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SUPERHEROES ARE FOR BLOOD AND HITTING: Jog presses some 7/25 superbooks to his bosom.

Joe McCulloch

My mother used to ask me “why is it always hitting?” when she’d look at my superhero comics. This week is dedicated to mom.

Black Summer #1 (of 7): Featuring chapter 2 of our serial! Chapter 1 was in issue #0, of course. Makes for laughs when digging through the bins years later.

I get a fuzzy feeling over how perfect Juan Jose Ryp is for this book. All tangled hair and silent movie expressions and gore and debris – perfect for such garish superheroics, like a shuddering mix of Geof Darrow and Tim Vigil. I like how Mark Sweeney’s colors make even the dark pages look bright and poppy, and how crackles of electricity wind up having the same consistency as splashing vodka. I mean, if you’re going to have a comic book about a superhero killing the President and flying triumphantly through the sky with blood spattered all over his silver Sgt. Pepper uniform, with that same story featuring a crippled guy setting an assassin’s head on fire before being menaced by dinosaur horns growing from the burning man’s arms… this is the just the art you need.

Folks hungry for political content will have to wait; this issue’s nothing but fighting, bits of background, and the obligatory Warren Ellis technical explanations for various superpowers. The protagonist oscillates between ruinous vulnerability and tough-talking composure, as often happens, and the world stands ready for change, as it often does. But Ellis can write superheroes (er, body-modification experts) with a rare energy, when he’s into it, and he seems very ‘in’ here. GOOD.

The Immortal Iron Fist #7: One of the neat things about the first storyline of this series was that the two or three art team per issue setup seemed both creative and pragmatic – I could never not see the situation as a means of spreading the monthly workload, but I appreciated how the storytelling facilitated that goal in a way that nicely fit in with the general mythology-building aim.

This issue, a one-off story about an Iron Fist of the past, is different. There’s still three art teams, but this time the breaks seem to be set at points in the main character’s development. Maybe? I confess I had to study the issue before it seemed like anything other than Marvel throwing up its hands and going “well, no other way this is getting out before deadline,” which stands out worse for the approach taken before. Oh, the three teams are perfectly nice. Enough that when one character is suddenly missing all his hair after an art switch, I’m inclined to think that maybe he just shaved it off, thinking it was a fire hazard. I should know better, huh?

Ed Brubaker’s and Matt Fraction’s story is sweet, and fitting for a breather issue like this. Wu Ao-Shi is the one and only female Iron Fist, rising to greatness yet challenged by the man she loves dearly, who can’t quite cope with her life of ass-kicking. And she kicks many asses, mainly pirate asses, before the two can be together for good. It’s cute. Sometimes a little too cute for my tastes, especially when mixing the fable-like narration with modern language for quick laffs. I’ll give it a GOOD as well, but it’s pulling me in two directions, as if I ought to be ranking it lower, while knowing it could maybe be higher.

All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder #6: By this point it’s clear that Frank Miller is way more interested in writing eccentric/pissy little character bits (punching also included) than moving the plot anywhere in a speedy fashion, and I like this series more the broader it gets. But the ripest scene in this issue is a hospital cheesecake bit with Vicki Vale, complete with breathless narration assuring us that 16-year old special guest star Jimmy Olsen “really gets off” when Vicki says his name. Then he peeps while she strips off her hospital gown. There’s also a visual cite to The Graduate, just to show off the book’s masterful command of subtlety. Much of the remaining humor space is taken up by Black Canary’s atrocious Irish patois (“She makes me feel like I’ve got bees in my head,” moans a nearby thug) – waiter, make that extra cheese.

What else? Hitting, of course. The book indulges in some more of the stuff All Star Superman has also been into: sewing a world out of bits of the writer’s prior uses of the title character. Hence, we have Barbara Gordon as Carrie Kelley (note the poster in her room… hooray for subtlety!), and the return of the notion of Batman inspiring youth to action. As always, Miller is all about Freedom!, this time spiked with the young Batman’s reluctance to accept any help he can’t directly control. I didn’t do a full continuity analysis or anything, but I can see the other All Star book taking place five or so years down the road from this book, everyone a little wiser and calmer.

Ah, but the Goddamn Batman stuff is starting to feel snoozy, and all the jumping timeframes and narration shifts give me a headache after a while. Pretty EH, but by now you know this comic embodies YMMV, right?

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