Sunday, November 14, 2004

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What I bought and what I thought, week of November 10!

In which we find out more about not only the cast, but their adversaries and the nature of the threat they're investigating on a moon of Jupiter. Deliberately paced, not decompressed, with Warren Ellis' usual terse, witty dialogue and perhaps the finest work of Chris Sprouse's (with inker Karl Story) career. Now if I could only stop thinking Stargate when I see page 18... A

100 BULLETS 55
"Wylie Runs the Voodoo Down" gets kinda tragic all of a sudden, with a grisly fate befalling a supporting character- and Brian Azzurello wrings all the pathos possible out of it while tightening up the rest of his New Orleans slash Jazz-themed story arc. Eduardo Risso is, as always, outstanding. First A grade for an issue of 100 Bullets in a long time- hopefully it won't be the last.

I'm really liking this version of Adam; so naturally I find out it's cancelled after next issue. Too bad- Charlie Adlard's Richard Case-by-way-of-Simonson art here is some of the best I've ever seen from him, and writer Greg Pak is doing a great job of working the "great power-great responsibility" theme, along with the ever-popular "horrors of war" as well as the fallacy of the "might makes right" adherents that seem to be so prevalent these days. Janie Chin's heartfelt speech at the end is a remarkably affecting moment. I won't hold my breath waiting for more Pak Warlock, but I will keep my eye on Pak's subsequent work- he's pretty darn good. A

Well, sure, OK, it references the latest big old Batman crossover event, which I've happily ignored, and relies a lot on talking heads to do so...but really, truth be told, hasn't that been what GC has been about, mostly, from day one? Character interaction and dramatics- there were plenty of both, and I for one, got kinda caught up in the whole "removing the Bat-signal and reactions to same" plot hook. A-

Fables being the relatively successful title that it is gives Bill Willingham more leeway, and if he takes four issues to shuffle the deck before he deals out the next game, well, I suppose he's earned the right. Don't know where he intends to go, but it is fun and interesting to read the paces he puts all these fantastical characters through. Penciller Mark Buckingham has improved; it seems like he's really grown into the concept as a whole- but he still draws like Chris Bachalo's inker. And speaking of inkers, ya gotta give props to that ol' hippie Steve Leialoha, who has inked issue after issue, subverting his distinctive, idiosyncratic art style to play Hope to Buckingham's Crosby. Isn't it about time to let him pencil and ink a story of his own? I'd like to see it, anyway. And with all the bitching and griping about how boring and dull covers are, ya gotta love the work of James Jean, who is always excellent- never more so than on this issue. A-

No sooner does DC restore the tarnished reputation of one of its Silver Age icons, than it goes out and trashes the legacy of another. Somehow, I don't think the final answer's going to be as simple as it seems, and please don't misinterpret this as saying that I really care all that much about a character I liked when I was a kid but who has been mostly wasted for many years now...but they better have a pretty damn good explanation in store, that's all I'm sayin'. B+

Kinda conflicted about this mini series as a whole- Chaykin has rarely been better on the art chores, and he does get in a few clever shots, script-wise, at a number of targets. But he was awfully scattershot in doing so, and longtime readers can't help but be aware that he has plowed this particular field many times before. Despite the fact that each issue was overstuffed with characters and visual and verbal onomatopoeia, the series as a whole felt kinda plot-thin to me and might have been better served as a four-issue mini instead. Still, (again) I liked the art a lot, the central conceit was a clever one, and I get a warm feeling thinking how pissed the hard core Kirby-style Challengers fans, the ones who felt that Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale "desecrated" the concept, must be at what Howie's given us. This issue: B+. Entire series: B+

Not bad-not great continuation of Joe Kelly's Authority-lite team's spotlight...the most compelling storyline so far is the romantic triangle between that ol' horndog Green Arrow, magic-guy Manitou Raven, and Raven's long-suffering wife Dawn- and it's given short shrift this time out. Lotta screen time for the gangbangin' Coldcast character and, as usual, Jenny Sparks-I-mean Vera Black, and no sooner do we fail to tie up one storyline than we get plunged into another as they (and a couple of other Elite-ists) go into deep cover yet again to get next to some evil meta-criminal drug dealer or some such, and ooh! The JSA pops in at the end! As always with this book, impeccably drawn, horribly colored, marginally interesting superheroics with some nice characterization and dialogue. And you all know I love me some Mahnke/Nguyen artwork, but somebody shoulda maybe declined to sign off on that cover. That being said, it did remind me of something that might have graced the front of an issue of the sorely missed Major maybe it's not so bad after all. B+

Pacing is beginning to get wonky on this, the thinking man's zombie soap-opera; no sooner does our still-too-large cast get introduced to the farmer and his whole f-ed up situation (barn full of living dead, that sort of thing), than they abruptly fall out and have to move on. This is Kirkman's prerogative; things had kinda come to a head there anyway...but one thinks that there's a lot more story to tell there, which gives that "had to leave the buffet before you were full" feeling. Maybe I should avoid food metaphors when describing stories in which dead people munch down on the living...I'll have to watch that in the future. Charlie Adlard is solid, as always, but one wishes he would beef up the visual cues when depicting the aforementioned burgeoning cast; sometimes I have trouble distinguishing some of the less-obvious survivors. B

Striving for authenticity, writer Gary Phillips drowns this opening chapter with heaping mounds of gratuitous Ebonics, and the effect is more Barbara Billingsley in Airplane! than Snoop Dogg or Chingy, I'm afraid. Hamfisted dialogue aside, what we have here is a kind of Spenser For Hire-type-thing, if Avery Brooks and Robert Urich traded roles for an episode...and the murder mystery doesn't strike me as all that compelling. But we still have a few issues to go, and I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt, as long as Shawn Martinbrough is on board to provide outstanding artwork. Sometimes his figure drawing is a little stiff, but I get a charge out of his almost-expressionistic style, and his deft way of laying out a page.B

Hm. I like Scott Morse's art, but for me it works best when he's trying to keep his subject matter kinda grounded in the real world, where his unusual style enhances rather than distracts. Here, he goes nuts with the visual foo-foo in the service of his own story, and it's a pretty damned silly one- kinda reminiscent of those forgettable third or fourth stories in an old Golden Age Jack Cole-era issue...and no, I didn't buy them off the rack, thankyouverymuch- with none of the sly humor that Kyle Baker usually brings to the table. It got real tiresome, at least to this reader, before it was done. Hurry back, Mr. Baker! Mr. Morse- I'm sure you'll do better next time! C-

I'm due to do a "catch-up" post as well, 'cause I've read a bunch of stuff lately that isn't current. I'm waiting for my run of The Monolith to show up before I commence ta typin'.

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