Sunday, March 19, 2006

Oh, lookout! It's
Periodic ruminations, castigations, disseminations and assorted frustratingly exiguous semi-cogent observations in regard to comics I have read, weeks of March 1-19!

Part The First.

S/A: Hope Larson
Some comics come across like big-budget Hollywood action thrillers; some are more like science fiction epics or Clint Eastwood westerns. Gray Horses, though, suggests a foreign film, by Fellini perhaps, that you'd catch on the Sundance Channel at about 3 AM. Hope's use of iconography and imagery to communicate feelings and action is always intuitive and clever (Scott McCloud is proud, you bet), and her supple inkline work is to die for, to coin a phrase. Story-wise, as with Salamander Dream, I suspect that this story of a young French girl on her own in Canada and her dreams, in which she becomes a horse who comes to the aid of another young girl means more to the author than it does its readers, but at least this time she gives us a more grounded narrative which helps keep this from floating off into the ether. I thought this was very charming, and thrillingly illustrated- and while I don't think the average House of Identity enthusiast will find much to interest him/her here, I know you, my reader with more discerning tastes, will. A

TOM STRONG 36 (America's Best Comics/Wildstorm/DC)
S: Alan Moore; A: Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, Jose Villarrubia
A bittersweet return to the events of the final issue of Promethea, this time from the Strongs' viewpoint. The ABC line began with high hopes, and for a while it fulfilled them all as Alan Moore pulled off the amazing feat of writing five books, each with interesting premises and great art to accompany them. Then, Moore's notorious DC aversion reared its head after Wildstorm cast its lot with the one company he had no desire to produce work for ever again...and the rest was history. So was Moore, after a few more scripts, and his successors on each title (save Promethea, which Moore guided to the end) just weren't really up to the unenviable task of following a master. I stayed with Tom Strong for about a half dozen issues after Moore left, but I felt like it was spinning its wheels and getting nowhere, plus Sprouse had ceased to be the main artist- so I dropped it. It was so far under my radar that I didn't realize that this final issue was going to see Moore's return, along with original artists Sprouse and Story, until I read Jog's typically erudite review, and I realized that I really needed to pick it up. Glad I did, although I would imagine that like the final issue of Promethea, it helps if one is familiar with the ongoing storyline, which doesn't seem to have changed a whit since I stopped buying several months ago- especially considering the somewhat surprising and perfectly logical reveal at the end. Sprouse and Story are as solid as always, and Villarrubia is on hand to provide a similar look in the scenes involving the Promethea event. Despite the melancholy vibe of the story (which is probably more my perception than anything else), this is a heck of a good send-off, and I'm glad I was around for it. A

POWERS V2 17 (Marvel/Icon)
S: Brian Michael Bendis; A: MIchael Avon Oeming
Okay, whoever doesn't know where this is heading, raise your hand. Anyone? Yeah, didn't think so. Still, this is compelling because we who have been reading this long have invested ourselves in the characters- and while I'm not so sure this is the best direction to go, I continue to be interested enough to see where it goes. And to kinda hope for a finale that would spell the end for this moribund series whose creator seems to have lost interest in. B+

S: Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis; A: Fabio Moon, "ZID of IFS", Joe Abraham, "ALFA of IFS".
Hey, where have I seen that cover design before? Anyway, a big step up from the too-talky and inconsistent first issue, and a convincing argument for an ongoing series featuring these characters, especially the Mister Brilliant/Purring Pussycat team and the intriguing Third Eye, despite its less-than-fresh premise. And Ross, if you can get Fabio Moon to do the whole series this time, that would be absolutely wonderful. A-

S: Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray; A:Tony DeZuniga
Big news here isn't so much the story, which isn't bad for a Western spin on The Petrified Forest with (thank God) no corrupt town bosses for Hex to run afoul of, but the return of the man who illustrated nearly every 70's Hex story, Tony DeZuniga- and damned if he isn't in excellent form, with his (excuse the expression) grim 'n' gritty version providing a necessary jolt to the proceedings. And maybe it's just my imagination (...running away with me), but at several points his layout and page design, as well as several figure poses, remind me of Bat Lash artist Nick Cardy. This is old-school DC representin', showin' the youngbloods how it's done. A-

S/A: Jason Pearson
One of the series to come out under Dark Horse's short-lived Blanc Noir and Maverick imprints, Body Bags is an ultra-violent, shamelessly exploitative, and crass exercise with very little socially redeeming value whatsoever...and that's just fine with me. Don't know how else the bloody, and bloody humorous, adventures of a smiley-face masked, oversize bounty hunter with his hyperactive, slutty jailbait daughter could be done. Of course, it helps that the unpredictable Pearson is a skillful artist with a lively, clever style and a great ear for 'hood dialogue. I suppose the whole thing kinda invites comparison with the films of Tarantino- trash, but remarkably well-done, entertaining trash. With the promise of more adventures of Clownface and Panda, it almost makes up for the puzzling and disappointing disappearance of the Razor's Edge-Redbird series of a year or so ago. A-

S: Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray; A: Khari Evans
Here's another book which had a lackluster debut, but got a lot better in chapter 2 as Graymiotti replaces the smirky, adolescent tone of #1 in favor of better characterization and what seems like the beginnings of a pretty good actioner a la the early days of Hitman, in which we get a more down-to-earth and humorous look at the less glamorous side of what passes for the Marvel universe these days. Evans' art is much better this time out as well, less concerned with contorted "sexy" poses and more with telling the story. I'm not ready to make with hosannas just yet, but all I'm saying is I enjoyed this one, and I didn't the last one, and I hope that signals a trend. Clever cover, too, as the ladies re-enact the Beastie Boys' "So Whatcha Want" video. B+

That's all for now! Coming up in part 2: BATMAN YEAR 100 2, AMERICAN VIRGIN 1, FELL 4, SEVEN SOLDIERS: BULLETEER 4, and the tardy LOVE AND ROCKETS V2 15. Be there. Aloha.

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