Monday, September 29, 2008 12:13 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

Fëanor's weekly comic book review post.

This covers new releases from the week of September 17th, plus some TPBs from our local library.

Back issues and old data
Batman: Harley and Ivy
This is a collection of three storylines, each focusing on the relationship between Joker's sidekick Harley Quinn and supervillain Poison Ivy. First up is a one-issue story by Paul Dini called "The Bet," which opens with a couple of full page illustrations of each of our main characters wherein the girls are depicted in very sexy, cheesecake-type fashion. They're in neighboring cells in Arkham Asylum, wearing very little, and we see that Quinn's cell is plastered with photos of the Joker and of half-naked men, and she's going on about how much she misses men. Meanwhile, Ivy's cell is full of pictures of Quinn and her together, and one particularly disturbing photo that seems to be of Quinn sleeping, and Ivy says she's not lonely at all, and has everything she needs right here. The suggestion is pretty obvious, but Quinn is completely oblivious of Ivy's unrequited desire for her. Ivy bets Quinn a dollar that she can get a kiss from every man in the asylum. She takes the bet, and Ivy begins spreading her pheromones and racking up kisses. Quinn is pretty pissed that Ivy's getting all the kisses. Meanwhile, through all this, there have been wordless panels mixed in showing Batman chasing down the Joker and beating the stuffing out of him. Batman shows up, drops off the Joker, and leaves. Ivy makes a move on the Joker, and Quinn is very upset, until Joker seems to spurn Ivy in favor of Quinn. In fact what's really going on is a bit of clever cheating on Quinn's part. It's a cute way to end a cute little story. The art here, by Ronnie Del Carmen, is very reminiscent of the Batman animated series, and is therefore very enjoyable.

Next up is a another short story called "Love on the Lam" by Judd Winick, with art by Joe Chiodo. I don't care for Chiodo's surreal, painted art; the characters don't come out looking right as far as I'm concerned. But anyway, storywise things open up with Two-Face robbing a museum. Batgirl and Batman show up to stop them - or so it seems at first. In fact, it's the Joker and Harley Quinn in disguise. Both villains have chosen to rob the same museum at the same time. There's almost a fight (involving a chicken, no less!), until Quinn brokers a peace and everybody walks off mostly with what they wanted. But the Joker doesn't like peace, so he kicks Quinn out for interfering. She knows the only way to get back in his good graces is to make a big score, so she finds something to steal and then convinces Ivy to help her, by suggesting that she'll consider going out on her own if the job goes well, and by pointing out that the company they'll be stealing from does terrible things to the environment. The plan is to sneak into the company's headquarters on the night of a big party, hack into the mainframe, and steal lots of cash. Unfortunately for them, Bruce Wayne and Tim Drake happen to be attending the party. But all Batman and Robin end up doing is helping to clear the innocents out of the way before the girls' bomb goes off. The girls get away, and the company's evil ways are exposed - which is just fine with Batman. There's also a rather amusing subplot about a video game that Tim wants to play. Of course, in the end, despite her success, Quinn doesn't exactly get the reaction she wants out of the Joker.

The last story in the book is the multi-part arc that the collection takes its name from. It's written by Paul Dini, with art, again reminiscent of the cartoon, by Bruce Timm. Things start off with Harley and Ivy out on a job, getting ready to steal a plant called the zombie root, with which Ivy will be able to make everyone her willing slave. But as usual, Harley screws up, they lose the root, and the girls end up back in the asylum. Ivy is royally pissed at Harley, and doesn't respond to Harley's attempts to cheer her up - which include taking a hot shower with her, and spanking her with a rolled up towel (a ridiculously cute, sexy, cheesecake sequence). Ivy gets so fed up that she makes a brazen escape from the asylum, mostly just to get away from Harley. But of course Harley just follows her, and Ivy ultimately can't resist taking her along. They head to a Central American country to try to acquire another zombie root, and end up in a womens' prison, being tortured in their underwear (yes, really). Eventually, Ivy puts the evil dictator of the country under her power and they head out to get the zombie root. They run into a pair of gay supervillains named Slash and Burn (for reals, yo) and have to put them down to get the root. Ivy has sex with the forest (seriously), then they head back to the states to make use of their find. The final part of the story is the best. Ivy mixes up the zombie root potion, there are some gratuitous shots of the girls in their underwear, and of Ivy taking a shower, and then a funny reference to Animaniacs. Then the girls learn that a movie is being made of their lives, and they're so insulted by the women who've been chosen to play them that they decide to head out to Hollywood and try the zombie root out there. Ivy comes up with the idea of taking over the production of the movie and skimming a bunch of money off the top of the budget, but Harley loses sight of the plan and falls in love with the idea of being a director and actually making the movie. Harley keeps them there filming for so long that Batman catches wind of what's going on and captures them. But in a hilarious final twist, things work out fine for Harley and her movie after all, to Ivy's great annoyance.

The sexual subtext in all these stories is a bit unsettling for whatever reason, but it's also... entertaining, in its own way. The final, titular story in the book is definitely the best; it's sexy, clever, ironic, and funny. But all the stories are fun, and the premise alone - of a book focusing on two female Batman villains, which barely features Batman at all - is unique and amusing.
Thumbs Up

The Goon Volume 3: Heaps of Ruination
Knowing of my love of the Goon, poppy was good enough to grab three more volumes of his adventures at the library last time she was there. I've gotten through two of them so far. This first one is truly fantastic, as it opens up with the truly epic, action-packed, and ultimately tragic and moving story of the Goon's rescue of the Buzzard from the Zombie Priest. Next up is the possibly even more fantastic story of the origin of Dr. Alloy's Spanish-speaking lizard-man servant named El Hombre del Lagarto. The story takes the form of a wonderful spoof of kaiju movies. And then somehow things continue to get better with the brilliant Goon/Hellboy crossover! This is a Hellboy in Wonderland-type story in which old red gets knocked out and wakes up in the Goon's weird world, where, despite a few arguments and misunderstandings, he gets to team up with the Goon and Franky to fight the Zombie Priest and a bunch of floating octopi. I saw a bit of this story online a while back, and assumed it would be hard to track down, but here it is sitting right in the middle of a regular old Goon collection! I definitely need to own this book. Anyways, last in the collection is the surprisingly moving and effective story entitled "The Vampire Dame Had to Die!" It opens up with a brutal satire of vampire wannabe goth kids, and then turns into a sad lament that further develops the Goon as a character. As usual, the book is loaded with Eric Powell's beautiful, eerie art, and his twisted and hilarious sense of humor. And there's even a few pages of art and story done by Mignola in the Hellboy crossover bit, which is an extra special treat. Hooray!
Thumbs Up

The Goon Volume 4: Virtue and the Grim Consequences Thereof
The other Goon collection I read this week opens up with an interesting and again ultimately tragic story that describes some of the events leading up to the rise of the Zombie Priest, and reveals how all the mobsters in town (besides the Goon, of course) ended up getting knocked off. But that's just the subplot; oddly enough, the main plot of the story is all about how Goon ends up as the star player of a successful football team called the Fighting Fish-Canners. It's a wonderful story, with lots of great art and dialogue, and it's also very funny, right up until the end, where it suddenly gets quite sad.
Nestled in the middle of it is one of the funniest things I've ever read in a Goon comic: a profanity-laced parody of those Charles Atlas ads featuring an insane, violent superhero hawking the atomic compound called Z-5. The second story in the book is a pitch-perfect, totally hilarious re-imagining of A Christmas Carol starring the cast of The Goon. The art here is truly wonderful, as is the hilarious dialogue. Oh, and they even throw in a quick parody of It's a Wonderful Life at the end, too!

Next in the book is "The Dimension of the Flesh-Eating Eye," wherein Dr. Alloy finds he's falling to pieces and recruits the Goon and Franky to travel into another dimension to acquire the only thing that can save him, an element he calls Lewisiam. This other dimension is so strange and disturbing, that Franky goes mad instantly, which only makes things harder for the Goon. Still, he does succeed, and they get back in time with the element. Or do they?? In fact, Dr. Alloy is physically restored, but something has gone wrong in his mind, and in the next story, "The Diabolical Dr. Alloy Rises Again," Alloy attacks the town with his robot army. The Goon holds off the robots until Franky and Lagarto can find a way to fix Alloy's brain. Unfortunately the cops arrive at that moment and decide to blame the Goon and Alloy for all the trouble, dragging both of them off to prison. The next story focuses on the Goon and Alloy's adventures in prison, and the story of how the Goon eventually gets out. It also includes the origin of Goon's all-child squad of sidekicks, the Unholy Bastards. This whole sequence of interconnected stories is just fantastic, with all of the hilarity, kick-ass visuals, and crazy ideas we've come to expect from The Goon. But there's still one more gem left in this book, and that's an actual prose short story (with the occasional Eric Powell illustration dropped into the margins) by Thomas Lennon called "Jimmy Turtle and the Legendary Boxcar of Well-Made Ladies Shoes." Actually, it was supposedly written by Franky himself, and only transcribed by Lennon. Yep, it's one of Franky's tall tales that we usually only catch the beginnings or endings of in the actual comic. It's just as weird, disgusting, and funny as you might expect. God bless the Goon!
Thumbs Up

New releases
All-Star Superman #12
Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's phenomenal run on this title ends with this issue, and it's now easily one of my favorite runs in comic book history. This series has just gotten stronger and stronger as it's gone on, and this issue is one of the most amazing yet. Superman, collapsed and dying on the floor of the Daily Planet as Luthor rampages through Metropolis with his newfound super powers, finds himself having a strange dream of his father and of Krypton. It's a weird metaphor of the choice that lies before him: to accept the well-earned rest that awaits him in death, or to stand up and face down evil one final time. It's the Last Temptation of Superman, if you will. Of course he makes the only choice Superman has ever made. He uses his brains to beat Luthor for a change, says a tearful and moving good-bye to Lois, then runs off to repair the sun and save the Earth. Next we jump forward a year, where Lois is still waiting for Superman to return from the heavens, as she's sure he will some day. There's a wonderful full-page illustration, which brings to mind images from Metropolis, of Superman working away in the sun. The final two pages give us hope for the future of humanity, and of Superman. It's a beautiful, powerful book that captures everything that Superman is: not just a Christ figure, but also a symbol of all that is great in humanity, and an inspiration to us all. "I only have moments to save the world," he tells Lois, and she replies, "That's more than you ever needed." Very moving, very effective stuff. I don't always love Grant Morrison's work, but he does a mean Superman.

A note in the back of the book seems to suggest more All-Star Superman is on the way under a different creative team, but this team will be a hard act to follow.
Thumbs Up

Scalped #21
The latest issue of Jason Aaron's brilliant Indian noir picks up with our favorite unlucky rez kid getting pulled over by some crooked cops as he's speeding around with a friend in the car he just fixed using the money he got from Red Crow. As punishment, the cops give him a mysterious package to deliver, on pain of death. The task is made more complicated when the car breaks down and his friend runs off. But he pulls it off, and the recipient of the package, impressed by his work, offers him a job. The kid refuses, and just shows his family and friends a good time with the money he gets, but I have a bad feeling he might accept a job like that some day. Meanwhile, Red Crow has his own problem - Mr. Brass, the homicidal lunatic the Hmongs saddled him with. He gets so pissed at Brass, he threatens to kill him. Brass overlooks it this time, but that's all going to come to a head one of these days. The issue ends with an unexpected and really interesting little confrontation between Granny Poor Bear and Chief Red Crow. Granny is giving Red Crow a last chance at redemption, but we unfortunately know from a short flashforward at the beginning of the issue that he's going to squander it, perhaps to the ruination of both his soul and another's. Powerful stuff as always from Mr. Aaron.
Thumbs Up

The Mighty Avengers #18
I picked this one up again this month because it's another Secret Invasion tie-in. It's a continuation of the story of how Nick Fury trained his new squad of Howling Commandos, and it takes us right up to the start of the invasion. It's a fun enough story, I suppose, revealing just how brutal a task master Fury is, but it's ultimately rather pointless and not all that interesting. Definitely not my favorite this week.
Thumbs Sideways

The Incredible Hercules #121
Herc's part in the Secret Invasion is over, so it's time for a little vacation. Herc talks Amadeus into accompanying him to Atlantis so he can make out with Namora. Cho ends up sitting on the beach with nothing to do, tricked by Herc into thinking there would be plenty of nymphs to go around. Athena reminds him over the phone that Herc is known for tricking people, and re-tells a famous story from mythology. Then the action picks up as a team of radical new Amazons arrives, attacks Herc and Namora, and kidnaps Cho. Turns out their queen wants him to be the father of the next generation of Amazons, and he's raring to go - although he's a bit bummed that they might kill him afterwards. Herc is about to get after the Amazons and rescue Cho when Namor shows up and picks a fight with him.

This is a fun, amusing comic, but not awesome. Even though I'm giving this issue a thumbs up, I'm still thinking hard about dropping the book. It's never really bad, but it's never really great, either.
Thumbs Up

Guardians of the Galaxy #5
As the Secret Invasion tie-in continues, tensions continue to rise, and the violence escalates on Knowhere. The station's security force is trying to hunt Drax down, but he's just kicking the ass of anybody who comes after him. Starlord is trying to hold his team together, but it continues to fall apart at the seams. Adam is off on his own, making his own investigations into the craziness on the station, and Gamora convinces Quasar she might as well wander off on her own, too. The question is, what's the definition of a team - a group that follows its leader's orders no matter what, or a group that sticks by each other no matter what? Meanwhile, we get another visit from one of those weird future people, who once again brings dire warnings and the promise of complete destruction. Drax seems to be planning on complete destruction, too, while Adam just may have discovered the identity of the Skrull traitor. It's crazy stuff. Not written as well as it could be, but exciting and interesting. I'll stick with it for now.
Thumbs Sideways

Greatest Hits #1
The premise of this new Vertigo miniseries is pretty easy to summarize: what if the Beatles, instead of being musicians, were superheroes? The story of The Mates - a four-person British superhero team from the 1960s - is told via clips from a documentary about them, a documentary made by a struggling filmmaker named Nick Mansfield, whose father was a member of the team. The clips from the movie are intercut with scenes from Mansfield's life, essentially explaining how he came to make the movie. There's a weird sequence where they get suited up in riot gear and his producer gives a guy oral sex, I think? I didn't quite follow that. But the overall premise is clever and amusing, and I rather like how it's coming together so far. I'll definitely pick up the next issue, at least.
Thumbs Up

Ghost Rider #27
Hey, it's Jason Aaron again! This time around, he jumps back in time just a little to explain a bit more of where the nun came from, then she and Johnny roar over to the Caretaker's place to hear some of the old guy's last words. He remains rather obtuse, but promises that answers lie inside the burning catacombs. Then he passes the torch to the nun, who absorbs the past knowledge of the Ghost Riders in one brutal blast of osmosis. Looks like some pretty interesting stuff there! Anyway, Johnny finally catches a glimpse of Danny, who runs off through one of the building's many doors (it's got a bunch of doors that seem to lead pretty much everywhere). Johnny and the nun run after him, but Johnny doesn't realize yet just what Danny is up to. An epilogue reveals that the Caretaker's fate is not a pleasant one. Ouch!

Yep, it's more great stuff from writer Aaron and artist Tan Eng Huat.
Thumbs Up

Captain Britain and MI13 #5
This title has exited its Secret Invasion tie-in period as well, which means it's time to get this whole team idea off the ground and get a new storyline started. Interestingly enough, they start off by adding a new member: Blade, of cinematic fame (who has a great line: "Skrulls're just the weather. They'll pass. Demons and vampires: they're ours. Always"). We also learn a bit more about how Captain Britain's powers work. Then there's a really awkward sequence where the Black Knight meets Faiza's parents. Man, I wish we didn't need to keep this Faiza character around. She's so annoying. Then there's a weird moment at John's graveside, and the inevitable call to duty to face a mysterious menace, which is followed by the just as inevitable surprise ending. And it's a pretty brutal surprise! I'm definitely interested to see where this goes next. Yep, still a good title.
Thumbs Up

Action Comics #869
As the Brainiac storyline continues, Supergirl resolves to fight back against Brainiac's invasion, while Superman gets away from the real Brainiac long enough to make contact with the people of Kandor, and learn a bit more about how his cousin ended up on Earth. But it's not long before Brainiac continues his plan to capture Metropolis and destroy Superman's adopted planet - just as he (apparently? maybe?) destroyed Superman's actual birth planet. Interesting! And as usual I'm loving Gary Frank's art.
Thumbs Up

The Age of the Sentry #1
My understanding is that a lot of people dislike the Sentry, as he's pretty much a retcon personified, but I really love the concept of the character, and this new anthology book is just really cool. The idea is that it's a collection of "lost" Silver Age tales of the Sentry, complete with wonderfully retro Silver Age-style art, ridiculously fun and crazy Silver Age-style stories and dialogue, and a parody of the rather upsetting Silver Age-style attitudes toward women. First up is "The Secret Origin of the Sentry," which creates an odd series of circumstances whereby it's necessary for the Sentry's sidekicks to travel back in time to when the Sentry got his powers in order to save him. It's the classic kind of trick they used to use when they wanted an excuse for going back and telling a character's origin story. Next up is a tale called "Public Service Renouncement!!!" which claims to be just one story included in issue #136 of a comic called Adventures into Weird Worlds. Two Marvel Universe villains team up to steal all of the Sentry's powers away from him using a Parasite Ray. They get him to sit in front of the ray by pretending it's a video camera, and that they're filming a series of PSA commercials starring him. It's a clever scheme, but of course it eventually falls apart, leaving the Sentry triumphant.

Interestingly enough, in both stories the Sentry succeeds mostly thanks to chance, or the actions of others on his behalf. Anyway, the point is, this book is just pure fun from beginning to end. It's lovely and clever and funny and action-packed, and it even has an editorial page done up just like the old school editorial pages Marvel used to have. It's brilliant stuff, and I will definitely be back for the next issue.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Comic books (Not), The Take (Not)

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Welcome to the blog of Jim Genzano, writer, web developer, husband, father, and enjoyer of things like the internet, movies, music, games, and books. For a more detailed run-down of who I am and what goes on here, read this.

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