Originally, my plan was to lead off this week with a shot of Dr. Doom getting a boot from Alex Power–because really, there’s not a whole lot better than seeing Victor V getting totally wrecked by a middle-schooler–but, well, Adam Warren’s Empowered v.2 came out this week…
…and that was pretty much that.
Yes, the tide of chin-checkery has begun a new, and that can only mean that it’s time for the Internet’s Most Calamitous Comics Reviews!
Here’s what I picked up this week…
…now I’ve run enough, Peacock! It ends now, with my knife and all that Crom’s given me!
Wait. No, that was Conan. I’m just going to talk about some comics, I think.
All-New Atom #16: Given the kind of jokes I’ve made at the expense of Detective Comics over the past few months, I’ve probably made my less-than-positive feelings about fill-in issues pretty clear, and with my enjoyment of All-New Atom running high from the last couple of stories, this might seem like an inopportune time for Gail Simone to hand off scripting chores to a guest-writer.
Of course, considering the fact that this is a fill-in written by the the guy who brought us Captain America: War & Remembrance and the great Spider-Man/Juggernaut showdown, I think it’s safe to say you can look past it. Especially considering that in this issue, The Atom Fights Space Hippies.
Yes. Space Hippies. They come to the stars and turn Ivy Town’s beleaguered populace into long-haired peaceniks, and Ryan Choi does not have to put up with that. Man, I love this comic.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer #7: Brian K. Vaughan’s unauthorized Tru Calling sequel continues towards the inevitable conclusion of full-frontal nudity, and I’m happy to report that the disconnect between Georges Jeanty’s photo-reference and his artwork is nowhere near as prominent as it was in the last issue. There are a few panels that are a little shaky, it’s a lot stronger than the last one.
As for the story, it zips along in typical BKV fashion, with all the wordplay and well-done cliffhangers that you’d expect from that guy, and it all makes for a really fun story that you’re most likely either already reading completely disinterested in, thus making any review of mine completely unnecessary. Still, if I wasn’t around to point out that I’m pretty sure head-butting a giant stone gargoyle would strike even a super-powered slayer prone to exceptionally poor decision-making as a bad idea, who would?
Conan #44: Regular ISB readers will no doubt be aware–and heck, even if it’s your first time here you can probably guess–that I love pretty much everything about Conan, and as I’ve mentioned before, Rogues in the House is probably my favorite Conan story of all time in just about every format it’s appeared in. But that’s old news; the important thing about this issue is that it marks the departure of longtime Conan artist (and ISB favorite) Cary Nord.
Normally, this would be where I’d talk about how great his art’s been on the book and how he’s done a fantastic job with the character, giving him a distinct and beautiful look alongside colorist Dave Stewart that’s made this one of the best-looking books on the stands, but talking about art never quite does the job when it comes to explaining how awesome it is.
Thus, I give you this instead:
Conan uppercutting a gorilla that thinks it’s people. And that should pretty much sum up why I love this comic, Rogues in the House, Tim Truman’s adaptation of it, and Cary Nord’s artwork, all in one fell, bone-rattling swoop.
Detective Comics #837: Behold! The elusive, rarely-seen issue of ‘Tec that’s actually written by Paul Dini!
I kid because I love, of course, and I love because Dini’s stories in this title are generally pretty awesome, especially in the way that he’s screwing around with the status quo with things like Eddie Nygma: Private Eye. Telling stories about a Riddler who has given up crime for an entirely legitimate way of proving that he’s smarter than anyone else is a great way of dealing with a character that a lot of people–and I’m looking at you here, Campbell–considered to be almost unforgivably lame. It’s no surprise, though, considering that ther Animated Series version of the Riddler was, to put it bluntly, way, way better than his comic book counterpart, and it holds up through a story based around following him on an adventure rather than Batman.
Of course, the fact that it turns into a comic about Harley Quinn, Holly Robinson and another woman wrestling each other in wet togas about halfway through doesn’t really hurt matters either.
Gumby #3: For those of you who might’ve thought I was exaggerating a little a few months back when I said that Gumby #2–wherein Johnny Cash descended from Heaven to help Gumby save his girlfriend from evil circus people–might’ve been the best comic of 2006, allow me to assure you that Bob Burden and Rick Geary’s series continues to be awesome on a downright Haneyesque scale.
Still doubting? Allow me to summarize this issue: After being mistaken for the man of the house–due to his father still being hypnotized into thinking that his son is a sack of potatoes–Gumby falls victim to a phone scam and, lured by the promise of a big prize, ends up battling it out with Geronimo and his legion of cannibal real estate agents, only escaping certain doom thanks to their local financial advisor’s laser teeth.
If it’s that radical in one sentence, imagine thirty-five straight pages by Burden and Geary, and you’ll be pretty close to getting the full picture here. It’s truly wonderful, and it’s something everybody oughtta be reading.
JLA/Hitman #2: i realize that at this point, everyone and their brother has already said this, but man. If you told me nine months ago that Garth Ennis was going to cruise back over to DC and write the best Superman story in years, I doubt I would’ve believed it. And yet, here we are.
Of course, if you’d told me that it was going to happen in the pages of a Hitman story that featured the beautiful art of John McCrea, the whole thing would’ve been a little more understandable. After all, as far as bad issues of Hitman go, well, there aren’t any, and even stacked up against sixty issues of one of DC’s best titles, this one stands with the best of ’em. And like I said, it boils down largely to Superman.
Don’t get me wrong: This is Tommy Monaghan’s story (and it’s got the jokes, action and shooting to prove it), but at its heart, it’s a story about how he fits with the rest of the DC Universe. Right from the first issue of Hitman, Ennis makes it clear that Tommy uses his powers take the jobs other guys won’t or can’t, and that’s the theme that’s revisited here, made literal by casting him as the guy that, as Superman says, is the only guy that can do what needs to be done. And the beautiful thing is that Superman never once condones his actions–and in fact finds them as horrific as Batman–but unlike the rest of the heroes, he never once thinks of Tommy Monaghan as less than a person.
And that’s what makes him Superman. It’s the beautiful idea of how the character works, and the final scenes where he visits his own memorial for Tommy is one of the best scenes for either character that I’ve ever seen, and the only one that could’ve possibly topped the last page of Hitman‘s final issue. After all, with most of his supporting cast blown away by the time the series ends, it’s easy to think that there’s nobody left who remembers Tommy Monaghan. But Superman remembers. Because y’know, he’s Superman.
Seriously, you guys? Total lump-in-the-throat, I-think-I-have-something-in-my-eye moment, and two of the best comic books you’ll read all year. Excellent comics through and through.
Lobster Johnson: The Iron Prometheus #2: You know, it occurs to me that I don’t think I’ve ever actually read a Dark Horse Comic that I didn’t enjoy. Admittedly, I don’t read their whole line or anything, but I read an awful lot of the stuff they publish and love it all. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Dark Horse Comics tend to be about people fighting demons, nazis, gorillas or some combination thereof, or maybe it’s because they tend to publish things by Kenichi Sonada and Adam Warren. We shall not, of course, speak of Star Wars.
Either way, Lobster Johnson is by no means the one that breaks the winning streak for the good folks at DHP, thanks largely to the way Mike Mignola seems to have refined this one down to the most rolicking, explosion-filled supernatural pulp epic that he could possibly make, and considering that he’s best known for creating a demon who clubs other demons to death with a pistol, that’s saying something. It’s fun comics taken to their logical (and awesome) extreme, and for cryin’ out loud, the main character is shooting Nazi Ninjas by page three! It’s great stuff, and well worth it.
…Oh wait! Family Values! That’s one I don’t care for!
Metal Men #3: It’s no secret that I like the Metal Men a heck of a lot, but other than just pointing at pages where they’re doing something ridiculously awesome and shouting my devotion the world, I’m not sure that I’ve ever explained why I like those stories so much. It’s hard to get a handle on, but I think what it boils down to is that with those stories–unlike a lot of his work that’s just crazy for crazy’s sake, which I also enjoy–Robert Kanigher just never stopped upping the ante with new and different madness. If you’ve ever read those original stories–and really, you should–you’ll know what I’m talking about: They are relentless in the way that they bombard the reader with information, whether it’s the knowledge about which metal is liquid at room temperature (HINT: It’s Mercury) or some off-the-wall nonsense about robot hunting dogs.
For the new series, it looks like that’s a method that Duncan Rouleau has taken to heart, and this issue shows it off. He’s running plots simultaneously, so even an issue that opens with Doc Magnus slugging it out against T.O. Morrow’s Death Metal Men alongside a renegade Manhunter, L-Ron, and Body X (“Hey Doc! I’ll release Idodine to slow the burning of my flesh!”) goes on to include mystical alchemical symbols built into the Responsometers, and an appearance by the Doc’s crazy brother. It’s as dense as Lead, and while it looks almost as confused at first glance, everything seems to be falling into place excellently.
Omega the Unknown #1: I have absolutely no affection whatsoever for Omega the Unknown–and in fact, I only read the first couple of issues of the original series this Tuesday to give myself a little context for the new one–but I’ve been looking forward to this one for quite some time, thanks to the presence of writer Jonathan Lethem. My pal Tug loaned me a copy of his incredible Gun, with Occasional Music a few years back, and I liked it enough to pick up and blow through Motherless Brooklyn–the story of an orphaned Private Eye with Tourette’s–about a week later, and I loved them both.
As for this one, though, I’m not quite sure where I stand just yet. It’s interesting enough at first glance, and Farel Darlrymple does a great job handling art that I wouldn’t refer to so blanketly as “indie-style” if that wasn’t the way Marvel was obviously marketing it, but after reading the original and seeing how much of it was lifted verbatim from Steve Gerber’s original script to the first issue from 1976. To be fair, I’m sure that Lethem’s building towards something with it, and it’s an enjoyable enough first issue that I’m looking forward to seeing what comes out of it, but I can’t shake the feeling that I would’ve been more excited with him doing something that he built from the ground up.
But I plan on sticking it out, of course. After all, with all the fun I’ve had with Anita Blake, it ought to be nice to see what a novelist who’s actually good can put out with Marvel.
The Weapon #4: Some of yo might recall that the last time I reviewed this comic, I described the main character as “the guy who makes kung fu weapons out of lasers,” and if that sentence alone wasn’t enough to send you sprinting to your local comic shop to buy every issue you could find, then I really doubt that there’s anything more I can do for you. Instead, I’d like to take a moment to talk about the magic… of Numbers!
Yes, as you might recall, we here at ISB Industries have a certain interest in bending numbers to our indomitable will and purposes more awesome than mere “counting” or “space travel” could possibly convey, and it was while reading this issue that I realized that a useful measurement for comics readers had gone woefully unpublicized for far too long. See, with this issue being made up primarily of Our Hero’s battle against the enemies of the Sons of Shan-Tao, it is able to offer a level of face-kicking not often seen in comics, exceeded only occasionally by issues of Iron Fist with many pages where three out of every four panels feature foot-centered face-wrecking.
Yes, you read that right: This issue contains a consistent Sims Ratio of 3:4. Pick it up already, will ya?
Empowered v.2: Let me lay this on the line for you guys: I would read The All-New Adventures of Gambit and Wonder Man if Adam Warren drew it. He is a hero to all children, and a brother to all mankind. And this book pretty much sums up why.
“But Chris!” you say, your monocle popping right off your face. “Isn’t it just an entire book based around manga-style bondage fetishism?” and to that, I say NO!
There are also explosions.
But mostly, yeah, it’s totally the bondage stuff. But in typical Warren style, it doesn’t stop there, and in fact the stories aren’t nearly driven by the sex angle as they are by the characters. It’s a story with heart to it, and it’s a heart that’s matched only by the talent used to bring it all to life. I mean, I’ve been a fan of Adam Warren’s for years, and it just hit me today while I was reading this one how amazingly tight his pencils are, let alone his lettering. It takes an astonishing level of ability to do something that looks this good without being inked, let alone colored, and Warren makes it seem so effortless that it just blindsides you with its quality.
Which isn’t to say that there’s not an incredible amount of sex in the book; in fact, I’d say that the only way it’d need a Parental Advisory sticker more was it if actually jumped off the shelf and punched your mother in the face, what with the story where Emp has to go undercover as a sexy librarian, and the one where she gets tied up and spanked by another girl in the trunk of a car, and the in-depth exploration of “The Aryan Ideal of Shoulder Candy” (actually the same story, now that I think of it), and… Well, pretty much the rest of the book. But it’s all done amazingly well, and it’s one of my favorite comics of the year.
And really, can’t we all use a little bit more of the Ravening Shadowking in our lives?
And that’s the week! As always, any further discussion of this week’s comics or questions about something I skipped over–like how we can possibly bear the awesomeness of three Fred Van Lente books in one week, especially when they include laser pirates, laser karate, and the Rocket Racer–can be left in the comments section below.
As for me, I’ll probably be over here re-reading Hitman. Or maybe that story where Empowered dresses up like a Librarian. Just… just knock first, okay?