Scott Carney: So, umm, what do you want to talk about?
Derek Mainhart: I’m glad you asked! There’s actually a couple of-
SC: Geez, man, nothing? If you’re going to be that way, I guess I’ll talk about, I don’t know, Archer & Armstrong #4. How’s that sound? Good?
Archer & Armstrong #4 Cover
DM: But I-
SC: Let me tell you: I’m totally into this book. This issue, in particular, is a cornucopia of comic book goodness. For one, the tone is timeless: you’ve got your comedy, your tragedy, your mysteries, your revelations, and action, action, action! I mean, #3 promised Nazi monks and that’s what Van Lente, Clayton Henry, and Matt Milla deliver in #4: psychic Nazi monks with little mustaches, which they seem to “just like”–for whatever reason. The comedy continues as one of the monks belts Archer with a belly-busting, “You just been blitzkreiged, dummkoff!” But the knockout blow: A Geomancer–you know you know what that is–is crushed almost to death after shouting, “The Earth is saved!” He asks Armstrong for “one wish…”; Armstrong replies, “Uh, do I haveta? Kinda got a lotta stuff on my plate right now.” Flat out funny! As luck would have it, the Geomancer’s eventual death sets the scene for the return of another Valiant heavy hitter. Expect a home run. Heil Van Lente! Heil Henry! Heil Milla! They’re doing everything just reich.
DM: I agree about the book, but I-
SC: I think I’ll drop the Nazi puns and stick with the baseball allusions: Valiant went two-for-two for the week with the other hit coming from Bloodshot #5. There have been some pretty remarkable–and remarkably gruesome–sequences to open books of late. This opening sequence? An absolute bull’s eye of a flashback. How great is Gamma, a green-frocked hulk of a woman, who tends to children–young psiots–imprisoned at Project Rising Spirit? Her grandmotherly countenance is counterbalanced by bulging biceps and a terrible threat to an overpowered young Melissa: “Don’t tell anyone…but I enjoy the troublesome ones.” That sequence segues into the present seamlessly as an adult Melissa is jarred from sleep, presumably the result of this horrible memory from her youth. The rest of the story is developed dynamically as the assault on the P.R.S. facility is supported slyly by off-color slices of a scene that reveals Kara’s role as a nanite-smuggling Trojan horse; that way, Bloodshot could circumvent all of P.R.S.’s security measures! Brilliant! With the final splash–a promise of a bloody showdown between Bloodshot and the killer Chainsaw crew–Duane Swiercynski, Manuel Garcia, and Arturo Lozzi prove that they’ve got something special brewing here; and to think I was an issue away from dropping this title from the ol’ pull list!
DM: I didn’t read that one, but I would like t-
SC: I am definitely an issue away from dropping Wolverine and the X-Men. With #20, it’s clear: I’ve been duped. For one, I never should have jumped on board; I mean, it really has nothing that appeals to me: I’m not a fan of Wolverine or the irregular cast of characters; and the mutant struggle for acceptance in an intolerant world doesn’t necessarily shout silliness as a rule. But there was always something that drew me back month after month or week after week–which, by the way, is another issue I have with this title: its being a more than monthly for no good reason, other than to take advantage of saps like me. And this issue has finally sapped any interest I’ve had in this book, which was mostly born from the brave and bold pencils of Chris Bachalo. For one, I’m sick of fill-in issues. That’s what this series has felt like for a while NOW! And this issue does nothing to buck that trend. I mean, the artwork–by Steve Sanders–doesn’t help matters, that’s for sure: Iara, the utterly pointless new mutant Shark Girl, is established on pages 2-4. I don’t know who the heck the girl is on pages 6 and 7. I know it’s supposed to be Iara, but it looks nothing like her. I don’t know how many times I turned back a page and then forward a page just trying to get comfortable with the unexpected shift in her appearance. It was in that worthless exercise that I decided that I was done. But I persevered: bumped into a Beast who looked like he’d be more comfortable harassing some pigs in some fairytale housing development; happened upon a horny Silver Samurai with a girl-on-Shark Girl fetish; and found myself awash in anime. And wouldn’t you know: there’s some noggin’ noshin’! (It’s uncanny how many head-chomping moments there have been in comics over the last several months. In fact, in last month’s awful Wolverine Max #1, a woman has her head torn off by a shark! Imagine that!) But it wasn’t enough to turn me around. A classic example of too little too late. And please, don’t get me started on the stupid Mudbug and the poorly put together final page, which looks like several villains have been copied and pasted on top of each other without any care for the final product. Did I mention I didn’t like this issue?
DM: And now on to-
SC: But I did love–love, love, love–Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #14. And I’ll bet next week’s Wolverine and the X-Men that you did, too.
DM: NEEAARRGH! Saga’s Back! AND Battlefields! Zaucer of Zilk! AWESOME!!!! NYYAAAHH!!!!
SC: Dude, what is your problem?
DM: I’m…I’m sorry…just got a little excited, that’s all…what were we saying? Ah, yes. Frankenstein. Matt Kindt, Albeto Ponticelli and Wayne Faucher knocked it out of the park yet again –
SC: Enough with the baseball metaphors.
DM: They continue to serve up a winner-
SC: No tennis either.
DM: It’s great and everyone should read it! How’s that?!
SC: Whatever. I’m grabbin’ a–
DM: Anyway, what I’d really like to highlight is the return of Saga (Image). After a couple of months off, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples bring us Chapter Seven of their free-wheeling epic. When last we saw the alien husband and wife team of Alana and Marko, their tree/spaceship had been invaded by…his parents. Marko and Alana are from separate warring alien races so, needless to say, mom and dad aren’t pleased. Beautiful setup, conflict ensues, family secrets are divulged. The blend of Romeo and Juliet, Star Wars and Meet the Parents is a pitch perfect tale for our postmodern, genre-bending, mash-up culture. Still not enough for you? Well Vaughan is kind enough to throw in a splash page, full-frontal gross-out, lovingly rendered in all its grotesquery by Ms. Staples. (I can’t un-see it! I can’t un-see it!) Welcome back.
Another highly anticipated return is Garth Ennis’ superlative Battlefields: The Green Fields Beyond #1 (Dynamite). Ennis is a supremely versatile writer who seems to enjoy working in a variety of modes, from splatter/gore (Crossed) to genre satire (The Boys). If those books are where he gets his jollies out, his Battlefields series has consistently showcased him at full maturity. Here his command of character, thematic depth and period texture (ably abetted by artist Carlos Ezquerra) are on full display. Taking place at the height of the Korean War, the story reintroduces Sgt. Stiles, last seen in WWII in The Firefly and His Majesty. Something of a hothead in previous series, he’s presented here as a soldier thoroughly chastened by his experiences. Through him, we are witness to the tragedy, absurdity and, yes, heroism of war. Ennis’ respect for history, and the men who lived it, shine through on every page. These may be fictional characters, but with his uncanny ear for dialogue and truly prodigious research, Ennis has breathed life into them. Not that there isn’t plenty of violence and foul language to go around, but because it arises in the context of war, these are not only completely earned, but utterly necessary. War comics at their best. Ennis at his best. Book of the Week.
Changing gears, we have The Zaucer of Zilk #2 (IDW) by Al Ewing and Brendan McCarthy. The conclusion to this preposterous flying circus of a comic surprises and delights on every level. If you haven’t read it yet-
SC: I haven’t. Shut it.
Scott and Derek