You know, I don’t know what Bucky’s favorite song is, but I do know that he likes to hear a little Sweet Chin Music:
Finally: He has achieved his boyhood dream.
But enough thinly veiled references to the WWE! After all, it’s Thursday Night on the ISB, and that can only mean that it’s time for another round of the Internet’s Most Heartbreaking Comics Reviews!
Here’s what I picked up this week…
…but could any of them succeed without the juggernaut of hype that is MySpace.com? Find out now!
All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder #9: Wow.
What can I say about this issue of All-Star Batman that hasn’t been said already about Russ Meyer’s 1965 classic Motorpsycho? How about this: After the dismal effort that Miller and Lee put forth last issue–wherein the most enjoyable story element was a cover that featured the Joker’s massive Yakuza tattoo–this one represents a pretty strong return to form, as it is hilarious, awful, and–perhaps most important of all–hilariously awful. And surprisingly, Miller never once refers to his title character as “The Goddamn Batman.”
And really, if that hardcover comes out and it’s not called All-Star Batman v.1: I’m the Goddamn Batman, then DC’s Marketing Department will have severely dropped the ball.
Instead, Miller goes to the old comedic standby of having a twelve year-old carny punch Green Lantern’s throat out, and now that I actually typed that out, I had to go back and make sure that it actually happened and wasn’t just part of some beautiful fever dream. And sure enough, there it is, right between “DAMN YOU AND YOUR LEMONADE!”–easily the best new catchphrase of 2008–and the scene where Batman decides that it’s time to go cry. And that, my friends, is the sum total of this issue’s plot.
Blue Beetle #24: When it’s all said and done, there is no doubt in my mind that Rogers and Albuquerque’s run on Blue Beetle is going to go down as one of the best DC Comics of its time.
Of course, I also have the sneaking suspicion that it’s going to go down as one of the more underrated titles, but what matters more is that this is a book that just does not miss a step, and this issue shines even more than most. It’s got all the standard elements, even clichÃ©s, of the sweeping super-hero epic: the hero stripped of his powers and facing down a massive, unstoppable force with nothing but his own daring and wits–not even pants. But Rogers manages to pull it off in a way that’s more thrilling, engaging, and downright fun than just about any other comic out there, and the art just compliments it perfectly.
I know I’m approaching hyperbole here–and that I sound like I passed it a few minutes ago–but I can honestly say that Blue Beetle is one of those few titles out right now that reminds me every month why I’ve been reading comics for the past twenty years, so if you haven’t already, give it a shot. After all, a new trade hit the shelves this week, too, and I’m pretty sure it’s got a story called “Total Eclipso: The Heart.” And if that’s not genius, then brother, I don’t know what is.
Crime Bible: Five Lessons of Blood #5: Well, that one sorta ground to a halt there, didn’t it?
Don’t get me wrong: I like Greg Rucka a lot, especially when it comes to stuff like Queen & Country or Checkmate, which holds a place in my heart very similar to what I discussed above, but this one… this one just does nothing for me, despite my best efforts to give it a shot. Instead, it just sort of sits there boasting some truly awful tough-guy dialogue and a plot that just meanders around until it eventually just stops, rather than coming to an actual ending.
It’s tempting to say that the problem here is that Rucka’s taking what struck me as a very, very silly concept and treating it as Very Serious Business, right down to the overwrought Crime Bible passages that lead every issue, but the fact of the matter is that comics are all about taking silly concepts and treating them seriously, so it really just amounts to a comic book that’s not all that interesting.
Or maybe it’s just that hat she’s wearing. Makes her look like she should be in the video for “Smooth Criminal,” I swear.
Criminal v.2 #1: I’ll tell you right now that reviewing this week’s issue of Criminal is all but pointless. After all, there’s really not a whole lot I can say about a comic that achieves its goal as perfectly as it possibly can.
And that’s exactly what this one does. Not that anyone should really be shocked by this: Criminal‘s won enough Eisners at this point that I’m pretty sure the word’s gotten out about how good it is, and even if you haven’t read a single issue, there’s always the chance that you’ve read some of Brubaker and Phillips’ previous collaboration, the flat-out phenomenal Sleeper. So yeah, the fact that these guys are putting out some good comics isn’t really news.
But when something this good comes out, it’s always worth mentioning. Make no mistake: The story in this issue is bleak, and even if you missed out on the first stories and don’t know how Gnarly ends up, the indication that things aren’t going to work out well starts early and often, and just gets hammered home through the rest of the issue.
But that’s what’s so good about it: Its relentless portrayal of a guy boxed into a bad situation with no way out, with all the noir-style trappings heaped on top of him for good measure that just hits you right in the gut by the time it all finishes. And believe me: That’s something these guys know how to deliver.
Kick-Ass #1: Well, that was no damn good.
Yeah, I know: Given the type of comics I tend to get a kick out of, along with Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s track record with Wolverine: Enemy of the State, one of the most purely enjoyable fight comics of the past few years, you’d think this one would be a slam dunk. And yet, the reality of the situation is significantly less enjoyable than it ought to be.
To be fair, JR Jr. draws the living hell out of the book–which, you know, is what JR Jr. does–but all the pretty art in the world can only do so much with what essentially amounts to commercials for Marvel Comics with stunted, incredibly unnatural dialogue and the most predictable ending that the issue could’ve had.
I mean really: It’s obvious that Millar’s going for something edgy or shocking with this one, but come on: How shocking can it be when we’ve been seeing interviews and assorted shilling for the past three months begging questions like “What would happen if a real person dressed in a costume and fought crime?” Well, they’d probably get their ass kicked, and hey! Turns out, that’s what happens, and while there’s no attempt to hide the fact that it’s heading in that direction (what with the framing sequence to start things off), that in turn sets up the “shocking” brutality of the issue’s climax to carry the weight of the story. And when your protagonist is just another Mark Millar Tough Guy in a different set of clothes–but, interestingly enough, with the same Paris Hilton jokes–it’s more trouble than it’s worth to be bothered to care.
And thus, I no longer do.
The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury #295: So is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that ever since Mouse Guard–which was excellent this week, by the way–exploded into popularity last year, Archaia Studios, which I was previously aware of only as the publisher of Artesia, has started getting behind a bunch of new projects that don’t necessarily fit in with their usual MO? Not that I’m complaining at all, I just wantedto mention it.
In any case, one of those interesting new properties is Miranda Mercury, and while I was originally drawn to it by the book’s High Concept, but I was surprised at how many High Concepts this issue actually had. There’s the most obvious one, of course–The fact that the series is building towards its title character’s death in #300 without actually bothering with the hassle of actually doing the 25-odd years of comics to actually get to #300–but the issue itself has one, too: Miranda and her kid sidekick (“Jack Warning: The Boy With the Golden Brain”) have to solve an impossible cosmic Rubick’s Cube to free the soul of a godlike half-robot samurai who grants wishes.
Now that, my friends, is High Concept.
Of course, the big idea is only half the work; it’s the execution that matters in the end, and on that front, I’m happy to report that Brandon Thomas and Lee Ferguson do a pretty good job with Miranda’s first and/or two hundred ninety-fifth outing, with a story that went in a direction I really wasn’t expecting, casting the heroine as a much sterner character than her lightning-bolt ponytail would indicate, including a forty-two panel double page spread that actually makes solving a Rubik’s Cube come off as a very tense sequence. It’s very fun stuff, so give it a look.
The Nearly Infamous Zango #1: And at last, you now know the origin of the MySpace joke in tonight’s introduction: See, I’m a friend of ol’ Zango (FOOZ?) on MySpace (FOOZOM?), where creator Rob Osborne has been pretty diligent about promoting the release of Zango‘s first issue over the past few months–and just so we’re clear on this, I have absolutely no problem with that. Besides, in my case anyway, it totally worked, and I grabbed a copy Wednesday purely on a whim.
And I’m glad I did: For all of my skepticism when I originally saw it in Previews, Zango is actually pretty darn funny, and in a way I didn’t expect. Given that the cover and the opening scenes of the book itself feature a past-his-prime super-villain yelling at his television in bunny slippers, I was expecting it to veer more heavily to the slapstick, and while that’s there–along with what seems like the requisite “Lenny from Of Mice And Men” Joke, there’s a lot that’s very dry. A couple scenes, in fact, are more reminiscent of The Venture Brothers than anything else, like my favorite bit,an exchange between Zango and Deacon Dread, his chief henchman:
“You’re giving me a monkey?”
“Not a monkey, milord. A killer gorilla assassin.”
“Well I’m very unimpressed.”
I got a pretty good chuckle out of it, and while the violence of the first issue is a little jarring when it finally comes through, it’s far oughtweighed by some solid comedic bits and the main character’s apathetic approach to skullduggery. Look for it at your shop and give it a read.
And that’s the week, and man, there sure were a lot of indie books this time around. In any case, if you have any questions or comments about one of the roughly six million comics I bought this week, feel free to leave it in the comments section below, and rest assured that I plan on covering pretty much every single page of Showcase Presents Superman Family v.2. Halfway through the first story, and Jimmy’s already broken a dimensional barrier with his signal watch and gotten a pet genie.
In the meantime, though, I’m gonna go sleep off the rest of this cold and wait for Mass Effect to get here tomorrow. Happy Leap Day, everybody!