Friday, September 26, 2003

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Because I care...COMICS REVIEWS!
What I bought and what I thought, week of September 24

Well, all right, we pretty much know from the beginning that most of the characters won't survive, which reduces the tension. Also, the Craig Hamilton/P.Craig Russell art is bright and cartoonish, and doesn't always convey the grimness of the events depicted. And I don't care. In this case, it's not the tale, it's the telling, and Willingham, Hamilton and Russell are completely in synch, giving us a rousing, entertaining, and often tragic tale using legendary characters both familiar and unfamiliar. It's epic in scope, larger than life, and (at least for me) brought back a lot of the thrill I got from reading old fairy tales and seeing movies like Errol Flynn's Adventures of Robin Hood as a kid. Russell, especially, excels at this sort of fine-line reality vs. fantasy stuff, and his inks really add a lot to Hamilton's strong layouts. Willingham, in the Fables ongoing, has been hinting at these events at a long time, and I was especially interested in the revelations about his Boy Blue character- it's his doomed romance with Little Red Riding Hood that is the core of the story. And while he hasn't cleared up every question here (I still find myself wondering how any of these characters stayed dead, when he established that they are sustained by the interest of the mundane world), he's given us some more puzzle pieces to use in the future. For once, a $5.95 comic that's worth the money. A

In which we inch closer to the end of the world as Alan Moore's ABC characters know it, and nobody feels fine. Sophie Bangs aka Promethea is hiding from the FBI and her destiny in Tom Strong's millennium City, and when the Bureau enlists his aid in finding her, he succeeds, with unintended consequences. When this book started years ago, I never dreamed it would be resolved like this, and it still feels a bit rushed, like he decided to go from point B to point Q. And, possibly, Moore wouldn't have seen fit to take it in this direction had he not planned to take a break from comics writing (nobody really thinks he's gone for good, do they?) thing for sure, he's going out on a high note. I've always thought Promethea was the best of his ABC titles, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen notwithstanding, and this issue is even deeper and more resonant than the previous as he builds the feeling of impending dread and wonder (both at the same time)...aided by the stalwart J.H. Williams/Mick Gray team, who get to do not only their established style but also those of Chris Sprouse, and on the clever cover Ross Andru/Dick Giordano. Williams' sense of design and layout is excellent, as always, and Lee Loughridge would do well to sit and talk shop with colorist Jeromy Cox. If not for the Fables one shot, this would have been the best of the week by far. A

JLA 87
Joe Kelly's on a roll, and this story arc is sharp, gripping and intense, with the League trying to cope with one of their own, who's been possessed by a world-destroying force and is quite content to be so. Kelly even revisits Plastic Man, who in Kelly's hands was quite interesting previously...but with a twist, no pun intended. Unless Joe K totally botches the ending, this will go down as the best JLA arc since early in Morrison's tenure, and to be honest, I'm digging this arc as much as I did any back then. And at the risk of being redundant (since I think I say this every time I review an issue of JLA that they're involved in) it is my considered belief that Doug Mahnke and Tom Nguyen, as a team, are at this time the best mainstream superhero comic illustrators out there, bar none. A

Whoa! What's this doing up this high on the list!? Well, I'll tell ya. I'm always quick to tear into Terry Moore when I see his annoying storytelling idiosyncrasies, which always make me grind my teeth, but there's a reason why I endure the poems and the far-fetched characters and the pretensions- the relationship between his principals, Francine Peters and Katrina "Katchoo" Choovanski and their friends and families. And in this issue, we get lots of that, well written and nicely illustrated, and precious little else...and I like it. In this issue, we finally see Francine's marriage, which we longtime readers remember caused them to be separated for several years, bringing us full circle to the first pages of V2 #1. I can't say I would recommend this issue to first-timers, but for us long-suffering regular readers it's more than welcome. A-

You see, back in the late 80s or early 90s, I forget which, there was this fellow named Steve Lightle who used to draw the Legion of Super-Heroes comic on a regular basis. Fans liked his stuff a lot, as I recall. Myself, I thought his work was fine but I didn't read the LSH then nor did I care to begin. Then, he moved to another book or something and as is par for this title over the years, more changes got made, then Zero Hour came along and the Legion got completely retconned with new creative teams, and Lightle did less and less work for DC, and time went on...but longtime hardcore Legion fans didn't. Many of them hated the artists that subsequently illustrated the adventures of the 30th Century supergroup, and many publicly cried out for the return of Lightle, who didn't seem to be doing anything else to speak of, in comics anyway. So now, those LSH fans have gotten their wish- Lightle has illustrated this, a somewhat routine fill-in issue featuring the crankiest Legionnaire, Umbra, who returns to her homeworld to find out why her powers were malfunctioning. And you know what? He's not bad. Not bad at all. Many artists, when returning to the scene of prior glories, often serve to reinforce that old axiom about not being able to go home again...but not Lightle. If anything, he's gotten better! And while I like the current regulars, as far as I'm concerned Steve Lightle is welcome to draw the Legion any old time he wants to, improbable costume on Umbra notwithstanding. A-

Big treat for those of us who were fans of the Robinson/Harris/Snejbjerg Starman book, as Selina and Holly stop off in Opal City on their road trip, and we get to catch up with the O'Dares and Bobo Benetti. Ed Brubaker puts a nice outsider's spin on the Opal, and we also get layouts by Nevermen and Sandman Mystery Theatre artist Guy Davis, which don't always rest comfortably under Cam Stewart's finishes, but it's fine nonetheless. Loughridge colored this, need I say more? The countdown continues- two more issues until Stewart is gone, along with your humble scribe. B+

Normally reliable scribe Mike Carey kinda comes up short on the finale of this two-parter, which sets up an effective mood but devolves into incoherence before it's done. Maybe some of the blame is due to fill-in artist Doug Alexander Gregory, who looks capable enough with his Mark Badgerisms, but kinda gets derailed here. Better days ahead, I'm sure. B