Sunday, March 07, 2004

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What I bought and what I thought, week of March 3

OK, I think we can say that this isn't going to revolutionize the industry, or even be a landmark work which generations of comics scholars (whatever that might be) will debate and discuss. But taken on its own terms, this engaging fantasy is very well done as Mike Carey avoids the cliche whenever the opportunity comes up, and the cheerful art of Sonny Liew and Marc Hempel keeps everything light and fun. If this had come out under an Indie imprint, I have the feeling some people would be going nuts about it. A-

With a new movie on someone's burner, we get the umpteenth revival of DC's Swamp Thing trademark, and if that's a undeservedly cynical stance to take, well, what else can I say? In the almost two decades since Moore, Bisette and Totleben drifted away, there have been so many continuation and revival attempts, with varying degrees of success, that one tends to become cynical about any new attempts to add to the canon. Fortunately, though, this one's actually pretty good- the closest thing to Moore, Bisette and Totleben since, well, Moore, Bisette and Totleben. Enrique Breccia, who left me completely unimpressed with a wretched art turn on an issue of Legion Worlds a couple of years ago, demonstrates a definite flair for Warren-style horror comics illustration, in his scratchy style- and the fact that he's inept at drawing females and hit-and-miss at depicting John Constantine is kinda beside the point. My other concern was Andy Diggle's previous track record at this sort of supernatural shenanigans- while I'm loving his Losers, it's a whole 'nuther animal than Swamp Thing's world, and his previous Lady Constantine mini (which featured ol' Swampy, by the way), was a disaster. However, I'm pleased to report that his script is sharp, and he writes Constantine and Abby Arcane very well. He's set to write three more issues, since this was originally scheduled as a miniseries, then we get H-E-R-O's Will Pfiefer, hardly a slam dunk as far as writers go. I'm gonna be on board until #4, then we'll see after that.

Guy Davis is an illustrator I've come to admire over the last few years- he's learned to put some pizazz into his art since when I first encountered his stuff in Sandman Mystery Theater. He gets to do the honors in this, a sequel to the very first Hellboy story, and he does his best to liven up Mike Mignola's dry, deadpan script, in which two sentences from a character is a veritable monologue. Anyway, this is a good start, as M & D establish the menace and give no clue as far as which direction they're going. B+

Talk talk talk talk talk until about halfway through, when suddenly Bill Willingham shifts gears and gives us the plot motivation for the next two issues. Not the smoothest of devices, but it got my attention, anyway, and makes me look forward to what's to come. Shawn McManus' art is pretty sharp, overall, which helps- he only lapses into awkward cartoonishness early on. And speaking of early on, at the beginning of this issue, our heroine(?) dispatches of a child-murdering monster by cutting him up into pieces and stuffing him into a tiny bottle, which requires a great deal of time and effort on her part, not to mention mess. I can't believe that our ceturies-old, nigh-omnipotent Thessalonian witch couldn't come up with a more effecient method of dispatching the demon. That just kinda bugged me, y'know? And while I'm not totally unsympathetic to the "wanna see more exciting covers, with word balloons and other visual stimuli and less boring painted static illustration" crowd, if it means acheiving this at the expense of such work as this issue's wonderful, imaginative, whimsical, surreal cover (by Tara McPherson, in case ya didn't know), then we might have problems. B