COMICS: John’s Wednesday Winners for 4/1/09

Man, this week is win-tastic!  No gags here, just excellent comics from most of the major publishers (and a few of the smaller ones.)  Muppets and vampires and Jane Austen, oh my!:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #24

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #24

This week’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer #24 is a fill-in, written by Jim Krueger (of The Foot Soldiers and Earth X fame) and illustrated by Cliff Richards.  This latest crop of done-in-one Buffy stories have been incredibly solid, in my opinion, and #24 may be the best of the lot.  The duo of Faith and Giles return, tasked with investigating a supposed “slayer sanctuary” where the Chosen can “choose whether [they] want to be chosen or not.”  Things are rarely as simple as they appear, however, and this “sanctuary” holds a very dark secret indeed.  Krueger’s talents for characterization and morality-related spookiness are on full display here, and Richards’ artwork manages to capture the likenesses of the TV characters as well as showcase the unspeakable horror of this monster-of-the-week.  This is a fantastic done-in-one that Buffy fans who have only the barest knowledge of comic continuity can read and enjoy.

Irredeemable #1

Irredeemable #1

Meanwhile, at BOOM! Studios, editor-in-chief  Mark Waid is desperately trying to shake his image of “Sterling Sentinel of Silver Age Nostalgia Comics” by putting out his darkest superhero story yet: Irredeemable #1, with artist Peter Krause.  I have to say, he’s certainly proven his range as a writer with this issue alone.  The issue begins with some incredibly dark and terrifying scenes of a rogue Superman-esque character hunting down another hero and brutally murdering him, along with his entire family.  From there, we flash back to happier times, and attempt to get a sense of how things in this universe ultimately led to the Plutonian pulling a complete moral and psychological 180.  The quiet moments don’t last, however, and soon all of the remaining heroes are fleeing for their lives in a vain attempt to discover the Plutonian’s weakness (if he even has one!)  Waid’s writing is as dark and menacing here as it was hopeful and operatic in Kingdom Come, and the story drops hints that things may not be as black-and-white as they appear at first glance.  Krause’s art is cinematic and at times as “widescreen” as Bryan Hitch’s Authority, perfectly capturing the feel of the series.  While I may not love it as emphatically as Grant Morrison seems to (judging by his afterword), I would say that Irredeemable is definitely a book to watch in the coming months.

Jersey Gods #3

Jersey Gods #3

After a slight misstep with their second issue, Glen Brunswick and Dan McDaid return Jersey Gods to its full potential with this week’s issue #3.  There is an excellent balance between Barock’s cosmic war entanglements and Zoe’s life in the world of regional fashion news, and McDaid’s art is crisper, cleaner and just generally better than the previous issue.  The cosmic scenes are filled with that Jack Kirby sense of magic and majesty, and the Jersey scenes are dynamic without seeming out-of-place.  I can hardly wait for these two worlds to collide once more!  The back-up feature by Mark Waid (him again?!) and Joe Infurnari provides an excellent look at a character who hasn’t gotten much face-time in the regular series, while explaining valuable historical information about the cosmic wars of old.

Killer of Demons #2

Killer of Demons #2

If I had to describe Craig Yost and Scott Wegener’s Killer of Demons #2 in one word, the word would be “bitchin’.”  In two words, “totally bitchin’.”  Harrowed hero Dave begins this issue in a mental institution, where he hopes that the visions of angel and demons are just symptoms of insanity.  Unfortunately for Dave, other patients can see his guardian Angel as well, and he is forced to accept the “reality” of his situation: He must kill his boss, who is actually a high prince of Hell.  Action and humor are in even greater abundance here than in #1, now that all the clunky exposition has been taken care of.  Yost’s calamitous humor makes even the most graphic action scenes hilarious, and the dialogue exchange between Dave and his angel regarding the ethics of killing satanists is a stitch.  Wegener’s art is even more hyperkinetic and cinematic here than in his work on Atomic Robo, and the high-speed chase/battle scene made me wish this property was headed to Adult Swim (with a big fat animation budget.)  This is one book that is absolutely worth its $3.99 price tag.  (and hey, is that Wegs wearing an Atomic Robo tee on the cover of issue #3?)

Marvel Assistant-Sized Spectacular #1

Marvel Assistant-Sized Spectacular #1

A throwback to the old “Assistant Editors’ Month” of days gone by (that once featured a multi-page fight between Snowbird and Wendigo in a snowstorm, with nothing but sound effects and word balloons on the pages) the Marvel Assistant-Sized Spectacular #1 is a fun, if insubstantial read.  This issue featured stories about D-Man training soldiers in Iraq to be heroes by night, American Eagle dispensing frontier justice, and a Mini Marvels tale featuring Hawkeye and Doctor Strange.  Each story has a decidedly different feel, which makes the issue itself a bit schizophrenic.  The D-Man story tapped a largely untouched vein of 21st-century superhero war stories, and masterfully showed why such stories are in short supply.  The American Eagle story felt similar to Scalped (unsurprising, given both were written by Jason Aaron), and the Mini Marvels story was light-hearted and snarky in its usual way.  The bits that make this issue worth picking up, however, are the interstitial scenes showing the plight of Marvel’s assistant editors.  It was great to see them each get their moment to shine, both editorially and as characters in their own larger story.  I’ll be picking up issue #2 for more of the editors’ scenes, plus the Elsa Bloodstone story.

The Muppet Show Comic Book #1

The Muppet Show Comic Book #1

I wouldn’t be much of a Muppet fan if I didn’t pick up a copy of BOOM! Studios’ The Muppet Show Comic #1, and as a Muppet fan, I can tell you that this issue does not disappoint.  The charm and heart of the original series is captured wonderfully by Roger Langridge, and the only thing missing is a celebrity guest appearance.  The transition from one-minute sketch to one-page sketch works impressively well for the “show’s” format, and my only real complaint with the issue is the way Langridge draws Kermit facing the audience.  His head proportions just don’t look right.  His profile is spot-on, however, and this minor quibble never seriously detracts from the enjoyment the comic provides.  After all, it would take a lot to ruin the triumphant return of such classic characters as Statler and Waldorf and The Swedish Chef.  Bork bork bork!

Pride and Prejudice #1 (of 5)

Pride and Prejudice #1 (of 5)

Perhaps you wouldn’t expect it based on my other picks, but I enjoyed Nancy Butler and Hugo Petrus’s first installment of Marvel’s adapted Pride and Prejudice. While I felt that the original novel suffered from an overabundance of formal “flavor text” and took a bit too long for the plot to take shape (and my interest,) this adaptation manages to keep the story moving briskly along without sacrificing plot or characterization.  That is the great thing about graphic storytelling, after all: Each picture is worth a thousand words!  The story adheres to the Austen novel admirably, without adding any new characters or environments to please some focus group or target demo.  As adaptations of classic comics go, P & P is a bold choice, but one that should prove to be successful from a critical perspective (if not in sales.)

Super Human Resources #3

Super Human Resources #3

Rounding out the week is Ken Marcus and Justin Bleep’s penultimate issue of workplace capes ‘n tights drama Super Human Resources #3. Hilarity ensues as Tim goes on his first site audit, tallying the damage incurred to people and property as the heroes battle the Brotherhood of Industrial Accidents.  There’s no time for anyone at Super Crises International to rest on their laurels after a job well done, however, because it’s time for the annual Non-Denominational Holiday Party!  The classic office Christmas party faux-pas are all on display here, but with superhero twists (Bill finally convinces Plasmarella to hook up with him in the coat room, only to stumble upon Zeus and the office trollop already in there, Tim gives Stalwart a “Rappin’ Rudolph” for his Secret Santa gift, the alien gets trashed and throws up inside his helmet.)  Finally, when it seems the night can’t go any further wrong, Corporate announces that this branch of SCI will be closing and that everyone has been fired.  Is this the end of our intrepid heroes?  Find out in the final issue!

As usual, Ken Marcus’s writing is laugh-out-loud funny for anyone who enjoys workplace or superhero humor (and especially both.)  My only complaint is with his writing of Zeus, which seems to show a lack of understanding when it comes to olde english (for reference, Ken:  thy = your, thine = yours, mine = my, thou = you, thee = you.)  But maybe I’m missing the point, and Zeus is supposed to be screwing up his ye olde pronouns.  Such things are possible.  Regardless, SHR is a fantastic series and deserves far more attention than it’s been getting.  Check it out, all you office monkeys!

That’s it for this week’s comics.  Finally, in honor of yesterday being April Fool’s Day, here are a few of the comics I wish I could have picked up yesterday:

All-Star Detective Chimp #1,  by Bill Willingham and Scott Kolins.  Covers by James Jean.

Dark Reign: Great Lakes Avengers #1 , by Hugh Sterbakov and Leonard Kirk.

The Middleman: The Ongoing Series Continuum #1 by Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Les McClaine.

The Foot Soldiers Vol. 4 by Jim Krueger, Phil Hester and Steve Yeowell.  Cover by Alex Ross.

Army of Darkness Vs. Ghost Rider: Oh Hell Yeah #1 by James Kuhoric, Jason Craig and Daniel Way.

Generation Doom #1 (Generation X/Doom Patrol) by Keith Giffen and Khoi Pham.  Published by Amalgam Comics.

Transformers: The War Within – The Age of Wrath #4 by Simon Furman and Guido Guidi (and pretty much everything else by Dreamwave Productions)

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