Thursday, September 21, 2006

Yarr. I be back, with a post started on "Talk Like a Pirate Day", with another edition of the BSNCR! In which I drop a brief-to-a-fault comment or three upon comics that I've read in the interval since I last inflicted my opinions upon you all, AKA September 4 through September 20, many of which might still be for sale at your local comics shop at cover price if you hurry! Matey.

Now complete!

S: Jeff Parker; A: Leonard Kirk, Kris Justice. (Marvel, $2.99)

Where does a 500 pound gorilla go to the bathroom on a Uranian spaceship? Why, anywhere he wants to, of course! Another entertaining chapter as we slowly get acquainted with all the major players and the forces that oppose them. Parker does very well once more with not only the more-down-to-Earth character stuff and the superspy elements, as might be expected from the author of Interman, and doesn't forget to mix in some much-welcome humor while he's at it. And finally, we get to see Venus, drawn with strategically placed strands of hair and not much else by the still-surprisingly good Kirk/Justice team. So far, so good. A-

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

In which Fraction continues to bend over backwards to impress us all with his cleverness, at the expense of storytelling clarity. Four issues in, and something tells me it ain't gonna get any better on that score...guess it will be something to tolerate rather than celebrate because I like the concept and the character too much to bail just yet. And anyway, judging by all the accolades this title's getting all around the 'Net, it sure looks like I'm in the minority on that account. Anyway, thank the diety(ies) of your choice for Ba, who continues to provide what little mooring we get with his adventurous, graceful and stylish artwork. C+

S: Steve Niles; A: Justiniano, Walden Wong. (DC, $2.99)

Just like #1, a depressing rehash of practically everything that's ever been done with this character in its 30 plus year history, minus the fun and adventure. This issue, the obligatory Batman cameo. Coming soon, why of course, the Joker. Sometimes there are far worse fates for beloved comic book characters than languishing in Limbo...D-

DMZ 11
S: Brian Wood; A: Kristian Donaldson. (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

One of those "kinda fill-in but not-really" issues, which not only gets us up to speed on costar Zee, but also fills in a lot of the blanks about the events that led to the divided state of the nation in Wood's not-so-distant-future shock scenario. Wood must be doing something right to continue not only to coerce me to buy what I still believe is a mighty far-fetched state of affairs, but also become as invested in the main characters as I am by now. The fill-in part comes in courtesy of Donaldson, who does a mighty neat Becky Cloonan impersonation. Which is not to say that I don't hope that regular artist Burchielli isn't gone too long. B+

S: Bill Willingham; A: Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Josh Middleton. (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

The other shoe continues to drop as the bad guys convene to plan strategy, and we find out that one of these stratagems is death by pestilence as brought upon us by Neil Gaiman. We also get two interludes with big bad Bigby, who strikes a deal with Peter Cottontail to help train his pack of kids to hunt, and the Flycatcher, who has transformed back into a real frog. Finally, a beautifully illustrated and somewhat amusing, if awfully slight, Porcupine tale as a back feature. In short, another entertainingly written and competently drawn issue of DC's stalwart title. A-

S/A: Paul Grist. (Image, $3.50)

Grist must have had a plane to catch while he was writing this, because it's stripped-down and streamlined and all the better for it. He goes from WWII superhero nostalgia to Moorcock swipes to a weird, almost Gaimanesque interlude, to a fight between the plainclothed title character and the aforementioned Moorcock rip, with the always amusing Alan Moore pisstake Morlan the Mystic standing by as he usually does, and there's never a dull moment- Grist, too, has multiple characters, and plays around with the sequential and spatial nature of his narrative, but thanks to his crisp dialogue style and adventurous, playful art and layouts he never gets cluttered, confusing, or boring. Previous issues have been a bit inconsistent, perhaps, not so much when you read them all together (bodes well for the trade)...but this one is an efficient winner. A-

S: Graymiotti; A: David Michael Beck. (DC, $2.99)

Remember #1's carny, with the main attraction a mad dogs-vs.-young boys battle? Well, they're back, sans ringleader, and let's just say they're not especially happy with their lot in life and are looking for some payback on the fella who put them in their current situation. Nicely done, with a surprising amount of characterization and a neat reference to what is still my favorite Hex tale, the Russ Heath-illo'd "Strange Death of Jonah Hex". Wish to God I could find an affordable copy. ANyway, also getting some screen time is another DC Weird Western stalwart, El Diablo, and while I don't recall ever having read any of his adventures, if they're as deftly handled as this one was I might have to rectify that someday. Art is provided by Beck, whose stuff is almost as prissy and lifeless as Luke Ross' could be sometimes, and it's not done any favors by the excessively dark Photoshoppery of Bob Schwager, but is still good enough in its painterly way. Almost not not bad overall, I says. B+

S/A: Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez (Fantagraphics, $4.50)

I don't know, guess I'm once more missing the point, but when I read Gilbert's stuff these days I just get the feeling that he's just screwing around and putting us all on- between the gratuitous T & A (I know, he's always done this, or at least as far back as I can remember) embellishing (or is that distracting from) the halfhearted attempts to get us to empathize with characters that are mostly opaque to the reader even though he's been giving them to us for a long time now, and the jaundiced, detached and somewhat meanspirited take on the characters of "Dumb Solitaire", along with "Julio's Day" which is just getting more surreal, and not in a good way, every time out- I mean, I just don't know what I'm supposed to make of his work these days. But then again, I've never really bought L&R for Beto's stuff anyway- it's his brother who continues to hit them out of the park. There's more humanity, more affection, humor and wit- more of just everything, in his accounts of Maggie and Hopey and all their friends and lovers than in any of his brother's stories since they resurrected this title...and as always, there's no contest in the drawing department either. Gilbert's ungainly and muddled work still bears a distinctive stamp that makes it all his own- he's not copying anybody, and that means a lot in these troubled times. But sometimes the contrarian in me protests at having to sit through all of it just to read the latest by Jaime, who has always been a favorite. And for four-fitty, skipping just isn't an option. What's a poor contrarian to do? Besides wish for a return to the days of Penny Century, that is? B+

S: Jim Starlin; A: Shane Davis, Matt Banning, Al Milgrom (DC, $3.99)

Despite my long-held opinion that Starlin lost his cosmic mojo sometime after Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2, and has pretty much repeated himself ever since (and that includes the mostly enjoyable first two Infinity series), and I can't think of a less exciting candidate for a revival attempt than the horribly-named Captain Comet, this wasn't all that bad. Just this side of downright enjoyable, as a matter of fact. Davis and Banning appear to have learned their craft from that "How to draw" feature that used to run weekly in Wizard, as they Top Cow all over the place, but I've seen far worse examples...even from the pen of their Guru Jim Lee. They do a decent job of telling the story, even through all the scratchy lines and grimaces and would-be stylistic flourishes. And while I'm thinking about it, is it me, or does anyone else think that Starlin must get paid by the caption? Exposition, exposition, exposition, especially in the backup feature which spotlights another of his lesser creations, the Weird. I think I still own that miniseries, which I bought because Berni Wrightson did the as-it-turned-out equally uninspired art. Starlin does OK as he assumes the pencilling chores, inked by his old Warlock running buddy Milgrom. I suppose the best way I can describe this is not good enough to justify dropping four bucks on it, but engaging enough to not make you feel gypped if you do so, and if that's damning with faint praise well so be it. B-

S: Rick Remender; A: Nick Stakal (Image, $2.99)

The more things change, the more they stay the same in this book as we get a kinda-sorta new artist (Stakal did an issue or two a few months ago, if I recall correctly), who isn't bad, a little like Jill Thompson or Mark Badger if he/she inked his/her work left-handed...but more of the same old same old otherwise: Girl vs. Demons as she seeks to avoid being called out on the carpet by the Big Kahuna demon she escaped from, while trying to keep her friend alive and make her way in the oddball post-rapture world she's forced to live in. A long time ago, I thought we might be getting some interesting theological ideas to go along with the magic-slinging Mad Max-isms, silly me, but I abandoned that notion long ago...and am beginning to wonder why I continue to buy. Maybe it's because the Girl is still likeable, the action and dramatics aren't overdone and sappy, and...well, that's it, I guess. I'm sure I'll figure it out one of these days. B-

BEST OF SHOW: JACK STAFF, I suppose, although Agents of Atlas is like #1A.

DOG OF THE WEEK(S): By far, THE CREEPER. Six issues that can't come and go soon enough. Fortunately, I have declined to order #4.

Next up: JUDGING COVERS BY THE BOOK, or a look at DC, Marvel, and Image's December solicits. Only a whole week after everybody else...

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