Box of Comics: March 2009

It's time again for the world's most belated comic reviews! Thanks to DCBS for shipping my funnybooks in fine fashion. I've been using them for my comic needs for a year now! Wow, time flies. But I've also decided to give another online retailer, Heavy Ink, a chance this month, ordering various and sundry items from them. While Heavy Ink is slightly pricier (though their shipping is cheaper), they do carry back stock. So if I forget to pre-order something from DCBS, I can nab it from Heavy Ink, and then everyone wins!

This month: Killer of Demons, Potter's Field, Special Forces, Umbrella Academy, and all the Marvel that's fit to purchase.

Agents of Atlas #2 by Jeff Parker, Carlos Pagulayan, Gabriel Hardman, and company (Marvel)

The first issue of this didn't really excite me-- I guess I was expecting a lighter, more "fun" (gasp!) touch from this series. This second episode sucked me in a bit more, provided a bifurcated story; half of it takes place in the present, as the Agents try to get in good with Osborn's new regime and deal with Temugin, newfound "ally" and son of the Mandarin, and half of it takes place in 1958. The past sections are my favorite part of the book, giving us a cool mystery, some fun intrigue and action, and more of that fun spirit I'm looking for. Also, Hardman's art just looks better to me-- slightly retro, but also owing a lot to the styles of Michael Lark and Paul Azaceta, among others. I like the inks here the most, whereas Pagulayan's modern-day sections are swallowed up and almost diluted by the colors. Is his stuff digitally inked? I can't really tell, but everything just seems a bit more ethereal.

I've ordered this through #5 so far, and I'll at least go through #6, or whenever the first arc ends. Might switch to trades after that-- but trying to get off the single issue habit after having it your whole life is really, really, really, really hard, man.

Captain Britain and MI:13 #11 by Paul Cornell, Leonard Kirk, Mike Collins, et al (Marvel)

Marvel's best series. Seriously. I am not joking. I will keep repeating myself on this point. Marvel's. Best. Series. And improving every month. This issue, the feces hits the fan blades, so to speak, and Cornell just keeps upping the ante with every passing page. Dracula declares war. Victims are claimed. Troops are rallied. This is epic stuff. Kirk's turning in the best work of his career, and Collins ain't too shabby, either. And that page with the prose description of Dane and Faiza's fall, and how she saves them? Awesome. For the love of God, buy this series. I said I was trying to switch to trades, but I will keep buying this series in singles because it's so damn good and I want it to last.

Ghost Rider #33 by Jason Aaron, Tony Moore, and the rest of the band (Marvel)

Oh my sweet rhubarb, can Tony Moore draw this series forever and ever? This may be Aaron's best issue yet, and Moore's art has a lot to do with that-- it's expressive, grungy, and kickass, and thanks to Aaron, he gets to draw all sorts of cool and crazy stuff, including, but not limited to, nunchuck nuns, the burly and terrifying Deacon, and the Ghost Riders through the ages. The flashbacks make this the most fun issue of Ghost Rider I've ever read; cackling with mad glee I was with each page turn. But how can you not love the Ghost Flyer, the really Haunted Tank ("Load up another hellfire shell, boys! We got panzers at 12 o'clock!"), Penance Fist, the Smokey & the Bandit homage, the even-more-awesome Lone Wolf McQuade homage, the 2000AD technopunk cyborg Ghost Riders of the future, or the Undead G-Man and his flaming-skulled kid sidekick, the Sensational Character Find of 2009, Knuckles O'Shaughnessy!? I have died and gone to Heaven-- the good one, not the one ruled by Zadkiel. All that and the promise of the Ghost Rider Revenge Squad? Jason Aaron, I want your brainbabies.

Invincible Iron Man #11 by "Action" Matt Fraction and Salvador "Lee Iacocca" Larocca (Marvel)

I haven't talked about this one in a long while, but yes, I'm still buying it. Despite the intrusion of Dark Reign, Fraction keeps making this an excellent read. He's gone and turned the book into a really packed conspiracy chase thriller, with Tony Stark shutting his brain off and working his way backward through old armors, while avoiding Norman Osborn and HAMMER, and getting into a scrap with War Machine (and that's a clever spin on the ol' two-heroes-fighting bit). Throw in a guest appearance by Henry Hellrung of the aborted Order, further developments with Pepper's suit of armor (including JARVIS from the Iron Man movie!), and Maria Hill stumbling into the lair of another old Iron Man baddie, and you've got a great book on your hands. Larocca draws the armor stuff really, really well this time around, as Fraction proves that, even with his brain turning itself off, Tony Stark is still the smartest guy in the room.

Jersey Gods #2 by Glen Brunswick and Dan McDaid (Image)

Sorry guys, I really tried. I wanted to love this book, and I feel bad that I don't! It's just not working for me, though. I love Jack Kirby too, but this series feels like it owes far too much to him, and the initiation of the Barock/Zoe relationship is too contrived ("You're some superpowere dude calling himself a space god! Here's my phone number!"). I think this'll be my last issue.

Killer of Demons #1 by Christopher Yost and Scott Wegener (Image)

I ordered this sight-unseen simply because Scott "Atomic Robo" Wegener drew it, and yeah, it is worth it for his crisp and energetic artwork alone. But Yost is no slouch, either. This is the story of Dave, a hapless office drone who finds himself inducted into God's holy cause to kill demons disguised as humans, paired with a tiny wisecracking cherub sidekick. Then again, Dave might just be insane, and the police-- including his lady cop (but not Lady Cop) girlfriend-- are after this serial killer who seems to be butchering regular folk for no rhyme or reason. I think the comic's leaning towards Dave not being crazy, but then, maybe it's a metaphor for how our world only seems like it's infested with demons, because most people these days are horrible individuals. Or maybe not. Anyway, it's crazy, mayhem-filled fun, and I await the rest of the mini.

Also: Yes, it's four bucks. But it's 34 pages of story. Everyone wins!

Also also: White Castle appearance alert! Woohoo! I love those greasy, steamy squares of deliciousness. My colon doesn't, but I sure do.

Potter's Field: Stone Cold by Mark Waid and Paul Azaceta (Boom!)

Wouldn't this make for a great TV show? But it's not a TV show, it's a comic! And what a wonderfully packaged single issue, at that. Twenty-four pages of story, no interior ads, excellent paper stock-- it's a dream come true. Azaceta's moody, inky, gorgeous art swathes us in Waid's story of John Doe, vigilante dead-guy-identifier, seeking not just to discover a victim's identity, but to preserve it, as well! Throw in some crooked cops, shady dealings, and reverberations from 9/11 and you've got a really strong work that's about identity and trust. I hope we continue to see more of this series in the future, be it with more mini's or one-shots. This is one of the best items in this month's box.

Special Forces #3-4 by Kyle Baker (Image)

I was never able to find #3-- in fact, I'd forgotten it came out-- but now I've got them both! Thanks, Heavy Ink!

Kyle Baker is the Jonathan Swift of comics. By that, I mean he writes the kind of satire that punches you right in the jubblies. With Special Forces, he's giving us the Iraq War, filtered through a Frank-Miller-esque over-the-top action adventure, each bullet hole letting the true horrors of what's going on over there shine through. For those who have forgotten, remember, this is about hot babe Felony searching for her fellow soldier, the autistic Zero, in the midst of a war zone. It's a livid condemnation of the Iraq War, disguised as a black comedy, disguised as a Michael Bay movie. The inclusion of "Wacky Real-Life News Items," featuring the stuff Baker's drawing the plot from, really drives the points home, reminding the reader of the real repercussions of mercenaries for hire, child soldiers, sexual assault, and mentally handicapped in the military.

Then there's the art. The way Baker lays out the pages, complete with borderless panels and a stiffer, typewriter-y font, gives the work the appearance of an extended MAD Magazine sequence, only for cynical adults. The third issue features some beautiful linework, but the fourth uses far too many computer effects and too much photo manipulation. The added layers don't help the images, and most of the characters appear quite stiff. I would've preferred the art style remain consistent over the course of the series.

At a glance, Special Forces is crude, sexist, violent, and overblown. If you squint, however, it's probably brilliant. Besides, how can you not love a comic that gives you line like "I realized that while my side is fighting for freedom and democracy... your side is fighting for pussy"?

A text piece in the back of #3 indicated there'd be more issues to follow this four-issue arc, but the conclusion of the story leads me to believe this won't be happening. But if Baker wants to keep going, I'll be there.

Umbrella Academy: Dallas #5 by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba (Dark Horse)

It's kind of weird this doesn't say "Dallas" anywhere on the cover-- less obsessed fans could get confused, you know! We get another plot swerve in this issue, as most of the action takes place in Vietnam, 1963, what with the mummies and the vampire Viet Cong and all that. Just when you think the whole story's gone over your head, it's back to the main thrust of the plot, but then it's over too quickly. This issue seems a bit of filler, but when it's filled with weird and wonderful ideas like it is, I can't help but love it anyway. Plus, any excuse to have Ba draw a war comic that also happens to be a crazy superhero comic is an excuse worth taking. Dave Stewart's colors make this the most beautiful comic book on the stands.

That's all I have to say for this month. Lots of good books came out! Tune in next time, as I talk about stuff you'll have read weeks before I get the chance, like the debut of Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye! Man, I'm really salivating over that one.

But for now, I think I'll dig into this luscious hardcover of Jack Kirby's Losers. Mmm... smells like fresh lumber and wood glue...

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