Saturday, February 21, 2004

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What I bought and what I thought, week of February 18

It's been a year since Matt Murdock declared himself new Kingpin in Hell's Kitchen. Ben Urich relates, to an unknown listener, his reasons for not revealing Murdock's true identity. Also, he tells another tale, of Murdock's battle with the Yakuza for his territory. We then find out now Matt's missing, and get a surprise revelation at the end. Pretty simple, huh! But as always with Brian Bendis, it's the telling, not the tale and he's a sharp and smart as always. Alex Maleev is uniformly excellent, as well, and even does a pretty darn good fight scene this time out, which has been his Achilles' heel so far. All good, but I can't help wondering what the original Kingpin's been up to in that same year... A

Darwyn Cooke successfuly evokes that early 60s, pre-Fabs vibe as he introduces us to J'onn J'onzz (giving us a very creepy looking J'onn), Superman, Batman, Green Arrow, Wonder Woman, Slam Bradley, and the Flash. I liked the idealogical clash between the Son of Krypton and the Daughter of Themyscira (and boy would I like to knock back a flagon of rice wine with Cooke's WW), was happy to see Slam included (even though it made me miss Darwyn's Catwoman more than ever), and enjoyed the fast-paced and well drawn battle between the Flash and Captain Cold. But I gotta dock this a notch, because there's no way in hell that Ted Grant would ever beat Cassius Clay, and why the heck did Darwyn have the Captain perform his robbery in his bathrobe? A-

A step up from last issue, even though it's essentially a swipe of the John Sayles film Return of the Secaucus Seven. Still, I like Cliff Chiang's art here a lot, a lot more than his previous stints on Beware The Creeper and Josie Mac, and the story took some nifty left turns. That being said, though, I'm beginning to lose interest just a bit in this book because there's nothing here which makes me really care about what happens to the protagonist, who is such a cipher. He was a lot easier to care about when he was a mercenary in the 70s and happy to be so, without all the psychological baggage which Milligan introduced. B+

Scott Morse the artist gives us a wonderful-looking exercise in his peculiar abstract expressionist style (well, how would you describe it?), filling every painted page with odd-looking people in wonderfully gnarly layouts and gorgeous color, with nary a black line to be found anywhere, save for word balloons, and some rousing action at the end. Scott Morse the writer does Scott Morse the artist a huge disservice, though, by giving him a story which begins well, and is somewhat touching at the end, but in the middle is based mostly on Agatha Christie-style coincidence and refuses to make sense, or even make itself clear, on many occasions. For example, just why does the young lady, who apparently kills two men and spends most of the story hiding from Jim Gordon -and who we never really get to see clearly until the end- do what she does? All we can do is just go with it, and while this isn't terrible overall, it's just not very cost-effective at $4.95. B+

Well, unlike the Previews Reviews fellows, I'm not bored with this book, which is as strong, characterization-wise, as always- and as long as that remains constant I'll be around. But there's not really much else happening in this issue, which is essentially about the nominal "deities" of Lucifer's new universe going around shooing all the immortal-type beings out of his creation. Not bad in and of itself, but not especially compelling, and Mike Carey lapses into Fables territory on at least one occasion. Not a peak, but certainly no valley either and as always I'm looking forward to next issue. B+

One trade colection-

In which we get all twelve issues to date, published under the cottage industry banner of Dancing Elephant Press and resplendent in black-and-white, of Paul Grist's take on the superhero comic. Wittily written, with more intriguing characters in any two issues than some titles have after ten years, and cleverly illustrated in Grist's unorthodox style, with his adventurous page layouts and spectacular use of shadows-and-light contrast, not to mention his wonderful incorporation of text in his graphics, giving this a retro-and-cutting edge look all at the same time. I've been singing the praises of Jack Staff for some time now, and if you would like to know what I'm talking about then this is the best place to get acquainted with Grist's work. The Staff color title from Image has been good so far, but it's here where Grist's vision shines brightest. Hopefully he will incorporate a lot of these characters into the color book soon, so here's your chance to get acquainted with the likes of Helen Morgan of "Q", Charlie Raven, The Greatest Escapist of the Victorian Age, The Druid, Doc Tempest, Morlan the Mystic, and the Spider. A+

OTHER TITLES, from previous weeks but purchased 2/18:

DEEP SLEEPER 1 is an intriguing first step, in which we meet the titular character, a writer whose dreams get a little too...intense. Not being a Coffin reader, I'm not all that familiar with the creators, but I like what I've seen so far. I wish artist Mike Huddleston took as many pains with his real-life depictions as he does the dream sequences, which are very well-done and remind me a bit of Paul Pope. A-

The finale of the Joker-sniper storyline, and its aftermath. I didn't get last month's #15 until this week, so I waited to read #16 until I had it. The former was a well-done finale with an exciting climax, but the whole "GCPD resents The Bat" theme that has been the foundation of ths book just doesn't ring all that true to me. Maybe it's just forty plus years of seeing Batman as a good guy, I guess. Most notable thing about #16 was fill-in artist Greg Scott, who does a very good faux Mike Lark. The dramatics and character interaction were first rate, too, and promises further interesting developments down the road. Both issues: A-

Thessaly takes a ride on "The Allegorical Subway", looking for answers to #1's events, and Bill Willingham continues to flex his pre-Fables muscles as she encounters several legendary and mythological creatures. Pretty well done for the most part, and inker Andrew Pepoy retains the cartoony look which penciller Shawn McManus aspires to, and makes this particular mini better-looking, at least interior-wise, than the current Witch For Hire. I will say this, though- the Dave McKean covers that DC commissioned for this series are wretched bad, and I hope DC got a partial refund. B+

And did I mention that The Losers is a hell of a good series, and if you haven't checked it out so far then you should at least get the new trade? Well, you should.

That is all.