Saturday, June 11, 2005

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or, what I bought and what I thought, week of June 10!

Three quarters of this is a fairly routine, if still interesting because of the emotional involvement those of us who have been reading for a while have with the characters, tale of corrupt cops out on the streets and the death of a teenage street kid. Then, it abruptly shifts gears and becomes something out of E.C. Comics, a horrific revenge tale featuring a resolution which comes out of the blue but is no less effective because it's surprising- and surprisingly well done. Really nice job on art by Steve Lieber, which certainly atones for a less-than-stellar job on Detective a few years ago, probably the inker's fault anyway. A-

Boy Blue, aka the Black Knight, finally gets to confront and kill the Big Bad...or does he? The reveal at the end is fairly obvious to anyone who's read an adventure story or seen a movie in the last, oh, 50 years...but it gets by thanks to, and I can't believe these words I type, a super great job of staging these events by illustrators Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha, who have really stepped up the creativity in recent months. And despite the predictability of the ending, there's still a nice surprise immediately before, and I don't really have any idea where this is going next. A-

Well, in typical Joe Kelly fashion, the climax of the 12-issue storyline makes very little sense, but in typical Johnny Bacardi fashion I'm willing to overlook it because he's done such a great job with the characterizations of not only his Elite but the Justice League as well, who make appearances here and there in this one. While Kelly will, it seems, always be too clever for his (and the reader's) own good, he knows how to do gritty without getting carried away with the grim- and if we have to have these less-than-noble heroes, then I much prefer the cynical barbs of his charges than the cynical bullets of his peers. And the Mahnke/Nguyen art is, as always, real damned good. This issue and entire series:A-

I can't remember too many comics in my experience, anyway, that use the Rapture as a springboard to their ongoing here's to novelty! And it looks like an intriguing and promising setup, as well, if writer Rick Remender can keep a fairly consistent tone in subsequent issues. He's got a charismatic and likeable title character, a left-behind young goth girl named Beth who ends up as a cocktail waitress in a demon bar, and the apparent pupil and favorite of a very big demon named Belial, whom he writes with the requisite cynicism, but a hint of something more. Anyway, we shall see. On art, we get a fellow named Eric Nguyen, with whose work I'm totally unfamiliar with but looks like, at first glance, a collaboration between Jill Thompson and Duncan Fregredo after a fifth of tequila. Each. It's way too sketchy and busy, and the often-garish coloring doesn't help, but in its convoluted way it has a certain energy and is likeable in spite of itself. Kinda like the heroine. A good beginning, I think. B+

Three down, three to go on what has to be the most disheartening comics revival ever, featuring Steve Englehart at his most stiff and heavy-handed and Marshall Rogers, apparently immobile under several years' worth of rust, with Terry Austin unable to provide the oil can he needs. Almost nothing works here- romance, action, even bringing back some super-obscure baddie- usually an Englehart strong suit. Everything just lies there flat on the page, staring at you like a dead, smelly Joker-fish. He still has a certain flair for writing the Joker, though, which makes me think that perhaps he would have been better suited not revisiting past glories, but doing an all-new Joker series with a different artist. Aaah, we'll never know, will we? C

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