Saturday, March 27, 2004

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What I bought and what I thought, week of March 24

Looks like the first story arc in issues 1-6 was just a prelude to even more complicated goings-on as Andy Diggle sheds more light on the CIA agent that he introduced in #9, and the Losers themselves get closer to finding out what's in the volcano that the enigmatic Max wants. Diggle deftly weaves in a lot of great character interaction, including some conflict between leader Clay and loose cannon Aisha that you just gotta believe is going to come to a head at some point. It can't be an easy thing to come up with such a complicated storyline, with multiple players each with their own agendas and none knowing everything they need to know about each other, with sharp dialogue and even humor in places (best example, the blackly funny scene in which Aisha tasers the guard), and not have it devolve into a jumbled mess. If it was, then more people would be doing it. Artist Jock is doing a great job of giving us what we need to maximize the depth of Diggle's script, with his jagged, heavily black-spotted ink style and random perspective shots- and the cover for this issue is modestly brilliant. Honest, folks, words fail me- this is one remarkable comic book, and maybe all who agree with me should go get tasers of our own and "suggest" to our unconverted friends that they go get a copy of Ante Up. Anything to get sales up. And they'll thank us- you wait and see. A

So nice, I bought it twice! I bought the original comic this appeared in, the "Corpse and the Iron Shoes" one-shot of several years ago...but hey- it's Hellboy, it's only a quarter, so why the heck not? Plus, now I have a chance to re-read one of Mignola's very best stories, a clever blend of horror, humor, folklore and action, and I can stop digging out the original book, which was beginning to get a bit worn. A

Here's another book with a gnarly plotline, and a character with an equally gnarly backstory, just since Milligan's been writing him alone- and it's recently occurred to me exactly why I'm not insane crazy for this above-average comic. You see, for me Human Target is a book that requires a high amount of belief suspension. Think about it- if you were sitting next to someone who was heavily made up, with a complete body suit and wig and latex makeup covering their entire head, wouldn't you notice? Or at least suspect? Nine times out of ten when you see actors in movies made up to look older (for instance) or disfigured, no matter how good a job it is- doesn't it look just a tad artificial? Now let's say, for the sake of argument, that Chris Chance was hired to impersonate your significant other. Exactly how painstaking is his recreation of this person? Could he copy every mole, blemish, or birthmark? Could he imitate the shape and color of your partner's sex organs? Wouldn't that be a dead giveaway, the first time he made love to you? In the comics, it's well established that Chance is so good that he can whip up complete disguises with limited information and rarely is anyone the wiser...but I gotta believe that in real life it would be fairly obvious, especially if you got close to Chance, that here was a disguised man. Not even the best makeup artists in Hollywood are able to pull off a completely convincing disguise like Chance can do at the drop of a hat. Fortunately for my enjoyment of this title, my disbelief suspension mechanism's not totally gone, so I can tell you that this is an especially deep and well-scripted chapter of the current story arc, with some nice, tense moments and some humor, well illustrated by Cliff Chiang, who seems to be more at home here than on anything else I've seen from him before. But if that internal mechanism ever out! A-

Rousing finale to this Kurtzman-meets-Howard-meets-Bochco mini, to its parent Top 10 as methadone is to heroin. Which is not to say that this hasn't been lots of fun, far from it. It's been a fine entertainment, but it just hasn't operated on as many levels as the original. Artist Zander Cannon (with diverse inkers) has often surprised when least expected, such as his imaginative portrayals of the series' Big Bad, surely the most unorthodox dragon you'll ever encounter in fantasy fiction, or the Death named Dennis. Sad to observe, unless the 49ers ever sees the light of the day (hardly a given considering that the entire ABC imprint seems to be wilting on the vine) this could be the last time we'll get to read new exploits of the good cops of the 10th precinct, and that's more than a little sad. Keep your fingers crossed. A-

Pretty much status quo- lotsa attitude, lotsa super-villains and spandex in general, lotsa snappy, terse, vulgar dialogue, and pretty much a total dearth of anything groundbreaking or fresh, unless you count the introduction of a kryptonite rubber. Kinda like Astro City as a Penthouse comic. The saving grace of Wanted is its beautiful J.G. Jones artwork, which (if I wanted to be snarky) reminds me of pearls and swine...but honest, I don't mean to sound like I'm being completely dismissive. Wanted has definitely got a lot going on, and the part of me that doesn't mind secondhandedness at all if it's done with a lack of pretention and a sense of enthusiasm (cf. Marc Bolan) is more than willing to hang in and see where this is all going. B+

What we have here is basically 50 plus pages of Rude's dynamic, arresting, exciting, fluid KirbySteranko-inspired artwork in service to clunky, awkward scripting which buries its good ideas in a pile of poor dialogue and helter-skelter construction, more so in the lead tale than in the backup, which is actually pretty good and saw print previously in an issue of Wizard, which I stopped buying ages ago so it's new to me. Inker-turned-scripter Gary Martin did both, so that means (perhaps) that there is hope once he gets his bearings. I love the concept- the circus setting is Kirbyesque to the hilt (and reminds immediately of Rude's 1987 Mister Miracle Special one-shot- something Bill Sherman picked up on as well) and gives it a somewhat fresh spin and strangely enough you don't see bikers in comics too much anymore, especially sympathetic portrayals like we get here. Personally, I hope that "Red" becomes a recurring character- but I also hope that Martin learns to writes better words to come out of his mouth. B-

Later on, The Interman, which I am long overdue in writing about.