Earth in the Marvel Universe: constantly under attack, but still the planet that fought off Galactus three or four times and is the home of the Sorcerer Supreme of the entire dimension. And it was beautifully complimented by Steven Sanders’ art, with its dynamic, distinctive takes on familiar characters and great designs for new ones, too.

It was good stuff–and if you haven’t read it, you really should, as it’s a great example of what talented people can do with the obscure, ADAM-X THE X-TREMEy bits of the Marvel Universe–and I’m sad to see it go. But Gillen and Sanders are more than talented enough to land on their feet and come out with something just as good on their next shot, and I’ll be there to read it.



And that’s the week! As always, if you’d like to discuss anything from this week’s comics, like the great, well-structured finale of Dark X-Men, feel free to leave a comment below!

The Week In Ink: March 3, 2010

Some people question the logic behind continuing to write these comics reviews a solid four weeks after I told everyone I was quitting, but to those people, I say this:



Yes, it’s another round of the Internet’s Most Schadenfreuderrific Comics Reviews, but this week I’m doing things a little differently and only reviewing one comic, for the simple reason that–as good as a lot of the comics I read this week were–it’s the only one I’ve really got something to say about.

So let’s get to it!



Girl Comics #1: The release of Girl Comics #1 is probably the biggest news in this week’s comics, and I’ve got to say, I am all for this stuff. Throwing the spotlight onto female creators in an industry that’s perceived–fairly, for the most part–as being overwhelmingly male-dominated and male-oriented is an excellent way to get some attention for creators that really deserve to be more prominent, and it dovetails in nicely with what I’ve seen as a recent drive to recruit a lot of talented women.

And visually speaking, it’s paid off: If nothing else, this is a good-looking comic book, from Amanda Connor’s cover all the way down. Ming Doyle (the artist on pal Kevin’s Loneliest Astronauts) does an excellent, moody job on the opening Nightcrawler story, Stephanie Buscema’s poppy take on Venus was great, Agnes Garbowska’s art for the Franklin and Val Richards story had a storybook quality to it that was just beautiful, and Emma Rios is just as good here as she was in Strange. Plus, Colleen Coover does the introduction, and as long-time ISB readers already know, I’m a big enough fan of hers that I will buy literally anything she cares to draw. She could do Gambit and Wonder Man Deny the Holocaust and I would be the first person in line to put $3.99 down for it. She’s just that good. So artwise, this thing is top notch, and worth the money alone just to look at.

As to the stories themselves, they’re the mixed bag that usually comes with an anthology title. The standout for me, though–aside from Coover’s introduction–was Lucy Knisley’s Dr. Octopus story, which took up a quick two pages with some fun sight gags that woudld’ve been equally at home in Marvel’s last anthology, the indie-friendly Strange Tales. Beyond that, though, a couple of the stories just flat-out Aren’t My Thing, including the X-Men story by Devin Grayson that… well, it’s certainly a story by Devin Grayson all right.

And then there’s Valerie D’Orazio.

The fact that I don’t personally care for D’Orazio is one of the ISB’s worst-kept secrets–it was the entire joke behind her interviewing me about Solomon Stone last year–but if Marvel wants to hire loudmouthed comics bloggers to write their comics, that can only be a good thing for me, so good on her for getting the work. But even so, the antipathy’s there, and along with the fact that there’s nothing to keep me from swallowing my own tongue and dying when the inevitable rage-induced aneurysm hit, it’s one of the reasons that I’m opting out of reviewing Punisher Max: Butterfly this week, as you can never really trust someone with an axe to grind. With the Girl Comics story, however, the problem is one that I think I can be a little more objective about.

It’s certainly the best comic D’Orazio’s written so far, but as it’s the only one that doesn’t feature some version of herself in the starring role, it sort of wins that dubious honor by default. To be fair, it does have a pretty nice first page, although the idea of Frank Castle being on the other end of a Chris Hansen-esque Instant Messenger conversation is one that already seems a little played out. Also, the subterfuge of it doesn’t really feel like the sort of thing the Punisher would do. If nothing else, he’s direct, and always struck me as the kind of character that would be more about action rather than laying a trap that did not explicitly involve ordnance, even one as simple as registering for Facebook. But again, that’s just my interpretation as a guy who’s read an awful lot of Punisher comics, and hell, if he can be a Frankenstein, he can be “sadprincess14.” So yeah: The first page is just fine. The problem is that there are pages after it.

That’s not sarcasm, either: With the punchline that comes at the end of the first page, D’Orazio has told her entire story. From the moment Frank Castle shows up on the other end of the chat, you know how it ends, and yet it drags on for another three pages. Admittedly, you could argue that we know how every Punisher story ends–Garth Ennis’s landmark run on the title is entirely predicated on there being nothing that can stop the Punisher from killing the people he’s going to kill–but the other three pages just don’t add anything to the narrative. It’s the exact, literal, no-subtext-necessary ending that you expect right from the start, with the only surprise being that the normally terse Punisher actually offers a few pleasantries and talks about flowers. It’s a four-page story that ends on page one and then lingers, doing nothing but taking up space.

It’s not terrible, per se, but it is aggressively, pointedly mediocre, especially for a story described by the writer as “a little unsettling at first, then darkly humorous.” But again, to be fair, with the exception of a couple of the prestige-format one-shots, I’ve read every single Punisher comic Marvel’s put out, and this is by no means the worst I’ve ever read.

That would be Butterfly.



And that’s the week. I’ll be giving a few more of my thoughts on this week’s books on the next episode of Ajax, but if you’ve got any thoughts on this week’s books, or if you’re like me and just want an excuse to use the phrase “multiple Deathloks,” feel free to leave a comment below.

The Week In Ink: February 24, 2010

Hey guys, you know what my favorite Daft Punk song is?



That’s right, it’s… Well, actually, it’s probably Digital Love now that I think of it, but that’s not going to stop me from doing these comics reviews One More Time!

I have to admit, though, this is as close as the Week In Ink has come to just plain not happening. Between putting up the first chapter of the senses-shattering second issue of Solomon Stone, the launch of Awesome Hospital, the new ongoing webcomic that I’m doing with Chad Bowers, Matt Digges and Josh Krach, and figuring out how to work plugs for all of those into this paragraph, I just wasn’t feeling up to it.

But let’s give it a shot anyway, with another round of the Internet’s Most Lethargic Comics Reviews!



Batman and Robin #9: I think I’ve made it clear that I’m in the tank for Grant Morrison on Batman to the point where I should probably just stop talking about it, but man oh man, you guys, this story has been absolutely fantastic.

Everything about it–this issue especially–is just pure fun. Batwoman’s willingness to kill herself because she’s confident that Batman can bring her back, the interplay between Dick and Kate at the end, the Knight’s Kirby-Mace… Hell, It’s Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart doing a story that guest-stars the Knight and Squire and Batwoman, and it’s about an evil Batman made by Darkseid that talks like one of the animals from We3.

And Stewart pulls it off, too. It’s not just that it’s good art–although it is that, from the splash page that captures the ersatz Batman’s menace to smaller things, like his take on Batwoman’s wig and the cheery, manic smile she shows off after she comes out of the Lazarus pit–but it’s well thought-out. The biggest criticism of the previous arc was how cluttered and incomprehensible the art got, but Stewart turns in a clean comic that beautifully uses its layouts to tell the story, gridding out the talky scenes and then breaking into jagged, overlapping panels for the action. It’s a simple trick, but it’s one that works, and it works perfectly.

Basically, It’s one thrown car battery and a Herbie Popnecker away from being a perfect storm of everything I love about comics.


The Tick New Series #2: And speaking of beautifully drawn comics that are pure fun, I finally got my hands on the second issue of Benito Cereno and Les McClaine’s Tick series, and honestly: If you’re not reading this book, I can only assume that you are a robot assassin from the future who is incapable of feeling this hu-mon emotion called joy.

This issue’s main plot is a great, City-wide chase scene as the Tick tries to track down a stolen gem, and while there are some fantastic gags–Arthur’s imagined headstones when the Tick asks for his wings still cracked me up the third time through–but the real gem comes in the subplot Benito’s been running through the series with Chairface in Prison, which culminates in Chairface being sent to the Little Big House, the prison inside of prison for people who break the laws of prison. The absolute absurdity of it mixed with the deadpan way that it’s set up and delivered is just perfect, and the only thing I don’t like is that it’s another two months before I get to read the next one.

So seriously, pick it up. It’s worth it.


Starman Omnibus v.4: Despite my antipathy for a lot of James Robinson’s recent work, I’ve still got an incredible amount of affection for Starman, and for me at least, it really holds up well. So needless to say, I’ve been enjoying reading through the new Omnibus Hardcovers
, but this volume was the one I was worried about.

See, the thing about Starman is that with the weird way that DC originally did the trades, the only way to get the complete story was to track down all the issues, and while that sounds pretty simple, it was a little more complex than just putting together the eighty-issue run of Starman itself. You could do that at any convention for less than a hundred bucks–less than fifty if you got lucky in the quarter bins–but with the complexity of the story Robinson & Co. were telling and the wide-flung net that he threw out during the ’90s, getting the whole of Starman meant tracking down Annuals, 80-Page Giants, one issue of The Justice Society Returns, the Shade stories that ran in Showcase, the Mist one-shot from the Girlfrienzy fifth week event, and so on, then figuring out where they all intersected with the main story chronologically. It’s a little tricky–the first time I read through the run I had no idea why Jack Knight went to space, because I was missing an Annual–and I’m pretty sure the people in charge of putting the hardcovers together know that, as one of the promises they made when the Omnibuses were first solicited was that they were going to have everything.

And so far, they’ve been doing pretty good on that: They’ve thrown in the Showcase stories, the Annuals, the Shade mini-series and the Mist story, but with this one, they’ve done it one better: Not only does it have Jerry Ordway and Peter Krause’s issues of Power of Shazam to complete the “Lightning and Stars” crossover, it’s also got the completely unnecessary two-issue Batman / Hellboy / Starman miniseries too! Heck, there’s even a Tony Harris Hellboy on the back cover. So rock on, DC. You’re doin’ it right.



And that’s what I’m about this week. As always, if you feel like talking about anything from this week, like Jonathan Hickman and Dale Eaglesham’s jam-packed recent work on Fantastic Four or the excellent stuff Paul Tobin’s been putting into Marvel Adventures Spider-Man, feel free to leave a comment below!