In which I assay my observations on various works of sequential fiction I have perused from October 31 to November 8, some of which, I understand, may still be available from your local comics retailer. Scroll down AAALLLL the way to the bottom for the Best in Show and Dog of the Week(s).
JOHN CONSTANTINE: HELLBLAZER 225
S: Denise Mina; A: Leo Manco (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)
Mostly a can't-be-arsed Constantine wandering around, being argued about and yelled at by kinda-sorta friends and family, and encountering characters that have played various roles in Mina's interminable "Empathy Curse" story arc- and it's very bit as dull and lugubrious (and often unintentionally silly) as it sounds. Even worse, actually- "yelling" would seem to suggest passion, but this is as rote an exercise as you'd ever care to come across. Manco does nothing to enliven it, and he's defeated before he starts by the Standard Murky Vertigo Color Palette a la Lee Loughridge. How many more issues of this do we have? If the Powers That Be at DC have any empathy for me at all, they'll pull the plug early. D+
TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED 2
S: David Lapham, Brian Azzarello; A: Eric Battle, Prentis Rollins, Cliff Chiang (DC, $3.99)
Didn't make it much farther than the opening splash page on the lead; if I wanted to read a mid-90's Spawn comic, I'd go hit the quarter boxes. No, main attraction here is the Dr. Thirteen backup, which is quite possibly the most fun and imaginative thing the previously humor-and-imagination challenged Azzarello has ever written, and it's nicely illustrated by Chiang, who hits all the right notes and makes it an even bigger success. Love that Kaluta cover, too...too bad they can't get an artist team on the lead feature that can channel some of his magic. B+
JACK OF FABLES 4
S: Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges; A: Tony Akins, Andrew Pepoy (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)
In which our Jack makes his escape attempt from the Prisoner-like Golden Boughs Retirement Home, and of course complications ensue. I've been kinda critical of Sturges here in previous reviews; this was the first issue where everything broke right for him, especially the character interaction/dialogue, and his (probably Willingham-suggested) spins on these characters were well-handled. I'm still not sold on the inconsistent art, though, so I still can't give this anything higher than a B+.
THE BOYS 4
S: Garth Ennis; A: Darick Robertson (DC/WildStorm, $2.99)
I'm probably never going to completely fall in love with this mishmash, but I will say that Ennis still has enough left in the tank to get me interested in where this is going. Of course, the "Supers" are all cretinous assholes, even though one or two of them manages to get some dialogue in that shows us that perhaps they have a tiny shred of perspective (if not humanity)- I'm thinking of the Homelander beatdown of A-Train here- and he's also savvy enough to show us that Butcher's "ends justifies the means" attitude isn't exactly all that different from the opposition. Balance and shades of gray, no matter how faint they may be, are always welcome in a Ennis book. B-.
SHOWCASE PRESENTS: THE PHANTOM STRANGER
S/A: Various including Mike Sekowsky, Robert Kanigher, Len Wein, Neal Adams, Jerry Grandenetti, and Jim Aparo (DC, $16.99)
Say, why don't I abandon all pretense to professionalism (since I'm no professional anyway, something I'm sure you're all painfully aware of) and hold forth with another of my typically rambling reminisces about one of my all-time favorite DC characters? Okay! The first time I saw the Phantom Stranger was in one of those old DC house ads for Showcase #80, which featured a new framing sequence for a handful of reprints from the short-lived 1950's initial iteration of the character, and is reprinted in this volume. I liked the Neal Adams cover, which depicted the Stranger huddled with a group of children, one wearing his fedora even, in a defensive stance against floating phantoms which beckoned to them from the left hand and bottom areas of the panel. Typically dynamic Adams...but I guess I never saw the book itself on the racks because I never owned a copy, not even years later when I became a fan of the character via his appearance in 1972's Justice League of America #103, set against the backdrop of the annual Rutland, Vermont Halloween parade, and which featured cameos by then-PS-writer Len Wein, Gerry Conway, Steve Englehart, and others. Eventually (over a year later- no, I don't know why), I decided I should check out the character's own title, which I had managed to avoid doing all those years- but unfortunately, my first issue was #28, by Arnold Drake and the underrated Gerry Talaoc, which came out well after the primo Wein/Aparo issues- a fact I was ignorant of until one day a few months later when I was trawling the back-issue comics box at some little bookstore on Bardstown Rd. in Louisville and came across a copy of #24, by the Wein/Aparo team. It was also their swan song, and while I liked #28 enough to keep buying, I could tell that this had been something special- heck, if nothing else for the excellent Aparo art (which I had already been digging on Brave & Bold, as one look at the Comic Treadmill will verify) and the fact that unlike the Drake/Talaoc books I'd read so far, the Stranger was an active participant in the story, and in fact had a small supporting cast of sorts, even a love interest! After this, I collected Stranger going forwards and backwards, kinda stalling out going back and failing to obtain many of the single-digit issues in the run, but I did continue to pick up the book until the bitter end with issue #41 in 1976...the first time a book had been announced as having been cancelled while I was still reading it regularly. I was very sad, let me tell you. So now that I've established my bona fides in regards to the Stranger and his exploits, I'm sure you're wondering when I'll get around to telling you if you should drop your hard-earned coin on this. Of course, I think you should- if nothing else, this thing is a cornucopia of outstanding art, from Aparo in his absolute prime (he drew #'s 7-25) to some really good Mike Sekowsky on a couple of stories (including a full-length written-and-illustrated #6), to one (uneven) interior story and a host of fine covers by Neal Adams and some good stuff by the overlooked and underrated Bill Draut early on. And you know I can't go without mentioning Grandenetti's contribution- he did the Showcase framing sequence in that fabulous 60's hallucenogenic style you know I love so much, and it was a treat for me to see. And of course Aparo, who really blossomed as he did this comic, culminating in the incredible cover and first page splash for #21 (the b&w doesn't do it justice here, click on the lnk to see the original). If anyone doubts that he was one of the all-time best, I'll gladly point them to his work in this collection. Script-wise, it's kind of a mixed bag early on- it's pretty obvious that no one had a real good handle on exactly what they wanted this character to be, so they sort of threw stuff at the wall for about a year. The Stranger began his career as a mysterious supernatural detective of sorts, then became more of a supernatural figure himself when revamped for the late 60's, encountering all sorts of typical DC horror book-style menaces and bickering all the while with supporting character professional skeptic Doctor Thirteen, who was determined to prove the Stranger as a fraud, and never succeeded no matter how hard he tried. Whatta stick. Eventually, an arch villain of sorts was introduced in Tala, a sort of magical mischief maker who wanted to rule the world with the Stranger at her side (she's constantly planting big kisses on him). Tannarak, a sorcerer, got his introduction not long after and eventually the pair united to cause more trouble down the road. Most of these early issues sported Robert Kanigher (except for the aforementioned Sekowsky haunted house and hippies tale) scripts, and they're every bit as idiosyncratic, stiff, and wacked-out as Kanigher scripts could often be. No Egg Fus or that sort of thing, but wacked-out just the same. Eventually he gave way to pre-Marvel Gerry Conway, who was working his way up through the ranks and of whom (truth be told) I've never been a fan. He did turn in some solid efforts, however, especially compared to Kanigher's lame House of Mystery retreads. Wein showed up in issue #14, and while he recycled a lot at first, eventually he hit upon the idea of giving PS a girlfriend in blind psychic Cassandra Craft, and teamed up Tala and Tannarak as well and created a malevolent cabal in the Dark Circle, the affair of which came to a climax in that aforementioned #24, and isn't included in this collection. For once, the Stranger was an actual character rather than a mysterious bystander in a mystery story or even worse, a Rod Serling narrator type, and Wein gave the book a purpose and direction for a little while. Of course, it isn't perfect; Wein's dialogue style, like that of his peers Wolfman, Englehart, and others was heavily infuenced by Stan Lee and Roy Thomas' shuck-and-jive patter and was often floridly melodramatic to boot- not as much as Wolfman's on Tomb of Dracula, but very hammy just the same. In a way, he was just honing his chops in advance of his Swamp Thing (his first issue, #14, even features a Swamp Thing prototype of sorts that Adams draws to look like more of a Man-Thing proto) where he corrected a lot of these tendencies and made a little magic (just ask Mike Sterling!) before sinking into the Marvel quicksand of irrelevancy and obscurity. And oh yes, most issues had backup stories starring Doc Thirteen solo, many drawn by Tony (Jonah Hex) DeZuniga, and written by various scripters; they, too, recycle DC House-style tropes but the difference is usually Dr.T comes out ahead, rather than being made to look like a jackass by the Stranger. At the end of the day, it can be said that the Stranger is perhaps the most difficult character in all of comics to write- make him too mysterious, and you lose reader identification; make him to obvious and transparent, and you lose a lot of what makes him special. For almost forty issues, a handful of writers wrestled with this very predicament- some won handily, like Wein, Sekowsky and later Paul Levitz, and some just couldn't do it like Kanigher and Drake. Contained within this 500+ page collection are 21 issues' worth of shots in the dark, and when they hit, they hit in a really satisfying way. Plus, when the story lags, you can take in some excellent artwork by Jim Aparo. So your mileage may vary, but for my money (and I did buy this, I didn't get comped) it's well worth it- none of the tales are dull (contrived as many of the early ones may be) and I also get that extra nostalgia buzz. You may disagree, but I don't think you'll be bored. A rock-solid B+, for the Wein/Aparo issues and the Grandenetti story if nothing else...
S: Ed Brubaker; A: Michael Lark, Steven Gaudiano (Marvel, $2.99)
***SPOILER ALERT*** (In the unlikely event you haven't read this already)
Other than the revelation that poor Matt is getting played again, there's a real sense of wheelspinning going on in this issue, which isn't to say that nothing happens- the scrap with Tombstone, a 70's Marvel badguy that never really made much of an impression on me until now, is handled well, and we do get some small revelations throughout. It's just more gradual plot advancement, well done as far as that goes, and it amuses me no end how Brubaker can make the Matador cool in that Antonio Banderas way, such an obvious idea that I'm surprised it hasn't occurred to someone by now. Also, this is yet another showcase for the Lark/Gaudiano art team; beautiful mood-establishment in the heavily photo-referenced opening scenes as well as the middle-book Paris episodes (In my mind, I kept seeing John Leguizamo as Toulouse-Lautrec sitting on the ledge on page 16, drinking absinthe), and good fight stuff throughout. Although I miss Lark's clean-lined inking style on his own, he and Gaudiano have become quite the dynamic duo. This book is going in a good direction, and it's perfectly fine with me if it wants to amble along the way. A-
THE AUTHORITY 1
S: Grant Morrison; A: Gene Ha (DC/Wildstorm, $2.99)
It's like some old goofy Silver Age DC comic: some mad doctor has switched Grant's brain with that of Warren Ellis! And then bade him go out and write an issue of Authority as if it were Planetary! Anyway, it comes across as a bit too much like Grant is trying out an exercise in writing styles, rather than telling a good story for its own sake, and one does miss the usual explosion of ideas...but taken on its own terms, I was engaged all the way through as it slowly built up to the big climactic shot at the end, and damned if I know what any of this has to do with Jack Hawksmoor and Co. I'm assuming Hawksmoor is still a part of this team; I've only read one issue since Millar left, the awful Robbie Morrison-scripted Vol. 2 #1, so I don't know a lot of what's happened since, or even if it matters. One thing in this book's favor is the outstanding Ha art; he contributes a lot to the mood and dynamics as he works that nine-panel grid with a vengeance, right up to one small climactic full page shot just before the final full-page money shot, and it was enough to elicit a small "yes!" from me. Anyway, not what one would expect, but readable just the same and pointing towards better later on. B+
DESOLATION JONES 7
S: Warren Ellis; A: Daniel Zezelj (DC/Wildstorm, $2.99)
Zezelj's art, which is stark, jagged, and dark and reminds me a lot of woodcuts, is going to take some getting used to after the boundless innovation and fine-line filigree of J.H. Williams...but it brings the story a certain brutality, a rough edge which fits Ellis' Spy Who Came in From the Cold-inspired account of a former spook named Asher whose orbit once included Jones, and now shows up wanting a way out of the biz. Thing is, Jones had just received a phone call informing him that Asher was dead...and the game is afoot! Typically terse Ellis script, with piles of dry humor and colorful characters, and while Jones' future is always cloudy, for us the reader our outlook is bright. A
S: Steve Niles; A: Justiniano, Walden Wong (DC, $2.99)
I must have been in a good mood when I read this one, because while I still deplore this take on Ditko's colorful character, and especially despise the whole Giffen-conceived notion of Paranoid Schizo Monster Creeper, I actually kinda liked this one. Well, actually, I kinda liked the use of Batman in this one, to be precise. The whole bit with him using his fantastic arsenal of computer gimmicks to ascertain the Creeper's identity reminded me about why I like that character (even though I don't buy any of his regular titles right now). The art, I still don't like. It's just too stylized, too sloppy, too unnecessarily detailed in the wrong places, and just too too much. Blah. So as I bid this misfire a not-so-sad farewell, I leave on a mostly good note, and move on accordingly. C+
S: Matt Fraction; A: Gabriel Ba (Image, $1.99)
Ah, now we're getting somewhere! Finally, after four issues, Fraction has stopped trying to impress us with how clever he is, and coincidentally gives us one of his best ideas yet- Coldheart Island, which is populated by the "last tribe of Pre-Neolithic Man" on the planet- or is it? And the answer, along with Casanova's involvement, is a clever one...also, for the first time, I actually finished an issue without having to go back and re-read and cross-reference. The lack of puzzlement was a refreshing change, let me tell you! And the best thing is, he still messes around with the same reality-time-and-space-twisting ideas of previous issues, but this time didn't leave behind probably his slowest-on-the-uptake reader, namely me. Hopefully this trend will continue before the first hiatus, but the way my luck goes Mr. F will think he's done something wrong and try harder to be more opaque and confusing. One thing I know for sure: the text pieces in the back, which have unequivically sung the praises of Mr. Ba's outstanding art, amounts to little more than preaching to the converted, as far as I'm concerned. A-
S: Warren Ellis; A: John Cassaday (DC/Wildstorm, $2.99)
The remaining members of the Four get what's coming to them in Ellis' typically terse and clever fashion, and we're set up for the further adventures of... that we're not 100% certain we'll ever get to see, given this issue's penultimate designation. One thing I've noticed over the small eternity that this title has taken to unfold- John Cassaday's art, always meticulously detailed and satisfying, if a bit static, has gotten more and more expressive over the course of the series- I'm not so sure he would have attempted the variety of facial expressions we're given over the first half dozen or so pages back when this all started, and good for him. As far as I'm concerned, this title has always been worth the wait, and once more I'm not diappointed. A
S: Wil Pfiefer; A: Los Lopez David y Alvaro (DC, $2.99)
Film Freak re-enacts King Kong as Selina attempts to bust Holly out of Police HQ. All the subplots and main plots progress nicely- Pfiefer is really in a groove right now, with characterization a particular strong point. Even though I'm a smidge disappointed that the big monkey FF liberated out of S.T.A.R. Labs wasn't Gorilla Grodd (like I first thought after seeing last issue's final splash page), it was still a clever play on the original and best giant ape film (I've sure the Freak hated Jackson's version) and a lot of fun. Next up, Dr. Strangelove. Artwise, the Lopezes are doing a fine job as well- their work is still not as fluid as I'd like to see, and the net effect is more DC Art Drone-ish than it should be, but they still tell the story with the right amount of fuss and to be honest, I like what they're doing as much as I did the Cameron Stewart era. A-
S: Bill Willingham; A: Cory Walker (DC, $2.99)
Signs of life! For once the action isn't as pro forma as it so often has been, and I'm beginning to sit up and take notice of this Walker kid, who seems to have a little Chris Sprouse by a very roundabout way of Mignola in his style. Every issue I'm on the bubble about continuing, and I do believe I'll make it at least one more. B
UNCLE SAM AND THE FREEDOM FIGHTERS 4
S: Graymiotti; A: Daniel Acuna (DC, $2.99)
Acuna is a skilled artist whose brain seems to be giving him conflicting signals on how to properly finish his work. Figures are all uniformly excellent- naturalistic looking but still stylized and very expressive, but after he's done Photoshopping the hell out of it everything tends to blend into a brown and yellow sludge, with events and characters only being discernable by virtue of the thick black ink line he tends to place around anything he wants to emphasize...and this very murk makes it harder to parse than it ought to be, for sure. And jeez, is that Black Condor revamp ugly. Oh well. Script-wise, I find myself wondering more and more about how the Graymiotti partnership works- this team has turned out the delightful Daughter of the Dragon mini, then only scant weeks later come across like they've forgotten everything they know on Heroes for Hire using mostly the same characters and setup but with much less satisfying results. Jonah Hex, Monolith are/were almost as schizo in the hit-or-miss department. Perhaps Gray is writing the good stuff, and Palmiotti's lacking, or vice versa. Who knows. Fortunately, since we're concerned with only this title right now, they seem to be in Daughters mode, giving us a well-done sci-fi/spandex flavored political intrigue thriller as well as their extremely charismatic version of Uncle Sam, who comes across like a cross between Davy Crockett and the Spectre, an amusing and clever take for sure. I'm liking, but others' mileage may definitely vary given on their tolerance for this sort of thing. A-
SECRET SIX 5
S: Gail Simone; A: Brad Walker, Jimmy Palmiotti (DC, $2.99)
I've been making a lot of jokes about DC Art Drones lately, to mostly puzzled silence across the Blogosphereiverse, but is it me, or does every other illustrator DC brings along bear the last name of Walker or Lopez? Shades of John Jackson and his bitter rival Jack Johnson! Anyway, you may be asking yourself (to my extreme amazement) "Say, Johnny B, didn't you drop this book after only one issue months ago?" To which I can only reply, "Yes, but DCBS screwed up and sent me THIS instead of SEVEN SOLDIERS 1!" Talk about getting a rock in my Halloween comics box. Be that as it may, I went ahead and read this anyway, and boy, was I sorry. Look, I know this is a miniseries about the exploits of a group of super-villians, so a dark tone is to be expected. And y'know, I've been an admirer of comics in the last four decades that dealt with more explicit, undesirable, and vulgar characters and situations. But I can't recall the last time that I felt, after finishing a comic, that I needed to go take a hot shower for about six hours. There's just something seedy and slimy and unpleasant about Simone's script and characterizations, something I can't quite put my finger on and can't cite any one thing in particular- and I congratulate her on skeeving jaded ol' me right the fug out. But her dialogue rarely rises above Stock Comic Book Scripting 101, and honestly, is this really any better or different than any number of DC mainstream titles right now? Isn't this just another Suicide Squad story, with the yuck factor amped up a notch or two? It might have been helped by an artist with some sort of spark to enliven all these lugubrious proceedings, but that Walker guy ain't it- his storytelling and figure drawing were awful, and not even a seasoned pro like Palmiotti can help it much. That splash on page two is one of the most inept action pages I've ever seen anywhere- needlessly convoluted and confusing. As far as I'm concerned Simone's following remains a mystery, I don't want to see anything else this particular Walker draws ever again if I can help it, and DCBS owes me big time. Too slick and professional for an F, but I don't think D- is excessive.
S: Greg Rucka, Nunzio DeFillipis, Christina Weir; A: Cliff Richards, Bob Wiacek, Dan Green (DC, $2.99)
Speaking of the Suicide Squad, here they are again in a tale written by three scripters, no less, just like last issue- and the fact that I can't tell who did what is either a marvel of homogeneity and mediocrity, or a triumph of Team Comics Scripting in its most efficient form. Either way, there's lots of talk talk talk, par for the course for this most talky of comics (not Rex Libris text-heavy, but you know what I mean), but there was also a little more action this time around which leavened it a bit and enabled me to enjoy it more than I did #6, and #5, and so on. About the art, well, it's better than the art on Secret Six, let's let it go at that. C+
100 BULLETS 77
S: Brain Azzarello; A: Ed Risso (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)
Before I cut and paste my standard review of this commentary-defying title, let me say that it's never as lively as it is when Lono and Megan Dietrich get to have conversations...Azzarello really gives them some spark together. Wouldn't surprise me if they didn't ride off into the sunset in #100, arm in arm. Aw, who am I kidding... I also loved the Dave Johnson cover- he's been getting all sketchy and minimalist over the last year or so, but this one takes a good idea and runs with it. Best in ages. Anyway, here goes the Standard 100 Bullets Review: 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 23 issues. A-
NEXTWAVE: AGENTS OF H.A.T.E. 9
S: Warren Ellis; A: Stuart Immonen. (Marvel, $2.99)
Oh, that Ellis. He's absolutely barking mad, isn't he? Forbush-Man...not even Grant Morrison would have brought HIM back, let alone worked him into the best Morrison-flavored Doom Patrol issue in over ten years! Ah me, it made this old Not Brand Echh reader very happy to see, no doubt. If only we could have also had Magnut: Robot Biter, Scaredevil, The Silver Burper, and the Mighty Sore along with Knock Furious, Agent of S.H.E.E.S.H.. Oh wait, we do have him- he's called Dirk Anger here. Artwise, Immonen continues his transmogrification from Alan Davis into Wassily Kandinsky, giving us a great Frank Miller satire on the side when we first meet ol' Forby. We'll miss this book when it's gone, you know...well, I will, anyway. A
MAD MAGAZINE, NOVEMBER 2006
S/A: The not-so-usual gang of idiots. (DC, $3.99 cheap.)
Just like nearly everyone else who has received this comp of the venerable humor magazine, I must point out how long it's been since I've read an entire issue of Mad. Think decades, not years- my interest kinda petered out when I reached double figures age-wise, approximately 1970. I have read the occasional issue in that interval, mostly ones found in a waiting room somewhere, or at somebody's house who had kids that had a copy, or other random places...but I dare say it's been a hell of a long time since I actually parted with coin for the privilege. And thanks to the fine folks at DC, that streak remains intact! But what did I think, you may be impatiently asking? Well, first thing I noticed was all the color. Last time I read Mad, it was still in black & white, and that's a bit of an adjustment. Second thing was all the cartoonists that I'm used to seeing in more, shall we say refined surroundings- Peters Kuper (on Spy Vs. Spy no less) and Bagge, and Ted Rall. They wouldn't have let those guys in the office back when Mort Drucker, Dave Berg and Paul Coker Jr. walked the earth! And where's the movie/TV show satire? Guess it moved on with Drucker and/or Angelo Torres. Otherwise, not much has changed- the general feel of the humor still aspires to junior high school-level. Of those for which I had high hopes, Bagge's Halloween feature was kinda obvious and disappointing; he just doesn't seem to have the fire in his belly anymore that made Hate so essential in its heyday. Old reliable Sergio Aragones is still on board, and excelling, and it's good to see Al Jaffe still plugging away. Kuper's style worked well on "Spy", as I said, and once I got acclimated to it the color was OK. I also liked, purely from a design/art appreciation standpoint, the "Red State/Blue State Monopoly" feature- even though it was as subtle as a bag of hammers, it was cleverly illustrated. Heck, if Time Warner was on the ball and wanted to make some quick bucks they'd strike a deal to have this come out in a real game edition! Be this as it all may, I still got many a lowbrow chuckle from many of the gags- dated as the Mel Gibson shots were, I couldn't help but snort at the unused cover, for instance. Guess my sense of humor never progressed much past Junior High, either. Which is not to say that I anticipate becoming a regular Mad reader; Entertainment Weekly is still the best bathroom read for my money. But the old warhorse still has a pulse- and some very talented people working for it- and is apparently still worth a look every now and then. So tell me why, DC, is Evan Dorkin not deemed worthy of writing for Gaines and Kurtzman's venerable love child? Just wondering. B
JONAH HEX 13
S: Graymiotti; A: Jordi Bernet (DC, $2.99)
Look, fellas, when you've seen your character backshot, stuffed, and mounted and placed on display in a traveling carny, there's very little else "shocking" that can be done with him. Oh well. Having grown tired of having Jonah take on corrupt town authority figures, we are now given his retroactive origin, which proves once and for all that he didn't cut himself shaving. And it's well done, for the most part- Graymiotti have gotten Hex's character down pretty well, the actual turning-point event is brutal, if not especially shocking, and if it's more than a little inspired by The Beguiled, well, all's fair. Besides, they could have Jonah being mutilated by Teletubbies for all I care, as long as the assured, expressive, graceful and all-around excellent art of Jordi Bernet illustrates it. After being introduced to it in his issue of the lamented Solo, I've been looking forward to what he can do with the Eastwood-influenced old west milieu, and he does not disappoint. B+
AMERICAN SPLENDOR 2, 3
S: Harvey Pekar; A: Various. (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)
What do this and Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall have in common? Well, on Planet Dave anyway they are both more interesting as art appreciation exercises than actual reading enjoyment. You see, and here's where I wear my Philistine hat, I've never really been an admirer of Harvey Pekar's previous slice-of-life offerings, back in his self-publishing and Dark Horse-distributed days, and the sad part of it is simply that I just didn't care about Harvey's life and his presentation of it for our reading pleasure. And no matter how much the Comics Journal told me I should, I just never could make myself give a damn. I guess that I was just looking for something a bit more escapist, a bit more imaginative perhaps, in my comics reading- and as is so often the case, I'm sure I missed out on something quite revelatory and wonderful. He was cute on Letterman, and managed to make Dave look like as much of a horse's ass as he tried to make Harvey look, but that didn't make me want to pick up the comics, even as they got grimmer via cancer stories and the like. Before you condemn me completely, though, I would like to interject right here that I watched and liked the American Splendor film quite a bit- it had a lot more of what I was looking for, imagination and presentation-wise, than its print antedecent did. So here we are, years later, and Harvey is finding himself with a most unusual bedfellow in the Vertigo imprint...and my reaction to these vignettes is pretty much the same, except the art is a heck of a lot more interesting more often as not. And now, apropos of nothing, a personal note of my own: tonight, for the first time in my life, I ate two spears of broccoli. Never cared to try it before, but Mrs. B steamed it and served it with rice, chicken and carrots, and it was quite good. I might eat more one of these days. Now, was that gripping or what! No? Didn't think so. Now you may see where I'm coming from with my attitude towards Splendor and most others of its ilk- you see, I, too, have had epic battles with toilets and have had to pick up children several miles away in snowstorms, and while I may fervently wish that I could get top-flight talent to illustrate my accounts of these events, and even get people to cough up three bucks to read them, that doesn't mean I am impressed, enlightened, edified, or even interested in others' experiences doing the same old ordinary everyday things that I have done many times over in my short, wretched existence. Anyway, now that I've spent several lines of type trying to explain why I've never really been that big a fan of Pekar's previous offerings, I will tell you now that after all is said and done, I did, as with 1001 Nights before it, enjoy seeing wonderful art turns by Dean Haspiel (who was born to draw Pekar's stuff), Chris Weston (his story is so detailed and precise as to almost be maniacal), Ty Templeton, Leo freaking Manco, believe it or not; and Hunt Emerson. Some were not so good, more so for inability to enliven and enhance the dull material more than anything. Richard Corben's turn was fine, but he totally fails to capture Pekar's likeness whatsoever. I guess you can infer that I got comped on this; I'm happy to have the opportunity to check it out (I had been curious about Haspiel's contributions, being unable and unwilling to drop the large coin on The Quitter, not that I would have knowing my attitude), but I don't know if I would go as far as to hunt up #1 and get #4 when it comes out. I didn't hate this at all, so if that carries any weight with you then by all means hie thee to your comics shop and then you, too, can share in the ordinary-life trials and tribulations of Mr. Pekar, drawn by some of the best and brightest. B+
FINISHED! Well, except for the Scout trade, and that's coming- I haven't finished rereading it yet. Heh. Anyway, here's
BEST IN SHOW: Gotta be DESOLATION JONES 7, although the other two Ellis books aren't far behind. Is the Intarwub Jebus on a roll lately or what?
DOG OF THE WEEK(S): Close race here, but I'll have to go with the repulsive SECRET SIX 5, the book I got by accident, over the merely dull and silly HELLBLAZER 225.
Thanks, everyone, for hanging with and reading as I post. Coming this weekend: My next DCBS box, with Seven Soldiers 1. I hope. Coming sooner, looks at the aforementioned Scout, as well as The BLVD Sketchbook Volume 2.0 and Keith Knight's Are We Feeling Safe Yet? collection.