Saturday, October 25, 2003

Image Hosted by


What I bought and what I thought, week of October 22

Mike Carey's formula for this, the first chapter of the latest continuation of the storyline he's been setting up for months now, is to put five magicians (some familiar, some not so) in a run-down house at the summons of John Constantine (he wants to warn them about the evil to come), and sit back and watch the fireworks. Carey, in just a few months, has already created more interesting characters than the last three JC:HB writers combined, and fortunately for the reader of this issue in particular, they're all well defined and interesting, with sharp, often amusing dialogue. This old Swamp Thing fan appreciated the inclusion of a relative of Anton Arcane, who's the black sheep of the family because he's not insane. Marcelo Frusin is back on art chores and is typically excellent despite the Loughridge Murk. A

In which we get Edgar Rice Burroughs' most famous creation reworked, with a dollop of Marvel's late 60s-early 70s Ka-Zar for good measure ostensibly in service of giving Elijah Snow a love story- but come to find out, at the end, that what we're actually reading is a main character's origin tale. Warren Ellis is positively verbose this time out for some reason, and John Cassaday is typically stellar. Nice pulp magazine swipe/tribute on the cover...and this issue actually came out on time! Will wonders never cease... A

No real appreciable drop-off in quality here; Brubaker and Phillips give us surprising revelations (with requisite complications) in the Miss Misery (does anybody else think of that Nazareth song when they scan her name?)-Holden Carver romance, passive/malevolent string puller Tao has an amusing/fascinating exchange with the ruler of modern-day Egypt, and Carver suffers a grisly injury that we have to wait until the end to find out what happened. Big problem for me: the apparent predictibilty of one thing- you can bet your ass that if someone tells their origin story to Carver, they'll be dead before the last page. It's happened at least once already, and it happens again here, and while it (and who it happens to) is pretty surprising, it adds a dimension of predictability that I don't particularly want to see again in this otherwise excellent book. A-

Well, I do like the idea of reimagining the DC Implosion casualty character Cinnamon as Sharon Stone in The Quick and the Dead, and it's a passable plotline that's been set up by neophyte (to me, anyway) writer Jen Van Meter, in which the revenge seeker is confronted with someone that seeks revenge on her. It's a bit too self-consciously 100 Bullets-like, but I blame that on the amateur hour Risso-ish stylings of artists Fransisco Paronzini and Rob Campanella, who never seem to rise above their fanzine-level abilities. Maybe in a couple of years, they'll be something to watch, but right now they're not adding a thing to a comic that needs more of a spark than they can provide. B

The occasional funny quip and clever situation just doesn't compensate for the tedium engendered by this old school Spandex throwdown slash video game-ish quest tale. Script-wise, this is so disappointingly by-the-numbers that you pretty much know what's going to happen before it actually happens. The dialogue is overblown and melodramatic, unless it's Plastic Man. I gotta admit, though, that I liked the way the Batman/Captain America team was portayed, especially when they realized that they were being manipulated and immediately tried to find out the cause, which is still small beer in my book. Busiek must have been in a bad mood when he wrote this, because every character seems to be pissed off at everybody else, and some of the characters' attitudes (Superman, Cap, Thor) are so out of, well, character that it becomes a major annoyance. Also, again, artist George Perez equates quantity with quality and gives us page after claustrophobic page crammed full of tiny panels and Kirby dots and contorted figures clad in skin-tight uniforms, and wide open, gaping mouths and flying rubble and...well, you get the picture. It makes an already enervating script even more tiresome. And there are two more issues to go, oh happy day. I know, I know, I don't have to buy them, but geez- I've already bought the first two and the faint, tiny voice of the 12 year old fanboy in me wants to know what happens next! C+

I didn't pick this up when it came out a week or so ago, but my curiosity was aroused by all the internet grousing I read as well as the 99¢ price tag. I don't know what the braintrust at DC was thinking when it chose these particular stories- none of them, even the Jack Cole Plastic Man tale, is indicative of what made those old stories so appealing and fun. The Superman tale is fast-paced enough, but talky and is saddled with an uninteresting plot, and Wayne Boring (who did better stuff, in his stiff style, in the 50s) was certainly no Joe Shuster back then. The Batman tale has a high pedigree, with a Bill Finger script and Jerry Robinson inks, but is even more talky than the Superman story and that becomes a huge distraction. Even so, it's the best of show here. I've never been all that crazy about the Moulston/Peter Wonder Woman stuff, and this one didn't change that. Again, there's just too damn much expository dialogue and long-winded captions- but there's just so much screwiness and soft-core B&D within it that it's fun in spite of itself. Finally, I always loved reading Jack Cole Plastic Man reprints whenever I ran across them (DC was really good about running them in their 25¢ 70s Super-Spectaculars), but good lord- this has such a convoluted, far-fetched (yes, even with a man who can stretch like a rubber band) plot that it really tried my patience. Even Cole's art wasn't up to snuff, looking rushed and cluttered. Myself, I'm a bit more acclimated to these Golden Age tales, having read many of them in reprint format back in the 60s and 70s. One can only guess what newer comics readers would think about it. DC should really consider doing this again, but using more care in the selection process- it seems that once again, we get what we pay for. C+