Right as I was sitting down to get on with this week’s reviews, I got a phone call from my friend Brandon, who was driving home from work and wanted to shoot the breeze about comics. Brandon, as you might recall, is probably the world’s only noted Scott Lobdell fan, and right about the time he finished a rapid fire sequence of questions regarding my thoughts on Thunderbolts, Annihilation, and the latest arc on She-Hulk, I mentioned that it might be easier if I had some sort of website that he could go to where I recorded my thoughts on those very comics!
Sometimes it’s amazing that I have any friends at all.
Oh well. You still love me, right, Internet?
Of course you do! And why? Because the ISB still stands as the home of the web’s Least Friendly comics review, done on time and with added violence for your reading pleasure. Here’s the tale of the tape this week…
…now touch gloves and come out swingin’!
Avengers: The Initiative #3: If there’s one thing we can learn from this issue that should come as absolutely no surprise whatsoever, it’s that Dan Slott can write a heck of an enjoyable Spider-Man, and considering the persistent rumors that he’s going to be the one to take over Amazing when Straczynski finally leaves (which seem to be supported pretty well by the fact that he went ahead and introduced new characters and plotlines in the FCBD special and is leaving his beloved She-Hulk for an opportunity too great to pass up), that’s pretty good news. Like I said, though, it’s not really that shocking, especially in light of how well this book’s coming together with a solid, character-driven issue that also features Dani Moonstar headlocking a bear.
And not just a bear… a Demon Bear.
It’s a great read from Slott, and Stefano Casselli’s pencils are sharp and full of energy, even though they are–as always–almost ruined in a lot of places by Daniele Rudoni’s coloring. I mean, really, there are some pages that are just fine–like the big reveal of the Scarlet Spiders–but I’m pretty sure that Komodo’s not supposed to have the same pale green skin tone she sports as a lizard when she’s in her human form. Just sayin’.
Black Summer #0: I wasn’t originally planning on picking this one up, but after I leafed through it in the store, I decided to go ahead and give Warren Ellis’s latest series a fair shot. Needless to say, it was good, but of course it’s going to be good. Ellis isn’t exactly a slouch when it comes to writing comics, and even the stuff that I don’t particularly care for–like Wolfskin or his current run on Thunderbolts–usually has enough great little moments to make it worth giving a read, so that was never really in doubt.
The question was whether or not it was going to be new. He mentions himself in an essay after the main story–an eight-pager accompanied by design sketches, hence the $0.99 cover price–that he’s dipped into politically edged super-hero work before, most notably in the pages of his ridiculously awesome run on Stormwatch and The Authority, the latter of which even has a story later on where its cast of tough-guy super-heroes depose the government and take over the country. The danger of falling into a repetitive story where another well-written hard-man who is completely different from, say, the Midnighter in that he wears a white Sgt. Pepper outfit instead of a black one is there, and with only eight pages of story to go on, it’s too early to tell if it’s going to go that route or dish up something we haven’t seen.
But like I said: It’s Warren Ellis, it’s good, it’s cheap, and this one at least didn’t ship with any variants, despite having been published by Avatar. There’s not much of a reason not to get it if you like Ellis, and as the record will show from the time I named Nextwave the best comic of the Willennium, I do.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer #4: With the exception of Fray and certain aspects of his portrayal of the Punisher, I’ve been enjoying pretty much everything Joss Whedon’s written for comics over the past few years, and yet it still feels weird to be this excited about any comic book version of a licensed television property.
But really, can you blame me? Even if I wasn’t already enjoying what was going on in this book–which, considering that it’s basically been one long sequence of pretty girls punching out demons for the past three months, is probably to be expected–this one includes a scene where Buffy uses her magical Iron Fist powers, and, well, that’s all I need to know to flip right out about something.
Really, though, it’s a fantastic read. This issue closes out the first story arc–or, if you want to stretch the television metaphor dangerously thin, the four-issue “season premiere”–and it is all-out action, but more importantly, it’s very well-done. Whedon’s dialogue, admittedly a love-it-or-hate-it aspect of his writing, is as sharp here as it ever was on the show, and when you throw in the highly underrated talents of Georges Jeanty and the ability to go as crazy as you darn well please with the special effects in comics, it makes for some highly entertaining stuff.
Countdown #47: And with this issue, it’s officially not worth it anymore. I know I was feeling optimistic about the book last month, given my curiosity over the Jimmy Olsen plot, but there’s only so much I can take, and even with Sean McKeever scripting it, this issue’s just terrible, and it largely boils down to Black Adam.
I was under the impression that we were going to be done with that guy for a while, what with the fact that there was an entire, thoroughly unreadable “event” book that apparently had the effect of robbing him of his powers for about three weeks. And to make matters worse, the entire climax of that piece of crap was that Captain Marvel changes his magic word from “Shazam” to something else. And yet, here he is, using the one word that we actually know it isn’t to give Mary Marvel a new mini-skirt. It’s a classic case of dropping the ball, and it’s one too many stupid mistakes that’ll have to be fixed somewhere else for my tastes.
And if that wasn’t enough to get me to drop this thing, then the misplaced apostrophe in the backup story sure as heck is. “Earth’s” is a possessive, folks, not a plural.
Thus, Countdown has been downgraded from “annoying and uninteresting” to “utterly worthless,” and you know what that means. Help me out here, Snoop Dogg:
Detective Comics #833: And on the flipside of the Paul Dini coin, we’ve got this one. A lot of folks–heck, me included–have made jokes about how this issue’s Zatanna story essentially amounts to Dini writing fan-fiction about his wife, the decidedly Zatanna-esque Misty Lee, but heck: If I was married to someone who could be credibly described as a real-life version of everyone’s favorite fishnetted sorceress, I’d probably be reminding you guys at every opportunity too.
I kid, of course: Dini’s take on Zatanna goes back to his excellent work on Batman: The Animated Series, which he stops just short of referencing in this issue, and I’ve been looking forwad to this one for a while. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if it was quite worth the wait. It’s not a bad issue, per se, even if Dini decided to go ahead and go the Jeph Loeb route of retconning a childhood meeting between Zatanna and Bruce Wayne in a flashback, which is never a good sign. It doesn’t work too badly here, though, but while I could just be worn down by my annoyance over the fill-in issues or the fact that someone standing right next to Batman pulls out a gun and shoots someone while Batman elects to stand there pulling the craziest face I’ve ever seen instead of, y’know, being Batman and stopping him, it left me pretty underwhelmed. Maybe it’s just me, and I’ll wonder what the heck I was thinking once I read the next issue, but there it is.
Invincible #42: Yes, it’s a dollar less than usual, and yes, it’s a perfect jumping-on point for new readers, but all that really matters is that this issue features a byline reading “Written by David Campbell.”
Damn you, Campbell. One day, revenge will be mine.
New Warriors #1: This is another one of those books that I wasn’t really expecting to pick up this week, mostly owing to the fact that Marvel’s been marketing it as a New Warriors title from the guy who wrote Underworld, and to put it charitably, Underworld is not very good.
Fortunately, New Warriors contains exactly zero instances of the word “lycan,” thus marking a drastic improvement in Kevin Grevioux’s writing right off the bat. Even better, the first issue’s actually pretty compelling, and with Paco Medina handling art chores, it’s not half bad to look at, either. I don’t have any sort of attachment to the New Warriors as a team–I don’t think I’d ever actually read an issue of the comic before last week–but Grevioux starts things off by using a couple of people that I do care about–Including Wind Dancer from DeFilippis and Weir’s late, lamented run on New X-Men, who I thought had been cast into limbo along with anybody else who made it out of that run without getting shot in the head–as the POV characters for a new team of anti-registration heroes. It’s a great start for a new series, and even though I went into it looking for a fight, I was left pretty impressed. Here’s hoping it holds up.
Omega Flight #3: You know, I honestly have no idea what happened here. Mike Oeming and Scott Kolins are the team behind Thor: Blood Oath, which was easily one of the most fun mini-series of the past few years, and yet this thing just sucks. I swear, it’s like it gets worse with every page, although that could just be me getting more and more annoyed at the fact that I’m reading a comic book with a crying super-hero on the cover, which, honestly, is something we never need to see again. Or maybe it’s the fact that we’re three issues into one fight with the Wrecking Crew, a gang of thugs that it took the Runaways all of four pages to deal with, with no end in sight. Or maybe that Canada’s premier super-team boasts exactly one (1) Canadian, unless you count the one who’s been tied up in a basement for the past two issues, or that Kollins’ pencils would look fantastic if it looked like they were inked, or if I had any idea what the point of this whole miserable exercise was. Needless to say, it’s dropped, but you know what?
This thing doesn’t even deserve a funny picture to go along with it.
Spider-Man Family #3: I’ve mentioned before that as someone who works in comics retail, I love the idea of Spider-Man Family, especially with it hitting the shelves right around the release of Spider-Man 3. It’s an easy solution for parents: Five bucks gets you a giant magazine that’s a lot more substantial than a three-dollar single issue, with a couple of all-new stories, a reprint or two, a Chris Giarrusso Mini-Marvels strip, and even some of that mildly ridiculous manga that the kids seem to like so much these days. What amazes me every month, though, is how much I end up liking it in practice, and this issue’s a perfect example of why.
Those of you who enjoy things that are totally awesome may remember Paul Tobin as the writer–along with ISB favorite Colleen Coover–of Banana Sunday, and he leads this month’s stuff with a kid friendly story where Sue Storm nearly bludgeons someone with a brick. No, really, it’s great, kids’ll love it. But the big news–for me, anyway–comes from Fred Van Lente and Leonard Kirk bringing us the return of the New Scorpion in a story where she battles the New Venom, who used to be the Old Scorpion, and while I may be the only one who thinks that’s totally rad, I love New Scorpion enough for everybody. Snag a copy at your local store and give it a shot. If you don’t like it, you can always give it to a kid… and heck, if you do like it, you can give it to a kid. The magic of reading is a gift beyond measure, chuckles.
Witchblade/Punisher #1: You know, folks, devotion is a funny thing. I, for instance, have devoted a significant portion of my time over the past couple of years to acquiring and reading as many Punisher comics as I possibly can, and even though I knew from the start that it wasn’t going to end well, my devotion to this task has led me to break a life-long streak of studiously avoiding anything involving Witchblade. Truly, it is the end of an era.
I hardly even need to mention it, but this thing? Yeah, not very good, even by Punisher standards. Heck, it’s not very good even by Punisher crossover standards, and that’s saying something. Witchblade’s transporting some Russian guy who’s going to turn state’s evidence, and rather than waiting for him to give his deposition and then killing him, Frank decides to hop a bus over to Top Cowville (or wherever Witchblade lives) and cap him on the way over. Witchblade, of course, has a problem with this, which…
Zzhuh?! Whuh? Oh, sorry, nodded off there for a second. You guys know where this is going anyway. Avoid, and be glad that you haven’t chosen the grim, perilous path of the Punisher fan. The challenges are great, friends, although to be fair, as we’ll find out next week, the rewards are magnificent.
And that’s the week! But before I take off, a quick announcment.
Some of you may remember that a few weeks ago, I directed your attention to my pal Chad Bowers, who’s currently competing in the Dimestore Publications “Small Press Idol” competition with his latest creation, Danger Ace, and the voting’s on to get through to the next round.
I’m mentioning it here because I think it’s awesome, and since you’re (theoretically) here to find out what I think about these comics I read every week, odds are you’ll think it’s awesome too. Their site can be a pain to navigate, and it might well be locked down by the time you read this to do the daily vote count, voting requires a relatively painless registration, but trust me, it’s worth the trouble. And why?
Because of this:
That, my friends, is Zombie King Kong, and on the next page, Danger Ace jumps out of an airplane and kicks him in the face. So head on over to Dimestore and check it out. If you voted last time, you already know the drill, but if you haven’t, there’s a 3-page preview PDF to download, and if you like what you see, register and vote “YES” for Danger Ace. And if you don’t, well, it’s zombie King Kong being kicked in the face. If you don’t like that, what the heck are you doing here?
And with that, I’m done here. As always, any questions, concerns or comments about anything I read this week can be dropped into the comments section below. As for me, I’m gonna go read a few pages of Witchblade/Punisher and sleep ’til noon.