Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Weekly Haul: May 20th

Agents of Atlas #5 (Marvel Comics) The Agents bathe the New Avengers in a 22-page, fight-tastic issue. See, the Agents are good guys posing as bad guys, and what would prove how bad they are better than beating up a bunch of superheroes? Writer Jeff Parker sets it up so that the Avengers don’t look like saps for falling for the charade, nor do the Agents look super-smart by being able to successfully trick Spider-Man, and Parker also spins the sacrosanct fight-then-team-up ritual of Marvel comics in an interesting way. Here they almost fight, then talk about how they’re not going to fight, and then killer robot M-11 starts firing his death ray at Wolverine for reasons only he understands, and so they all have to have a big fight scene anyway.

It’s pretty good stuff, and it was refreshing to see Parker handling the battle somewhat “realistically,” rather than giving it to his team since they’ve got home book advantage (Were it not for Venus’ abilities, the Avengers surely would have taken the Agents).

My favorite part was the last panel, in which Marvel Boy informs the team that Osborn is part of a cabal of jerks who are currently doing a bunch of shitty things to the world, and one of them is Namor. Then you flip to the “Next Issue” page and there’s a cover featuring the agents dog-piling on Namor while he tries to sing a duet with his cousin Namora.

You know what that means! Next issue will have Namor being a total dick, and punching people! That’s my very most favorite thing about Marvel Comics!

Marvel Adventures Avengers #36 (Marvel) Wow. You know, I almost always enjoy this title. It’s definitely my favorite Avengers book, and my favorite Hercules-free Marvel comic. But it could to me while reading this particular issue that it is actually a perfect superhero comic book.

It’s fun, it’s funny, it’s full of colorful characters with exciting powers they use in inventive ways, it’s got a ton of action, it’s kinda sexy without being exploitive or making a thing out of it, it’s easily accessible and clear enough that if it were your first comic you could make sense out of every page of it (but if you’re already familiar with the characters, you might enjoy some of the gags a little more) and, in this issue at least, it is absolutely gorgeous looking.

Paul Tobin writes it, as he usually does, and he tells the tale of Tigra accidentally unleashing a genie that gives her three wishes, which it will be happy to grant just as soon as it gets done taking vengeance on Bruce “The Incredible Hulk” Banner, who imprisoned him centuries ago (time travel was involved).

The art is by Jacopo Camagni, whose name sounds familiar but whose work I don’t remember seeing in this title before (and I kinda think I’d remember it, given how good it is).

Camagni does absolutely everything right here. Not only is the story-telling crystal clear and the page lay outs expertly (and inventively) handled, but the backgrounds are all deep and full of charming little details, and the character design is fantastic (Storm is a head taller than Spidey and dwarfs most of the team, she has a different facial structure than Tigra, the other female in the issue; Thor and Cap are built like bodybuilders, while Wolverine is stocky and Spidey spindly, etc.)

If you’ve never tried an issue of Marvel Adventures Avengers before, I’d highly recommend you try this one—it’s as fun and accessible as any book in the MA line, and it’s just as good or better drawn than anything else Marvel publishes. (And way better colored!)

And so as not to sound too pleased, I should point out that I detest these sorts of interchangeable pose covers (And what’s Wolvie standing on, anyway?)

Marvel Mystery Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1 (Marvel) So the artist for this book’s lead feature, Chris Burnham? He’s fucking brilliant. Marvel, I assume you guys already know this since you’ve previously hired him for some X-stuff before this, but you need to hook him up with something on the regular, and pay him lots and lots of money to keep him drawing it for you.

His panels pop with little pleasing details: The pipes and knives and brass knuckles thugs bleed when Namor plows into them, the half eaten hotdog someone drops in a Coney Island action secene, the books on Ferret’s well-appointed shelves, the architectural details on a splash page where the Human Torch and Toro dive towards a rooftop meeting.

And like Camagni, whom I just got done raving about, Burnham is an artist who just plain does everything right, and as lots of little expert flourishes on top of a solid foundation of providing really good art (I liked, for example, how the richly detailed backgrounds he provides for most of the scenes make the background-less ones of Torch and Namor flying in the sky contrast so sharply with their earthbound scenes, and the way he draws the horizon at the top or sides of the panels, to make it clear the airborne heroes are wheeling through the air as they fly).

Like Marcos Martin’s work on the Captain America issue of these specials, Burnham provides excellent work that justifies purchasing the book all by itself.

Not that the story itself is bad or anything. It’s by old hand Tom Defalco, and features a series of Golden Age heroes tackling the same threat individually and in various teams. That threat is Dr. Manyac’s gang of green flame robots, which can freeze anything their mysterious fire comes in contact with, and the something called Project: Blockbuster (Want me to spoil it for you? It is a giant Nazi robot with swastikas for eyes).

In addition to Namor, Torch and Toro, the story also features Betty Dean, the surface-dweller Namor hates the least; Ferret, a “mystery detective” who dresses like a dandy; The Angel, who is just some guy in a funny costume who beats the holy living shit out of people (I counted at least ten teeth knocked out in the space of five panels); and Electro, the robot from J. Michael Straczynski and Chris Weston’s apparently abandoned miniseries The Twelve.

It all adds up to 22 beautifully drawn pages of Namor and the torches wrecking Nazi robots and bickering, while a handful of D-Listers also wreak havoc.

The back half of the book includes two Golden Age tales. The first is a Human Torch story by Carl Burgos featuring Dr. Manyac and his first attempt to use the green flame technology for evil. It’s a twelve-page story in which almost every single page is arranged in a nine-panel grid and the colors are just brilliantly bright.

That’s followed by a six-page story starring “Ferret, Mystery Detective” and his sidekick Nosey. It is just awful (reading these two back to back, it’s clear why The Human Torch is still remembered, while the Ferret is simply not completely forgotten). The credits assign this rough, kind of primitive work to a Stockbridge Winslow and Irwin Hasen; it’s kinda hard to believe the former isn’t a pseudonym. It it isn’t, than it is an awesome name, and I will strongly consider “Stockbridge Winslow Mozzocco” for my first-born son.

Ferret seems to be just your average dickhead private eye type, arrogantly solving crimes before the police can and then making fun of them about it. Well, his partner distinguishes him from other private eye types, I suppose: Nosey is some sort of animal, perhaps a ferret, although he is a gigantic ferret. He is usually perched on Ferret’s shoulder, but he changes size in different panels. Sometimes his head is as big as Ferret’s, and he usually seems to be the size of a small dog. Maybe he’s a mink or otter or something?

At the stories climax, the strange beast leaps at the main bad guy and claws his face. That would be a pretty terrible thing to happen to you, even if you were a gangster.

Perhaps Nosey is Ferret’s demon familiar…?

Super Friends #15 (DC Comics) This actually came out last week but I left it on the shelf, as I don’t really care for the book and usually don’t pick it up unless it has something totally awesome on the cover. Well, this cover wasn’t all that awesome really. But then I read Rachelle Goguen’s review of it (and saw her post of Smug Batman) and realized that J. Bone, who draws the overs and whom I always find myself wishing also drew the interiors, did in fact draw the interiors for this issue.

And it was pretty great. It’s still very much more a kid’s comic than an all-ages one, but Sholly Fisch does a pretty good job with this issue, in which some of Batman’s loved ones steal a page from Sue Dibny’s playbook and give him a mystery to solve for his birthday.

Bone’s art helps immensely; I’m still not crazy about (and kinda hate) the basic Mattel Super Friends character designs, but I like them best when Bone’s drawing them. He does great work on the expressions that bring them to life. Seriously, check out the look he draws on Batman’s face in that panel she posted (also, check out Wonder Woman’s face; she likes what she sees!). There are a couple more panels of Batman making faces that are jut as adorable (like page 15, panel 3).

Bone is also a very good drawer of dinosaurs. More J. Bone art please, DC!

Tiny Titans #16 (DC) To help whip the Sidekick Elementary student body into shape, gym teacher Coach Lobo makes them race around the world, and it’s as cute and funny as you would expect from this book by the fifteenth issue. This issue also introduces some new characters into the mix, including Mas y Menso from the late, great Teen Titans cartoon, Bombshell from the “One Year Later” Teen Titans, and, in a crowd scene, Vulcan from the Son of Vulcan miniseries.

Trinity #51 (DC) I did not care for Tom Derenick’s super-buff version of The Thunderbolt.


Phillyradiogeek said...

Caleb, as your so often disappointed in the comics you buy these days, I feel happy for you when you come across one you love, i.e. MA Avengers. Issues such as that one seem to restore your faith in the medium. Don't let the crap bother you, brother, just stick with the good stuff and you'll be fine!

Patrick said...

Based on your love of all things Marcos Martin, you should check "Captain America" #50. The back-up feature is his summary of Captain America history - just beautiful.

Hdefined said...

Caleb, it occurs to me now that you give Namor more props than any other character in Marvel's stable . . . and that perhaps this is the way the character ought to be treated by the publisher.

I realize I've always found Namor interesting, but that Marvel writers continually dumb him down by turning him into a reasonable good guy time and again. If you wanted to, you could see what Priest did with Black Panther or what Marvel did last year with Iron Man - or hell, even what Gaiman did with Dream - as what someone ought to do with Namor.

Hmm, I think I've got a zany high concept idea for a Namor series . . .

Josh said...

The Human Robot fired on Wolverine because he/it remembered the first time the Agents met with Logan, back in the 1950s when they all fought evil mind controlling bugs in the jungle. That adventure took place in a serial that's only available through Marvel's online service.

Caleb said...


Regretfully, I started Brubaker's Cap in trade, and have a terrible aversion to moving between formats, so I won't see it until it's finally collected. But I'm glad to hear it; Martin rules.


Oh, I got it. I probably didn't write it clearly enough as I was trying to keep that sentence from running on too long, but I mean that the other characters didn't know why. It would have been clear to readers. That Wolverine team-up got reprinted as a back-up in the first issue, which is where I saw it. Thanks though!