Well, thats that nonsense dealt with.
With the amorous fun of Valentine’s Day now officially behind us, it’s time to put aside once more our thoughts of aaaahhhhhROMANCE and focus instead on other things. And that’s probably for the best.
The heart, she is a fickle mistress.
But that–and its accompanying far-future facekick–are beside the point! So relax, crack open that Whitman’s Sampler, and enjoy another round of the Internet’s Most Sentimental Comics Reviews!
Here’s what my secret admirer left in my locker this week…
But did I like like them? Yes / No / Maybe!
Booster Gold #0: I’ve been reading comics long enough by this point that with most stuff, I have a pretty good idea of where I stand right off the bat. With Booster Gold, however, I’m constantly finding myself using phrases that even a couple of years ago, I never thought I’d be using. Phrases like “Boy, Booster Gold sure is a good comic,” for instance. In any case, here’s two more that came as something of a surprise:
“I can’t even tell you guys how happy it made me to open up the boxes and see an honest-to-God foil cover for this one,” and “Man, that scene with Parallax and Extant was great.”
How did this happen? I have no idea. But in a world where Geoff Johns, Jeff Katz and Dan Jurgens can come together and put out a Zero Hour tie-in in 2008 that’s funny, emotional and well worth reading, I guess anything‘s possible.
BPRD 1946 #2: Those of you who saw through my clever ruse and recognized my “Annotations” of the Anita Blake series for the scurrilous criticisms they really are might recall that I was pretty unimpressed by Laurenn J. Framingham’s use of the timeworn cliche of having her evil vampire boss turn out to actually be a little girl. Mike Mignola, however–who’s pulling what is essentially the same trick in this one with Varvara, the leader of the Soviet occult squad–gets a free pass, for two very important reasons: First, BPRD is not entirely terrible, and second (and more importantly), Mignola’s able to pull it off with a genuine creepiness that the competition lacks.
I can’t even really put my finger on why, but when she’s locked in a room with a lunatic-turned-vampire and emerges four panels later with her arm solid red with blood, calmly explaining what she learned before it died in an “accident,” it’s done to pretty great effect. But then again, considering that this is a comic where Mike Mignola’s telling a story about Hellboy’s dad fighting Nazi vampires, we all already knew it was going to be great. It’s just nice to see how great it really is.
Fantastic Four #554: Out of all the comics I bought today with the word “Fantastic” in the title, this one’s my least favorite, and considering that it wasn’t drawn by Jack Kirby and it doesn’t feature Stardust the Super Wizard, you can probably see why.
Still, that’s some pretty stiff competition to be up against, so the question remains as to how good this one actually was, and, well, I’m not that impressed. To be fair, it was a lot better than I thought it’d be: Millar’s characterization of the team isn’t as bad as his work with them in Civil War would lead you to believe. Even Reed, who came off as second only to Tony Stark in terms of outright dickishness is seen here as an affable science adventurer. The biggest problem on that front–for me, anyway–came with Johnny. Not only is he played off as a dilettante (thus rollilng back any character growth that we’ve seen since the Mark Waid run), but Millar feels it’s necessary to point out explicitly in the dialogue that he’s writing him as the super-heroic Paris Hilton on the off chance that we just didn’t get the joke.
Then again, if you didn’t expect a script with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the kneecap from a guy whose best recent work features Captain America flash-kicking a lightsaber-wielding jihadist in the face, that’s your fault, not his.
But that’s just where it starts, really, and while I know this is getting into fannish nitpicking territory here, this one has all the earmarks of Millar throwing out the Big Idea without bothering to support it first. Reed rebuilding Doombots into benign household servants as his way of “recycling” is a fine idea, but do you really want breakfast in bed from something that’s got the face of a guy who literally tortured your family for a week and tried to blow up your house? Twice?
Ben flirting with a schoolteacher’s all well and good, but what about Alicia? (And it’s entirely possible that they broke up again in the Straczynski run and I missed it, although considering that Dan Slott’s Thing series was all about getting them back together, that’d be more than a little ridiculous.)
As for the art, well, I’m not going to be the guy who says that Bryan Hitch isn’t a good artist, but I don’t care for the way he draws Ben Grimm at all. It’s purely a matter of preference, I guess, but even when you get past the issues with his head, Hitch draws him like a bodybuilder (narrow waist, broad shoulders and pecs, muscular arms) rather than the more hulking rock monster that I’ve come to prefer. Beyond that–and Sue’s haircut–it’s lovely. And on the whole, it’s interesting enough to keep me reading, but at this point, that’s all it is. Here’s hoping it picks up.
Fantastic Four: The Lost Adventure: And thus, as though I needed a reminder that I’ve got an as-yet-unread gigantic slab of Lee/Kirby FF sitting in the bedroom, we come to this one, and for me, this is about as much of a no-brainer as you can find. After all, it’s not every week that you get the chance to buy a “new” Kirby story (let alone fourteen years almost to the day after the King died), but how often do you get a new Stan Lee comic in this day and age that even has a chance at being better than Nightcat?
And this one succeeds on both counts, salvaged as it was from the art that was eventually chopped up and used for the included FF #108 and newly re-dialogued by Stan the Man, complete with the self-aggrandizing asides that we all expected. And while it makes for a perfectly serviceable look back at a neat piece of the Marvel Universe, it’s the bonus material here that makes this one really worth reading, with commentary from John Morrow and Kirby’s original pencils, complete with–and this is the cool part–his original script notes. There’s just something fun about seeing how it was all supposed to go, right down to the rough dialogue bits like “Did you know I was a World War 2 ace?”
It’s hardly necessary–and at $4.99, I don’t think anyone’s under the impression that it is–but if you’re somewhere between “Buys the Essentials” and “Full Run of The Jack Kirby Collector” on the fan scale, it makes for a neat read.
GI Joe: America’s Elite #32: So, uh. I guess I’m back on the GI Joe train.
Actually, I’ve been picking up America’s Elite for a while now–ever since the “World War III” story arc started, actually–and while I would’ve mentioned it earlier, every time it came out there was something going on that prevented me from writing the weekly reviews. Go back and check, you’ll see. And I promise that it was in no way because I was ashamed of being twenty-five years old and totally psyched about a story where all the Joes ever fight all the Cobras ever to the point where I’ve been picking up all the totally awesome 25th Anniversary Figures.
I mean, hell, you guys know I read Tarot; embarrassment is really not the issue here.
Anyway, back to the comic. As much as I’ve griped about (non-Mantlo) toy tie-ins in the past, I’m actually really enjoying this comic, and considering how super-serious it is, that’s a surprise. I’ve always preferred my Cobra to be more into, you know, having telethons or attempting to steal the entire state of Alaska, but this time around, they’re doing stuff like blowing up Boston and sending Destro to conquer France. I assure you, it’s all very serious business, but it’s also pretty entertaining, and it’s obvious that writer Mark Powers loves the hell out of some GI Joe.
As for me, my affection’s more rooted in this guy:
(Sketch courtesy of South Carolina’s own Jeremy Dale)
Seriously, you guys? I love Cobra Commander. I mean, that guy was such an unbelievable threat to America that they had to get the best soldiers in the Army, the best Marine, the best sailor in the Navy, the best pilot in the Air Force and five ninjas together to stop him, and yet his plans always revolve around nuclear-powered fast food restaurants, mind-control perfume and space-lasers that turn people into lizard cats or something. And if you don’t see something truly beautiful in that, then brother, you’re on the wrong website.
Jack Staff #14: I never thought I’d live to see the day that the phenomenal Jack Staff was actually coming out in color and monthly, but here we are. Truly, this is the best of all possible worlds!
And no, I’m not joking. I’ve been singing the praises of Paul Grist’s amazing comics since before I had the ISB, and for good reason: They are, without question, the most fun comics on the shelf. Everything about them is as perfect as it can be: The way Grist crams each issue full of content, driven by short, quick chapters featuring everyone from the title character to Detective Sgt. “Zipper” Nolan to the Agents of Q to Tom Tom the Robot Man to Becky Burdock: Vampire Reporter; Grist’s deceptively cartoonish pencils that draw you into the best page layouts in the business; it’s all incredible, and each page is a reminder of what I love about comics.
If you haven’t read it, then get to it, and–as weird as it is to say this after months of waiting for Grist to finally get back to releasing comics–come back next month for more. I’m excited about it, and if you have any love for comics at all, you should be too.
The Next Issue Project: Fantastic Comics #24: It takes a hell of a good comic to be the beat out Jack Staff, The Goon and Suicide Squad for best of the week, but you know what? Fantastic Comics #24 is a hell of a good comic.
It was actually pretty surprising. As excited as I’ve been about this thing–because, you know, Mike Allred drawing Stardust is just too good to pass up–I try not to get my hopes up for anthologies because they’re almost always such a mixed bag in terms of quality. But with this one–and I’m saying this without reading B. Clay Moore’s two-page text piece–every single story is a hoot. I mean, even Ashley Wood, whose work I just outright hate, is able to drop a line that had me laughing out loud, and if that’s not a sign of the fun you can have with this thing, I don’t know what is.
The secret, I think, lies in its perfect fusion of creators and format. For those of you who missed the solicitation, the Next Issue Project is not only about reviving Golden Age characters and titles that have fallen into the public domain (which seems to be the trendy thing to do these days, as evidenced by the fact that Stardust runs into some of the same folks currently featured in Dynamite’s Project Superpowers), but by doing it in the same format as the original stories: Most of ’em clock in at a slim six pages, each one crammed full of fun. Even the size of the book and the ads between the stories are throwbacks to the ’40s, but instead of coming off as mired in nostalgia, writers like Jim Rugg, Brian Maruca and Joe Keatinge take full advantage of it, using the tropes of the era to tell great jokes and highly enjoyable stories.
My favorite of the bunch, though, has to be Andy Kuhn’s “Yank Wilson: Superspy Q4,” and while it’s easy to write off its larger panels and contemporary themes as the least “Golden Agey” of the bunch, the closest comparison I can think of is The Spirit, right down to a spoiled hotel heiress named Berlin Holiday. It’s great stuff, and even at $5.99, it’s 64 pages that you won’t regret picking up.
Now if only I could figure out how to store it…
The Punisher: Force of Nature: Okay, let’s get one thing straight right off the bat here: The Punisher does not fight a giant whale in this issue.
Admittedly, there is a whale (which appears for a grand total of three panels), and the Punisher does ram a speedboat into it (completely by accident), but it’s written as little more than an afterthought, and I’m callin’ shennanigans! Because seriously, with a cover like that and an interior that fails to deliver anything remotely resembling Frank Castle battling to the death against the only animal other than man that kills for revenge, then there is a problem. A problem that can ony be solved by whalefighting.
Salvation Run #4: This, on the other hand, is a comic book that completely delivers on the promise of its cover.
Some of you might recall that I was considering dropping Salvation Run, owing mostly to the fact that it, y’know, doesn’t make any damn sense, but with one issue, Matt Sturges has turned my opinion around. I mean, this thing’s got laser velociraptors on page two, and that’s not even the big deal here! That, of course, would be the scene where a talking gorilla beats another talking gorilla to death with the latter’s lover, a brain in a jar, and the only thing that could possibly make that better is the perfect Chuck Jones punchline that comes at the end. Well done, Sturges and Chen. Well done indeed.
Annnnnnd that’s the week! As always, any questions or comments–or comparisons of the enjoyable Tiny Titans to Chris Giarrusso’s amazing Mini-Marvels–can be left in the comments section below.
As for me, well, No More Heroes just arrived from Amazon, and apparently, that’s a game where you play as an assassin with a laser katana. So don’t be surprised if you don’t see me for a while.