In the imaginary world where people are so impressed with my dedication to Batman that they stop me on the street to chat about it, I’m often asked just why it is I love comics, and after this week, I have a new answer for them:
I love them because in comics, a college professor can shrink down to the subatomic level and then kick Jetpack Hitler right in the face.
That, incidentally, is roughly eighty times more awesome than anything I witnessed in my own academic career, which, now that I think of it, is probably why I dropped out.
But not before I learned that the key to good writing lies in hyperbole and spite, which brings us once again to these, the Internet’s Most Bare-Knuckled comics reviews! Here’s what I ended up buying…
…and this is what I thought of ’em.
The All-New Atom #14: When I reviewed the latest issue of Birds of Prey, I mentioned that a lot of Gail Simone’s recent work has been steadily losing interest for me, and I’ll be honest with you: Even with pure gems of dialogue like last month’s “Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!” The All-New Atom hasn’t really been an exception. With this issue, though, Simone, Mike Norton, and Trevor Scott turn that around with what is easily one of the most flat-out enjoyable comics I’ve read all year.
It’s nothing short of amazingly fun action right from the start, and while I’ve already spoken of the magic that is Ryan Choi vs. Jetpack Hitler above, that’s just scratching the surface of an issue that includes that scene in the same three-page sequence that brings us an army of the dead boasting Captain Boomerang and Orca the Whale Woman, Ted Kord leaping into action to fight cavemen and vikings, and the Atom punching a horse right in the face. It’s as close to my ideal comic as DC seems likely to put out, and what’s more, Simone does it in an issue that’s a Countdown tie-in featuring Jason Todd and Donna Troy. Given my opinion of Countdown as a black hole from which no fun could escape, I’ll admit to thinking that it couldn’t be done, but All-New Atom pulls it off, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been this happy to be wrong.
Fantastic Four #548: I’m just going to come right out and say it: I just don’t really get the Frightful Four. I know, I know, I’ve said a million times on the ISB that I’m a sucker for “evil opposite” teams, but I think it just comes down to the fact that they don’t really seem like that much of a threat. They are led, after all, by the Wizard, a guy whose major claim to fame is that he doesn’t have wings, which really isn’t that hard of a trick to master.
Okay, admittedly, his actual talent is that he’s able to fly without wings, but still: Unless you have an epithet as awe-inspiring as The Devourer of Worlds, you can’t really expect to be able to put on a purple helmet and be taken seriously while you fight the FF, no matter what rotating roster of super-villain scrubs you tag along.
My personal issues with the team, however, do absolutely nothing to stop me from enjoying this comic, which stands every month as one of the main reasons why Dwayne McDuffie is finally getting his recognition as one of the top-tier writers in the industry. There just really aren’t enough good things to say about his work, and this issue’s no exception, with a compelling, well-structured story that shows even the Trapster–whom I have never seen actually trap someone in 20 years of reading Marvel comics–shown to be a legitimate threat, if only because Black Panther acknowledges him as one. This is, of course, done during the course of the four panels it takes T’Challa to take him out of action, but still: McDuffie’s characterized Black Panther as a guy who knows what’s going on, and half the fun of the book is seeing him constantly a step ahead of the villains, from Galactus on down to the Wizard. It’s great stuff, and Paul Pelletier’s art only serves to put this one over the top, once again making sure that FF may actually be what they’ve always said it was: The World’s Greatest Comics Magazine.
Irredeemable Ant-Man #11: By now, you’ve probably all heard that Irredeemable Ant-Man‘s getting the axe next issue. And if not, well, surprise! The book about the adventures of a character designed solely to be as completely unsympathetic as possible just didn’t pull in the readers they thought they’d get. It’s not that it’s a bad comic (although to be fair, the best I can say about it is that it’s mediocre with the occasional really good scene), but as I’ve said before, the whole thing just seems to defeat itself right from the premise.
Take this issue, for instance, where SHIELD agent Mitch Carson finally catches up with our protagonist and reveals himself to be a power-hungry multiple murderer, which leads to a scene where one sociopath tortures another for a few pages without any indication as to why we’re supposed to care. What really makes it interesting, though, is the scene that follows, where Eric’s given every opportunity to redeem himself, and chooses instead to live up to the title of the story. I suppose at this point that there’s no real point in changing him–and I’ll probably be a little disappointed if he shows a shred of humanity in next month’s finale–but, well, that’s the whole problem, isn’t it?
Metal Men #1: As long-time readers of the ISB may remember from last year, I freakin’ love the Metal Men, and after thrilling to their appearance in the best part of 52, I’ve really been looking forward to this series. To be fair, though, I was really only excited about because of my love of the characters themselves; I’ve enjoyed Duncan Rouleau’s art in the past but never actually read anything he’s written, so he was stil a pretty unknown quantity for me.
As it turns out, though, there’s a lot to like in the first issue: Rouleau wastes absolutely no time getting things started, kicking the eight-issue mini-series off with Atlantean sorcery, time travel, deadly toasters, and the obligatory explosive destruction of the Metal Men, and that’s all in the first half of the book. Even the little characterization for the Metal Men themselves are done pretty much on the fly, and while this leads to some pretty great lines from Lead (known, of course, for being dense), the all-new Copper (which always seemed like a pretty natural choice to me) doesn’t really get a chance to be established. Either way, it’s the sort of all-out anything goes storytelling that evokes the fast-paced feel of the original Robert Kanigher stories, and with the way that he’s building off of Grant Morrison’s concepts, Rouleau’s off to a pretty solid start here.
New Warriors #3: Continuing the biggest surprise of the summer, we’re three months in and New Warriors is still pretty awesome. I mean really: The last time I was this surprised by a comic being this good was Planet Hulk, and while I’m not quite sure if I’ll end up liking this one as much as I enjoyed seeing the Hulk beat up on alien gladiators for sixteen issues, it’s not that far off.
Of course, that may just be because Kevin Grevioux and the always-entertaining Paco Media are showing me exactly what I want to see in this book, from the apparent return of Night Thrasher to the fact that the Warriors are training in one of Arcade’s abandoned Murderworlds. Even without the bits that combine my perfect blend of nostalgia and abject radness, though, Grevioux is handling things beautifully with–and I seriously cannot believe I’m saying this–a great character moment between Wolverine and Jubilee. Seriously, it has to be seen to be believed.
Supergirl #20: Yeah, I know. Normally, I’d be just as surprised as you to see this one show up with my stuff, but I’ve actually been looking forward to this for a while, and not just because she’s hitting Karate Kid with an engine block next issue.
Of course, that’s most of the reason why I’m excited, but it also has a lot to do with the arrival of new writer Tony Bedard. In the past, he’s been hit-or-miss with me, but after reading the interview he gave a while back about his views on the character and how he thinks she should be treated in the DCU, I was pretty sure that his take on Supergirl was something that I wanted to read. And surprisingly, it is, as the story sees a more likable Kara than we’ve seen anywhere outside of the 31st century fighting a cyclops and saving lives.
But the real draw here–no pun intended–is artist Renato Guedes, who does some truly wonderful work. Ever since her return at the hands of Mike Turner and the launch of the series with Ian Churchill, the latest version of Supergirl’s been criticized (rightly, if you asked me) for her rail-thin, oversexualized appearance, but here, Guedes’ work blows them all away, and he does it without offering exploitation and calling it beauty. Here’s hoping these guys stick around for a while, and that this book finally gets the readability it deserves.
Uncanny X-Men #489: Okay, seriously? If you can sit there and tell me that there is anything about the phrase: “Skids: Agent of SHIELD” that is not totally awesome, then you are a filthy, filthy liar. Believe it.
World War Hulk #3: It occurred to me today that while I’ve covered a few of the tie-ins, I haven’t actually reviewed an issue of World War Hulk here on the ISB, and I think the reason for that is pretty clear: The absolute last thing that anybody needs me to tell them is that a story where the Hulk fights what pretty much amounts to the entire Marvel Universe is awesome. And besides, I already told you once.
I mean, let’s be real for a second: The Hulk going on a rampage is one of those stories that’s so fundamentally hard to screw up that it would be astonishing if this series wasn’t good, and yet it’s still surprising how good this book’s actually turning out to be. Simply put, Greg Pak is at the top of his game here, balancing out the violence of the Hulk suplexing a helicopter with the scenes opposite Dr. Strange where he turns back into Bruce Banner, literally revealing a side of himself that still feels pain without the ability to turn it into anger. And then it’s right back to it with Iron Fist fighting the Oldstrong, Dr. Strange unleashing mysterious eldritch powers, and comics readers everywhere flipping out about how awesome this thing is. It’s huge, loud, violent, and pretty much exactly what a summer crossover should be.
And really, if that was the last thing anybody needed to be told, then the fact that John Romita Jr. draws beautiful comics is a close, close second.
And that’s the week. As always, if you’ve got any comments about something I read or questions about why I left it on the shelf–or if you just want to take my word for it and grab your own copy of Scott Chantler’s awesome, highly entertaining Northwest Passage hardcover–feel free to drop a comment below.
As for me, I’ll be over here trying to figure out if this is the most awesome thing I have ever seen: