Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Weekly Haul: January 17th
52 #37 (DC Comics) I gave a great sigh of relief at the reveal of Supernova’s identity (spoiled by the cover, although it turned out to be the most likely of only a handful of candidates)... and an even greater squeal of delight. It would appear that two of those JLI members snuffed out in 52 aren’t quite as dead as they might have seemed last issue, but I’m going to try not to get my hopes up too high—just because they’re not dead yet, that doesn’t mean they won’t die sometime in the next 15 issues. At any rate, this was a hell of an issue, as Supernova and Rip Hunter take on Evil Skeets (and do they created him in the process of the battle?), Animal Man gets a funeral with Archbishop Lobo presiding and we check in with Oliver Queen, Green Lantern Hal Jordan and Black Canary. Pat Olliffe handles the art, but Keith Giffen deserves big ups too, especially for the elegant handling of the Animal Man scene. Confidential to Brad Meltzer: That’s how you tell a compelling and effective mystery without cheating the readers (and without raping or killing any charactes in the process). Confidential to the Internet: Yes! I called it! Repeatedly!
Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #48 (DC) Taking a page out of Geoff Johns’ playbook, writer Kurt Busiek turns his attention to Aquaman’s rogues gallery, giving a goofy Silver Age villain a dark makeover. And you don’t get any goofier than The Fisherman, last seen getting gunned down in Infinite Crisis. Busiek’s take is pretty inspired, and the art by Ricardo Villagran is gorgeous, the best that I’ve seen on an Aquaman title since, hell, maybe ever. With Dan Brown’s colors, which wash out to a nearly all-white panels in the flashbacks, and Todd Klein’s letters, much of the book feels like it’s actually an old ‘90s Vertigo title. The map spread on pages four and five is especially appreciated too; I’m a sucker for these sorts of things that quantify the somewhat mysterious geography of the DC Universe. While I am enjoying the current direction, increasingly I find myself impatient for the return of Orin, perhaps starring alongside “Aquaman II” here. It's inevitable and everyone knows it's inevitable, so waiting for it to happen is starting to making me anxious in a frustrated rather than excited way.
Birds of Prey #102 (DC) Gail Simone and Nicola Scott continue the first story arc of the all-new Birds, but an awful lot of the drama reads horribly false. It’s interesting to see Lois Lane and Barbara Gordon verbally sparring, but the whole endeavor rings hollow—Oracle and Superman know one another’s secret identities, so a simple phone call from Babs to Superman could have gotten Lois off her trail without even having to leave her apartment, just as Lois could have simply asked Clark if she should pursue the Oracle story or not. The other action involves Huntress, Barda, Manhunter, Misfit and Judomaster II fighting guys with guns. I’m not sure about these new Birds yet, but I’m pretty sure that it’s not a good idea to throw cars at your enemies if the people you’re seeking to rescue are still in the back seat, Barda. I like how Scott draws Barda's helmet, but hate how she draws her armor, turning it into some kind of corset.
Ghost Rider #7 (Marvel Comics) Richard Corben guest art. I believe the expression, in Marvel parlance, is “’Nuff said.”
The Helmet of Fate: Detective Chimp #1 (DC) Perhaps the only plus side of DC killing off so many of it’s B-List characters over the last few years is that it created a vacuum, which C- to Z-List characters were promoted to help fill. Characters like Detective Chimp. I haven’t been following the Shadowpact ongoing on account of the Day of Vengeance mini and Infinite Crisis tie-in not being any good at all, but the surreality of a talking, mystery-solving chimpanzee is always cool, and Detective Chimp's role was by far the most interesting part of those IC stories. In this one-shot special, Bobo goes solo, with Day of Vengeance/Shadowpact writer Bill Willingham and artist Shawn McManus chronicling what happens when the helmet of Dr. Fate falls into his hands. I’m not sure how the story squares with 52, but it was so much fun I didn’t think of it at all at the time. The first page recaps the last non-52 appearance of the helmet in the DOV IC special, pages two through seven offer something of a complete Detective Chimp story unto themselves, and the remainder of the book deals with Bobo monkeying around as a mystical superhero for a while before punting the helmet on to its next user. Best line? Two would-be muggers approach Detective Chimp on a street corner, and one says to the other, “I wonder if he has a little monkey wallet in his little monkey pants.” And you know what? Any other week, Brian Bolland drawing Detective Chimp would have a lock on the honor of best cover of the week, but even a Bolland-drawn chimp in a Sherlock Holmes hat can't compete with the M.O.D.O.C.-ified Avengers.
Green Lantern #16 (DC) See Brad Meltzer, this is what happens when you take more than six issues and four months to put together a Justice League line-up, someone else goes ahead and gets to chronicle their first adventure. The new JLA, which Meltzer is still trying to get all in the same room at the same time as of JLoA #5, appear in full force here, swooping in to keep the Rocket Red brigade off of Hal’s back while he tries to rescue Cowgirl from the terrorists (Johns writes the team pretty well, which is a good thing; someone has to take over for Metlzer in another eight issues). Hal’s page-16 rant about torture seems naïve to the point of propagandistic (I hope writer Geoff Johns understands what he’s saying, even if Hal doesn’t…especially since Hal was mistreating captured foes himself already in this series). I’m surprised at the language in the issue too; despite the Comics Code stamp and the fact that this is supposedly an all-ages friendly DCU title, Johns has both Hal and Black Lighting use “ass” in sentences that don’t really need it; it comes across as swearing for swearing’s sake. Ivan Reis and Oclair Albert do their normal swell job on art chores, and Ethan Van Sciver’s cover really shines; check out his Alan Scott. The chest emblem looks like it’s straight from his Golden Age adventures, but the level of detail on the rest of the costume is in keeping with EVS’ current hyper-detailed, realist style.
JLA: Classified #32 (DC) There’s something…weird about this story. It’s been in the drawer for quite a while now. In fact, it must be over two years at this point. The new villain of the piece, The Red King, received a write-up in the JLA Secret Files and Origins 2004 special, and his “first appearance” was listed as…the very same special, dated November 2004. The credits are a bit wonky, too. Back then, it was supposedly a Dan Jurgens story, the solicitation at dccomics.com lists Dan Slott and Dan Jurgens after “written by,” but the credits of the issue itself credit only Slott as the writer and Jurgens as the layout artist. So, who did what? No idea. The story starts out with a Big Seven version of the League (with Plas standing in for Aquaman) fighting Dr. Destiny on the dream plane, and it’s a pretty tedious scene, with some embarrassingly clichéd dialogue. After the battle is won, however, things get more interesting, as Dr. Destiny’s power gem—the Materiopticon—falls into the hands of our narrator Darrin Profitt, who finds a unique way to manipulate it. Slott and/or Jurgens do a wonderful job of introducing Profitt and walking us through his descent into super-villainy. It’s a 38-page special for only $3.99; I’m not sure why DC’s presenting the issue in this format, but I imagine it’s because so much of the story is League-less, and they were uncertain about releasing 22-pages without a superhero in it. I’m curious to see how the rest of the arc plays out, since the strongest sections are those without the good guys in them. In the meantime though, it’s nice to see Plastic Man in the Justice League, Wally West as the Flash, Martian Manhunter not being a leather-clad dickhead and the too-long MIA John Stewart ring-slinging. Continuity-wise, this story must take place somewhere between “Trial by Fire” and “Crisis of Conscience.” Confidential to Slott and Jurgens: I'm not sure what Gotham City banks are like, but in our universe, I've never heard of a bank that stays open after dark.
Marvel Adventures The Avengers #9 (Marvel) With the possible exception of JLA/Avengers #1, I don’t know if I’ve ever been excited about the release of particular comic as I’ve been for this issue of Marvel’s best Avengers title. Ever since it was solicited (with Cameron Stewart’s above cover image revealed), I’ve been dying to get my hands on Jeff Parker’s all-M.O.D.O.C. issue of the Avengers, in which M.O.D.O.C. takes control of their minds long enough to stuff them into the machine that turned into…whatever the hell he is, exactly. In addition to getting gigantic heads and tiny little limbs, they also develop M.O.D.O.C.’s personality, leading to some sweet adventures as they go about their regular business of defeating Attuma, the Abomination and the Leader (whom they taunt for having such a tiny, tiny head). Marvel and Jeff Parker, heed my words well: Spin-off series. Now. It has to happen. So do action figures of the "M.O.D. Avengers." Just name your price.
Marvel Adventures Spider-Man Vol. 5: Monsters on the Prowl (Marvel) This trade collects four consecutive issues of Marvel’s all-ages, continuity-free Spider-Man comic that’s not Ultimate Spider-Man, and they’re four fine issues. Written by Peter David and penciled by Mike Norton, this is what David’s Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man monthly could be (and should be), if it weren’t forced to tie into crossover after crossover. Spider-Man saves Flash Thompson from Jack Russell, Werewolf by Night (with an assist by Dr. Strange); teams-up with Man-Thing; fights Fin Fang Foom; and then teams-up with Hawkweye (alive, well and not written by Brian Michael Bendis) to face-off against Frankenstein’s monster. Other special guest-stars include Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, who play an overly verbose and an awfully taciturn archaeologist (respectively) who discovered Fin Fang Foom and named him Giganticus LeeKirbyus. At just $6, it’s a lot of great, fun comics for the cost of just two issues of FNSM.
She-Hulk # 15 (Marvel) Dan Slott and Rick Burchett kick off “Planet Without a Hulk,” in which She-Hulk, Agent of SHIELD (thanks, Superhero Registration Act!) is sent to take down all of her cousin's foes, who are running riot now that the big green guy is missing (See his own title for the "Planet Hulk" title, which this story borrows it's logo from). First up is the Abomination, whom she pummels with “Shulk-Fu,” a quarter-ton quarterstaff and a devastating emotional attack that actually made me feel bad for an evil monster named “The Abomination.” Good jumping on point, if you’re thinking about trying the series out.
The Spirit #2 (DC) So was Darwyn Cooke and J. Bone’s superlative first issue of The Spirit a fluke? A case of having plenty of run-up time to make the perfect first issue of a comic book? I guess not, because #2’s a pretty great issue as well. Classic seductress P’Gell appears, with her sites set on the wicked prince of a fictional Middle Eastern country. The Spirit has to save one of them from the other, but which from which?
Ultimate Spider-Man #104 (Marvel) The Ultimate “Clone Saga” continues, as Spider-Man and Spider-Woman take on Dock Ock and his weird new metal arms, the Fantastic Four try to cure Mary Jane from her Oz inoculation (it’s cool they have special barf bags stamped with their logo), and Nick Fury of SHEILD and Henry Gyrich of the FBI give each other dirty looks. Another strong installment of another strong story arc on this usually very strong title.