Saturday, October 07, 2006

Let's surrey down to another BSNCR, what say?

The BSNCR stands for Bacardi Show New Comics Revue, of course and in it I cast a jaundiced eye at works of sequential fiction that have walked under my ladder in the interval between September 27 through October 3, none of which will get me linked to by Deppey, MacDonald, Carlson or Kalinara, but hell, I just keep puttin' 'em out there anyway. If you're not careful, some of these may even still be on sale at your, yes, YOUR LCS!

Newer reviews go on top.

S: Steven T. Seagle; A: Becky Cloonan (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

Just when we think Seagle is going to get to the point, we get another designed-to-titillate-and-little-more scene in a gay discotheque- which at least has the saving grace of another encounter with last issue's crossdressing media pundit Alex/Alexis, who (next to sister Cyndi, but I may be prejudiced there) is probably the most well-rounded and interesting character to date in this entire up-and-down storyline and who is used by the writer to voice a few germane opinions...but I wish that he'd chosen a less-obvious Bowie joke. Cloonan is as outstanding as always on art; she brings a nice sense of clutter and confusion to the dancefloor scenes, as well as the more quiet intimate scenes between Claudia and Adam early on. I also flat-out love that cover by Josh Middleton; it's beautifully colored and tender without being voyeuristic or crass. B

S: Warren Ellis; A: Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger (Marvel, $2.99)

In which Ellis continues to stand up, thump his chest, and say "See, I, TOO have a sense of humor! BWAH HA HA!" and displays dead-on comic timing- I mean, just like Tabby (or should that be "Taby"?) it's tick, tick, BOOM! with precision regularity, and each issue gets funnier, even as it becomes more grotesque. Immonen, for his part, keeps the whole thing grounded by virtue of his just-realistic-enough visuals. Great use of a Ditko swipe on the cover, by the way. And it's nice to see former Starman and Eclipso inker Von Grawbadger slopping black ink all over everything once more...he may have been inking since issue one, but this is the first time I've noticed his name in the credits and I don't have the energy to go dig in my back issues to find out. Hardly essential, but hugely entertaining in its 80's Justice League and 70's Defenders (not to mention 60's Not Brand Echh) way. A-

S: Bill Willingham; A: Steve Scott, Wayne Faucher (DC, $2.99)

Sadly, this isn't one iota as entertaining as Nextwave, or even Trials of Shazam, because it's treated too seriously to be fun, but it's too silly to take seriously. Maybe they should have just come up with a Detective Chimp series and have been done with it, because he's the only compelling character here. Well, there's also Blue Devil's beard. Perhaps this would all go down easier if an art team with any sort of spark or style had been assigned to it, but all we get from the Scott/Faucher team is the same bland stuff we get in most mainstream DC comics these days. Faugh. C+

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

See, H and Mag? The Matador CAN be cool, at least in the hands of Ed Brubaker. At this stage, I'm willing to bet that he could even do right by the Leap Frog and Stilt-Man, too. I'm also gratfied that we're finally moving away from the rehashed Miller that has been going on in this title since, oh, issue 20 or so, with a new locale and Matt Murdock actually doing his best James Bond impersonation. Lark and Guadiano continue to excel- murky when necessary, but not at the cost of story clarity. I wish the coloring didn't have to be so 90's-Vertigo, but that's a small nit to pick. A

110 PERCENT (Sorry, don't know how to make a cent symbol on a PC)
S/A: Tony Consiglio. (Top Shelf, $12.95)

What at first glance seems like a smug shot at a target that was dead and buried years ago, e.g. boy bands, reveals itself to be a sharply observed little morality play about the dangers of obsessive behavior- specifically that of three middle-aged female fands of the titular boyband- at the risk of family, love and even self-esteem. Especially noteworthy was the husband of the senior-age fan, who begins as a typical grouchy old coot but gratifyingly ends up being one of the warmest and most well-rounded of all. If this evokes Alex Robinson's Tricked, well, it's no surprise, and Consiglio even throws in a clever reference to the main character of that graphic novel's former band. Artwise, Consiglio comes across a little like a blend of Tom Beland and Robinson; not as facile as the former and not as ambitious as the latter, but good enough to not get in the way of the story he's trying to tell. Nice job all around. A-

S/A: Jeffrey Brown (Top Shelf, $14)

More short-form wryness from Mr. Brown, who mines the familar ore of his own life experiences, along with a strong predilection for surreal whimsy. The hit-to-miss ratio of this thick collection of one-, two- and three-panel strips is about 65-35, which isn't too bad. For them who likes, and I do like for the most part, here is more. B+

S/A: Lilli Carre (Top Shelf, $7)

Here's some deadpan strangeness from a creator with whom I'm not particularly familiar but seems to be all about defying expectations- I went in expecting skewed-but-humorous exploits of the title character, but soon found out that Carre isn't particularly interested in tweaking anybody's funnybone or anything else for that matter- she just puts her characters out there in their (sometimes clever) situations (loved that whole idea of mounds of salt in which people buried their belongings), drawn in her rather pinched and fussy style, and steadfastly refuses to adopt any tone except perhaps that of a sort of wry detachment. And while that's perfectly valid for a creator, it doesn't especially make his or her output clever of even interesting by default. For what it's worth, I loved the cover design, and wound up being far more engaged by the Paul Bunyan stuff than I ever was reading about ol' obstinate Pete. Appropriately enough, I suppose you could say I admired this from a distance. B+

S/A: Tony Millionaire (Dark Horse, $2.99)

At least when Millionaire makes with the whimsy, you get a clearer idea about where he's coming from, even though all this first issue is about is stage-setting, in which we meet the principals and find out the situation they'll be dealing with for the immediate future. As with Dame Darcy, I just plain old like Millionaire's vibe, no matter what he gives us, and while it's never as laugh-out-loud funny as Maakies can be, it's still well worth my time. A-

S/A: Matt Wagner (DC, $3.50)

Wagner, you're giving us some pretty good lowdown sanguinary goings-on in Gotham...but there's just something about the fugly ink line you're using and the awkward anatomy that it's delineating that keeps taking me out of the story a lot more than I like to be taken, for sure. It's a problem, but fortunately it's not that much of a problem. And you can still design and illustrate a cover like nobody's business, giving us the most striking one yet. A-

S: Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray; A: Billy Tucci, Francis Tortella, Tom Palmer (Marvel, $2.99)

A huge disappointment, following a not-terrible debut (itself a step or two down from the Daughters of the Dragon miniseries, trade collection now available). Graymiotti suddenly seem to have forgotten how to write fun, sassy dialogue, now filling their characters' word balloons with tons of expository dialogue and flat-on-their-face wisecracks, and the only real novelty, besides an inevitable betrayal which nobody should have been surprised by, comes from the previously unseen-by-me Misty Knight-Tony Stark relationship and its verbal sparring- which is perhaps something that was made more explicit in Civil War...but I don't care to start buying to find out. And the art- oh boy. I don't know how much of this was done by Tucci and how much by the other guy, but it's full of hackneyed cheesecake posing and some of the most awkward, static fight scenes I've seen in recent memory, combined with some unintentionally hilarious foot drawings. Captain America delivers a kick in one panel which makes it seem like he has no bones in his ankle. Gonna have to do better than this, fellas. C-

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

Not content with ostensibly wrapping up her previous muddled and dull multi-issue epic, Mina continues from that with another multi-issue epic continuation, and damned if I can tell why or where one ends and the other begins, or if I should expect this to improve or even elaborate on it. Neither is she doing a very good job of letting us know what's at stake, and why John should give a rat's ass except to get the empathy hoodoo out of his system. Manco's not helping- his work is as sloppy and muddled as always. I have never been so close to dropping this title as I am now. C+

S: Howard Chaykin, David Tischman; A: David Hahn (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

Dave Hahn deserves a better showcase for his talents than this incoherent, unlikeable mess. Assuming Chaykin had very much to do with this at all, it signals his continued depressing decline into late middle-aged obsolescence, and Tischman writes like he's just happy to be picking up a paycheck. The first series was kinda fun, but this one is anything but. D

S: Mark Millar; A: Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary (Marvel, $3.99)

Everything-but-the-kitchen-sink penultimate (hey- there's an idea for a team name, "The Penultimates"!) issue (and the kitchen sink will probably arrive for issue 13) as the forces of the Marvel guys we're supposed to like finally turn the tables on the Marvel guys we're not supposed to like, just like we knew they would, and the Hitch/Neary team use up a small refinery's worth of ink as they lovingly render each speck of sweat, blood, and shrapnel in smashing widescreen. Best of show: the Hulk, whose jeering beatdown of the super-intelligent (just ask him!) Abomination is as amusing as it is cringe-inducing. Worst: Yet another slam at poor old maligned Hank Pym, who gets to show the cowardly side that is of course, no surprise. Which is kind of the problem with this whole damn thing: no surprises. But even a routine script can be enlivened by outstanding art, and again it's no surprise that Hitch and Neary are more than equal to the task. A-

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

A bit of a rebound from last issue as Jack begins to figure out his escape plan, some of the trademark Fables characterization feel comes through a bit more as we continue to see who else is stuck in this low-budget version of The Village with him, and we get diverted by a little mystery between the lines- namely who's the snitch who is keeping Mr. Revise apprised of his plans? The art is still really lackluster, though- anatomy just isn't Akins' strong suit, and Pepoy isn't up to the task of keeping him honest. B-

100 BULLETS 76
S: Brain Azzarello; A: Eduardo Risso (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

Another well-done issue what will engage the already engaged, baffle the uninitiated, and even baffle the initiated upon occasion. I think I'll just cut and paste this review for the next 24 issues. A-

BEST IN SHOW: THE SURROGATES Trade. Daredevil, 110 Percent, runners up.
DOG OF THE WEEK(S): Bite Club: Vampire Crime Unit, which really did bite.

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