Saturday, September 06, 2003

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What I bought and what I thought, week of September 4

I wasn't sure whether to bag 'n board this or put it on my coffee table. It's an artistic tour-de-force for David Mack, in his Bill Sinkiewicz-influenced collage and mixed media style, and if you look real hard he even tells a story which serves to re-introduce us to his Echo, his sort-of Native American answer to Elektra who is deaf to Matt Murdock's blind and is able to copy the most intricate movements and inflections, making her a difficult opponent in a fight among other things. As a story on its own terms it's a bit slight, taking the entire issue to re-acquaint us with Echo's background and motivation...necessary, I suppose, but fortunately the paintings are worth the price of admission to this particular cultural experience. A

Part dust-up between Batman and Slam Bradley, and part Pulp Fiction inspired diner heist caper which is a little contrived but still fun. The fight between one of the original tenants of Detective Comics and his more famous successor is a hoot and very well drawn. Lame duck artist Cam Stewart does an excellent Mazzuchelli-style Batman, for sure, and I'll miss him, and this book, when he's gone after #25. One of three comics I bought that were colored by Lee Loughridge, whose eye-hurting hues make me wish someone would take away his computer. Please. A-

Don't get me wrong, if this was an hour long Disney Channel Original Movie starring Raven Symone or Hillary Duff or someone like that I wouldn't watch. But the stars of this particular floppy pamphlet show are, to me, cover guy Darwyn Cooke and interior artists Christine Norrie and Jason Bone. Norrie, on her own last issue, was just fine...but Bone's DeCarlo-inspired (Dan, not Mike) finishes take it to the next level, to borrow a sports cliché. Steve Vance doesn't have much of an original plot or an ear for teenager's dialogue for that matter, but this is well written enough to maintain my interest while I'm gazing at the pretty pictures. Norrie and Bone are so good that they even overcome the typically ugly Loughridge color job. A-

Oops, bump in the road this time out. The first two issues of FKATJL were a delight, and even though this one still has its fair share of bwah-ha-ha it also features the return of Geoff Johns' far-fetched Roulette character and her House, in which she traps unsuspecting superheroes and coerces them to battle to the death using comic-book mind control technology. What appears to be hundreds of thousands of supervillians, lowlifes and criminal scum attend these events, and are all supposed to adhere to some sort of "honor system" in which they willingly agree not to discuss this with anyone, lest angry good guys bust in and shut it down. Yeah right. I didn't care for this silliness in the JSA, and I don't care for it here. Still, on its own terms, it's still well written and drawn, and perhaps this will all be resolved to my liking. Guess who colored this. B+

At least 20 years in the making, and it shows. It's a cornucopia of super-hero comics cliches, derivative of all the big epic multi-issue multi-dimensional spandex throwdowns of yore from Crisis on Infinite Earths and Zero Hour to Flash of Two Worlds and Squadron Supreme to Secret Wars to any of Jim Starlin's Infinity opuses to....well, you get the picture. Of course, DC monsters and villains appear on Marvel's Earth and vice versa, and of course the heroes of the respective worlds don't trust each other and threaten each other- you just know the inevitable scrap will be coming soon, after which they'll realize that they are both on the sides of the angels and unite to have some sort of confusing hyper-galactic climactic battle with one or more of the numerous candidates for the Ultimate Evil Bad Guy of the piece. It's also a video-game-ish quest story- the super-teams are instructed to search out arcane artifacts from both comics' universes. It was fun for about thirty seconds remembering what and where each item came from. As I keep saying, Busiek, when he's writing Astro City, is clever and interesting but turn him loose on mainstream superheroics and he becomes a hack of the first order. For his part, George Perez draws his ass off, filling every fragmented panel with closeups of superheroes with mouths agape, or flying rubble, or Kirby dots, or speed lines or electrical energy, or something, creating a very claustrophobic experience. Even when he draws giant creatures, they fill the tiny panels and add to the overstuffed feeling. It's obvious Perez has worked very hard, but geez, I wish he didn't feel compelled to bowl us over in every one-quarter-inch sized square or rectangle on his pages. This would have been a stone gas in 1975, even 1985- but in 2003 it just looks quaint. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that the fanboy community will embrace this unreservedly. And yes, I know, I bought it too. I think it would be fun for someone to buy this for Gary Groth as a birthday present. C+

I bet 15 year old Mike Allred would have loved JLA/Avengers. I've been reading his Madman book since day one...everything he does is a homage or tribute or something to his early comic book reading days, reflected through his deadpan quirky sensibilities. His illustration style, even, serves this purpose- to me it's always looked like early-to-mid 60's Kirby inked by Chic Stone or Mickey Demeo. It was fun and different, especially at first, but as the years have gone by- through his Red Rocket 7, Atomics, and his lifeless work on X-Statix- it's become painfully obvious that he doesn't have anything else to offer. So what we get here is a Madman story that reads just like every Madman story of the last ten years, and three turns by indie cartoonists, two that are odd for oddness' sake and one especially disappointing story by Nick Derington which slavishly copies Allred's "style", and the sinking feeling one gets when one thinks of what else one could have bought with their $6.95. Goodbye, "Doc", thanks for the memories. C+

Evan, Evan, Evan. What the hell do you think you're doing? We already know from that notorious issue of Dork! that you're not just a joke writer. So I suppose in a bid to be taken more seriously, you've given us one of the most unlikeable miniseries of recent memory and finished it up with a final issue full of death, betrayal, gloom and depression. Sigh. Well done, I suppose, in its own right but it's just difficult to read because of all the sturm und drang and soap operatics of Wagnerian proportion. I hope Dorkin's got this out of his system and goes on to play to his strengths in the future. Dean Haspiel does a great job of illustrating these dire goings-on...but I just don't think superheroics are his strong point. C-

Oh, boy. In this issue the shark was officially jumped. I don't know what to blame more: the disjointed script or the confusing visuals that are supposed to help the beleaguered reader navigate these events but just further add to the confusion. Maybe editorial interference is to blame, who knows...but I'm a veteran of comics with unconventional, non-linear narratives, and this has me scratching my head. This started out promisingly, and may finish strong, but right now all I can do is throw up my hands and hope for the best. C-