Sunday, February 20, 2005

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What I bought and what I thought, week of February 16!

100 BULLETS 58
Major plot developments this issue, as we get a surprising death, more insight into the pecking order of the Minutemen and the Trust, and an unexpected twist involving a character that's been around since the very beginning. Nice to see this book moving forward with purpose again. A

In which Alan Moore helpfully provides a summing up of everything he's tried to enlighten his audience about for the last 22 or issues, and is thankfully entertaining and not too obtuse about it. More than anything, this winning coda is a tour-de-force for artist J.H. Williams, who gives us a bright, colorful, trippy visual accompaniment, and even sneaks a little cheesecake in just so the whole thing doesn't float away into the ether. Although this comic certainly didn't go in the direction I thought it would when it started (remember early on when everyone regarded it as a Wonder Woman ripoff?), and I'm not 100% convinced that it would have taken the path it did if sales had been better, it's been an enchanting, fascinating, often gripping trip, always spectacularly and lavishly illustrated. And if we are to accept the gist of what Moore's saying, this has been as close to a genuine religious experience as this stubborn skeptic could possibly hope for. A

The good guys and the bad guys get a bit more definition and the basic conflict is further enhanced in this deliberately paced serial which will most likely read better collected, but I can't help it- I'm an impatient cuss. Some have opined that Ellis is falling back on formula here, especially dialogue-wise, but I've read my share of his prior work and I find it as witty and concise here as ever. To-may-to and toe-mah-toe, I guess. Anyway, it's not Ellis' show in the first place- Ocean is first and foremost a showcase for the stellar art of Chris Sprouse and Karl Story. A-

I can't resist the good-natured Henny Youngmanisms of Giffen and Dematteis' Justice League; they should include a CD with rimshots and canned laughter with each first issue. And despite the dark shadow cast over this opening chapter by Identity Fiasco I still laughed out loud in several places and was hugely entertained throughout- and was genuinely surprised at the ending. I must have been one of the few. Anyway, always great to see this much Kevin Maguire art in one place, facile and solid in spite of the inconsistent inks of Joe Rubenstein, and I can't not mention the new colorist, David Baron, who is a colossal improvement over the previous colorist and gives us as good a job on a superhero book as I've seen lately. A-

I'm a sucker for Adam Warren's art, and his scripting when he's in full-bore futuristic technospeak mode. Unfortunately, he's only writing this one, but colleague Rick Mays, whose art I hated on the Paul Dini Zatanna one shot of a year or so ago, manages to ape his work well enough to get by. And sure, this is one big getting-acquainted infodump, with tons of expository dialogue (which normally causes me to gnash my teeth) but by gosh, at least it's cleverly written and lively, and he throws us a nifty curve when he reveals the true nature of one of the principals. So far, I like. A-

The Hulk on trial, huh? Now where have I heard that one before? Guess he figures his contemptible readers don't have memories that go that far back. Anyway, the trial happens, relationships between the fractious team break down further as they zing and snark among each other in admittedly entertaining fashion, and Mark Millar stops boning his fans long enough to give us a contrived, cliched "Of course- how else could it end?" resolution. Well, maybe he didn't stop after all. Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary contribute their usual dynamic, expansive illustrations. B+

After a slow stretch, Mike Carey turns his attention towards a character he seems to have a strong interest in, cabaret singer slash supernatural baby receptacle Jill Presto, and this opening chapter of the latest arc starts promisingly. Peter Gross and Ryan Kelly are back on the art chores, and they're as competent as ever. B+

Speaking of slow stretches, this arc is FINALLY over. Bendis took seemingly forever and two weeks to essentially launch his new White Tiger, and you can't tell me that the resolution here was a surprise to anybody. Still, all said, this arc didn't stink, it was just too padded and convoluted, and Alex Maleev tried really hard to vary things up, succeeding as often as he failed- and while no classic, was good enough, all things considered. B+

We seem to be in a stretch in this Blade Runner knockoff where we, the readers, have already figured out most of the plot and now we have to wait around for the characters to put it all together...and I don't have a whole lot of patience for that sort of thing. I don't like to bail on limited series, especially after I've read half of it, so I'm sticking around- but I want to see more than I've gotten so far. B-

MIA- Jack Staff 7 and Amazing Joy Buzzards 2.

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