Thursday, April 06, 2006

For lack of a better title, it's the
What aye bot and wot aye thot, weeks of March 20-April 1.

Stave One.

ZOMBIE TALES: THE DEAD 1 (Boom! Studios)
S: Michael Alan Nelson, Keith Giffen, Johanna Stokes, Jim Pascoe, John Rogers, Andrew Cosby; A: Lee Moder, Ron Lim, Cynthia Martin, Don Simpson, Chris Moreno, Ed Tadem, Fabio Moon.
Third in Boom!'s zombie anthology series, which manages the unlikely objective of giving us somewhat novel takes on that played-out genre (if you want to call it that). As always with anthologies, there are peaks and valleys: peaks include Nelson and Moder's clever "zombies in the Vatican" tale and Stokes' not-as-bad-as-it-oughtta-be Romero-meets-Madagascar effort. Nestled comfortably in the middle are the final chapters of "I, Zombie" and "Dead Meat"; the latter is cutesy in its Shaun of the Dead way, benefitting from some loosey-goosey but still solid Moon art and the latter kinda plods to a inconclusive and unsatisfying conclusion. Rogers and Tadem's "Four out of Five" is well-drawn but the admittedly novel reveal at the end is also, well, let's face it, kinda stupid. Down in the valley resides a tale which features that ol' reliable, the "kid in peril" subgenre (and its equally cliched "dream sequence" second cousin) to no great effect, and the clumsy-looking art doesn't salvage it. I still am bored stiff, if you'll excuse the pun, with zombie stories but you gotta give the Boomers points for trying. B

S: Alan Moore; A: Gene Ha, Art Lyon (color)
Someone should send a copy of this to the braintrust behind Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow; 'cause this is the way to evoke sepia-toned nostalgia for a time and a place that never existed. It helps, but it isn't necessary to have been, a Top 10 ongoing series reader to appreciate what Moore and Ha have done with this intelligently crafted Sci-fi/Adventure pulp homage- Moore's dialogue and script are (as far as I can tell) note perfect, even when dealing with the tricky relationship stuff, and I hadn't realized how much I missed his deft hand in dealing with the feel of this series. Ha fills every page with painstaking, clever detail, never going overboard with the sight gags and kinda-sorta character cameos like Jerry Ordway did when he attempted to fill his predecessor's shoes in Beyond the Farthest Precinct. And props to Lyon for coloring this in dingy grays, blues, beiges, and olive greens but never letting it look murky or monotonous. As great as this is, it's still makes me a bit sad because barring some sort of uncharacteristic reconsideration on Moore's part, we'll never get to experience what he would have had in store for not only this cast, but the later, "modern-day" cast as well. This one, kids, lives up to the hype. Now that this is in a more affordable softcover, you should get this. A+

S: Greg Rucka; A: J.G. Jones, Wade Von Grawbadger
In which Rucka, who had a pretty darn good stint writing Batman in Detective Comics, and Jones, who has been damned impressive on Black Widow, Marvel Boy, and Wanted (indeed, that series sole saving grace) take a pretty darn good idea and botch it with stupid cheesecake posing and a unintentionally ludicrous finale. The premise would seem to be hard to beat- a young girl (who fortunately/coincidentally has had some schooling in obscure Grecian tradition) has committed multiple murders in Gotham City for an unknown reason, then flees to an unnamed city (Washington, DC?) that houses the Themysciran embassy (not a regular Wondy reader, can't ya tell) with the Batman hot on her heels, hunts up Wonder Woman and petitions her for Hiketeia, which (as the jacket states) is " ancient Greek ritual that bonds master and servant in a relationship of mutual respect and servitude". Essentially, if Bruce wants the girl, he has to go through Wonder Woman to get her, because apparently protection from harm is another aspect of this ritual. Anyway, things go pretty much as you'd expect, until Batman hits upon a clever enough solution which just struck me as silly. You'd think that someone with Batman's backstory would be a bit more sympathetic to his quarry, especially when her reasons for what she has done become known...but hey, we wouldn't have a story if everyone talked and listened to each other, now would we? It's as if someone came up with the idea for the striking soft-core BDSM-flavored cover and assigned Rucka to write a story around it, and it was the best he could do on short notice. Jones, for his part, contributes a lot of detailed and dynamic, if a bit chaotic sometimes, art- but he totally ruins the scene in which the murderer petitions Diana by rendering the Amazon princess in a series of stiff, posed pinup-girl stances that are totally inappropriate for the mood and feel of the scene. Given the pedigree of talent involved, not to mention the format and the cost (even in softcover), I expected a lot more than this disappointing exercise. C+

S: Javier Grillo-Marxuach; A: Les McClaine
Chapter two details the MM's attempt at rescuing the disagreeable Sensei Ping, with sidekick Wendy trying to make up for her shortcomings last issue, with predictably disastrous results. While nothing earth-shaking, this is still fast-paced and fun and very well illustrated by McClaine, whose clean and graceful style is easy on my eyes- even though I kinda hope he gives us less white backgrounds next time. A-

W: Warren Ellis; A: Stuart Immonen
The law of diminshing returns is in full effect, it seems, on this- absolutely nothing of any consequence, as far as the supposed big picture of this whole series goes, happens...but it's all done with such style and panache that it's hard to be angry even though it's pretty plain that if ever there was a textbook case of all sizzle and no steak, this is it. Guess Ellis is just taking the piss, but it's not really at our expense since he knows that loudfastdumb is always better than ploddingdulldumb, and that's what we're getting. Kinda like the Ramones, I guess. An annoyance: I like X-refugee Tabitha a lot, but that "Tick Tick...Boom" schtick has already worn out its welcome. Immonen helps a lot with his new Simonsonesque stylings which keeps everything moving along at a good clip. I'm still on board, but eventually I'm gonna want something besides bang with my three bucks, and I sincerely doubt that we're gonna get it here. B+

S: Grant Morrison; A: Frank Quitely. Color-Jamie Grant.
This story is purely Bridwellian, what with Atlas and Samson and Ultra-Sphinxes and Lois with Super-powers (Not a hoax! Not an imaginary story!) for a day...and it's telling, the contrast between what Grant's doing with his corner of the franchise as opposed to the dismayingly cynical and sarcastic Miller take on the other. Grant celebrates the po-faced wackiness of the late 50's-early 60's, where Miller has nothing but contempt for it, and as far as I'm concerned there's enough cynical sarcasm in the world- which is why I don't buy his All-Star Batman. Grant's just relaxing and having fun, and while I'm sure we'll get around to the more serious stuff eventually, for now it's enough to sit back and watch him go. Thanks to Quitely, the art is never Boring- even though he lets his bull-necked stylistic physiologies get the best of him sometimes, this is graceful, almost poetic, and often quite beautiful to behold. The last three pages are absolutely wonderful. Also, gotta give props to Grant (Jamie, that is) for some bright and beautiful colors. I don't think this is going to be Mindf*ck Morrison, not here, and maybe that's mildly disappointing...but this is shaping up to be a really entertaining read, and that's enough, I think. A

S: Mark Andreyko; A: Javier Pina, Fernando Blanco
All right, let me just say this up front: I could have really done without seeing Chase shagging Kate Spencer's toy-boy, who's a decent enough fella, but Cameron, at least the Cam I'm used to, has higher standards than that. I guess. I seem to recall her boyfriend from her much-missed solo series wasn't exactly Mr. Wonderful either. Still, I was like "MY EYES! MY EYES!". Huh? Oh, the comic. Well, it's my first One Year Later story, and IIRC I was kinda curious about how this book would change as a result- and from what I can tell is the answer is not at all. It's still a plain and simple spandex wallow with fights and cameos and the occasional clever quip and all the other requisite elements, competently if not exceptionally well-drawn. Seeing Director Bones all made up to look normal was kinda clever, and that whole scene was the highlight of the book. So, I still don't have any insight yet as to why I'm as interested as I am. But interested I remain. B+

FINALLY got some of these posted! Seven down, eight to go!

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