The Week In Ink: July 29, 2009

You know, I’ve scanned something out of Wednesday Comics every week since it started, like so…

 

 

…and I gotta say, that thing is a hassle to scan. I don’t know if DC’s actually advanced the art form or anything, but I’ve got the sneaking suspicion that they’ve finally produced the comic that’ll make even the most die-hard digital pirate throw his hands up and say “You know what? Y’all can go buy that one in the store.”

But enough ruminations about the state of the industry! It’s another Thursday night, and that means it’s time for another round of the Internet’s Most Digitalist Comics Reviews! Here’s what I picked up this week…

 

 

…and here’s what I thought about ’em!

 


 

ISB BEST OF THE WEEK

 

 

Detective Comics #855: Given how much I liked the first part of Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III’s Batwoman story, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone that I’m still enjoying it, but even I was surprised at just how much I’m loving it.

The obvious credit goes to Williams and colorist Dave Stewart, for the obvious reason that this book is just flat-out gorgeous. I’ve talked about Williams before, owing mainly to his phenomenal work on the Black Glove story from Grant Morrison’s Batman run, but his work has never looked better than it does here. The detail, the incredible facial expressions, the angles he chooses, the way that everything from the panel layouts to the actual linework reflects what’s going on in the story; it’s all amazing, and it makes for something that’s not just one of the best looking comics on the stands today, but that I think I’ve ever read.

And amazingly, it’s got the story to match. Despite a few missteps, Greg Rucka’s still a guy that’s written some of my favorite comics, but it’s not just that he’s doing good work that makes me like this book so much. Given what I often find myself complaining about, I think it’s pretty clear that I value innovation, and this thing’s full of it. It’s not just a new (albeit legacy) character, and it’s not just that there’s a new villain, but the idea that it’s all happening in the flagship title that the company takes its very name from… well, it’s melodramatic to say that it gives me hope, but it’s certainly one of the best things DC has going for it. It’s truly amazing comics, and as you can tell, I’m pretty excited about it.

Plus in the Question story, there are nunchuks.

 

Justice Society of America #29: This issue marks the arrival on JSA of the new creative team of Bill Willingham, Matt Sturges, and Jesus Merino, and it’s something I’ve been looking forward to since it was announced a while back. After all, I think the record will show that I’m a pretty big fan of Willingham and Sturges’s other work, and for all my grousing about getting on with the new, I actually do like DC’s Golden Age and legacy characters quite a bit. Well, except Magog. And Citizen Steel. And the new Mr. America, who fights with a whip in each hand and reminds me more of the climactic towel battle from I Love You, Beth Cooper than anything else. And Wildcat’s kid the furry. And Cyclone, who is really annoying. And, jeez, is that Jonni Thunder in there? Yeesh.

Really though, I actually do like most of them (especially poor Doctor Mid-Nite, who had an amazing start courtesy of Matt Wagner but was then quickly relegated to patching up super-sprained ankles all the time), but for some reason, this issue left me a little cold. It’s certainly not bad or poorly written, and there’s enough about it that’s interesting that I’m planning on sticking with it, but something just felt a little off.

Then again, I’ve not read any Justice Society comics in a couple of years, and while I’m usually prone to snap judgments, it occasionally takes me a few issues to warm up to a series that I end up liking a lot (heck, I outright hated Manhunter for the first few issues, and now I’m buying a comic I actively dislike just to get eight pages of Kate Spencer backup stories). Or it could be that I’m distracted from an otherwise solid issue by the fact that there’s a) a woman in jodhpurs and b) an analogue for Cable that everyone’s talking to like he’s not absolutely ridiculous. Either way, it doesn’t quite feel right just yet, and since I can’t put my finger on exactly why, I’m willing to accept that it might just be me, but I’m hoping it snaps in place soon.

 

Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #57: In this issue of everyone’s favorite witchity “adventure” series, the title character spends an (admittedly low) nine pages nude, eight of which involve her tied up and one of which involves a dragon running its tongue over her breasts. Secondary characters are nude (and in two instances, fully splayed) on eight pages. In the backmatter, there are six photographs of nude (but tastefully obscured) women.

On the letters page, someone writes in to ask Jim Balent if he’s ever going to do something really explicit.

That is all.

 

Wednesday Comics #4: Well, we’re officially a month into DC’s experiment with the newspaper-sized format, and while I applaud its revolutionary scanner-foiling properties, I’ve got to admit that I’ve just flat-out given up on a few chunks of this thing.

I mentioned my problems with Caldwell’s Wonder Woman strip in my review of the first issue, and to be honest, I’ve just stopped reading it. As pretty as it is–and it is pretty–Caldwell errs in the exact opposite way that most of the strips do, cramming in too much instead of too little. From a purely visual standpoint the twisting layouts look great, but in practice the shading that would look great on a better paper stock just ends up looking drab, and it’s just too dense. There are fifty-five panels in this week’s, and even at four times the size of a normal comics page, that works out to 13 panels per, and that’s just too much. Plus, while the “it was all a dream… or was it?!” endings are a nice callback to Winsor McCay and the strips of the past, is really repetitive. Still, there’s a chance that when it’s all done, I’ll sit down with them and try to get through, as it’s at least got stuff going on.

The Superman strip, however… I honestly cannot imagine who would want to read this.

Don’t get me wrong, I actually do like John Arcudi’s work a lot on the B.P.R.D. books, and Lee Bermejo’s doing a beautiful job drawing it, but the things he’s drawing are boring. This is Superman, but for the past three issues–ever since the flawed but promising fight with the robot in the first issue–we’ve seen him do nothing but act like an insufferably self-absorbed child, especially in the interactions with Batman in the second part. And in this one, he spends the entire page hanging out at the county fair looking at things.

Again, this is Superman, and out of everything that ran in Wednesday Comics, this one was supposed to be the one that had the best chance of really introducing people to the character (with the first page running in USA Today and all), but not only is there nothing here I’d want to be introduced to, this is the same version of the character that people have seen in stuff like Superman Returns. It’s not new, it’s not engaging, and it’s not good. And it’s especially annoying both because Arcudi’s capable of better work and because DC can put out a much better continuity-free Superman comic that captures the essence of the character without miring itself down into pointless introspection. We know they can. We’ve seen it.

Of course, the story’s not over yet, and there’s always a chance Arcudi could pull out a winner, but for it to be this frustrating to read a full third of the way into the project, I’m not holding out hope.

But those are the bad bits; there’s also a lot of Wednesday Comics that’s really enjoyable: Kamandi and Adam Strange are darn-near-perfect uses of the form, Supergirl and Flash are a hoot, and Dan Didio, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Kevin Nowlan’s Metal Men story is way, way better than I ever expected it to be. And although the last two weeks of Neil Gaiman’s Metamorpho read like someone suddenly told him it was twelve pages and not ten, it’s pretty enjoyable too.

And then there’s Hawkman, which is by the incredible Kyle Baker and ends with a joke so gloriously, perfectly awful that it loops back around to awesome and pretty much justifies the whole series. That guy knows how it’s done.

 

Woman of A.C.T.I.O.N. #1, Chapter One: I honestly considered making the first chapter of this my Best of the Week, but that would push even my shameless self promotion past its limits. So I’ll just use this space to mention that my latest comic, drawn and lettered by “Peerless” Chris Piers and colored by “Swingin'” Steve Downer, is now available for your reading pleasure over at the Action Age.

These are the first ten pages, but there’s still fifteen more to go that’ll be going up over the next two Wednesdays, along with some incredible pin-ups and a letter column with the third installment. So if you haven’t yet, go read it! And if you’ve read it already… uh… go read it again? Or tell someone else to. Consider it ISB homework.

 

You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation: We’ve discussed Paul Karasik’s collections of the work of Golden Age madman Fletcher Hanks a few times here on the ISB since the release of the first volume, I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets, and as much as I’ve been looking forward to the second collection, I honestly thought there was no way it could be as crazy, awesome, or crazy-awesome as the first one.

I was wrong.

 

 

This is the best thing ever.

 


 

And on that planet-destroying note, that’s the week! As always, any questions or concerns can be left in the comments, so if you want to talk about how great the past few issues of Secret Warriors have been (“Recoil.”) or how awesome that Ghost Rider story where the fate of Heaven is decided by a motorcycle race around the world is (guest starring Thor and the Punisher! Seriously!), that’s the place to do it.

47 thoughts on “The Week In Ink: July 29, 2009

  1. I understand why you bailed on Wonder Woman, but you gotta get back on board. We got Black Canary openly talking about Diana having the second most impressive rack in comics, and they go undercover as brawlers. Dude, Wonder Woman vaguely looks like a Blaziken. At least peek through the issue.

  2. What, no Ultimatum #5 pile on? COME ON, MAN. We pay you to….wait. Nevermind.

  3. I bailed on Wednesday Wonder Woman as well. Having Kubert’s huge Sgt Rock panels after it demonstrates what a horrible idea it was to mulch everything down when given more space.

  4. I agree with Jason. This month’s Wonder Woman was good. She chills with polar bears AND knocks out a shape shifting Japanese dude.

  5. Alright, I’m sold. I’ve gotta check out this Batwoman story now…

    The Wonder Woman strip in Wednesday Comics is starting to grow on me actually. It breaks up the pace nicely and there’s no way I could see all the details in one go, so…

    My favourite this week is the Metamorpho strip which I found suprisingly surreal. Kamandi, Demon/Catwoman and Hawkman are consistently good.

    Yeah I found the Superman a bit boring but I showed it to a friend, who is a dad, and he thought it was great. Which made me look at it in a new light.

    The Batman strip is fabulous. I thought the first one was a self-contained story… ;-)

  6. Unfortunately, a quick search of the revived scans_daily shows that those assholes are scanning at least some pages of each Wednesday Comics issue.

    The commentary at S_D is as special as ever–did you know Hawkman and Kamandi are among the worst drawn strips? Gail Simone still shows up there talking sanity. In a post about Wonder Woman she dropped a line which could serve well as the motto for most every comic book message board:

    “It’s easy to think everyone cares about the same stuff we do. But it’s also usually completely incorrect.”

  7. Oh, and while I agree that the Wednesday Comics Wonder Woman can be pretty intimidating to read, I would love love love to see Caldwell have a full-blown book to explore his characterization of Wonder Woman in. I don’t mind his crammed-in look as much–I’m still reading WC’s Wonder and counting it as one of my favorites–but I get why readers are turned off. The strip would be so much more reader-friendly if it had panel borders, a different font, and a much more limited color palette that recognized the limitations of newsprint.

  8. I am right with you on Batwoman in Detective. There’s just something really special about it. I haven’t felt this way about a comic since Planetary.

    I also agree with you on JSA. I’ve been a regular reader for a number of years, and I’m certainly going to give Willingham and Sturges a chance, but there definitely was something wrong with this issue. For me, the characterization was off: I can’t see Mister Terrific being so dismissive to the legacies who stayed behind in the brownstone; and some of the other dialogue doesn’t ring true, either (I’m looking at you, Star-Spangled and All-American Kids).

    The Wonder Woman strip in Wednesday Comics is just awful. Enjoying entertainment shouldn’t be laborious.

  9. Chris, I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you. Thank you for reading Tarot, so the rest of us don’t have to.

    And Dynamo 5 is v.3, not v.4.

  10. Brian S

    Yes, it’s shocking, shocking that someone on a comic book forum could have opinions which differ from yours.

    (A lot of commenters like the Hawkman and Kamandi art just fine, for the record.)

  11. You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation: Much like …Civilised Planets I’ve been hesitant to check it out, not because I fear it might not be great, but because I’m scared that nothing, nothing could live up to the sheer abject radness- or radjectness of their titles.

    Thank you for allaying my fears. I shall get on to that directly.

  12. Scanners aren’t having any trouble with Wednesday Comics, for the record, but maybe that “Like it? Buy it” tag will do its job.

  13. Jambe:

    Batman trained to be the best at everything.

    This includes hula-hooping, pouting, and wearing lace.

    trufaxâ„¢.

  14. Because that would require buying either Ultimatum or the current run of Fantastic Four, in violation of any number of surgeon general’s warnings.

  15. “Golden Age Madman” is my new band name.

    Has the first Secret Six trade been released yet? I got all fired up for it talking to Nicole Scott at our one and only convention earlier this month.

  16. Usually I don’t mind your best of the weeks picks even if I disagree with them, but you’re way off this week. Yes, the art is gorgeous (except for that goofy last panel), but Rucka’s story is downright boring. If Williams weren’t drawing this, nobody would care. Rucka can write very good stuff, but this is nowhere near the best of the week. Ignition City, Northlanders, and Unknown Soldier were all better than Detective, even without the stunning art.

  17. Thanks for the kind words about my Fletcher Hanks books.

    For readers still unfamiliar with the man whom R. Crumb called, “a twisted dude”, I suggest that you slide over to the BONUS page of my website for a full length Hanks story about the lumberjack Big Red McLane.

    Yes, once upon a time someone thought that it would be a good idea to have a comic book series about a lumberjack who beats the crap out of other lumberjacks.

    http://www.fletcherhanks.com

  18. So with the finale on MZ4 and the Darkhawk part of War of Kings any final thoughts? Also are any of the Dark Reign: Whatever books any good? I mean aside from ones written by Jeff Parker…

  19. On the JSA cover, that’s really Lightning, Black Lightning’s other daughter, or are you talking about Jakeem Thunder?

    …yeah.

    Those things I said sound ridiculous to me too.

  20. What I’ve noticed is that I end up disliking every non-Fables book that Willingham writes, even when I was anticipating it a lot. “Shadowpact” started out alright and eventually cratered into droningly dull. “DC Decisions” was weird from the very beginning, but it couldn’t help that it was co-written by Winick. And Willingham’s “Justice Society” is coming off as… not bad, really, but unbalanced and jittery. It could get bad fast, but I hope it doesn’t.

  21. I remain rather unimpressed with Rucka’s work on Detective. The art is absolutely phenomenal, and it is hands down the most beautiful comic on the shelves right now, but…a themed villain who spouts lines from Alice in Wonderland is hardly an original idea, and the fact that they actually reference the Mad Hatter doesn’t make it any less egregious a sin of unoriginality. I like the actual exploration of Batwoman’s character and relationship with her father, but I wish he’d given us a more interesting bad guy.

  22. Hey, Chris, did ya have a chance to read Darwyn Cooke’s Richard Stark’s Parker yet?

  23. I kinda knew in his first issue the whole removable hair bit should’ve been marked with a caption that said PLOT POINT, but it does make me wonder if having removable hair and trying to keep a secret identity while leaving DNA/Hair tissues in the hands of your villains is necessarily wise. But in any case J.H. Williams III is great.

  24. “Yes, once upon a time someone thought that it would be a good idea to have a comic book series about a lumberjack who beats the crap out of other lumberjacks.”

    I see nothing wrong with that. I long for someone to revive the lumbejack action genre. Maybe someone with their own web comics imprint? And a website where they review comics? Whose name is similar to that of a second gen NFL quarterback?

    Also, I’m not going as far as Burgas and chiding you for picking ‘Tec as your best of the week, but I do find myself unable to summon the same enthusiasm for it that you do. I do appreciate that Rucka acknowledged that yes, this character is similar to the Mad Hatter in the story.

    Of course, some people said the same things about the Black Glove that Greg did about this story. I’m not going to elaborate on how little I think of that kind of criticism because Greg and I write for the same blog and he’s more productive than I am, so it would be pretty poor decorum.

  25. Holy crap! That Fletcher Hanks panel looks like it comes straight from the erotic nightmares of Doctor Seuss. I have to pick up those books.

  26. I agree so hard about Batwoman. I read the thing three times in a row this weekend. The art is blowing my mind.

    And in reference to the removable hair, you guys, I got the feeling it was less of a wig and more of a helmet with hair. So no more likely to pull out actual hairs than Batman’s cowl.

  27. “And in reference to the removable hair, you guys, I got the feeling it was less of a wig and more of a helmet with hair. So no more likely to pull out actual hairs than Batman’s cowl.”

    Hmm. Interesting. I hope this means she’ll go undercover with one of those caps with dreadlocks on them later in the series.

  28. My last Batwoman comic before I get to work again (or make cookies); I am totally jealous that Chris thought of the Suicide Girls joke before I did. Also, every other joke he’s ever written, or at least Lucha Spider-Man.

  29. “Because that would require buying either Ultimatum or the current run of Fantastic Four, in violation of any number of surgeon general’s warnings.”

    no denying that Millars FF run has been abosolutly boring and bleh

    but for his finale MAN does he ever knock the ball out of the fucking park

  30. Millar’s FF finale is really fun, and continues Millar’s successful ‘fuck you’ to the fanboys who criticised his portrayal of Doom by having the biggest and most adorable asshole in comics willingly see Latveria destroyed, get burned to a near-dead husk, dismembered by dino-sharks and live in unbearable pain and agony for millions of years by sheer force of will “FOR HATE” – and it’s not even to get back at Reed Richards for a change.

    Darkhawk’s finale flubs the whole point of a retcon by putting him right back where he was in the middle of his own series (complete with Evilhawk analogue) and would have got to the same point in a fraction of the time had it simply not bothered with the two-issue lead-in that served no purpose other than to stamp the whole ‘Excelsior’ phase on his continuity rather than ignoring it outright and having him go punch an alien in the face ‘just because’ – and as much as I like my continuity to make some sort of rudimentary sense, after the exceedingly dull fanfic that was Loners, I’d have settled for ‘Just Because’. Ascension was still a pretty fun series even if the War of Kings connection was a bit stretched, and now we have Kamen Rider Darkhawk at large and in charge.

  31. “straight from the erotic nightmares of Doctor Seuss”

    That’s my new favorite phrase ever.

  32. I’ve read lots of interviews with Pope and never have I read him referencing any of the underground guys. I don’t see it much myself- Spain kind of has a blocky squareness to his line while Pope’s is much more fluid.

    One of these days I’ll finally buy Tarot or Anita Blake and be so disappointed it doesn’t come with your commentary in caption boxes (which would make for an awesome variant).

  33. “One of these days I’ll finally buy Tarot or Anita Blake and be so disappointed it doesn’t come with your commentary in caption boxes (which would make for an awesome variant).”

    I wonder if Balent could double his readership if he got everyone who reads this blog to buy a Sims-annotated issue. Does my math over or under rate his numbers?

  34. The majority of Pope’s art is exactly as you claim; I just felt a bit of the influence in the Adam Strange strip…
    Maybe it’s just a flashback.

  35. Batwoman in DETECTIVE just touches on every single one of my nerd entertainment fetishes.

    Hot, feminine but tough redhead, check. Female with dark issues from past, check. Villain who is clearly delusional and thinks they are a fictional character? Check and check.

    Her dad being her mentor is a nice touch, too.

  36. gotta say I was surprised by the new FF. sure the arc and most of the run was crappy, but this issue had one of the all time most awesome Doctor Doom moments in history. plus it had a FUCKING CAPTAIN AMERICA DINOSAUR.

  37. What would be awesome is to do a Wednesday’s Comics type anthology but instead of awesome artists drawing DC characters they’d be drawing characters from Zap. Who would do Joe Blow?

  38. I’m ashamed to admit that I had a “OMG, so THAT’S what that means!” moment reading this week’s TWII: I never knew DC stood for “Detective Comics.” In my defense, I’m not really a comic book reader (then what am I doing here, you ask? Your wit, charm, and sex appeal, Mr. Sims.) and more a Marvel fan, so I always assumed DC stood for Washington, D.C. in some sort of patriotic metonymy. Now I feel stupid.

  39. I’ve said it before elsewhere, but screamed it out loud when I finally picked up Wednesday Comics #4 last night.

    Caldwell lays out panels like Yoda talks.