Saturday, January 29, 2005

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What I bought and what I thought, week of January 26

I'm tellin' ya, comics-wise, weeks like this one- in which everything I read was good-to-great-to-phenomenal- are few and far between. Kinda makes up for the last few, which have had more than a few disappointments.

WE3 3
I wonder if there has been a slight spike in pet toys and premium food since this issue was released? Anyway, it's been a while since I was put on the edge of my seat and moved to shed a tear by a funnybook, but this one did it, no doubt about it. For once reining in his tendency towards convolution, (which is not to say that there aren't more than a few layers with which to occupy oneself, if you're thataway inclined...) Grant Morrison has certainly succeeded in his stated intent to give us "Disney with claws", crafting an engaging, unpretentious (well, OK, maybe it's a smidge pretentious, but not in a bad way) action tale. He's aided in no small measure by Frank Quitely's dynamic, elegant action scenes and his solid layouts and pacing. We even get a laugh in the midst of the tension, courtesy of the damaged bunnybot Pirate. The full-page panel which showed Tinker leaping at the WE4 is flat out thrilling in its abrupt perspective and its timing within the story. I was shocked by the death of Dr. Berry- didn't quite see that coming. I could quibble a bit, I suppose- it's not totally clear how the animals survived once they shed their armor, or for that matter how they managed to do so in the first place since the homeless guy was interrupted before he could get his tools, nor does it seem likely that they could battle as savagely in the condition they were in...but then again, that's a staple of heroic fiction, isn't it- the valiant, "let's-give-it-all-we-got" last-gasp struggle. I'm also a little fuzzy on how Bandit and Tinker ended up with the homeless dude; it looked like they were found in the basement by a soldier, judging by the boots, and I would have thought the military would shoot first and ask questions later, not give them to a good home...but these are very minor things indeed. I had listed WE3 in my best of 2004 selections, and it's already secured a spot in the 2005 list as well. I never thought Morrison and/or Quitely would top Flex Mentallo, but this is as close as he's come since in my book. I just hope and pray Hollywood doesn't get their hands on this. A real winner, and it would seem to me that only the most heartless of cynics would fail to be moved. Too bad, their loss. For a couple of excellent, far-more-in-depth-than-I-could-provide reviews, visit Jog and Ian (Twice). A+ Entire series: A+.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go feed my dog and cat their steak and fresh fish. Back shortly.

If Jock has got to take breaks, it's nice that we FINALLY get a fill-in artist that's in his league. Ben Wilson is the guy's name, and he's very Jock-esque, not only in his figure drawings but his layout style as well. This time out, we get some real-time face-time with "Max", witness a surprising death that's bound to have repercussions (I would think), witness an equally surprising romantic liaison, and embark on a promising new story arc. Best of the week, if not for WE3. A.

We follow Miss Misery around in this issue, and see that our boy Holden's not the only one who is painted into a corner. One of the many things I love about Sleeper is how just when you think Brubaker's run out of plot twists and directions for the story to go in, he throws you yet another curve from a direction you never even considered. And y'know something else? Sean Phillips is real damn good. A

Nice finale of the debut 3-issue story arc, in which Grant Morrison kicks back and knocks off a superhero story- and it's a corker with a nicely focused finish to balance out the incoherence of the first two. Morrison writes the JLA with a sense of grim purpose that's a few shades different from other writers, and in the context of this book I love the way he depicts Batman especially. I was pretty harsh on the art team of Ed McGuinness and Dexter Vines, with its busy layouts and hyper-muscled figures...and while I still think they didn't help us readers very much when it came to parsing the gnarly script I will say that I really like their rendition of Batman, their Aquaman's not bad either, and they weren't nearly as much of a distraction this time out. I also hope to see more of Beryl Hutchinson somewhere down the road. A-

Warren Ellis takes the opportunity to re-think the Lone Ranger, and darned if I don't kinda like his take. I'm sure the old-school ranger fans won't approve, but really- are there any old-school Ranger fans, anyway? This story wasn't as lively as I would have liked, but it was still solid, and the standard raves about John Cassady's art in service of Ellis' scripts applies. Same as it ever was, as that Byrne fella once said. No, not that Byrne fella. A-

Seeing as how we never got a proper Gorillaz comic book, here's the next best thing, I guess. Ah, Maniaks, we hardly knew ye. The Adventures of Green Day? I dunno. The singer sure looks a lot like Billie Jo Armstrong. Anyway, this is right there in that nutty Scurvy Dogs-style groove and lots of fun, and while I wonder why the Pink Robot didn't just go get repainted, I dug it just the same. And the art, by Dan Hipp, reminded me a lot of Ted Naifeh by way of Mignola by way of Jamie Hewlett and was just fine. Isn't it about time we had a series from Jaime Hernandez featuring Ape Sex? No? Oh, all right. A-

I don't ever think I'm gonna get used to Leo Manco's art on this title; it looks just enough like his work on Hellstorm and Druid to make me wish for more. It's damned distracting, it is! His stuff simply doesn't flow as well as it used to, even though he still can provide adequate mood when called upon to do so. Story-wise, it's a continuation of the "John deals with his demonic offspring" story, and it takes an interesting turn with an unexpected ally, whose identity continues to evade me, much to my annoyance. I'm in a kind of general funk with this title; I'm not bored, and I still want to see how this all turns out, but there's a slight feeling of deja vu going on with me here and I'm just not as excited as I want to be about it. Hope that changes soon. Maybe if Carey has John hunt down Keanu Reeves in the next arc and pull some sort of hoodoo con on him... B+

In the last reboot, Dream Girl was a ditzy airhead who didn't even get to join the Legion until almost the very end; now, she's an ass-kickin' hottie who can foresee an opponent's moves way before he moves them and is right there at the forefront of the new Waid era. More Legionnaires get a showcase so we can see the new and presumably improved spins, and some are better than others- Brainiac 5 is as much of a stick as always, Karate Kid displays a bit more personality than I remember, Shadow Lass less so- plus we get a long look at Dream Girl's homeworld and while it all adds up to an extended stage-setting exercise, at least it kept my interest thanks to, as always, character interaction. I'm still not as crazy about Barry Kitson's stiff and fussy art as some are, and he falls into the trap many before him have run afoul of: the characters he draws look like grown men and women, not the late teens I understood they were supposed to be. I can live with it, though, if Waid keeps up his end of the deal. B+

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