Thursday, November 13, 2003

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What I bought and what I thought, week of November 12!

Everything that worked so well last issue is still in effect in part two. Superheroics are kept to a bare minimum (and I gotta say that Michael Lark draws a hell of a good Batman, especially in that two page spread), and the focus is right where it should be, on the various members of the GCPD. Minor complaint: sniping just doesn't seem to be the Joker's style somehow, but it's still early in the story so we'll see. A

Maybe it's because of the delay between issues, and maybe it's partially because Paul Grist once again indulges in his old shifting-back-and-forth-in-time-abruptly-without-warning tricks, but this big epic story he's concocted seems convoluted and meandering compared to his past work. That said, we get a few more pieces of the puzzle this time out, and it's cleverly illustrated as always. If you're going to challenge and frustrate your readers, you'd better give them something interesting to look at. A-

In which we get a dream sequence, pertinent questions asked and answered, some relationship issues explored, an interesting confrontation, and a subtle anti-abortion message. Then we get a kicker ending which is doubly pleasurable for those of us who enjoyed the Last Castle one shot of a month or so ago. For once, the Buckingham/Leialoha art team is up to the challenge as well. So far, so good. A-

Often, those who have grown jaded and cynical about the superhero comic will comment on a particularly well-done example of same by saying that it was "well done, for a superhero comic". After I had finished this second issue of this most recent webcritic's darling title, my first thought was that this was "well done, for a zombie story". As a story in and of itself, it's not exactly fresh- you can easily spot its influences from The Stand to (of course) the original Night of the Living Dead, with perhaps a smidgen of, God help us, The Postman and even DC's Y: The Last Man, which this beats all to hell. And it manages to transcend its secondhand bent by not getting all pretentious and wordy, instead letting artist Tony Moore carry the show with his lean, no-frills Steve Dillon meets John Findlay style. Also, big points for that rarest of rarities in most zombie stories, a happy ending- which I'd like to think represents a willingness to deviate from the expected on the part of heretofore-unknown-to-me writer Robert Kirkman. We'll see, I guess. In the meantime, I await issue #1 from another store, which should come in next week, and I'll go from there. A-

H-E-R-O 10
Whaddaya know. The Joker pops up here as well, in this pretty good finale to the story of likeable loser/wannabe supervillian Tony Finch and his encounter with the H Dial. Also, we get the return, apparently, of one of the dial's previous owners gone bad...a twist which I'm not sure I'm gonna like too much. I also had a small problem with the climactic event in this one- and here be spoilers- when the heck did Finch get time to attach a thermite bomb to the dial? And where did he get one on such short notice? A-

Darkseid, the red herring in the previous multi-issue extravaganza, is now introduced (in somewhat diminshed form) in the new multi issue extravaganza, which also throws in Superboy for good measure along with an ersatz Justice League of some sort. If you're a Legion fan, you'll find this another gripping chapter in the ongoing tribulations of the 30th Century super-team. If not, you'll wonder what all the fuss is about but maybe, just maybe, you'll be curious about what's coming up. And for what it's worth, I liked Superboy's black t-shirt costume better than his classic duds. B+

Lots of shouting back and forth, mostly between Nick Fury and the President of the US (if this is supposed to be Bush, he's a little bit too hyperactive and overstimulated, methinks), along with much breaking of glass and crashing and flashing electrical displays and grim, terse dialogue and closeups, and everything that can possibly be done to approximate the modern action thriller except with superheroes, a worthy enough goal I suppose. Still, this is well written, if somewhat low-key, and artists Hairsine and Miki continue to do their best Bryan Hitch. B+

1602 4
I must confess to the vague stirrings of interest in the ongoing story of Daredevil and the Black Widow- or their doppelgangers anyway- especially in how the heck DD survived the fall from the bridge. Otherwise, this is mostly Gaiman at his most dreary and pretentious, and the gimmicky art is still an annoyance. Again, nice cover. C+

JSA 54
Good thing Thanksgiving is coming, because we've just been given a big fat turkey. This would-be fun and clever "down-time" type story falls flat in just about every conceivable way, from its stilted dialogue, contrived dramatics and unfunny jokes (the one gag that works is the Formerly Known as... style appearance of the two sorcerers at the dinner table) to its stiff, clunky and poorly porportioned art, full of awkward poses and sideways grimaces. As you may know, I've been on the bubble with this book for a long time, and every time I get ready to drop it they come up with a good enough story to keep me interested. This one may have been the last straw. Turkey in the straw, get it? This ham-fisted tale gets a D, and they should be thankful it's not lower!