You know, as much as I love the “What was the capital of Poland between 1038 and 1596” joke…
…it’s really the kind of thing you can only get away with once.
Then again, repetition does lead to comedy, but there’ll be enough time to discuss comedic theory later, because it’s Thursday night and that means it’s time for another round of the Internet’s Most Effervescent Comics Reviews!
Here’s what I got this week…
…and here’s what we’ll all be thinking about in… the world that’s coming!!
Booster Gold #22: Last month, I mentioned that while Booster Gold wasn’t spectacular, it’s a consistently enjoyable book that’s always worth picking up. With this issue, though, I thought I ought to go ahead and revise that statement.
Not because Booster Gold‘s suddenly not enjoyable or anything, but because I may have been damning it with faint praise. The truth is that over the past few months, Dan Jurgens has been quietly slipping one of DC’s better titles under the radar every month, and the more I read, the more I like it. I think a lot of it has to do with the new direction for the character that Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz launched the series with. The idea of sending Booster back to any moment in the history of the DC universe is not only one that appeals to the Nerd Hat-wearing fan in every reader (and every writer, for that matter), but also one that fits the character perfectly, with great opportunities for the action and comedy that make the character so appealing, and Jurgens is really using it to its potential. Going from a nominal tie-in to the “Batman Reborn” books to the events of New Teen Titans #2 is not only clever, but Jurgens makes it thrilling and genuinely funny.
It’s a great book even before you hit the Blue Beetle backup story, which–even without an appearance by THINKO!–is just as enjoyable as the first. It’s good stuff, and well worth the extra buck.
BPRD: 1947 #1: I’ve enjoyed all of the BPRD series, but last year’s 1946 was far and away the best of them, with is fantastic execution of a deceptively simple soldiers-versus-Nazi-vampires premise. It’s no surprise, then, that I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while, and as you might expect from the fact that it comes from a series that allowed me to just throw “soldiers-versus-Nazi-vampires” out like it ain’t no thang, it’s awesome.
Mike Mignola and Joshua Dysart’s script is the usual–which is to say fantastic–offering, doing a great job of introducing a new cast and setting the typically creepy mood, but it’s also notable for the reappearance of Varvara. I mentioned back when 1946 was coming out that Mignola and Dysart had single-handedly breathed new life into the tired, evil-little-girl archetype, and that continues here. She’s just so incredibly understated that the creepiness doesn’t feel forced like it does in lesser works, and the interplay between her and the increasingly haggard Professor Bruttenholm is just great.
To be honest though, the real star of the show is the art team of Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon, which probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s seen their work on books like Casanova or The Umbrella Academy. They’re phenomenal, and under Dave Stewart’s colors, they’re perfect on this book, delivering great shots of everything from a group of comically shocked 18th century French aristocrats to the horrors of the D-Day landing.
It’s great stuff that only underlines the fact that the BPRD books are one of the best things going in comics right now, and these are the best of the best.
Dark X-Men: The Beginning #1: I don’t really have much of a review for this one, I just wanted to point out that Paul Cornell’s Sub-Mariner story is basically just Namor taking a shower for nine pages and getting a soft touch from Norman Osborn.
That sound you just heard was Rachelle Goguen breaking the sound barrier on her way to her local comic shop.
GI Joe Origins #5: All right, folks. I realize that what I’m about to say might be a little controversial, but trust me here: This might be the best GI Joe story ever.
Admittedly, it doesn’t have Destro–which under normal circumstances would be an automatic disqualification–and only an ersatz Cobra Commander in the person of the hilarious/awesome/hilariously awesome Dr. Chimera, but what it does have is more than a match for what it lacks. Yes, there’s the standard GI Joe militaryish action and it’s all very well done by Larry Hama and Mike Hawthorne, but there are really only two things that you need to know here:
1. It is revealed that Cobra Commander (or at least a reasonable mask-wearing facsimile thereof) is behind the current global economic crisis, with an assist from Duke, and
2. Snake Eyes fights a guy while he is on fire, presumably because they can’t grab you if you’re on fire.
It not only makes a great wrap-up for the first arc of Origins, and what’s more, it puts the main book to shame, as that title has yet to have any ninjas on fire. Ball’s in your court, Dixon, and Hama’s up by five.
Street Fighter II Turbo #7: Okay guys, serious question here: Is Poison still a dude?
I mean, I know that she was originally intended to be female, and then changed because Capcom thought the American SNES-buying audience would be happier with a transvestite hooker than Mike Haggar actually piledriving a woman, and then replaced with two decidedly male characters for the American release, and the whole thing’s way more complex than it ought to be. Even this issue seems to have fun with it, with Cody’s “you’re not much of a lady” and her irate response, which could be taken a couple of ways.
Not that I particularly mind, you understand, but it’d be nice to know which comics I read involved cross-dressing prostitutes. My filing system is oddly specific.
Anyway, as you can probably tell from this line of discussion, the last few issues have featured some of the characters from the Final Fight series, and there’s even an old-fashioned call at the end of the issue for readers to write in if they’d like to see a Final Fight series, and honestly, I’d love one. As inherently goofy as video game comics are, Ken Siu-Chong’s Street Fighter stories have managed to be incredibly entertaining, mostly because they seem to refuse to take themselves seriously. But you know what? I’ll do one better than just asking for a Final Fight book. Hey Udon Studios: I will write you a Final Fight comic for one dollar. And that’s real.
Wasteland #25: Break out the party hats, everybody, because this week brings us the double-sized, double-sexy, full-color 25th issue of everyone’s favorite post-apocalyptic Western!
I’ve mentioned before that Wasteland is one of my favorites, and if you haven’t been reading it, this is probably the one to check out. It’s not so much that it’s a good jumping-on point–which it is, but after all, with four trades, it’s pretty easy to get started at the beginning–but it’s the first standalone story since the incredible Rashomon-style Chuck BB issue, and it’s an incredible read on its own.
One of the most appealing aspects of Wasteland is the world-building, which under a lot of writers can come off as very forced. With Johnston, though–and this might just be a side-effect of the fact that he’s been working on it off and on for fifteen years–it all comes out organically, and after almost three years, it’s all laid into place so well that he can focus on a sharp, clever story that captures the fun and heartbreak of the series all in one issue. And it’s all wrapped up in Mitten’s art, which is just beautiful in this one. Don’t get me wrong, it’s usually good, but going from the normal black and white of the series to the watercolor-style colors is flat-out gorgeous.
It’s a fantastic issue, and while it does carry the price tag of a double-sized story, it’s well worth it.
Wednesday Comics #1: And finally, we hae the book that everyone’s talking about: DC’s newspaper-sized Wednesday Comics. I’ve been looking forward to this one since it was announced, and now that I’ve got the first issue in my hand, well, it’s certainly an anthology title.
Admittedly, it’s a good anthology title, and with the talent DC’s brought in to pull it off, it ought to be. I mean, this is a book that is giving us Kyle Baker’s Hawkman, which, in case you missed that, is Kyle Baker’s Hawkman, a pairing that gave us quite possibly the best quote from any interview ever:
“Hawkman carries a mace, so it’s important for a writer to create dilemmas which can be resolved with a mace. A guy with a mace fighting a T-Rex is a good fight to watch.”
And I’m sure it will be. But any anthology is bound to have a mix in quality, and while it’s a triumph in terms of format–the huge, single-page stories are strikingly beautiful and every one is immediately visually engaging–Wednesday Comics is no exception.
The biggest disappointment, sadly, was Busiek and Quinones’ Green Lantern, which I was really looking forward to. I get that this is only the first page of a twelve-page story, but it’s also their first opportunity to really use the new format to hook the reader, and while Quinones does a great job with the art, he’s drawing exactly one panel of Green Lantern, with the rest of a 14″ x 20″ page devoted to Hal Jordan’s coworkers and their drink orders. It’s obvious what Busiek’s going for–setting up the contrast that’ll lead into future weeks–but the strip-style format lends itself better to pages that can function as complete chapters in and of themselves, and he’s loaded this one up with way too much setup. There’s even a wordy caption explaining that this is the “New Frontier” Hal Jordan that could be done away with altogether. The Supergirl story, for instance, doesn’t bother to explain that it’s not the Supergirl running around in the ongoing, it just presents a fun, well-drawn one-page story that could work as a gag strip just as well as it sets up future installments.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is the Wonder Woman page, which–again–is beautiful, but just doesn’t do it for me. I can see that Caldwell’s going for a more Little Nemo-esque adventure that does take advantage of the larger page, but it just seems to hit wrong, with Wonder Woman talking to birds and then an honest-to-God “It was all a dream… OR WAS IT?!” ending. It is, however, very pretty, so I’m hoping to get more out of it in future issues.
Lest you think I’m being overly negative, though, the good definitely outweighs the bad. I mentioned Supergirl already (which Amanda Conner does an incredible job with), and the Azarello/Risso Batman story does a great job setting the mood on the first page. More to my taste, though, was Neil Gaiman, who does a passable Bob Haney impression in his Metamorpho story with Mike Allred, which I’m really hoping holds up for the duration. And of course, the biggest shocker for me was the Metal Men story. I mean, I knew the art was going to be great–it’s Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Kevin Nowlan, for cryin’ out loud!–but I wasn’t expecting to see the ’70s styled Metal Men, complete with the Avenging Disco Godfather Who Is Liquid At Room Temperature.
Far and away the best, though–at least until Hawkman starts solving dinosaur problems with his mace–was Paul Pope’s Strange Adventures. It’s a perfect use of the format in terms of layout, and while there’s very little action from Adam Strange himself, Pope gives us a fantastic setup with a perfect piece of dialogue to accompany it. More than anything else, this is the one I’m looking forward to sitting down with at the end of the series and reading one installment after the other.
So yeah: It’s an anthology, but it’s one that does a great job in doing something different, and if the worst it has to offer is a beautifully drawn Green Lantern story that’s not quite as good as it oughtta be, then it’s well worth the trade-off.
Annnnnnnd that’s the week! As always, any questions, concerns, or speculation on whether or not Scott Gray can live up to the record Jeff Parker’s established on X-Men: First Class (which was highly enjoyable this week) can be left in the comments section below.
Also, I did have a couple of cocktails while I was writing these reviews so uh… I mean… I didn’t offer to write anything for a dollar, did I?
Oh man, not again…