Monday, December 22, 2003

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What I bought and what I thought, week of December 17!

A stand-alone story which involves a punk singer by night, law firm clerk by day whose body ends up as the host for a demon conference. Complicating things is that the demon who secured this particular venue gets bored and decides to have some fun while the meeting drags on. The titular character walks on at the end, and facilitates a great twist ending. At first glance, this seems a bit like a standard-issue House of Mystery- style horror yarn, but it's more than that- Mike Carey is often inclined to zig when you think he's gonna zag, and the concept in itself is novel (to me, anyway), reminding me more of Clive Barker than Jack Oleck. Doing the art chores is Courtney Crumrin and Gloom Cookie illustrator Ted Naifeh, whose line is a bit sketchy here but is overall excellent. I'd love to see him do this book on a more regular basis, plus, judging by the demonic convention booker's appearance, I'd love to see him illustrate a Grant Morrison Doom Patrol script. Well, one can wish, can't he? A

By not going for the gross-out and the action movie cliche, Robert Kirkman has crafted a nicely effective little drama which just happens to be full of zombies. This book, so far, is like a unheralded low-budget movie which is made more successful by its limitations. Adding to this impression is the solid, if not especially exceptional (in a stylistic fasion) art by Tony Moore. So far, a winner. A

Here's that Naifeh fellow again, doing both script and art honors on this, his creation. I managed to miss the two previous Crumrin miniseries although I was intrigued...but the free reprint provided at this year's Free Comics Day gave me the opportunity to check it out, and I was impressed enough to go ahead and sign up. It's kinda hard to really make a concrete judgement one way or another on this first issue because there are a lot of relationships, references and situations I don't really understand, having not read the previous two miniseries. Still, it's fun in a gloomy sort of way, and while it has a bit of an "afterschool special" feel about it (and this is mentioned by one of the characters), I liked it overall and expect to be more enlightened as the series goes on. Naifeh's art is very impressive in that he does a nice job of creating and sustaining a mood, something which is not always easy to do. The title character reminds me a bit of Mandy from the Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy cartoon on Cartoon Network, by the way, only she's nicer than Mandy. A-

All right, OK, the bad guys had videotape of Ruben Valdez accepting the illegal performance enhancers, so he couldn't stonewall like Bonds, McGwire and Sosa do. I still have a hard time accepting a real-life professional baseball player, with all the legal help available to him in this day and age jumping out of a window because he can't face the shame of a steroids scandal, but it's OK. Gots ta have dramatics. I have been otherwise impressed with the research Millagan has apparently done for his baseball story, and it's made this two-parter all the more enjoyable for it. Javier Pulido rebounds nicely from the somewhat off-by-his-standards artjob of last issue with a strong effort this time out, especially excelling in the action scenes involving Chris Chance towards the end. Maybe Milligan should submit a screenplay for the next season (if there is one) of ESPN's Playmakers A-

A hilarious (and a little cringe-inducing for us internet geeks) Buddy Bradley story and an amusing "Lovey" tale bookend one dated and dull 2000 Democratic and Reform Party convention report and an interesting-in-spite-of-itself essay on teenpop. The Buddy Bradley story is 100 times funnier than Sweatshop, Megalomaniacal Spider-Man and Yeah! put together, which should demonstrate to Pete Bagge once and for all which side his bread's buttered on. And Pete, I liked Schizophonic, too so you're not the only one. A-

I don't know, maybe it's just me, but do a lot of these big multi-issue epics seem like two issues' worth of stories dragged out to six or seven lately? Here's another one, which in and out of itself isn't a bad chapter with lots of drama, tension, decent Hitch-style art, and snappy dialogue...but I'll be damned if I can remember a thing that happened in it except for a couple of scenes with a somewhat less demure Aunt May than I'm used to, no Ultimate Spider-Man reader me. B+

Figures. After dumping on this glacially-paced David Mack vehicle for the last two issues, I actually enjoyed this one somewhat. And it's not just because it's finally over, either! Mack's Echo is a likeable enough, if somewhat derivative, character, and after all was said and done I was satisfied by the outcome of her sophomore outing. But to take a simple vision quest story and s-t-r-e-t-c-h it out over five issues, when one good one-shot or three issues tops would have been enough, signifies either colossal hubris and vanity or the need to pay some bills. Maybe a bit of both. Anyway, when one reflects on all the detailed, intricate, mixed media pages, one has to at least give him credit for a very impressive art job. I hope he was paid well, and I hope he at least gives a little to charity...karmic payback can be tough, and I'm sure he knows exactly what I mean. This issue: B. Entire story arc: C

I like the title character. I like her personality (kinda like a grown-up Ida Red (see my best of 2003 below), and she has charisma. The story they gave her wasn't bad, but again felt a bit dragged out. That being said, I sincerely want to see Jen Van Meter get the opportunity to do a sequel. But what I didn't like was the often amateurish art, which tried to ape Eduardo Risso but failed miserably. Fellas, old people have wrinkles. When you draw the aged with baby faces, almost as cute as the female characters you obviously have more interest in rendering, the effect is ludicrous. And for chrissakes, go look at some Alex Toth, Alex Nino, or Will Eisner, and see where Risso gets his ideas. This issue:C+. Series as a whole: B.