Sunday, May 23, 2004

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What I bought and what I thought, week of May 19!

Well, what we have here is a remarkable piece of work, I think, despite a somewhat tentative beginning. Despite borrowing liberally from a lot of sources, such as Rackham's illustrations for A Midsummer-Night's Dream, Lovecraft, and many works of fiction for young readers (including, yes, Harry Potter, Ted Naifeh's crafted a very credible little world for his round-faced, big-eyed, and somewhat hard-to-like but still sympathetic protagonist to inhabit- full of monsters from legend, wizards, fairies, and, most horrifying, high-school teenagers. This is the finale of this particular mini series, and it advances as many plot threads as it does resolve others, even though I kinda thought it was a little rushed- like he ran out of pages before he realized it and had to accelerate the process to stay within the count- I still was satisfied, entertained and, of course, very interested in what happens next. And his art is, as always, very good. Very, very good. This issue: A. Entire series: A-.

OK, I'll freely admit right up front that if you haven't been reading this title up to now, then this is not one of those "good jumping-on points" that they keep going on about. Of course, you may have a passing familiarity with Biblical lore and/or Gaiman's Sandman , and that may help, but I doubt you'll really pick up on the subtleties that Mike Carey has been developing for the last 4 plus years. For this extra-sized issue, what we get is some backstory- explanations about motivations and histories of several of his cast of characters, and a few implied theological posits for those who are inclined to dissect those sorts of things, and 40 pages of gorgeous P. Craig Russell art (hey, just like in Sandman 50, whatta coincidence!), exquisitely colored by someone name of Lovern Kindzierski. All for only 55¢ more! A nice reassurance that Mike Carey isn't neglecting his best book as he speads himself thinnner and thinner these days. A

Mostly satisfying conclusion to the "DD vs. the Yakuza vs. the super-hero population of New York and Ben Urich and himself and his friends" story arc which is mostly fast-paced, down-to-earth, and pretty funny in places (some might be offended by the Cage/DD/Iron Fist/Spidey banter, but not I). Alex Maleev is asked to draw some action this time around, instead of black panels with facial outlines and Xeroxed city streets, and while it will never be a strength of his he still succeeds as often as he falls short. I still can't think of any artist I'd rather have drawing this title as it is right now. Docked a full notch for essentially restoring DD's status quo, convienently doing away with the most compelling character (soon-to-be ex-wife Milla), and reassuring us that no matter how sharp Bendis's plots or dialogue may be, we're still reading the exploits of a corporate licensed property, and he can bend but never so much that he can't be restored to his original shape whenever possible. B+

Oh, Seaguy. I was tempted to let it go with a cutesy, clever "Da Fug!" and that's it, but I feel like I should do a little better than that. To begin with, I believe that arrangements should be made now to do a full scientific study of Grant Morrison's brain, in order to find out exactly what makes it so different from normal human brains, and try to come up with an explanation regarding how the man can produce the random, the absurd, the nonsensical, the whimsical, the surreal, the flat-out strange ideas he does, and how he can do them with such apparent ease and profieciency. Seaguy seems to be mostly a platform for Grant and artist Cam Stewart, never better than here, to present his views and feelings about the world we live in, both as citizens and as comics readers, and to express these views and opinions as obliquely as possible, giving us a cornucopia of such wildly disparate characters like Death-as Venetian-gondolier, who plays chess with our "hero" on a daily basis, Seventh Seal-style, and is defeated because of the plot contrivance (and it's made obvious that this is a PLOT CONTRIVANCE, make no mistake) that he's "colorblind", so he can't tell the black pieces from the white pieces, "XOO", a substance that everything in this society SG lives in seems to be made of, or will be soon...SG drinks a soda and regurgitates a living, pink eel-like creature that resembles a melting penis made out of bubblegum, a wizened old stereotypical sea cap'n who seems to be able to discuss ancient Egyptian history fluently, "She-Beard", an obvious swipe at Wonder Woman/Red Sonja type characters; SG crushes on her, but she ignores him, and of course, Chubby De Choona, a floating, cigar-chomping Jabberjaw-esque tunafish who seems to symbolize SG's inner monologue, fills the comic relief sidekick role, and speaks in a 40's Brooklyn tough-guy dialect. Of course, as it stands right now, the disjointed parts are greater than the sum of all this, and you can take almost every single oddball character and situation and attach some sort of deeper significance to it...but due to the sequential nature that Morrison's chosen to give this to us in, we will have to wait a while, I think, before it all becomes clear...if it ever does. It took me a few readings to "get" Flex Mentallo, too, but when it finally did kick in, oh boy, did I love that one. The Filth and The Invisibles, on the other hand, I still don't fully understand, and I probably never will. Still, I can certainly appreciate the skill and imagination that goes into Morrison's projects like this, and all I can do is go along for the ride and hope for the best. And hope someone declares "SHAMAN"! soon. B+

Wrapped inside a Matt Wagner cover that depicts George Clooney in a prison jumpsuit, we have a clever story about our hero filling in for an escaped convict and longtime friend of his who just wants a week to take care of some personal matters on the outside, and enlists Chris Chance to take the heat dressed as him. Of course, we get a twist ending, a really surprising one for sure, so be ready! Also, another nicely done art job by Cliff Chiang, who hasn't exactly made me forget Javier Pulido, but has impressed me enough to hope that he can perhaps alternate storylines, if this low selling title has enough storylines left...! But as always, the credibility of Chance's disguises still bugs me (especially when it comes to sexual relations, something which is a big part of the storyline here), and this title, while it entertains me and maintains my interest, just doesn't grab me (for reasons I just can't quite put my finger on) and leave me eagerly anticipating more. If Human Target got canned tomorrow, I would think it was a shame, but I wouldn't be too upset. B+

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