SIMPSONS SUPER SPECTACULAR #7: This comic is fun. I'm hardly ever disappointed by a Bongo Simpsons comic, but I hold Simpsons Super Spectacular to a higher standard: as the Simpson "comic book that parodies comic books," it's got to be both funny on the Simpsons-TV level as well as introducing clever references (without being too obscure) to various comic book series and characters inside the stories. Like most of the issues in this series, it's a fine balance but this one hits it cleanly out of the Springfield Isotopes ball park. There's two stories here: the first is a Bartman tale that places lovable loser Gil in the role of Deadman, trying to help Bart and Milhouse fight crime after his until demise. It hadn't hit me until this issue that the Bartman tales are essentially the Bongo version of Alan Moore's Top Ten series: a town where everyone is a superhero or villain, from Grandpa to Apu, but with larfs: there's at least a couple giggles on each page, and it's a dense read; this isn't a comic you're going to zip through in five minutes. Story number two is my favorite, tho': a Radioactive Man tale that's a loving pastiche of the Mort Weisinger Superman stories, right down to the strange transformations, including a brilliant disturbing-looking version of Radioactive Man drawn in the Swanderson style. My favorite part of this series is that the writers and artists both know and love their source material, but it's not so dense that you must know it inside and out to "get" the story. And say, speaking of dense stories relying on source material...
BATMAN #678: This comic is fun. I'd like to say "Whatever Grant Morrison's on, Mama Bull won't let me take that," but with the newest issue in the "Batman: RIP" storyline, it looks like what Mister Morrison is on is old comics. It's almost impossible to know all the Silver Age references in RIP by itself (Timothy Callahan's annotations are a big help and well-worth checking out), but you can appreciate this story arc just by diving into the bat-craziness of the Bat-Radia, the Club of Villains, and the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh. (Not to mention Bat-Mite!) In other words, the ride itself is a hoot.
Incidentally, I kinda suspect Batman isn't actually gonna die at the end of this story, because I think Grant M. might mean something Completely diff'rent than "rest in Peace" when he uses "R.I.P." So here, from the home office in Blüdhaven, are The Top Ten Possible True Meanings of "Batman: R.I.P.":
- 10. Batman: Resting in Public
- 9. Batman: Ruining Ivy's Plans
- 8. Batman: Rhoda's Internet Penpal
- 7. Batman: Romping in Playgrounds
- 6. Batman: Ra's is Pretty
- 5. Batman: Robin's Interesting Parent
- 4. Batman: Raspberries in Pancakes
- 3. Batman: Rubbing in Pharmaceuticals
- 2. Batman: Running into Penguin
- 1. Batman: Really Into Pantera
ASTONISHING X-MEN #25: This comic is sorta fun. The comic book known as Joss Whedon's X-Men has come to an end with a big-ass bullet and the departure of Kitty Pryde (for a story cycle or two, at least), so ring up the curtain for Warren Ellis's premiere on the title. There's a lot of clever and fun ideas going on here: a killer who's an artificial mutant (with a nice, Phineas-J.-Whoopee-style lecture by Hank McCoy on what makes a mutant a mutant), the return of Queen Storm to the X-Men, and the lightly humored search by newest Kitty/Jubilee archetype Hisako Ichiki for her codename. The dialogue is fast, clever, and often funny (including The Best Line of the Week: "[Logan] says that if my name's 'Armor' then his name is 'Claws' and Ms. Frost's name is 'Brain' and Rogue's name is 'Suck.'"), and this, even more than the other "reinvented" X-Titles, feels like primal X-Men. So what's the problemwhy not full-fledged fun? Main problem: nothing really happens. There's a mystery set up, but there's little to no action in this first chapter, meaning precious little reason for me to pick up issue #26. Sure, it'll probably be better paced in the trade, but give me a reason to buy the book each month, woncha? That and the reversal, yet again, on the X-Men's thinking on costumes and uniforms, leads me to believe that Astonishing's new arc has some promise, but I have to grade this "I" for incomplete.
BILLY BATSON AND THE MAGIC OF SHAZAM #1: This comic is fun. In the words of Mark Knopfler: "That's the way you do it." I've been a fan of some of DC's all-ages comics, especially Batman Adventures and Justice League Unlimited, but even tho' I'm only six, more recent offerings like Tiny Titans and Superfriends are definitely written for kids and rely just on charm and cuteness to appeal to adults. This new series of Captain Marvel (the real Big Red Cheese) adventures doesn't rely on simple grammar or learning lessons at the end of the story, but instead takes its cue from jeff Smith's Monster Society of Evil comic of last year: with its cute little Mary Marvel, this is a direct sequel. Written and drawn with charm and energy by Mike Kunkel (Herobear and the Kid) in a beautifully colored and shaded style that is absolutely unlike any other superhero comic on the stands. It's funny: Cap learns a lesson from his sister in doing things the easy way when he tries to save a train from disaster, and he takes brotherly revenge by sneakily getting Mary into trouble during a parent/teacher conference in which Captain Marvel is posing as Billy's dad. It's interesting to think about how Captain Marvel has in many ways evolved into a character with intentional kid-appealthe 1940s version of the character often handled themes and ideas that were more complicated than their competition. Maybe it's the wish-fulfillment of being young and able to turn into a mighty adult hero. Whatever the reason, Kunkel captures it well. His Billy Batson is beautifully drawn, cleverly dialogued, very well-paced (any one of these pages is an excellent textbook for understanding motion and movement from panel to panel), and, like Simpsons Super Spectacular, it's dense: this is no swift five minute read; both adults and kids can read and re-read this again and again. Any quibbles? Well, a reliance on dialogue in the cryptic Monster Society Code in the first few pages might frighten off a newcomer (a handy guide is provided on page one), and no doubt some purists might complain about the new Black Adam (a kid bully, in the not-nice useage of the word). But any comic book that brings such great grins to my little stuffed faceand where Shazam the Wizard reminds me of Asterix's druid Getafixis a comic book I loudly declare the most fun comic of the week.