Burble Burble Burble, Hibbs fufills a promise to review

Brian Hibbs

I said I was going to review, so here’s a few quick hits. I’ve been spending a lot of time this week on the back end of the site, you’ll notice some of the real estate has changed. That “uncategorized” number will shrink over the year as I go through the older, blogger-era posts (sheesh, we have nearly 2000 posts here at this point!), but the tag cloud will really only be utilized properly going forward from here.

 

If you have any mechanical/aesthetic suggestions for the site, now is the time to do so.

 

Putting that aside, what stuck with me in the last two weeks?

 

PUNISHERMAX #14: I wrote up #13, but #14 compels me to speak again. Jason Aaron has found this astonishing sweet spot to tell the origin of the Punisher that neither directly involves ‘nam nor that fateful day in Central Park. I had thought that all veins of the Punisher were as mined out as could be, but Aaron has found a genuinely new place to get us into Frank’s head that feels resoundingly realistic to this reader. What’s great is just how well Aaron has mastered the language of comics here (ably aided and abetted by Steve Dillon) — at least I’m assuming that all of the awesome scene transitions and juxtapositions are in Aaron’s script. The story is centered around what must be Stock Punisher Cliche Story #1: Frank’s in Jail! and yet at no point am I thinking “Damn, been here before”. This is possibly the weirdest recommendation coming from MY lips, but I think that this book is one of the five best appearing on the stands “monthly” these days, and, certainly and BY FAR the single best title that Marvel is publishing today from a perspective of craft. This is seriously bravura work on this storyline — Eisner level work, in spite of the character — and should be selling 4 or 5 times what it is currently. Flat out EXCELLENT.

 

FEAR ITSELF: FEARSOME FOUR #1: Is really everything that Graeme said in his review, but, damn it, he didn’t bring up the fact that half (or so) of the issue is drawn by two wicked awesome illustrators: Michael Kaluta, and Simon Bisley. And each of those sections are gorgeous looking (for wholly different reasons). I mean, talk about two tastes that don’t even remotely go together — soaring, delicate fine linesmanship of Kaluta bouncing against the explosive putrid grunge (and, hm, I mean that in a good way) of Bisley. There’s a third artist involved (Ryan Bodenheim) who looks like the same artist that drew the last Howard mini (or was it a one shot? It blurs) in that strange small-bill version, but Kaluta and Bisley are drawing the “real” Howard (mostly). I wonder if it is now more important or less important at Disney HQ that HTD properly looks like Donald? Serously, there could not be a more jarring looking book that makes no visual sense of any kind, but you have to admire the king size stones of an editor that’s commissioning pages from such disparate sources and thinking for a second that it might work. It’s really and truly an AWFUL comic to try and read, but as a curious-ass artifact of how comics are made? I’ll say GOOD. This is something ten years from now you’ll kick yourself for not having this issue.

 

GHOST RIDER #0.1: For a “and this is how Ghosty becomes a chick!” comic, I thought this was remarkably entertaining (even though the chick-ing comes in #1, I think, and this is just a way to get Johnny Blaze to not be Ghosty any longer) (is it just me, or is this a really short second run for JB?) — even though I wouldn’t want to hazard a guess if the series to follow this might be any good or not, since it won’t be about these characters. I had low-to-no expectations here, and, yeah, I thought it was a low GOOD.

 

KIRBY GENESIS #1: As you will recall I was so-so on #0, but I thought this one was a tremendous comic. Part of it is that the Kurt Busiek that is writing it is the “Astro City Kurt”, and the choice is made to squarely focus on the human character. I know that Jack Kirby’s worst ideas are probably more compelling that many guy’s best ideas, but I’d generally suggest there’s a reason that most of these concepts on display didn’t go anywhere. I mean, the market has had a few chances to decide it didn’t want Silver Star, right? I really didn’t care much about the JK characters running around, and yet I still thought that KIRBY GENESIS #1 was the best comic I read the week of 6/15 because of the human heart centering it. So, yeah, a strong GOOD.

 

AVENGERS #14: plot-wise, I dunno, it’s really just a bunch of punching, but I thought that Bendis was really smart here by counter-pointing the big stuff with the little-insets-of-oral-history-interview technique that I’ve previously thought was kind of cloying. This time it worked pretty well, as Romita JR really does excel at the two-big-guys-punching stuff — it is just wonderfully kinetic — while the insets let the pacing to work out so that it isn’t a 30-second read. I don’t find a Worthy-fied Thing nor a Red Hulk at all compelling, and I kinda moaned when the new Avengers Tower came crashing down (plus, like, how does it have force fields that can protect the people inside, but not protect the building itself? Buh?) since that just seemed so cliche, but this was a rare issue of AVENGERS that I thought was (if on the lower end of) GOOD.

 

OK, I have to get back to editing old posts, and getting ready to go into work… what did YOU think?

 

-B

 

10 Responses to “ Burble Burble Burble, Hibbs fufills a promise to review ”

  1. I’ve been enjoying Bendis’ Avengers (not New, just Avengers) and this issue was entertaining. I hope Red Hulk sticks around. I always wanted other creative teams to find a way to work the Hulk onto the team for more than just the rare guest appearance.
    But the fall of Avengers Tower? I actually cheered inside.
    I’ve been reading Avengers for nearly 30 years and part of the charm was the fact they lived in this mansion which was an awesome mix of high-tech rooms and homey living quarters. How many artists over the years drew a hallway in the mansion peppered with various photos of earlier Avengers rosters? Or of the group hanging out in a living room having snacks served by Jarvis? Or of some Avenger sitting in their personal quarters either going through some angst or attacked by a villain? Or a character hanging out in the back gardens?
    What, exactly, have we seen of this Avengers Tower since it was introduced five or six years ago in New Avengers? Nothing. A lame kitchen and some sort of a boardroom, maybe a living space with some couches and a bunch of windows. I’d hazard to say it’s been rendered as the most sterile, most boring super hero headquarters ever.
    So as much as I enjoyed this issue, I find it annoying that somehow Bendis thinks he’s made his readers care so much about this lame skyscraper that we’re supposed to feel something when it comes crashing down.
    When Stern had the mansion destroyed by the Masters of Evil, it meant something because it had really become a “character” of sorts over the preceding few decades.
    So good riddance to this lame piece of comicbook architecture. Here’s hoping this means the team’s moving back into the mansion and kicking the New Avengers to the curb.

  2. Hey Brian,

    Since you brought it up, what are the other books that would Fill out your list of the five best “monthly” books on the stands these days? I really enjoy PunisherMax, but for me, Scalped is at the top of my list, and I can’t have Aaron dominate the whole thing!

  3. I actually thought this was a decent issue of Avengers, but I really hate what Bendis has done with the book. I’ve been reading it for about 30 years as well, and at one point, the Avengers was an invitation-only elite team of heroes recognized by the government and run under a strong code of conduct. Under Bendis, it seems to have just become a place for him to put together characters he wants to play with. Red Hulk, Protector/Marvel Boy, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Wolverine and coming soon . . . Daredevil! To me, the comic has no heart and without that, the spectacle is meaningless. The destruction of Avengers Mansion under Roger Stern (I think) was incredible because it was unheard of and the time had been spent building up the storyline. Characters who stepped up in that issue had been brought along to that point. Under Bendis, we have Red Hulk introduced one or two issues ago who now makes this “huge sacrifice” which will no doubt have no long-term impact. Never mind that Avengers Mansion was wrecked in about the second issue of New Avengers. I know some folks love Bendis’ Avengers run, and he certainly has the right to write the comic how he wants and he gets great sales. But, he’s pretty much ruined a book I’ve loved for 30 year and stripped it of everything that made it special. How I miss Busiek! But, at least I have Children’s Crusade, a title that still “gets it.” But once that ends, I think my days of collecting might end as well.

  4. Wait, Ghost Rider’s getting boobs?

    That image has got to be a fetish for somebody.

  5. “the little-insets-of-oral-history-interview technique that I’ve previously thought was kind of cloying.”

    I think you mean “. . . that sums up Bendis’s entire history in comics writing.”

    Seriously, a talking-heads Avengers? Thank God I was never stupid enough to buy this shit.

  6. poor Marvel Boy, poor poor Marvel Boy

  7. PUNISHERMAX #14: I haven’t read this beyond the 1st couple issues, which were perfectly good, because really: Do I need to read another Punisher comic? But you’ve talked me into picking this up. Everybody says he’s a one-note character, but different creators keep mining him for creative gold. Miller, Grant/Zeck, Baron/Janson, Lapham, and of course Ennis with Dillon and others. Why? Perhaps his backstory is couched in enough reality (he wasn’t trained to be a soldier by Galactus, his family wasn’t gunned downed during the Kree-Skrull war or anything) and because he is supposed to be a soulless killing machine means that if you can inject any emotion into his story it makes it more compelling by contrast. And this Jason Aaron kid: He has clearly had the craft of comics storytelling down from the getgo. There’s an issue of Scalped fairly early in the run where he shifts into a flashback scene without any obvious cues, visual or otherwise, but it’s absolutely clear from how he changes the rhythm of the storytelling. It’s masterful. So why am I not buying up everything he does? I think it may get down to something Trey Parker said about his philosophy regarding South Park: you have to mix in a little goodness and humanity in with all the fucked-up stuff, or it doesn’t work. There may be a lot of humanness in his characters, but too little to empathize with.
    FEAR ITSELF: FEARSOME FOUR #1: I think I bitched about this comic in an earlier post, and maybe in 10 years time it’ll look different, but I’m kicking myself for having bought it right now.

  8. “he gets great sales. But, he’s pretty much ruined a book I’ve loved for 30 year and stripped it of everything that made it special.”

    May Direct Market Sales

    AVENGERS #13 – 68,086
    NEW AVENGERS #12 – 60,328

    Now granted, sales of everything are falling and those two Avengers books are still among the best-sellers, but that’s still pretty pathetic for what has displaced Spider-Man and X-Men as the premiere Marvel franchise.

    I recall that when Bendis basically destroyed the traditional concept of the Avengers and remade them as Marvel’s JLA, people said it didn’t matter because Bendis’ version sold much better than the traditional book had in years. Now what?

    Mike

  9. You’re kidding yourself if you think the new Ghost Rider won’t still be about John Blaze: it’s not even a bet that the first arc is about the new Ghost Rider vs. Blaze for whatever reason.

  10. Second that PUNISHERMAX is excellent.

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