Saturday, March 13, 2004

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What I bought and what I thought, week of March 10

Heaven help those who haven't been reading this book to date; and doesn't that sound somewhat fitting. I say this because Alan Moore is pulling out all the stops as he builds towards the end of his ABC world, throwing practically every character he's created for not only Promethea but many of his other titles as well in this issue alone, and he's not bothering to provide a scorecard- if you haven't been keeping up, he has no time for you now. And what he's giving us here is an apocalypse, for sure, but for once it's not some horrible Judgement Day-ish event but a benevolent, peaceful one- and of course, there are those (the Bush cabinet, among others, heh heh) who don't want this to happen. We seem to be coming up on a "chaos" (Painted Doll) vs. "order" (Prom) confrontation, but knowing Moore it won't be that simple. Tell the truth- did you expect last issue's cliffhanger to be tied up as efficiently and as quickly as it was? And I cannot say enough about the marvelous art of J.H. Williams and Mick Gray, who work in a myriad of styles, even aping the styles of the artists most associated with the ABC characters Moore works into the story like Sprouse's Tom Strong, Veitch's Greyshirt, Nowlan's Jack B. Quick, and others. It's not often when I get annoyed while reading a comic because the story ends, but that happened with this issue. It's amazing how much Moore, Williams and Gray have packed into this single chapter of a multi-issue story arc...and it seems like I thought that about the last two or three as well. If you ask me, Promethea deserves to be mentioned with Watchmen and Swamp Thing as among the finest examples of Alan Moore's genre work, which means that it also deserves mention in the best comics series ever. If you ask me. A+

Like all good fiction writers, even as Brian M. Bendis is resolving certain plot threads, he's setting up new ones for the future. We, along with Detective Christian Walker, get a little, just a little closure to the events of the first series, but you just know that when Vol. 2 comes along that there's going to be some unexpected twists in a lot of knickers, including those of the previously-thought-dealt-with Retro Girl thing. And thank goodness Mike Avon Oeming will still be around, providing some of the best and most clever visuals you can get these days. A

What Willingham's done this issue, besides actually making Pinocchio interesting for the first time since Uncle Walt made his little movie back in the thirties, is take a plot twist that we all knew was coming and make it interesting in spite of itself. I don't know who or what this "Adversary" is, but Jesus God, I hope it's not Geppetto. The Buckingham/Leialoha art, while never impressive, is as adequate as always. A-

If you're an admirer of the straighfaced absurdities of Bob Burden, then in the absence of the Master, here's your next favorite book. Rugg and Maruca (whose art reminds me of Burden with a real good inker) expect us to swallow a lot without a lot of explanation, and perhaps explanations would be counter-productive to this sort of thing anyway...fortunately, the title character is appealing (love the bit with the bullhorn) and is just enough of an underdog (her snotty treatment by the rich kid she saves) to keep her likeable. So far, fresh and fun, and deserving of the unexpected hype this book's gotten on the Internet...but it's gonna get real old real fast if she's as unbeatable and unstoppable in a scrap as she seems to be here. We'll see how much buzz there is if this book makes it to, say, issue #5. A-

Speaking of scorecards, here's a title which could definitely use one. I'm beginning to get really blurry on the ever-growing cast of the GCPD. We meet two new members of the Force, with whom I'm unfamiliar (and if they were introduced previously, I've totally forgotten), who take over a case that was being handled by two other cops who we spent some time with last issue, and now seem to be out of the picture and for the life of me I don't know why. Of course, I know next to nothing about police procedures, so that may explain my confusion. The two newbies are both interesting enough- one's a charming gambler type who's weak on the by-the-book stuff, and the other's a (divorced?) Mom who for some reason doesn't feel like she should go see her son perform with the Gotham Philharmonic, but is all about the procedural when it comes to her work. And that surface stuff is pretty much all we get, which of course would be a wealth of information in most books but this isn't most books. And while we're on the subject of "by the book", I have my doubts that an investigating officer, no matter how tough and smart she is, would get away with calling a suspect she's questioning in his workplace a "jackass". Artwise, we have Greg Scott back, doing his Mike Lark impersonation a little less effectively this time around, and the typically ham-fisted hues of Mr. Muddy Brown and Mottled Green, Lee Loughridge. B+

100 BULLETS 49
Long-awaited (by me, anyway) finale to the second uninvolving arc featuring the musclebound junkie named Jack, whose motivations and character I just can't get a handle on, despite going back and re-reading his first appearance. It didn't help that this suffered from a contrived, far-fetched setup involving rednecks who keep tigers in captivity for people to come and shoot, and some Mafia types who wind up getting more than they bargained for, events which I'm sure will come into play at some future point but in and of themselves just don't make for compelling reading, especially with such a long Batman-mandated gap between chapters. At least we stil have good old Ed Risso around to make sure it all looks great. B

H-E-R-O 14
In which we finally get the resolution of the Joe/Electric Girl storyline, and not only do we get a trick ending, something which always pisses me off, but the real ending is so downbeat that you have to wonder exactly what the whole point to this tale was in the first place...and then you have to wonder if it's not going to pop up again when we least expect it. While this arc was not exactly the finest hour of this up-and-down series, at least we have the upcoming Robby Reed situation to keep us interested, if not in anticipation. Personally, I'm fearing the worst- writers these days, Grant Morrison excepted, have nothing but scorn and disdain for those gloriously wacky 60s DCs, and it didn't get wackier than the original Dial H For Hero series. Leonard Kirk's art rarely failed to maintain a high level of mediocrity during this arc, which I suppose made it perfect. C+