Box of Comics: July 2008

This summer, I tried out this "online mail order" thing for my comics purchases. With no truly local comics shop and no guarantee that I'll actually find what I want if I drove the 45 to 60 minutes to the nearest stores, I figured it was worth a go. Besides, it's far far cheaper, and that's before you factor in the gasoline expenditure. So, why not. Of course, I'm probably spending more now than I was when I was paying full-price at comic shops, but at least it's more bang for my buck.

I got my box-o'-inky-goodness for July a few days ago from the fine folks at Discount Comic Book Service (DCBS to their homies), and I found some things worth discussing in blog-form. So, kick back and relax as I flex my reviewing muscles by talking about comics you probably had your fill of weeks ago while simultaneously asking you some inane questions!

Ambush Bug: Year None #1, via Keith Giffen, Robert Loren Fleming, Keith Giffen, Al Milgrom, and Wonder Chick:

Best book of the month, right here. I know, it goes against everything I believe in, considering it mostly serves to reference old obscure DC characters (and renew their trademarks at the same time!) and rip the piss out of the modern comics industry (there's a woman's corpse in a refrigerator on page three) thereby requiring a degree in comics lore to get full enjoyment out of this, but since I have such a degree (mailed in from the Stan Lee Comics College and Chinese Take-Out), I am therefore the target audience. It rips the piss out of DC so that I don't have to!

Not all the jokes zing, and the art's played a bit safe, but that doesn't matter. This is a comic in which Argh!Yle, Evilest of Socks, teams up with Go-Go Chex, a man with go-go checks for a face, who is only able to communicate in Bob Haney teen-speak. And that's not all! We've also got appearances by (are you ready?): Cheeks, the Toy Wonder; Egg Fu; Sugar (sans Spike); 'Mazing Man; the Jack Kirby Sandman (!!!), motherlovin' Space Cabby, and, perhaps best of all, half of the Green Team! Okay, so I'm one of six people who remember the Green Team, and two who remember them fondly (hi, Karl Kesel), but that's just awesome. There are a couple cameos so obscure even I'm not sure who the hell it is, but it doesn't matter. The very fact that I could link you to half of the 365 or so Reasons to Love Comics in that last paragraph is satisfying enough.

I think this, the first Ambush Bug comic in, oh, 16 or so years, is final, incontrovertible proof that the blogosphere has conquered comics. I adored this issue, and can't wait for the next one!

Also, the Bug inadvertently causes the death of Sue Dibny. Comedy gold!

Astonishing X-Men #25, by Warren and the Simones:

Wha hoppen to the "Second Stage" tagline? Or is that just gonna be on the trade?

Even my hero worship of Joss Whedon couldn't get me more than halfway through his AXM run, but I've jumped back on with the only other other guy who could get me to pick up an X-Book, the mad baron himself, Warren Ellis. I don't regret the choice, and this issue served to feed my keen excitement.

It's an Ellis comic, so you know what to expect: clever, razory dialogue; clever, nifty sci-fi concepts no one else has used yet on top of other clever, nifty sci-fi concepts no one else has used yet; Twitter. This is part one of six (with a two-part spin-off showing up as a fill-in down the line, apparently), and, naturally, it's all set-up, but it's fun set-up. Ellis acclimates the reader to the X-Men's new San-Fran setting and lets the characters interact before some troublesome mystery sends them off on an adventure. It sounds standard, but, as always, it's the little bits which engage me: the Beast's song choices (well, anything the Beast says, really; he always seems to be a writer's favorite character) are fun; of course Storm likes the name "Armor," as her codename is within the same school of thought; finally, somebody manages to explain the X-Gene in a way which still has mutations making sense.

Simone Bianchi's art is always lovely to look at, of course. I'm not sold on the design of the new street outfits, but I've had no problem with the panel layout like some other folks did. I'm sure, as Ellis always matches his scripts to suit the artist, that, as their run progresses, the comic will really start to gel. But as it stands, it's good. And so I'm buying the X-Men again, even though I try so hard not to.

Billy Batson and the Et Cetera of Shazam! #1, as told to Mike Kunkel:

We had a big debacle about this some time back, and I don't know why. There's nothing here to get worked up over. It's maybe too wordy and overly dense for today's modern kid to really get into, but I think words are good for kids. Still, I think Kunkel might be better off with a co-writer, because the story isn't thrilling me. Then again, I am not the target audience, as evidenced by the fact that I can't be arsed to translate the coded sections. I will probably buy the first "arc" of this and give it to my cousin's kids or something.

The art, however, is gorgeous. Case in point:

Blue Beetle #29 by John Rogers and Rafael Albuquerque:

What? This one's not written by John Rogers, you say? But... his name is right there on the cover! The cover wouldn't lie!

Okay, okay, so it's the first issue from new writer Matt Sturges. And it's pretty good. I'm sure, in time, it will achieve the awesomest of awesome standards. Assuming it doesn't get canceled first.

Mostly, though, I just wanted to share this bit:

Hee hee. And I love Albuquerque's art. He's great. Buy Blue Beetle, dammit.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #17, from Master Whedon and his henchman Karl (is Dark Horse related to Bad Horse?):

I've probably purchased more issues of this than anything else on my pull list. It remains consistently entertaining. Even my hatred of Kennedy is combated by the Marzipan t-shirt she's wearing. Curses. Plus, you know... yay, Fray!

Is that Vi with the pointer and the map and stuff? I'm gonna pretend it's Vi. Yeah.

Captain Britain & MI13 #3 and Invincible Iron Man #3, brought to you by the family of lawyers at Cornell, Fraction, Kirk, and Larocca:

After amazing debut issues but so-so second issues, these two series sail back on track. I am digging this oh, so much.

That is all.

Charlatan Ball #2, by Joe Casey and Andy Suriano:

See? I can buy things that aren't from Marvel and DC or TV licenses.

Unfortunately, I don't think I'm going to stick with this series. I've ordered through #3, but that'll probably be where I get off. It reads like the kind of comic Jack Kirby would've made if he was Jim Starlin, but it doesn't quite come together for me, despite the lovely, lovely art and mad ideas like "Anti-Ennui" and "Hellion Keller." I had the same problem with Godland. I don't think I "get" Joe Casey. And the dialogue really isn't helping.

Fantastic Four: True Story #1 from Paul Cornell and Horacio Domingues and Jane Austen:

I adore the concept to this mini, and the first issue is fun. Extra points for Willie Lumpkin.

Did the art look a bit blurry to anyone else?

Ghost Rider #25 (Aaron! Huat! Marvel! Tango! Charlie! Alpha!):

I kinda feel bad for buying this series every month. I mean, I jumped on because Jason Aaron started writing it, and anything he writes is probably worth reading. He's turned the title into a grindhouse serial, filling the flame-headed biker comic with shotgun-wielding nurses and cannibals and ghosts and cannibal ghosts, among other things. The last time I enjoyed a Ghost Rider comic this much was when the first series ended, back when cool folks like J.M. DeMatteis and Bob Budiansky were doing it. Those came out, what? Twenty-five years ago? (I read the reprints from a decade or so later.)

It's still Ghost Rider, though, and I'd probably be doing the world a favor if I was buying Aaron's Scalped instead. Every month, I debate with myself (not, you know, formally, or anything) about whether or not to add the latest issue of Ghost Rider to my cart. And every month I throw it in anyway.

Why? Well, take this latest issue, for instance. Even if we ignore the hard-rock scripting and the groovy art (Tan Eng Huat's impressed me since his Doom Patrol days, and Jose Villarrubia colors everything right purty), we're still left with a comic in which a man with a flaming skull for a head beats Macho Man Randy Savage into submission with the Bible.

Man, I hope Chris Sims is buying this.

Omega the Unknown #10, by Jonathan Lethem, the mysterious Karl Rusnak, and the Dalrymple/Hornschemeier dancers:

Um... can someone explain this comic to me? Like, the whole series? Because I was really hoping the last issue was going to bring the whole show together and somehow complete the Rubik's cube, but it's pretty much a silent issue that leaves us with a real bummer of an ending. So: help?

Vinyl Underground #10, by Spencer, Gane, Kelly, not Gene Kelly, and I am tired of these credit jokes already:

Here's a Vertigo series nobody's buying. And, would you look at that, it was axed at #12. Undeservedly so, too, for while I wasn't the biggest fan of this series, even though I bought every issue, it did have a good concept and, every so often, a real home run of an issue. This one's the best episode since #5, which is fitting, as both of them involve the main character, Morrison Shepherd, exploring his past via flashbacks and a chat with a younger version of himself. We're getting closer to the truth-- I just hope we get there before the series wraps up. This comic's at its best when it stops being about occult-related mysteries and focuses on the screwed-up protagonists. I loved this issue, and it's a shame the series is destined for obscurity even if it's scratching at the door of greatness; how sad that it's killed just as it finds real footing.

Besides, nipples on page one! Buy it!

Ow. My reviewing muscles hurt. This is why I let the robustly burly Burgas handle this stuff. Show's over!

Bendis Teases Possible Legion of Super-Heroes Announcement This Week

More in Comics