Monday, May 31, 2004

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What I bought and what I thought, week of May 26!

I can't think of very many single issues that have one scene in them as exciting or as gripping or as just plain fun as the scenes in which Clay digs Pooch out of the overturned plane, or Clay, Jensen, and Pooch are trapped with seemingly no way out, expecting a barbecuing by napalm (I actually gasped out loud with delight when I read how they dealt with the situation- can't remember the last time I did that), the getaway in the evac aircraft, and the eyebrow-raising scene in which Stegler tries to fill Sanderson in on what he's found out so far, only to be taken off the case and reassigned. And this single issue has these four, plus lots more stuff in between the highlights. How frustrating that more people aren't getting the same charge I am out of this book; but I suppose all I can do is be glad it's here for as long as we get to have it. I'm firmly of the belief that DC has two Lee Loughridges, the one who murks up Bat-books and the one who gives us an absolutely gorgeous job on this comic. A

Our first bi-monthly issue deepens all the random plot threads Darwyn Cooke has started- sometimes in surprising fashion, like the John Henry storyline, and sometimes without giving us a clue where it's going, such as the Batman/J'onn J'onzz sorta team up or the events with The Flash. While I am digging the storylines, the appeal for me is, as always, visual- Cooke has a flair for not only retro (loved the car show scene, and Dietrich-as-Mlle. Marie) but a great sense for what works and what doesn't when it comes to action. Sometimes you do get what you pay for. A

Well, if you haven't been reading this up till now, don't bother starting here. Alan Moore's writing this for those of us who've been along for the ride since the beginning, and he's disinclined to explain anything to anybody. Expectations are sidestepped- last issue, I figured we were in for a showdown between Prom and the Painted Doll, and we get one, kinda but not quite- and essentially what this issue's about is just more tightening of the plot threads and characters, in anticipation of next issue's presumably apocalyptic finale. I figure the last issue, #32, will be an epilogue of some sort...but I won't bet the house on it. As always, the Williams/Gray team gives us a magnificent art job, in an assortment of different styles, and especially shines on the second and third from the last page, a bravura, fourth wall-breaking sequence that elicited the second gasp of delight from your somewhat jaded scribe. Seems like only yesterday that people dismissed this title as a Wonder Woman knockoff. Oh my, where has the time gone. A

No, he isn't! Jack Mahoney is the Moth! Oh, all right, I'm only kidding. Anyway, you know going in, as with New Frontier, that you're going to get one thing: excellent, dynamic art by Steve Rude in his young Kirby-meets Jim Steranko-meets Ross Andru style. He is always consistently good. The determining factor in the case of the Moth is the script by Gary Martin, who doubles as inker. While he has his share of dialogue clunkers again this issue, everything else is fine as we get to know more about Jack's new acquaintance, costumed adventurer American Liberty, who just seems too good to be true and turns out to be just that. The Moth is a rare beast, reminsicent more of the fare we used to get from Charlton or Harvey (or later, Eclipse or Pacific) as an alternative to the Big Two back in the day. A-

Dark Knight this isn't, thank God- it's lightweight, but still a lot of fun and of course well drawn by the Master, Bruce Timm. This time out we get another prison catfight for those of us unenlightened types who apparently can't get enough of such things, a silly pair of villians, a creepy/sexy scene with Ivy in the rainforest, and a Batman cameo at the end which features Dini & Timm's Alfred. I would buy a miniseries starring Alfred if T & D did one. A-

The title character is nowhere to be found in chapter two- instead we see the results of the curse he put on the town that persecuted him beacuse of his gory late-night horror TV show, and how the kids that befriended him deal with it. This moves along at a pretty brisk pace, and despite the incongruously noticeable lack of any sort of shock or disbelief on the part of the kids whose parents and neigbors have been changed into demonic monsters, it's an involving read. It also bugs me a bit as to when this is supposed to be taking place- I'm hardly an expert, but I'd venture to say that the height of the weekend horror movie host, the Ghoulardis, Seymours, Sir Cecil Creapes and so on, was in the 70s, but Aleister's show seems to be airing in the here and now, on a small-town TV station, no less (another rarity- I've always thought that big city TV stations were the exclusive purview of Saturday Night Shock Theatre-type programming)...and I guess what I'm trying to say is that I find the setup less than convincing. Something I am convinced of, however, is that artist Breehn Burns is a talent to watch in the future. His/her painted art is atmospheric and very effective, and just cartoonish enough to render his characters in a nicely expressive fashion. B+

Well, we get a bit more action and a little less setup, as the Kadmons prepare to face off with Big Bad Magellan and his monster army. We also find out more about Adam's Mom, apparently a force to be reckoned with on her own, and a more-interesting-than-you'd-think fanciful history lesson involving St. Christopher. Artist Paul Lee is more than equal to the task of illustrating it all, especially when it comes to imaginative renditions of the monster clan. This series won't wow you- it's too low-key for that- but it is a solid read. B+

Amnesiac John deals with the tense situation established last issue in typically efficient fashion, meets up with a demon who offers to give him his memories back- at a price-, but Conjob decides he doesn't want to go back to his previous life, a novel twist to be sure. I'm sure it won't last long, and status quo will soon return, but Mike Carey at least has my attention now, something that was lacking after last issue. We get a guest artist for the guest artist this time out with Chris Brunner subbing for Leo Manco, and he does a nice job. Can't say I'd mind if he does an encore one of these days. B+

Well, the dialogue is snappy, usually a given with Brian Bendis, and Nick Fury's recruitment of his clandestine task force was well done and amusing in places. One exception, the sloshed Wolverine, who annoyed me for some reason- doubly surprising because I care less than nothing for the character. Again, newish illustrator Gabriele Dell'Otto turns in a nice job, kinda murky still and a little stiff in places but skillfully composed, especially in the opening scenes with Fury and Captain America, which looked like Alex Ross on speed. I don't really know what I think about this book. It's obviously not a profit-taking throwaway, but there's just something about it that doesn't quite grab me just yet. Guess I'll just sit back and try to enjoy the ride. B

I didn't actually buy this for myself- I bought it for a friend. Honest. Actually, I really did- but I read it over before I gave it to him, and really, the most "astonishing" thing about it to me, anyway, was how much it read like bored Morrison. Hey, I like Joss Whedon's work on TV- you all know, if you've read me much at all that I LOVED Firefly and was also a big fan of Buffy and to a lesser extent Angel. But Fray (which I didn't read) notwithstanding he just doesn't seem to have a comics writing "voice" yet, and those seeking primo Whedonesque banter should look elsewhere, 'cause it ain't here. John Cassaday's art is excellent, as always, but I'd be astonished if I cared to buy another issue. Unless my friend asks me to buy him #2, and pays me back. C+

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