Sunday, December 04, 2005

What I got and what I thought, week of November 30

Since LAST CALL is now yesterday's news, and I still have that compulsion to inflict my opinions on others, I'm resurrecting the franchise.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usDEMO (COLLECTED)
S/A:Brian Wood, S/A:Becky Cloonan
AiT-PlanetLar, $19.95
My, how time flies. Seems like only yesterday when DEMO and Street Angel were the talk of the Comics Blogosphereiverse, and now here's the former, all in one handy location, to read as one continuous series of short stories if one so desires. I took the occasion to reread nearly all of them, and skimmed a couple that I remembered more vividly. I will freely admit, as far as Wood's contribution goes, it is a testament to his breadth and imagination as a writer, giving us a diverse set of narratives, but a set which works very well as a set and always maintain an internal integrity. As when I read them individually, the stories which still worked the best for me were #5's "Girl You Want", in which a young woman whose ability is to be seen as others wish to see her ironically develops a crush on the one person who can actually see her as she is, much to her eventual regret; #8's "Mixtape", a bittersweet account of a young man's reaction to a dead lover's mix tape and a dialogue with her memory-? Shade-? Anyway, for once, the ambiguity which Wood injects into nearly every story worked very well in that case. #3's "Bad Blood", with its surprising ending, was the first one which really made me sit up and take notice, and #11's "Midnight to Six" injected some much-needed humor into the run. On the negative side, the grisly revenge fantasy "What You Wish For" still didn't work, leaving me with a lot of questions that had no satisfactory answers; #9's "Breaking Up" was well-done, but not a real enjoyable read as it subjected us to a lot of rancor and I had that age-related disconnect I tend to suffer from sometimes when it comes to stories about teens and twentysomethings and their world-shaking relationship issues; and #7's "One Shot, One Miss" seemed to play fast and loose with the reality of what military service is actually like in order to make a statement, which blunted its impact. One thing was undeniable, though- DEMO was really Becky Cloonan's coming-out party, in which she proved once and for all that she is a creator to be reckoned with as she gracefully zigzagged from style to style, but never came across as being imitative or lacking inspiration. She breathed life into every one of these often frustrating narratives, and it's difficult to imagine any of these stories by any other artist working as well. If for some reason you passed on the series in its initial release, now's your chance to experience it in one sitting. You'll be frustrated sometimes, you'll be moved and engaged even more...but you won't regret it. A

S/A: Jeff Nicholson
AiT-PlanetLar, $12.95
Now here's a strange duck, and I'm not necessarily referring to the talking golden egg-laying one which is part of this book's cast- but the entire concept as I understand it, which is that this is the ongoing saga of a young present-day man named Jeff, who along with his two uncles, apparently has some sort of seafaring mishap on a fishing trip and washes ashore only to encounter pirates, lost conquistadors, other assorted magical beings, as well as intelligent fish that arrange themselves inside of clothes and walk upright on land as fish-men of a sort along with the duck which befriends him. Not having read the first collection, I was a little at a loss at first when trying to read this; but after a while I just sort of went along and let myself get caught up in what comes across as a surreal succession of events in place of a narrative; it's like someone's particularly potent and feverish dream which takes place in an exotic, faraway locale- but still a familiar one, at least to anyone who's seen a pirate movie. And it's all done so cheerfully and open-faced, that the dreamlike impression is reinforced even more. Little Nemo worked a lot like this, unless I'm mistaken. The book's biggest liability, for me anyway, is the one thing that creates that cheerfulness: the bland, inoffensive but quite primitive-looking art, which looks to me a lot like Scott McCloud or Paul Chadwick drawing left-handed. Or right-handed, if they're left-handed. You know what I mean. Hardly offputting, and I will always respect anyone who's committed enough to not only write something this elaborate and imaginative, but draw it as well...but I still wonder how good this would be if he had an artist that was as accomplished with the pencil and pen as he was with the wordsmithing and concept. All in all, an engaging epic fantasy that I wish was differently illustrated, but has me curious just the same and I can recommend it to anyone seeking epic fantasies of a more cerebral nature. B+

S: Warren Ellis, A: Ben Templesmith
Image, $1.99
Our boy Richard goes to buy a new suit in a Snowtown thrift shop, and winds up getting more than he bargained for as he has to confront a suicide bomber. Ellis cuts the story to the bone this time out, and the lack of digression or diversion really enables us to get into the flow and makes this the best issue yet of this really fascinating series. In contrast, Templesmith's art is loose enough to let the story breathe and his skill with caricature gives Ellis' story verisimilitude in a way that few artists can; Sinkiewicz, Kyle Baker, Kurtzman, and the like. Lofty company, and perhaps if he keeps improving it won't look so strange to see his name up with theirs. A

S: Mike Carey, A: Glenn Fabry
DC/Vertigo, $2.99
As has been the case with the previous four issues, the main attraction for me regarding this title (the story of which I've already read in its novelized form) is the meticulous, precise, and expansive artwork of Glenn Fabry, beautifully colored by Tanya and Richard Horie. He's doing an absolutely marvelous job of depicting these twice-told events, really making it his own, and absolutely nobody's paying any attention because, I suppose, one of the Big Two is putting it out. More's the pity. A

S: Mike Mignola/John Arcudi, A: Guy Davis
Dark Horse, $2.99
Last issue was the first one which seemed to have its act together, and fortunately this one continues the momentum as the Bureau deals with the apparent death of Roger the Homonculus and the swarming frog-critters, led by the Nevermen-ish title character with his armored suit and burning black skull perched on top. Abe Sapiens also finally enters the fray after what seems like an eternity of brooding and hanging out with ghosts. Almost as fast-paced and fun as a good proper Hellboy yarn, and as usual exquisitely drawn by Guy Davis, who's in a monstrous, if you'll excuse the expression, groove. A-

S: Andy Diggle, A: Jock
DC/Vertigo, $2.99
Things crash, explode and burn towards the inevitable final issue as we get one surprising death, one surprising and disappointing apparent resurrection, and a betrayal that really shouldn't come as any surprise if you've been paying attention. Shame it has to go, but at least it's going out in high style. A-

S: Wilson, A: Matthew Smith
IDW, $3.99
Wilson, for his part, is giving us a no-frills straight-up adaptation of his novel, which I read about 24 years ago (and liked). Well, i don't remember the fortune-teller episode, but the old memory ain't what it used to be. It's Smith's art which remains the problem- he's embellishing his Mignolaesque style with a stiff, blocky ink line, giving it almost a woodcut appearance, and I remember seeing his stuff and liking it a lot better when he was not coming across as jagged and he was making an effort to distinguish the features of his figures, specifically the men, who all look like pudgy white guys with bad combovers. The monochrome color scheme doesn't do it any favors, either. B-

S: Andy Diggle, A: Leinil Yu
DC/Wildstorm, $2.99
I had such high hopes for this when it was announced; Diggle, who was so good on The Losers, would seem like a natural for these futuristic ninja/Yakuza goings on. Yu pretty much holds up his end of the deal, giving us a slick, professional art job but Diggle tries to cram too much in at once, and the story becomes incoherent when he and Yu can't get in sync. Dramatic moments which should have resonance just sorta lay there because we don't really empathise enough with any of these hastily sketched characters, and the big action scenes miss as often as they hit. Wish I could say I was really looking forward to the grande finale, but honestly half the time I can't recall what happened in the issue previous, and I expect this to be the case one month from now. One of the biggest disappointments of the year, for me, anyway. C+

S: Rick Remender, A: Eric Nguyen
Image, $2.99
Remender ups the ante on his post-rapture fantasy, giving us a new set of characters in the town where the title character, her demon buddy and a reacquainted childhood friend were heading, "Dead Western"- I mean "The Basilica". They mistake our Girl for an angel, y'see, and let them all in...and unbeknownst to any of them, a posse of demons is hard in pursuit. For me, this is still interesting, and will remain so as long as Remender keeps handling the Girl as well as he has. Artist Nguyen is beginning to rein in his hyperbusy tendencies, too, and that helps a lot. B+

S: Mark Waid, A: Barry Kitson, Ken Lashley, (Mick?) Gray and (Drew?) Geraci
DC, $2.99
I still think Waid has handled this whole storyline clumsily, but when he's on, this book can be good, as in the scenes in which Brainiac takes on Elysion of "Terror Firma" (ouch) with an unexpected ally, the breakout of Timber Wolf courtesy of Princess Projectra, and even the scene in which Cosmic Boy addresses the multitudes mentally, complete with Jesus Christ pose as he does so, are nicely done. I'm still not crazy about Kitson's art, it's as stiff as always- but it does service the story well enough so it gets a pass. For the second straight issue, we're given a backup story which is a bit of a drag as Lightning Lad attempts to pitch woo to Saturn Girl by giving her a Legion rally speech of some sort. It's dull and kinda dumb. B+

I also received THE EXPATRIATE #4, but since I haven't been able to get #3 yet I won't read it until I do.

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