Sunday, January 29, 2006

Time once more for
Ruminations, castigations, disseminations and assorted frustratingly exiguous meandering observations in regard to comics I have read, weeks of January 11-27!

NORTHWEST PASSAGE #'s 1 & 2 (Oni Press)
S/A: Scott Chantler
This one completely slipped under my radar, despite a recommendation from my friend Mike Cary- it's early 60's Disney-esque adventure, starring fur trappers and Native Americans vs. villainous French soldiers set in the Canadian Northwest of 1755 and written with historical integrity, as well as action/adventure and drama, in mind...and while you'd think the Phil Foglio-by-way-of-Jason Bone cartoon-style art would undercut it, far from it- Chantler has a deft hand for drawing faces and body language, well capable of getting across heroic or villainous, simply by virtue of the way he poses someone or the type of line he uses. There's an assurance about his stuff which really gets the essence of his protagonists across. He doesn't scrimp on backgrounds, either- his woods and forts are all utterly convincing. This flags just a wee bit in the story department; all the characters are a bit broadly written, kinda predictable and not as fully developed as one would like, but heck- it's early in the series and I have a feeling that will be remedied soon. Nitpicking aside, this is shaping up as grand high adventure in a fairly novel setting, and I can't wait for the third volume. The second volume will be released soon, I understand. A

LITTLE STAR #'s 1-6 (Oni Press)
S/A: Andi Watson
Another of Watson's drearily earnest slice-of-life stories, this time focusing on a young husband and father who dotes on his wife and rather bratty child, as he works part-time painting detail on china (perhaps he should commiserate with the poor schlub of Breakfast After Noon) as well as assuming his share of the parenting duties to aid his working spouse. In each issue a small crisis comes to the fore; in one, the little girl gets lost in a department store, causing some nicely done tension; in another, Dad goes for a recently-opened fulltime position, a step up but Mom doesn't dig it because he didn't discuss it with her first...between wifey constantly shooting him down and the kid constantly rejecting him in favor of Mumsy, ya had to feel for the poor schnook, who still waxes all starry-eyed about his wonderful wife and their beautiful, gorgeous offspring. Anyway, I don't know- I've been through the childrearing thing, twice, and I don't remember it being this much of a hassle (and yes, I picked up kids at the sitter, changed dirty diapers, fixed meals, etc.), and it kinda ends without really resolving anything, which makes me wonder why it was ever created in the first place. Don't get me wrong- I LOVE Watson's excellent expressionistic art, simple but never simplistic, and I'm a big fan of his Skeleton Key, Geisha, and Love Fights series. He should be commended for trying things that don't involve super-people with fantastic abilities fighting each other. But all the good intentions in the world didn't make Breakfast After Noon, a downbeat account of an unemployed man in England (and read by me when I was unemployed myself, further adding to the gloom) or this any more enjoyable to read. Make no mistake- this is high quality work...but I won't be rereading this anytime soon, if ever. B

S: Mark Waid, Stuart Moore; A: Barry Kitson, Mick Gray, Ken Lashley, Paul Neary, Amanda Connor
I hate to say it, but at the end of a big, thirteen-issue epic it's generally not a good thing when your first reaction is "Is that it?" Despite some highlights here and there, this has been a mostly dull read as far as I'm concerned, and even though the path taken was convoluted enough, the end result was just too pat and simplistic. As always with the Legion, regardless of who's writing, the character interaction is the key, and Waid's done a good-to-fair job- enough to keep me reading for a few more months anyway. Perhaps an artist with a more lively style could have nudged this into the realm of above-average; Kitson's earnest but plodding and stiff art is like reading fumetti with wax dummies. We also get a rather pointless short story by Stuart Moore and some who-dat and another of the cutesy letters pages which has the good fortune of being illustrated by Amanda Connor, an artist who does have a lively and engaging style- say, I wonder if she'd be interested in taking over the main feature? And then inspire Waid to bring back Kinetix? Hey, I can dream, can't I?

LOSERS #31 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Andy Diggle A: Jock
Geez, if Diggle didn't have any more story than this, I wish he hadn't felt it necessary to drag it out so long! He almost seems like he's lost interest and is ready to move on. Anyway, this penultimate (there's that word again, heh) is half infodump (mostly dealing with the far-fetched beginnings of bad guy Max) and half shootout at Max's oil drilling station, with the Losers re-enacting a bloody version of "Ten Little Indians" and the smart, sharp "Best Action Movie/Spy Thriller That Hollywood Never Made" days are seeming like a hundred years ago. None of this is Jock's fault, however- he's as good as always. Maybe Diggle's got one more neat twist up his sleeve. I certainly hope so. B+

S: Landry Quinn Walker; A: Eric Jones
Gold Key comics are alive and well! Wednesday Addams-ish Little Gloomy and crew won't Push Comics Forward (TM), but by golly these sure are enjoyable and often very amusing little vignettes involving kid versions of those classic Universal monsters, along with possibly the funniest of all, Carl Cthulhu, a preschool-age Lovecraftian monster whose destiny is to consume the Earth when he grows up, but right now he loves kittens and bunnies and being nice. This all reads like extended pitches for animated shows, and in fact Gloomy and crew and her creators have been welcomed into the loving embrace of none other than Disney, who features the gang in their digest sized Disney Adventures publication. And good for them. This is as enjoyable as Kim Possible, or any of the other Mouse House properties. Where this will go, who knows. A-

S: Grant Morrison A: Frank Quitely
That darn Lois and her constant snooping! When will she ever learn, tsk tsk. Once more, Grant is just being Grant and giving us a more clever version of those old Bridwell/Boring scenarios of yore- the kind of Superman story he would want to read, as the conventional wisdom has it, and why would we ask for anything more? For those who delight in sheer imagination, presented in a straightforward fashion with perhaps a hint of a wink. Quitely is stellar again, but I wish he'd clean up his ink line- it's gotten a bit unbecomingly scratchy and not as full as I remember it being in the past, and what the hell is up with Superman's neck, which is almost as long as his arm sometimes and just as thick as his waist? A-

S: Grant Morrison; A: Freddie E. Williams III
I still fail to see what the hell this all has to do with the Big SS Picture; it's just a not-bad Elseworlds Kirby's Fourth World story with uninspired, awkward-looking art. Oh well, repeat the mantra: Trust Grant. Trust Grant. Trust Grant. Trust Grant. C-

TESTAMENT #2 (DC/Vertigo)
S:Douglas Rushkoff; A: Liam Sharp
Strangely enough, I was more interested in the Vertigoized Bible story than I was the Orwellian goings-on in the "real" time. I appreciate what Rushkoff was trying to do, but he drug it out over the entire length of the comic and the only reaction I had to the climactic event was "Finally." Somehow I don't think that was what he had in mind. That said, I'm still interested enough to stick with this for a while, just to see where it's going. C+

PLANETARY #24 (DC/Wildstorm)
S: Warren Ellis; A: John Cassaday
More infodumping, probably necessary since most of us are probably a bit fuzzy on what's happening with this perpetually tardy title. No real revelations, and no shocking cliffhanger, really, and when the next issue comes out, hopefully before Labor Day, something will happen then. Cassaday's art is impeccable as usual.

HELLBLAZER #216 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Denise Mina; A: Leonard Manco
Whothawhatthahell is that woman on the cover? Tim Bradstreet, please come home, all is forgiven! This issue marks the debut of novelist Denise Mina, and it kinda comes across as a practice run, a clearing of the throat if you will, as she recycles Standard Constantine Plot #287: a poor fool gets in over his head when he uses magic, and comes to Conjob for assistance. Which never turns out well. She does it as skillfully as you would hope, prompting me to believe that once she hits her stride, perhaps she'll be able to breathe some life into this mostly moribund book. Artist Leo Manco, kids, (as I keep saying) ain't what he usedta be. B-

LUCIFER #70 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Mike Carey; A: Zander Cannon
Nice little story, kind of a epilogue to the cataclysmic events of the previous issue, illustrated by Smax's Zander Cannon, whose somewhat underdrawn style takes some getting used to. Fortunately, the unassuming script bails him out, as we revisit some almost-forgotten characters from Lucifer's alternate universe in a storytelling contest. As always, rewarding for longtime readers, all others, caveat emptor. A-

BAMBI & HER PINK GUN VOL 2 (Digital Manga)
S/A: Atsushi Kaneko
Bambi's back, still trying to return that kidnapped kid to the "Old Men" who hired her to return him from the grotesque vampire Elvis takeoff "Gabba King". Thing is, the King has put a humongous price on her head, and all sorts of unsavory characters are busting their asses to collect. This is as violent, with lots of globs of blood, brains and guts galore, and fast-paced as Vol. 1 was-and often as weird and funny, too: Gabba's Col. Tom looks like Robert Blake in Lost Highway crossed with Eddie Munster. But in his zeal to give us the ol' Mad Max-style ultra-violence, Kaneko sometimes gives us layouts that are cluttered and convoluted, and that kinda takes away from the thrill-ride aspect when we're having to go back and puzzle out exactly what's happening in this or that panel. Still, it's worth the effort, and this remains the best manga I've ever read this side of Planetes Vol. 1 A-

DEFENDERS #5 (Marvel)
S: Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis; A: Kevin Maguire
Well, this was fun. DeMatteis and Giffen are always fun. But since hindsight is 20/20, this should have been a one-shot because it seemed to drag out a bit too long, even at 5 issues. The real star of the show was Kevin Maguire, whose art was as facile and witty as he always usually is. And for the last time, his Umar...hello, NURSE! B-

NEXT WAVE #1 (Marvel)
S: Warren Ellis; A: Stuart Immonen
Well, Warren does have a sense of humor, doesn't he! That isn't deadpan and nasty! Who knew? In what could very well be interpreted as a pisstaking rejoinder to the whole Seven Soldiers project, Ellis takes five obscure Marvel do-gooders and sticks 'em together as a team built to counter the not-so-benevolent machinations of the Beyond Corporation and their apparent right arm, another of the multitudes of Marvel covert government groups called H.A.T.E. (Highest Anti-Terrorism Effort). This is Ellis at his best, taking potshots at a number of targets (both comics-world and real-world) and engaging us even more than he does in Fell- he hasn't had this light a touch since the good old days of Stormwatch. That Fing Fang Foom sequence is already classic. Although Morrison might argue, right now it sure seems to be Warren E's world, and we're all just living in it. And as always, when Ellis is at his best, he has a gifted artist collaborator- this time it's Stuart Immonen, who debuts a different style in this, one that's more angular and animation-inspired and which strives for a less painstakingly realistic approach than he's employed in the past- and it works very well. Promising debut, and remember when DC had all the lighthearted superguy books and Marvel was all grim and dreary? Things change, huh! A

OK, that's it for tonight. I still have a good half dozen to go, and I'll try to get them done tomorrow evening.

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