Sunday, May 02, 2004

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What I bought and what I thought, week of April 28!

What more can I say about this book? It works, and works extraordinarily well at every level, as character study, drama, spy-thriller and action thriller. And writer Diggle even manages to get some gallows humor in when you least expect it- as in the case of Clay & Aisha's brief "zero bodycount" discussion. And you know a book's got it going on when a telephone discussion is as fascinating as any of the big shoot-em-up scenes. Artist Jock absolutely shines, especially during the aforementioned telephone conversation between interesting new character Stegler and his boss, and also the aerial scenes in which Pooch tries to evade a stinger missile- we even get a "wow"-inducing two page spread in that one. Even Lee Loughridge seemes to be inspired to excellence- the scenes inside the dormant (at the time) volcano, all dark greenish-blues and yellows, and the outdoor scenes, all yellow, subdued red and orange, are positively beautiful. Jock also gives us another stellar cover, with exciting perspective and refreshing humor, effectively serving as a big fat FU to those who piss and moan about the lack of word balloons and copy on their comic book covers. For the life of me, I don't know why more people aren't reading this series. Guess it's because of the lack of black leather and tights. And clich├ęs. A

Clever little romance book, set against a world in which superheroes exist and focusing on the people who make a living chronicling their exploits. Jack, who pencils the adventures of big cheese super-guy the Flamer (I suppose calling him the Homosexual would have been too obvious), meets cute young intern at superhero gossip magazine Expose, who aspires to be a feature writer. Complications ensue, of course, aggrivated by the fact that every story Nora writes causes publicity problems for the Flamer, which in turn affects Jack's livelihood. Plus, Jack has an intelligent cat with superpowers of his own, unclear motivations, and the apparent determination to interfere as much as possible in his owner's love life. If this all comes across as a wee bit quirky-cutesy, that's OK, because Watson tempers it a lot with several nice sight gags, and also throws in a skewering of the Vince Colletta school of comic book inking, some shots at the comics business, and even manages a jab at himself- specifically his previous Breakfast After Noon series. Good stuff, and really-I don't mind the deceptive simpleness of Watson's work because he can say more with a few slender lines and some chalk-ish tone effects than many professionals can say with a thousand strokes and a whole battalion of Photoshop filters. A

It's a given that any project involving Rude art is going to be skillfully illustrated, and Rude's in top form here, even better (I think) than on the debut one-shot a month or so. The difference maker is going to be the scripting, by inker Gary Martin- and I'm pleased to report that he's managed to avoid the clumsiness of the one shot this time out. The alleyway scene with the Moth, Nestor and the Weasel was snappy and even funny in places. And if new character American Liberty reminds me a lot of American Maid from the Tick, well, that's just the underlying wackiness of this whole concept asserting itself in my head. A-

Can't really say what seperates this from your run-of-the-mill issue of Batman Adventures, or whatever they're calling it these days, except that it's actually drawn by Bruce Timm for once, and we get a neat little somewhat playful women's prison-catfight shower scene that would fit in nicely with any exploitation flicks of the Chained Heat-Switchblade Sisters school, which is not exactly PC but churlish boor that I am, found amusing. Other than that, this is a pretty routine Batman vs. Harley and Poison Ivy story, one we've seen a hundred times before, and is saved from being a snoozer by the storytelling skills of Timm and writer Paul Dini. Perhaps the apparent change of scenery we'll see next issue will elevate this somewhat. In the meantime, as much as I love Timm's art, and I do love Timm's art-I sincerely hope that the women in his life (or at least the women he may employ as models) don't all have boobs shaped like bananas like Harl & Ivy sport on the cover. B+

In which another routine "John has amnesia and can't remember who he is, but he's in trouble and he better remember fast!" story gets a sudden goose from a two page guest appearance by the Phantom Stranger, of all people, that makes me wish that Mike Carey could be tabbed to try his hand at a PS miniseries or something. Guest (and from what I hear, upcomng regular) artist Leo Manco gets juiced by this script turn as well, turning in art in the style I used to love when he drew Warren Ellis' excellent Hellstorm from so long ago for the Stranger's cameo. All right, everyone's in trouble, especially John and longsuffering Chas, and since we all know JC's gonna get his memory back I hope he does it quick and we get to move on to fresher storylines. B+

I've seen a lot of references in other reviews to the notion that "Marvel can't count" because there were only actually five bad guys in this...but see, kiddies, the sixth member of the Ultimate Six was supposed to be Spider-Man, as shown on the cover. But of course, Spidey didn't play, and the Ultimate Six was pretty much one short for the duration of this not-bad, not especially good series. All the Ultimates ingredients were there, including terse dialogue (verbosity just isn't in Bendis' repertoire, thank God) and cinematic Hitch-ish art by Trevor Hairsine and Danny Miki, but the end result feels padded and rushed all at once somehow. Oh well, this could have been better, but it also could have been much worse. B+

As much as I like the lead characters and the world in which they're operating, I fear the low-key approach taken by writer John Rozum on this (seemingly) make-or-break second shot at success for his brainchildren may have hurt more than helped its chance to reach a larger market. There is a lot happening in this series, much of it clever, but it's strangely uninvolving despite some really nice and imaginative, if somewhat subdued, art by Paul Lee. B