Chris vs. Previews: May 2008, Round One

All right then: Now that this year’s round of free comics are over and done with, it’s time once again to take a look at the ones you have to pay for!



And pay for them you will, so that I can put food on the table for little Cobra Commander and Barda, the children that I will probably not be having sometime in the vague, distant future.

Yes, it’s another look at 573 pages of stuff you don’t need, and while I usually knock these things in somewhere between “dismissive” and “outright insulting,” there’s actually a lot of stuff I’m excited about this month. Let’s get to it with the major publishers!



Dark Horse Comics


P.32 – Criminal Macabre: Cell Block 666 #1:



Fixed that for you.


P.51 – Achewood: The Great Outdoor Fight: I’ll be honest with you, folks: Despite the fact that a couple of my friends–like Dr. K and Ken Lowery–swear by Achewood, I’ll confess that I just don’t see what the appeal is. I mean, I’ve seen a couple that are pretty funny, but on the whole, I just don’t get it, and I’ve long since just dropped it into the category of things that Just Aren’t For Me. However, with the fun I’ve been having with Dark Horse’s reprints of webcomics lately–like the Perry Bible Fellowship, which has a second volume solicited on p.52–I’m willing to give it another shot. After all, if there’s anything that’s gonna get me on the Achewood train, it’ll be this…



…which promises to be “the story of three days, three acres, three thousand men.” Consider my interest piqued.


DC Comics


P.75 – Ambush Bug: Year None #1: Hey everybody! Ambush Bug’s back! And it’s a good thing, too. I mean, it’s an election year, after all…



…and we need all the votes we can get.

For those of you wondering why a small portion of the comics-reading public is excited about this, I’ll explain. In addition to featuring Minimum-Wage Darkseid, there’s an issue of Keith Giffen and Robert Loren Fleming’s Ambush Bug that’s essentially the comics blogger internet twenty years ahead of its time, in which Jonni DC–Continuity Cop!–goes through a list of now-standard punchlines like Rex the Wonder Dog. It’s great, and it’s exactly the kind of fun stuff that’s always welcome in my comics, so I’m really looking forward to this one.


P.82 – Batgirl #1: Huh. Eight years into this thing, and you’d think she’d finally get a real mask.

Anyway, I’ve always liked the Cassandra Cain Batgirl and despite the fact that it was decried by alleged fans as being about two steps below sacrilege, I really enjoyed Adam Beechen’s previous work on her during his run on Robin. I actually loved those issues and thought they were perfectly logical, but now that she’s redeemed–thus preserving the validity of fan-fiction everywhere–I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with her now.


P.102 – INVASION! TP: Oh hell yes. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the greatest DC Crossover of all time:



That’s right, folks: INVASION! The comic so good that they put the exclamation point right there in the title because they know you’re gonna need one. Three months, three issues, and eighty pages each of pure, unadulterated Mantlotainment. In fact, to my knowledge, this is Mantlo’s only major work for DC, and while a lot of the affection I have for the series comes from the fact that its tie-ins include issues John Ostrander Suicide Squad, Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League and Morrison Animal Man–none of which are included, but all of which are worth tracking down–I’m pretty sure he manages to cram the fun and excitement of eighty issues of ROM into 240 pages of Superman punching out Daxamites.

Seriously, it’s awesome. Get it.


P.106 – Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! #1: True Story: Five years ago, I’m down in Atlanta, working this tiny convention with my pals Chad and Tug. It’s the first con I ever went to, and since there wasn’t much action at the booth–and like six guys to watch it–I spent most of my time finishing up a run of Starman and getting my first con sketches from Phil “The Nicest Man In Comics” Hester.

So at one point, Tug and I are walking around, and I ask him who the guy next to Hester is, because his name sounds so familiar, and Tug says: “That’s Mike Kunkel. He does Herobear and the Kid.”

“Oh, okay. I should get a sketch from him.”

“Yeah, you should. Hey, you know what he’d be awesome for? Captain Marvel.”

“Oh, dude. Totally.”

And so I did, and he was:



Now the interesting part here is that when he was done drawing the sketch, he handed it back to me with the issue of Who’s Who I’d provided as reference and told me that he’d never drawn Captain Marvel before, but it was a lot of fun and he’d like to do it again sometime.

And now you know… the rest of the story. Neat, huh?


Image Comics


P.160 – American Flagg! HC: Hey, wasn’t this thing supposed to have come out already? Like three years ago? From a different company?

Anyway, confession time: Despite the fact that it’s considered to be one of the big cornerstone independent comics of ’80s–and another one of those things my friends swear by–I’ve never read an issue of American Flagg!. Believe me, though: It’s not for lack of trying. Runs aren’t that easy to come by in my neck of the woods, and the last time I saw one all together was right after the new hardcovers were solicited the first time, when I had no idea that I’d be waiting this freakin’ long to get my hands on it. Still, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and even though Chaykin’s current work is… well, not my speed, everyone tells me this one’s awesome.

Besides, it’s got an exclamation point in the title, and I think I’ve made my feelings about that pretty clear.


P.168 – Noble Causes #36: Jay Faerber wants you to read Noble Causes.

I mean, of course he does: He’s the writer and creator of the book after all, and so I’m pretty sure he’s got as much of a vested professional and financial interest in increasing readership as anybody, but with him, it goes beyond that. He really wants you to read Noble Causes. Why else would he and artist Yildiray Cinar be working so hard to make it better with each issue, and offering up a fresh, “five years later” jumping on point with the last two issues, which should still be available at your friendly local comic book shop? Because he cares folks. And he wants you to be happy.


P.181 – Pilot Season: The Core #1: Normally, I just flip right through the Top Cow section because… Well, because it’s fucking Top Cow. This time, though, they’ve got a one-shot written by Jonathan Hickman that sounds an awful lot like Mass Effect, and, well, that’s two things I like!


Marvel Comics


P. 15 – Amazing Spider-Man: Brand New Day Extra!!: Two exclamation points?! Well now you’re just getting ridiculous.

Anyway, the reason Marvel feels the need to put out an extra issue of a book that’s already coming out three times a month is as follows…



…and there’s a pretty good chance that this is not good news, for the simple reason that Joe Kelly hasn’t written anything worth reading in about six years. Seriously, his run on JLA is damn near unreadable, and when you follow that up with Godfall and the astoundingly wretched Justice League Elite, that doesn’t really redeem anything.

However, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was hoping for the best here. After all, he did have a couple of pretty good Superman stories circa 2000 or so, but even more than that, this is the guy who wrote the first run on Deadpool, and those are still some of Marvel’s most purely enjoyable comics–which, incidentally, have never been collected in trade after #4–and there’s a part of me that’s hoping a return to Marvel will spark the fun Joe Kelly. Or at least the one that was readable.


P.20 – Captain America: White: Huh. Nobody really thought that title through, did they?


P.23 – Fantastic Four: True Story #1: I’ve mentioned before that while there’s something just a little bit flat about Paul Cornell’s Wisdom, but that it’s worth reading for the High Concepts alone, which figure around a Skrull impersonating John Lennon battling an army of interdimensional Jacks The Ripper at the behest of the Martians from War of the Worlds. It’s the kind of story that there’s something just slightly off about, and while I hope this one–and the upcoming MI-13–work out a little better, they’ve all still got that feeling where if I just sat you down and told you what happened rather than you reading it, it’d sound like the greatest comic book ever. And that, I think, makes it pretty easy to write solicitations:

“A threat to the minds of the whole human race sends the FF somewhere they’ve never been before: into the realm of Fiction itself! Where Ben finds himself clobbering a demonic army to save the cast of Sense and Sensibility!”

That sounds awesome.


P.28 – Immortal Iron Fist #17: So.. huh. I gotta be honest, folks: This one does not exactly fill me with confidence for the new direction on Iron Fist, and since I don’t really know the first thing about Duane Swierczynski, it all comes down to Travel Foreman.

Don’t get me wrong: I love Foreman’s work on Ares and the stuff that he’s already done on IIF in previous issues, but when you get right down to it, this



…just seems an awful lot like this:




And on that horrifying note, I’m calling it a night. As always, if anything caught your eye in this month’s Previews, or if you just want to debate whether or not Triple-H will be defending his title in the pages of Uncanny X-Men #500 or just dressing up as Wolverine, feel free to leave a comment.

As for me, I’ll be over here figuring out if I need to purchase Welcome Back, Frank for a fourth time.

Answer: Yes.

54 thoughts on “Chris vs. Previews: May 2008, Round One

  1. “this is Mantlo’s only major work for Marvel”
    Nitpick time! Shouldn’t that be DC?

  2. Achewood’s kinda hit-and-miss for me, too, but The Great Outdoor Fight storyline had me riveted for weeks as it unfolded. Suddenly, a mildly self-satisfied, well-designed funny animal comic became an epic, badass, even heart-tugging action spectacular with real thrills. It’s one of the best comics stories anyone’s ever done on the Web.

    American Flagg! — at least those first 12 issues — is pretty awesome, too. I mean, if you can set aside Howard Chaykin’s pathological need to have all his protagonists be two-fisted liberal Jews who get laid once an issue, like clockwork, there’s some amazingly prescient satire here, plus groundbreaking use of lettering as a design element. Also: talking, piano-playing badass cat.

    As for Joe Kelly, apparently, writing Spidey’s been a longtime dream of his. His Deadpool run rocked, so I have faith he’ll return to form here.

  3. That FF solicitation sounds an awful lot like The Four’s Fictionaut project in Planetary. Maybe Elijah Snow will show up.

  4. I dunno. I don’t see the Iron Fist resemblance.

    You know what would’ve been pretty cool? Triple H as Sabretooth in that new Wolverine movie they’re making. Liev Schrieber’s not really what I’m looking for in a Sabretooth.

  5. The Great Outdoor Fight is Genius, and I don’t mean that figuratively. I mean it literally is Genius.

    Achewood as a whole is brilliant, the early strips are a little rough, but here’s a protip if TGODF captures your fancy.

    To my mind the series didn’t really find it’s voice until Roast Beef was introduced, The characters the strip were based around before became supporting after that. Go back to his beginning, and Achewood becomes a truly rewarding experience.

    There’s stuff in there that’s truly haunting. Like Faulkner in miniature.

    “All souls was taken. All souls did burn.”

  6. Well, Darkseid should have known that the Anti-Life Equation is really found in the 11 herbs and spices of KFC.

    Silly New God, you’re looking at the wrong franchise!

  7. I second the Achewood love. I only discovered it recently and have been spending the last month reading through six years’ worth of archives, starting from The Party storyline. (I tried the really early stuff and they didn’t do it for me.) Chris Onstad is truly an astounding creator.

  8. Eso no tiene ningún sentido; el bromista está loco sí mismo y no debe ser alowed para funcionar un asilo.

    Voy a pegarme con el puño del hierro en la esperanza que otras voluntad también de modo que incluso si el funcionamiento no vive hasta las mayores niveles de Bru/Fraction/Aja’s que por lo menos la maravilla le tomará seriamente como grada title/character del no-fondo.

    Hm, pienso que estoy sufriendo de un cierto retraso que comenta del wierd.

  9. Ambush bug suffers from a number of mental problems and is unable to comprehend reality around him – of course he’s a Democrat!

  10. Achewood never appealed to me. But this is the storyline that I remember reading about all over the place when it was going on. And nearly everyone was using the same words to describe one of its climaxes. Five words that seemed designed specificly to get Sims to read this comic…

    “He ripped his face off.”

  11. With shots of the new art floating around now, I’m leaning pretty heavily towards Iron Fist = dropped

  12. i’ve been having real awful dreams about giant apocalyptic machinery

    just mowing us all down

  13. Joe Kelly’s Superman/Batman Annuals were good. I liked the first one more than the second if only because of Deathstroke’s motor-mouthed, wise-cracking alternate-reality counterpart with a super healing factor who was totally not Deadpool.

  14. But isn’t Ambush Bug a convicted felon and therefore not eligible to vote?

  15. Let’s not forget Joe Kelly’s “stellar” Supergirl run, which included a scene with Supergirl making out with a doppelganger of her cousin, as well as developing the new power of having spikes protrude from her body. The horror!!

  16. Nitpick time! Shouldn’t that be DC?

    I have no idea what you’re talking about. It says DC… just as it always has.

  17. The Ambush Bug comics of olde tymes are the pinnacle of Awesome.

    If I were offered a deal whereby DC would put out a six-issue Bug miniseries in exchange for me burning down the entire comic book industry, I would do it.

    It’s that awesome.

  18. I’m kinda bummed that I saw that Iron Fist art. When did heavy line work become a substitute for competent inking?

  19. Joe Kelly last superman annual was great.
    Spider-Man is perfect for him.

  20. The first thing I noticed about “Invasion!”

    “Wow.. is that a giant yellow-skinned guy, with the japanese flag on his forehead, reaching out a clawed hand to crush the Earth?”

    I don’t think even Frank Miller would go that far. It reminds me a lot of the WWII & Vietnam-era American comics.. When was Invasion first released? It looks 80sish, at a guess.

  21. On Iron Fist:
    Yeah, Foreman’s art looks just like that 90’s IF Cover.

    …Only well-drawn, and not an unintelligible mess.

    I’d hit that.

    (But I like David Aja’s Iron Fist costume better)

  22. Honestly, does no one care about Iron Fist’s new costume? I have not seen a trace of it in New Avengers. Who do I have to blame?

  23. …logical? Beechan’s Batgirl?

    Everything about her heel turn violates long established facts about her character, from her inability to read to her relationship with her father.

    If anything, it was the Robin arc that read like bad fanfiction.

  24. Seriously, his run on JLA is damn near unreadable

    What what whaaaaaaaaat

    “The Obsidian Age” and “Trial By Fire” are two of my favorite JLA stories ever. I am not even slightly kidding.

  25. Should I be cynical that DC release a trade about an alien invasion just at this time?

    Screw it, Mantlo+Daxamites+JLI= I’m there

  26. I have to agree with you about Joe Kelly. I really liked his Deadpool but found his JLA largely unintelligible. I passed on the JL Elite entirely.

  27. The new Iron Fist stuff looks scary, but I will give it a chance as I always do.

    Its funny that you mention The Core comic sounding like Mass Effect, cause I said the same thing on Hickman’s website. It seems odd to me that no one else caught how similar they are.

  28. (Secret Transcript from inside Marvel Comics)

    “Oh so what are we gonna call this new Loeb/Sale Cap book?”

    “Well he’s got three colors sir, Red, White and Blue.”

    “Yeah, yeah-well we already used Blue with the Spider-Man book, so let’s go with White”

    “Well actually don’t you think…”

    “Red doesn’t seem right, what can I say? When I think of Cap I think WHITE”

    “Um sir, are you sure that this is the way you want to go? It sounds awful….”

    “What are you talking about? What’s wrong with White? You’re saying White doesn’t describe Cap? All that purity and honest patriotism and…”

    “Sir, you REALLY need to stop now…”

    “No, no White it is. I see no problems with this.”

  29. Just wanted to echo what others have said. The Great Outdoor Fight is amazing. It is however, by far the best thing the strip has produced. (And I still regularly enjoy the comic.) Its really the only thing worth owning as of yet.


  30. I’ll redundantly reiterate the love for Achewood, but since I find it consistantly hilarious, I may not be reliable. It’s precisely the kind of humour that won’t appeal to everyone. And yeah, the strip really revolves around the Ray-Roast Beef relationship, so it’s kinda weird that they don’t appear until several months in.

    But I have a really, really hard time imagining Chris not loving The Great Outdoor Fight, even if he’s “meh” on the rest of the strip.

  31. I agree with your sentiments on Joe Kelly but he wrote one of the absolute best Spider-man stories I’ve ever read in the more or less forgotten Webspinners series. Check out seven through nine. I GUARANTEE you will not be disappointed.

  32. wouldn’t “Captain America: Red” sound a little weird, too?
    but i’d love a “Captain America: Filthy Commie Scum”

  33. I’m not going to say everyone should read Achewood. But I will say this: if Achewood has any chance of appealing to someone, the Great Outdoor Fight is the absolute best first thing to read.

  34. “Boneman Says:

    “But isn’t Ambush Bug a convicted felon and therefore not eligible to vote?”

    More evidence Ambie’s a ‘Crat…

  35. Speaking as a two-fisted liberal Jew (no lie), its worth getting the initial Chaykin run on this. I re-read it recently and it still (mostly) stands up.

    That said, I am notorious for saying that few good comics have come out since 1988, so also read (re-read) Miracle man, Swamp Thing, Scout, Badger, Nexus, etc…and others you likely have in TB/HC as well.

  36. ykw and boneman–

    Just to be clear, only 10 states fully disenfranchise felons that have served their sentences. In the rest, you get the right to vote back once you’ve served your debt to society.


    Dear God, I hope that’s irony in your post. Otherwise, you have not been paying attention to the last 8 years in the United States.

  37. Off-topic: Chris, if you don’t regularly get Countdown to Mystery, you’re gonna wanna pick up #7 before you do the Week in Ink. Someone’s pandering to you.

  38. Frank, how did you get access to Joey Q’s personal files?

    =) Glad I’m not the only one the title bothered.

  39. Got to echo thatguy’s sentiment, Chris. I look at the last storyarc of Batgirl and then look at the story we got in Robin and I’m scratching my head about the “logic” in it.

  40. I unreservedly recommend American Flagg book to you, Chris… with the following reservation:

    When it First (har! har!) came out in 1983, it was radically different than just about anything else on the shelves. Not just the graphics.

    Almost everyone in it is an anti-hero, rather than a hero. Compared to a Marvel and DC lineup where the whole grim & gritty trend was just in the offing (Miller’s “Born Again” run in Daredevil was coming out concurrently), it was different. Everyone in the book was knee-deep in cynicism (and nekkid women.)

    We were slack-jawed in awe, and we loved it.

    25 years later, an initial impression is probably going to be more jaded. (Particularly since everything Chaykin did before 2000 felt like a Flagg! retread.)

    I’ll look forward to your take on it.

  41. PS

    “Al Gordon used to be my gardener! I taught him how to speak English! Now he worships me like a god!”

    Giffen and Fleming on Ambush Bug. Thank you, Lord.

    (But I’ll miss Julie doing the editing.)

  42. Duane Swierczynski on Iron Fist caught my eye- can’t say I know much about him, but he was, until recently, the editor of one of the alt-weekly papers here in Philly. I think he left to write novels and comics full time- I know he has written several crime/noir novels but haven’t read anything by him.