Weber Has Issues: Indestructible Hulk #9 and 100 Bullets: Brother Lono #1

You have encountered “Weber Has Issues”, where we look at a comic or trade paperback fresh off of the press. Because I am selfless and care about the growth of the comic book industry, I only pick titles that any person can buy and enjoy without having any previous knowledge of what has gone before…and on some weeks, that’s easier than on others. But we press on.

At first glance, my regular saver titles (as purchased at the top-notch Sacramento retailer A-1 Comics, check ‘em out at www.a-1comics.com)had absolutely no “jumping-on” merit. There was a #1 issue in my saver, but I knew that it was associated with a long-running title with severely-tight continuity. I panicked for a bit, then went back and scoured the shelves for a book I didn’t normally read. Welp, I hit the gamma-irradiated jackpot.

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Indestructible Hulk #9 (Marvel Comics, $3.99) written by Mark Waid, with art by Matteo Scalera, catches the reader up on old green-skin’s status quo right away, and gets to the action lickety-split. We find out who Bruce Banner is now working for (a smooth transition for someone who liked the character’s journey in the Avengers movie) and we see his fail-safe if something goes wrong. (This was smartly worked-out by Waid: what does a nigh-omnipotent government agency fear? Lawyers!) The writing is somewhat overly expository, but necessary if you want to know where Hulk stands in today’s Marvel universe. Bruce gets craftily manipulated by his boss into Hulking up and going after the bad guys, and gets some bonus help from everybody’s favorite billy-club-wielding visually-impaired super attorney, Daredevil. The action is pretty non-stop as the red and green adventurers try to track down a top-secret weapon that’s been stolen, and Daredevil and Hulk have a surprisingly good chemistry. There’s some very good snappy banter between the two characters-the dialogue in this comic is very funny without being cheesy or campy. (Click the next panel of art I shared to see what I’m talking about.)It helps that Waid currently writes DD’s comic too, and it’s great to read a Daredevil/Matt Murdock who is not a self-loathing manic depressive. (I must catch up on Waid’s Daredevil, I must, I must.) This issue is as good as any of Peter David’s Hulk run, which was my favorite look at the jade giant. Though it felt like a one-shot (always a good thing in my eyes) the last-page-reveal leads into a longer storyline with a guest villain, a menacing power player whom Waid has written before during his epic Captain America run during the 90‘s. Though I prefer one-shot team ups, it’s ok, this story looks to be worth it. I’ll stay on for a while.

I enjoyed the writing, and the art is fine; Scalera does well with the mood, and his art looks to me like a cross between Mike Deodato and John Romita Jr.‘s styles. His Hulk is frightening, and his action leaps off the page. It’s a little bit tricky keeping track of who’s who in some of the melee scenes, but that may be a colorist issue. Waid’s writing, as always, is rock-solid. The story is quite fun, it’s easy to jump in and follow, and the characters, especially Bruce Banner, are well-developed. I really got a sense of how much smarter Bruce is than everybody else (to me, he should be right up there with Reed Richards and WAY above the overrated smart ass Tony Stark–who is truly hard to not think of as Robert Downey Jr. at this point). I’m glad Waid is still writing for the big publishers, as I have followed him since he edited “Legion of Super-Heroes” through his landmark runs on “Flash” and “JLA”, and “Kingdom Come” is one of my all-time favorites.  A very good jumping-on point.

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WHO WOULD LIKE THIS: fans of superhero comics in general; buddy comedies like “Midnight Run”; people annoyed with the bulk of the Avengers-heavy Marvel Now! movement (like me!); people who like smart, action-packed TV shows like “Person of Interest”.

Confession time: I never got around to finishing “100 Bullets”. The premise is a good one: what would you do if you were allowed to kill one person without fear of prosecution? While I own the entire series in singles, and I admire the monumental achievement of the creative team of Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso completing all 100 issues, I just never finished it (though the Joe DiMaggio/Marilyn Monroe/JFK issue is one of my all-timers). I dutifully picked up this week’s quasi-sequel to add to my unread stack. Since I’m now a real-life comics blogger, I figured I’d better give it the old college try and see if there was any hope for this as a review title.

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100 Bullets: Brother Lono #1 of 8 (Vertigo Comics, $3.99) by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso) takes place in the 100 Bullets universe, but it’s absolutely a true candidate for my column. I was instantly engrossed in this disgusting world of organized gangs and violence. This is not a comic for the faint of heart; this is intense, pulpy fare that is compelling from page one. The issue takes place in Mexico, where we see the gritty corruption on every level-from the streets to the churches to the highest levels of government. The protagonist in the book, Lono, is a bulky lone-wolf bounty hunter type who’s locked up in prison. He’s released into the fray by the CIA with a mission, to infiltrate the all-powerful drug cartel who runs the whole show. This is vulgar, profane and blood-splatteringly good material, I’m glad I gave it a chance. But be forewarned: there is graphic torture and lots and lots of blood.

The art is crude and full of caricatures, but that’s Risso’s style. He gave 100 Bullets a signature look and there’s no reason to deviate from that now. Azzarello remains in top form, and I’m glad DC/Vertigo are letting him expand on this universe. His current Wonder Woman run with Cliff Chiang is also worth getting from the beginning, and it looks like he’ll be allowed to re-invigorate the entire line of Jack Kirby’s New Gods characters. That’s good news for me, as Azzarello’s twisted imagination can get me to read anything.  I recommend this book highly to any grown up who can make it through “Reservoir Dogs” (or the Red Wedding from “Game of Thrones”).  Don’t be afraid: If I can follow what’s going on, you can too.

Packed with intensity, Brother Lono is a wild ride through the ganglands of Mexico–it’s just awesome and frightening stuff. 

Can’t wait for the next installment.

WHO WOULD LIKE THIS: Fans of Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez films; people who watch “Breaking Bad”; fans of Vertigo’s “Preacher” (or any Garth Ennis work)  and Ed Brubaker’s “Criminal” series.

Other new comics I purchased this week: Animal Man #21, Fables #130, Game of Thrones #15 Legion of Super-Heroes #21 and Wonder Woman #21.

Author: Todd Weber

Old Man Weber, he just keeps rolling along. Send Todd an email