In this week’s DC Nation column, Jann Jones, the editor in charge of DC’s kids line who’s also responsible for Ambush Bug: Year None, tells a heartwarming story about meeting a young girl at HeroesCon who “reminded me of why we work so hard every day to make the best comics possible.”
She does not mention the HeroesCon experience of having three drunks coming up to her in the hotel bar to demand Sugar & Spike reprints. Maybe she’s saving that one for Penthouse Forum.
And now that I’ve used the kick to the face as the visual equivalent of the rimshot, it looks like it’s time for yet another round of the Internet’s Most Diabolical Comics Reviews!
Here’s what I brought home in a plain brown wrapper this week…
And here’s what I thought of ’em!
Age of the Sentry #1: I get the feeling that there’s a comparison that you’re going to be seeing a lot when it comes to this one, so let’s get this out of the way right up front: Age of the Sentry is very reminiscent of Alan Moore’s 1963.
This is not a bad thing.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, 1963 was an image project that Moore, Steve Bisette and Rick Veitch did for Image that was built around creating comics that read like they were from, brace yourselves for the shocker here, the dawn of the Marvel Age in 1963. There were analogues for all the big ones–The Fury was a stand-in for Spider-Man, Mystery Inc. for the Fantastic Four, Horus for Thor and so on–complete with parodies of vintage ads and “Affable Al” Moore doing his best impression of Stan “The Man” Lee’s hype machine. It was even supposed to climax in a big annual that, much like the “lost” Bob Haney Teen Titans story that finally got released last year, was going to involve both aliens and John F. Kennedy, but unfortunately, it never came out, and unlike Lost Girls, there don’t appear to be plans for a bitchin’ hardcover edition.
Still, 1963‘s a hell of a lot of fun, and it’s in that regard more than any other that it’s similar to Age of the Sentry. They’re both lighthearted retro books, but while 1963 was an attempt to create Image characters that fit into the mold of early Marvel, Age of the Sentry‘s an attempt to give a Marvel character the half-nonsensical fun of Silver-Age Superman. And it works beautifully.
I’ll be honest with you, folks: I cannot stand the Sentry. Or rather, I appreciate that it’s interesting to figure out how a DC-style paragon could work in a universe built around heroes with feet of clay, but when he starts showing up in Avengers, it just flat-out doesn’t work, and seeing the phrase “agoraphobic schizophrenic” repeated ad nauseum is only bearable when it leads directly into being punched out by the Hulk.
This, however, is exactly the kind of story that the character can work well in: One that ignores the commentary on comics and just gathers up pieces of the Marvel Universe and has fun with them, and Jeff Parker and Paul Tobin bring the same zippy, fun energy that they’ve put into books like Marvel Adventures Avengers and Agents of Atlas to do just that. The art’s great, too, with Nick Dragotta and Ramon Rosanas playing along with the retro feel of it, and even the small bits, like the slightly off-center coloring in some parts and the “continued after next page” notes before the ads just make it a joy to read.
Heck, it’d be the best of the week easy, if it wasn’t for one thing.
All-Star Superman #12:
And that’s all I’ve got to say about that. But, if you want someone to use actual sentences to describe the end of the series, Birdie’s got a few of them over at CBR, although he makes the glaring mistake of calling #10 the best issue of the series, when it’s clearly #4, the Jimmy Olsen issue. Just sayin’.
Conan the Cimmerian #3: All right, Tim Truman, we gotta talk about all these stories about Connacht that keep cropping up when I’m trying to read about Conan.
If I’m reading things correctly, then Conan the Cimmerian–at least for this first bit–is about Conan’s return to his native Cimmeria after years of wandering around getting into totally awesome adventures, and that’s fine, but if that’s what’s going on, then why does the story have to shift for pages at a time to flashbacks of Conan’s grandfather? I get that it was Connacht’s wanderlust that inspired his grandson and all that, but wouldn’t those stories be more appropriate in showing why Conan left rather than why he’s coming back? And if you just want to tell stories about a barbarian warrior rolling around Zamora and Aquilonia, then why not just do those stories with Conan? Why bother bringing him back to Cimmeria if the focus is just going to shift to other places?
I mean really: It’s not that I’d mind reading about Connacht, and it’s definitely not that I mind reading two-fisted sword and sorcery yarns that are drawn by Richard Corben, and it’s not that either of the stories running through are bad by any means, but it’s not his name on the cover. I mean, as much as these stories are obviously going to tie together, I don’t pick up Batman because I want to see him sitting around a cave thinking about this one time that Thomas Wayne pulled off some awesome surgery, and getting three flashback-heavy issues in a row with every indication that they’re continuing indefinitely isn’t quite the thrill I was hoping for.
Incredible Hercules #121: Ever since I posted a scene from it for last week’s Friday Night fights, I’ve been thinking a lot about Walt Simonson’s run on Thor–more than usual, I mean–and I know I say this every month, but I cannot stress it enough: If you like Simonson’s Thor–or hell, if you like good comic books–then you really need to be reading Incredible Hercules.
Like I said, I’ve been through this before so I’ll keep it brief: It’s got the same blend of mythology and the Marvel Universe, the same great, sweeping stories–seriously, the last arc had Hercules, an Eternal, Snowbird from Alpha Flight and the Japanese God of Evil who only speaks in haiku fighting the Skrull gods in Nightmare’s realm–and even the same fun sound effects, which this issue include “SPROY-BLOOM!” and “tic tac toe.”
But even beyond the obvious similarities, they’re both just great comics, and in this issue, Pak, Van Lente and artist Clayton Henry show you what Amazons Attack would’ve been like if it was totally freakin’ awesome. Read it.
Marvel Adventures Avengers #28: Ladies and Gentlemen…
Marvel Apes #2: Two issues in, and it’s become clear to me now that Marvel Apes is not the book that I was expecting it to be… It’s actually even better than I could’ve hoped. Why?
Because this is not just a comic about an alternate Marvel Universe where the heroes are apes, but one where the heroes are apes and also some of them are vampires, and the vampire monkey super-heroes are having a secret Civil War.
I mean, I don’t even know how to review something like that, but I swear to you that that is exactly what’s going on here, and it cracks me up every time I think about it. It’s a hoot.
The Punisher #62: And speaking of things that we’re two issues into, this is Gregg Hurwitz’s second outing with the Punisher, and I think it’s clear from the way this issue ends that he’s taking a different tact with the character than Garth Ennis. As good as they were, Ennis’s stories in the Max run were procedurals at heart: Each one had virtually the same start (someone does something so horrible that the audience has no trouble in justifying that they need to be killed) and the same finish (Frank kills a bunch of people), and the stuff in the middle was tweaked into an enjoyably jagged line that connected the endpoints. It’s a forumla, but it’s a formula that worked, whether the catalyst was the insulting personal tragedy of Up Is Down and Black Is White or the gut-wrenching brutality of The Slavers (probably the best and most archetypical story of the Max era), and it had the side effect of casting the Punisher himself as less of a character and more of a plot device. We don’t identify with Frank because we sympathize with his loss, but because Ennis shows us people he encounters through the same black-and-white filter that divides them into people who can live and people so horrible that we can’t wait to see them killed.
Hurwitz, however, seems to want to make the Punisher a character again, and so in this issue, he goes for his Big Moment by–spoiler warning–having Frank accidentally kill a young girl that was set out as bait. It certainly presents a conflict, but it’s one that relies on the cheap shock than exploration of the character. For him to make a mistake like this certainly casts him in the light of someone who’s only human–which I’m sure was Hurwitz’s intention–but the problem there is that he’s not only human. He’s a comic book character that’s been built around and portrayed as an archetype of cold, seething vengeance for the past eight years, and unless this story ends with Castle blowing his own brains out, this gives us a bit of a problem. The Punisher isn’t really known for his forgiveness–he’s not called the Forgiver, after all–and given how he chooses to spend his time, one can assume that he’s at least as hard on himself as anyone else. Odds are the girl was dead before he got there, which will provide an easy out without actually addressing the issue, but still.
Under a writer that I had more confidence in–not to dig on Hurwitz too hard, but this is the second comic he’s written that I’ve read, so there’s a lack of familiarity in play–I’d have more faith for seeing how it could play out, but given that this issue ends with a crane shot of the Punisher kneeling down with the caption “I feel” that could only be more lip-tremblingly emo if they’d printed some Dashboard Confessional lyrics across the bottom of the page, hopes are not high.
War Heroes #2: I don’t mean to be a dick about this, but it seems like Mark Millar’s gotten awfully cocky lately. I mean, I’m sure he works hard on his scripts, but like everything he’s written lately, it’s full of wooden characters who ejaculate tough-guy dialogue and stiff lines in the most turgid political metaphors in comics. The only difference is that here, the members of the cast are soldiers, which means they spend their time polishing their helmets instead of ironing their tights. I guess it was a boner for me to pick up another issue, but it just feels like Millar’s giving his readers the shaft once again with another package of the same old junk.
Also, there’s totally a penis in this book.
And on that 13-hit combo, I’m calling it a night. Special thanks to Dr. K for his help, and as always, questions and comments about the week’s books are welcome below, so feel free to discuss how absolutely gorgeous the new Local hardcover is, or the mind-boggling awesomeness of Blade’s new haircut.
In the meantime, I’m going to slowly realize that I think about the Punisher way, way more than I ought to.