Posted on Wednesday, August 12, 2009
by Al in Uncategorized
Apologies for that brief period of silent running just then – I’ve been out of town, going to the pub and writing poetry (yeah, that’s right! POETRY! ROCK AND ROLL!) so comics blogging (and reading, in fact) has kind of taken a back seat. I’m two issues behind on Wednesday Comics, although I can confidently predict that Wonder Woman is unreadable, Superman complains, Deadman is gorgeous, Flash is clever and charming and Neil Gaiman is having just a little tiny bit more fun than his readers are. Am I right?
Anyway. I did get to read last week’s books while travelling the length and breadth of the country (well, a bit of the length, not much of the breadth. Well, a bit of the breadth. Edinburgh to York and back, whatever that is). It was a huge week of releases, and we’re not going to be able to cover all the bases on the podcast, so here are a few reviews of stuff that came out this week that I read.
(OH DEAR GOOD GRIEF. Catwoman is on TV. As is It Could Happen To You. And About a Boy. And The Princess Diaries. What are we going to have on in the background while I’m writing this?)
GHOST RIDERS: HEAVEN’S ON FIRE 1 – It’s a shame that this miniseries is coming out. I don’t mean that it’s a shame that it’s coming out at all, I just mean that it’s a shame that it has to come out so soon. I know that by the time it’s wrapped up, Jason Aaron will have done nearly two years on Ghost Rider, but to be quite honest I could read his Ghost Rider until the leather jackets that used to be cows come home. It’s partly because it’s an old-school Marvel horror book of the like which we haven’t seen since Ellis’s Hellstorm series, with which series it shares a number of characters such as Jaine Cutter and Damon himself. It’s also because it’s a flat-out slice of gonzo grindhouse lunacy with skull-headed dudes taking on a rogue angel and his army, trying to save the anti-christ with the help of a heavily armed ex-nun in the culmination of a run that has featured heavily tattooed giant religious maniacs, haunted stretches of highway, cannibal townsfolk, Ghost Riders of many nations including one who rides a shark, and an army of nunchuk-wielding nurses on motorbikes. This is the best Ghost Rider has been in years – possibly ever, in fact. It’s going to make a heck of an Omnibus at some point, but for the moment if you have the slightest interest in awesomeness then get this book.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 601 – Mario Alberti, fresh from the Spider-Man/X-Men miniseries, (beautifully) draws this Mark-Waid-written prologue to this week’s big Chameleon story. It’s a fairly fluffy and light issue, which isn’t a bad thing given how poorly things have been going for Peter Parker lately – Pete gets drunk, (possibly) beds his new roommate, then manages to nearly miss a date with Mary Jane, who’s just swept back into his life. Waid’s one of the best of the current stable of Spider-writers, and Peter is at his quiptastic best in this issue. The only disappointment comes towards the end of the issue, with a last-page gag which ties itself in a knot trying to make itself work, but by that point all the readers are probably still fizzing in the brain over the implications of Mary Jane’s revelation a page or two earlier. The main story is followed by a Bendis/Quesada short, which is a little out of place to say the least, given that it sets up developments that are to be followed up in the pages of New Avengers. Why it’s in this issue is anyone’s guess, although if I had to take a stab at it I’d wager it was originally intended for issue 600 but ran late. Still, it’s extra content for free, so it’d be a little churlish to complain about it.
DETECTIVE COMICS 855 – The Bat-relaunch has been a mixed bag, to say the least. For every Batman & Robin there’s been a… well, any of the others, really. Thankfully, Rucka and Williams prove with this issue that their first Batwoman issue of Detective wasn’t a fluke by producing a second intriguing, action-fuelled, hugely gorgeous installment. Kate Kane is turning out to be just as interesting in her own way as Dick Grayson, and her ties to Satan’s Intergang or whatever they’re called is a story that pretty much demands the reader come back next month. If you’re a DC fan, an art fan, or an action fan, this book is pretty much essential at the moment. In the backup strip (sorry! Co-feature!), Kate’s ex Renee Montoya gets beaten up some more in the seedy crime drama Rucka and Cully Hamner have dropped this new Question into. It’s a great package all round, and it’s bizarre to think that this is coming out of the same office as things like the misfiring Red Robin series.
CHEW 3 – You know all the great things you keep hearing about this series? They’re all true, and they’re not exaggerations. This book really seriously is that good. Layman and Guillory lay on the grotesquerie with a heavy trowel but never tip the balance too far into self-parody. This is a book that is serious about what it does without taking itself seriously, and while I can’t go into all the immensely odd plot developments that this issue contains, I will say that Guillory manages to make a splash page of a thug projectile vomiting into Tony Chu’s face into one of the most sweetly romantic things I’ve seen in a comic for a good long time.
THE MARVELS PROJECT 1 – We had considered this for the podcast, but we did Captain America 600 recently and Marvel have the Ultimate relaunch books out this week so it didn’t make the cut. Anyway, this is the purportedly definitive Secret Origin of the Marvel Universe, as told by Brubaker and Epting, the architects of the Cap relaunch, and it starts off right at the beginning, with the beginning of the origin of the Golden Age Angel. It’s actually kind of cute – the revelation that the Angel’s mask and pistols were handed down to him from the dying-of-old-age Two-Gun Kid is the kind of touch that would only work in the Marvel or DC Universes, where that kind of history is so lacquered on to the firmament that these kinds of incidental details can be woven into the ongoing tapestry without anyone raising too much of an eyebrow. Using the Angel as a narrator to show us the emergence of Namor and the Human Torch works in a way that using one of the more prominent or well-developed characters wouldn’t – the Golden Age Big Three have all had their experiences of WWII fairly well documented, but Angel’s never been as fully explored and so Brubaker is able to build more of a character out of whole cloth for him. There’s not a huge amount of plot here yet, though, and given how enjoyable this first issue is it might be best to wait for the inevitable collection so you can have a nice edition for the shelf.
CITIZEN REX 1 – Mario Hernandez has never had the same cachet as Jaime and Beto, possibly because he’s never done anything on the scale of Palomar or Locas, but he’s quietly plugged away on an occasional basis throughout the history of Love & Rockets and occasionally beyond. His ‘Me For The Unknown’ in L&R v2 (drawn by Beto) was a slow-moving thriller, but Citizen Rex, which is also a Mario/Beto production, is tonally similar but in a fantastical science fiction setting rather than the grounded world of Me For The Unknown. This issue is an intriguing story of robots who don’t realise they’re robots, beaten-up society columnists and soup, and while it’s visually a typically accomplished affair, the story suffers from a lack of focus that makes it hard for the reader to latch on to any character as the protagonist. As with a lot of Hernandez Bros miniseries, it’s likely that this will read far better in a collected edition, but on the basis of the first issue Citizen Rex is a faintly puzzling and not terribly compelling curiosity, and far from the strongest work either Mario or Beto has produced.
So, yeah, that was this week’s books. Did you read anything interesting?
(It was The Princess Diaries in the end. What can I say, Anne Hathaway is charming.)