It’s that time again!
Yes, it’s Thursday night, and with another round of foot-to-face jaw-jacking behind us, it’s time once again for another round of the Internet’s Most Smashing Comics Reviews! But first, a quick reminder about Planet X, the retro-future Sci-Fi action comic my pals Jim and Trey are doing over at Zuda with Animal Man’s Chas Truog:
Click To Read!
If you haven’t already, click the image above to head over to the Zuda website to give their first eight pages a read, and if you like what you see, throw ’em a vote so we can get some more! And of course, while you’re at it, check out some of the other projects they’ve got going.
Now then, to get back to the stuff you have to pay for, here’s what put a dent in my wallet this week…
And here’s what I thought of ’em!
Amazing Spider-Man #577: With as much as I’ve been griping about the last few issues of Amazing, there are probably a few of you out there wondering why I don’t just go ahead and drop the book. It’s a fair question, but issues like this are exactly the reason I stick with it.
To be honest, it’s not the best Spider-Man story I’ve ever read, and while it’s certainly a refreshing change after the nonsense of the past few issues and the annual, it’s only a little better than average. But at the same time, it is better, and while Zeb Wells was one of the Spider-Man writers that I was expecting the least out of, but his work on the title’s ended up being consistently enjoyable, and this issue’s certainly his best. It reads like a classic Marvel Team-Up issue between the Spidey and the Punisher–which, for me anyway, is certainly not a bad thing–but I’ll confess that I was genuinely surprised that after teasing the reader with a Hulked-out Frank Castle, Wells goes in a different direction that, while not as exciting as “HULK PUNISH!” on the surface, works far better as a character moment.
The real draw, however, is artist and 21st Century Hunk of the Month Paolo Rivera, who is absolutely phenomenal on this issue. It’s not just that he’s got a great, fresh style and expressive faces, but that he’s one of the few artists in a long while to really get the visual aspects of Spider-Man. Grab the issue and look at the fight scenes: Spider-Man’s feet do not touch the ground while he’s in action. He’s in the air, on the ceiling, on the wall, sideways, upside down, but never on the floor, and it gives him a sense of dynamic motion that nobody outside of Marcos Martin has been able to bring to the book in the past few years.
It’s gorgeous, and thirty-two pages of Rivera’s art–plus a six-page Joe Kelly/Barry Kitson backup, if you’re into that sort of thing–is well worth the cost, even with the extra dollar price jack for double-sized issue.
Batman: Cacophony #1: This is not the worst comic book I have ever read. It’s not the worst Batman comic by far, and it’s actually not the worst Kevin Smith comic book either, as that title is still held by Spider-Man/Black Cat, and the less said about that one, the better. So no, not the worst by a long shot.
That said, it is still pretty Goddamn terrible.
Seriously, I don’t even know where to begin with this thing, but I guess I’ll start by saying that for the first three pages, where Smith sets things up with the story of a laid-off Arkham guard selling secrets to the underworld, it’s actually pretty good. It’s a nice setup, and it works well in the context of a world that can’t seem to keep its most dangerous criminals locked up for more than a couple of story arcs. But then you hit page four, and once the Joker starts talking about his pubic hair, everything goes straight to hell.
Batman: Cacophony is what you’d get if you asked a twelve year old to write his idea of an “adult” comic: Everyone wears trenchcoats so that you know they’re super-badass, and there’s a string of sex jokes–continuing through the almost obligatory anal sex joke right on through Mr. Zsasz talking about cutting his penis because that’s the only spot he has left–that’s just embarrassing for everyone concerned. Not because they’re sex jokes, but–again–because they’re the sex jokes a kid trying to sound edgy and grown up writes in his fan-fiction. Which is pretty much what this is, but without the level of quality control you get from the online community that actually wants to read about the Mad Hatter trying to fuck the Joker.
And the rest of it’s just as awful. I actually did enjoy Batman’s appearance in Smith’s run on Green Arrow, but the more I look at this thing, the more I realize that was because Batman kept his mouth shut for most of that one. I mean, dialogue’s supposed to be Smith’s forte, but seriously, the easiest way to improve this thing would be to just take out Smith’s ham-fisted narration, where Batman grunts his way through the laughably maudlin (“Don’t worry, kids… the monster can’t hurt you anymore” and “Two people who somehow found each other in an otherwise horrible world. Like my PARENTS”) or the downright stupid (“I crash Zsasz’s unholy briss,” in which “bris” is misspelled, and “Baruch haba, SCUMBAG,” which I think speaks for itself). Cut those out, and the fight with Zsasz at least gets readable, but then you’ve got to deal with… well, with the rest of it.
Which of course brings us to Onomatopoeia. Now, I’ve mentioned before that I actually like Onomatopoeia as a villain, but probably not for the reason I’m supposed to. To me, he just seems like one of those goofy Silver Age villains that got a dark and gritty revamp in the ’90s, only there was never any Silver Age Onomatopoeia running around robbing the Radio Museum or whatever, which somehow makes him even funnier. But he’s not exactly the sort of character that I can buy as presenting a legitimate threat to Batman, and Smith knows that, so he goes to one of the oldest, laziest, and worst tricks in the comics writer’s handbook, and has him saunter into the story and take out someone who does: in this case, Deadshot. It’s a cheap trick that panders to the same crowd that wanders around talking about how Gambit could totally kill the Silver Surfer by charging up his board, spouting trivia without learning that there’s a greater narrative structure at work. He is essentially telling us that Onomatopoeia is as powerful as ten Gokus.
As for the art, well… Look. I’m not trying to rag on Walt Flanagan here, because let’s be honest: If I was an artist and my friend was writing a Batman story and he wanted me to draw it, I’d totally do it. And if Smith wanted Flanagan for the job, there’s no reason for DC to say no, because, c’mon, it’s not like any Kevin Smith fans are going to be upset that Steve-Dave’s sidekick from Mallrats is drawing Batman, and to be honest, he actually does a heck of a lot better than I expected. It’s a fantastic opportunity for him and I’ve got nothing but love for a guy who’s chasing the dream, but none of that changes the fact that there are a lot of sections where the art is amateurish. Nothing glaring, but there are rookie mistakes like the panel where Onomatopoeia’s holding two water pistols in his tiny hands at the end of a pair of very out of proportion arms, and in a book with a company’s flagship character, that stuff sticks out.
So for those of you who didn’t have the patience to get through seven paragraphs about this thing, here’s the short version: It is rough, but since it’s Kevin Smith writing Batman, I’m pretty sure that most of you guys are going to pick it up anyway, because, hell: I did, and I knew better going into it. Fortunately, my curiosity’s been taken care of, and when the next two issues roll out sometime in 2011, I can be sure to avoid those.
I Hate Gallant Girl #1: Okay, so full disclosure here: Back when Shadowline was having their Super-Heroine Contest, I entered and–obviously–lost, with a project that’ll hopefully see the light of day sometime soon over at The Action Age. Still, despite the fact that my genius wasn’t appreciated in its time, I did check out the ones that made it through, and out of all the finalists, I Hate Galaxy Girl (as it was originally called) certainly sounded like the most fun. Oddly enough, it didn’t win either, and yet, here we are with the first issue, while the winning book has yet to come out.
In any case, here’s the deal: Kat Cahill’s I Hate Gallant Girl is about Renee Tepete, the powered hater of the title who lost a super-hero beauty contest to a prettier but less powerful girl, and is then offered the humiliating job of working as the new Gallant Girl’s stand-in when they need somebody to handle the grunt work. It’s a very fun premise that could lend itself to some great, comedic action, and while the first issue deals largely in setup, Cahill and artist Seth Damoose still show a heck of a lot of potential, and I’m pretty interested in seeing where it goes from here.
Jack Staff #19: This week brings us another long-awaited issue of my favorite comic, and while it’s fantastic as usual, ISB readers might notice that this one has a little something extra. Specifically, it’s got me!
Or at least, it’s got my name and the address of one of my reviews of the book, dutifully namechecked by Friend of the ISB Benito Cereno in a message board post about The Butler, who is unquestionably the Sensational Character Find of 2008. In any case, it was a nice surprise, as one doesn’t usually expect to see their own name crop up in a comic they love as much as I love Jack Staff, but the real draw, as always, is Paul Grist who expertly juggles the various fun plot threads that make up the book. It’s great stuff, and as always, it’s one of the few books that disappoints me every time I finish it because I always want there to be more.
But that’s old news, right? Right.
Ghost Rider: Hell Bent & Heaven Bound: You know, I was originally going to suggest that this book ought to be titled “Hell Bent & Heaven Sent,” but I’m pretty sure the ISB hit critical mass for Elvis Costello references back on Monday.
In any case, I knocked this one out over lunch today, and while I’d heard a lot of good things about critical darling Jason Aaron’s run on the book, the impression I was left with was this: Jason Aaron’s Ghost Rider is what would happen if Michael Bay directed Preacher.
Yeah, I know, but bear with me here: At its heart, once you strip away the trappings of the characters, Preacher is the story of a country-ass redneck with an unstoppable super-power who wanders around trying to find the best way to pursue his vendetta against heaven, and that is exactly what Aaron’s here. Except that in the grand tradition that makes Marvel Comics Marvel Comics, he’s doing it with what has to be the least amount of subtlety possible by adding as many explosions as he can fit and having it star a flaming skeleton in a leather jacket who rides a motorcycle that is also made of fire.
This is not, by any means, a bad thing.
In fact, it actually works out to be really fun,with Aaron taking the innate over-the-top craziness of a character like Ghost Rider and applying it to the rest of the world. I mean, there’s a story here that involves a cannibalistic funeral director whose ancestors are responsible for a haunted highway, and brother, he’s thrown in almost as an afterthought because Johnny Blaze already has his hands full with a gang of gun-toting hit-nurses. It’s non stop, and that’s exactly the way a Ghost Rider comic oughtta be.
And that’s the week! As always, if you’ve got any questions about something I read or skipped over this week, feel free to ask about it in the comments section below, and I’ll do my best not to respond with a hate-filled 900-word essay about it.
But I make no promises.