Saturday, January 24, 2004

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What I bought and what I thought, week of January 21

Darwyn Cooke gets his glory-shot series off to a bang with nothing less than an ambitious tribute to the war comics of the Fifties and Sixties, casting a reverent but somewhat revisionist eye at DC war comic stalwarts, then cleverly incorporating Hal Jordan of the soon-to-be Silver Age DC pantheon in towards the end, neatly referencing if not wholly following up on DC's The Golden Age series. Cooke's Kirbyesque art crackles with energy throughout, and there are some absolutely drop-dead gorgeous action scenes- most notably the newspaper-photo scene of Hourman falling off a roof, and a battle between "The Bat-Man" and Superman which is thoughtfully reproduced on the back cover. Cooke as a writer is a bit less accomplished; there are a few instances of awkwardly-placed expository dialogue but overall he does very well, with the death-fight between Jordan and a Korean soldier being particularly involving and ending with a Kanigheresque twist. Thoughtful and unpretentious, New Frontier, at least in its first chapter, lives up to the hype. Now if I could just get that Donald Fagen song out of my head... A-

Much is revealed but little is actually resolved in this, the final issue of volume one...and that's pretty much in keeping with the entire thrust of this book. We find out just exactly how devious and amoral Tao is, and protagonist Holden Carver makes a big decision, one which enables him to go forward but doesn't exactly get him out of any of the messes he currently finds himself in, and then we get a surprising revelation at the end. Brubaker and Phillips have created a small masterpiece with this book, and if you're not one of the converted, give the TPB (and the second one, which should collect the final six issues) a shot in the interval between this issue and Vol. 2 and see if you don't agree. Then make sure you don't forget to add vol. 2 to your pull list! A

In which we find out what Matt Murdock's been up to while we've been vision questing with Echo, as the scope and ramifications of his assumption of the Kingpin's position in the underworld are investigated. Typically smart and sharp Bendis script, equal parts grim and humorous (Neilalien isn't gonna like this one, I don't think). Another fine, if a little static art job by Alex Maleev, who maybe should pull back just a hair on the ol' murky atmosphere reins. Still, nice to have ya back, boys. A

This one's gonna be a lot more interesting to those who have been following this book for a while that those who haven't, "New Storyline" cover tag notwithstanding. Basically a story of a troubled young boy who stumbles upon a doorway to Lucifer's recently-created alternate universe, and the odd spider-like creature that's been using the doorway as a garbage dump, the primary points of interest to me were Mazikeen's reactions to Lucifer's latest machinations, and the conversation with former teenage witch-turned-alternate universe diety and respected-almost equal Elaine Belloc. Nope, not quite new reader friendly, but pretty darn engrossing just the same. Art-wise, it's a testament to how used to Peter Gross and Ryan Kelly's stuff I've become that I don't wish someone would replace them anymore. They're just part of that Lucifer experience, I suppose. A-

Chris Chance impersonates a priest that someone's trying to kill for some mysterious reason, and despite a pat and somewhat too easily resolved Milligan script, it's still an involving story all the way through as we find out how much difference there is between the perceived good guys and bad guys. Helped a lot by fill-in artist Cliff Chiang, who underwhelmed me on "Josie Mac" in Detective and Beware The Creeper, but whose stuff I found more enjoyable here. He's not as fluid and expressive as regular Javier Pulido, but his work is more detailed and is similar enough stylistically that it doesn't disrupt the feel. A-

All in all, a very good week for comics this time out...nothing less than A- ! I still haven't gotten a copy of Gotham Central 15 yet, though. Sigh.