Is It Wednesday Yet?
17 March 2009 — Here we are again with another installment of your favorite comic book review series. As always, the reviews are free of spoilers, so read on without fear of having your experience ruined!
Our grading scale is simple:
Buy: An excellent comic book.
Borrow: A good comic, but save yourself some money by reading a friend's copy.
Flip Through: Give it a once-over at the comic shop.
Skip: This doesn't need to be explained.
Executive Assistant Iris #0
Released: 04 March 2009
Writer: David Wohl
Penciler: Eduardo Francisco
Inkers: Jason Gorder and Eduardo Francisco
Colorist: Peter Steigerwald
Letterer: Josh Reed
Cover: Joe Benitez
Review: Preston Nelson
I really liked this book, but I honestly don't have any concrete reason why.
Executive Assistant Iris is a sleek, stylish, paint-by-numbers book that works as an introduction to the character. Iris is just what the title states; she takes care of everything assigned to her by her boss: fetching tea, taking memos, getting his dry cleaning and intimidating Russian businessmen by murdering their bodyguards.
There's very little in the way of story — just Iris flipping through the trees and the setup of why — but what we do have is atmosphere. The art and general Eastern flair of the book give it a certain feeling, evoking the air of a mixture of a kung fu movie and a high tech, espionage thriller.
Francisco's pencils are emotive and sweeping, adding to the general style this book is going for. I prefer the pages that Francisco inked himself, just because the book tends to feel a bit more intimate there, but Gorder's work is quite solid. Steigerwald's colors are also tremendous, relying heavily on cool blues, but not being afraid to contrast that with stunning reds and yellows where it's called for. Iris's look is awesome, both in and out of her ninja outfit. Honestly, I think there's something to be said about the way she's presented, as she's duplicitous as they come; she's somewhat of an oppressed feminist, completely submissive and at the beck and call of her boss, but as soon as she's in the suit, she's kicking butt and taking names.
For the lack of story, the book is paced expertly, especially considering the length: 16 pages. It's an appetizer, really. It has very little substance, but serves to whet our appetite for what's to come. It does very little, but it does everything it sets out to perfectly. What we have here is a neatly packed vignette that really has me excited to see what the book has in store. This book is a steal, buy it.
Killer of Demons #1
Released: 04 March 2009
Writer: Christopher Yost
Artist: Scott Wegener
Colorist: Ronda Pattison
Letterer: Thomas Mauer
Cover: Scott Wegener
I'm sure we've all imagined what the end of the world might look like in a purely Biblical sense. Angels and demons throwing down in the streets, hellfire and brimstone devouring the nonbelievers, the whole nine yards; but what if that final battle between good and evil was a bit more subtle? More pointedly, what if Hell has already invaded Earth and nobody bothered to notice? That's precisely the predicament envisioned by mild-mannered account executive Dave Sloan. Goaded on by his own personal guardian angel (complete with sandals, toga and cigar), Sloan's taken on the responsibility of ending that battle before it's begun, hunting down the demons and executing them before they can shed their human disguise.
Of course, there's no telling whether he's actually saving the world from an invading force of legendary monsters or just madly slaughtering anyone who looks at him the wrong way. And don't think he isn't aware of that conundrum. Christopher Yost's smooth storytelling plants the seeds of doubt early, promising a road with plenty of twists and turns before it delivers its final analysis at the conclusion of this three-issue miniseries. Sloan is a fine lead character, sure of what he's seeing but not of his own state of mind. Is the senior VP really sporting a pair of magnificent, curled horns around his temples? Did those pills his therapist prescribed solve his problems or amplify them? Dan isn't sure, and neither are we; the only thing that's obvious is the ever-increasing body count accumulating around his feet.
Atomic Robo veteran Scott Wegener provides the artwork, which takes an even looser, more stylized form than his previous works. His contributions give Killer of Demons an immediate, distinct personality that's tough to look away from. Clearly having a great time with both the subject matter and the sheer volume of blood and guts, Wegener's artwork is every bit as much fun to take in as I'm sure it was to pencil in the first place. His action scenes in particular are outstanding, with Dan transforming from a worn-down, confused working stiff into an honest-to-god action hero somewhere in the pause between panels. He's found a great fit in colorist Ronda Pattison, whose bold, appropriate shifts in palette keeps the issue looking fresh and expertly manages the wild shifts of emotion intended by the story. This is a damn fine looking book.
Yost and Wegener's black comedy is a rousing success. If you enjoyed the sick sense of humor and crazed, "Did that really just happen?" twists of Shaun of the Dead or Army of Darkness, this is meant for you. It doesn't deliver any punch lines, but that won't stop you from grinning ear to ear for the duration. Buy it.
Secret Six #7
Publisher: DC Comics
Released: 04 March 2009
Writer: Gail Simone
Penciler: Nicola Scott
Inkers: Doug Hazelwood and Rodney Ramos
Colorist: Jason Wright
Letterer: Rob Clark, Jr.
Cover: Nicola Scott
Review: Preston Nelson
Lord help me, I never thought I'd say this, but somehow in a book with both Bane and Deadshot kicking all sorts of butt, Catman is the biggest badass. And this is no slight against Bane and Deadshot, both of whom are written supremely in this book, but Gail Simone makes me care about frickin' Catman. Simone is a master of her craft, which I can readily admit, but Catman? Really?
When we last left our (for lack of a better term) heroes, Deadshot had royally screwed them over and made off with Tarantula and an unconscious Bane. Understandably, Catman, Scandal, Jeanette and Ragdoll are murderously upset. They all head to Gotham City, where they run afoul of Mad Hatter and the Birds of Prey. This is the big blow off to everything the current run of Secret Six has been doing since its resurrection. It's decidedly epic, but the most surprising thing is how invested I found myself in the characters. I found myself caring if Bane and Catman and even Ragdoll would come through this okay. I found myself wanting the relationships that the team had cultivated to flourish, and I actually wanted to see the bad guys punished.
Honestly, the art is my biggest criticism, and it's not that Nicola Scott isn't talented, I just don't know that she's the person that I'd have put on this book. Secret Six is both gritty and over-the-top; it's a tough balance to achieve, but I know that Scott's cartoony style doesn't work for that atmosphere. Catman, Huntress and Deadshot look okay, but that's because they're more traditionally built. When you get to someone that's very large (Bane), very small (Mad Hatter) or just plain weird (Ragdoll), Scott seems to fall apart. She seems very good in her comfort zone, but shaky outside of that.
This is one of my favorite titles running right now, and is definitely worth a read. But don't start here. If you can, I highly recommend reading the first seven issues first. If not, wait for the next one, when a new storyline begins. But, if you get the chance, borrow this bad boy. I love this series, and think any reader will be really rewarded.
Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk #3
Released: 04 March 2009
Writer: Damon Lindelof
Artist: Leinil Francis Yu
Colorist: Dave McCaig
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover: Leinil Francis Yu
This miniseries began way back in December of 2005, quickly capturing readers' interest with a teased double-page spread in which the green goliath literally tore poor Logan in two. The second issue arrived not long thereafter, and then nothing. Remember when Image was the publisher most associated with constant delays and missed deadlines? Marvel has assured us that this lengthy hold-up was to ensure the completion of Damon Lindelof's scripts for the remainder of this series, but I won't believe it's fully back on schedule until I'm actually holding the sixth chapter in my hands. At this rate, that'll be some time in 2015.
Picking up the pieces of the "Execution of the Hulk" story, told in Ultimates 2 #3, this series follows Bruce Banner in the months and years after that failed public execution. Upon learning of Bruce's whereabouts, Nick Fury sends his most ferocious contact to finish the job — a certain scrappy mutant with claws. And, unlike similar confrontations in the past, this Wolverine looks ready, willing and able to finish the job. No pulled punches this time around. It's just two cornerstone characters with a grudge in a desolate wilderness in which to unleash their fury. This is the kind of predicament that made the Ultimate Universe so appealing when it launched, the chance to see your favorite characters cast in a new light, freed from the chains of decades' worth of continuity and six ongoing monthly titles. Maybe things didn't exactly pan out that way for this line in the end, but Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk provides a great reminder of the optimism and anticipation that surrounded its launch.
Lindelof's take on the title characters is very different, but they're still recognizable. An outsider to mainstream comics, he brings a new perspective to the men behind the costumes, and offers an original take on what they can actually do with their powers. As you'd expect, the majority of this fight is one-sided. The Hulk is the living embodiment of power and fury, while Wolverine's greatest strength is his ability to absorb punishment and keep coming back for more: you do the math. Outside of the specifics of just which wounds Logan will be licking afterwards, that part of the story pretty much writes itself, but that only eats up a fraction of the issue. The insights Lindelof provides into each character are the real emphasis this month: the reasons why the Hulk can suddenly read above a third grade level, Logan's motivations for taking the job; for my money those are just as fascinating as a tumble off the cliffside. On both fronts, Lindelof's script brings the goods.
Chances are, if you're even vaguely familiar with the work of Leinil Francis Yu, you've already developed an opinion of your own about him. Myself, I see a lot to like about his grungy, sketchy, obsessively detailed artwork; he delivers the striking freeze frames of Travis Charest in half the time, decorates the stage with fantastic scenery and can dictate a ferocious battle scene. I can see why Yu's style is so polarizing with fans, but he's one of Marvel's big guns for a reason, and he's brought his A-game to Wolverine vs. Hulk.
I know what you're looking for here, because I was after it too: a reason to skip this issue, a confirmation that it wasn't worth the wait, that you should just stick with the two issues you've already bought and enjoy them for what they were, because the third chapter ruins everything you enjoyed about them. Sorry, but I can't do it. I'm not going to say it was worth waiting for, because nothing can really ease the pain of a three-year rain delay, but this is every bit as entertaining as verses one and two. It could still trip over its own feet when the next issue ships some time after the rapture — and the teaser at the end of this issue could go either way — but for the time being all remains well. Better than well, in fact. Buy it.