Sunday, December 14, 2003

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What I bought and what I thought, week of December 10!

The Mignola-less Hellboy series of the last couple of years, like this and B.P.R.D., have been pretty much hit and miss so far, mostly on the miss side. However, in the wake of what has to be the absolute worst Hellboy-related spinoff to date, last month's B.P.R.D.: There's Something Under My Bed, we get what is in my humble opinion the absolute best Mignola-less Hellboy story ever- this issue's lead by Wil Pfeifer and P.Craig Russell. Pfeifer gets the MM pacing and dialogue down very well, cooking up a clever tale with a hint of Anne Rice, perhaps, but a novel setting just the same and with an ending that I didn't really see coming (it's not that revelatory; I suppose I'm just slow), plus some charming characterization. Russell draws the best Hellboy this side of Mr. M himself, and is the beneficiary of a script which allows him to play to his strength. Next up is a Liz Sherman story with surprisingly effective and creepy art by Gene Colan, which shows that the old master has a lot left in the tank. Finally, there's a humorously written and cleverly drawn tale by Craig (Blankets) Thompson in a Wally Wood-ish style. There may have been a couple better-crafted comics I read this week, but none of them entertained me as much as this one, so for this week, it's number one. A

Solid as usual, both script-and-art-wise, with Brubaker and Lark particularly excelling at showing the routine procedures and everyday annoyances of the GCPD- the stakeouts, the conferences with an over-expectant and self-centered Mayor, and the like. But since this is part three of a four-part story, and reads like it, nothing especially earth-shaking happens except perhaps at the very end, which makes the inevitable case for the trade paperback collection (where this will, no doubt, read wonderfully as one chapter of a long story) over the single issue system. A

Another small segment of a larger story that will no doubt read better as part of a collection, and again, nicely written. I wish I could say well illustrated, but despite some nice panel layout design Mark Buckingham is incompetent when it comes to figure drawing, especially facial expressions, and inker Steve Leialoha apparently doesn't care enough to help him out. A-

Well, this one's actually very simple. If you like Mark Millar's The Ultimates and Authority, and are fond of Grant Morrison's more down-to-earth work in the Marvel Boy vein, then this is the book for you. There's not an original word in it, but it's still entertaining because he scripts it in brisk style, which makes it easy to overlook some of the odd set pieces, especially the whole head-scratching bit with the Eminem-lite protagonist and his boss. For me, the main attraction is the promise of J.G. (again, Marvel Boy) Jones interiors, and he does not disappoint. Some of you may be more finicky than I, though, so proceed accordingly. A-

100 BULLETS 48
The original story arc that introduced us to potential Minuteman (and full-time drug addict) Jack was not one of Azzurello's best, in my opinion, but at least it was brief and easily forgotten. Too easily, because now we have junkie Jack (about which I remember very little) doing an encore, and it's as convoluted and awkward an 100B script as Azz has ever written. I don't really buy the motivations of any of the principals involved, except for the pursuit of bad fun for its own sake (and you'd like to think there's more to it than that), and the confusing narrative makes it the story even harder to like. Of course, Ed Risso does his usual excellent job with what he's been given. Another annoying thing is that right now 100B is on a bi-monthly schedule, so A & R can go play with Batman, and the wait between issues doesn't help story clarity either. I know, I know, another argument in favor of collected trades. Sigh. B

H-E-R-O 11
22 ad-infested pages of excellent Kano art is not adequate compensation for the script it illustrates, a lackluster rehash of recent Bendis Powers rehashes of 2001: A Space Odyssey ,Quest For Fire, and (snicker snicker) Caveman. Perhaps Wil Pfeifer worked so hard on his Hellboy story that he didn't have time to polish this one, who knows. I do know, though, that the good will this title built on its original story arc is in serious jeopardy of evaporating completely. C+

1602 5
Although I'm sure the idly curious and the skeptical bailed about two issues ago, those of us who have stuck around, for whatever reason, are being rewarded with a definite upswing in...well, in what I really can't say: Gaiman's script and dialogue are as twee as ever, and Andy Kubert's art is as blurry and awkward as always. But all I have is the vague awareness that suddenly, somehow, I'm a bit more interested in where it's all going and whatever is going is headed there at a faster pace, and for that I'm thankful. Docked a notch for the odd-looking tennis-shoe-like objects Kubert's wearing on his feet in the cutesy page one cameo. C+

Coming later this week: a review of The Walking Dead 3, which I didn't get last Wednesday due to a mixup with my comics shop, and a word or three about Paul Pope's Heavy Liquid, which I haven't finished yet...