Saturday, May 15, 2004

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What I bought and what I thought, week of May 12!

Bill Willingham certainly seems to have more affinity for epic adventure a la his Fables: Last Castle one-shot rather than the Fractured Fairy Tales of several other one-or-two-other issue stories in this usually always enjoyable series. The one constant gripe I've had is the inconsistent and often awkward-looking pencil art of Mark Buckingham, but much to my surprise he has risen to the occasion, turning in an outstanding job, especially in his clever layouts. You can feel the tension rising among the good people of Fabletown as they prepare for the big conflict with The Adversary, which we're being set up to think is Geppetto, and just might be...but my money's on the Blue Fairy. This issue is another successful chapter of the best arc in this series yet. Keep your fingers crossed...A

More angst amongst our beleaguered group of zombie apocalypse survivors, as they deal with the aftermath of the climactic events of last issue and we also get some interesting new additions to the cast. Also new is artist Charlie Adlard, with whom I'm quite familar now, thankyouverymuch. For my money, he's done his best art job yet, turning in an effort which reminds me somewhat of Walt Simonson here and there, and some of the better 70-s-80's Warren Filipino artists in others. This helps ease the sting of losing Tony Moore and ensures many more issues of the best zombie soap opera in recent memory. As long as sales hold out, that is. A-

Ah, nice to have ya back, Ed. Rucka's OK, but Brubaker shines on this book and makes it that much more worth reading. We get a handy recap of Brubaker's last stint, accompanied by a "...previously on Gotham Central..." that I defy you to read and not hear a TV announcer's voice intoning the words, plus the beginning of a story which begins with a hostage situation in a bank that ends tragically, then works in a recently-absentee member of the Bat-cast, then gives us a clue to what's really going on with the hostage taker which promises to be interesting even if it is kinda reminiscent of a storyline from the Rucka/Martinbrough Detective run of a few years ago, ironically enough. It's also wonderful to have Mike Lark back- I missed him more than I did Ed. A-

H-E-R-O 16
After a few months of scuffling along, this title has been re-energized with the return of Robby Reed and # 1-4's lead Jerry Feldon, who are both sporting residual abilities from their previous exposure to the H-E-R-O dial and are apparently on track to mix it up with its current psychopathic possessor. Writer Wil Pfiefer certainly seems re-energized, anyway, since there's been more wit and drama in the two previous issues than in the last four or five put together. I still miss original artist Kano, but this Dale Eaglesham chap, while occasionally stiff and a little too slickly inked, is more than good enough. We also get one of the more imaginative and grisly murders I remember seeing in mainstream comics, even though we don't see a drop of blood. The Spectre, or perhaps Dr. Phibes, would be proud. A-

This book's greatest strength is also its greatest failing- it's a typically witty Chaykinish romp, as filtered through writer David Tischman- who by now has aping the master down to a tee. The problem, however, is that it's a typically witty Chaykinish romp- and we've read this a thousand times already, right down to the snarky quips, cynical attitude, and irreverence towards religious figures and mainstream morality. Still, the Vampire Mafioso concept hasn't exactly been done to death yet (even though it's been used as recently as Alan Moore's sorely missed Top 10), and I'm enjoying it like I would a McDonald's hamburger- I know I could be doing better, but hey, it tastes good anyway. Even more mystifying is how well David Hahn's cutesy, prissy art style works in the context of what he's being asked to illustrate; it's more Trina Robbins-ish or Dan DeCarlo-like than you think the ideal approach for this subject matter should be...but somehow it works just the same. Here's hoping that this comic continues to defy all the dictates of logic for at least four more issues. B+

Well, you see, I met this woman at the comics shop and she suggested I buy this...and suddenly, I couldn't help myself! I was also feeling the strange urge to buy a gun and open fire in a crowded store, but I managed to fight that one off. All seriousness aside, this was an impulse purchase based on the fact that this seems to be Marvel's answer to Powers and Gotham Central, and I like both of those books, so what the hell, thought I. A bit more mature in tone than I was expecting from Marvel at this particular point in time, and nicely drawn, but I don't really feel the characters like I do in the aforementioned competitor's cop books, and that becomes a liability. It picked up a bit after the opening park scene, though, and this Bishop character looks interesting (yes, I know that he's been in X-Books forever, but remember, I went from '84 till 2000 without buying any X-titles on a regular basis so I don't really have a clue what he's all about) so this might be a title worth keeping an eye on. B

Almost not not-bad little noirish tale with the clever twist that the narrator isn't a hard-boiled private dick- he just dresses like one. He encounters a suicidal young lady in the bar where he likes to unwind after work, and complications, as they end to do in these sort of tales, ensue. I thought writer Chris Gumprich did a fine job of maintaining the Hammett/Spillaneish tone, providing the sort of dialogue and narration we expect, but not going overboard with the cliches like many people who attempt this sort of thing do. He's undercut a lot, though, by artist Dwight Williams, whose art is, sadly, just not professional enough to get the most out of Gumprich's scripting. It's not that he's without talent- his layouts and compositins within panels looked pretty good, but he just can't draw people convincingly right now. His art here kinda reminds me a lot of the fanzine art I used to see of illustrators who are doing, or have done, amazing things eventually, so I strongly encourage him to practice, practice, practice. I don't know how old these guys are, but I'm sure there's time for improvement, especially in Willams' case...and Gumprich might be ready now. C+

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