So last night, I may have made a slight error of omission when I said that you could draw a line straight from Batman #425 to my tastes in comics today. After all, even with all the fighting in that issue, nobody punches a bear in the face, and even more shockingly, there’s not a single kick to the face.
Where would we be without those?
But alas, my explanations for those will have to wait for some other time, because it’s time once again for another round of the Internet’s Most Uppercutting Comics Reviews! Here’s what I bought this week…
Now let’s rock rock on!
Amazing Spider-Man #559: Another week, another issue of Amazing Spider-Man, and while there’s plenty to talk about with Dan Slott’s return to scripting, the real focus for me here is the absolutely beautiful art of Marcos Martin.
I’ve been a fan of Martin’s ever since I first saw his work on Batgirl: Year One, and with good reason: He’s an amazing talent, and he’s criminally underrated. Just take a look at his work in books like Breach his stuff in the Captain America 65th Anniversary Special–where he alternates with the similarly-styled Javier Pulido, of Human Target fame–and tell me that he doesn’t just rock the house every time he puts pencil to paper.
And it’s no different here: His chase scenes have a great sense of motion and fluidity, and he does body language and facial expressions better than anybody short of Kevin Maguire. Take page seven, for instance, where a pensive Spider-Man debates with himself while walking down the side of a building. It’s a simple trick, but Martin pulls it off beautifully.
As to the story, it’s refreshing to have Slott back after the last couple of shaky arcs. Admittedly, given the choice, I’d rather not read a story about Spider-Man becoming one of the loathsome paparazzi, but to be fair, the stories that Slott & Co. are trying to recapture tend to feature a lot of Peter Parker dropping the ball into moral gray areas before he comes back to his senses. Which, I suppose, presents another problem, being that we’ve already seen this kind of story before, but… well, it’s actually pretty well-done, and the details make for a very entertaining read. Screwball’s a lot of fun, especially since I’ve just assumed Spider-Man moved like a parkour athlete ever since Warren Ellis wrote about them in that one issue of Global Frequency, but the contrast of the chase scene just serves as another great showcase for Martin’s work.
Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter: Guilty Pleasures #11: Okay, look: I realize that this one puts me a solid three issues behind in my annotations, and I assure you that when I started ’em, I fully intended to see this series out to the bitter end, but… Jesus, man, have you read these things? They’re awful.
And here’s the ironic thing: It’s partly because of Ron Lim, because ever since he took over from Brett Booth and brought a baseline level of technical skill underlying his aping of Booth’s style, he’s actually raised the book up a notch from “so bad it’s hilarious” to just plain bad. Yeah, that’s right: Better art is actually making this comic worse.
Not that it’s all him, you understand: The last two issues have pretty much involved Anita–who, again, is our heroine here; it’s her name on the cover of the comic–pretty much just standing around and waiting for someone to come in and save her.
Now admittedly–and I seriously cannot freakin’ believe I’m about to type this, so bear with me–this issue’s actually a pretty vast improvement. Things happen, we get the return of the Wererat King and his Daisy Dukes which is pretty hilarious, and… Well, there’s a pretty funny sequence that I think is actually supposed to be funny. But seriously, I’m 90% certain that’s the Stockholm Syndrome talking.
Rest assured, though: The Research Department takes its duties very seriously, and come hell or high water, I’ll be getting through these eventually. Just… Just let me have one more drink first, and I’ll be right on it.
Batman #676: Now see, this is more like it.
Given my feelings for the past couple of issues of Batman–especially that last one–it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that I really haven’t been looking forward to “Batman RIP.” After this one, though, I’m a lot more interested. A lot of that, of course, is because of Grant Morrison, for delivering a story that’s starting up as a sequel to the Club of Heroes arc that was hands-down one of my favorite Batman stories of the past ten years–and to be honest, it reads like what the next arc after that one should’ve been if it hadn’t been interrupted by the Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul Who Is Now Some Kind of Albino And I Don’t Give a Crap–which comes through pretty strongly in the opening sequence with Doctor Hurt.
Also, there’s a guy who I don’t know, but I could accurately describe as “Business Suit Luchadore,” and that’s boss.
To be fair, though, I’ve got to give credit to Tony Daniel. He’s not my ideal choice for art on this one–because seriously, can you imagine how great this book would be if somebody like Cliff Chiang was drawing it?–and it might just be my relief at getting something better than the lousy art from the last issue, but he’s consistently better than I expect him to be. That’s not exactly high praise, but there’s a lot that he does right, and a lot of it comes through in this one. I even like the new Batmobile.
There is a problem, though, and I’ll be honest with you, folks: I have no idea how this issue ends. My best guess here is that Prom Dress Joker’s having a dream sequence, but it could’ve been handled a lot better. It’s a weird scene transition, and the change in coloring doesn’t start until after we’ve already seen bloodstained entrance to Arkham, but it’s pretty unclear. Presumably, this could’ve been done on purpose, but, well, it doesn’t really seem like it.
BPRD: 1946 #5: And now, Why This Comic (And In Fact, This Entire Series) Is Totally Freakin’ Awesome, in one panel:
Captain Britain and MI13 #1: Under normal circumstances, this is where I’d remind everyone of my previous experience with Paul Cornell’s MI13 and its problem in having absolutely phenomenal concepts and inexplicably lackluster execution. But I’m pretty sure I just went through that like last week, so let’s just assume you guys already know what I’m talking about and get right to this one.
What matters here is that–in its first issue, anyway–Cornell’s work doesn’t show any of those problems, dropping right into the mix of Secret Invasion with a fun, engaging story with beautiful art by Leonard Kirk. In fact, the only problem I’ve got with it–outside of a woeful lack of Union Jack, who only gets a mention in passing–is that it doesn’t bother to explain anything about Secret Invasion, but considering that it’s a title launching out of a crossover (and the fact that I’m probably in the minority of people who’ve read Wisdom but not SI rather than the other way around), that’s not really this book’s fault.
Which brings me to another point: This is actually the first full tie-in to SI that I’ve read, and while what I have seen of the main series does absolutely nothing for me, I will concede that the different Super-Skrulls (as seen in this issue) are a pretty neat idea, although it begs the question as to why the Skrulls would bother to replicate the powers of Morbius the Living Vampire in the first place. Seriously, how did they even know enough about Morbius to begin with? Does he fight Skrulls? And wouldn’t it suck to be the Skrull who got that deal?
“All right, Private Parnok! Report to Genetic Modification Lab Six, you’re getting the Thor/Iron Man power set.”
“What about me, Sarge?”
“You, Q’rt? Let’s see… You’re going to GeneMod Four. You’re getting Morbius.”
“Yes si–wait, who the hell is Morbius?”
“Pale guy. Rides around on bats and has to eat folks’ life force or he’ll die an extremely painful death. Once fought a guy called the Starseed with Man-Thing and a werewolf. Unsuccessfully. Now off you go, Soldier, here’s a war on!”
True Fact: Life in the Skrull Army sucks ass.
But, uh, I digress. Point is, Captain Britain and MI13 is a lot of fun. Give it a read.
Casanova #14: Man. Now that is a mindfreak of Criss Angel proportions.
I don’t really want to get into too much detail here for those of you who haven’t read it, whether you’re waiting for the trade or you just don’t get a chance to read your comics on Thursday morning when you’re supposed to be working, and I realize that taking that route sort of defeats the purpose of reviewing it to begin with. But for those of you who have read it–and at this point, that really ought to be everybody–know what I’m talking about here.
What I will say is this: I’ve read pretty much every comic book Matt Fraction’s written, starting with Mantooth. I’ve talked to the guy. I like to think I’ve got a pretty good handle on his work, and this one just surprised the hell out of me. And not just in the way that a good writer can surprise you with a story’s climax every time, but in the way that it comes out of nowhere and changes the entire context of the series so far and pulls the rug completely out from you… but in a good way.
Beyond the story itself, though, there are the usual suspects that make this one so great: Fabio Moon’s art is just flat-out gorgeous; that much speaks for itself. And while the issue boasts the same $1.99 price tag that it always comes with, this issue actually breaks the sixteen page format and offers up twenty eight full pages of story with the same jam-packed pacing. It’s not just longer than normal, it’s oversized even when you compare it to a regular comic. And it’s still cheaper than anything else on the market. Why it’s not the best selling comic every month, I have no idea.
But yeah: Price points and page counts aside, this is hands-down one of the most rewarding comics you can read, and this issue’s the biggest one yet. Don’t miss it.
Guardians of the Galaxy #1: So. This is a comic about a super-team featuring a raccoon with a machinegun (created by Bill Mantlo) roaming around punching spacetime in the face and then retiring to their base in a decapitated Celestial where their buddy the talking cosmonaut dog lives. Nothing more needs to be said, really.
Okay, maybe I should elaborate just a little, but let’s be real here, folks: At this point, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s record of writing stories about people in space pretty much speaks for itself. But what’s surprising here is that Guardians reads less like, say, Legion of Super-Heroes and more like The Order in space on a crazy cathedral ship from Battlefleet Gothic. And that, I think we can all agree, sounds totally radical.
But again, it’s no surprise: Between Nova and Annihilation Conquest, those guys–along with their AC collaborators–have just been knocking it out of the park, telling stories with a level of quality and sense of scale to which the rest of Marvel’s events just pale in comparison. They’re fantastic comics, and this one’s no exception.
And that’s all I’ve got for tonight. As always, if you’ve got any questions on something I read this week, or if you just want to talk about how fun the new issue of Screamland was (featuring the Wolfman at the Sci Fi convention), or how I may have been a little too harsh on Matt Wagner’s Zorro, which is really shaping up to be enjoyable now that the origin’s picking up steam, or whether the X-Chimps in Jonathan Hickman’s Transhuman are the sensational character finds of 2008, feel free to leave a comment below.
And yes, they totally are.