And Men Shall Call Him...Copy Boy!! Jeff's Reviews of 4/19 Books

So if you ever get the chance to make a photocopy on the Comix Experience copier? Don't do it. Seriously. I've had a pretty rough week overall with work being crazy and Hibbs ill as hell and trying to hit my deadline for the newsletter while also spending time in Half-Moon Bay with the missus (okay that was great, I admit it, but still a little stressful with the deadline), but none of that compares to our scary-ass copier which is 375 years old on which Hibbs manages to make print the newsletter on 11x17 flats every month. Since he was home hallucinating from pain and a lack of sleep yesterday, I got to run the store and run some copies. It sucked sweaty balls. And not in a good way. So not only did I not get a chance to read my beloved Golgo 13, vol. 2, but the books I did read were read while swearing and trying to get the machine to clear a non-existent paper jam. So there won't be many of 'em, and they won't be particularly perky.

Anyway... Enough with the whinging! On with the kvetching!

ANNIHILATION NOVA #1: About a month ago, Erik Larsen had an overview of Nova and mentioned how almost every time Nova gets brought back, Marvel feels compelled to change a perfectly good costume. Sure enough, the big finish to this first issue is Nova getting a new costume that's a hundred times shittier than the original. Really a shame because the rest of the issue was more or less OK: It has a few too many half-hearted combat scenes but that's true of this Annhiliation event overall. It's like everyone but the person who pitched the project went, "Cosmic bugs? Okay, whatever..." Since I'm a Nova purist, the costume change drops this to a bitter Eh, but those who don't care might go up to OK. Provided they're a big fan of cosmic bugs.

BIG MAX #1: The antidote to nearly all the crappy books I read this week, this charmer by Dan Slott and James Fry (with a cover by Ty Templeton, I think?) is a big ol' sloppy kiss to Silver Age stories where a powerful hero has to use his noggin to beat a villain, and backstory gets used not to deepen the characters but to spike the plot. If there's a problem, it's that it's too competent to just be a spoof, and yet too silly to be taken seriously: I really, really wish the guys reading New Avengers #18 would pick this up so they could remember what a competent comic read like, but it's just not going to happen. Very Good stuff in a light and breezy kind of way.

BITE CLUB VAMPIRE CRIME UNIT #1: Maybe if they got Quitely to do the interiors as well as the covers, Bite Club might actually have some genuine nasty thrills to it. But David Hahn's work makes it read more like Black Kiss: The Animated Adventures. (Actually, the non-copy-machine highlight of my working day yesterday was having a parent try to buy the first issue of this for his twelve-year old kid "to get him interested in collecting comics." Guy hadn't even cracked the cover before bringing it to the counter. Wow, huh?) Good for a snicker or two, but it's sad that Howard Chaykin is doing comics I can only recommend to people who find Tarot too intellectually taxing. Crap.

DAREDEVIL #84: Not sure if this was Brubaker's intention but I laughed out loud when Turk showed up (I kinda think it was.) There's something so fucking hilarious and apt about putting nearly ever character from Miller's run (Bullseye, Kingpin and Turk) behind bars with Murdock and I can't put my finger on why that is: the metatext-lovin' TCJ-readin' side of me would put forth that it's merely a witty way to emphasize how trapped (or imprisoned, if you will) creators are by Miller's definitive run, while the regular Joe side of me just thinks that, yeah, you know, wouldn't all these guys end up behind bars at some point or other? In fact, as long as you don't have Frank Tieri write it, the idea of a book that's like Oz in the Marvel Universe isn't a bad one since most of these villains spend more time behind bars than out in the world. Unlike Captain America, where I feel Brubaker is doling out the cool shit with a precise measuring spoon, here he's piling on as much craziness as fast as he can. And I'm loving it. Very Good.

EX MACHINA SPECIAL #1: I guess this is a "Special" because it's set back in Hundred's Great Machine days, but it also earns the rank by being a real treat to read, much more so than the last four or five (or more?) issues of Ex Machina. So much so, in fact, it makes me wonder if Vaughan pitched his series (superhero turned NY mayor) more for the attention it could gain and its crossover potential to other media than whether it was something he actually wanted to write: with the Mayor stuff out of the way, this reads like a satisfyingly clever piece of superhero fun. A high Good, and maybe the toner fumes from the copy machine have made me overly cynical about the other stuff.

MAN-BAT #1: Clarified why I hated last week's issue of Nightwing so much: not so much for the "sloppy seconds" angle, nor the general misogyny, but for the sloppy and horrid dialogue--Jason Todd calling Dick "dickie-bird" wasn't just out of character for Jason Todd, it was out of character for anyone not in a Stephen King book. Here, similarly, Jones takes tired situations and is unable to bring the slightest bit of verisimilitude to them (which is really all that one asks of a hack, if you think about it): the speech patterns of the horny kid in the cave inauthentically run the gamut from hip-hop slang to '50s beat speak, a sign of someone who gleans how the youth speak from listening to McDonald's commercials. (I don't remember the specific example, but I could swear it was something like, "Where you gone, baby girl? I've got a whole lotta love I wanna share, twenty-three skiddoo!") Throw in copious padding, a lousy plot and a marked lack of characterization, and this was Ass in just about every way, but for its cover which I thought was pretty good.

NEW AVENGERS #18: This really made me feel like a kid reading comics again: that is, I was vaguely aware there was something better I could be doing with my time if only I had any friends. Four pages of the storyline devoted to establishing that the monster on the loose used to work at a post office? Wow. And still not over? Double-wow. Crap.

NEXTWAVE AGENTS OF HATE #4: I dunno. If you're gonna have a character beat a giant robot just by waving her hands around, you might as well have her doing it by playing a guitar (ninja-style!) or dropping her top or jumping in the air and yelling "finishing move!!1eleven" or something. Because being anti-climactic in a book that's supposed to be all climax is the closest thing you can get to committing a cardinal sin. Eh, but with a bit more amusement than that rating normally entails.

SQUADRON SUPREME #2: "Ladies and gentlemen, your target is nicknamed The Voice, which suggests he may have some sort of mind-influence powers at work. It is imperative that you fly close enough to him that you can hear what he's saying and then hang out to see what he says." Eh.

TESTAMENT #5: I'm kinda bummed I've only read parts of the boring Old Testament, which traces the lineage of the people of Israel and their laws, and not the wicked-ass Old Testament referred to here (and on telephone pole fliers written by crazy people) where Abraham and his robo-ninjas save Lot so he can get two hot chicks to go cyber-skinny-dipping. Or something. I'm also bummed Liam Sharp's exquisite art is being wasted on Douglas Rushkoff's Tobaggan Ride to Cancellationville. Replaces The Minx as Exhibit A for the case that Vertigo Editors have no fucking idea what they're doing half the time. Awful, alas.

WOLVERINE ORIGINS #1: Oh, god. Having Steve Dillon do the art for this is like tying an expensive Easter bonnet on a toothless crack whore--more than anything, it just underscores the ghoulish desperation. Daniel Way is out of his depth here (on a Wolverine comic, it should be pointed out), vamping badly, and unconvincingly trying to bluff us into believing he's got a master plan for the book beyond "submit script; get paid." He makes Howard Mackie look like Alan Moore, in short. The Dillon art keeps this from getting the Ass rating it deserves (even though, to be honest, his Wolverine looks more than a little goofy) but not by much. Do avoid.

X-STATIX PRESENTS DEAD GIRL #4: This book is odd and wrong and thoroughly enjoyable. Milligan can off any number of sacred cows but as long as Allred is on the art in some capacity, and the concern is less on whether or not the universe is destroyed and more on whether anyone can ever really be happy or believe themselves capable of loving and being loved, I apparently don't care. Good.

PICK OF THE WEEK: DAREDEVIL #84 or maybe even BIG MAX #1. Two approaches to superhero comics that couldn't be more different, but that both work on their own merits and in comparison to the majority of material on the marketplace.

PICK OF THE WEAK: Oy, where to start? Despite several contenders and a lot of vitriol, I'm gonna go with WOLVERINE: ORIGINS #1 over MAN-BAT #1, because when you factor in all the money comic shop retailers diverted to ordering copies of the former, it becomes a much more criminal wast than the latter. Some really stinky comics this week, though.

TRADE PICK: GOLGO 13 VOL 2 GN!! Actually that should go in my Manga Fix section, so let's say LITTLE LULU VOL 9. (How I was able to mention those two books consecutively without exploding, I still don't know.)

MANGA FIX: GOLGO 13 VOL 2 GN!! Although I haven't read it or, to be honest, bought it. (I had to rush out the door last night so I didn't pick up anything in my sub box.) And yet I'm sure Golgo 13 once again uses his peerless sniping skills and superior penis (as lovingly detailed in the book's back pages) to triumph against impossible odds.

Also, providing me with my fix these days--DEATH NOTE VOL. 4 which grows more absurd and more satisfying with every issue. (As my friend Joel pointed out yesterday, the fact that there are demons and notebooks that kill people when you write names in them are probably two of the more believable aspects to the series. And yet that's part of what makes it great.) And I'm just ready to start Vol. 6 of BATTLE ROYALE which is some seriously twisted shit. I mean, I've seen the movie, but Takami and Taguchi really pull out the stops, giving you almost radioactive doses of sentimentality so that just when you give in (again!) to the belief that children are good and young and vulnerable and life is precious, someone gets their head immolated on a flaming stick and fed to hungry snakes. Short of someone with the word WAR tattooed on his dick forcibly raping my entire family, BATTLE ROYALE may be the most potent form of agitprop I'll ever encounter. Good stuff.