Saturday, September 04, 2004

What I Bought and What I Thought, Week of September 1st

Gonna try something different here. Instead of aping The Fourth Rail and naming a "best of the week", along with a cover scan of that particular book, I'm gonna try to provide cover scans of each book that I review and drop the "best of" tag altogether. You can just assume that whatever I list first was my favorite book of the week. This will work just peachy this time out, since I only have two comics to review- just wait until I have a week in which I buy eight or ten or so! I'm also mulling over an alternative to the A+ through F grading method, since I stole it from Christgau anyway and I've noticed other comics bloggers doing it too. For lack of a better alternative, I think I'll keep it the way it is for the time being. So anyway, here goes nuttin':

What to make of this issue, which sports a stylistic change abrupt enough to give the reader mental whiplash? We get a banged-up Angel, seriously injured in some mysterious altercation, mixing it up with some nasty Satanists who menace the pacifistic pastor and congregation of an urban church- and it's played absolutely straight without a hint of the absurdist bent of the previous two issues. Guess writer Jim Rugg didn't want SA to get pigeonholed as a Flaming Carrot for the Aughts. Fortunately, the tone lightens a lot towards the end and while this issue doesn't hit quite the same highs of the previous two it does very well with the grim stuff and there's some reassuring nuttiness with Jesus Christ before we're done, which at least lets us know that Rugg isn't going to tip his hand just yet. Another fine, Burdenish art job by Brian Marruca rounds out this expectation-confounding, yet still highly entertaining installment of the Little Indie Book That Could. A

The JL Elite team finishes up a covert action which proves to be a lot messier than they had planned. The new characters still really haven't made much of an impression one way or another, and it's still unclear exactly what, if any, big picture scenario Joe Kelly's setting up. So essentially this is another of those issue-long fight scenes that the Big Two seem to think we love so much, and on that score this isn't bad. Be that as it may, and try as he might, Kelly is never going to be anything more than Warren Ellis Lite- he's doing his very best to give us political commentary all wrapped up in grim-and-gritty superhero action (and yes, I know I used that one phrase, "grim-and-gritty", that I despise), but he just doesn't quite have the same je'nais se quos as Ellis, Frank Miller, or even Garth Ennis. Part of his problem is that he just can't, or doesn't want to, pace a story in a coherent fashion. I'd bet good money that you would not want to go on a road trip with this man if he drives. And this even as I acknowledge that (to me, anyway) JLE represents his most straightforward storytelling that I've read, anyway. This being said, like I always try to point out, what gets Kelly across -to me- is that he does have a knack for characterization and sharp dialogue, and on that score he's right up there with anybody, even Ellis. And that's what I enjoyed most about this issue: the banter between all the characters as they go through their disjointed paces, especially Green Arrow's blatant horndogging on Manitou Raven's wife (hope he doesn't get transformed into a dung beetle for his trouble). Trying mightily to help us poor readers decipher all this is the typically excellent Doug Mahnke/Tom Nguyen team, who (if I had to be objective about it) might possibly have to shoulder a wee bit of the blame for the muddled effect upon occasion. Fortunately, I'm not objective. Another thing, while I'm complaining- the covers for all three issues so far have been unrelentingly dull and unattractively colored. B+

No comments: