Saturday, August 12, 2006

In which I altercate, argue, bounce off, canvass, compare notes, confabulate, confer, consider, consult with, contend, contest, converse, debate, deliberate, descant, discept, discourse about, dispute, dissect, dissertate, examine, explain, figure, get together, go into, hash over, hold forth, jaw, kick about, knock around, rap, reason about, review, sift, take up, talk about, thrash out, toss around, ventilate, and weigh in on various works of sequential fiction that I have perused in the interval between the last JBNCR and this here one. Or, if you prefer, July 26th through August 11th.

NOW WITH ALL REVIEWS DONE! (Well, there is Leading Man 2 and Savage Brothers 1, which I just got and haven't read. Next time for those.) THANK GOD! I can't remember EVER taking this long to get a review column done! Newest reviews are at the top. Thanks for your patience.

S: Frank Miller; A: Jim Lee. (DC, $2.99)

Can't help but be reminded of Christgau's review of Lou Reed's Sally Can't Dance album, in which he says "...even as he shits on us he can't staunch his own cleverness". And, it's odd, in a lot of ways the post-Dark Knight Returns Miller writing style reminds me a lot of 1970's Lou's- cynical, dismissive, nasty, and brutal. I found these copies for 50 cents each at a sidewalk sale recently, and I suppose for that price I got my money's worth- this isn't dull, Miller does have some nice moments with Alfred, and there is an occasional quip or one-liner ("Goddamned Batman" notwithstanding) that's chuckleworthy. But he gives us a real creepy, asshat Batman, the Vicki Vale character is just like every other female character Miller writes- either a hardass bitch or a helpless victim- and the third-hand Spillane he uses for the bulk of his narration and dialogue just lies there on the page, rarely coming across as lively as he means for it to. The most obvious thing about this, though, as far as I'm concerned, is that I can't fathom Miller's motives for writing this, other than the Warnerbucks- it's obvious he has no respect or love for comics or their fans, and seems to consider himself above such juvenilia- and while financial gain is a valid enough motive, it's not always the best reason for churning out theoretical "art". At least it's not as out-and-out contemptible as his DK2. Jim Lee, for his part, hasn't progressed one iota past his 90's Image heyday; he's still drawing legs on women that are easily six feet in length, not to mention hips that are usually always too thin for the legs they are theoretically attached to, and the necks, arms and legs on his men- hoo boy, they're as thick as redwood tree trunks. Scratchy, busy lines adorn everything he draws, faces, buildings, cars, whatever. But even given all these difficulties, he obviously has skills and talent- witness #4's foldout spread of the Batcave, for example, very impressive, and once in a while there's a scene or panel progression that is sharp. This is far from a trainwreck, and I actually liked it better than the last couple of Sin City series Miller has come out with, not to mention the godawful abortion that was DK2. But I don't care for a Batman that seems to have been imported lock, stock and smoking barrel from The Big Fat Kill, and Lee's art mostly leaves me cold. Will I buy more? Can't say. Perhaps they'll have #'s 5 and 6 at the next sidewalk sale! C+

S: Jeph Loeb, A: Tim Sale (DC, $19.95)

I picked up the singles back when they were first released, in 1991, God, has it been that long? Like Brian Bendis in his introduction here, it was an impulse buy. I liked the Brian Bolland cover, had always kinda/sorta liked the Challengers (even though if I ever bought a copy of their original ongoing series, I don't recall it), and after skimming through it and being amazed at what I was reading- the bemused tone, the actual destruction of Challengers Mountain!- I couldn't help but want to read more. And as each issue came and went, I dug it more and more: here we had an realistic (well, as realistic as a code-approved comic can get) take on superheroing, complete with consequences of actions, surprises, well-rounded characters, and a lot of cleverly placed humor, along with quirky, interesting art. I do recall being vaguely disappointed that Loeb decided to go the "evil extradimensional demon menace" route, which was cliched even then, but hey- the journey was so much fun I didn't mind the destination. Another thing to remember was that there was no online comics fandom to speak of back in those long-ago days of yore; other than the mixed reactions in each issue's letters page, I had no clue what my fellow readers thought about this clever take on the venerable team. A few years later, when I started frequenting the DC Message Boards, I found out: the rank and file HATED what they thought was a demeaning depiction of these noble characters. Surprised, I tried to defend this work, but I found few allies. As we're finding out more and more these days, revisionism isn't always popular with longtime fans, to state the obvious. Anyway, this was the first of the Loeb/Sale collaborations; they've gone on to do a lot of work together with varying results. I quite liked their first couple of Batman Halloween specials, although the last couple were just too convoluted and unwieldy to be enjoyable (even though I'll always appreciate Loeb using the Calendar Man the way he did in the otherwise dull Long Halloween), their excellent Superman for All Seasons, and Daredevil: Yellow, their first Marvel collaboration and the only one I found worthwhile. Everything else has been hit or miss for me, mostly miss- I haven't bought anything by either in a good five years. I don't think Loeb has ever topped this, but Sale's work has improved a great deal; he's gotten more skillful, as opposed to a lot of his work here which looks like he's still trying to get comfortable. But, there's a wit in this earlier stuff that's missing from what I've seen since- no way Sale would now use a visual device like the little bomb-bearing robot that teeters across the page to his destination now as he did in issue one for example. It also features what is certainly the best Superman appearance not written by Alan Moore in twenty years, not surprisingly, Loeb scored with his later Superman tale as well. To sum, this is the way I like my revisionist takes- with wit and enthusiasm rather than mercenary cynicism. And I highly recommend this to anyone who shares my opinion, and anyone except perhaps hardcore Challheads, all two dozen or so of you. Oh, and Neilalien: You're probably already aware of it, but Doctor Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum gets an extended cameo (aspiring magician Ace rents it while the "owner is out of town"), as does Wong later on. Kewl, eh?

S: Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges; A: Tony Akins (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

I suppose it's a compliment to Willingham's creativity, especially in regards to the ongoing Fables, that he has so many stories that he can spin characters off. I suppose it's also a compliment that this reads pretty much like your basic issue of that title as well. But it's not an especially clever or interesting one, just like the title character, and not even a nicely staged naked Goldilocks appearance can bring it to life. Still, it's early. We'll see. B

S: Greg Rucka, A: Jesus Saiz (DC, $2.99)

Hokay, I was hoping for some good ol' spandex-flavored espionage action, and that certainly is the case here. Plus, I like a lot of these characters: Sasha Bordeaux, an obvious Rucka favorite from his underappreciated late 90's tenure on Detective, Count Vertigo, Fire. But this is way, way WAY too cluttered, technical, and talky, full of people explaining everything to other people explaining things when they're not constantly referring to each other as "Black Bishop", "White Queen" and other cutesy chess references, and after a while it gives me a real headache. Plus, I'm still not a big fan of Saiz' art- it's competent, but generic and he draws Amanda Waller less like "THE WALL" and more like "a partition", if you know what I mean. My admittedly tenuous interest is sorely tempted to be occupied elsewhere, but I'll hang with for a few more issues. C+

S: Steve Englehart; A: Tom Derenick, Mark Farmer (DC, $2.99)

In which things go from bad to worse, or dumb and dumberer perhaps, as Englehart completely fails to evoke Gardner Fox or even Gerry Conway with a tedious and convoluted chain of events and poor dialogue which left me missing the 70's more than ever. A strong contender for WORST Aquaman appearance in the highly checkered history of the character. About the only positive I came away with was that there was a lot of classic Gypsy, even though a lot of the mythology Englehart tried to impose on her was just unnecessary and pointless, and the Derenick/Farmer art kept reminding me of Trevor Von Eeden. Any comic that makes me wish to read Gerry Conway again is evil and should be ignored at all costs. D

S: Kurt Busiek; A: Brent Anderson (DC/Wildstorm, $3.99)

Just when I had pretty much given up on Astro City being interesting ever again (Dark Age was deadly dull), along comes Busiek with this solid, thoughtful tale of his Superman analogue and the friendly rival thing he has with someone called Infidel, a sorcerer/scientist Vandal Savage type perhaps who seems less evil than just pragmatic. Few writers can do this sort of thing successfully- the usual suspects: Moore, Ellis, maybe Morrison- and Busiek succeeds with flying colors. And in the process, reminds me why I liked this series so much at the beginning. It certainly wasn't because of Anderson's art- he's capable, but his sloppy, earnest Bucklerisms leave me ice cold. All in all, a smashing success though, and I've never been too concerned with the art here anyway. Keep it up, Mr. B. A-

S: Wil Pfieffer; A: David Lopez, Alvaro Lopez (DC, $2.99)

I'm sorry to say that I had bailed on Catwoman after Pete Woods left; I was a little skeptical of friend Holly assuming the mantle, new artist Lopez's samples just didn't look as facile as Woods', and it just seemed like a good jumping off point, with my constant search for ways to save on my monthly comics expenditures. Bad move on my part. Pfiefer has done a wonderful job of crafting an interesting storyline out of the ashes of Identity Whatever, and I'm very glad that I decided to get caught up. I'm also impressed with new (to me, anyway) villain Film Freak; although perhaps he would be better served remaining behind the scenes, a manipulator rather than instigator of action, he's a fun and cool nod to movie buffs like me and, I dare say, a lot of you reading this- and judging from his blog, Pfiefer too. I'm also still not completely sold on Holly as Catwoman; she doesn't have any prior experience, and sparring with Wildcat, despite being Dorian's dream, doesn't prepare one for a busy evening of jumping off tall buildings. At least Pfiefer does show her having her share of awkward moments; getting caught on tape beating down the Angle Man, for example. And Lopez does a fine job- there's nothing really all that idiosyncratic about his work, he's as ordinary as the next DC art drone, but the saving grace of this art team is the graceful line of one of my favorite inkers, that other guy named Lopez, Alvaro to be precise. Catwoman is perhaps one of the top three DC titles right now, as far as I'm concerned, and I won't be dropping it again anytime soon. A-

S/A: Dame Darcy (Fantagraphics, $3.95)

I can't imagine what compels Darcy to keep putting out her whimsical, naughty, homespun illustrated fables, nor can I fathom why Fantagraphics continues to put them out, because I just don't see how enough people could be attuned to this sort of thing to make it worth their while...but I'm awfully glad she does and they do. I can't quite put my finger on what makes each issue of Meat Cake such a blast to pore over- perhaps it's the oddball, yet very cleverly realized characters such as Wax Wolf, Strega Pez (a witch with a slot in her neck through which comes Pez-shaped tablets bearing pronouncements), or Friend the Girl (the simplicity of that cracks me up); perhaps it's the can-go-anywhere subject matter; the chaotic but adventurous layouts and primitive art style she employs...maybe it's just that she has incredible charisma and it manages to project itself through the printed page. Who knows. Not me, that's for sure! Highlights this issue include the lead, a "Zombie Survival Test" which is essentially a scavenger hunt that features another reoccuring character Richard Dirt looking quite fetching in a nun's habit and careens towards a demented resolution; a crash course in palmistry (my wife and I have meant to get Darcy to read our palms for years now- she would do it for $20 if you mail her copies of your palms in various perspectives); a bittersweet tale titled "The Red Bird" which speaks to some unpleasantry between the lines...ordinarily the saccharine ending that this one sports would send me crawling up the wall, but the rancor suggested grounds it totally. There's also a weird sort of science fair competition going on in a couple of the vignettes, to amusing effect, and a whimsical take on the Chupacabra legend, in which ol' Choopie inhabits the form of a Texas cowgirl, sipping on blood in a Big Gulp and listening to Hank Williams. And that's just scratching the surface- Darcy packs all her issues of Meat Cake to the rim...and most of it works, seemingly through force of will if nothing else! I'm not going to sit here and tell you that you should run out and buy this- if ever oh ever an acquired taste there was, this is it- but if any of this sounds interesting at all to you, then by all means partake. And you just may pick up a new habit, like I did years ago after reading a short interview with the Grande Dame in the Comics Journal. A

S: Brian Michael Bendis; A: Michael Avon Oeming (Marvel/Icon, $2.95)

The best moments in this continue to come from the pen of Oeming and colorist Peter Pantazis- the superhero fighting stuff is appropriately kinetic, the talking heads stuff is rendered as interesting as can be, and in this issue especially the erotic stuff is very well-handled- there's a masturbation scene that's every bit as sexy as it should be, something you don't see in comics very often, unless you are inclined to check out some of the Eros line's better publications. Bendis isn't really breaking new ground script-wise and even seems a bit bored, but as long as he's got Oeming's art and the lurid hues of Pantazis backing him up, he'll be all right. There's zero buzz about this book these days, especially when you compare it to when I first started getting it several years ago, and that's too bad- but this is still highly readable. A-

S: Rob Vollmar; A: Pablo Callejas (DBM/ComicsLit, $8.95)


All in all, a solid and interesting look at a subject that one would think would be ripe with possibility- the trials and tribulations of blues musicians in the 20's and 30's. And Vollmar does a lot with the one story he was called to tell, finishing it up with a surprising turn of events about midway through, as well as a touching coda. But he almost goes a bit too far with the resolution, a deus ex machina climax which sets our protagonist Lem Taylor up as a literal Christ figure, kinda making me wince because it incorporates an unnecessary air of the fantastical into the mix, very late in the proceedings- but fortunately he stops just short of going all the way with this notion. This, kids, shows restraint- and that's usually always a good thing in a writer. Artwise, Callejo seems to be getting comfortable (just in time for the end of the tale), but I don't know if I'll ever warm up completely to his awkward and murky Crumbisms. If there were any justice, HBO would let Vollmar develop this concept as an ongoing series. But then again, they'd just axe it before its scheduled run. A-

S: Ed Brubaker; A: Michael Lark, Steven Gaudiano (Marvel, $2.99)

***SPOILER ALERT*** (assuming you haven't already read it, that is)

Can Ed Brubaker bring the goods or what? Dealt a lackluster hand by departing writer Bendis, he managed to draw to an inside straight, finishing up in grand form as we get a one-two punch: an actual interesting fight between Bullseye, the Kingpin, and DD, something I never thought I'd see again, and in this issue, the escape from prison with help from the Punisher (wittily handled) and a great cameo from Iron Fist, a welcome (if temporary, I'm sure) addition to the supporting cast. Plus, there's that ending, which surprised me, because frankly I thought it was time to make some significant changes in DD's life- and between Milla (via Bendis) and the death of Foggy Nelson, I thought that was a good start. But then Ed goes and pulls a little "psych!" move on us, and even though I have nothing against Foggy as a character, his being dead kinda made me think that anything was possible, even removing a major supporting character. Now, I realize that won't be the case, and Brubaker has compromised himself somewhat by doing this. Still, I have been hugely entertained by this whole story arc (which frankly, I was dreading because at first it seemed like more of the same old same old) and I won't underestimate him again. Oh, and this just in- Mike Lark is pretty damn good in his understated way. Dare I say that I get a Wally Wood vibe from his work? Not necessarily in its literal appearance, Gaudiano's inks are too sloppy for that, but just in its general unassuming, down-to-earth feel. A

S: Matt Fraction; A: Gabriel Ba. (Image, $1.99)

Well, for what it's worth, I'm a Revolver man myself, and I have special affection for the post-Fabs odds-and-sods collection The Beatles Again aka Hey Jude, so I suppose that would keep my brains in my head at Winston Heath's dinner table...and the notion of a pleasure island orgy to the strains of the Help! soundtrack isn't altogether unpleasant. Fraction is once more as incoherent as ever, even though this one came across as more linear than the previous issue and was good fun once I got my bearings even though I kept getting reminded of Austin Powers and his girlbot adversaries, and I hope that's not what Fraction had in mind. I chuckled at most of the appropriate places, too, including the aforementioned dinner scene and the impromptu comics criticism in which Mr. Quinn indulges. Again, Ba acts as our tour guide, helping us navigate the complicated events with aplomb. I want to like this comic a lot more than I do; the concept is great and the art is top-notch. I just wish it wasn't so much damn work trying to parse it- Fraction keeps saying to me, in this way, "That's one for you, nineteen for me" (sorry about the strained Beatles pun there)...and keeps giving me "Revolution No.9" when I hope for the "Hey Jude" B-side "Revolution". Please, Mr. F, give peace (of mind) a chance! B+

S: A.J. Lieberman; A: Al Barrionuevo, "Bit". (DC, $2.99)

This one's been getting savaged all around the Blogosphereiverse; and it's easy to see why- just like practically every other spinoff of Identity Crisis, it's just no fun. Let's face it- there have been many attempts to garner a wider audience the Martian Manhunter over the years, and nearly all of them have failed to varying degrees because (I believe, anyway) when you have a character that apparently can do anything he wants (shapeshift, heat vision, flight, super-strength, psychic abilities, twist the cookie off an Oreo and never leave a trace of filling), then you have a character that is spread much too thin. Only the humor approach of the Giffen/DeMatteis League made him interesting in a supporting straight-man role- and Dini, Timm and Company did a lot of good work with the character, portraying him as a somewhat taciturn but warm-hearted father figure of sorts...John Ostrander had his moments years later too, but if anyone could make J'onn a solo comic star, I honestly believe it would have been done by now. Which brings us to the here and now, and the umpteenth attempt to launch our boy into the A-list...and obviously the decision makers at DC did decree that good old reliable, rock-solid J'onn J'onzz, friend and confidant to the superheroes of his adopted world and Oreo eater, was old hat, a failure; we need to have a serious Martian Manhunter, pissed at the world with all the attendant angst and rancorous feelings that someone somewhere at 1700 Broadway NYCNY thinks that all costumed adventurers and beings should have so they can be taken seriously by people who might throw money their way or accuse them of, horror of horrors, writing "funnybooks". Now don't get me wrong- I've always thought that it was a good thing to have characters and storylines that have a certain gravitas about them; a sense of consequence and of cause-and-effect. But this, and most of the stuff I've read over the last couple of years, is just too much. I'm sure Lieberman, Meltzer, and all the involved parties are convinced, or have convinced themselves, that they are making the kind of comics that they would want to read...but that doesn't make it right or entertaining or even worthy of attention. It's not the apparent editorial "get-serious" mandate I mind so much as it is the heavy handed and clumsy execution of same. So yeah, sure, we've got J'onn being all glum and feeling betrayed and alone, even though he's had years to sort out his attitudes and feelings about this world and his place in it, and much of his bad mood is caused by his discovery of fellow Martians who have been kept in captivity in some sort of Roswell-like facility for a long time. This kinda threw me too- is he bummed because these are GREEN Martians, and he hadn't seen any of that particular strain around in his tenure on Earth? Because there have been multitudes of Martians of various OTHER hues coming and going to and fro on ol' Terra for ages now, or at least farther back than the braintrust's evident short memories extend. I don't know. That's not an invalid idea, if my no-green Martians theory holds, but the leaden execution of the story just turns me off, and the artists don't do me any favors either- the art on the page looks off-kilter somehow, like it was drawn at a size smaller than 7-1/2 x 10, or whatever size a trimmed comic book is these days (I don't have a ruler handy) and enlarged to fit on the page. Everything looks pinched and claustrophobic, and these guys are still, if you'll excuse the expression, a little green when it comes to perspective and anatomy. Also, someone went all Photoshop-crazy in what seems to be an effort to make it look more James Jean or J.G. Jones-ish (lotsa luck THERE), and only succeeds in amping up the murk factor. I appreciate the comp, I really do, and it's entirely possible that this could pick up steam and become the resonant drama that they think/hope it will become...but I'm not going to hold my breath. I think a D or below is a bit harsh for such a competent book- the "heartless and pointless" of my D criteria hold, but this is far from "brainless"- much thought (or groupthink) went into this, it's plain- so I suppose I'll just mark it with a C-.

S: Graymiotti; A: Khari Evans (Marvel, $2.99)

Entertaining conclusion to this highly underrated miniseries, which, if I understand it correctly, will morph into a Heroes for Hire title in a short while, but with the stiff, fanboy-pandering art of Billy Tucci replacing the almost-too-loose but visually clever stylings of Evans. This is the main reason I haven't signed up for HfH, but intend to view it on the rack first. I like the Misty & Colleen characters, always have, Iron Fist too, and even this newish comic relief Otis guy, so I want to give it a chance. Anyway, back to this- while it started slow, it soon evolved into a fun little Tarantinoesque mishmash of kung fu, afros, and guys and dolls in super-suits and always maintained a fresh stance as it did so. Many try this, few succeed, so get the trade, mkay? This issue: A-. Entire series: A-

S: Mark Andreyko; A: Javier Pina, Fernando Blanco (DC, $2.99)

In which we get the finale that shouldn't have surprised anyone: Dr. Psycho out of his mental restraints, and raising psychic hell in the courtroom- but Andreyko still managed to make it interesting...and that, in a nutshell, is why I'm digging this comic. It sure isn't because of his take on Chase (the reason why I started buying in the first place, remember), which only superficially resembles the D.C. Johnson template and more often as not makes her into the "sexpot roomie" of many a slasher flick, and that concerns me. Shagging sidekick Dylan doesn't help her case. So help me God, if Chase ends up in a refrigerator I'm swearing off DC comics forever. B+

S: Bill Willingham; A: Cory Walker (DC, $2.99)

I've been pretty hard on this title since I started getting it, so I'm pleased to report that this, the finale of the first story arc, was a bit better, even though it felt rushed and contrived. It's never a good thing, story-wise, when your super-guy or -team gets their asses kicked thoroughly in the previous issue, with no hope of turning the tides- only to suddenly rise up in the next and easily defeat their oppressors through a series of events which work only because the writer wishes them to- kinda comes across as a cheat, to me anyway. Say what you will about Mark Millar- he at least knows how to write this sort of thing (his basic Authority script template was always like that) so you can believe it. Artwise, Cory Walker isn't too bad- reminds me a little of David Hahn only greener. And Cory, for future reference, those big yellow circles on the Phantom Stranger's chest aren't decorations- they're the objects that hold those big collar flaps in place, as well as hold together the chain that holds the cloak together. They way you draw them on page one, it looks like they're embedded in his chest! B-

S: Graymiotti; A: Daniel Acuna (DC, $2.99)

At this point, after reading Checkmate, and a few of the other post-IC books, I'm beginning to wonder exactly how many covert metahuman groups are necessary in the DCU...won't they all be tripping over each other as they go about their business? Anyway, once more, were given fresh versions of those hoary old Quality Comics characters- Doll Man fans, all 18 or so of them, must be deliriously happy at the leaner, meaner, tougher version of their hero. All the re-imaginings, in fact, are acceptable, but what really kills the buzz on this one is the somber, serious tone that is apparently DC editorial mandate these days. Any humor that might have a fleeting chance of balancing all the glum Bourneisms is implied rather than made explicit, and there's so precious little of it that it's practically unnoticable. Acuna, for his part, does a fine job illustrating the proceedings- I was most curious about how his interior art looked after seeing a number of good covers with his byline, but on his interiors (judging by the evidence of this 1st issue) he tends to ink with a curiously heavy line that, combined with the murky Photoshoppery in the colors, makes this look ponderous and leaden rather than lively and fast-paced. Oh well, a little to like, and a lot to shrug the shoulders over...pretty much par for the post-Crisis course, I guess. B

S: ChayTischKinMan; A: David Hahn (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

Hahn's talents, which I'm beginning to appreciate more and more, are being wasted on this anemic...well, I don't know what the hell they think it is. Satire? Goodfellas with vampires? Late-night Cinemax "erotic thriller"? There's many a slip between cocktail napkin plot thumbnail and execution and really this is coming across (to me, anyway) as a barely coherent mishmash of stuff that just doesn't have the right glue to hold it together. The last miniseries started rough but got better. This one is a non-starter. C-


S:Mike Carey, Denise Mina; A: Leo Manco (DC/Vertigo, $14.99/$2.99)

Mike Carey's stint on Hellblazer certainly had its moments; but a great deal of it seemed to be reshuffling a deck that had been shuffled way too many times before. So when I'm confronted with this graphic novel, out on hardcover (I think) before his run on JC:HB was finished but you know me, Mr. El Cheapo, I gotta wait for the softcover before I buy- well, I don't know quite what to think. All His Engines is a real damned good Conjob story. Real good. Despite the fact that it once more places our "hero" in familiar settings, forcing him to travel to the Colonies in order to work a pack of demons and forgotten gods and save a loved one (this time Chas' granddaughter), there seems to be a real sense of gravity, of things at stake, that elevates it above the usual run of the mill Hellblazer story. Thing is, it makes me wonder where this heightened sense of cause-and-effect and solid characterization was for the bulk of Carey's run? Oh well, shouldn't carp, I guess. Regardless, Neil Gaiman's cover quote is right- this really is a, if not necessarily the quintessential Constantine story. It should be required reading for anyone who thought the film was hot stuff (there must have been someone, right?). For his part, Manco rises to the level of the script, and does his strongest job since he came aboard- nowhere near his Hellstorm salad days, but not-bad just the same. Meanwhile, in the ongoing, current JC:HB scribe Denise Mina winds up her first story arc, and it's as vague and inconsequential as always. Perhaps she should have not tried to do something as ambitious right off the bat, because this is an utter failure. But on the other hand, I am happy that she's at least trying to bring something fresh to the table, and she does have a pretty good read on Conjob's let's just say she's earned the benefit of the doubt, and go from there. Manco doesn't really do her any favors, either- his work is as stiff and sloppy as it's been for longer than I care to remember. All His Engines: A. #222: C+.

S: Mike Carey; A: Glenn Fabry (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

Since it's my habit to use that fascinating (to me, anyway) word "penultimate" whenever it applies and when possible, let me just say up front that this is the penultimate issue of the ongoing adaptation and let it go at that. I'll also state yet again that Carey has done a wonderful job of adapting the source material, and Fabry has really opened my eyes with his spot-on design and illustration work. More next time. A

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