Sunday, July 25, 2004


What I bought and what I thought, week of July 21

Ho hum. Another month, another issue of Daredevil at the top of my weekly ratings pile. I've read three dozen or more reasons, in a variety of places, why Bendis' writing is subpar, why everyone who doesn't think so is blinded by some sort of cult of personality or just doesn't know shit from shinola, and this comic I suppose I'm either an idiot or just a contrary mofo because nine times out of ten, when I crack open the new DD by Bendis and Maleev, I'm hooked from page one. This issue extends the situations in which Matt deals with his divorce from Milla and having the Black Widow using him, essentially, for cover from the political machinations of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the US government. The former is represented in a five page sequence made up of two conversations with the Widow and Foggy Nelson, the latter by a humorous conversation between a general and the director of the CIA on pages two and three. Mr. B even throws the fanboys a bone by letting DD and the BW put on thier suits, leap around, and hit someone. Alex Maleev turns in another fine job, as usual better with the conversations and mood than the leaping and hitting. If I must critcize, I suppose that one could say that the proceedings have a somewhat lugubrious pace, but that doesn't bother me. And the beat goes on, dee dee dee. A

Mike Carey is once again taking all his standard mythological and theological, not to mention Gaimanological, ingredients and is cooking up a stew in which the titular character must needs deal with some particularly nasty dieties who are roaming around killing people for some unclear-as-yet motive even as existence ("our" existence, anyway, and not Luci's universe) slowly unravels. I think Carey does very well by all of Gaiman's concepts, and of course has few peers these days in mainstream comics when it comes to dialogue and character interaction. I especially enjoyed the Lucifer-Destiny confrontation at the end. The Gross/Kelly art team turns in its usual solid, if not terribly exciting, job. Nice cover by Chris Moeller, which reminds me a little of the cover theme DC adopted for all its covers about 5 or 6 years ago. When Mike Kaluta begins his cover run, I'm going to be having severe 90's run of Books of Magic flashbacks. A-

The theme, speaking of themes, for this week seems to be "consistency", like in that I always seem to be saying the same things each month. As usual with Milligan's Human Target, I find some plot point or another which leaves me skeptical and unbelieving (besides my usual misgivings about the core conceit behind the Christopher Chance character in the first place), and this issue, it's love interest Mary White's secret life as a "family reuniter", which, admittedly, she glibly explains early on...but I'm still unconvinced at the likelihood that a Hollywood producer's wife (or anyone, for that matter), regardless of how deep their pockets were or how connected they were, could become such a player in a very nasty, dead serious game in such a short amount of time. Oh well, as usual, I just take a deep breath, activate my secret "disbelief suspension" abilities, and find myself enjoying a tautly written thriller with some interesting characters (such as the downright reprehensible slave-trading brothers) and a genuinely tension-filled cliffhanger. Javier Pulido's deceptively simplistic but always outstanding art helps me with this a lot. A-

I am by no means one of those who expects a happy ending or even a favorable resoultion out of his fantasy fiction, even fantasy fiction dressed in social commentary's clothes, but Grant's finale here is so distressingly downbeat, so bleak, and so defeated that my reaction to this, the final issue, was one of disappointment, stunned disbelief even...then concern for Grant's psyche. Now, I realize that Morrison works on a lot of different levels, and I fully concede that I may be missing, or completely misinterpreting the point...but the impression I got from the ending of this issue is that no matter what you do, how many adventures you want to have, how enlightened you may become, and how many good works you may do for whatever cause, it will all come to naught and is ultimately pointless because the system that stifles individualism and creativity will eventually grind you under its benign heel as sure as rain is wet and heat is hot. And I don't know about all of you, but that's the last little moral I expected to get from our Grant. Which makes me suspect that I did indeed miss something. Maybe re-readings will bring ths out, but for now all I can do is shake my head and hope Grant gets a little optimism back into his life and work, whether or not it can make any difference against the machinations of Mickey Eye. One thing I do know- Cameron Stewart did a wonderful, imaginative job of illustrating the epic proceedings. A-. Entire series: A-

Funny. All I ever read, and I suspect that this is a kneejerk reaction sometimes, is how convoluted and hard to follow Joe Kelly's scripts are. And it's not always unwarranted- internal logic and sequential clarity are not always Joe's first priority. This being said, I found the debut issue of Kelly's Authority-lite superteam surprisingly easy to keep up with. Of course, his dialogue and characterization is always sharp, even though most of these new characters haven't made a real impression on me yet, except for Jenny- I mean Vera- who seems to have the requisite bad attitude that the role she fills requires. I found myself liking the unpleasant, arrogant Naif character, who seems to be a liason of some sort for the group. He gets many of the best lines. I'm hoping that Joe K can keep it up for 11 more issues. The art? Oh yeah, I liked the art. Very much, thank you. A-

Brian Vaughn and Tony Harris spend three-quarters of this issue continuing to set the stage for what I assume will be the future conflicts and relationships our Superhero mayor will be dealing with in time, then abruptly shoehorn in an attempt to discuss the nature of confrontational art, which is a worthy enough goal, I suppose, and the image (a portrait of Lincoln with the N-word emblazoned in the foreground) is certainly provocative (especially if you're a Civil War scholar, I suppose, or were alive in 1865), but the effect of shoving this in from left field is to leave you scratching your head and wondering "What's this got to do with that?" Guess it's just me, but as with Vaughn's Swamp Thing and Y: The Last Man, there's just a blandness about his scripting that keeps me from getting hooked by the stories he writes. Fortunately, he has a capable, imaginative artist in Tony Harris to illustrate his scripts, unlike before, and that makes a huge difference...especially when Harris manages to match his characters' facial expressions to the events they're supposed to be reacting to, a neat trick he sometimes fails to do. B

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