When I posted a list of fifty things that I love about comics last night, a few readers were surprised that I didn’t actually list “kicks to the face” in there with the rest of it. The reason for this, of course, is that kicks to the face aren’t something that I love about comics.
They’re something that I love about life.
Incidentally, that thing where something happens and it’s so awesome that the sound effect is the panel? I love that.
But enough with the positivity! Tonight belongs to the Internet’s most bone-shattering comics reviews, and after last night’s lovefest, can there be anything left but the all-consuming bitterness and spite that comes from working in comics retail?! Read on, gentle reader! Read on!
Blue Beetle #16: Let’s talk for a minute about what makes a great comic. For the past few months–ever since it broke through the mild shakiness of the first story arc—Blue Beetle has been one of the most consistently enjoyable comics that DC puts out. Rogers and Albuquerque have been doing a phenomenal job on it lately, fine-tuning the great cast of characters and putting together stories that are almost up to the standard set by the early issues of Impulse for sheer enjoyability, and this issue’s a perfect example why. It’s completely solid, from the arrival of Traci 13 to a sequence where Jaime Reyes comes off as one of the most likable characters in years. But really, is that what makes this thing great? No.
For that, just take a look at page two, where the title of the story is revealed to be “Total Eclipso: The Heart.” Oh, John Rogers! You complete me.
Criminal #7: What is it about the Dodge Charger that makes it the car of choice for jumping over things and outrunning cops?
Seriously, though: The last thing anyone should need at this point is for me to tell them that Criminal is awesome. Its two Eisner nominations aside, it’s a book by Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips, and as anyone who read Sleeper knows, those guys just don’t make bad comics. What is surprising though is how well-done their heist sequences are: The one in this issue involves a sniper rifle, a cocktail of crystal meth and valium, and a stolen ambulance that gets set on fire, and that’s just to get what they need to pull of the actual heist later in the story! It’s ridiculously exciting stuff that’s beautifully done in every way, from the covers all the way to the essays on film noir that close out every issue.
Immortal Iron Fist #6: This, for the record, is a comic book where one character says to another: “Less talking. More kicking.” How, I ask you, could it not be the best of the week?
This issue wraps up the first story arc of the new series, and for those of you who have been waiting for the trade to jump on, allow me to assure you: This is everything you have ever wanted from Iron Fist. Hell, it’s everything you never even knew that you wanted: A legacy that stretches back to the Pirate Queen of Pinghai Bay, a guy shooting chi-powered bullets from a pair of US Army .45s, and the Heroes for Hire reuniting to fight the armies of HYDRA!
To be fair, you probably did know you wanted that last one, but make no mistake: This book delivers, with each issue crammed as full as it can get with some of the most enjoyable action you’re going to get in comics, bar none. I’ve already gone on tonight about Ed Brubaker’s talents, and Matt Fraction’s body of work–which includes both a kung fu gorilla and a story where the Punisher fights Nazis–is spoken for pretty much every time I open my mouth, and they’re both knocking it out of the park on this one, with art to match. David Aja’s fight scenes are kinetic and frenzied, and Russ Heath’s flashback sequences are, well, drawn by Russ Heath. No further commentary should be necessary.
It is–and I’m saying this with no undue hyperbole–one of those comics that’s as close to being perfect as I can possibly imagine, and it’s something that you need to be reading. Heck, I even like Iron Fist’s new costume, and considering the amount of affection I’ve got for a good old-fashioned high collar, that’s saying something.
Incidentally, if you demand more Matt Fraction in your life–and really, who doesn’t?–ISB reader Jeff Brister has a brief interview with him up at his blog where he talks about, among other things, the next arc on Casanova. Brister refrains from just flipping right out about Iron Fist–a show of discipline which obviously continues to elude me–but it’s worth checking out anyway.
Legion of Monsters: Satana: Yeah, I know, I’m as surprised to see it here as you are, but let’s be honest: A man’s desire to see what Pamela Anderson would look like with red hair cannot be underestimated, and thus I have turned once again to the public service provided by Greg Land.
I’m kidding, of course. Aside from my brief interest in Brian Pulido’s mildly wretched Supernaturals last Halloween, Satana’s never really done much for me, and with a story so boring that I got two pages from the end and just decided to skip the rest, this issue didn’t really change that.
No, the real reason I picked this one up was to see the second feature: a story about N’Kantu the Living Mummy done by Jonathan Hickman, whose last issue of The Nightly News also dropped this week. I’ve really been enjoying Nightly News–especially given the fact that it’s Hickman’s first comics work–and I was really interested to see how he’d manage to work his distinct style in a story that, thematically speaking, was about as far from an indictment of biased journalism as you could possibly get. What surprised me when I actually read it today, though, was that if you take away the fact that he’s drawing mummies and skeletons, this story looks exactly like The Nightly News.
It’s got the same starkly contrasted, almost abstract pages, the same sans-serif lettering, heck, there’s even informative boxes that pop up to explain the Dynasties of Egypt like there are in his other book, and the end result is, well, interesting. I’m not reaching for something nice to say with that, either: It’s not at all the story that I expected, but in a lot of ways, Hickman makes it work. Either way, it’s definitely worth checking out, if only to see how different it is from the story that precedes it.
She-Hulk #19: It’s been a while since I’ve checked out any comic book message boards, so I’m not sure if the heated debate about Rick Burchett’s work on She-Hulk is still going on. If it is, though, this issue ought to set everything right once and for all, because under Cliff Rathburn’s inks and Andy Troy’s beautiful coloring, Burchett’s work has never looked better. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve had my doubts about him in places–especially given how much I liked Juan Bobillo’s distinctive look for the series–but this issue is nothing short of fantastic, with his smooth, never a hair out of place Mallory Book facing off against an increasingly frazzled Jennifer Walters over the course of the issue. Just watch the way that he draws Mallory’s facial expressions and mannerisms, putting so much character into the way she stands in each panel, and you’ll understand why I like that guy so darn much. It’s gorgeous.
As for the writing, Dan Slott’s not exactly a slouch: The page where Ditto’s being hit in the face with long boxes for eight panels has one of the best sight gags I’ve seen in comics in a long while, and that last page is a hoot. Or quite possibly a squawk. You know what I mean.
World War Hulk: X-Men #1: You know what’s nice? Reading a comic where the kids from New X-Men show up and manage to all make it through 22 pages without getting killed. It’s a simple pleasure that’s become increasingly rare in the months since Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir got the boot in favor of turning the book into X-23 and her Bullet Magnet Sidekicks, The New X-Men.
…uh, sorry. That really has nothing to do with this particular series, and that’s why you’re reading these reviews for free on the Internet. But back to the point at hand: Christos Gage is on a roll, and has been for the past couple of years, with books that often slip under the radar despite being amazingly entertaining, like Union Jack and Stormwatch PHD. He has a gift for getting to the heart of a character and bringing it to the surface with just a few lines of dialogue, and he’s in rare form here, which is what pushes this thing from a book that doesn’t really have to be anything but a big, stupid super-hero punchout to a comic with a little more depth and enjoyment to it.
Well, that and the Hulk saying: “Xavier. You’re walking again. I can fix that.” That was freakin’ awesome.
X-Men: First Class #1: I really enjoyed the First Class mini-series, so when Marvel announced that they were following it up with an ongoing (hey, imagine that! An X-Men title selling well!), I was elated, and with good reason: With stuff like his dynamite run on Marvel Adventures: The Avengers and absolute masterpieces like Agents of Atlas, it’s rapidly becoming clear that Jeff Parker makes fun comics, and this one might just be the most fun of ’em all.
Just look at the art. Roger Cruz is absolutely perfect for the book: Stylized and incredibly expressive in a way that captures the colorful excitement that got so many of us hooked on comics in the first place. And the stories themselves are fantastic, too. Even though I’ve never been that big a fan of the original lineup, Parker makes the most of them with stories like this one, which sees Jean Grey shadowing the Invisible Woman on a typical day at work–which for her, means fighting (come on, let’s all say it together)…
Man. I will never get tired of that phrase. Anyway, it’s great, and I think it’s the best X-Men title on the stands.
Showcase Presents: Batman v.2: I probably won’t be getting around to reading this one for a while, since I’ve got an entire bookshelf full of Showcases and Essentials that I’ve yet to read, but flipping through it today, I did see that this volume contains Batman #186. And that, for those of you who might have forgotten, is the first and only appearance of Gagsworth A. Gagsworthy, The Joker’s Midget Sidekick.
Even stacked up alongside the Trial of the Bat-Witch and the Planetary Chance Machine, Gaggy’s right there in the running for the craziest damn thing I’ve ever seen, and probably has a lock on being the creepiest, so if that story’s a good representation of what goes on in this one, I’m willing to declare it the greatest trade paperback in the history of man.
And with that, you can file this week under Done, son. As always, if you’ve got any questions about anything I didn’t mention, or if you just want to talk about how much better Amazons Attack would be if Will Pfeifer and Pete Woods were doing the whole darn thing, feel free to leave a comment. As for me, I’ll be over here livin’ in a powder keg.
And givin’ off sparks.