Monday, December 26, 2005

What I got and what I thought, weeks of December 7-21

Lots and lots of titles to run through, so forgive me if I'm even more brief than usual. Hopefully, I'll be able to get the gist of what I'm saying across, anyway.

10 (Boom! Studios)
S: Keith Giffen; A: Andy Kuhn
Surprisingly good mix of 100 Bullets and Death Race 2000, such a great high concept that I'm surprised it hasn't been done before- but damned if I can think of where. 10 people are sent a package with an automatic pistol and ten bullets, along with a name and address, and are told that there are at least eight other people that have received the same, and it's kill or be killed. The resultant mayhem, seen mostly through the eyes of two of the "lucky" contestants, is quite tense and unpredictable, and thankfully the resolution is free of moralizing and feel-good contrivance. Kuhn does a fine job, in his sloppy style, of setting up the desperation these characters experience. Boom! is becoming, I think, the AIP of comics publishers- giving us high-quality, memorable junk...and I mean that in a good way. A-

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usPECULIA AND THE GROON GROVE VAMPIRES (Fantagraphics)
S/A: Richard Sala
Actually Evil Eye #13, the indicia says, which makes me even more annoyed that I didn't get a copy of this when it was released a few months ago. Peculia, for the uninitiated, was the back feature in the Evil Eye ongoing comic, and was usually always better than whatever chapter of the Reflections in a Glass Scorpion (now collected as Mad Night, if you're curious) serial. It was basically about a cute young rich girl who tended to wander in and out of encounters with various supernatural menaces, all done in the lighthearted yet straightfaced Sala fashion. This time, she gets center stage as she (as well as some gypsies who are in the vicinity) gets mixed up with a nest of vampires who are bent on preying on the girls of the nearby college, who think they're being hired as babysitters. Freed from the six-page restriction of the back feature format, Sala gives the story room to breathe- but unlike Scorpion, which kinda rambled on and on to no satisfying effect (as did the earlier GN The Chuckling Whatsit, this one is tight and to the point, and is the most effective and ingratiating showcase for what makes Sala special in a long time. And of course, nobody draws quirky monstrosities or sexy girls quite like he can. A+

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usOWLY: FLYING LESSONS (Top Shelf)
S/A: Andy Runton
Everybody's favorite little round owl is back again, as he and his worm buddy encounter a flying squirrel (not named Rocky) who's deathly afraid of the nocturnal hunter owl, his natural enemy. Will the earthbound Owly learn to fly? Will the squirrel overcome his fear to help him? Will Wormy, who fell from a tall tree and hurt himself after hanging out with the flying squirrel, be OK? Well, you can probably figure it out for yourself, but you'll feel good after you've read it anyway so I can once more heartily recommend this latest in the Owly series. One thing keeps catching my eye, though- Owly's big saucer eyes are always brimming with tears, in good times and bad. Good gosh, little fella, don't be such a crybaby- it's gonna be all right! Buck up there! A

S: Steve Niles, Joshua Hale Fialkov, Christopher Long; A: "Chee", Nick Stakal, Andrew Ritchie
Concrete meets Deathlok the Demolisher meets The Iron Giant. Three stories about an unfortunate scientist who has gotten "fused" with a big computerized suit of battle armor, and while none of them are terrible, it all just feels kinda second-hand. I liked the second story the best; artist Nick Stakal has a nice sort of Tommy Lee Edwards-meets-Ted McKeever style which grabbed my eye. B

DMZ #2 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Brian Wood; A: Riccardo Burchielli
Although I still am dubious about the basic premise, I am interested in where it's going- Wood is being deliberate in showing us how the post-civil war NYC is divided, but the vignettes we're getting are memorable and he is building a little empathy for the stranded lead, Matt. So far, so good. B+

S: Robert Venditti; A: Brett Weldele
This has quietly become a very enjoyable read- the dramatics are effective, the character interaction is sharp, the sci-fi elements interesting, and Venditti doesn't bludgeon us with the basic theme: individualism, duality, experiencing life by proxy, etc. The art reminds me a bit of Trevor Von Eeden in the latter issues of Thriller and his World's Finest stint- sloppy and loose, but never slack and dull. Don't be surprised if this one doesn't end up in my 2005 best-of. A

S: Grant Morrison; A: Billy D. Patton, Freddie Williams III, Michael Bair
Never heard of Billy Dallas Patton; never want to see him darken a comic I buy ever again. His work was so stiff and awkward that it damn near rendered this one unreadable, for me at least. Williams comes on at the end, and he's slightly better but not by much...and I think he's slated to illustrate #'s 3 & 4, joy. The concept that Grant's giving us here would have made a good stand-alone New Gods arc, I think; it certainly doesn't seem to have much in common with the other miniseries so far. I'm sure that'll change. C+

POWERS 15 (Marvel/Icon)
S: Brian M. Bendis; A: Michael Avon Oeming
This book's slipping into that Hellblazer/100 Bullets/Daredevil zone; it rewards longtime readers with interesting character developments for those who have been around long enough to be invested, and everyone else, I would imagine, would be left scratching their heads as to why the faithful remain thus. And, like those books, they're damned hard to review every month because they're so consistently consistent. In this ish, Detective Christian Walker seems to be finally about to find out why his powers have been absent all this time and Detective Deena Pilgrim continues to sink deeper into deep shit. Artist Oeming also continues to be able to do no wrong. A-

NAT TURNER #2 (Kyle Baker Pub.)
S/A: Kyle Baker
Powerful and moving, Baker the raconteur at his very best. But Baker the artist needs to tell Baker the publisher that cheap-ass paper stock isn't helping his art at all, and Baker the publisher and Baker the writer need to remind Baker the artist that graphic designers eschew script fonts by and large (except for formal invitations and headings and so on) because THEY'RE TOO DAMNED HARD TO READ IN LARGE HUNKS OF TEXT! A-

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usJINGLE BELLE: THE FIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS (Dark Horse)
S: Paul Dini; A: Stephanie Gladden, Jose Garibaldi, Jason Bone
Somebody pinch me- a Jingle Belle one shot that actually hit the racks before Christmas! And it's a good one, too- all three stories are lots of fun as we get a sequel to the Mighty Elves one shot of a few years ago, an amusing (and even a little awww-inducing) story about Jing-assisted lemming love, and Dini gets in some potshots at the current administration in the finale. All three stories boast great art: Gladden, whose hyperkinetic Foglio-ish style is used to great effect in the leadoff hockey tale, Garibaldi, who once again shows a superior command of color, layout and expression; and last but not least, JBS favorite J. Bone, who does a typically stellar job and gives us a sexy semi-makeover for the title character. Hope you got this before the holidays, but if not, it's darn good reading anytime! A

S: B. Clay Moore; A: Steven Griffin
Mele Kelikimaka, since I got this right before Christmas! Anytime you wait this long for something, there's bound to be a letdown, and this is one- but it's a slight one, and it's mostly because really nothing much significant seems to happen to advance the plot in this installment. But that's a minor quibble- it's great to see that Griffin is going to finish the book; he's THE artist for Byrd and Co., although Nick Derington did a great job in #2 so long ago. Story-wise, there are still some great character bits and I'm happy that this seems to be on schedule because I'm still very interested in how this is going to get resolved. A-

FABLES #44 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Bill Willingham; A: Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Andrew Pepoy
This title has been very strong lately; the Arabian Nights and Days arc has been consistently clever and sharp, and this issue is more of the same. We also get a neat twist at the end which I honestly didn't see coming. A

100 BULLETS 67 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Brian Azzarello; A: Eduardo Risso
Things happen in this issue, but the whole plot is beginning to show strains of collapsing under the weight of its labrynthine and cumbersome plot. Two major characters converge in search of a third, and even though I've been reading since issue one I had to stop and think hard about how the seeked came to be in the location that the seekers found them in, and why they were seeking them in the first place, and in particular why one of them is interested, since I don't recall any signs of it before...and I didn't feel like going on a expedition to hunt up my back issues to refresh my memory. Oh well, I'll just hang on and ride it out. As always, excellently illustrated by Risso, who is absolutely amazing in his output and consistency. A-

ROCK 'N' ROLL (Image)
S/A: Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba, Bruno D'Angelo, "Kako".
Best of show here, unsurprisingly, is the segment written and drawn by Moon and Ba. Chances are if you're interested in this at all, it's because of them and they don't disappoint- Moon's work is a lithe and graceful as ever. "Kako" also pulls off a nice Mignola-esque style in the third installment. All of this in service to a story which gives us a father and daughter who get mixed up with some sort of rock 'n' roll cult. I can't say I wouldn't mind finding out more about this premise, but somebody's gonna have to put some meat on these plot bones for me to do so. B+

LOCAL #2 (Oni)
S: Brian Wood; A: Ryan Kelly
Love the title: "Polaroid Boyfriend". Interesting premise, too, as our Megan gets involved with a fellow who sneaks into her apartment and leaves photos of himself, and since he's a handsome fella she begins to encourage him by leaving pics of herself as well, despite the cautioning of her friend. Once more, we get multiple endings, and I'm not really sure what conclusion we're supposed to draw from any of them except perhaps that two out of three times Meg will indulge herself in risky behavior. Artwise, stellar again as Ryan Kelly gives us some loose, Pope-like but painstakingly detailed Minneapolis backgrounds and character expressions. Another solid issue. A-

S: Greg Rucka; A: Kano, Steven Gaudiano
Despite the annoying bait-and-switch of the cover, this is another outstanding issue which gives us some good dramatics and a surprising death. I also fear that the irony of having a character named Jim Corrigan cause the creation of the new Spectre is too juicy for Rucka and his editors to pass up. We'll see, I guess. A-

ULTIMATES 2 #9 (Marvel)
S: Mark Millar; A: Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary
Things just keep going from bad to worse as our team of Unloveables deals with traitors in the ranks (and who didn't see this one coming?) as well as the machinations of Ultimate Loki, which result in apparent total defeat for Nick Fury & Co. But we all know that's going to change, don't we, just as we know how this issue's traitor will get their comeuppance, right? So while this is proving formulaic, at least it's nicely dialogued and wonderfully drawn by the Hitch/Neary team. A-

S: Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti; A: Luke Ross
The second issue of Clint Eastwood Comics and Stories gives us Jonah in Indiana Jones-mold, as he seeks retribution for the murder of a priest and the theft of a valuable crucifix stolen from his church, and also gets mixed up with a corrupt town sheriff a la Gene Hackman in the Quick and the Dead, that you just know is there for Hex to get the best of in dramatic fashion at the end. So while this isn't the freshest thing to come down the pass, it doesn't smell funny because things are kept moving along at a brisk clip and the Gray/Palmiotti team doesn't lapse into melodramatics. That Luke Ross fella does a great job on art as well; his soft-focus painted style is evocative of a thousand-and-one Spaghetti Westerns. A-.

WOW! That's it! Next up, before the week is through, the Best of 2005 in comics.

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