Welcome to Adventures in Poor Taste’s weekly comic review. A typical week might see over 50 book releases and that’s just the big two over at DC and Marvel. This column serves as a buyers guide to those of us holding a single Hamilton that can’t afford to read every single issue.
Each week I’ll read a glut of the good and the bad and post enough reviews to reach the budget of $X. Yes, that’s $10.00 to those of you not Roman. I’ll also post one comic to steer clear from. Sadly, a quality comic is few and far between these days, so with ten dollars a diligent reader can still get their comic on.
The Activity #1 (Image)
If you like TV shows like 24, Alias, or movies like The Losers you’ll probably like this book. Geared toward an audience that wants action fast, and its locales to change even faster, The Activity introduces yet another super spy agency that’s higher up than even the CIA. You might ask yourself, “is it really necessary to have another one of these?” and the answer is yes, but only when done this well.
How many times does he say this each week?
Nathan Edmondson does a great job setting up the players and giving the reader enough enjoyment to turn each page. Most famous for his acclaimed work on the creator owned Who is Jake Ellis? Edmondson does a good job keeping this most often tired genre fresh.
Not to be outdone by other stories that attempt to start a story at break neck speed the book increases the excitement and confusion of the heroes attack operation by having the bad guys speak Spanish. I’ve read quite a few comics in my time, and not having the words translated or a little asterisk telling me it’s supposed to be Spanish is a refreshing thing. Stop pandering to the audience and give them a dose of reality! Of course I’d wager this wouldn’t have been done in the past when there wasn’t google translator, but heck it’s a nice change of pace for the story telling.
Translation: “Hey boss you’re a cliched movie mafioso. RUN!”
Opening in Mexico City where some gangster Don sits masticating a big hunk of meat I have to say the art does a good job keeping things real. The color palette isn’t too bright and the faces are drawn impeccably well by Mitch Gerads a relatively new artist who has worked on Stan Lee’s Starborn. Throughout the book he uses a neat digital technique to make the laser sites stand out and seem real. It’s a small detail, but it adds a layer of reality to the pages. The fire though, needs a little work.
Calm before the storm.
Why this first issue shines though, is because Edmondson knows a good story doesn’t spill all the back story and character development at once. Save that up, that’s the beats the reader holds onto. Characters are very real in this book which is pretty rare these days. Especially with characters like Wolverine getting appearances in 5 books each week. What we want is a story that’s always pushing forward and this book delivers.
Budget: $10.00 – $2.99 = $7.01
Invincible #86 (Image)
Over the years, Robert Kirkman has been a comic writer you can love, hate, or love to hate. The first 30 issues of The Walking Dead were amazing, the first major story arc of Invincible was utter poetry, but then he did Marvel Zombies, The Astounding Wolfman, and the recently awful The Infinite.
It makes one wonder if he’s spread too thin or needs to take a few years off to generate some new ideas. Case in point: this issue, which has some good bloody space fighting the Invincible comic is known for, but the story is utterly pointless.
The entire book is this.
The characters basically scream in each others faces:
“You’re going to do this!”
“Nut uh no way!”
“Yes you are!”
And so on. There could only be three reasons a writer would do this: 1) The writer thinks his dialogue is totally awesome and drives the book home; 2) The writer is creating filler for the six issue trade paperback that’s hitting shelves in six months; or 3) The writer has no flipping idea what he’s doing and what he calls work we call “winging-it.” I’d like to think it’s #2 but who knows. When you’re on a budget this book is regularly a bad choice as a single issue buy since it seems to cater to the trade format.
That’s not to say this book is completely pointless, but the story could be reduced to 3 panels. The only positive thing that comes out of this book is that the misguided and confused heroes don’t team up at the end.
Budget: $10.00 – $2.99 = $7.01-$0.0 = $7.01
Wonder Woman #4 (DC Comics)
Wonder Woman is another book saved by the “New-52”. Brian Azzerello has breathed new life into the character incorporating the Greek God’s into her back story, and artist Cliff Chiang gives the book the grittiness it requires. In fact, without his gritty style this book could be assumed to be written for a younger audience. That’s not so much the fault of the content, but the fact that Johnny Public tends to think anything with a female lead is for little girls and Greek Gods are really only spoken about in Elementary school. If Johnny Public followed suite and bought this book for his daughter it would lead to little girls turning the page and seeing images like this:
Without taking four courses of anger management, Wonder Woman would have used her teeth instead. That’s what I call progress!
The story is getting a bit complicated, but it’s simple enough to jump in at this point. Wonder Woman just found out she was never made of clay, but that Zeus is her daddy and she’s actually half sisters with all the God’s. Now she’s angry and wants to live on Earth because her whole life has been a lie. There easy.
Brian Azzerello masterfully wrote the critically acclaimed 100 Bullets and if he had to claim to be one thing it’d be a master at crafting a well paced story. This issue opens in Darfur, where the God of War spends his time in a hallowed out bar half drunk and rather miserable. Even though it’s a compeltely different setting from Wonder Woman’s location it doesn’t seem disjointed or weird. It helps that the dialogue never feels long winded and characters speak realistically and everything flows nicely.
Azzerello is also extremely good at ending a page with a character speaking, and on the next page the words carry over into the next scene. It gives everything additional flow that makes the reading very pleasant and cinematic in nature. These aren’t frames in a comic but seemingly shots in a movie edited together.
All smooth dissolve here. No smash cuts.
Wonder Woman is currently in the “fish out of water” phase, but things are ramping up at home that will ultimately define the character in future arcs. This would be a good jumping on point for readers who don’t want to miss the building climax that’s sure to pay off in the next two issues.
Don’t hold your breath, this is going to get good.
Budget: $10.00 – $2.99 = $7.01-$0.0 = $7.01-$2.99 = $4.02
Savage Dragon #177 (Image)
Don’t let this cover deceive you, that IS Osama Bin Laden. This comic is a classic case of the creator trying to do an entire tongue-in-cheek issue, but sadly it falls flat. There’s so much you want to like, but this issue can’t hold up due to lengthy dialogue that amounts to very little, and the entire book amounting to shock value.
That’s correct, the Osama Bin Laden after he was dumped in the ocean story is “finally” told.
This is what you could truly call an “adventure in poor taste.” Well, sort of. I really wanted to like this book. I’m a sucker for cheeky stories, but this book is more of a flip through than a buy.
The book is clearly aware the topic being inappropriate and sadly doesn’t take an affirmative stance on the whole point of using a giant Godzilla Osama Bin Laden. It seems Eric Larsen wanted to make a big joke, but by the end becomes aware of possible backlash and dials it way back. After killing him, the characters say…
…instead of going over the top. The characters even mention 9/11 later, pointing out this attack wasn’t anywhere close as bad as 9/11. i.e. “don’t worry, I totally respect that event!”
Eric Larsen should either have manned up and made this entire issue a giant cooky story with jokes galore, but instead uses the monster as a McGuffin. It all ends on a weak joke, and that just doesn’t cut it.
Really, it’s as if he wanted people to buy the comic based on the cover alone. Larsen is known for doing Savage Dragon stories that are pulpy and wacky, but this one doesn’t do the poor-taste as entertainment story justice. Do not buy this book.
Budget: $10.00 – $2.99 = $7.01-$0.0 = $7.01-$2.99 = $4.02-$0.0 = $4.02
Batman #4 (DC Comics)
If you haven’t heard of Scott Snyder, in the last year you may have lived inside a giant Osama Bin Laden. Snyder is a great storyteller, coming off the Black Mirror story running in Detective Comics last year, and he has been hitting balls out of the park. Not surprising since he’s a professor at Columbia University for writing. Excellence is par for the course for this writer.
Though this issue is listed as #4, it actually surmises the story so far quite succinctly in the first three pages. It also does this while explaining just why a trip wire is a dangerous trap. I’m a sucker for characters explaining the ins and outs of their trade, and this book opens with a nice explanation of the trip wire not being about the initial blast or attack but from the demoralization and terror induced by the enemy knowing the terrain better than you.
Proof sometimes it’s not about the boom-boom but the bang afterwords.
The action is well paced and drawn beautifully. In another comic Batman would simply swing down from his wire and move on. In this issue…
…things get a little taught to say the least. There’s some nice story building as well, such as finding out Alfred needs to slip Bruce sleeping pills from time to time to force him to rest, and the entire back story of the Court of Owls. True, it seems illogical the Court of Owls has been functioning for years without Batman stopping it, but I think this is a case where we should just role with it. This is the “New 52” after all and part of it seems to be about rebuilding the back story of characters to introduce new stories. Fine by me if we won’t be faced with stale storytelling.
When Batman stands up Commissioner Gordon you know it’s serious business. Luckily he always sends flowers.
Judging by this issue and other comics like All Star Wester, Gotham is getting a whole new back story of it’s own. That’s great news, especially when over the years creators have said, “Gotham is a character.” Finally it’s starting to get a face.
Budget $10.00 – $2.99 = $7.01-$0.0 = $7.01-$2.99 = $4.02-$0.0 = $4.02-$2.99 = $1.03
With only a buck to spare and zero comics purchasable for under a buck I call that a Hamilton well spent. Although, I did notice this trash was available for .99 cents…