Taken as a percentage of the whole, I’m pretty sure that there were more kicks to the face in this week’s comics than at any point since Deadly Hands of Kung Fu was cancelled. I mean really, the boot-to-face content in this week’s Batman titles alone could probably keep me going for the next month, but in a week that saw two issues of Immortal Iron Fist shipping, I’m pretty sure we’ve set a new standard here.
Yes, my friends, that is Danny Rand getting kicked in the face so hard that it not only creates an explosion, but turns the background into the Rising Sun. Truly, these are wonderful times to be alive.
But before we get on with the rest of the Internet’s Most Rolicking Comics Reviews for this week…
…you might’ve noticed the allegedly hilarious video game-themed ad currently taking up space in the sidebar, which means that yet another round of ISB auctions have hit eBay. This week, in an effort to cut back on my collection and fund the complex process involving both reading comics and scanning panels I find interesting, I’m selling off a set of Batman: Year One (Batman #404-407), my copy of Ed Brubaker’s Batman: The Man Who Laughs, and six series worth of Dark Horse Gunsmith Cats issues, which allows you to fulfill your daily recommended requirement of Bat-themed origin stories and exploding cars. If that sounds like something you like, and you live in the good ol’ USA, cruise over there and have a look before they end on Sunday.
and then seriously, give me your money
Of course, even with that out of the way, the looming spectre of capitalism still remains. Here’s the Free Market Sectors that got my hard-earned scratch this week…
…And here’s what I thought about ’em!
All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder #7: So is it just me, or has anybody else out there started setting the dialogue in this book to music and reading it like the world’s most awesome musical? I think it might just be the chorus-like “Oh no, Oh Christ, Not Him, We’re Screwed!” of the opening page, but “I’m the Batman / Goddamn Batman” lends itself to Ride of the Valyries so readily that I can’t imagine it’s not intentional.
Anyway, there are those among us who would endeavor to convince you that ASBAR is the greatest comic book ever printed, and while I still believe that title properly rests within the gilded pages of Dark Xena, I can’t deny that it’s amazingly entertaining. It’s gotten to the point where I just pick it up and start cold reading it aloud whenever a new issue ships, and if you’ve never tried that, give it a whirl. I defy you to get through more than three caption boxes of Black Canary’s narration and/or any reference from Cranky Old Man Frank Miller to “texting” without tears streaming down your face. Can’t be done.
Anyway, as far as the requisite “plot” summary portion of the review, here goes: In this issue, the Goddamn Batman beats the crap out of a bunch of guys, which sets such a fire in Black Canary’s Irish loins that the only reaction she can think of is to wrap her legs around Batman and dry hump him in the middle of a thunderstorm. And then they argue about whether the word “Batmobile” is, and I’m quoting here, “queer.” And really, if DC’s marketing department had any sense whatsoever, those two sentences would’ve been the solicitation copy.
I love you, All-Star Batman.
Annihilation: Conquest – StarLord: Despite the fact that it focuses largely on an anthropomorphic raccoon rather than lesbian space-dragons, StarLord remains the best of the Annihilation books. BEHOLD! Such is the power of Mantlo!
Seriously, though, Giffen, Green and Co. have been doing a fantastic job on this one, and it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite mini-series of the year thanks to a sharp, action-packed script, fantastic art, and the fact that it’s a book where one of the Micronauts teams up with a giant Kirby-created tree-monster for a suicide mission to save the Kree. And besides, who would’ve thought Mantis would be able to pull off the fetching Rocketeer Jacket/Hula Skirt/World War I Stirrup Boots combo so well?
The Astounding Wolf-Man #3: Some of you may recall that when the last issue of Wolf-Man hit the shelves back in July, it was a decidedly cranky Chris Sims who reviewed it and found himself highly disappointed by the crazy over-the-top violence with which Robert Kirkman and Jason Howard closed out the story. Two months, later, and I’ve got to admit that I’m still just picking it up out of the hope that it’ll be as good as some of Kirkman’s other work, rather than devolving into yet another book that replaces actual plot points with full-color eviscerations.
Beyond that, though, it’s just not grabbing me. The fact of the matter is that I just don’t have the love of horror-type characters that Kirkman seems to have, and even with Howard’s fun, stylized artwork and dynamic action scenes, I can honestly say that if I didn’t have a hefty employee discount from working at a comic book store, I wouldn’t be picking it up at all, even with the promise of a vampire and a werewolf driving around in a sports car with a wolf painted on it.
I’d probably buy the trade if they were Tokyo Drifting, though. And that’s real.
Avengers: The Initiative #6: From Wikipedia:
It has been noted that Steve Harmon has no genitalia in his Slapstick form, much to his disappointment.
Okay, look: I don’t know where this bit of information was brought up as a plot point, and I’m pretty sure that I don’t want to know where this information was brought up as a plot point. All I’m saying is, that explains a lot about Slapstick’s barely-contained hostility.
Batman #669: It’s probably been made abundantly clear over the past week here on the ISB, but I’ve read a lot of comics about Batman in my time, and that said, “Club of Heroes” is hands-down my favorite Batman story in the past five years.
I’ve gone over the reasons why as each issue came out, but for those of you just joining us, here’s the short version: I’ve been wanting to read more about the Knight and Squire ever since Grant Morrison’s flat-out awesome arc in JLA Classified, and their return alongside Man-of-Bats, El Gaucho and the rest of the Club of Heroes has been even better than I could’ve asked for.
For me, this is the perfect Batman: A direct descendant of the Denny O’Neil/Neal Adams version that’s equal parts globe-trotting adventurer and calculating detective, and it’s just taken to the next level by the fact that this story features six guys like that, all playing their part in a battle of wits against a criminal mastermind. And really, that’s what I love the most: Even the seeming throwaway characters like the Legionary still serve as reminders that–however briefly–they used to hang out with Batman, and are therefore a force to be reckoned with. They’re z-listers under pressure who come off like pros, and it makes for some of the most exciting scenes I’ve read all year.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the book’s beautiful, either. I’ll admit that I was skeptical about the chances of getting three straight issues with art by J.H. Williams III, but they shipped on time every month and were absolutely gorgeous throughout, from the different styles he used for each character to his customary dynamic page layouts that just look phenomenal underneath Dave Stewart’s coloring.
Also, Batman puts on a jetpack to chase down a mad billionaire in a luchadore mask. So really, no further explanation should be necessary.
Blue Beetle #19: It wasn’t that long ago that I mentioned that while I really enjoyed Blue Beetle, I wasn’t sure if it would ever quite measure up to Impulse, the gold standard of teenage super-heroics in the DC Universe. With this issue, though, I think it might have actually hit that high point.
Me, I thought writer John Rogers had peaked with Total Eclipso: The Heart a couple months ago, but it just goes to show you that things can always get a little better.
Anyway, I realize that I mention this virtually every month, but if you’re not reading Blue Beetle, you’re really missing out on one of the best books on the stands, and this one stands out as one of the best of the series so far. A lot of it has to do with how much happens in each issue: With this one, you not only get Jaime Reyes–who has quickly become the most likeable super-hero in comics–and his running crew facing down Giganta, but you get the Peacemaker (in his all-new fresh-for-2007 x-treme tattooed iteration that works out a lot better than it sounds), a long-awaited and genuinely touching advancement of the sub-plot with La Dama, and a cameo by Traci Thirteen, of Architecture and Mortality fame.
It’s a lot crammed into 22 pages, but what makes it great is how well Rogers, Giffen and Baldeon are able to pull it off. Everything about it’s done great, and the end result is one of the most fun, purely enjoyable comics you can buy. And you should be buying it.
Green Arrow: Year One #5: You know, it occurs to me that if this book had kept to its original bi-weekly update schedule, it would’ve been over and done with long before its principal character was stabbed through the neck on his honeymoon, and while I’m no marketing wizard, I’ve got to think that would’ve been a better idea than waiting until after. To be fair, I have no idea why it was pushed back, but at least a couple of people at the store yesterday were wondering aloud why they were even bothering to pick the book up, and I’m pretty sure that translates into other folks who didn’t.
As for me, well, I know exactly why I’m still picking it up: Because to my knowledge, Andy Diggle and Jock just don’t make bad comics together. It’s a handy rule of thumb that started with their amazingly underrated run on The Losers, and Ollie Queen’s almost assuredly brief absence from the land of the living isn’t going to change that one bit. Instead, their take on the first arrow-slinging adventure of everyone’s favorite left-wing vigilante continues to be a highly enjoyable action comic that does its work a lot better than it had to.
Immortal Iron Fist #9 & Immortal Iron Fist Annual #1: If someone had told me two years ago that there would come a day when I could walk into a comic book store and leave with fifty-eight pages ofIron fist in all-out all-new martial arts mayhem in the mighty Marvel manner, I would have fallen to my knees and wept tears of purest, manliest joy.
My friends, that day has come. Subtlety is a thing I’m rarely accused of, but I really cannot overstate my love of this comic book. Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction are easily two of my favorite guys working in comics today, and David Aja does an amazing job bringing their crazy, fast-paced fight scenes to life in the regular title as Danny Rand faces the first round of the tournament of the Immortal Weapons. See? I just got to type the phrase “tournament of the Immortal Weapons,” and if you can do that and not think there’s something totally awesome going on, then there’s a good chance you’re reading this website by accident.
As for the Annual, it goes without saying at this point that it’s awesome, especially in the way that it fits right after #9 as Danny ditches K’un-L’un to find out more about the awesome life of his predecessor, Orson Randall. Admittedly, I really wouldn’t have picked Howard Chaykin to draw this thing–given that I don’t often picture Iron Fist rolling around in high-cut paisley slacks–but he pulls it off better than anything I’ve seen him draw for Marvel lately, and Dan Brereton is just perfect for the flashback scenes. Brereton’s one of those guys that I’ve always liked a lot in theory, having never actually read that much that he’s worked on, but he does an amazing job with the pulp-action style of the Lightning Lords, the Bride of Nine Spiders, and–of course–the Harem Harlots of Harlem. It’s great, fun stuff, and if you made it all the way to this sentence without rushing out to buy it after “Harem Harlots of Harlem,” then for God’s sake, ge ton it. We don’t have all day here.
Justice League of America #13: The opening chapter to Dwayne McDuffie’s debut art on Justice League of America–which was actually printed in the JLA Wedding Special, for those of you who weren’t paying attention when I flipped right out about it two weeks ago–got me pretty excited about the idea that the Justice League was actually going to be a good comic book where things actually happened that did not solely revolve around Red Tornado crying, and on that front, McDuffie has delivered.
Story-wise, this book is awesome–and, not coincidentally, contains exactly zero references to GeoForce–with some great character moments and a setup that looks like it’s building to the big Justice League vs. Everybody fight that should’ve been in Infinite Crisis instead of the double-page spread of pretty clipart that we actually got. Admittedly, I don’t particularly care for the sub-plot of Vixen leeching other super-heroes’ powers rather than just using her own, but all things considered, that’s a pretty small part of what’s going on in this issue.
The downside, however, comes from the art, especially when it’s contrasted with the great job Mike McKone did on the Wedding Special. Joe Benitez comes off in a lot of places like a second-rate J. Scott Campbell, and considering that Campbell himself is a second-rate version of himself at this point, that’s not a great place to be. To be fair, it’s nothing that breaks the story–outside of some pretty rough panels of Black Canary that I’m guessing were based on a RealDoll–but a book like Justice League really ought to have a top-tier art team, especially now that it’s actually got a good writer working on it.
The Order #3: As I mentioned before, this is not the first time that the Champions–because really, they’ll always be the Champions to me–have battled an unstoppable army of super-strong mutated hobos in the streets of Los Angeles. That honor, of course, belongs to a Chris Claremont epic from the pages of The Champions #3. Having read them both, however, I can say with some certainty that Fraction and Kitson’s version is by far the best.
And not just beacause they’re battling hobos that are also zombies, either, but because it’s the strongest issue yet of what’s turning into a really enjoyable series. This time out, the focus is on “Calamity” James Wa, who joined the Order with a chip on his shoulder that turns into a pretty unexpected plot twist at the end, and brings the book’s already obvious comparison to Pete Miligan and Mike Allred’s X-Statix into sharp focus. And really, as anybody who read those stories’ll tell you, that’s not a bad thing. Instead, it helps the book to strike a good balance between the craziness of cybernetic bums and the more serious plot threads of the characters themselves, and it makes for a great read.
The Spirit #10: Here’s a fact that I desperately hope you guys are unaware of: This week’s issue of Genus, the comics industry’s most stalwart bastion of furry porn, has an homage cover to the iconic splash page of the first appearance of P’Gell. Only with animal-people about to have sex.
Needless to say, Darwyn Cooke’s version of The Spirit is significantly easier to take without a stiff drink and a handful of quaaludes.
And it’s probably best that I stop there, lest I run the risk of following that up with an an actual review of Tarot (surprise! It’s bad!) and permanently destroying my google hits. Anyway, as always, if you have any questions about something I read or skipped over, or if you just want to talk about whether X-Men: First Class is seriously the best X-Men book since the Dark Phoenix Saga (answer: Yes), feel free to drop a line in the comments section below.