Monthly archives: August, 2007

A very special Worst to First

I’m back, dear readers. After finding a job and getting settled in the ATL, I made my first trip to a comic shop in more than a month (quick shout to Odin’s Cosmic Bookshelf). Honestly, I was surprised more than anything by the sheer number of comics I really didn’t care to read. The only series I missed were (in order) X-Factor, Astonishing X-Men, Captain America, Hellboy and Daredevil. (Sadly, the shop was out of the latest X-Factor.)

What’s missing from there? You guessed it: I didn’t miss a single DC series. Hard to believe how far things have fallen since Identity Crisis and even the culmination of 52. I only ended up with a handful of comics from my month off, including Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucketthree from Marvel, three independents and one from DC (Jeff Smith’s Shazam). I did also get all the Green Arrow: Year One (GAYO) books and the first Tangent collection sent over from DC, but I’ll save those for separate reviews. Now, onto the Countdown… Uh, I mean countdown.

Worst: Astonishing X-Men #22

It’s bad enough that this is late, but the big reveal of this issue (Danger not really being able to kill any X-Men) is just way too late (that storyline happened forever ago) and the killing off of Cyclops made Captain America’s death look tasteful. Oh, and the bad guys’ space rocket launcher looked like the Death Star with a boner. You know what, go ahead and scratch this off my list of comics I need.

Kombative: Immortal Iron Fist #8

Jim Doom already did a pretty good job of taking the logic of this book apart (heaven is based on fighting. WHA???), so I’ll leave that be. This was really just a catch-your-breath book that didn’t advance any of the storylines substantially. Particularly, the flashback story of Danny’s father didn’t do anything meaningful. The art in that part was also terrible, as Jim mentioned, which is odd given how good Marvel is about putting together art teams. Now all that remains to be seen is if there’s a new way to rip off Mortal Kombat (which itself was just a ripoff of Master of the Flying Guillotine).

Metaphoric: Shazam! #4

I think I just bought this to be a completist, since that $5.99 cover price is ridiculous. Whining aside, I did enjoy this series. It succeeds just as Bone did, by weaving a fun story that’s for kids (no girls with their boobs falling out or intense violence) but retains a high level of smarts. There’s a whole lot of social commentary that’s not too heavy handed. I started to wonder, after reading this last issue, how deep the metaphors run. For instance, Smith sets up Sivana as the attorney general and eventually reveals him to be working for the evil Mr. Mind, who then turns on Sivana after he’s served his purpose. There are some overt attacks on the conservative political establishment, but I can’t help but wonder if Mr. Mind is supposed to represent President Bush (manipulating his operatives, etc.). Of course, if that parallel is being drawn, Mr. Mind would probably represent Cheney or Rove…

All that aside, I wasn’t completely sold on the art. It went a bit too cute in places and, more than anything, the big climactic fight between Captain Marvel and Mr. Mind’s giant monsters was unbelievably stiff.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketBee-yoo-ti-ful: Killing Girl #1

If only Fin Fang Doom hadn’t given up his Meaningless Awards column, he would’ve had a shoo-in at splash page of the week. I know it’s not the most action-packed page ever done, but the image at left is comics at their most beautiful. Frank Espinosa branches off from Rocketo here to work with writer Glen Brunswick on the story of a prostitute-turned assassin. As expected, Espinosa’s frenetic art carries the book. It’s so graceful and active (a nice 180 from Shazam). When I looked at the page you see here, I literally shouted.

Apparently, though, there’s more to comics than pretty pictures. Does the writing hold up here? Eh, kind of. The premise here isn’t that original, and Brunswick leans on the crutch of some serious coincidences to craft drama. The prostitute goes to kill a guy in a town where she was kidnapped and sold into the sex-trade years ago, only to run across an FBI agent who’s engaged to her sister and is protecting her potential hit. That’s about as likely as the plot of Spider-Man 3, wouldn’t you say? (more…)

Countdown: Thirty-Five

If you’re anything like I was last week, you were unable to recognize obscure forearms. You needn’t worry, though, because, this week, we see the exact big-bad guy that was threatening the Palmerverse perusers last week, and, lo-and-behold, it wasn’t a guy, afterall. It was some big-bad woman, yet she doesn’t seem threatening in the least. Anyway, I’ve developed a new system for Countdown. I’m going to start dividing the issue number by three, drinking that number of beers, and then reviewing it, seeing if it will make it more tolerable. This week, seeings as how we’re at 35, that means that I’ve just ingested about 11.66 beers, and I’m more than ready to talk about this nonsense. Ok, now where did I put that blasted comic?

We begin things with Donna Troy and Jason Todd (moron-extraordinaire) being held by “Queen Belthera,” whoever the hell that is. She proceeds to turn Ryan Choi into an actual bug, since, y’know, they’re both small and stuff. Oh, the ironing is delicious. The art, however, is not. At the end of this issue, we meet back up with these misfits, and the Monitor Who Made This All Possible turns his coat and decides to blast Donna Troy in the back and side with Queen Nobody-Cares. (more…)

Batman, as told by A Confederacy of Dunces

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketNot sure how many of our crowd here have read the Pulitzer Prize-winning exploits of Ignatius J. Reilly, but I was reading the book the other day and came across a section that had surprising relevance to the world of comic books.

While recommending reading to a terrified passerby, the crazed Reilly suggests mostly Medieval scholars (he loves Boethius in particular), advises to steer clear of Victorian or Modern literature, then says:

For the contemporary period, you should study some selected comic books. … I recommend Batman especially, for he tends to transcend the abysmal society in which he’s found himself. His morality is rather rigid, also. I rather respect Batman.

Now, who would’ve thought that Frank Miller would look at Batman in the same way as a (pardon me) batshit crazy central character of a great literary work? Oh, wait, that doesn’t surprise anyone, does it?

Side note: after a month and a move across the country, I’m once again gainfully employed. My new boss even has a Batman poster on the wall of his office. The real meat of this news is that I’m also once again among the comic-buying public, so expect more writing from yours truly in the near future.

The Doomino Effect for the week of August 22, 2007

Well, I’ve been arguing about how the 14th Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause applies to Somali refugees over on a pro wrestling message board, so what better motivation could there be to compose this week’s highly anticipated Doomino Effect?!

Speaking of high anticipation, I sure was eager to read Countdown #36 this week, after last week’s cliffhanger of Jimmy Olsen figuring out he knew Superman’s secret identity – the first time I’ve been excited for the next issue of Countdown! Oh wait, what’s that? The follow-up happened in a different comic? And last week’s Countdown didn’t say “To be continued in (other comic)” ? So once again, Countdown proves to be a disconnected series of meaningless events that only serve to slightly embellish on stories that are actually being told in other comics?

Okay, so on the cover, we have Mary Marvel symbolically pulling Zatanna out of a hat. Zatanna is of course so busty that even a collared shirt has no choice but to get sucked into her cleavage. First few pages, stupid stuff to make Jason Todd look stupider. Next few pages, the loser villains are trapped by Poison Ivy, but her pheromones don’t work on Piper, because he’s The Gay.

You know, completely by coincidence, I happened to read the first few chapters of Hush tonight. You might remember them – how Catwoman gets tricked into doing things she didn’t want to, because Poison Ivy’s seductions are so powerful that they work regardless of your sexual inclination. So yet again, Countdown goes for the convenient and contradictory. Doom DeLuise has resumed his weekly reviews so I’ll move on from this, but one last thing – I cannot believe how blatantly they were willing to rip off the visuals of Wolverine’s claws with that Pitt-wannabe at the end of the issue.

Speaking of Wolverine, that leads me to Wolverine #56. Sorry, that wasn’t much of a segue. Anyway, it’s the first issue after the abysmal Jeph Loeb run, and it cost $3.99!?! For what, the 56th-issue anniversary?

I’d be willing to place a bet that this issue was originally conceived as a stand-alone fill-in issue, but they added a few pages and a few lines of dialog to make it fit in with the stupid Romulus / Wildchild nonsense. As a standalone issue, it would have been pretty good. I’m a fan of Howard Chaykin, and I always like the Wolverine stories that are more about people who cross his path than they are about him. Kind of like Wolverine’s Tangled Web.

Speaking of tangled webs, I didn’t buy any Spider Man comics, but Batman #668 is all about a group of heroes ensnared in an ongoing murder mystery, where the suspects and potential victims keep dropping one at a time.

I said it last issue, but I love how simple the concept is and how brilliantly it’s being pulled off. A group of people, each with no love nor trust lost for one another, trapped in a house where people keep getting picked off. They have to put aside their mistrust and learn to work together to solve the mystery without keeping their guard down, because it could be any of them.

The only thing I’m slightly worried about is the ending – where the Black Glove says “We have your children. Advantage evil,” to which Batman responds “Hh. I don’t think so.” I really hope that next issue isn’t just Grant Morrison proving to the critics that Damian was worth bringing back. It has the potential to be cool, but man, it was going so perfectly for the first two issues. If the kid doesn’t screw it up, it’s definitely got potential to be my Arc of the Year. (more…)

OK, I’ll buy Thor #3

Never mind two slow issues. Give me even the hint of a Tony Stark ass-whooping and I’m sold. Huh, maybe Marvel knew what they were doing with Civil War after all…

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Random Thoughts from 8/22/07

I’ve been doing the Meaningless Awards of the Week for about nine months now, and quite frankly I’m tired of the format. It seems to me like I’ve been in a bit of a blogging rut for a while now, and I figure a break from formula is probably the best way to deal with that. So Meaningless Awards will be going on hiatus for a while (maybe for good). Of course, there are still comics that came out last week I want to talk about, so please excuse the randomness of my thoughts:

Walking Dead 40It seems like Invincible and The Walking Dead have been coming out the same week for several months. Normally I’d have no problem with two awesome comics coming out the same week, but it kind of stinks to get all the Kirkman-y goodness of these two books at once and then have nothing for another four weeks. It looks like that’s about to come to an end, though, since another issue of The Walking Dead is coming out this Wednesday. TWD twice in as many weeks? Sweet!!!

That’s particularly good news since TWD #40 really wasn’t as good as most issues have been. Every so often Robert Kirkman will do one of these plot-free “just another day” issues, but usually he accentuates them with an incredibly dramatic moment or a great cliffhanger. That wasn’t the case this time. Thankfully, Invincible was better than it normally is, so it all evened out. Allen trying to break Nolan out of a Viltrumite prison from the inside has lots of potential.

Cabel & Deadpool 44I really like Cable & Deadpool, especially now that the guy with top billing is dead. Deadpool is just a fun character: questionable morals, a wicked sense of humor, virtual immortality and the skills to take on damn near anyone he mouths off to. Like Wolverine or a horde of Hydra agents, both of which he takes on in C&D #44. I’ve also particularly enjoyed Ron Lim’s artwork on the current arc. There’s just something about Lim’s semi-animated style that’s always appealed to me, and it works really well with the cartoonish antics of Deadpool, Weasel and Bob, Agent of Hydra. Too bad he’s only a fill-in guy (as far as I know).


Countdown: Thirty-Six

36Well, for the first time in this series, it feels like something actually happened this issue. Aside from one glaring editorial mistake, I think this issue actually flows pretty well and left me somewhat satisfied. First time for everything, eh? The cover shows that Mary Marvel is taking control over Zatanna, and I must first take this time to note that they both have enormous breasts, and Mary’s skirt is so short that it leaves practically nothing to the imagination. What’s weird is, that’s fine by me, since she’s a cartoon, and I’d rather not imagine her vagina. But, hey, we all have our proclivities, so I’m sure this does it for a small portion of the sex-starved fanboys out there.

The issue starts with the Monitor and his group getting attacked by some bugs that know magic, and, at the end of the three pages or so they’re given, somebody pops in to show that he means business and is going to take this little posse downtown. Only, we don’t know who he is yet, unless you have the ability to recognize obscure forearms. I don’t, so I guess I’ll be waiting a week. (more…)

Countdown: Thirty-Seven (OWL)

37Well, it took me awhile, but here I am. A day late? No, more like 12 days late. A dollar short, though? You better think again, little man. I’m back, and I have some reviewing to do, so let’s begin at issue 37 of what has been, to this point, the single worst comic book series I’ve ever shelled out money to follow. Computer, check. Comic book, check. Twelve-pack, check. Atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed, roger, ready to move out.

This issue still has the same problem that has lagged this series so far, and that is, it includes every single storyline within the issue, giving each a couple pages, so that nothing actually happens, as nothing is given any time to. Well, I am a fair man, and, therefore, I will say this, in the most fair way possible: Countdown Thirty-Seven has something going for it that none of the other fourteen issues preceding it has had — something actually does happen. (more…)

Book of Doom: Immortal Iron Fist #8

Iron Fist 8Let’s just get right into it, shall we?

Jim Doom: “I haven’t read any Iron Fist before this, even though I’ve been a fairly big fan of Ed Brubaker lately, so I came into this issue with only a basic understanding of the character.

I found the first summary page to be very confusing, and nothing really sunk in except for this one guy is bad and he’s kidnapped Danny Rand’s partner.

So with my confusion and ignorance firmly in place, I then found out that I had a pretty easy time following this issue and I rather liked it. I unfortunately don’t have the issue in front of me, so I can’t cite specific things that I liked, but I enjoy the characterization of The Immortal Iron Fist as more “normal guy who has taken on this role” when contrasted with the fighting machines chosen to represent the other cities of heaven.

I also really enjoyed the art. It seems to be in that same post-Alex Maleev vein that the artists on Captain America and Daredevil fit into, and that’s a style I very much enjoy.

Unfortunately, the specifics I can remember are the things I didn’t like. I hated the art on the “flashback” story. I think that might be the same artist who did the “Son of M” miniseries.

Heaven seems like a really horrible place, if the seven cities of Heaven are so preoccupied with fighting, honor and glory. Seems quite un-Heaven-like, especially when one of the champions of one of the cities is the major villain!

Maybe the crappiness of Heaven has been covered in earlier issues, but man, no wonder the previous Iron Fist was like “Screw you, assholes, I’m not fighting in your stupid tournament.”

We get to see how these fighting techniques are not about fighting – they’re about meditation and spirituality, yet what one would assume is the pinnacle of spirituality – Heaven itself – is all about fighting for something as shallow as glory! (more…)

Exit Wounds

By Rutu Modan
Published by Drawn & Quarterly, 2007. $19.95

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThe Plot: It’s been years since Koby, a young man who drives a cab in Tel Aviv, talked to his father. Suddenly, a stranger tells him she believes his father is the unidentified victim of a suicide bombing. The two start on a hunt for the truth, forcing Koby to dig out all the paternal animosity he’s held onto most of his life. He also begins to learn more of the secret lives his father led, including as boyfriend of the young woman helping Koby. Ostensibly a mystery, Exit Wounds at its core is one of the best “personal journey” graphic novels in years.

The Good: The book focuses mostly on Koby and his female friend, but what makes the book so enjoyable is how Modan uses even the most inconsequential characters in crucial ways. People who only appear in the comic for a couple pages (or just a couple panels) still have fully developed personalities that shine through with pitch-perfect dialogue and Modan’s Tin Tin-esque artwork. (I should note, her art is similar to Tin Tin with solid outline drawings and strong colors, but it varies enough as to not feel derivative.)

You may recall my past diatribe about the indie comics problem (in short, indies are often absent of plot). Exit Wounds strives for a lifelike feel, like many indie books, but it has a plot that chugs along constantly, leading Koby and others in a hunt for the truth. This is to say, there’s a story here, and a darn good one at that.

The Bad:

The Grade: A You may have noticed the “bad” section is blank. I know it’s hard to believe for me to not have anything bad to say, but I honestly don’t. This year has been an epic one for non-superhero comics, and Exit Wounds stands as among the best of the best.