Sunday, May 20, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 22: The Best of Times, and the Worst of Times...

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!

This past week has been some very good mixed with some very bad for me... the good is that one of my articles has finally been accepted for publication in an academic journal. This is my first published "scholarly piece" and I'm pretty psyched. The title of said piece is "Toward Developing a Structured Approach to the Diagnosis and Resolution of Nonperforming Loans" and, let me tell you, it's every bit as scintillating as the title suggests.

For those of you who want to pick up a copy, quick stuff it in a mylar bag, save it for a few years, then sell it back on ebay for a small fortune once I've become famous, it's going to be published in the July 2007 issue of Review of Policy Research.

So, make sure you put that on your pull list.

The bad news is that Mie and I finally broke up. We had a decent run... better than most Keith Giffen illustrated series, at any rate, so I take some solace in that.

A lesser man, saddened as I am by the end of this relationship, might choose not to post comic-book reviews this week. A lesser man might simply wallow in his grief and leave his readers to fend for themselves for yet another week.

Not me, though.

You see, if I do that... then the terrorists have already won.

So, without any further ado, it's time that I present our newest monthly extravaganza...

The Best and the Worst of the Month That Was...

Each month, I'm going to present the three (or so) best and the three (or so) worst new comics I've read in the past month. Some of these, to the average reader, will appear to be far more than one month old. Well, blame it on the post office and the fact that I'm too busy to read every damn comic I receive when I receive it. This batch of reviews, for example, comes mostly from the comics of April of 2007.

And what a month o' comics it was!

I'm pleased to report that there was a lot more competition for the Best than there was for the Worst.

And the winners of The Best Comics of the Month That Was (in no particular order at all) are...

Detective Comics #831
Written by Paul Dini
Art by Don Kramer and Wayne Faucher
Published by DC

It took me a while to warm up to Dini's run on Detective Comics, at least in part because the pacing of his single-issue stories aren't what I'm used to. I think, though, that Dini is writing some of the best (and most original) Batman stories I've read in a long, long time.

One thing he's done that I very much appreciate is to provide a fresh look at villains we've seen a bazillion times before. For example, having the Riddler retire and become a celebrity-style detective who often ends up trying to compete with Batman to solve crimes... that's a pretty neat idea. It differentiates the Riddler from the numerous other Bat-villains and opens up some very fun story opportunities.

Issue #831 may be my favorite issue yet, though, because it stars Dini's greatest creation, Harley Quinn.

This one-issue story does a great job of establishing that Harley Quinn is completely bonkers, setting up an uneasy alliance between her and the new Ventriloquist, and then taking it in a completely unexpected direction. In so doing, Dini adds dimensions not only to Harley, but also to the original Ventriloquist and to Batman. And when you go back, having read the story, you can see how Dini has cleverly foreshadowed everything that happens. There's a throwaway line where the new Ventriloquist tells Harley, "Mr. Scarface prizes family loyalty and rewards accordingly." Harley responds, "Trust me, so do I." and that piece of dialogue, in particular, becomes very relevant toward the end of the story.

Good stuff, says I!

Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #12
Written by Jeff Parker
Art by Juan Santacruz and Raul Fernandez
Published by Marvel

With a title like "Ego, the Loving Planet" there was never much question that this was going to kick some serious butt.

Although almost every issue of this series that Parker has written has left me thinking "That was my favorite one of the whole series!", I think issue #12 may actually be the best one yet.

Ego, the Living Planet, is nearing the Earth, disrupting its gravitational pull and causing natural disasters around the planet. The Avengers race into outer space to confront Ego, only to find out that the Living Planet is, er, trying to score with the Earth.

"I was just cruisin' through your little system here and I said to myself, "Who is that fine, blue number three over there sportin' the ice caps?"


"I know I got a rep as a galactic playah, but I'm the real thing. Ego is all about commitment. Yeah, you heard that right."

The Avengers have a heck of a time discouraging Ego, since they're too small to even warrant his attention, and the final resolution to the story is pretty hilarious.

Jeff Parker is my favorite new writer to come along in a long, long time and this latest issue of Marvel Adventures: The Avengers just may be the best he's done yet.


Well, time is short this week, so we'll have the other winner and three losers of our The Best and The Worst of the Month That Was... next week, along with a look at comics coming your way in August. Until then, I leave you with this sneak preview, the cover to a new Metal Men limited series...

Oh, yeah...

- Paul

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