Sunday, September 19, 2004

what I bought and what I thought, week of September 16

Hello! Not listed in last week's Diamond list, but here it is in my holds folder just the same! Kaz Kabuishi dispenses with the Poker lessons this time, and gives us a no-frills chapter which presents Ms Kutter with an opportunity to get her beloved store (which she foolishly lost in a poker game last issue) back by pulling a train job...but is everything as it appears to be on the surface? Kaz allows us to get to know the title character a bit better, which makes her much more likeable in the process. His art walks a tightrope between cartoony-realistic and cartoony-exaggerated, and sometimes it slips off the wire but never falls off completely. The back-feature, about a "Inter-galactic Research Agency" field agent named Lucy Nova, S.E., is a fun, but odd read overall, complete with detailed profiles of the flora and fauna of the planet Lucy is investigating. Writer/artist Jake Parker gives us an appealing character and concept, and fortunately his artwork is up to the task- it's mostly Disneyesque, especially Lucy, but reminiscent of Geoff Darrow when it comes to the big bugs and plants and damned if the robot drone and her space scooter don't look like something from Mike Kaluta's Starstruck. Another solid issue. A

Very efficient and mostly satisfying conclusion to the Black Widow four-parter. Bendis doesn't waste a single word, and Maleev does his usual Malleevian job. Solid and entertaining, if just a shade on the contrived side...unlikely to convert the unconverted but sufficient for the faithful. A-

The emphasis is on characterization this time out rather than sensationalism, and that makes this the most likeable issue to date of this most unlikeable series. Nice exchanges between Green Arrow and Superman, Mister Miracle, and of course Hal Jordan are the glue which holds this installment together, plus I think Meltzer is doing a good job of nudging the mystery plot along without giving away very much at all. A qualified success, par for the course for this series so far. A-

Chris Chance gets mixed up with the figurehead of a religious cult and the organized crime family that said figurehead has pissed off. I was happy to see that Milligan doesn't go for the easy plot choices this time out; Chance misjudges the young figurehead, who doesn't seem like that bad a guy, most of the characters display more than one dimension, and there's a genuinely surprising murder about three quarters into the story. Cliff Chiang's back on art duties this time, and I hate to admit it but I think I prefer his more down-to-earth style on this comic than Javier Pulido's. God knows I love Pulido's work, but there's a certain grounded sensibility that Chiang brings that his more extravagant predecessor, and as a result Milligan's scripts (which tend to be dry and static) flow better. B

You know, really- once you take away the crassness and crudity, and the celebrity lookalikes, how many times have we seen this story before over the last 30 years or so? For those who think Millar's Ultimates is in poor taste, count your blessings, 'cause this is what it would be if not for Marvel's relatively tighter control over its product. It's a tribute to artist J.G. Jones that this hodgepodge is as entertaining as it is...he's one of those rare artists who can take questionable material and make it something better. Of course, unless you get off on f-bombs and scatalogical humor, in which case you probably think I'm full of...well, you know. B-

Sigh. I still contend that there is somebody, somewhere out there that is capable of bringing us an entertaining -hell, even readable- Dr. Strange series, but based on this first issue J. Michael Straczynski, Sara Barnes, and Brandon Peterson ain't them. Hard to say which put me off more- the leaden, talky, soap-opera cliche-lousy script with its lines after lines of expository dialogue (we even get a "Dammit, Stephen" at one point), or the Image-90's-lite art with its awkward perspectives and anatomy, and its scratchy, too-busy ink lines. Purported to be a "re-imagining" or a "fresh look" at the character, about the only fresh wrinkle we get is that we see that the good Doctor had a predilection, in his dissolute years, for threesomes. Oh yeah- he's now a plastic surgeon. How topical and fresh. An almost complete disaster and a huge disappointment, we leave poor Doc Strange crippled after inexplicably deciding that going skiing in pitch darkness was going to help his troubled soul, but I think I know how this is gonna turn out and frankly, I don't give a damn. Someone should smite all involved with a Wand of Watoomb. Nice cover, though. C-

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