Friday, June 09, 2006

Just when you thought it was safe to surf the Comics Blogosphere's THE BACARDI SHOW NEW COMICS REVUE!
What I purchasated and what I...what I...cogitated, May 22-June 8- and some may still be available in stores!

S/A: Bryan Lee O'Malley. (Oni Press, $11.95)

Ah, it is finally among us. Someday, aging hipsters everywhere will be able to sit in the park and say to each other "Where were you when Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness came out? Why, I remember as if it was only yesterday!" I can think of few books in recent memory that have been more anticipated at such a high level. And the good news is, it's mostly worth the wait- especially if you liked the first two chapters, because it's of a kind with them as O'Malley puts all his young characters through the same bizarre paces in their one-foot-in-reality, one-foot-in-geek-culture-paradise world. It works so well because it dares to zig when you think it's going to zag- Mal switches from a reminisce (by Ramona, about one of the seven evil boyfriends that our hero must face to win her love) grounded in the here and now to showing said boyfriend flying up to the Moon and punching a hole in it to prove his devotion, all with a straight face and the merest suggestion of a wink as he does so. And this willingness to be playful in his narrative is what makes these books, I believe, so enjoyable and just plain ol' fun- you never know what's going to happen next, and it's presented so skillfully and without pretense that you can't help but enjoy it. It's not flawless- sometimes he skips from scene to scene a little abruptly, and once or twice I thought that perhaps some of those scenes should have been played out to some sort of logical conclusion- but obviously logic and linearity aren't really a priority with what he's trying to do. And he's doing it pretty darn well, if you ask me. A-

S: Tommy Kovack; A: Sonny Liew. (Slave Labor Graphics/Disney, $3.50)

Here's a great example of how outstanding art can make even the most lackluster comics scripts better. Story-wise, this is a pleasant enough but utterly unremarkable account of a young Wonderland cleaning-girl (herself a fanatical clean-freak, apparently, almost OCD) who has to deal with the aftermath of Alice's recent sojourn in the Disney version of Carroll's world. Seems that Tweedledee and Tweedledum have accused the White Rabbit of treason to the head-cutting Queen of Hearts, and the cleaning girl (Named Mary Ann) gets implicated by being at the Rabbit's house at the time the accusations are made. Decent idea, lackluster execution- but this is where Sonny Liew steps in and makes a silk purse out of this particular sow's ear by providing some amazingly expressive and imaginative visuals, full of vigor and fun- and it elevates the whole comic into the realm of something special in the process. I've always thought, from the first time I saw his work over Marc Hempel's pencils on My Faith in Frankie, that Liew was a talent to watch- and here he proves it. A-

S: Christopher Golden, Tom Sniegoski; A: Paul Azaceta (Boom! Studios, $3.99)

Most people are comparing this to Lost, which I don't watch so I'll have to take their word for that- I?m reminded more of an earlier attempt at weird thriller-type TV called John Doe. Like Doe, we have a fellow who emerges from a catastrophe displaying supernormal abilities- in this case, a man survives 12 hours underwater in a downed aircraft (but of course, we know that something happened which got him out of there until he was discovered) and soon thereafter realizes that he's suddenly developed extra-sensory abilities, not only channeling the memories of his flight-mates on the ill-fated airplane, but also those of an federal investigator named Krause, who suspects him of terrorism but also reports to a sinister Santa Claus lookalike Cardinal, who wants him dead so that his story won't be interpreted as a miracle. You remember, just like Stigmata. So while this all has its definite precedents, it is assembled skillfully and I believe that this will be an interesting mystery to unravel over the course of the next few issues. I like Azaceta's artwork here as well- it's the spitting image of work by John Paul (Wintermen) Leon or Tommy Lee (The Question) Edwards, and that's a style I like. Another strong offering from the Boom!ers. Update 6/9: And now I see where this property's rights have been obtained by Universal Pictures. Saw that one coming a mile away...A-

S: Rob Vollmar; A: Pablo G. Callejo (NBM, $8.95)

I was happy for the opportunity to finally get up to speed on this series, having read book two first. Many of the plot threads which had kinda eluded me before made a lot more sense, and enhanced my appreciation of the situation, which is dire indeed for titular bluesguy Lem Taylor. Vollmar does a great job of establishing the personalities of not only Lem, but his partner "Ironwood" Malcott, and it gives this chapter's violent climax a lot more resonance- it's not easy to make the reader care about characters so early in the narrative, and even having read the next chapter already I was shocked by what happened. I still have the same reservations about the art, however; Callejo strives for a Crumbian look and feel, but his character drawings are a little too crude and cartoonish, and it undermines a lot of the drama that Vollmar's trying to get across- plus it still bugs me that he draws and shades his caucasians almost exactly the same as he does everybody else, and it takes me right out of the flow when I have to stop and figure out who's who and what's what. In a story which is in a large measure about race relations, this is a serious disadvantage, I would think. It's not such a problem in book one, simply because there aren't as many no one else seems to be having this problem, so I guess you can take it as you will. Anyway, while Callejo's art is a distraction, it's still strong enough in a storytelling sense that it doesn't sabotage Vollmar's intent. Make no mistake- while flawed, this is still an engrossing read and I look forward to the next book in the series. A-

S: Robert Venditti; A: Brett Weldele (Top Shelf, $2.95)

I'm a little late with this one, I know- I was hoping to get a comp from Top Shelf, and when I didn't, I almost forgot about it until I ran across a copy for a buck at my comics shop. Glad I did- I was very impressed by the first four issues, and was really looking forward to the conclusion...and I wasn't disappointed. A really sharp and smart look at a number of things including human nature and overdependence on technology, all dressed up in Philip Dick pajamas. And wonder of wonders, Venditti gives us a somewhat ambiguous ending that really worked. I also liked the sloppy but solid art by Weldele; reminiscent of the likes of Mazzuchelli or Von Eeden, with a hint of retro Krigstein. I hope, if you weren't getting the singles, that you'll get the upcoming trade. You won't be sorry. A

S: Michael Alan Nelson; A: Chee. (Boom! $2.99)

I'm sorry, but even though I know many of my comics blogosphere brethren are a lot more favorably disposed towards this umpteenth rehash of Welles' story, I just can't get with the program. Survivors of the Martian attack trudge along on a drearily gray journey to some destination (which, if it was mentioned, I've forgotten) and have intermittent violent encounters with big sterile plastic-looking Martians, and of course a lot of interpersonal soap-operatics when they're not. I find this tedious and uninvolving, and that's something that's thankfully been rare in Boom! offerings so far. C

S: Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis; A: Joe Abraham (Boom!, $3.99)

Even though this is mostly made up of talk talk talk talk talk and more talk, at least it's witty, interesting talk as only Giffen and DeMatteis can provide, which kinda makes it jarring when we get about four silent pages at the end...but hey, it's OK- they're just showing that they have more than one color in their crayon box. This remains an outstanding, entertaining series, surely the flagship of the Boom! fleet. A-

S: Scott Lobdell; A: Dustin Nguyen (DC/Wildstorm, $2.99)

Fair-to-middling space opera, striving for a Battlestar Galactica vibe, sporting poor dialogue by Lobdell and sloppy, confusing art by Nguyen, who apparently can't get enough of that Photoshop filters palette. There are some interesting characters buried somewhere within, and as space operas go this certainly seems like it's ambitious enough...but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Hopefully it will get better soon. Never again do I want to hear my distinguished senior military protagonist say "We am what we am what we am" again...and I never want to hear, read, whatever, the word "jackcrud" from anyone. C+

S: Gail Simone; A: Brad Walker, Jimmy Palmiotti. (DC, $2.99)

As the saying goes, books cannot be judged by their covers, and here's proof positive. I kinda got suckered in by the first advance cover DC released; it looked distinctive and energetic, probably because (in what I suppose was a printing mistake) it was presented in reversed-out fashion, which actually enhanced its appeal. I pre-ordered based on that cover, and because I had read lots of good word-of-mouth around the Blogosphereiverse for this title's predecessor, Villains United- another Infinity spinoff which I declined to partake of. Plus, I had also managed to avoid the entire written career of Gail Simone, except for the Killer Princesses miniseries several years ago (I didn't like it, although Lea Hernandez' art was good) and I figured I was due to see what she was bringing to the table that had all the fanboys and girls raving. I soon discovered that what she brings to this picnic is McDonald's hamburgers. And not Quarter Pounders or Big Macs, either, but the basic generic burger, with cheese. This is product, pure and simple- slick and designed to appeal to the lowest-common-denominator, with no fanbuttons left unpunched. No room for spontaneity or cleverness; we have bad guys and badder guys to introduce and set in their places so they can fight and snark and do all the things that mainstream modern spandex comic book characters are supposed to do. It's efficient but uninspired- and while I can see why less demanding readers might embrace this as comfort food (I'm guilty of this with Manhunter, I fear), it just made me weary. Not helping is penciller Walker, who strives earnestly for a Tim Sale-via-Rags Morales look (which is the apparent house style DC wants these days) but doesn't have the chops to do anything but give us blandness. It's not that these creators don't have talent, and I'm sure they're convinced that they're turning out good comics...but I'm afraid that my idea of good comics and this are very different. This is one Secret that probably shouldn't be shared. C-

S: Earl MacRauch, Joe Gentile; A: Steven Thompson, Keith Williams. (Moonstone, $3.50)

Urgh. I'd rather take one of those little critters that Red Lectroids spit out right in my face than read this again. Between Gentile's hamfisted attempt to replicate the cockeyed MacRauch dialogue style and the convoluted plot which makes the film's look a masterpiece of clarity, along with the clumsy, stiff, wannabe-Steranko (but not even Gulacy or Gene Day level) illustration, this fails in almost every way. A real disappointment (not that I was expecting much), and I can't imagine even hardcore desperate-for-more-Buckaroo Blue Blazers (like me) embracing this. D

S: Pete Milligan; A: Nick Dragotta, Mike Allred (Marvel, $2.99)

Really, if you think about it, endings have never been Milligan's strong suit...and this is no exception. Too pat and regrettably resolved by a standard comicbook punch-'em-up, the disappointment is that we were set up to expect something better. Not that this is terrible as a whole, mind you- there was still wit and cleverness to be found, and I was happy to see Doc Strange retain his dignity at the end of the day. While this may have settled for a honorable mention on the best-of '06 list, I enjoyed this mightily and hope Marvel can continue to find space in their schedule for the likes of this and Nextwave- stories which manage to mix adventure with humor, unencumbered by stagnating and hidebound continuity concerns. Aah, who am I kidding- this and Nextwave together probably won't sell half as much as the worst-selling Civil War issue. A- Entire series: A-.

More later! Including Tag 1, Middle Man Vol. 2 4, Wasteland 1, Nextwave: Agents of H.A.R.M. 5, and more.

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