The Week In Ink: April 2, 2008

While all the Caddyshacking we’ve been up to this week at the ISB has been fun, it’s time once again to get things back to normal. Or at least, what passes for normal around here, and I think we all know what that is:



Because really, if there’s anything that says “a return to normalcy,” it’s Spider-Man putting the boots to a gang of Kabuki Snowsuit Fighters.

Why? Because it’s Thursday night, and that means it’s time once again for another round of the Internet’s Most Foolish Comics Reviews! Here’s what I picked up this week..



…but was I merely a foolish fool on a fool’s errand to fool myself with foolish foolishness? Read on, Franziska. Read on.





Amazing Spider-Man #555: I may have mentioned this once or twice before, but seriously, you guys? I love Spider-Man. What I don’t love, however, is when Spider-Man whines constantly, and this issue delivers that like it’s going out of style.

Admittedly, a little bit of the old Parker self-pity is a necessary part of the character, and a lot of the best classic Spider-Man stories–which are no doubt providing the template for what the current run’s doing its best to recapture–involve a healthy dose of griping, which is to be expected. Heck, most of the character’s appeal comes from the fact that he’s the original hard-luck hero, but more often than not, the complaining quickly gives way to actual super-heroism. With this issue, though, it’s non-stop: He complains about the fight that he’s in, he complains about being out of cereal, he complains about Wolverine, he complains about his job, and worst of all, he complains when someone asks him to go save someone’s life. He even complains about the weather, but, well, everybody does that, so that one doesn’t really count.

Point being: Zeb Wells spends the first issue of his arc showing us a character that does nothing but whine about everything, and that doesn’t exactly make for an enjoyable protagonist, especially when we just came through an arc where he made a deal with Satan so that he wouldn’t have to stand around reflecting on what a hassle it was to be living with his gorgeous supermodel wife instead of his doddering, wheatcake-slinging aunt.


Anna Mercury #1: So, I had a dream about Anna Mercury last night, and believe it or not, it was actually weirder than it sounds.

See, I was reading the first issue of Final Crisis, and when I got to the end, Superman was like “There’s only one person who can help us now,” and then he stepped aside and Anna Mercury walked into the Justice League Watchtower. It turned out that Final Crisis was going to end up being a huge crossover between Grant Morrison’s DCU and all of the projects Warren Ellis has done for Avatar over the past couple of years, because I think maybe DC had just bought Avatar for some reason? I’m not sure how that part worked, because even when you factor in dream logic, that’s just weird.

And here’s the really weird part: I didn’t read Anna Mercury until this afternoon, which marks the first time I’ve had a dream about a comic book that I haven’t even read yet, although to be fair, it’s not the first dream I’ve had where I’m sitting around reading comics. Clearly, I need to either find a new hobby or see about getting on a stringent program of antipsychotic medication.

As for the comic itself, well, it stinks. Literally, I mean; sometimes the ink Avatar uses is pretty ripe, and it’s awfully hard to concentrate on getting through a comic when it smells like someone’s tarring a roof next door while you’re trying to read. Still, it’s not as bad as the first printing of Dark Horse Book of Hauntings, which was bound with glue that smelled like a swamp made of murders, but in this case, the medium does detract a bit from the message. If you can get past that, though, it’s the typically engaging science-action you’d expect from a Warren Ellis Avatar project. And if my dreams are any indication, I’m sure it’ll be highly collectible.


Buffy the Vampire Slayer #13: You know, this might just be the Johnny Ryan fan in me talking, but I would totally read Joss Whedon Presents The Adventures of Racist Dracula.

Believe it.


Casanova #13: Right, so we’re all reading Casanova, right? Of course we are: It’s written by Friend of the ISB and Honorary Dreadnok Matt Fraction, it’s drawn by Fabio Moon, and it’s at least a dollar cheaper than anything else that comes out monthly.

Even if it was twice as much, though, it’s still be worth every penny and more, and this issue shows exactly why. I’ve admitted before to being a sucker for simple, well-done gimmicks, and while the distinctive color scheme for each story arc (black and white with green highlights in the first volume, black and white with blue for this one) and the way that Fraction and Moon break the pattern by setting this issue’s flashbacks in the color scheme that matches the first volume falls into that category, it indicates an underlying attention to detail and craft that you just don’t see a lot of. And of course, it doesn’t hurt that the story surrounding the flashbacks is one of the most thrilling and engaging stories you’re likely to find, either.

But of course, we all knew that, because we’re all reading Casanova already, right? Right.


Countdown Special: Kamandi: And speaking of things we should all own, I’m essentially just listing this here in case anyone didn’t see the eye-catching Ryan Sook cover featuring the greatest hero to ever sport Daisy Dukes, but while we’re on the subject, it’s confession time: This is actually the first time I’ve ever read these stories.

Up ’til now, the only of Kamandi issues that I own are the ones where he crosses over with Karate Kid, and those aren’t even Kirby stories. And while there are a couple of archives available, dropping a hundred bucks seems like a pretty daunting prospec, even for me.

I now realize, however, that these are just excuses, because if the stories reprinted in the Special are any indication, then Kamandi is a comic book featuring nothing but a boy rolling around in a post-apocalyptic future and punching out animals. And really, outside of OMAC, there’s no better comic for me than that.





Jack Staff #15: I’ve said before–pretty much every time it came out–that if Jack Staff was coming out monthly, it’d be the best comic on the market and, well, here we are. Jack Staff‘s coming out monthly, and it is, in fact, the best comic book on the market.

There’s not a whole lot more I can say about it than that, but what the heck, let’s give it a shot: Simply put, Paul Grist’s work on this series is everything great about comics–and not just super-hero stories, but the medium itself–boiled down and done at the same time. The technical stuff alone–Grist’s page layouts and storytelling, the emotion and action he’s able to express with his deceptively simple figures–would set him apart as one of the greats, but even among his own work, Jack Staff stands out for the sheer amount that he works into each issue.

This issue, for instance, features the Druid, Bramble & Son, Zipper Nolan, Detective Inspector Maveryk, and Becky Burdock at two different points in her life, all in their own independent storylines that’ll come crashing in on each other by the time it’s all said and done, and this is one of the slow issues. I mean, it doesn’t even have Helen Morgan and the Agents of Q, Alfred Chinnaird, The Claw, or even Tom Tom the Robot Man. But that’s okay: I’m pretty sure they’re all in the next one.

If it sounds like I’ve gone over the line from a positive review to out-and-out gushing, there’s a good reason for it: Jack Staff is my favorite comic, and if you’ve never read it, then you’re missing out on one of the great underappreciated masterpieces of modern comic. So if you haven’t, jump on, and if you have, what the hey? Give it another read. It holds up.





Iron Man: Doomquest HC: I was having a conversation with some of my friends about Iron Man the other day–because, y’know, I’m the kind of guy who has conversations about Iron Man with his friends–and it came up that for such a prominent, long-running character, there really aren’t that many “essential” Iron Man stories out there. When it comes right down to it, there are only about six, and if you read those, you know everything you need to know about Tony Stark.

Then again, you can pretty much just listen to the theme song from the ’60s cartoon that identifies him as a cool exec with a heart of steel and get the gist, so that might not be saying much.

Point being, on the short list of ol’ Shellhead’s necessary adventures, Doomquest sits right at the top, because it’s the one where Iron Man and Dr. Doom travel back in time to the Age of Camelot to slug it out Middle-Ages style. It’s one of the classics of the Marvel Universe, and–along with the sequel that came a hundred issues later, which is also included in the hardcover–is surpassed only by the majesty that is Armor Wars II. And even that didn’t have a scene where Dr. Doom considers vaporizing a string quartet for not rocking hard enough.

So yeah. Pretty awesome.



And that’s the week. As always, any questions, comments, or people pretending to be surprised that I’m enjoying Wildstorm Revelations as much as I am can be left in the comments section below, and just to head things off at the pass, Secret Invasion was better than I expected, but still pretty terrible.

So until next time, ain’t nobody dope as me!

34 thoughts on “The Week In Ink: April 2, 2008

  1. I’m shamed to admit, I’m not reading Jack Staff or Cassanova, even though I’m reading every other Matt Fraction book on the market. I found out about it late and then wasn’t sure what a good jumping on point would be. SHould I wait until the end of the current arc, or just start buying now?

  2. Conversely, I am proud to admit I own the entire original run of Kamandi, even though I’ve only read up to #30 or so. So despite the nice Sook cover, no need for the Kamandi special for me.

  3. Secret Invasion show that, while Reed and Tony are probably the smartest guys in Earth-616, they’re also the Earth-616’s biggest morons. come on, how could they have fallen for the exact same trick twice?

  4. Thank you for pinning down exactly what I found annoying about Amazing Spider-Man #555 that I couldn’t put my finger on. Whine, whine, whine. You’re married to a freakin’ supermodel and all you do is…

    Oh wait. Nevermind.

  5. Totally Agree on the Racist Dracula.

    I like it when a character who isn’t necessarily a villian has some sort of character flaw that would normally make people cringe, but we have to sort of go with.

    I know people who are only 50 or 60 years old who kinda come off as racist…so imagine a fella from a few hundred years ago-not surprising at all, really.

  6. The whole set up with Xander and Drac was beautiful, but yeah, the comedy stylings of racist Dracula were the funniest thing I’ve read since– the gag with everyone find Buffy and Satsu post coitus last issue. Was Cloverfield this laugh out loud funny? I didn’t get that vibe from the previews. The only thing it was lacking was a Racist Frankenstein cameo (I say that assuming Chris gets the reference, because it would shatter my faith in a just universe if he hasn’t seen and enjoyed Minoriteam).

  7. Also, I was gonna skip this arc of Amazing anyway, because Bachallo’s art tends to make my eyes bleed. Glad to see that I’m not missing a lot. The funny thing is, Zeb Wells was one of the few creators to come by CBR’s Spider-Man board when I was modding it years ago. He was pretty cool, so I was going to pick up his arc because of that. But, you know, the eye bleeding.

  8. I know Bachalo is now famous for overthought clutter and not actually, like, making the story flow, but I’ll forgive any of his ‘quirks’ due to reading Generation X in my formative years, which really looked amazing considering the art on other ‘mainstream’ comics back then. Also, I read aw the Shade back issues in my ‘sad art student’ years.

    Oh, Bachalo! You are very good at individual panels! And draw great hands!

    Jack Staff and Casanova are aboot the only two comics I wait for the trade with, but they’re both gonnae be ages, eh?

  9. If scientists were to synthesize a perfect comic for the ISB, it would look a lot like Kamandi. An angry, desperate kid with a gun trapped in the middle of a senseless war between talking tigers and gorillas, riding a giant mutant grasshopper at Hialeah racetrack, going up against robot gangsters from 1920s Chicago, picking up old copies of The Demon in wrecked shopping malls, protected by patronizing lions in a nature reserve for humans–it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.

    The Superman suit issue reprinted in the special is a high point among high points, though.

  10. So what *are* the other great Iron Man stories? I remember really liking the Busiek run, but haven’t had much exposure to series otherwise.

    Yet somehow I’ve read “The Crossing.” Yikes.

  11. what in the Seven Hells is “Spider: Robot Titans of Gotham”? it sounds AMAZING. Spider, Robot, Titans, and Gotham are four major buzz words for me.

  12. I think racist Dracula earned it. I mean, what with getting raped as a little boy and all.

  13. Buy ps238!

    Every time you say this, I take a copy off the shelf and throw it away so that someone else can’t buy it either.

    So what *are* the other great Iron Man stories?

    Demon in a Bottle, Armor Wars, Armor Wars II, Iron Man #200, and if you want to keep current, Extremis. I also like Hypervelocity, but that’s less about Tony Stark and more about the armor itself and Adam Warren’s crazy techology fetish.

    what in the Seven Hells is “Spider: Robot Titans of Gotham”?

    The MMPB edition of the adventures of pulp hero The Spider (yes, the Master of Men), which is crazy thick and seven bucks. I originally discussed it here, it it sounds totally awesome.

  14. Wow, I couldn’t disagree more about the whining. I thought it was simple, “whaddaya gonna do?” whining as opposed to slathering on the misery with a trowel that other writers like to do. At least Peter didn’t hurt anybody with his stupid unlike the last arc.

  15. Oh rats! I forgot to mention that a new issue of Comic Foundry came out this week.

    Watch for that in next week’s reviews.

  16. Oh, man, Iron Man #150 is the only Iron Man issue I own, because really, how can you go wrong with, “Trapped in the time-lost land of King Arthur- Iron Man battles Doctor Doom!”? If the sheer WTF-ness doesn’t get your comic heart beating my friends, well, I just don’t know.

    (Taking this issue out of ye olde comic box to copy the blurb, after over 10 years of owning this comic, I still said out loud, “What??” Genius.)

  17. I’ll leave the specifics of a Comic Foundry to you, but I found the second to be better than the first.

  18. Iron Man #250 has the money scene, though. Doom tries to lift Excalibur. Can’t. Iron Man lifts it easily.

    Doom: “This is NOT the way to get on my good side!”

  19. “Every time you say this, I take a copy off the shelf and throw it away so that someone else can’t buy it either.”

    When did you have your heart replaced by a cold, mechanical monstrosity? Or to put it simpler, when did you become Kevin Church?

  20. I’m with you on Paul Grist, Chris… as long as we’re talking Kane. That was the series that made me goggle every month.

    I went into Jack Staff with nothing but good intentions, but it’s just so… busy. I gave up on it after about 5 issues.

    Gotta love Becky Burdock, though.

  21. PS

    The alternate Buffy cover with Drac on the cycle and Xander in the sidecar: Genius.

  22. Mister Sims!

    I can’t believe I’ve been taking your “comics commentary” all this time, blissfully unaware you were bereft of the Kamandi experience.
    And you say you love comics…

  23. So! Have you been hired yet to do the show-blog for, say, the Comcast program listings channel?

  24. Must read Iron Man stories? How about “The Power Of Iron Man!” from Tales to Astonish #82? Gene Colan gets ill and can only do two pages of the story, so they draft in Jack Kirby who knocks out 10 pages of Iron Man and the Sub-Mariner fighting that have to be seen to be believed.
    Also re dreams about of my regrets is that when someone offered to show me a Superman graphic novel that Manet had created I said, “No thanks, I don’t like painted comics.” Curse my stern principles!

  25. Holy crap, you aren’t kidding about Anna Mercury. I had trouble finishing that comic, and can only wonder if the hallucinations fueled by the ink were part of Ellis’ story.