Disbelief, meet violence:
Not since chocolate and peanut butter has there been a combination so satisfying!
That’s right, folks: The comparison of acts of violence to candy can only mean one thing: It’s Thursday night, and it’s time for another round of the Internet’s Most Delicious Comics Reviews! Here’s what I picked up this week…
…and here’s what I thought of it!
BPRD: The Ectoplasmic Man: I haven’t exactly made a secret of the fact that I love the BPRD series, but whenever I read them, I’m always a little surprised at how good they are. After all, this is a comic book based around the question of what’s left when you take Hellboy out of Hellboy.
The answer? There’s still a pretty surprising amount of fun stuff to play with. Out of all the newer BPRD characters, Johann has by far the most interesting character arc–going as he does from the ghost in the weird, featureless rubber suit to getting his own body and losing himself in the pleasures of the flesh to losing it all and being confined to a balloon again–and with this issue, Mignola, Arcudi and Steinbeck do a great job of blending an origin with what we’ve already seen.
It’s set up like a deceptively simple story that reads like a ghost-heavy episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (because really, we know how this is going to end from the moment the demon puts the bullet on the table), but it’s the little things that really make it work, like Johann’s comments about finding the simplicity of his new body “liberating,” and it doesn’t hurt that Steinbeck’s art is just awesome. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen his work before, but under Dave Stewart’s colors, it just sings, and the tricks that he pulls off–from the symmetrical shots of the sÃ©ance guests holding hands before and after they’re killed right up to the visual throwback to The Exorcist in the last panel–just work beautifully.
If you’ve been on the fence about the BPRD stuff, this one–a one-shot with a creepy story that manages to be tense while telegraphing its ending from before it even starts–is a good place to get a feel for the series, and if you have been reading, it’s every bit as solid as the rest of ’em.
Conan the Cimmerian #0: You know, under normal circumstances, there aren’t words strong enough to describe how hard I’d be avoiding a comic book based on a poem. The only thing I can think of that I’d dodge even harder would be a comic based on, I dunno, the music of Tori Amos or something. But really, what are the odds of that ever happening?
This, however, is a special case, in that it is a comic book based on a poem by Robert E. Howard, which is then used as the backdrop for Conan to totally kill like three guys and then reminisce about his achievements in the fields of ass-kicking, wenching, and yes, wearing the occasional burlap skirt. It’s just how he rolls, and for an issue designed to get people to jump on by showing them what Conan and his homeland are all about, Tim Truman and Tomas Giorello could’ve done a heck of a lot worse.
I’ve been enjoying Truman’s work on Conan–both as writer and artist, which is a pretty rare achievement–and Giorello’s art pretty much speaks for itself, and while I’m not sure that this really necessitated a whole new series, it’s nice to have Conan back monthly. Because really, these Vanirmen were just getting out of control.
Final Crisis #2: I don’t want to get off on a weird, multi-paragraph tangent about DC’s editorial direction and the reign of nostalgia here like I did on Tuesday, so I’ll try to keep this one brief: We’re two issues in, and so far, I think Final Crisis has been pretty awesome.
Admittedly, this probably has a lot to do with my own personal affection for what Morrison’s building from with this one, but even so, there’s a lot to really like here, like the way each issue’s just packed with stuff going on. It’s the antithesis of decompression; there aren’t even establishing shots to mark scene changes, it just jumps from moment to moment in a way that sweeps the reader up and carries them along as the story keeps moving faster. It’s a storytelling motif that Morrison’s used before–the idea that time itself gets faster as it builds to a climax–and in this issue at least, he and Jones are able to do some hectic pacing without seeming sloppy or rushed.
What I don’t get–and I don’t want to be a dick here (NOTE: THIS IS A LIE)–are the people who say that it’s hard to follow or understand, because the Final Crisis that I’m reading is pretty straightforward. And I don’t mean that it’s straightforward by Grant Morrison standards, I mean that it’s straightforward by comic book standards. I’ll be the first to admit that there are a lot of references thrown in there that are rewarding for people who do get them, but in the issues we’ve seen, a meticulous knowledge of the characters isn’t all that necessary. Comics characters, after all, are based around visual shorthand to begin with, and even without a fotonote pointing you to his earlier adventures (which you oughtta read anyway), it’s not hard to figure out all you need to know about Sonny Sumo from his actions within the story.
And like I said, if you don’t know about Dan Turpin, that’s your fault. He’s in the friggin’ cartoon, fer Chrissakes.
To be fair, there’s stuff going on that hasn’t been explained, but I’m pretty sure that’s because a story is not an article, and occasionally creators like to hold some information back to build tension. Just a thought.
But anyway, suffice to say that with the second issue’s developments, I’m having a pretty good time with it.
Immortal Iron Fist #16: Now I know I have a heart… because I can feel it breaking: this issue marks the departure of Matt Fraction and David Aja from the pages of The Immortal Iron Fist. Well, not really, there’s still a special coming out in a couple months, but you know what I mean. Still, if they had to go–and I guess they did, I hear these “mu-tants” are the next big thing–it’s nice to go out on an issue as fantastic as this one.
Sure, it has the least fighting of any issue of Iron Fist that we’ve seen so far, but it’s also got fantastic character moments and the revelation that Misty Knight has the coolest damn bedroom I have ever seen. Plus, it has this, which is quite possibly the best two-word dialogue exchange ever:
Beat that, Duane Swierczynski… IF YOU DARE.
No Hero #1: Out of all the books that Warren Ellis is putting out through Avatar these days, No Hero was the one that I was the most dismissive of, but if the zero issue’s any indication, it might just be the one I end up being most interested in.
Thematically, I think it ties in a lot with what he’s doing with Black Summer, but instead of focusing on the one moment when his standard-issue team of super-heroes took a turn for the worse, it looks like No Hero‘s focusing on a slow rise and fall, from counterculture heroes to pop icons to high-profile targets. Just based on structure alone, that’s a pretty neat idea that sets it apart from the Big Science Action of his other current projects–although if the backmatter’s any indication, that’s still going to play a part–and I’ve gotta say, he does a darn good of laying out that hook in eight pages, even if the climax borders on an almost Tom and Jerry level of cartoonishness. Either way, it’s definitely worth gambling a buck to check it out.
Superman #677: You know, Jack Kirby created a lot of tough guys who wear skirts. The two big ones that everybody knows of course, are Dr. Doom and Darkseid, and while Doom has armor on underneath and can probably get away with calling it a tunic, there’s really no getting around the fact that Darkseid–who is essentially a planet-dominating Space Hitler–is rolling around in a minidress and thigh-high boots. Often overlooked, however–probably because, like Kirby’s greatest creation, he only appeared once in 1st Issue Special–was a third member of this elite club: Atlas, whose outfit consists of a miniskirt and a headscarf.
Needless to say, this is awesome and I’m totally excited about his dramatic and fashionable return, especially since it’s written by James Robinson, who, with the recent release of the Starman Omnibus, has a bigger surplus of goodwill now than at any time since the release of Comic Book Villains.
As for the story itself, it’s not bad, but I can’t shake the feeling that it could’ve had a lot more to it. The book’s called Superman after all, and as much as I like to see Superman playing fetch with Krypto in space and respect Robinson’s desire to throw the spotlight on supporting characters (in this case, the Science Police) to give a sense of perspective, both scenes feel like they drag longer than necessary, and without any reason to care other than there being a guy in a skirt tearing ass around Metropolis, Superman’s last-page arrival comes off more anticlimactic than the first issue of a run ought to be.
Still, though: Skirt and a headscarf. It’s just too daring to not give it a second chance.
Thor: Reign of Blood: This is the most metal comic book I have ever read.
And yes, I realize that I’m saying that in a week where I also bought 213 pages of Conan the Barbarian, but if Ages of Thunder was the comic for people who like Led Zeppelin III, then this is the one for guys who love Slayer. Allow me, if I may, to summarize the plot. After Odin calls her a trollop for having a four-way with the dwarves of Nidavellir, the Enchantress curses the earth with a literal, honest-to-Asgard rain of blood (from a lacerated sky), which causes every man who has ever died to walk the earth until Thor kills them all again, which he does by wrangling The Blood Colossus, only to flip out and murder a town when he finds out that they ate his horses.
Seriously. That’s what happens. And it is awesome.
Also, “wrangling the Blood Colossus” is the filthiest euphemism I have ever heard.
What If: The Fantastic Four Tribute to Mike Weiringo: So here’s the deal: Everybody needs to buy this comic.
Not just because it’s a benefit book for the Hero Initiative, although that’s a better reason to buy something than most of the stuff I get.
And it’s not even because it’s a tribute to the life and work of Mike Weiringo, one of the true great comics creators of our time, although that’s a pretty big part of it. I’ve been a fan of his since the first time I saw his work on the flash, and his death last year was not only an incredible shock, but it was a tragedy for an industry that could benefit so much from a guy with the talent and joy that showed through on every page he drew.
No, you should get this comic because it’s awesome. With a script by Jeff Parker that revisits one of my favorite stories of all time and manages to include Satanic versions of Sabretooth and Venom while still being fun and lighthearted, it’s a great read, and the artists that come together to complete it along with Weiringo’s 7 pages end up doing one of the best jam issues that I’ve ever seen. It’s a fitting tribute, but first and foremost, it’s a great, fun comic, and that just makes it a better salute to a guy whose work never failed to entertain. Pick it up and give it a read.
And that’s the week! As always, if there’s anything that caught your eye this week–like Hitler’s great “Oh Shit!” face on the cover of Mythos: Captain America or the fact that Alan Davis drew Kate Bishop in a crazy mod minidress based on Hawkeye’s crazy-ass Native American costume and how awesome that was–feel free to leave a comment. As for me, well, this Get Lost! trade is absolutely gorgeous, and it ain’t gonna read itself.