Sunday, April 04, 2004

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What I bought and what I thought, week of March 31

Let's see. When last we were graced with an issue of this perpetually tardy title, I was annoyed at the jingoistic, boorish Captain America and appalled at the horrible treatment of Bruce Banner. And I'm pleased to report that none of this troubled me at all in this appropriately apocalyptic finale to the first "volume" of The Ultimates. As always, that would-be Straw That Stirs The Drink Mark Millar has crafted a terse, frequently amusing (especially the almost Stooge-ish Hulk interludes), and dramatically tight script which is, of course, derivative of many previous stories from many previous writers but taken on its own terms very exciting and satisfying. Kinda like in a "Beatles covering Chuck Berry and Larry Williams" way. There's a saying in creative circles that creativity is the art of disguising your sources, and in that sense Millar is a past master. Don't want to de-emphasize the Hitch and Neary team's excellent, expansive art, which definitely helps Millar get his pastiches across effectively. Bring on Vol.2, coming soon most likely in 2006, and since I'm not particularly geared to expect instant gratification, that's all right with me. A

The plot thickens, as the saying goes, as Courtney goes back to the Fairie world in order to get the kid who got changed into a "night thing" changed back, and foolishly allows his friends to come along...and you just know that it's not going to go smoothly. I can nit-pick- it seems like Courtney gets around a little too easily in the Kingdom, and again, she never should have allowed the others to go along...but none of that's important, since this is still clever and engaging fantasy of the highest order, and Naifeh the artist is in perfect sync with Naifeh the writer. Striking cover, too, even though Oberon looks like he's wishing he hadn't had that extra slice of pepperoni pizza... A-

The latest issue of yet another candidate for "best title you're probably not reading" expands the plot but doesn't really move it forward much, unless your primary interest is in their secretary slash tech person. I have a feeling that this particular arc will read better collected, and hopefully DC will see fit to release it that way. A-

Well, I guess we got lucky this time because I was really worried that having Ultimates and this come out on the same day might cause rifts in the spac-time continuum, earthquakes, floods, fire, real Old Testament-type wrath of God type stuff, dogs and cats...sleeping together, and all that. Anyway, judging by the title, I thought we might be in for some sort of Silver Age DC Sci-Fi tribute but that isn't the case. Instead, Warren Ellis channels 2001, among other things, and throws in some imaginative touches of his own- creating a story that's full of mood and cleverness, but unfortunately not much actually happens. That comes next issue. And as always, impeccably drawn by John Cassady, certainly one of the most elegant, style-wise, artists out there right now. Now if only the big revelation at the end didn't remind me of Bender in the Futurama episode "Godfellas". A-

Speaking of Warren E, here's his old Hellstorm and Druid compadre Leonardo Manco doing the guest artist honors on Mike Carey's "morning after" story. I wish I could say Manco was in fine form here, but I can't; his work is nowhere near as adventurous and unrestrained as it was back in the day when I was nuts about it, and his figure drawings are downright poor in places. Still, it's a good, if a tad grisly, opening chapter. Back when Ellis and Manco were killing me on Hellstorm, I used to wish that someday they could take a crack at John Constantine...another dream dies hard. B

Cutesy-poo story about microscopic "bugs" loose on Legion World, distinguished chiefly by the return of the master of the nine-panel page, Keith Giffen, on pencils and Al Milgrom, of all people, on inks. Given the lame duck status of writers Abnett and Lanning and the complete story inertia that's been going on for several months, I have to ask myself why people are still buying this comic- and more importantly, why am I still buying this comic? C+

Hoo boy. I can't decide whether writer Kurt Busiek, who is capable of better things (I seem to recall), is being cynical in a "I'll rewrite Justice League of America vol. 1, issues 46 & 47, (even to the point of having the Spectre physically seperate the two colliding worlds) and none of the fanboys buying this crap will notice, plus I'll pick up a nice paycheck" sense or if he's sincerely trying to write some sort of old school multi-issue multi-character throwdown, and is unconsciously channeling the comics he read as a youngster, just not as successfully. Either way, this is lazy, derivative hackwork, dialogued terribly (everyone is constantly asking each other questions so the reader can presumably identify characters they already know), full of tiresome expository dialogue and just plain old unnecessarily complicated. Gotta give George Perez a gold star or something for taking this task on, but he has not helped matters by cramming every tiny panel full of Kirby dots, flying debris, rays arcing everywhere, closeups of characters with mouths agape, distance shots of hundreds of obscure and not so obscure characters leaping, swinging, flying, punching, shouting, and so on over and over and over and...whew. Perez is still a fine illustrator, and his work here is as good as it was back in the 80s when he really did stand above most of the field, but let's face it. This whole series has been a tiresome, enervating, convoluted exercise in cosmic gobbeldygook and nostalgia for nostalgia's sake. Don't know what's worse- that this sort of thing is embraced by comics readers that either don't or should have known better, or that I am out $24 bucks for this shite myself. I have no excuse. Do you? D