Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Final Comic Book Wednesday

Welcome to the final installment of...

Comic Book Wednesday
Issue #33

Yep, you read that right. After this issue, I'll be unable to continue my weekly blog. It's been a blast writing about the books I read here, and I think it's actually increased my enjoyment of those comics. I've been working as a Screenwriting teacher at Five Towns College, and my workload has increased threefold this semester... and I think it's time to focus all of my writing attention on - well, you know, my writing. I'll still write about comics, and I'll even post reviews, but I definitely can't do it on a weekly basis any more.

So alas... let's get to it!

Thankfully, this was a good week. Angel & Faith, TMNT, and JLD all delivered fantastic reads, and even the books that didn't totally impress me weren't quite bad.

Angel & Faith #6
Daddy Issues - Part One
Written by Christos Gage
Art by Rebekah Isaacs
Dark Horse Comics

It makes sense that the best installment of Angel & Faith thus far has the best cover. Steve Morris' cover, featuring a younger Giles emerging from a Russian doll-version of Giles as we know him... it's perfect. It's perfect because it intrigues and mystifies while also accurately representing the inside story. It also functioned to tease the fandom a bit, as it was released before we got a chance to read A&F #4, which many fans thought to be the climax of the "Angel resurrects Giles" arc. However, it wasn't, and Christos Gage is telling that slowburn story over the course of the whole twenty-five issue series. What this cover did was make the fandom wonder if Giles was going to be brought back successfully as Ripper - which is a great idea, but Gage has something else in mind.

Angel, while still obsessed with the idea of bringing Giles back, continues his mission of using Giles' Watcher's Diary as a yellow pages of the supernatural. He goes after a Lophrage demon, a mosquito lookin' mamajama who we're introduced to in a kickass flashback to Giles' time in Watchers Academy. The show, because of obvious age issues, never gave us a look at the teenage, pre-Ripper Giles... but now, in this comic, all those old impossibilities are nothing but memories. Along with the rest of his senior class, Giles has an encounter with this horrifying Lophrage demon, which serves to give Angel a new mission as well as to shed some light on why Giles became Ripper in the first place.

Faith is kept busy, investigating a vampire named Mother Superior. Faith's story is still very tied to Nadira, who is about as fun to read as Rona was to watch in Season Seven, but at least the Slayer Juniors get very little page time here. As Angel brings Faith on board with his Lophrage hunt, it becomes clear quickly that the elusive Mother Superior is involved with the demon in some way. I'm just going to go ahead and spoil the reveal at the end, because... well, anyone who has seen the covers knows, and really - anyone that knows Drusilla knew it would be her as soon as the name "Mother Superior" was mentioned. What other vamp who would warrant a reveal would choose such a name?

The real reveal, though, is that Drusilla is sane. This intrigues me a lot, because the optimist in me thinks that this may be Christos Gage attempting to tie his stories into IDW's work on Angel and Spike, considering Drusilla's sanity (and the fragility of it) was a major, major aspect of Brian Lynch's final Spike arc. On the other hand, I can see Drusilla using the Lophrage demon to steal other people's sanity - but there's enough speculation on the boards. From where I stand, it was the best issue of the series so far. I love how we're playing with the motif of fathers (Angel - Drusilla, Giles - his father, and Faith - her father... who we meet in this issue as well), which solidifies my hope that this series isn't just throwing Angel and Faith together for the hell of it. This series is about something, and I'm very, very engaged.

The most awesome aspect of the book, though, is Rebekah Isaac's artwork. Her characters are the perfect marriage of stylization and capturing likenesses. The action moves nicely, the small character moments really sing, and it has a dark, consistent tone that elevates this book quite a bit. I may like the lightness and the wordplay in the Buffy: Season Nine book slightly better than the story Gage is telling, but Isaacs' art just makes this one the winner. That might be, though, because BtVS:9 is such a vast improvement over BtVS:8, which Angel & Faith has just been really consistently good.

I hope this title continues to grow, but it really has everything right. I hope that the one-shots and the comedic stories are a bit better going forward, but Christos Gage and Rebekah Isaacs knock the arcs out of the park.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #6
Story by Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz
Written by Tom Waltz
Art by Dan Duncan
IDW Publishing

I originally tweeted that this was the best of IDW's ongoing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, but I'm going to amend that... it's the best since the first issue. And don't think I'm trying to turn this issue into Pluto, but I just went back and reread all of the issues, and that first one is really the perfect comic book. This one continues the story in an incredibly exciting way, continuing to blend the original gritty comic with the pizza-celebrating cartoon, creating a book that all generations of fans can embrace.

In this one, shit begins to hit the fan. It's revealed that Baxter Stockman hired Old Hob to bring down the turtles, and this uneasy alliance makes for great reading. It leads to the awesome reveal at the end of the issue which reintroduces the MOUSERS to the TMNT-verse, but the best think about the Hob/Stockman team-up is the humor. My favorite scene in the comic:

HOB: Holy...
STOCKMAN: Impressive, aren't they? We've been developing them as part of a program to locate and destroy I.E.D.s on the battlefield.
HOB: I.E.D.s?
STOCKMAN: Improved Explosive Devices.
HOB: ...
STOCKMAN: A booby trap that goes boom.
HOB: Ah. Gotcha.

All of the plotlines from the previous issues continue here. Casey Jones meets up with April O'Neil, the turtles and Splinter continue to talk about and debate their presumed reincarnation, and the Foot Soldiers brew up some trouble. It's all building toward something big, and I can't wait to see what the ongoing and Brian Lynch's two remaining microseries bring.

Aquaman #5
Written by Geoff Johns
Pencils by Ivan Reis
DC Comics

I liked this. I liked it a lot better than JL#5. It's about as "written for trade" as JL, but the thing about this book is that it's a hell of a lot stronger than JL, so the overall effect is a bit less damning. It's a quick read, but the narrative device of throwing Aquaman into the desert and then showing us how he got there by alternating from the desert to the past is strong.

The current arc is leading to a major storyline having to do with Atlantis, and I'm very much looking forward to it. I like Aquaman as this likable, badass, overlooked hero. I like that the events of the previous arc are still bothering him. I like that the new mystery is still attached to the events of "The Trench" storyline, giving this book a cohesive "big picture" feel. I like a lot of things about this book and I think that, in good time, I may even love it. This issue doesn't do much to make Aquaman climb to the top of my pull list, but I'm consistently enjoying it.

Justice League Dark #5
In the Dark finale: There Was a Crooked Man
Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Mikel Janin
DC Comics

And the first arc of one of my favorite New 52 books comes to a close. It's a satisfying, if not perfect, ending that leaves me wondering where the hell Milligan's going to take the story. The dark tone that makes this series such a creepy read permeates this issue especially, so there is no happy ending for June Moone... but it's not heart-crushingly dark either. At the end of the issue, our team of characters isn't a team at all. Hell, they don't want to see each other, and I don't blame them. Milligan is cooking up some nastiness for them in each issue, and none of these people are true heroes. They lack the moral fiber of Superman and his kind, but some of them still try to be heroes... which leads them to clash. A lot.

One minor complaint was that Constantine was a bit too much of a jerk here. I know he is no longer the man who wants to save the world that we first ran into in Alan Moore's Swamp Thing, but he's a bit... well, he's sort of like Spike in the finale of the second season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. For those of you that don't worship at the altar of Whedon, that means that Constantine claims to only be interested in saving the world because he is on the world. The Constantine I've read has lost a lot, but isn't selfish enough that he only values his own safety. Maybe it's just him being a hardass and I'm reading too literally, but that was a bit jarring for me.

The art is perfect. Mikel Janin's work is perfect for this book, and I hope he's in it for the longrun. He is perfect for this book and certainly vice-versa.

I know some folks have lost patience with the slow-boil narrative, but this is one of the most consistently enjoyable books in my pull list. I can't wait to see what fate has in store for these poor bastards next.


Thanks for reading. I'm going to keep updating this blog, so hang around. I've got a lot more to say.

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