Sunday, June 27, 2004


What I bought and what I thought, week of June 23

Funny. I read better-illustrated comics (Wanted) and better-written comics (The Losers) this week, but none of them engaged me like the latest chapter in the saga of John Constantine, amnesiac. Of course, we've been down this road before with ol' Conjob, most notably in the long-ago Ennis/Dillon days, but Mike Carey has been lessening the deja-vu with some sharp dialogue and some interesting trappings like the demon who's following him around offering to give him back his memories. This issue's story framework, a cult centered around a malignant "savior" (ensconced, naturally, in a creepy abandoned church) provides sufficient menace and enough gravity to make me actually wonder, for the umpteenth time, "How the heck does John get out of this". I'm not sure about the demonic cult leader's identity, but I have a suspicion it's someone from a previous arc, one that I didn't particularly care for, and the notion of making recycled characters more interesting appeals to me somehow. I think what puts this issue on top for me, though, is the return of Marcelo Frusin to the art chores. His work is easily the best we've seen here since Sean Phillips left, and I'll hate to see him go, even if it's to make way for Leo Manco. A-

Looks like our MarshallMathers Man "hero" is beginning to show signs of being what passes for a "good guy" in this series after all, as the machinations of Mister Rictus and all the less than benevolent members of the super-baddie community tighten around him. Nicely paced and tightly written, what prevents this (so far) from turning into what passes for a surlier version of Astro City or a perverted version of The Tick is the superlative art of J.G. Jones, who really must be considered one of the best there is these days. Worth mentioning is the awful early 90's Image-style art in the "bonus" preview of the upcoming must-avoid series called Human Kind, which tempted me to dock this comic to a B+. Really, fellas- that sort of thing is not what comics needs right now. A-

Horrors! What is this, the latest issue of what is probably my favorite comics series not named Jack Staff or Promethea, coming in at #3 out of 4? Gadzooks! Anyway, the answer's pretty simple- the fill-in artist left me cold. Somehow Nick Dragotta, who (it says) worked on X-Statix (presumably after I stopped buying), manages to make the energeting, vertiginous layouts of regular artist Jock and change them into some sort of clumsy amalgam of Matt Wagner, Cliff Chiang, and not surpisingly, Mike Allred- and while that may not sound too bad since these are fine artists in their own right- for every nicely drawn panel we get cartoony Sambo faces on Pooch, genie cowboy boots on Cougar that only a Don Martin cartoon character could wear comfortably, and general inconsistency all round. And he's coming back next issue, oh joy. A shame, too, because the Diggle script is as good as ever, with our misfits being shanghaied by Quataris (Quatari Force? Hee) and approached about doing some "work" for them, while the ever-more-interesting Agent Stegler finds his new assignment less and less to his liking. This is not a bad issue, far from it- it reads as well as ever, but the art just kills it. Where's Shawn Martinbrough (the artist that reeled me in to this title in the first place) when you need him? B+

Basically a "getting acquainted" issue, so the jury's still out. The three main characters are interesting enough, and the script by unknown-to-me Jonathan Vankin is fine, if a little convoluted. Bonus points for the unexpected cameo at the end, which explains the "special thanks" credit to Peter Gross. The art, though, is something else again. In penciller Leigh Gallagher (another unknown, to me anyway) and inker Ron Randall we get another of what seems to be the preferred Vertigo style these days...a stiff, mannered, far-too-neat-and-pretty approach that frankly puts a distance between the reader and the characters. Well, this reader anyway. Of course, the MacPherson cover is almost worth the three bucks all by itself. B

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