Saturday, May 13, 2006

Here at last, the barely anticipated return of the B to the S to the N-C-R!
In which I post belated commentary, observations, bitching, complaints and thoughts on various comeeks and other works of sequential fiction I have read, weeks of 21 April through 12 May.

S: Neal Shaffer; A: Joe Infurnari (Oni Press, $6.95)
Young journalist foolishly hitches a ride on a cargo ship which is on a course to go through the Bermuda Triangle, storm hits, and he wakes up alone on the ship with garbage, clutter and trash strewn everywhere. Soon he's rescued, and finds to his dismay that he's joined a select society of people who have passed through the Triangle and now find themselves existing in a sort of sideways plane of existence, unable to interact with those in "our" reality. That's the way I understood it, anyway- my eyes kinda glazed over as one of the characters explained the situation to our unfortunate protagonist, who must now accept his fate or somehow (just like you know he will, eventually) find a way to get back to his wife and life. Decent treatment of Lost-inspired Twilight Zone-ish material, with a challenging enough situation and a likeable enough cast of characters. Artwise, Infurnari's style is rough as sandpaper and suffers from excessively dark shading but his figure drawing and expressions are good, and he tells the story well. I think he'll improve with experience. Worth a look. B+

S: Christina Weir, Nunzio DiFillipis; A: Christopher Mitten (Oni, $14.95)
The team behind The Tomb is back with a not-bad little murder mystery involving a fractious family and post-hypnotic reincarnation that had me guessing until the end- and even though yet again a denouement comes out of left field at least it was sort-of set up at the beginning so it didn't annoy. Somewhat more annoying, to me anyway, is Mitten's art- he's adequate at telling the story, but it's obvious that he learned to draw from studying the clumsy manga stylings of artists who themselves were borrowing, and we get page after page of underdrawn, scratchily inked panels inhabited by people who all possess the same face structure (pointy chins, spiky hair) and look young, even the older people. Some like his work, so I guess it's just a case of diff'rent strokes. Anyway, it didn't interfere too much with my enjoyment of the narrative itself, so no harm no foul. Between this and Borrowed Time, is it just me, or are more and more graphic novels reading like auditions for TV scriptwriting gigs? This could have easily been an episode of CSI or something. B+

S/A: Too many to list! (Dark Horse, $14.95)
Before you ask, no, I haven't finished Kavalier and Clay yet, although I am making progress. But right now I'm at the part where Sammy is having his California fling with Tracy Bacon and Joe has bought the swanky apartment for he and Rosa to live in together and frankly, this stuff is BORING. I'm sure things will pick up eventually, so I'm looking at this section as a hurdle to jump. Anyway, as I'm sure you all know what we have here are several high-and-not-so-high profile creative types having a go at Mike Chabon's pulp-inspired super escape artist, and often the results are quite good, such as the short-but-sweet final Will Eisner story that features the Spirit, and the Chaykin feature which frankly reads like about every Chaykin story, just plug in the hero and off you go...the only difference being that the hero is a blonde goyim rather than the usual ChaykinMan. There's also a typically lively Paul Grist feature which has the Escapist taking on super-hypnotist Ian Anderson (Now I know why I bought Too Old to Rock 'n' Roll, Too Young to Die), a bland Red China-set adventure that benefits from solid Shawn Martinbrough art, an even blander story set at the New York World's Fair which benefits from nicely watercolored Eddie Campbell illustration (all I had seen from him previously was Bacchus, and I liked this a lot more), a Vietnam War tale which sports outstanding Tom Yeates art and makes me even more nostalgic for Timespirits, and a somewhat heavy-handed and unattractively drawn (by Eric Wight- I liked his Buffy animated style better) attempt to replicate a late 60's-era "relevant" comics story which just doesn't work. Jeffrey Brown's short story is amusing, and David Hahn brings his clean style and pointy ear-squiggles to another Chaykin tale which could have been a leftover Times Squared story idea. And then there's Steven Grant's "Electricity", which purports to be a story written by Sammy Clay for a late 40's romance/horror book, and features a mousy girl who gets raped and eventually killed because she let herself get all prettied up by a friend and set up on a blind date. Something about this story just didn't sit right with me- it's borderline misogynistic in its tone, and its resolution hinges on two unlikely (to me, anyway) plot contrivances- first, her real blind date dismisses her immediately after he sees her tipsy, after she's been drinking to alleviate her nervousness because he's late; wouldn't he have at least tried to talk to her and wouldn't he have been aware that he was late for their date? Also, the authorities won't listen to or believe her story, simply because we wouldn't have that nifty twist at the end without it. I know, I know, Grant is writing "as" Clay, whose apparent issues with women are supposed to inform this story. But the thing is Grant isn't Clay, he's really writing this, and is ducking behind this persona to get this out of his head. There's a sort of disconnect before this tale as well, in one of the text pieces that introduce each illustrated story- the writer, in discussing its fictional history, says that this is thought to be an uncredited Alex Toth or Jack Cole story, ludicrous because the art by Norm Breyfogle (he wishes) doesn't even slightly resemble the work of either man. All things considered, this didn't blow me away, although there's a lot of quality work here. I think a lot of it is because let's face it- taken as a character in and of itself, the Escapist just isn't all that interesting. He's a pastiche of any number of 1940's "real-world" characters, from Doc Savage to Little Orphan Annie, created simply so Chabon's fictional creators, themselves pastiches of any number of creators working in the field in those halcyon days from Jack Kirby to Will Eisner and so on...which makes him a pastiche created by pastiches created by a fiction writer, and the thrice-removed nature just doesn't lend itself to keeping me interested, especially at this price. Unless, of course, we get another issue with Martinbrough, Grist, Chaykin, Hahn and Eisner...then we'll see. B+

S: Ed Brubaker; A: Michael Lark, Stefano Guadiano (Marvel, $2.99)
I've been a little harsh on this title lately; it's true, I'm ready for something else besides leftover Miller, but Brubaker's hardly to blame for the hand he was dealt, and he's slowly but surely taking this less-than-fresh plot and making it very readable after all by indulging in his true strength: characterization. And throwing the Punisher in the mix at the end doesn't exactly make me jump for joy, but I must admit it will be interesting to see what happens next. Mike Lark's art is as good as ever, even though Gaudiano's inks and the Photoshoppery involved while coloring it are combining to make it look like Sean Phillips' Sleeper work. Familiarity breeds contempt, as the saying goes, and I think that's what is going on with me and this book- I've been reading it for a long time now, and perhaps I'm a bit jaded. Anyway, for now, I am reengaged. Hope it lasts. A-

S: Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti; A: Khari Evans, Palmiotti (Marvel, $2.99)
Despite the horrible early 90s-Image samurai spandex stylings of the badgirl badguy this time out, I'm still enjoying this mildly amusing, well dialogued and efficiently drawn, sometimes surprisingly engrossing wannabe Cinemax late-night erotic action thriller. Kudos for making a villain as lame as Humbug interesting and even likeable; even more for taking the time to show us the human side of the Misty Knight-Colleen Wing relationship, and yet more for the cameo by Danny Rand. Gosh, I wish I had my old Iron Fist comics back. But I digress. A-

S: Denise Mina; A: Leo Manco (DC/Vertigo, $2.75)
I think it doesn't bode well for new writer Mina's tenure when about four issues in to her debut, I'm having serious trouble remembering what the heck's going on, let alone caring. Maybe it would have been wiser to take baby steps, who knows. And Manco is no longer the sort of artist that can make any of it even remotely interesting. C+

S: Mike Carey; A: Dean Ormston (DC/Vertigo, $2.75)
As this title winds down, we get a diversion with the comic relief demons, Gaudium and Spera, and the surprising return of a forgotten player. Well-done as always, but hardly essential, and the best thing about it is that it features the final Dean Ormston fill-in. I've long been on record as wishing Ormston could have drawn the whole series; he at least has a distinctive style, something the regular penciller lacks in spades. Unless you count pointy chins as distinctive. A-

S: B. Clay Moore; A: Jeremy Haun (Oni B/W preview, $3.50)
The latest from Hawaiian Dick creator Moore gives us "What if Tom Cruise was really a secret agent (and not insane)?", and thanks to lively dialogue and likeable characters, plus a good sense of plausibility and good art by Haun, he pulls it off. I'm looking forward to seeing this in full color. A-

More eventually, including a spate of Boom! releases including Jeremiah Harm #3 and Cthulhu Tales.

Thanks for being patient while I FINALLY got these done!

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