Boy, is it ever Thursday!
Yeah, yeah, I know. But despite the fact that it’s a day late, this is still another round of the Internet’s Most Punctual Comics Reviews!
Here’s what I picked up this week, and say, Jonah… What’s your favorite song by Loudness?
And here’s what I thought about them:
ISB BEST OF THE WEEK
Booster Gold #8: That’s right, folks: Even in a week with Criminal, BPRD and a new issue of Wasteland, the comic I had the most fun reading was Booster Gold. And believe it or not, it’s not entirely because of Wild Dog.
I’ve talked about my surprising affection for Booster Gold before, but it’s always worth going through again. Whether you’re a fan of Geoff Johns or not, you’ve got to admit that a lot of his work is rooted–and occasionally mired–in nostalgia, and while I’ll freely admit that this is pretty much the entire point behind a book like Justice Society of America, it can get a little stale for me when it devolves from acknowledging and building on the past to navel-gazing stagnation. With Booster Gold, though, the end result is something far more exciting with a greater feel of forward momentum and an underlying sense of the pure fun of the DC Universe.
Maybe it’s the time-travel element that allows for past stories to be examined in the characters’ (and the readers’) present, maybe it’s cowriter Jeff Katz just knocking it out of the park on a monthly basis, and maybe–and I’m perfectly willing to entertain this possibility–it’s just the fact that the book’s nostalgic for the same stuff that I like, but it works, and it works well. And in this issue, that last one is pretty well summed up in a thing called The Wild Dog Factor.
Because seriously, you guys? I freakin’ love Wild Dog, and if there’s any character that deserves to return from obscurity, it’s the Quad Cities’ greatest counter-terrorist vigilante. Admittedly, Gorjus wasn’t wrong when he left a comment saying that Wild Dog was mischaracterized–despite his bat-shit crazy appearance, Jack Wheeler is far more methodical and reasonable than his name would suggest–but this is the Wild Dog of a post-apocalyptic alternate present, and going through that sort of thing can put some stress on a guy. Besides, it’s all worth it just to get the line about how he “obliterates everything in a ten foot radius,” punctuated by the sound of him loading up an automatic. That is gold.
And, well, I never liked Pantha anyway.
So, to review: Booster Gold is rapidly becoming one of DC’s best comics, and if you’d like to learn more about Wild Dog, please visit your local library. Or your local quarter bin. And if you see a copy of the Special, grab me one, ’cause it’s the last one I need.
BPRD: 1946 4: Here are two facts about the new issue of BPRD: 1946:
1. There is a splash page in this issue that includes a robot nazi giraffe.
2. This is not even close to being the most awesome thing about this issue.
As much as I love the Hellboy stories that pit the main character against Lovecraftian horrors or obscure folklore–and I do; Makoma is one of my favorites–there’s something that’s undeniably appealing about seeing the BPRD going up against Nazi occultists, and the origin of that conflict is shaping up to be the best BPRD arc since the series started.
I mean, this is a series about Hellboy’s dad fighting Hitler’s vampire army, and while the elements of the series are often clichÃ©s of the genre–heck, they’re even clichÃ©s of Hellboy–Mignola and Dysart’s script is full of moments that are just perfect and scenes that actually create a sense of dread (at least ’til the last page, where it gets awesome), and Paul Azaceta’s heavy, moody art is almost perfect for it. Just fantastic stuff all around.
Comic Foundry #2: I meant to mention this last week, but for those of you who haven’t grabbed it yet, the second issue of the devastatingly handsom Tim Leong’s Comic Foundry hit shelves last week, and it’s even better than the first.
The most obvious change, of course, is that the interior of the magazine is now in color, and while that’s not strictly necessary, it goes a long way to making it more visually appealing than it already was. The rest of the magazine, though, is just an extension of what made the first issue so great: The emphasis in this issue isn’t just on the content of the comics–though there is the almost-mandatory Secret Invasion interview with Brian Bendis where he comes off every bit as pleased with himself as you might expect–but on how they actually work, and, in a lot of interesting articles like the retrospective of James Jean’s album covers, the ways that they interact with other media. Even better is the emphasis on the people behind the comics, and the fact that this is a magazine that went with a photograph of a creator–in this case, ISB Favorite Matt Fraction, whose interview is awesome–rather than a piece of art says a lot about the magazine’s direction. The downside of this, of course, is that you don’t get any articles wondering whether Batman’s seriously for real going to die this year or letting you know about how awesome it was when Wolverine fought his bastard son, but the upshot is that it’s actually really interesting.
What might be surprising, though, is how funny and enjoyable it is, and while other magazines–I won’t name names here, but I’m talking about Wizard–tend to go after the lowest common denominator with an incredible zeal, Foundry‘s fun–and occasionally outright silly–without talking down to its readers.
It’s the same sort of criticism about comics that I wish I could pull off as well as Leong does, and if you’re not already picking it up, it’s well worth a read. And rest assured: I have already emailed Leong about the Jimmy Olsen fashion article and its abject lack of bowties, and he assured me that it won’t happen again.
The part where I email him, I mean. Apparently, there are laws against online harassment. Who knew?
Criminal v.2 #2: And speaking of things that I absolutely love, we have Criminal. Pretty much everyone with a modicum of taste has no doubt already talked about how this is one of the absolute best comics on the market thanks to Ed Brubaker’s brutal, heartbreaking crime stories and Sean Philips’ gorgeous, equally brutal art, but when you get right down to it, it’s almost unfair to compare it to any other comic. It’s just that different.
And not just because only a handful of comics can approach this level of quality; Criminal‘s different right down to its very format. There’s just nothing else out there where a painted wraparound cover opens up on thirty pages of story that are capped off with an illustrated article on writers’ favorite crime stories. Even the solicitations in Previews look completely different from everything else; it’s almost like it’s a whole other medium designed for pure noir-style awesomeness.
And interestingly enough, those articles–which are always, always worth reading and send me heading over to adjust the Netflix queue every time it comes out–aren’t reprinted in the trades, and while the stories themselves make them well worth reading, the suspense of the stories and fact that there’s so much to each issue makes this a book that I’ll always want to get monthly, even while I’m switching out other stuff with trades.
The Goon #23: So in the three months that The Goon has been coming out monthly, Eric Powell has revealed that he has at his disposal: a) Burlesque Dancers, b) a cagefighter, and c) a team of roller derby girls. Clearly, this can mean only one thing:
I hate Eric Powell.
Nah, I’m just kidding. I like Eric Powell just fine, and really, since he’s been doing top-notch work on one of my favorite comics for going on five years now, how could I not? And top-notch it is: Since its return, the Goon has been heading in a more serious direction, and while Powell’s been proving all along that he can pull off tense, engaging character moments, putting the focus on them is a great reminder of how good he actually is. Which isn’t to say that Powell’s abandoned his signature humor entirely. I mean, he’s still doing plots that involve characters whose official team name is “The Little Unholy Bastards,” so that’s not really a possibility.
Number of the Beast #1: I wasn’t originally planning on picking this one up, but I ended up having a surprising amount of fun with the lead-in, Wildstorm Revelations. Then again, I’m probably the only one who was surprised by the fact that Chris Sims really enjoyed a six-issue mini-series where Savant, Nemesis (the other one) and the all-new barely legal Backlash tarted around the Wildstorm Universe having swordfights in bikinis.
Regardless, it ended up being a lot of fun, and while I’m a little shaky on the concept–which appears to be a series designed to bring a huge, unifying conflict to what is essentially a universe of analogues–it was solid enough to end up checking it out. As for Number of the Beast, well, it’s still a little early to tell, but it does have one big point in its favor: Chris Sprouse. Those of you who already know Sprouse from his work on Tom Strong or the incredibly awesome Two-Face story from Batman Annual #14 will already know that Sprouse is awesome, and seeing him draw a bunch of super-heroes, aliens and a rampaging robot is pretty much always worth taking the risk.
Still… It woulda been better if Eddie was in it.
Suburban Glamour #4: And now, a Special Guest Review from the internet’s Beaucoup Kevin:
“Hi, Kevin Church here. I’m writing this review for Chris Sims because he’s busy doing a favor for me. I think I can sum up how he feels by mentioning that there’s psychic fist-blades, attractive young ladies, and a dude with no face gets it right in the noggin with a bass guitar. He’d give it ten out of five stars before taking a long, cold shower.”
And that pretty much sums it up. Thanks, Kevin!
Tiny Titans #3: So, uh, you might’ve already heard this from Sterling, but this issue of Tiny Titans features Dr. Light.
Yes, that Dr. Light.
Now admittedly, the target audience for Tiny Titans has never–and hopefully will never–read Identity Crisis, and I’ll be the first to admit that Baltazar and Franco have been getting better with each issue and that I could read about Principal Deathstroke and his suit jacket all day long, but… yikes, man. Just yikes.
Devil’s Cape: Under normal circumstances, one of the quickest ways to get me to hate something is to bill it as being “reminiscent of Alan Moore’s Watchmen or NBC’s mega-hit Heroes.” I mean, I coudln’t care less about the latter, but when most things try to capture the feeling of Watchmen, they tend to fail miserably. So to be perfectly honest, I was a little nervous when I opened up a package from novelist and ISB reader Rob Rogers and found that quote glaring at me from the back cover of his first novel, Devil’s Cape.
Fortunately, my worries were completely unfounded, as Devil’s Cape is far less of an attempt at capturing a marketable style and far more of a well-done story of super-heroes, revenge, and a city that outright refuses to be saved.
The most interesting thing about it–for me, anyway–was the amount of thought that Rogers had put into crafting his world of super-heroes that his characters inhabit. As much as the story is about its three main characters and their “origin story” as individuals and as super-hero team, I think it’s fair to say that it’s even more devoted to the city of Devil’s Cape itself: Founded by pirates and ruled over from the shadows by super-villains, it provides a distinctive backdrop that Rogers weaves right into the characters and their actions. Simply put, it’s a city where evil wins–and has been doing so for quite some time.
The emphasis on world-building and the way that the main characters–Argonaut, Bedlam and Doctor Camelot–and their powers are described struck me as more like the aspects of RPG development than anything else (so it might not come as a surprise that it’s being published by Wizards of the Coast’s Discoveries line), but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The attention to detail comes through, and the fight scenes–the largest of which involves a dozen characters with super-powers wrecking their way through a mansion–make sense despite their complicated elements.
It is, however, Rogers’ first novel, and there are places where that comes through: The chapter breaks, for instance, are all accompanied by “excerpts” from sources as varied as Devil’s Cape travel guides and news reports, and while it’s a good gimmick, there are places where they cut off in odd places, ostensibly to preserve future plot points. There are places where it’s overwritten, where Rogers errs on the side of caution by explaining things that don’t necessarily need to be explained. They’re minor snags, but the interesting thing for the reader is seeing how fast Rogers improves within the space of one book: The first half might be a little rocky in pages, but once you hit a certain point, the rest of the book just blows right by, and it’s a heck of a lot of fun.
So if a team of super-heroes forming to take on impossible odds in a crime-ridden city in New Orleans appeals to you–and let’s be honest, if you’re here, it probably does–check it out: It’s available on Amazon, there are previews up at Wizards.com, and Rogers even put up an excerpt for Friday Night Fights.
And that’s the week! As always, any questions on something I read this week–like how much I liked the first thirty pages of Mark Smith’s Aqua Leung (HINT: a lot)–can be left in the comments section below. As for me, well, GTA IV comes out soon, and the Geth aren’t gonna stop themselves, now are they?