Box of Comics: December 2008

Yeah, it's time again to talk about a bunch of comics you've already read and no longer care about! But in our go-go-go society, sometimes it's nice to take a quiet moment or two and reflect back upon the best and not-so-best funnybooks we ingested over the past several weeks. Also, I just got these in the mail from the fine folks at the Discount Comic Book Service and I want to talk about them. It may have been six months since I last wrote one of these columns, but hey, we can't all be Damon Lindelof (is this joke still funny?).


Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Boxes #2 (Internet Jesus/Clayton Crain/Kaare Andrews)

Marvel brings us another Warren Ellis-penned fill-in issue, and once again, it's sixteen pages of comics for a cover price of $3.99. Where I come from, that's called highway robbery, even with DCBS' substantial discount. Half that price will get you a similarly sized issue of Fell or Casanova. Whadafug, Marvel?

At least the stories are good. Ellis delivers incredibly bleak vignettes into the lives of some surviving X-Men in some kind of post-apocalypse. Boy, the X-Men love post-apocalypses. Anyway, it's a good read, and we even get the script printed in the back, which is a kind of thing I like. But if you're sane, wait for the cheaper trade to read these.

Atomic Robo: Dogs of War #5 (Brian Clevinger/Scott Wegener/James Nguyen/Friends)

I love how the letterer gets credit on the cover. And yet I didn't credit him above. I'm sorry, Jeff Powell! You're awesome.

Anyway, this issue brings us the conclusion to the second arc of my new favorite indie series. In this episode: A legless Robo and a mad Scotsman are the only thing left to save the world from the Nazis and their weather cannon. Time for badassery!

This series was a really fun action/adventure romps. More things should be romps, because they are the dreaded thing known as "fun," and also because I like the word. Romp romp. I did expect to see Sparrow show up in this one, and she didn't. So where is she, eh? I demand more Sparrow.

There's also a brilliant four-page epilogue included that gives us a (potential) revelation, and another example of how badass Robo really is. I look forward to the next mini!

Batman #682-683 (Ulysses S. Grant Morrison/Lee Garbett/Trevor Scott)

Okay, most of us were a bit let down by the conclusion to Batman: RIP, right? I mean, it was apparently meant to shake the heavens themselves and reveal God's true face, but it turned out to be some dude or something. But here, we get what could, potentially, be the epilogue to Morrison's entire Bat-run, and the whole series lifts itself back up and becomes great again.

These two issues provide a journey through Batman's memories, trying to fit all the pre-and-post-Crisis madness into a solid timeline, showing us that such events would break a normal man-- but this is no normal man, this is the Batman, and he has made himself strong enough to handle anything. I love that. He turns his own memories into weapons, for crying out loud. He fights the Lump from Kirby's Mister Miracle-- with his brain! Magnificent.

And then there was the moment that almost made me shed a manly tear, at the very end, with Alfred's narration:

Brilliant. What an excellent little tie-in to eight different mega-events this was.

Billy Batson & the Magic of Shazbot! #3 (Mike Kunkel)

It's been about half a year, but we're only on #3 of this continually-delayed series which caused a bit of a ruckus on this blog when it debuted. Back then, I was one of those who reserved judgment until he had read the book and then said "Hey, let's all simmer down, it's not that bad, man." Well, we're at #3 now, and I hereby revoke that statement.

Don't get me wrong; the art is still beautiful (Kunkel pencils, inks, and colors the whole thing himself), but the script is awful. I get that the book is aimed at younger kids, but seeing as how I still watch Cartoon Network and Boomerang and am able to enjoy cartoons in a non-ironic fashion (though, admittedly, now that I am a crank old man in my 20s, I realize the stuff I loved as a kid pretty much sucked), I considered myself part of the audience originally. After all, I really enjoyed Jeff Smith's Shazam! book, and this is its successor; also, I dig the child-oriented magic of the Captain Marvel concept. So I should like this, right? Not really.

The art unfolds like animation cels placed end-to-end, in that the book's visual style includes a lot of motion within singular panels. So, in an effect, it's a cartoon on paper, and I like that aesthetic. However, it's a decidedly unfunny cartoon, and I find it a chore to read. And I hate being negative about comics online, so it hurts to type these words. The script falls incredibly flat for me. At least it didn't have any of those "coded messages" to translate this time. I skip right over those.

What we've got here is a beautiful comic that needs a script doctor. Would kids like this? It's not really my place to decide that, but I imagine it depends on the kid in question. Billy Batson is nice and dense, but it doesn't appeal to all ages, like I'd say the Marvel Adventures books do-- so this poor old man (not really) finds himself outside the audience.

But if you're one of those parents that reads this with your kid(s), I would love to know what little Johnny or Susie thinks of it. Chain them to a desk and get them to write me a review. Cheers!

Also: Cap only has four fingers (three and a thumb, if you're that kind of person) on the cover, but five in the interiors. 'supwiddat?

Blue Beetle #34 (Matt Sturges/Rafael A! (a!) L! (l!) B! (b!) U! (u!) ..... Querque!)

Only two issues left, but you should still be buying this. That is all. (Paco's as good as dead come this book's cancellation, isn't he?)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #20 (Jeph Loeb/Eric Wight/Ethen Beavers/Adam Van Wyk/Georges Jeanty/Andy Owens/Jane, his wife/daughter Judy)

Probably the best comic I've ever read that happened to be written by Jeph Loeb. There you have it, folks. A Festivus miracle.

Captain Britain and MI:13 #8 (Paul Cornell/Leonard Kirk/Michael Bair, et al)

You should also be buying this. It's Marvel's best book, but the sales are apparently slipping and I don't want you lot throwing banana peels in the way. If you read Comics Should Be Good on anything resembling a regular basis, you will almost certainly enjoy this series. Cornell improves every issue, the characterization is wonderful, and the plot developments are genuinely interesting and surprising. Spare an Avengers book for a month and grab this'n.

Doctor Who: The Forgotten #4-5 (Tony Lee/Pia Guerra/Kelly Yates)

It's unfortunate that tragic circumstances arose so that Pia Guerra was not able to complete all the art for this series, but Kelly Yates stands in pretty well. The star of the show, however, is the script from Tony Lee. Alright, this series is geared entirely toward Who nerds (or Whovians, as they prefer to be called on the census), but seeing as how I have become one of them since the BBC resurrected this sci-fi franchise, I don't mind.

Lee provides peeks into unseen adventures from each previous Doctor (and there's a lot), acing the personality of each one. In the meantime, the story and art slip gaggles of loving references to the show's history into the mix, from silly asides to genuine threats and supporting characters. Tony Lee is throwing every fun element of Who-istory (no?) onto the page, and it works quite well. It also helps that the set-up of the mini-series takes a dramatic curve as the audience realizes, in these issues, that some deft misdirection has been going on the whole time.

If you're a Who fan, or even if you're just getting into the show, you should pick this mini, or its eventual collection, up. It will tickle your fancy and defy your expectations!

Final Crisis #5 (God of All Comics/JG Jones/Carlos Pacheco/Marco Rudy/Jesus Merino/Tom/Dick/Harry)

So we've hit Crisis times five! And what do we have? Well, speaking of "Grant Morrison comics that have been pretty mediocre lately but are suddenly awesome," we have this, the latest installment of DC's latest event. I was not sold on the series up to this point, but now I'm a believer. And it mainly has to do with this panel:

I had a bit of a squee there, let me tell you, but it put things into perspective. I mean, I always knew that this series was really just a love letter addressed to Jack Kirby but disguised as a massive crossover event comic, but, finally, all the elements gelled! We get wild ideas, off-kilter dialogue, heroes charging into battle against all odds, other heroes pulling themselves up by the bootstraps, evil gods getting into the fray, good gods releasing secret weapons, and jeeps with angry eyebrows over the headlights. Also: Frankenstein. So, yeah, I'm finally getting it, enjoying every second, and cackling like a maniac. You win, Morrison!

And hey, I can't even tell who drew what in this. There's three main artists, but the styles mesh pretty damn well. Good job, all.

Also? Two words: "quantum blunderbuss."

Apparently, I don't buy too many comics in the latter half of the alphabet. Er...

Thor God-Size Special #1 (Matt Fraction/Dan Brereton/Doug Braithwaite/Mike Allred/Miguel Angel Sepulveda)

Here we have the antithesis of Ghost Boxes. This sucker's four bucks, yeah, but it's packed with content. You get a brand new 38-pager from Merry Matt Fraction and a host of amazing artists (look at that line-up-- it's incredible), plus a classic 22-page reprint of a classic Walt Simonson Thor issue. Barely any ads! More comics should be like this.

Alright, so the whole thing is an unabashed love letter to Walt Simonson. But I think comics need more love letters to Uncle Walt. Hurrah!

The Umbrella Academy: Dallas #2 (Gerard Way/Gabriel Ba, only the a's got that little mark over it, you know the one)

I don't have much to say about this one, other than it's mad, it's brilliant, it's indescribably awesome. Ba's art is gorgeous. I have no idea where the story's going, but I can't wait to read the next one. One of my favorite comics. This Way guy should totally scrap the whole "millionaire musician" career path. Comics are the future!

And there we have it. This month's theme? Love letters and nerd boners, it looks like. I guess that's not much different from any other month.

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