Sunday, May 22, 2005

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Or, what I bought and what I thought, week of May 18

In my opinion, one of the high points of the 80's bwah-ha-ha Justice League was the story arc which had magenta-hued homicidal alien Despero returning to take revenge on the Justice League Detroit, and killed a couple of them including Gypsy's parents, and became involved in a knock-down drag-out with the League, especially the paternal-towards-Gypsy and hell-bent-to-defend-her J'onn J'onzz. Refreshingly serious, grim even in places, with sharp characterization and some humor in the appropriate place, it was a welcome relief from the constant slapstick that had come before. This was the first issue in this updated League revival that gave me the same vibe, if you'll excuse the pun, as that long-ago arc. Quite possibly the best use of Guy Gardner ever- he actually gets to act like less of a shitheel this time out. There's still the requisite amount of bwah, but we finally got some gravity and that made a big difference. And for once, I didn't think of Dibnys and Kords, but just went with the flow. Good job. A

Effective and creepy change-of-pace story which reminded me more of an old Warren Archie Goodwin-penned tale than anything, and the second winner in a row from the group therapy arc. The sudden shift from the previous superhero-urban-thriller emphasis to this supernatural mystery on should be jarring, but Bendis pulls it off nicely by maintaining the same low-key approach. Alex Maleev does a great job of depicting the proceedings- boy, wouldn't he have fit in really well on those old Creepys and Eeries? And anybody wanna bet on who the guy with the baseball cap that never shows his face and hangs around in the background really is? A

Mike Carey goes back and gives us an fill-in interlude with some characters that haven't been seen in quite some time, including the mismatched (one's Paki, the other is a reformed Aryan Youth) gay couple from way back in issues 1-4. Lots of people are being manipulated in Machiavellian ways here on Earth by the Angelic judge, jury and executioner Solomon, and these and others get mixed up in a particularly labrynthine scheme that has an unexpected resolution. Not bad at all. Art is by Colleen (Orbiter) Doran, who illustrates in what I think is a rough-hewn, atypical style for her- I remember her work as being a lot more refined and static. Interesting stylistic shift. Much to like here for a fill-in. A-

This was fine in and of itself, but Grant seems so eager to stitch in connections to the other Seven Soldiers storylines that the main character becomes almost secondary and the seams show. I'm always dubious about action thrillers in which people get dragged at high speeds from vehicles and survive relatively unscathed- I know the MG was wearing body armor, but still- how did he avoid touching the third rail while he was careening along behind, especially after his chain got cut? All right, I'm nitpicking. The action was fast-paced, the Subway Pirates were typically clever Morrison concoctions although I wish their dialogue had been a bit more colorful and less clumsy, the connection to the Klarion series was interesting, and even though the ending didn't make a whole lot of sense except to drive home the "urban legend" flavor, I could still roll with this, even though I was disappointed. B+

A while ago I complained because these nanotechnical operatives seemed to make everything too easy, so it was unsurprising that here in the 4th chapter out of 6, something goes bad. One problem I have is that it's pretty well established that none of these "mechas", with the exception of newbie Stem Cell, feels any significant emotions, and are efficiently replaceable when one gets killed, which causes a "Well, if that's the case, then why should I care about what happens to them?" reaction from your humble scribe. One thing that's revealed this time out is that the mechas have to perform alterations on their programming in order to suppress their emotions, and that's fine as far as it goes, but it's not necessarily the best recipe for reader involvement and identification. Still, there are great concepts, dialogue, and ideas to spare from Warren, Rick Mays does a nice job on art (especially in the rogue heli-carrier scenes), and while this isn't A-level stuff it still gets a solid B+ from me.

Contrived and awkward as hell, this read better than issue 1 but not by much. The deja vu continues as we get what surely must be the one millionth "Batman-hallucinates-and-sees-his-rogues-gallery-thanks-to-Scarecrow" scene to come along, and while I don't mean to bash Englehart, who I've always thought was a talented writer, he's just spinning his wheels here and despite briefly coming to life when Bruce Wayne and Silver St. Cloud (predictably) get a covert shag in the Batcave, this is just depressing, no less so thanks to the stodgy, clumsy art of Rogers and Austin. C+

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