Sunday, September 10, 2006

Weekly Haul: September 6th

52 #18 (DC Comics) Fans of the more obscure corners of the DC Universe should absolutely love this week’s installment of the company’s most exciting ongoing, 52. Not only do Detective Chimp and the Shadowpact get some nice panel-time along Ralph Dibny and Dr. Fate’s helmet as they set out to unlock the mysteries of life and death in the DCU, but the funeral of Booster Gold features some Z-List Pallbearers. My knowledge of DC’s character catalog was tested and bested this week (anyone who can identify the members of the Croaton Society featured within as well as all six of Booster’s pallbearers—I got Odd Man and Beefeater—in the comment section would earn my undying appreciation). A lot of great stuff this issue, starting with J.G. Jones’ cover (somewhat compromised by the logo and busy cover text) and including Detective Chimp’s patter (“We figured out the ending of “Lost”, we can find one of our own guys”) and Clark Kent’s comments both on Booster’s funeral and 52’s inability to check in with all cast members on a regular basis. The art was a little weak in the consistency department—check out Question’s changing medal on page four—and I was a little disappointed in the choice of his origin artist. Denys Cowan should have topped the list of choices, maybe followed by Bruce Timm (who gave new life to the character through Justice League Unlimited) or Dave Gibbons, for a real elbow in fans’ ribs, since he drew Watchmen, the greatest non-Question Question story ever.

Agents of Atlas #2 (Marvel Comics) Writer Jeff Parker sure seems to have learned how to pack a lot of story into a single issue from his done-in-one run of stories on Marvel’s Adventures line’s Avengers title. In this single issue we get a summary of Marvel Boy’s history in the 616 Universe, the secret origin of Gorilla Man, the reappearance of both Yellow Claw and Venus and the story flies forward. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for an ongoing.

The All-New Atom #3 (DC) This likable new title hasn’t changed a bit since it’s first issue, thankfully—if anything, this issue is simply a little wilder than the last two. Gail Simone’s scripting is still a ton of fun, her asterisk usage is still insane and better off ignored (I stopped reading the lame “footnotes” after the first issue), John Byrne’s art is still good but not great and, as always, distracted from by the byline itself, Olivetti’s covers are still sweet. Plus this issue we get more pilgrim action, praise the Great Giver of Light.

Death Comes to Dillinger #2 (Silent Devil Productions) The text-less image above comes from the cover of this book. Which you should go buy and read immediately. Or, if you haven’t read the first issue for some reason, you should go buy that and read it first, and then pick up #2, the other half of this fantastic, two-part story.

Detective Comics #823 (DC) Okay, maybe I was a little too effusive in my praise of the first Paul Dini-written issue of the series and it’s new creative team, especially considering the fact that the announced artist on the team, J.H. Williams III, has only gotten eexactly one issue out so far, giving way to a string of fill-ins. This issue’s art team is Joe Benitez and Victor Llamas, and while this issue isn’t quite on the level of Williams’ issue, Benitez is one hell of a cheesecake artist, thus perfectly suited for this issue’s villain, Poison Ivy. A typical comic book babe body, extra-dewy doe eyes, and a baby doll-sloped forehead all add up to making Benitez’s version of the vegetable vamp one of the sexier ones. Benitez’s Dark Knight is only so-so (dig that sloping, pointy-nose), but he does a hell of a Robin, too. For his part, Dini tells another complete story in one issue, though this one hews closer to superheroics than the mini-mysteries of his previous issues. It’s somewhat disappointing to see him working the Batman Rogues Gallery so hard so soon after introducing a new villain in his first story, at least this one introduces a new character who may or may not live to threaten Batman and Ivy again in the future.

G.I.Joe: Scarlett Declassified (Devil’s Due Publishing) It’s not often you see an artist getting top billing over the writer on the cover of a comic book, but it certainly makes sense that Phil Noto gets top-billing here—he is unquestionably the star of this special, oversized issue, which reveals the secret origin of the red-headed heroine. I never liked her much at all on the TV show (I was a Lady Jaye man, myself), but writer Mike O’Sullivan presents a rather complex character sketch here, particularly considering how much action he packs in and how little space he gets to work with. The G.I.Joe franchise of comics, under every publisher that has held the license over the years, has always suffered from a wealth of great characters (plenty of whom could probably carry their own title, honestly), so many great characters that too often they all get lost in the shuffle, eclipsed by Snake-Eyes. So it’s nice to see DDP giving some of those characters a chance to shine on their own in formats like this one. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to go start praying for Shipwreck Declassified and Lady Jaye Declassified

Hero Squared #3 (Boom! Studios) Giffen and DeMatteis continue to bring the Bwa-ha-ha’s with this series, which recaptures the feel of their old JLI collaboration (and is especially welcome now that DC is offing the old JLI cast left and right), and in this issue they even bring some emotional drama too. Their collaborations have grown predictable over the decades, sure, but they’re still predictably enjoyable.

The Lone Ranger #1 (Dynamite Entertainent) Wait, wait, wait…the Lone Ranger? Seriously? Dyanmite grabbed Army of Darkness, Darkman, Red Sonja, Battlestar Galactica, Xena and now the Lone Ranger of all things? Does anyone really want to see a new Lone Ranger comic? Well, I guess so, as I’m proof that the book would sell—at least one issue…out of curiosity. Actually, make that two issues, because after the first, I’m dying to see what happens next. The most well-known (played out?) and iconic (clichéd?) western hero of all time in a new, 2006 comic book series seems like a counterintuitive step to me, but there’s no denying that writer Brett Matthews and artist Sergio Carriello have crafted a gripping first chapter of the story behind the man behind the mask. For the first time in my life, I actually care who that masked man was. The true test of whether or not Matthews and Carriello can make The Lone Ranger work in the post-Unforgiven era of the deconstructed Western won’t come until they take on Tonto,however, which seems to be next issue’s agenda, judging from the cliffhanger ending. John Cassaday covers sure as hell won’t hurt the series, either, even if this first issue one was a little too Watchmen. When you’ve got John freaking Cassaday drawing a cover, why just have him draw a bloody badge?

Marvel Team-Up #24 (Marvel) So this is the end of the “Freedom Ring” arc? I must say, I’m quite disappointed. I give Kirkman’s some props for the twists and turns of the plot—we get a cool, new Marvel hero, only to seemingly lose him, no wait, he’s back in action, no, wait, he’s gone again, etc.—but I would have given him still more props if things ended differently. The breaking of the issue into individual stories that occurs this issue (as it did last issue) is also oddly off-putting.

Savage Dragon #128 (Image Comics) “This place is a fucking madhouse,” the villainous Mr. Rictus says with a smile near the end of this issue of Savage Dragon, “Let’s get the hell out of here.” That pretty much sums up my feelings about the title, which I’ve only read on very few occasions (the Madman and the Atomics crossover and the issue with S.D. clocking President Bush on the cover come to mind), but each time it reads like a fucking madhouse. I mean that in a good way, for the most part, but it’s the kind of madhouse I always feel like getting the hell out of by the time I reach the end and steering clear of in the future. Erik Larsen’s achievements on the book—writing, editing and friggin’ lettering the damn thing—are a wonder to behold, especially considering the fact that he’s running a comic book company at the same time (Joe Quesada has been unable to get just six issues of his Daredevil: Father out) and how long his fellow Image founders lasted as the chief creative forces behind their books (Savage Dragon is truly the last man standing in that regard). I also appreciate Larsen’s zaniness and peculiar art style—if J ack Kirby were working for an independent publisher today, I doubt it would look much different from Larsen’s ongoing. But it’s just so mad, I’m always lost to the point of distraction, even in this issue, the hook of which (as indicated by the cover) is that the villains who starred in Mark Millar and J.G. Jones’ fantastic series Wanted invade Dragon’s dimension . While I’m familiar with all of these characters (each basically a R-rated analogue of a DC character), the story is still couched within the wild stream of conscious plotlines of the Dragon-iverse, so even with so many familiar faces, I still felt like I was in a very hostile environment.

Snake Woman #2 (Virgin Comics) It all starts to come together, as Jessica gets accustomed to her new snakish nature, and the crazy bum poet and mystery villains begin to reveal their real nature. I’m enjoying the Michael Gaydos art and the way this reads and feels like a cross between Marvel/Max’s Alias and DC’s pre-Byrne The Demon series. Confidential to Virgin: That Grant Morrison/Deepak Chopra “The Seven Spiritual Laws of the Super-Hero” SDCC panel you guys were hyping in the back of the issue? For the love of God, adapt it into a comic book!

Thrud the Barbarian #2 I caught up with this issue this week, having missed it’s original release. I’m glad I did. Carl Critchlow’s Conan parody is the only one you really need, and, if you missed #1, don’t worry, both issues are self-contained. Highlights this time out include the monster known as the “Lluddi-Ell” (you may have to shout it’s name to get the joke) and Thrud’s problem-solving skills, shown in a scene where he finds a way to consume beer once it’s been frozen solid.

The Toy Box #1 (Alias) A relatively light week for releases and an interesting cover sold me on this ish. An “all-ages” book in the sense that it’s written for kids, writer Kevin Grevioux crafts the story of a young boy who gets wrapped up in his imagination and playing with his toys who has a stressed relationship with his father, who thinks he spends too much time playing with his toys. The end of the first issue sees the pair of them trapped inside a magic toy box in the world of “Hobbyland.” Grevioux actually has a pretty great idea for a comic book going here, but it’s somewhat hampered by the fact that all the best, most iconic toys are now all owned by corporate entities and licensed to their own comic books (For example, I could never get trapped inside my toy box to play with my He-Man and Star Wars guys, my G.I. Joe and Transformers, my sisters’ Barbies and My Little Pony’s. Regardless, the idea behind the book is still interesting, and especially interesting is that in this story of a child transported to a fantasy world a parent comes along—something rare to the point of uniqueness. Grevioux’s sense of humor is a little too broad and his moralizing a little too transparent for us cynical adult readers, but I’m definitely interested in seeing where he can go with the story in the second issue, which is really all you can ask for from a first issue.

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