Sunday, October 03, 2004


What I bought and what I thought, week of September 29

Well, there certainly were more high-falutin' and meaningful comics released this week, but this is the one I was most entertained by. Artist Jock makes a welcome return to full art duties, and Diggle's script seems more energized (especially the sharp dialogue) as a result. Even the ideological exchange between Max and Clay at the end is well-done, and usually that sort of thing just dies on the printed page- witness Ex Machina's artist's screed in the most recent issue. Of course, the fact that he's finally getting around to giving us the gory details about how our boys came to the state we found them in at the beginning of the run may have a little to do with it. If low sales are gonna do this book in, at least it looks like the guys are gearing up to go out with guns ablaze. A

Despite the fact that this series as a whole just felt too stretched-out and really kinda bit off more than it could chew, it still is a great success due to the Herculean efforts of artist Darwyn Cooke, who does such a wonderful job of bringing writer Darwyn Cooke's story to glorious, hyperkinetic, dynamic (and a host of other adjectives) life. It takes a Kennedy speech at the end to finally provide some of the resonance that Cooke was shooting for all along, but it seems a little disconnected from the rest of the series. Still, for my money this has been an entertaining exercise in nostalgia, and while I seriously doubt it will ever be considered among the groundbreaking works in comics history, I think it certainly achieved what it set out to do- tell a cracking adventure yarn with giant monsters and lots of superheroes. Plus, we get a dinner-jacket-wearing Phantom Stranger, displaying a welcome sense of humor and sporting Zatanna on his arm. Oh, Strangey- we had no idea that you were such a smoothie! This issue: A-. Entire series: A-.

Another anniversary-retrospective type issue, all solemn and dramatic but sporting excellent contributions from several disparate artists which leavens the leaden somewhat. Regular artist Alex Maleev gets the first page, then gives way to an unrecognizable Mike Golden, some Alex Rossish painted art-with-text by Greg Land, idiosyncratic-as-always Craig Russell (y'know, seeing Russell illustrate superhero comics these days is a lot like hearing Kiri Te Kanawa sing "Oops, I Did it Again"), solid Ande Parks-Phil Hester, legible-for-once Chris Bachalo, then a few pinups by Jae Lee (dull for him), Fabry-ish David Finch, and a somewhat unrecognizable Frank Quitely before finishing up with Maleev again, all in service to a Bendis script which purports to show us what happened to DD during his "Kingpin year" as he interacts with a different superhero in each segment (although it's more like Spidey and Ben Urich in one). Best of show: the atypically humorous Dr. Strange interlude. Another nicely done issue, and the choir is preached to yet again. A-

The early 60s DC's answer to John Carter of Mars is back with another spanking new miniseries, by none other than The Losers' Andy Diggle. Mostly scene setting in this first issue, mostly OK although the stereotypically hardheaded tough ethnic cop really got on my nerves and I kept wondering why Strange couldn't have someone (or couldn't do it himself) contact the JLA during his why they hauled his ass into the station in the first place and attempted to arrest him simply for finding an in-costume photo at the site of his exploded apartment building. Nicely drawn by Pascual Ferry, whose work I don't remember seeing for some time now and I certainly didn't remember being all soft-focus and thin-lined. Pretty good start, and they must be doing something right to have me interested in a character that never interested me much, even when I was a little, easily-impressed kid. B+

You guessed it- another anniversary issue with flashbacks and retrospection the order of the day. Well, not quite retrospection- what writer Mike Carey is doing is using the bargain JC made with the demon at the end of last issue as a springboard for an upcoming story arc. What we get are three "what-if"-is scenarios which reunite John with Kit, Zed, and others who have meant something to him in the past, and they're fantasies which all end kinda unpleasantly for our "hero". It's well done, as far as it goes, but the end result's kinda shrug-inducing...Carey's just not having a good month, I'm afraid. As is the routine these days with this sort of anniversary issue, we get multiple artists such as Steve Dillon, arguably still the best artist this title's ever had; Marcelo Frusin, who quickly became my favorite and will be missed; and upcoming regular Leo Manco, whose work just doesn't grab me like it did in those halcyon Hellstorm days, but is serviceable enough, I suppose. Wow. 200 issues. Seems like only yesterday that we first saw Johnny boy standing in the shadows, smoking a cigarette and wearing his standard overcoat in Swamp Thing- and hey! Doesn't he look like that singer from the Police, Sting is his name! How time flies. B

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