Monday, May 02, 2005

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What I bought and what I thought, week of April 27!

As we get ever nearer to that final issue, and the final twists that surely are coming, I can't help but notice that there was a real sense this time of pulling out all the stops with lots of action, both of the spy-thriller and superheroic (Is it me, or does the Grifter's mask look really stupid in this setting?) types, as if the intent is to go out with guns ablaze, both literally and figuratively. Still doesn't stop us from getting a touching, defiant speech from Holden and the sight, courtesy of Sean Phillips, of Tao looking positively bugfuck as he laughs hysterically later on. And, of course, there are more plot twists. Reading this series has often been like watching one of those Pepsi Twist commercials where everybody keeps unzipping their heads. A

Max's big master plan gets clearer in this talky first part of a three-part arc. Nearly every reveal is made in the dialogue, and if that's the way it's got to be at least it's Andy Diggle's sharp repartee that's doing the revealing. Jock is back, and doesn't disappoint- sometimes this sort of tale is more difficult to pull off because if the visuals don't engage the eye, the reader won't be inclined to make the effort. As always, best book nobody's reading...other than Sleeper. The only way that I would slam this title is if Max's last name turns out to be Lord. AAAA! A

Wow. Howard Chaykin gets the spotlight this issue, and doesn't disappoint. Following the EC Comics story template, filtered through his own unique sensibility, he gives us one outstanding short story after another, with the only clunker being "Bad Blood", a story of turmoil and tragedy among white supremacists with an ending you could see coming a mile away. From the clever account of a black jazz saxophonist trying to escape Nazi-occupied France, to a ghoulishly amusing tale of a brilliant but obnoxious scientist who keeps murdering, then genetically tweaking his girlfriend so that she won't fall for other people, to a great look at an old DC Western character, Pow-Wow Smith with a backdrop of the silent film era and a neat twist, and finishing up with the best of them all, featuring Chaykin himself, as he tells us in witty fashion why he never did horror, how he broke into the business and where he fits in that hierarchy. It's warm and funny, and not what you would expect from him at all. And even better, he even draws the lead character from Time Squared in a panel. Unless that's the Scorpion. Or Dominic Fortune. Aaah, it's hard to tell. A

Other than a diverting disco scene in which a hapless young fellow is artificially seduced into giving up secret info for a high-tech project, all the better for our merry little group of nanobot humanform combat mecha to perform their designed sabotage function...nothing much really happens here. But it's OK- Rick Mays does such a nice job of aping writer Adam Warren's art style that even the conversation scenes have energy and spark, and the exposition-heavy dialogue goes down smoothly. I think we all understand what's going on now, how about letting the 'bots DO something except explain everything as they go along? A-

Better than last issue. The group therapy conceit doesn't play as obvious a role this time out, and this tale of a jailbird bomber's son who wants to help his Pop's status on the inside by setting a bomb off under Foggy Nelson is very engrossing, with a clever ending. Alex Maleev does his usual solid job on art. A-

Things look up here as well in another underachieving title as of late, as John literally goes to Hell to look for the soul of his sister as his demonic kids consolidate their final attack. Mike Carey does a nice job of moving the proceedings along, gives us a look back at one of his first storylines, and provides sharp dialogue throughout, plus the returned Leo Manco does a better job than the last couple of issues he drew- maybe it took Constantine returning to Hell to remind him of how good he used to draw infernal goings-on... B+

Here's that Chaykin fella again- boy, has he been busy lately! Of course, it's hard to tell after one issue, but this is pretty much Howie 101- every stylistic tendency and quirk is processed once more, in service of another "The future didn't turn out so hot, did it"-style story with many familiar elements from past triumphs including robot police officers, the requisite blowjob scene, and a once-burned-and-cynical-yet-idealistic-and heroic ChaykinMan in the lead. Still, expert chef that he is, Howard makes this all worthwhile, including a eyebrow-raising terrorist attack at the beginning which I didn't see coming and a neat reveal at the end. He jumps around from time period to time period a bit overmuch here, but I have a feeling that it won't be so prevalent as the series goes on. Much to like here, but it's mostly because I liked it once or twice before and I like the cut of the author/illustrator's jib. B

Barry Kitson's stolidly ordinary artwork makes this seem a lot more episodic and disjointed to me than it really is, I think...Mark Waid seems to be cooking up a complicated epic here, but unfortunately a lot of it just doesn't flow well from one issue to the next- and I gotta blame the uncompelling visuals, which are just too slavishly mainstream 80s-style generic superhero-style to entice me to pay attention to what's happening. I keep finding myself skimming instead of reading, and when a book has as much going on, both plot-and-character-wise as this has, that's a strong liability. I like the scope of what Waid's setting up, and even like the personalities he's given the group this time out (they get along much better this issue, an encouraging sight), but my gosh darn visual predelection is setting up serious interference in this case. B-

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