The Week In Ink: July 23, 2008

All right, folks, it’s time to face the facts. Or in my case…



Facekick the facts.

Right now, everybody’s either out in San Diego–where they’re doing their best to get me that Cobra Commander exclusive if they know what’s good for them–or obsessively refreshing the comics news sites to get the latest news on what’s coming up next, and while I can’t blame anybody for that, it has the side effect of making everyone pretty much stop caring about this week’s books. The upshot of this is that with nobody paying attention, we reviewers are now free to just make things up. More than I usually do, I mean.

Seriously, I could tell you guys that there was a new Ambush Bug series that came out this week, or that the American Flagg! hardcover that was supposed to come out like three years ago finally shipped, and there’d be nobody here to contradict me. Truth be damned, I can say whatever I want! I might go mad with the power of it all!

Huh. So this is what it’s like to be Mark Millar.

Oh well, probably best to just get on with it. Here’s what I got this week…



And here’s what I thought of ’em:








Ambush Bug: Year None #1: I’m sure I’ve told this story about sixteen times in the past month, but when Dr. K and I stumbled over to Jann Jones in the hotel bar at HeroesCon to demand politely ask for a Sugar & Spike Showcase, she responded with “I brought back Ambush Bug, wasn’t that enough?!

At the time, I didn’t quite think it was a fair trade-off–and I still don’t–but now that I’ve actually read this thing, I’m inclined to cut DC a little more slack, even if they do hate money, because the new Ambush Bug is a goldmine.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the character, I’ll try to explain. The original mini-series–and its sequel, Son of Ambush Bug–are literally as irreverent as a comic could get while still having a DC Bullet on the cover. They’re like DC’s version of What The–?! that have been cranked up ’til the knob broke, and it’s not just because they had stuff like Darkseid working at McDonald’s. Heck, there’s one issue where the severed head of Julie Schwartz floats around looking up women’s skirts, although the punchline to that one wouldn’t come for about twenty years. There’s even an issue that reads like something straight from the Internet that hit a couple decades before its time, full of profiles of forgotten characters like Rex the Wonder Dog that would later see new life as comics blog punchlines.

So really, you can see the appeal for me here.

And with this one, Giffen and Fleming just pick right up where they left off, only this time they’ve got twenty more years worth of targets. There’s a literal woman in a refrigerator on page three, and by the time the end of the book hits, they’ve gone after Identity Crisis and the Vertigo/DC character split and brought in the Green Team, ‘Mazing Man, and even Sugar & Spike themselves, despite the fact that Dan Didio told a conference room in Charlotte that Paul Levitz was too protective of the characters to let anyone do anything with them. And best of all, it’s funny.

Admittedly, it’s not going to be funny to a casual reader, or anyone who doesn’t spend a pretty high percentage of their day thinking about the DC Universe for that matter, but at this point I think it’s safe to say that I fall dead center into their target audience, and I thought it was a hoot. And after all, I had to fill out my scrapbook of Cap’s Hobby Hints somewhere.


Immortal Iron Fist #17: Another quick HeroesCon story: When I was hanging around with Matt Fraction, I told him that I was pretty bummed out about him leaving the book to write about some new team of “mu-tants” that the kids seemed to like, and he said that after seeing what Duane Swierzynski had planned for the book, he had no regrets and was looking forward to reading it.

Now, I’m pretty sure the Fraction’s not dumb enough to talk shit about another writer’s run to a mildly popular Internet loudmouth even if it’s downright awful, but I’m pretty sure that even though he’s a guy who makes things up and writes them down for a living, he was telling the truth. And on the story side of things, he’s right.

Swierczyn–oh the hell with it, I’m using his first name–Duane picks things up right where Fraction and Brubaker left off, complete with exploring the lives of other Iron Fists throughout history, but with the added twist of showing a future where Danny Rand’s been killed by the same thing that killed every other Iron Fist at the age of 33. It’s intriguing and pretty snappy, and it lends itself well to the kind of action that the book’s been based around since it relaunched. The problem, I’m sad to say, comes from the art.

It could just be the change from David Aja, whose art for Iron Fist was just about perfect, but I liked a heck of a lot when he was doing Ares, and it’s just not up to snuff here. There are individual panels that look good, but overall, it just doesn’t work. There are parts that are over- and under-inked in the same panel, and the way he draws Iron Fist himself, with the big Kelley Jones-ish tips to his collar just make it all look like something from the short-lived ’90s revival. Even the cover, with Iron Fist grimace-shouting (or “grimouting”) while his hands and crotch explode and he flexes face-muscles that I have never seen on an actual human being is… well, it’s not very good, and when it’s in a comic that also has sequences drawn by Russ Heath, it tends to be a little noticeable.

Even so, I’m willing to give it another shot to see where Duane Mxyzptlk’s going with it, and hopefully the art’ll snap back to its usual levels.


Marvel Adventures Super-Heroes #1: I’ve mentioned before that while I like Paul Tobin–owing mostly to the fact that he did Banana Sunday with his lovely Mrs., ISB Favorite Colleen Coover–I hadn’t actually read much of his Marvel Adventures stuff until I grabbed a stack of MA: Fantastic Four back issues and blew through them during a slow afternoon at work. They’re great, and if you can find the one where Reed Richards fights the Mad Thinker’s Awesome Android using his toasters, buy it immediately. You won’t be sorry.

In any case, I’m excited to see him getting more work and the Marvel Adventures line expanding into what, at least for the first issue, is essentially a second Avengers title but without the Avenging. Instead, Tobin builds his story around the premise that Spider-Man, Iron Man and the Hulk just hang out together a lot, chit-chatting until some adventure crops up. This, incidentally, is also the formula that Brian Bendis uses on his Avengers run, and needless to say, Tobin does it about a thousand times better.

Why? Because he’s doing it with the sense of fun that’s so common in the rest of the line and so rare everywhere else. The stories are as kid friendly as they can be without actually being printed on Nerf foam; nobody’s ever in anything resembling danger, unless you count the kind that Bugs Bunny’s in when Yosemite Sam’s around. But like those cartoons, they’re sharply written, well-drawn and thoroughly enjoyable.

And I know this, because it’s a comic book where this happens:







The Apocalipstix v.1: I’ve already gone over my feelings about Ray Fawkes and Cameron Stewart’s new graphic novel series here (short version: Josie and the Pussycats plus The Road Warrior does in fact equal awesome), but in case you’ve been waiting to see when it would actually hit shelves, well, here it is in a typically slick package from our friends at Oni. Give it a read.

Believe it or not, it’s the only book this week where a giant mutant ant gets an atomic uppercut.


Mini Marvels: Rock Paper Scissors: And speaking of things that you ought to be rushing right out to buy, this week saw the release of the first-ever Mini Marvels trade, and the first collection at all in six years. And brother, it’s about time.

If you’ve read Marvel comics for a while, you’ve probably already seen Chris Giarrusso’s comic strips, so you probably already know how well-done and genuinely funny they are. Unless you’ve been obsessively tracking them down as they showed up in the Marvel Adventures books and the occasional World War Hulk Special, though, you might’ve missed a few of these, and even if you haven’t, they’re well worth having all in one place.

Or at least most of ’em. The trade’s got all of the long-form Mini Marvels stories, from “Paperboy Blues” (which first appeared in Giant Size Mini-Marvels, the aforementioned collection from 2002, all the way up through the World War Hulk parody and the groundbreaking saga of Elephant Steve, who was unquestionably the Sensational Character Find of 2007. The only thing you won’t find are the old strips, but if this one does well, I’m hoping that we’ll get those again soon.

Also, while I don’t normally do this, I’d suggest grabbing this one fast. The fact that there was a note in Previews listing it as a “Direct Market Only” book–which is odd, since you’d think cartoony, kid-friendly comic strips about the Marvel characters would be a great bookstore counterpoint to something like Tiny Titans–doesn’t give me the idea that this one’ll be staying in print very long, and it’d be a shame to miss out on something this fun.



And as far as I’m concerned, that’s the week. As always, if you guys have any questions on something I read this week, like why Renato Guedes didn’t just draw the entire Atlas arc in the faux-Kirby style he uses for this issue’s flashbacks, feel free to leave them in the comments section below.

As for me, I’m going to go try to chart Phil Foglio’s career, a path that goes from D&D to one of the best adventure comics on the market with a brief stop at Centaur Porn in the middle. Ah, comics… Don’t ever change.

30 thoughts on “The Week In Ink: July 23, 2008

  1. I’m reviving the idea of Monster Manuel, who can change into any monster from the D&D Monster Manuals here since you mentioned centaurs.

    Also, any word yet on whether or not Dawn is going to change into a gelatinous cube or not?

  2. Man, I could only afford ONE trade this week. Which means the American Flagg! and Apocalipstix books had to wait. And I didn’t even KNOW about the Mini-Marvels one. Still the Scud book was FREAKING AWESOME. Not only every issue, but also the Drywall origin AND Sussidio as a teen bi-curious, pantsless jewel thief? Hell yeah…

    Since I vaguely recall you saying you were unfamiliar with American Flagg, Scud and Badger are you planning longer reviews of them after getting a chance to read them?

  3. A quick glance at Amazon reveals that the Mini Marvels digest will be available there on August 20th. Screw backpacks and notebooks; *this* is a back-to-school gift.

  4. I am shocked – SHOCKED – that you refrained from mentioning the contents of this week’s Archie – which was chock-a-block filled with continuity gags.

    Good gravy, that was a groovy read.

  5. Where’s the scan of SA Batgirl kicking Ambush Bug in the face?

    Also, Ambush Bug IS Keith Giffen. I don’t know why it took me so long to realize this.

  6. I picked up Mini-Marvels–not quite as good as I thought it would be, but it had enough funny to justify my picking it up. The “Paperboy Blues” story was the worst of the bunch, which was a problem because it was a) long, and b) opened the book. Once I got past that, there was plenty of good stuff to be found.

    I also picked up the MA: FF digest that came out, which had the Mad Thinker story you refer to. I told my friends I wanted every story to end with Reed Richards showing up to save the day, saying “I’m Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four. And these are my toasters.” Not just every FF story, every story ever. Think how much more awesome ‘The Matrix: Revolutions’ would have been if it had ended like that.

  7. My local comics place didnae have ‘Apocalipstix’. Baws.

    I pure bought the new Madman trade, but. Hooray for me.

    Also hooray for lack of thrown horns.

  8. I really wish that DC would get around to collecting the original Ambush Bug stuff. Give me a hard cover omnibus, DC, I dare ya!

    When it comes to Foglio it’s complicated enough just sticking to his comic book work. When you get into his many other projects things just get crazy (like the first pornographic CCG…).

  9. Ambush Bug had me curled up in a ball dying of laughter, mainly because a great many of the jokes play off the original minis perfectly. One of my all time favorite comics is Ambush Bug #3, the history of the bad DC characters, so seeing most of the ones Giffen and Fleming sent up there appearing in this comic flat out killed me. There’s enough going on that I think someone who hasn’t read it will find it hilarious, but if you read the originals, some of the jokes will kill you.

    And wasn’t there a rumor floating around that Fleming was dead, hence the tombstone with his name on it?

  10. Oh, and the “Stephanie Brown L’il Dickens Powertool Playset” joke had me in hysterics for twenty minutes. Damn, how’d this book get out?

  11. That art on Iron Fist was rough. The collar was wow, and Collen Wing lucked a bit to child like for my taste. I hope the art improves. The Vertigo Sandman had fantastic noir stories, but I stopped reading it because I couldn’t bear looking at the art. I hope that doesn’t happen here.

  12. I didn’t dig the Iron Fist art much either, but at least it wasn’t as bad as last week’s X-Factor.

  13. I am shocked – SHOCKED – that you refrained from mentioning the contents of this week’s Archie – which was chock-a-block filled with continuity gags.

    Aside from the fact that the “stationary” line stuck in my craw, I’ve come to the realization that as of today, I have only heard from one other person who cares as deeply as I do about Archie Continuity. Still, it’s Archie: Year One by the guy who wrote The Punisher Meets Archie! Who doesn’t want that?!

    When it comes to Foglio it’s complicated enough just sticking to his comic book work. When you get into his many other projects things just get crazy (like the first pornographic CCG…).

    No kidding. For the record, though, I’d just like to state that I freakin’ love Phil Foglio, centaur porn and all, and think Girl Genius can be downright amazing. Sometimes I get depressed thinking about how we live in a world that never saw his Angel & the Ape ongoing, but then I just have to remind myself that we also live in a world where the writer of Helen Killer is going to be scripting Green Arrow/Black Canary and things seem a little less dark.

    I didn’t dig the Iron Fist art much either, but at least it wasn’t as bad as last week’s X-Factor.

    I wouldn’t know, I dropped X-Factor after Lampanelligate.

    Is the Scud collection in color, or black and white?

    Bee and dubs, heavy enough to club an elk to death, and featuring the best author picture I have ever seen.

  14. my best friend is picking up the (what I call) Preachin’ Cobra Commander for me. I’m stuck in PA. Church services start promptly at 10:25am Sunday morning!

  15. Let’s not forget that Foglio also worked on Dynamo Joe, arguably the best giant robot comic ever produced. And that was while he was doing centaur porn, even. Versatile guy, knows how to multitask.

  16. Phil’s Xxxxenophile book also got the thumbs up from the missus, who blanches at the mere thought that I owned the Gor books.

    So, American Flag HC … worth it if you’ve got the originals?

  17. So, American Flag HC … worth it if you’ve got the originals?

    No idea; I don’t have the originals and I’ve never read it before getting the hardcover. I will say that it’s an absolutely gorgeous reproduction in a very sturdy package, though, and unless there was something the singles had that wasn’t reprinted, I’d probably trade up.

  18. Let’s be fair; it’s unreasonable to pigeonhole Phil as just ‘that centaur porn guy’. He’s drawn a lot of other equally implausible porn, too.

  19. Bill:

    To be fair, the Gor books are appalling affronts to sci-fi and the English language as a whole, any sexual content aside.

  20. American Flagg was fanTAStic (at least the Chaykin stuff. It kinda fizzled a bit in later incarnations – even though they had some stellar guys working on it).
    It was one of my favorite indie books back in the day.

    Oh, and Foglio stil stands out in my mind as the genius (or half of the genius-team) behind “D’ARC TANGENT”.
    Sad that only ONE issue of that ever manifested.

    But, it was enough to permanently find itself an irreplaceable part of my collection.


  21. IIRC, Foglio only did that one little Gremlin creature in Dynamo Joe – the rest of the series was by Doug Rice.

    But you are right – the best giant robot comic book EVER.

  22. I know I’m a week late, but I was curious as to your opinion on how Black Summer ended. Besides showing up on your buy list every few months, it seems like no one in the ole blogosphere has been mentioning it. I have to say, as someone who generally likes Ellis, I was pretty disappointed. There’s no reason this couldn’t have been five issues instead of seven, since it’s been one continous fight scene since #4. And of course we got the obligatory “Ellis rants through one of his characters in the must heavy handed way possible” bit at the end. I know I shouldn’t have expected too much nuance from a story where a superhero kills the president, but still. It’s a shame that such a great premise failed to deliver in such a big way.