Saturday Morning Comics

Once again it’s time to settle in with a bowl of Fruity Pebbles and peruse this week’s comics offerings. It’s a strong showing with the return of The Goon and a couple of monthly favorites.

Wolverine and the X-Men #14by Jason Aaron (w); art by Jorge Molina (p) and Norman Lee (i); published by Marvel Comics. This issue was a huge improvement over the previous one. Although it’s tied to the A vs. X story, it’s more relevant to the book as a whole. We see that the school is woefully understaffed thanks to the war. There’s some Toad-related disturbing humor and a date that doesn’t go so well. Kitty and Colossus are written well here, and their discussion seems to show the direction for the ending of the overall crossover. The only down side to this issue is that gag of Deathlok spouting probabilities is a little over played. Relegating him to a C-3PO type of role is a waste.

Manhattan Projects #5 by Jonathan Hickman (w); art by Nick Pitarra; published by Image Comics. This alternate-history is equal parts wonderful and deeply disturbing. The way Hickman handles Earth’s first contact is interesting and surprising. One thing I really appreciate about the series as a whole is the cover design. It’s spare. This series stands out on the comic racks because of its covers.

The Goon #40 by Eric Powell; published by Dark Horse Comics. While waiting for another long-form story, fans of Eric Powell’s Goon are treated to three short tales related to prohibition and fast cars. The second of the tales stands out; it’s a spoof on The Dukes of Hazzard complete with Waylon Jennings style narration. The problem with these last several issue (and problem is a relative term) is that these are stories that, while featuring Frankie and the Goon, don’t need either of the book’s two main characters. Why not end The Goon and pick up with an anthology of weird tales? These last three issues have shown that Powell has the chops to do something like that without being shackled to a specific character.

This Week’s Covers

Game Tape

This week sees a couple of arcs ending as well as the beginning of the end for a guilty pleasure. So let’s go to the tape for the review…

The Boys #65

Man oh man, everything that The Boys  has been about is essentially revealed and wrapped with this issue. More so than most any other issue, this one is a splatter fest. But the readers now know everything. If you’ve been paying close attention, and I wasn’t, the reveal shouldn’t be a great shock. I was caught off guard, but I picked up pretty quickly. So it’s done right? Nope, Ennis is giving us one more arc to serve as a coda/ aftermath. Certain actions dictate that there will be Hell to pay.

With Action Comics vol. 2 #8 we see an end to the Brainiac arc. Three things to note here.

1. I love Morrison’s Lex Luthor. He is as much an embodiment of his times as Byrne’s version was in the 1980’s.

2. I’m guessing that this marks the end of Superman as crusader and street level hero. He’s got the suit, he’s got a space fortress, so there’s little chance he’ll be punching gangsters.

3. I’m intrigued by the dwarf that keeps showing up. Every time I see him I’m conflicted between believing he’s a new incarnation of Mr. Mxyzptlk and being convinced he’s something entirely new.

 

Wolverine and the X-Men #8 is again a fun read with Aaron’s great character moments. Beast is the focus and he is marvelous. Next month we’re being treated to an event tie-in… so… yeah.

That’ll wrap up this week. Check out last week’s edition if you’re curious about my thoughts on A vs. X #1. Turns out Diamond did ship early to some shops. It was Friday before they sent a message to those shops asking them to hold the books until this week. It’s nice see that they’re screwing over all parties involved in the comic distribution system. Maybe events like this will bring about some change.

Game Tape

It was a big Marvel week for me; lately they’re mostly Marvel weeks. So here’s what’s worth talking about.

Astonishing X-Men #43

Astonishing X-Men #43 feels like a filler issue while creative teams are shifted. Your mileage may vary on this one, but It had nothing to offer me after the eye-catching Arthur Adams cover. Basically if you’ve ever seen an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, then you’ve already seen this story. The team-up between Emma Frost and Danger reads like Troi and Data exploring what it means to be human. It’s a done-in-one so that’s nice, but that’s about all it gets points for.

Since the only two X-book I’ve been following are essentially self contained, I was surprised at how easy it was to jump into Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men. The first issue is good. Seriously solidly good. Aaron conceived of the perfect way to introduce readers to the new school and to this faction of X-Men in general. There are some fantastic bits of dialogue, and Aaron nails each character’s distinct voice. Aaron’s also introduced several nice bits of potential conflict as well as an interesting new baddie. This was a dense and well paced first issue. Heck, I even liked Bachalo’s art. That’s saying something considering until the last year or so he was on my least favorite artist list somewhere near Kelley Jones. If you can find it this week, this is a title worth grabbing. This book is the winner of the week. I’m pretty sure this one will make it to the pull list.

All-Star Western #2

All-Star Western #2 reveals that the Crime Bible made it through to the new 52. Yay? So the Jack the Ripper style villain turns out to be something larger…and probably better. Hex has more to do in this issue, and Arkham gets knocked about a bit. Not a bad middle of the story. I wonder how much, if at all, Palmiotti and Gray have shifted their views and approach to story with the new editorial mandates. Was this Hex in Gotham story already planned? The El Diablo back-up feature was nice if a little bland. It’s a good introduction to the character; I just wish we didn’t have to suffer through more zombies. My hatred for the slackjaws borders on the Goon-esque. Still, it’s a good solid western.

In Brief

FF #11 is a roiling boil before things spill into Fantastic Four #600 and FF #12. Less space but much more talking, and we’re reminded that Annihilus is still out there plotting.

Superman #1 was okay. It hits all the right notes, there just isn’t much oomph in it. It’s the difference between writing because you’re in love with the character and you’ve got something to say versus simply being in love with the character. Enthusiasm alone does not carry too far. If I can get #2 on the cheap, we’ll see if it improves.

Secret Avengers continues to be good vintage Warren Ellis. It’s a fun combination of action and character. The art in this one is a treat too. Sort of Will Eisner style layouts on LSD.

This Week’s Comics

There’s a healthy helping of good material out this week. Here’s what I’m looking at.

  • ASTONISHING SPIDER-MAN WOLVERINE #5 (OF 6) – Though I haven’t picked up any issues (yet), Jason Aaron writing Spidey AND Wolverine is a no-brainer.
  • BATMAN INCORPORATED #4 – After being MIA for so long, to get 2 issues in 3 weeks seems pretty strange, but I’m not complaining about getting more Morrison Batman.
  • CAPTAIN AMERICA AND BATROC #1 – Just because I’m a sucker for the terrible idea that is Batroc.
  • DAREDEVIL REBORN #3 (OF 4)
  • FF #1 – I’m all over this book, and I’m even into the idea of having Spider-Man on the team, but the only reason I can think of to change his costume is to sell toys. See also: X-Force.
  • GREEN LANTERN #64 – The War of the Green Lanterns starts here, and curiosity is enough to make me give this one another try.
  • HULK #31 – This should have been on my list the whole time, because of Jeff Parker. It’s almost like he can’t lose.
  • UNCANNY X-FORCE #6

One book that missed the list last week was the Iceman & Angel one-shot. However, Friend of the Blog Andrew told me how great it was and it’s written by Brian Clevenger (of Atomic Robo fame and the best story in last month’s Skullkickers #6) and featuring Goom, so onto the list it goes.

My running pull list has been updated, and that’s it for this week. What are YOU looking at?

Eine kleine nachtlesung

If you’ve never been over to comicbookresources.com, you’re missing a world of great columns and news. Even if you check regularly, it’s easy to miss things because there’s so much. With that in mind, I want to highly recommend Jason Aaron’s new column.

Aaron, who has written some killer Ghost Rider and Wolverine stuff recently, writes a weekly column about the practical side of the craft with the pitfalls and the peaks. His most recent column (as of this posting) looks at a week in the life of a comic book writer. It’s well written, feels honest, and is practical minded. Check it out and check out some of his books while you’re at it.

Badassery

Sometimes you find Awesomeness in the places you least expect.  If there’s anything else I turn to comics for, it’s finding bits of pure  bliss that you can’t get anywhere else.  It doesn’t always come in the same form; they’re all Awesome, but Michael Kupperman is different from Silver Age Batman is different from Ghost Rider.

Yeah, I said it: Ghost Rider.  Johnny Blaze, Danny Ketch, all that. You’d think a guy who made a deal with the Devil (excuse me, MEPHISTO) and rides a motorcycle around with a flaming skull would be Awesome by default, but it’s more hit or miss than you might think. Having just finished reading all the way through the latest volume, it’s definite proof that Ol’ Flamehead can go both ways.

Let me get the bad out of the way first: the initial 19 issues are terrible.  There’s solid art by Mark Texiera, who I (and apparently MANY others) consider to be THE Ghost Rider artist, but the story is straight out of “13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo,” wherein our hero must recapture escaped souls and send them back to Hell, a story so generic and dull that the writer skipped through about 90% of them and jumped straight to the big (anti-) climax.

Once issue 20 rolls up, though, that ALLLL changes (minor Awesome SPOILERS are ahead, but probably none for real plot).  When Jason Aaron takes over, the entire tone (right down to the lettercol) gets darker, more epic and  much funnier.  This is the Ghost Rider book I expected Garth Ennis to write!

We start off with psycho cycle nurses, throw in some cannibal disfigurements, a prison story, and The Orb, then wind up with a war in Heaven, kung-fu nuns, U.S. 1 villains and the Ghost Riders of the future.  Oh, and did I mention there’s also a couple guys with flaming skulls riding motorcycles around???

On paper, none of it should work.  Establishing a lineage of Ghost Riders out of nowhere screams out as hackery to me (as  seen in the movie).  Wars in Heaven have been done to death.  The “everything you know is wrong!” conceit is usually when you know that the idea well has run dry.  And yet here it all makes sense and — most  importantly — is fun.

I’ve read a few Johnny Blaze stories, but Ghost Rider in the 70’s never really seemed to know if he was a monster or a superhero (The Champions?  Really?).  I got most of my exposure to GR through the first couple years of the 90’s Danny Ketch series, though I completely missed out on the Noble Kale/Vengeance/family relation business. Aaron weaves all of this together so well…I’ll just say it: He’s the Geoff Johns of Ghost Rider.  Without necessarily being beholden to previous continuity, he definitely knows it and incorporates more than he has to in order to keep the diehard fans happy without (and this is the most important part) losing the casual readers like me.

You know those captions where Stan Lee used to tell you the image was so awesome that it would speak for itself and he wasn't going to say anything?  That's what I'm doing here.If there’s anything that showcases how good this run is, it’s issue #31, part of Last Stand of the Spirits of Vengeance.  After explaining how it’s ridiculous that God would only send His spirits to America and OF COURSE other countries would have Ghost Riders, we get one of the top 10 splash pages of all time: Spirits of Vengenance Through the Ages.

Russian Ghost Rider on a bear?  Check.  Shiva GR on a flaming elephant?  Absolutely.  Dog Sled Ghost rider?  Naturally!  Ghost Rider on a shark?  Fuck Yeah! I don’t care how his flame works underwater, I just need to read more about the adventures of Shark Rider (and thankfully the responses on the letter page show I’m not alone).

Volume 7 of Ghost Rider never really concluded, it’s wrapping up in the pages of Ghost Rider: Heaven’s On Fire and then that’s it for Jason Aaron on Ghost Rider, at least for now.   But the sheer Awesomeness of his run there will keep me checking out his work on Wolverine and Punisher.  I can’t wait: assuming this was no fluke, I see him putting out some company owned books for a while to build a name for himself, and then we’re going to get a career-defining book out of him.  His Preacher*, to make another comparison to Garth Ennis.

Awesome.

* Assuming I didn’t just “predict the obvious” because it’s already out and called Scalped.