Thursday, March 23, 2006

Third time's the charm for the
Periodic ruminations, castigations, dissemination and assorted frustratingly exiguous semi-cogent observations in regard to comics I have read, weeks of March 1-19!

Ye Parte the Third

PAINKILLER JANE 1 (Dynamite Entertainment)
S:Joe Quesada, Jimmy Palmiotti; A: Lee Moder, Pilvi Kuusela (color)
Yeesh- this is so bloody and unpleasant that it almost makes Body Bags seem like Owly! I've been reading the infrequent exploits of PKJ since back at the beginning, mostly attracted by Quesada's art (back when he actually used to draw things) and I've always been a bit intrigued by the preposterous but kinda sympathetic heroine- y'see, she can't be injured because she got shot full of something (I'm a little fuzzy exactly) and now she heals at a Wolverine-style pace when she gets cut, stabbed, shot, bludgeoned, et cetera. She's not very happy about it, but feels like she has no choice but to do all the crap work that the police don't want to do. Plus, like DC's new Manhunter, she gets a little satisfaction out of all the carnage. And there's plenty to spare here as she gets an assignment from her friend on the force, to go in and "clean up" a situation which is nightmarish indeed: apparently some B&D-obsessed surgeon has been taking young girls and performing radical twisted surgeries on them. yeah, horrible stuff to be sure- but at least it kinda leaves an impression, which is more than you can say for many horror comics. Another plus is the art of Lee Moder, whose work I really liked on the Legion of Super-heroes back in the 90's, and who does a nice job here as well, as far as I can tell- the coloring is so dark, murky and dull that you often can't see what's going on. Almost like reading a Vertigo comic sometimes! I don't know if I can recommend, but I kinda like- yet another guilty pleasure, I suppose. B

S: Warren Ellis; A: Stuart Immonen
Ellis is just having too much fun here, and while he's used humor in his stories before, this is almost Not Brand Echh-ian with its constant bwah-ha-ha. Each character has charisma to burn, it's nice to be able to read the exploits of Boom-Boom without having to touch an X-book, and while Immonen's new weird-looking Simonson imitation takes some getting used to, it's never dull and helps the story out immeasurably. As straight as he's been shooting in this half-gone decade,perhaps someday we'll look back on the Aughts as Ellis' Golden Age. A-

LOVE AND ROCKETS V2 15 (Fantagraphics)
S/A: Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez
FINALLY got this one, and it was worth the wait. While I'll probably never be anything more than a detached admirer of Gilbert's oddball oeuvre, and his offerings in this issue are as whimsical and weirdo as ever, the highlight of this issue is (as is usually the case with me) Jaime's "Near Mint", a bittersweet interlude that features Ray running into Maggie at a comics convention, and reminiscing about the old days when they would go to cons and buy comics and generally have good times...but he's afraid to approach her since it's been a long time, plus he's with someone else, and so on. And when he finally does get up the nerve, it'll break your heart. I don't know why this struck a chord with me- I've never had an experience even remotely like it. I suppose once more Jaime's Hoppers characters have reminded me that I spent a great deal of my 20's and 30's reading about them, have come to know them almost intimately (or as intimately as one can know lines on paper)and aware of how much time has passed and...*snif* Aw, I'll be OK. Anyway, short story, tall impact and certainly one of the best things I've read this year anyway. Not to be outdone, Hopey also gets a showcase, a cutesy-but-still-fun account of her new job as a teacher, and also how she fails to get in to see one of her friends' bands, which makes one think back to the L&R glory days of the 80's and how much of an operator Hopey was and wow, how things have changed and she's not especially happy about it and...*snif*...All right, I'm composed again. I don't know if Jaime is feeling a little melancholy these days or what, but he's certainly turned out a strong set of stories this time. Maybe I'll get #16 a little quicker. A-

ULTIMATES 2 10 (Marvel)
S: Mark Millar; A: Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary
Pardon if I spoil here, and I'm fairly certain most of you have read this already, but if you're a wait-on-the-trader, HERE BE SPOILERS! RIGHT HERE! Pretty much the standard, inevitable "turning of the tables" issue, in which our team, though utterly vanquished, shows that they weren't so vanquished after all. Done in high style, but sadly the style is follow-the-dots. And it was a bitch, no pun intended, that Jarvis got shot- his snippy back-and-forth with the other Avengers was a highlight. Another con: once more, Henry Pym is a traitor, albeit for a good reason, I suppose. Still, was that necessary? Oh well. Hitch and Neary aren't following any dots, though, they're excellent as always. A-

LOCAL 4 (Oni)
S: Brian Wood; A: Ryan Kelly
A pair of most mismatched brothers have a bit of a summit at a roadside diner, that soon turns violent- and our poor unfortunate Megan, who really seems to be everywhere, once more proves the conventional wisdom about not picking up hitchhikers or stranded motorists. Pretty good dramatics, even though you have to question one of the brothers' motives, or at least his plan to achieve his goal, but heck, he wasn't rational anyway and it gets explained pretty well in the course of the story. Not quite as resonant (with me anyway) as last issue, but good just the same. Kelly's art is as solid as always, but it looked a bit rushed to me. A-

S: Grant Morrison; A: Freddie E. Williams II
Y'know, even Roberto Clemente struck out once in a while, and let's face it: although this may look better once the complete picture is drawn and the whole Seven Soldiers thing is done, right now this is a failure on almost every conceivable level- needlessly confusing, cluttered, dull, and very poorly drawn. I'm betting Grant will rebound and maybe even make this look better in retrospect, but Williams and me and my money shall stay as far apart as is humanly possible from now on, barring a miraculous Barry Smith-type stylistic epiphany. C

HELLBOY: MAKOMA 2 (Dark Horse)
S: Mike Mignola; A: Mignola, Richard Corben
No, I'm not typing the full damned title of this thing, which is of the school that begat the Faces song title "You Can Make Me Dance Sing Or Anything (Even Take The Dog For A Walk, Mend A Fuse, Fold Away The Ironing Board, Or Any Other Domestic Shortcomings)". Anyway, this was a corking good Hellboy yarn, as he inhabits a folk tale of deepest African magic as told by a mummy (hey, I'm halfway to giving the full title anyway!), and if Mignola doesn't have the time to draw it, at least he chipped in a few pages and got the great Corben to do one of his very best art jobs on it. Great stuff. Next up, as I understand it, another B.P.R.D. yarn and then Duncan Fregredo gets his shot. Oh, yeah. A

S: Grant Morrison; A: Doug Mahnke
Boyohboy, zombies again. Think this might be Grant giving us the other side of whatever urge led him to give us WE3? Reading this makes me wonder what Grant would have done with a concept like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and I suppose we get a glimpse here. Wildly imaginative spin on a dozen Steven King-type scenarios as ravenous zombies, created by "something in the water" (or so we are led to believe) gets spliced into revisionist takes on Frankenstein's Bride, and we get a little X-Files stuff as the frosting on the cake. From all this, Morrison manages to cobble together a ripping good story, assisted in fine form by Doug Mahnke, whose work sans Tom Nguyen is incredibly hyperdetailed; you don't realize it until you've seen it. He's that rare breed of adventure artist who can implicitly, if not explicitly, put wit into his illustrations and makes it work almost every single time. A

Whew! This concludes reviews for the time being, but I'll be reprising many of these at, plus I'll be posting something about Zombie Tales: The Dead and Jeremiah Harm #2 soon. I'll put some covers up later, in case you care.

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