Saturday, January 13, 2007

In which I opine in regards to various works of sequential fiction I have perused in the interval since the last time I inflicted my opinions upon one and all, or to be specific, from approximately 2 to 12 January, some of which may even still be on sale at finer comics selling establishments worldwide.

S: Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti; A: Daniel Acuna. (DC, $2.99)

There's still a lot that I like about this title: Graymiotti's Uncle Sam, Acuna's getting-better-every-issue art, and this issue's nifty tie-in with Grant Morrison's Frankenstein. But boy, is this storyline getting repetitive, with what seems to be an endless loop of battle, cliffhanger, escape, talk talk talk, battle, cliffhanger, etc. becoming the template. We also get a dumb scene with Phantom Lady and Black Condor, and an arbitrary betrayal that comes from out of left field somewhere. This reads like a nice 4-issue limited series that has been stretched out to 8. B-

S: Paul Dini; A: Kyle Baker. (Dark Horse, $2.99)

This is so likeable that I feel like a heel for quibbling about how Baker's art has continued to devolve into a sloppy Sergio Aragones imitation, where it used to be a sloppy Mort Drucker imitation, and that makes me sad. But he still knows how to tell a story, and Dini provides a charming script. So charming, in fact, that I feel like a heel for quibbling about how he's pulled the "Jing learns to appreciate her old man's job and by extension the true meaning of Christmas" thing out of his lovely wife's hat at least once before. I've not sampled The Bakers, but the scenes that I assume are indicative of how Baker does them were as fun as they were supposed to be. Not makes-me-wanna-go-out-and-buy fun, but fun. I think I woulda liked this more if I had gotten it before Christmas, but I liked it just the same despite giving off a Flintstones Meet the Jetsons kinda vibe- because it's fun. And likeable. And stuff. A-

S: Garth Ennis; A: Darick Robertson (DC/Wildstorm, $2.99)

Same old Garth, with hamster jokes front and center. But this comic's saving grace, and what keeps me buying, is the suggestion (as I noted a couple of issues ago) that perhaps the "good guys" (Butcher & Co.) aren't any more noble or moral or even better than the "bad guys" (all the "Supes"), and the central character Wee Hughie is getting played- for what reason I don't know yet, but I didn't buy a word of that sad story Butcher gave him as a reason for his hatred of the super-people. Guess we'll wait and see, but kudos to Garth for at least raising the shadow of a doubt. B

S: Ed Brubaker; A: Sean Phillips. (Marvel/Icon, $2.99)

Leo and Greta hide out and deal with the aftermath of last issue's botched robbery, sitting unconfortably on top of 32 kilos of smack. Leo's a sharp cookie, for sure, but you just know lots of people are gonna die before this is done, and my money's on Ivan first. Even though there's a sort of fatalistic inevitability about it, Brubaker has so far been up to the task of wringing all the drama and tension possible out of the situation, and Phillips' art has never been better. This is Good Comics, kids. A

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

Another holiday-themed story that I didn't get until after the 25th. In case you were wondering how Santa Claus fits into this elaborate tapestry that Willingham has going on, well, wonder no further. Basically a series of ongoing plot-advancing vignettes, with the Jolly Fat Man playing a central role in many of them- and the interlude with the Frog Prince aka "Flycatcher" is quite touching. Another clever, solid issue. A-

S: Will Pfiefer; A: David and Alvaro Lopez. (DC, $2.99)

Truth and consequences this time out as Slam, Selina, Holly, and Holly's girlfriend whose name eludes me right now sit down and discuss the events behing the death of Slam's son and Selina's pregnancy. Not exactly a good jumping-on point for new readers, but important for those of us who have been along for the ride, as we can finally put that One Year Later stuff behind us and move on from here. B+

S: Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges; A: Steve Leialoha. (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

In which we get the story of how our recently escaped Jack once duped the Winter Queen and became Jack Frost, and the most notable thing is that longtime Fables inker Steve Leialoha does the art chores solo for this one. One the one hand, it's great to see Steve's pencils AND inks again, but on the other, it's a bit disappointing because he's done better. I think he's subsumed his style to Buckingham's for so long that he's begun to take on his stylistic tendencies, so this issue looks a lot more restrained and conventional than what I'm used to seeing via such 70's and 80's work like Coyote and Spider-Woman. Oh well, he still enlivens a pretty conventional story, and that's the bottom line. I wanna see him do more. B-

S: Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction; A: David Aja, Travel Foreman, Derek Fridolfs, John Severin. (Marvel, $2.99)

Hydra's carrying out a hostile takeover of RandCorp, and there's another Iron Fist title-holder out there as well, apparently heading for an encounter with our boy. On top of that, we get some nifty flashbacks by different artists, most notably good ol' John Severin (who doesn't seem to have lost a step), and they're quite good. I thought this was one of the best-dialogued comics I'd read in some time; don't know whether to credit Fraction or Brubaker for that (my money's on the latter), but scenes like the ones between Danny and Jeryn Hogarth and especially the sit-down with Luke Cage and the Night Nurse come across as unforced and naturalistic, and often humorous. Aja, for his part, does a very good Alex Maleev/Lark & Gaudiano impression, which is, I'm sure, the desired effect. A-

S: Warren Ellis; A: Stuart Immonen. (Marvel, $2.99)

In which Ellis stands back for a while and lets Immonen strut his stuff, rewarding us with a series of two-page spreads full of great cameos from obscurities like the Infant Terrible (two Infant Terribles, no less) and others. Which is not to say that Ellis isn't making with the gallows humor still, and in the case of poor Dirk Anger, literally. Still the best book nobody much is reading, such as it always is. A

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

I'll give Brubaker this- I didn't see this issue's mystery revelation coming at all. Maybe it's because we were never given any clues that this might happen (or maybe I just missed them, not always being the sharpest or most perceptive comics reader around), but it seems to come out of left field- could have been Angar the Screamer or the frigging Leap Frog for all I knew. Not that this makes it any less enjoyable; Brubaker's dramatics are never overwrought and Lark/Gaudiano's art defines tasteful. A-

S: Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti; A: Francis Portela, Terry Pallot. (Marvel, $2.99)

On the other hand, this book keeps twitching, trying to show signs of life, but apparently, having given it a better-than-expected go in Daughters of the Dragon and having been rewarded with rock-bottom sales and (I would imagine) less editorial slack, Gray and Palmiotti are giving us a rote, joyless exercise in contemporary superheroing, hurt more than helped by all the Civil War melodrama...and anonymously drawn in a bland, dull style by the latest who-they? Marvel Art Drones. The occasional amusing quip does nothing to enliven this mess, and so I shrug my shoulders and decline to continue past issue 7, when my DCBS back order runs out, and when Graymiotti move on, like my attention did some time ago. C-

S: J. Torres; A: Chynna Clugston. (DC, $2.25)

The main appeal of this issue, besides the return of my favorite Titans villain Mad Mod, is an entire issue of art by Chynna Clugston, who seems to be having a ball indulging herself in all sorts of 60's homages, not only referencing movie scenes but fashions and music as well. She has a light, clean, appealing style that works well for this sort of book. Torres' script starts nicely with a Hard Day's Night tribute, but runs out of steam at the end with a somewhat preposterous ending, which I'm sure matters not one whit to his target audience so I'll just shut up and state for the record that this issue was a lot of fun and let it go at that. Much better than the previous Mad Mod appearance, for sure! A-

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

Nice cover; best in a long time. Inside; same old same old, with the fate of the world hinging this time on the outcome of a English football game. Oi. D+

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

I admire the sheer grit and urghh of this pseudo-retro exercise, with all its crude and bloody pulp-magazine flavor- but the results are curiously inconsequential and routine, as if we've seen it all before...and in the 60-plus years since the heyday and decline of the pulps, let's face it, we have. Wagner's trying hard on art, too, but there's very little grace or wit in his approach and art style, so that falls just short of the mark too. Anyway, could be better for our tree-fitty, but it sure could be worse. B+

S/A: Los Bros. Hernandez. (Fantagraphics, $4.50)

Jaime, I love ya. Your art never ceases to inspire and amaze, and Maggie, Hopey, Ray and even the Frogmouth are among some of the most memorable comics characters ever created. Gilbert, you too, even though I must confess to being a bigger fan of your brother's work. But really, fellas, isn't it about time we moved on and tried something different? I don't mean zombies or space opera, but geez- it seems like we've been tilling this field together for a mighty long time, and you both keep hitting all the old, familiar notes in exactly the same way time and time again. You continue to do it well, but I'm just sayin', know what I'm sayin? B+

S: Dan Abnett, Ian Edginton; A: Lui Antonio. (Boom! Studios, $2.99)

Don't know much about the game this was based on, although I imagine that if I was 16 again I'd probably be all over it. Here we have yet another far-flung dystopian future, populated by hypermuscled men in humongous suits of armor, fighting each other along with monstrous beasts in some sort of nihilistic ongoing conflict. If this sort of thing rocks your world, and if you're familiar with the game, you might really go for this. Me, not so much, although I will cop to thinking that Antonio would be a natural for Metal Hurlant magazine, and overall this isn't terrible for what it is. Problem is, I'm not a fan of what it is. C+

Almost done! More later, including Agnes Quill and The Night Fisher.

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