Sunday, August 01, 2004


What I bought and what I thought, week of July 28

Despite the fact that this is yet another static and ambiguous story featuring somewhat unlikeable characters (both come across as self-absorbed, the female frustratingly abstruse and her boyfriend equally frustratingly clueless)...this still was the best comic I read this week, thanks in large part to the wonderful Paul Pope-ish art of Becky Cloonan, who provides this tale of a suicide's mix tape and the effect it has on her surviving lover with a melancholy beauty, like a grey day in February. It's the most evocative illustration job I've seen in a while, and it really brought out the empty, lonely feeling that the character must have been experiencing. For this reason, this issue impressed itself on me more than any others that I read this week, and for once I'm not left wondering "Is she a ghost?" "Is this all in the dude's head as he's listening to the tape?" "Who has the extraordinary power in this issue?" "Is it the guy, with the ability to "see dead people"?" "Is it the girl, who can create mix tapes that make you see dead people?" It doesn't matter. The story is told, empathy is created, mood is strongly evoked, and I give this an A 'cause I'm just like that sometimes.

In which Darwyn Cooke does a big sprawling Kirby-ish monster comic, and we also get more in-depth in regards to that ridiculous Green Battery character. In fact, for some reason Cooke seems to have a real affinity and admiration for this most preposterous of costumed characters. Go figure. Anyway, Superman makes an inspiring speech, surely as big a part of his repertoire of powers as is flight and heat vision, we get an eyebrow-arching interlude with Batman and his youthful ward/crimefighting partner Robin, Aquaman appears for no real discernable reason, and J'onn J'onzz finds a most unlikely friend and partner. Plus- the Sea Devils! The Blackhawks! Cool! Cooke's paying tribute and trying to tell a story all at the same time, and for the most part he does so with vigor and imagination (like the blood in Wonder Woman's invisible plane)...and I could nit-pick with the story structure (I'm really wondering if there was a point to that John Henry business), but for my money this is great and grand entertainment, everything that it was promised to be when it was announced. A

AKA the kick-ass adventures of Deena Pilgrim, who lays some serious wood on last issue's cop killer and gets all the best scenes in the process. We also find out more about last issue's climactic surprise appearance of the supposedly-dead superheroine. And that's about it! As always, tightly written, sharply dialogued, and very well drawn. In short, more of the reason why people who dig this comic, well, dig this comic...and I know that many will disagree with most of those claims, but there you go. No accounting for taste. A-

It's funny. Nine times out of ten, I have less than no patience with stories in which the hero or heroine is suffering from amnesia, and if...they...could...only...remember... then they could extricate themselves from whatever heinous situation they find themselves in, which is exactly how Mike Carey's set up good ol' Conjob for the last few issues- and funny thing is, I'm really liking this storyline in spite of it all! An adversary from several issues back in Carey's run has returned, and has some terrible stuff in store for his surprise victim, and apparently John can't do a thing to save himself...and I'll be darned if I know how he's gonna come out alive. Of couse I know he will, but it's nice, the not knowing how. Also, another splendid artjob by Marcelo Frusin, who is now on the short list, I would imagine, of all-time best JC illustrators. A-

Poor Richard Sala. He does issue after issue of whimsical, weird, extremely well illustrated comics and all everyone wants to talk about is Clowes and Ware and Sacco and the Bros. and... But fortunately for all of us who are attuned to his wiggy wavelength, Sala carries on undeterred. This issue features the big grande finale to his gnarly serial "Reflections in a Glass Scorpion", and I'm afraid that I have to state for the record that after one chapter per issue for the last two years, I have kinda gotten a bit fuzzy on who's who and what's what, and why people were getting killed and what secret they were dying to protect and all that, so it kinda blunted my enthusiasm and enjoyment of this book-length denouement just a little. But still, that art is as good as ever and we get excellent front and back (this one looks like he's been watching Van Helsing) covers of EE mainstay Peculia, plus a great spot drawing on the inside front cover ad for Sala's other Fantagraphics publications. Did I mention that I am an intese admirer of Sala's depictions of the female form? Well worth it for me; others might not share my enthusiasm. A-

Well, the peevish fanboy in me wants to say that no book that comes out as infrequently as this one does should be so gorram slowly paced...but that's just nitpicking. I'm sure it will read better in collected form. Anyway, we get our first good look at the Ben Grimm anagram of the Fantastic Four-gone-bad that our heroes are is dealing with, just in time for them to sent him rocketing into space. Or at least that's what I think they did with him; the finale of this ish was just a tad hard to follow. Bitching aside, this is, for the most part, as well-written and drawn as always, and Cassaday in particular has some really nice moments. But for once, Ellis' glum and terse tone works against him- it's hard to be wide-eyed and blasé at the same time, and he does not succeed at all this time out. B+

Nick Dragotta, nice to meet you. Now please go away and don't come back. His awkward, too-broad art style has simply ruined the last two issues, which in more capable hands could have been a lot more rousing, if nothing else. Nothing wrong with the story, which focuses on straight-shooting CIA man Marvin Stegler more than it does the titular characters, and also gives us a nice scene in which he meets Clay for the first time. Can't win 'em all, I suppose, and the next issue should be better with Ale Garza's art...but Jock can't come back fast enough for me. B+

Boy, aren't those Tara McPherson covers great?

Oh. What did I think about the rest of the book? An interesting premise and characters rendered completely unremarkable by the bland art stylings of Leigh Gallagher and Ron Randall. Don't know why the braintrust at Vertigo seems to think that a relatively large amount of readers like this bland, competent, unimaginative and somewhat stiff art, best typified by Y: The Last Man's Pia Guerra, Lucifer's Peter Gross (who has, admittedly, gotten a lot better over the last few years) and Jesus Saiz, who did the first Midnight, Mass. series...but it seems like that if there's a Vertigo house style, then this be it, and that's not a good thing as far as I'm concerned. It doesn't help that writer Jonathan Vankin has no real affinity for the sort of dialogue that would help this rise above mediocrity-one wishes for some genuinely witty repartee, especially from Lucifer, who just seems kinda out of place here. Maybe this will improve, but I won't stand on one leg waiting. C+

MIA: Sleeper Season Two 2. My shop received damaged copies and I'll get mine next week. So they say.

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