Saturday, October 23, 2004


What I bought and what I thought, week of October 20!

I suppose that, yes, this is another story told in the "decompressed" style that is so reviled by (apparently) cost-conscious (or attention-span challenged) comics readers everywhere. And it's true, this mostly introductory episode unfolds slowly, but it does so in grand fashion- buoyed by typically outstanding art by the underrated Chris Sprouse. 100 years from now, in a future in which space travel is routine, we're introduced to our protagonist- the non-nonsense United Nations special weapons inspector Nathan Kane, who is called upon to investigate the discovery of a multitude of coffins in the oceans of Jupiter's moon Europa. Through typically terse Warren Ellis dialogue we find out a little at a time about Kane- tidbits about his childhood, his aversion to guns, and his interest in ancient Earth space travel. He's also a bad mother shut-your-mouth, both in a scuffle on Mars, and with the ladies. Even though this reminds me a lot of 2001: A Space Odyssey at the beginning, 1979's High Noon-in-space Sean Connery vehicle Outland, and even Sprouse's 1992 DC comics debut Hammer Locke, I was captivated and fascinated from word one, aided in no small part by that expansive, dramatic Sprouse art, and I'm really looking forward to how this plays out. Don't get me wrong, I don't like reading 22 pages of nothing much any more than the next fanboy or -girl, but Ellis & Sprouse's deceptively placid Ocean is an exception to the rule. I wonder if they ever do an issue 11, if it will feature a space casino of some kind... A

Kyle Baker's been getting in some pretty good shots at the current government lately, and this issue's full of them. While attempting to clone Superman, President Lex Luthor gets his brain switched with a frog's (don't ask, just go with it) and Washington calls in Plas to impersonate Lex. Of course, much quality jollity ensues. The ending gets a little too chaotic for me, but everything else is hilarious and clever- and I personally feel like the bit where Superman uses his heat vision to melt Luthor's belt, causing his trousers to fall down should be in continuity. A-

If you need further proof of how important visuals are to my enjoyment of comics, then here's exhibit Z. The last few issues of Lucifer have been kinda disappointing, as if Mike Carey didn't have a good handle on how to finish his last storyline and just batted one out for expediency's sake...and I'm lukewarm to the Peter Gross/Ryan Kelly team at best, which doesn't help. Marc Hempel, an artist whose bizarre, expressionistic style I love, is on board for this issue, and man, what a difference. It also helps that Carey revisits Rudd and Lys, those interesting Hell-ish adversaries introduced a while back, and takes their story a notch or two further. I hope Hempel sticks around for a while. A-

The death toll mounts as Brad Meltzer gives up the identity of the killer...or does he? Never was much of a Firestorm fan, nor am I interested in what's going on in Robin, but here I care thanks to some fine dramatics. And I'm still no closer to figuring out what's really going on- he seems to be determined to string us along until the bitter end. Rags Morales turns in another outstanding job, reining in the tendency towards bizarre, distracting facial expressions that have marred earlier issues and as always excelling on the action scenes. Not the most pleasant drive, but I'm enjoying the trip for the most part. A-

H-E-R-O 21
Another hitting, shouting and fighting issue, which hasn't exactly thrilled me in the previous hitting, shouting and fighting installments of this final story arc. Still, this isn't too bad for a hitting, shouting and fighting issue- and we even get a modicum of plot advancement, always a bonus in these situations. Many lament Will Pfiefer's decision to get away from vignettes involving ordinary people who find the H-Dial; me, I'm kinda glad he chose this tack- it will give us who've been there from issue 1 some closure. B

Different strokes and all that...many find Pete Milligan's Target stories gripping explorations of duality, personality, and all kinds of Freudian and psychological things. Me, the longer I read, the less convinced I am and my disbelief-stretching mechanisms are always taxed to the breaking point. I just can't identify all that much with Milligan's Chris Chance, and so his inner turmoil just doesn't register. The situations he finds himself in and the decisions he makes are often clever and unexpected, but aren't always convincing, plausible, or even make sense sometimes. Human Target just isn't working for me anymore, hasn't for a long time now, and I'm thinking perhaps it's time for me to move on. Can't fault artist Cliff Chiang, though- he's never as solid as he is on this book. I'll buy one more to see how this is resolved, then I'm done. C+

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