All over the features.

*They're everywhere.


52 #14 (of 52)

The Punisher MAX #36

MOME Spring/Summer 2006 (Vol. 4) (DAVID B., YOU'VE DONE IT AGAIN)

Even when least expected.

*Fun Home is proving a tougher nut to crack than expected. I need to find a better approach, so maybe tomorrow, or maybe later in the week. I have to get my head together on it.

So in its place, how about a little pre-release review of something that'll be in stores on Wednesday?

The Boys #1

Clearly Wildstorm is excited about this new ongoing creator-owned title; not only is the expected preview up, but there's even a video trailer, loaded with concept art and finished material. You certainly can’t miss that catchy boast from writer Garth Ennis, his vow that the book will “out-Preacher Preacher.” But there’s other messages perhaps encoded in a creator speaking of a spanking-new work exclusively in terms of old standards: a grasping toward the past, a desire to surpass it, but only on its own terms. This isn’t a shared-universe superhero book - hell, it’s one of those Garth Ennis superhero pisstake books - so it’s all the more curious that older works should preside so mightily over everything. This is comfort zone comics the Ennis way, which might not prove to be a negative to the more devout, but those of us who skip Mass every other Sunday will have to spend our prayer time in the hope that this thing will develop an individual identity at some point in the near future. It doesn’t here.

Oh sure, a tone is set for this setup issue: a grinning, sinister, black-clad badass called Butcher and his toothy dog Terror saunter around a number of environments, reducing men to tears and women to quivering heaps of desire with the former’s slang-laden directness and macho, chauvinistic swagger. This is the kind of bloke who strolls unannounced into a high-ranking government official’s office, huffs “Wait’ll you see where I wipe my dick, luv--” whilst mounting her on her office desk, then smirks as he waves a photo of her husband and kids in her face after zipping up his trousers. This is all contrasted with the affair of Wee Hughie, a sensitive Scottish lad whose beloved girlfriend of one blissful month gets smooshed to hamburger as collateral damage in a superhero brawl. And those awful superheroes don’t even care! But as luck would have it, the US has been trying to find a way to keep the metahuman population in line, and it just might be up to Butcher to recruit a crack team of four associates to deal with the problem.

That about wraps it up for the issue; only two of those characters on the cover even show up on the inside. Honestly, you could get a remarkably similar overall effect by simply reading the preview and filling in the blanks yourself, because there are no surprises. It’s also scandalously skimpy on the shocks, something you’d think would be front-loaded to buoy up the transgression appeal, but all we get are a pair of gore moments (one and a half of which are in the preview), the aforementioned sex scene, and a sight gag involving a fellow masturbating to the Wheelchair Olympics. Even set apart from the Ennis oeuvre, this all seems weirdly schematic, as if there's some hidden blueprint to dirty work team action comics squirreled away somewere in the collective unconcious. Maybe I’ve read too many of these comics?

I know I’ve read a few Garth Ennis comics involving shadowy secret ops men of danger, meek v. wild / naïf v. hardened character dynamics, Those Awful Superheroes, and gross-out humor before - all we need is the inevitable peek into the blackened hearts of soldiers and we’re all set. Don’t get me wrong, Ennis might have all sorts of subversive tricks up his sleeve for later on - but right now, it just seems like an awful lot of Ennis tropes stuffed into one book. And not in a 'bigger and badder than ever before!' way, but more of an 'oh, I know where I read this one…'

But still, if you either haven’t read enough of Ennis to feel so weary, or if this sort of Ennis thing just doesn’t make you as weary as it does me, you might have some fun with it, the occasional neat sequence (the disconnected bubbles floating over Wee Hughie's head, the police officer having to point a speedster superhero in the direction of America) maybe standing out a little bit more. Artist Darick Robertson does a fair enough job cooking up some grimy realist visuals, and I expect he'll have a bit more time to shine when the book develops a bit past its utterly standard premise. Maybe Ennis will shine brighter too. But first issues must be cleared first, and this impression isn't the best.

*Other treats lay in wait to tempt your tongue in a somewhat abbreviated


The Drifting Classroom Vol. 1 (of 11): The first installment of the 1972-74 classic from Kazuo Umezu, the first of his books in English to really make you understand why he’s loved so much in Japan. Here’s my review. Some great cartooning in this one.

Golgo 13 Vol. 4 (of 13): Oh heavens, I’ve still not bought this latest collection of Duke Togo’s adventures. It’s probably going to be good? Man, you know things are a little tight when I’m even skimping on Golgo 13.

Naoki Urasawa’s Monster Vol. 4 (of 18): Meanwhile, I’ve not even bought Vol. 3 of this yet. I get the feeling such situations might continue to occur if VIZ keeps insisting on releasing new editions of all of the launch titles of their VIZ Signature line on the same day. People fall behind!

Adventures In Oz: From IDW, a 258-page, $39.99 softcover collection of all five of the Oz graphic novels Eric Shanower did for First and Dark Horse over the years, all of them freshly cleaned up, corrected, and made to shine. Note that the signed, limited edition $75 hardcover also sports a 70-page (!) bonus section, with all kinds of stuff in it. None of it’s cheap, but I bet it’ll be unfailingly lovely.

Iron Man: The Inevitable: I enjoyed this miniseries from writer Joe Casey and artist Frazer Irving, a smart little revisiting of a number of old villains from Tony Stark's past, all to illustrate the possible folly of a superhero hoping to evolve into something more than a two-fisted avenger with all the world's technology at his disposal. Sleek and thoughtful, and especially good in that it actually tries to answer some of the questions raised by Warren Ellis' now thoroughly Civil War-devoured revamp.

Casanova #3: More thrills from Matt Fraction and Gabriel Bá. I don’t at all expect this series to let me down, and if you’re not reading it I’d recommend you catch up - only $4 or so for all the back issues!

Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. #7: Warren Ellis presents the comedy.

52 #15 (of 52): I guess someone dies or something this issue? Hell, I don’t even know what the back-up will be, though I do know things will be getting jumbled up if they don’t get that Jon Bogdanove-illustrated Steel origin out of the way, since the next two weeks worth of origins are clearly keyed to tie in their main stories. Ah, the rigors of weekly production!