Sunday, September 30, 2012

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 09/26/12

It's time for the Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews, and I couldn't be more excited!  The number of quality books that dropped this week were off the charts, and I've decided to focus in on Adventure Time #8, Batman, Incorporated #0, and Punisher #16.  I'd invite you to hit the jump to see my thoughts on these titles!

Written by Ryan North
Art by Shelli Paroline & Braden Lamb
Backup story by Frank Gibson & Becky Dreistadt

Ryan North needs to write more comic books.  If there's one thing I've learned from reading his absolutely brilliant work on the Adventure Time comic book, it's that.  As much as I love Dinosaur Comics (and it's a lot), I'm quickly realizing that it simply doesn't amount to enough Ryan North in my life.  In his defense, that's because my desired amount of Ryan North would likely be all of the Ryan North.  Although that's probably an impossibility, the current time travel storyline gives me hope that it may one day become a reality.

At this point, I'm running out of superlatives to praise North, Shelli Paroline, and Braden Lamb's wonderful work with, but as long as they keep putting out top notch comics, I'll keep trying to find the proper words to lionize them with.  And in case it's not already clear, I'm happy to report that they've delivered another amazing issue of Finn and Jake-themed adventuring.

For those who haven't been following the series (or my continuous chattering about it), Finn and Jake have gotten themselves into some time traveling hijinks of the highest variety, including but not being limited to, winding up fifteen years into their robot-apocalypse infested future.  Triumph over their mechanical adversaries has been looking pretty bleak, and this issue sees things going even worse for our heroes.  Of course, like all previous issues, Adventure Time #8 features a healthy dose of jokes and laughs (as well as a supplementary dose of laffs).  Seriously, I cannot think of a funnier comic book coming out right now, as North outdoes himself on each and every page, mining anything and everything to its fullest humour extent.

That being said, North is also mindful to include an engaging story that, while technically aimed at children, is more than enjoyable for an older audience.  Indeed, the man is telling one heck of a time travel story that plays fast and loose with time travel tropes while still maintaining a respectable semblance of internal consistency.  There's a great moment towards the end where things are looking mighty dire for Queen Bubblegum, Finn, and Jake, so the three decide to make use of the get out of jail free card that most time travel stories would prefer to handwave away.  It's pretty darned funny, made all the better by what follows moments after to close out the issue.

Paroline and Lamb provide the same gorgeous work that we've come to expect from the pair, going hogwild with the plethora of possibilities offered by an alternate future Adventure Time story.  There's so much going on here that it can be hard to keep track of, but the two artists knock it all out of the park.  Highlights include "Fedora wearing multi-armed Jake", "Tank Legs Finn", and pretty much everything else that happens in the book.  It may sound like I'm hyperbolizing here, and I am to a certain extent, but the book is too much fun not too.  And Paroline and Lamb are too good not to talk up like there's no tomorrow.

The backup story this month is provided by Frank Gibson and Becky Dreistadt of Tiny Kitten Teeth-fame, continuing Boom!'s lovely little habit of populating these books with some of the top web comic creators around.  Gibson and Dreistadt focus their tale on Hotdog Princess, who wishes to be reunited with her long-lost bun, who passed away years before.  The end result is a seven-page story involving Hotdog Princess and Peppermint Butler traveling to the underworld to retrieve said bun from Death's domain.  It's a whimsical little yarn that doesn't quite end the way you might expect, but it's definitely a fun one.  An excellent addition to the overall package.

Verdict - Buy It.  Ryan North may not be writing every single comic book (much to my chagrin), but reading his continued work on Adventure Time almost makes up for that small oversight.  This book remains a perfect combination of North's inimitable writing and the show's own stylings, coupled with the terrific work of Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb.  And the backups this book gets continue to be a globbin' good time.  You should be lumping reading this.

Written by Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham
Art by Frazer Irving

I don't really need anyone beyond Grant Morrison to write Batman.  While I was initially leery of his take on the Caped Crusader (like, three years ago or whenever I first read his run), I ultimately feel in love with his take on DC's best property and am thrilled every time I get to read the next chapter in his ongoing epic.

Unsurprisingly, Batman, Incorporated #0 does not disappoint, as Morrison and Chris Burnham team up with Frazer Irving, one of Morrison's long-time collaborators, to deliver a terrific look at the genesis of the world-spanning Batman Inc. project.  This comic is the posterchild for showing and not telling, as it is comprised entirely of short vignette from different moments in the lead-up to and aftermath of the founding of Batman Inc., highlighting key events for the projects while also shining a light on part of Batman's own character.

I'm happy to say that Morrison and company were given twenty-two pages to tell this story and that they use every single page to its fullest potential.  There's like fifteen different scenes that occur in between the start and the end of this issue, and there're all awesome.  We get a look at the origins of the idea of a global Bat-team through a look at the island of Dr. Mayhew (as seen in Batman #667-669 back in 2007), the origins of Batman himself, and Bruce talking on the meaning of Batman.  That takes three pages.  From there, we get a look at Bruce pitching Batman Inc. to Wayne Enterprises, Batman recruiting, like, eight different members, and a final conversation between Bruce and Alfred on the meaning of Batman Inc.  Every moment oozes with deeper meaning.  Most of these scenes are only a single page in length, and all of them are fan-freakin'-tastic.

When I first encountered Irving's work, I wasn't a huge fan, but like Morrison's Bat-titles, Irving's art has really grown on me, and he provides some amazing stuff here, doing an amazing job of translating Morrison's script into actual comic book pages.  Morrison and Burnham's story jumps from scene to scene and location to location at a quick pace, and Irving is more than able to keep up with that uber-quick globetrotting.  He delivers on every page, mixing up his colouring and his style to match the scene at hand.  His style is just as unique as ever, but it definitely works well here.

Verdict - Buy It.  As I hoped, Batman, Incorporated #0 does it's own thing, partly fitting in with the "secret origins" aspect of the Zero Issues, while also managing to seemingly tell the story that Morrison wanted to tell anyways.  There's a reason why he's one of the most respected writers in the industry, and he more than shows why that is with this excellent issue.  While I was expecting Burnham to continue on art, Irving was a welcome addition who, due to his past work with Morrison, was able to fit in seamlessly with what has come before.  More than anything else, this issue has got me even more excited for what's to come, which is all you can ever ask for from a comic.

Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Marco Checchetto

This comic is just so good.  I don't even know how to properly describe the high quality work that Greg Rucka, Marco Checchetto, and all the other collaborators put into this title month-in and month-out.  It's all been top drawer work, and Punisher #16 is no exception, as we follow the fallout of the Punisher (or more accurately, his partner Rachel Cole-Alves) accidentally killing a cop.

It's obviously a serious issue, and like everything else in this series, is treated with the proper care and respect that it deserves.  It's also the perfect culmination of Rucka and Checchetto's work on the title, as Rachel's attempts to deal with and respond to her actions and the NYPD's own response to the situation make use of almost every single thing that's happened previously in this series.  I'm still scratching my head as to how they did it, but Rucka and Checchetto somehow managed to pay off nearly every single event and character arc that's been going on since issue #1 of this book.  These guys are master storytellers, getting the most out of every single tool they've used to tell their narrative.

I was especially impressed with Frank's characterization in this issue.  The manner that Rucka approaches Frank has long been one of the main reasons for my longstanding love of his run on the character, but his treatment of Rachel and her actions took that characterization to another level.  It was just a phenomenal look into what makes Frank Castle tick, and like so many of the memorable moments of this series, it was accomplished just as much through what happened as through what as said.

There are so many completely silent panels that communicate more in that moment than some comics do in their entire twenty-odd pages, and every prop must go to Checchetto for his terrific work in making that happen.  As much as I love Rucka's writing (and I love it a lot), Checchetto's gorgeous art is an enormous part of what makes this comic so good.  Checchetto's understanding of facial expressions and body language is mindbendingly strong, as he consistently conveys the perfect emotion to cap off a scene or drive a poignant moment home.  Matt Hollingsworth's colouring is all some brilliant stuff, making Checchetto's lines and inks really pop.  They've been a brilliant team together.  I cannot say enough good things about Checchetto's art.  It must be seen to be believed.

Verdict - Must Read.  Greg Rucka and Marco Checchetto's work with Punisher has been some of the best stuff to come out this past year, and Punisher #16 is no exception.  The issue, like the series as a whole, is built on its terrific character work.  Whether it's Frank himself or the people who have found themselves caught in his orbit, this book is all about who these people are and why they do what they do.  That's what's made it special, and that's what makes this issue a must read.

A lot of mighty fine books this week.  These three are only a handful of the great comics I had the pleasure of reading.  I'd be tempted to call these ones some of the cream of the crop, but with so many quality books being released, I imagine it would be hard to go wrong with your selections.  What did you get reading this week?  Am I accurate in my assertion?  Did they treat you well?  Let me know in the comments, should the desire strike you.

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maybetoby said...

I loved Batman Inc #0. I'm so glad that this title has remained relatively unchanged by the New 52, other than cosmetic changes like Batman's suit. I really loved the suit Finch designed pre-New 52. I've been following his run from Batman to Batman and Robin to Batman Incorporated and have enjoyed every minute of it. It's a shame his run on this will end with issue #12.

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