Sunday, January 28, 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 13 to 27 January, some of which may even still be on sale at finer comics selling establishments worldwide.

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

In which Mr. Parker does a smashing, if slightly convoluted, job of explaining everything that's happened in the past five issues (and even provides a little redemption for the Yellow, I mean Golden, Claw), leaving everything set and ready for...the ongoing that unfortunately looks like it will not be forthcoming. Sales haven't been great, you see. Hopefully we'll get a trade that will sell more robustly, but that's never a given. Oh well, many of my all-time favorite series have been six issues or less in their runs, and while I don't know whether this one will joining them in that fabled number, I do know that this has been a good read overall and shame on those who haven't been buying for whatever reason. A-

S: Grant Morrison; A: Frank Quitely (DC, $2.99)

Nice rebound from what I thought was a disappointing issue 5, as we get an typically Morrisonian encounter between Young Superman (with Krypto!) and the Superman Squad, comprised of three future Men of Steel. We see the touching aftermath of the death of Pa Kent, as Grant proves once more that he can jerk a tear as well as he can jerk anything else. A little Invisibles joke there, please forgive. And once more Quitely proves that he is still Morrison's best collaborator, as adept in illustrating his author's flights of fancy just as well as the more down-to-earth aspects of his's often the smaller details that impress me, like the panel on page 16 which shows the Superman of A.D. 853,500 calmly standing there, holding Krypto at bay by the neck, informing the reader of the tragedy about to happen while young Clark is fighting a hopeless battle. He also excels depicting the opening scene, in which Clark and Krypto play fetch the tree. Quitely's Krypto couldn't help but make me recall WE3's Bandit. Anyway, outstanding job this time out, go buy, etc... A

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

This issue, Cloonan only does the first few pages and turns over the reins to Norrie (whose work I've enjoyed in the past, especially inked by J.Bone on Bad Girls), in service to a flashback account of Adam's childhood/teenage years, and if you're invested in this perpetually up-and-down title you'll be interested. If not, well, your interest will vary. Couldn't help but be reminded of Boom!'s Talent in the opening scenes which feature our protagonist underwater after a plane crash, and encountering (again) the ghost of his obsessed-over girlfriend. I also liked the colorful (despite not actually featuring all that many colors) and attention-getting cover by Joshua Middleton. You may recall that I got bored with waiting for this to adopt a stance and a point, and decided to drop it from my DCBS order list. This was interesting enough to make me think I might have been hasty...I guess I have a couple of weeks to decide if I want to continue getting it at my LCS. B-

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

No big earth-shattering concepts, just Selina wishing to get auxiliary Catwoman Holly's name cleared and having to make a deal with a devil to do so. Low-key concept-wise, but solid as usual in the characterization and dialogue department- one of the few things I've come to like about the recent DC Universe is the reclamation job done on the Calculator, former goofball costumed villain turned anti-Oracle information broker. Artwise, not bad- very slick and professional, and maybe I'm still seeing All-Star Superman, but I could swear David L. has been studying a little Quitely in his layout style. B+

S: Jason McNamara; A: Tony Talbert. (AiT/PlanetLar, $12.95)

I wasn't especially impressed with this duo's previous graphic novel Continuity, so I'm pleased to report that this feature-length hey, wouldn't it be cool-if... tale about the disappearance of the first English colony at Roanoke, Virginia is a definite step up. McNamara seems to have a better handle on writing speculative historical fiction than he does Sci-Fi, even if it comes across sometimes as M. Night Shyamalan's remake of Teen Wolf, and it maintains a tense and thankfully smirk-free tone throughout. My biggest issue with Continuity was Talbert's art, and it looks like he's been practicing- although his take on anatomy is idiosyncratic at best, to be kind. On the plus side, the tendency towards sloppiness is much less evident- I only noticed a couple of pages with unintentionally disconnected panel borders, for example. This time out, his Tom Sutton-meets-Paul Pope style sometimes evokes woodcuts, and he does a good job of matching facial expressions with the emotions being portrayed...something even the best of today's illustrators have difficulty with. It certainly seems like some nascent synergy is being born between the writer and artist, and maybe we should be looking forward to seeing what they do next. A-

S: Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti; A: Jordi Bernet. (DC, $2.99)

Now hold on thar just a gosh-darn minute! Did Hex get his messed-up mug from a Yankee soldier's whip (#13), or did he get it from the red-hot tomahawk of a Native American? Both, looks like. Anyway, this whole "(Fill in the adjective of your choice) origin of Hex" thing has kinda felt convoluted and padded, and only the joy of getting three whole books worth of Bernet art has made it worthwhile. This issue brings it full circle, as Hex gets James Brown-style payback on the Union Colonel who slaughtered his Apache tribesmen and ordered his disfigurement, and very little of it sticks in the memory when it's done. But boy, it shore looked real purty. B

S/A: Paul Grist. (Image, $16.99)

Good news: This collection (missing, for some reason, issue #30) now has brought me up to speed on Kane, a rarity for me in that I don't own a single issue of the series- I've read it all in trade paperback collection format. Didn't discover Grist until Jack Staff, y'see, and finding back issues was problematic. More great quirky crime fiction, featuring Grist's typically wry humor (a hit man who disguises himself as a blind man complete with shades and walking stick, named "Murdoch") and lots of great characterization, most notably Kane's young partner Felix and her interaction with the Godfather-esque (in more ways than one) Oscar Darke. And of course, Grist's daredevil storytelling style, with lots of back and forth time-switching and excellent blackspotting. Bad news: #31 was the last issue of the original run, and it ends on a cliffhanger that may or may not get resolved- depending on whether or not Grist follows up on his stated intent to resume Kane as a series of graphic novels. Also: Paul, we get it. We understand that Kane accidentally shot his partner and the other cops on the force don't like him for it. Please stop referring to it every ten pages or so. Once at the beginning should be enough. The good far outweighs the not-so-good, so here's a admittedly biased A.

S: Jim Massey; A: Robbi Rodriguez. (Oni Press, advance review copy)

As I said before, these, the exploits of two janitors who clean up the messes at a evil scientist research lab, aren't exactly Significant Comics, but they are a heck of a lot of fun and very well drawn by Rodriguez, in an expressive Disneyesque style. Recommended, if you like strong concepts well executed, or if you just plain old like fun. Who doesn't like fun? Besides mainstream DC and Marvel writers and readers, that is. A-

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

Andreyko steadfastly refuses to get his courtroom drama right, but his characterization is typically strong and that carries the day. In fact, for the first time, I think he did almost as good a job with Chase and her backstory as D.C. Johnson, heresy I know. Artwise, fine, but as usual neither penciller has anything even remotely resembling a distinctive style, and not even the capable brush of Riggs can help. I thought that was Blue Beetle on the cover, not Red Herring. And oh, by the way, did you know this book has been canned again? B+

S: Garth Ennis; A: Chris Sprouse, Joe Phillips, Karl Story. (DC/WildStorm, $2.99)

Midnighter's still in WWI, trying to kill Hitler to save his own life, and gets interrupted by a group of Time Police or somesuch, giving us some diverting battle scenes and some fun back-and-forth between Mr. M and squad leader "Sergeant Bitch", who provides a much-needed foil. Not bad, but geez Louise, does the abrupt switch from Sprouse art to that of the infinitely less talented Joe Phillips mid-story give me eyestrain, no matter how hard Story inks him up. B+

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

Another intense chapter in this storyline, which has done a lot to restore the lustre of this series, which definitely had hit a valley prior to this arc's inception. A lot of this is due to Avon Oeming, and his storytelling choices- he enhances, rather than merely illustrates, Bendis' script and in the hands of a lesser artist, this wouldn't be nearly as good as it is. So far. A

S: Darwyn Cooke; A: Cooke, Jason Bone. (DC, $2.99)

A substantial improvement over #1, as we get Cooke's idea of a backstory for P'Gell, longtime femme fatale for the Spirit, and it's acceptable as far as I'm concerned. Knowing she's capable of such violence kinda diminishes her glamour a little, but by providing some background on how she came to be what she is gives her an extra dimension that Eisner either didn't care to provide or never thought to, whichever works best for you. More disconcerting to me Cooke's idea of the Ellen Dolan/Denny Colt relationship; hardly a deal-breaker, but it's just odd to this long-time reader of all things Spirit to see them hanging out together watching TV, sans mask, and Ellen calling him "Mr. Colt". A nice Eisnerish touch is the Hussein character, who isn't what he appears to be and provides a neat twist at the end. Cooke and Bone's art is still the main attraction as far as I'm concerned; Their P'Gell has that same 1948 thick-line era Eisner voluptiousness, and layouts and figure drawings are excellent as always. Cooke has a hard act to live up to; I can begrudge him his little improvements a la Kitchen Sink's New Adventures as long as he doesn't lapse into Chester Gould territory again, as with #1. A-

S: Christos Gage; A: Doug Mahnke. (DC/WildStorm, $2.99)

The clever cover evokes memories of Ocean's Eleven, but the interiors are strictly early-90's Brandon Choi/Jim Lee all over again as we get more imitation Alien critters (you remember, "Daemonites" with that extra "a" just 'cause it sounds kewler)and super-baddies who call themselves Claremont-style pretentious names like "Defile" and "Decadence". Ugh. Sole saving grace remains Mahnke's art, which of course you all know I like a lot, and makes it mostly worth the while...but as always, others' mileage may vary. C+

S: Rick Remender; A; Micah Farritor. (Image, $3.50)

Hard to believe that I found this character and her scenario interesting once up on a time. This series has resolutely declined to go in anything resembling an interesting direction, and has especially gotten bogged down lately with its Dante's Inferno-inspired storyline and all its attendant wannabe-shocking unpleasantness. It never ceases to amaze me how many new artists they keep coming up with that draw in the exact same style- Farritor isn't much different from Stakal or Nguyen or even Opena, and while a certain continuity is welcome it provides a cookie-cutter vibe that makes these events even less interesting than they already are. It's time for me to say sayonara, I think, and you can't say I didn't give it a fair trial. C-

S: David Lapham, Brian Azzarello; A: Eric Battle, Prentiss Rollins, Cliff Chiang. (DC, $3.99)

There's something about Batman-Spectre encounters that I always find compelling, no matter how poorly they may be done, and this one's no exception. Even though it's still that imbicilic Crispus Allen Spectre...I guess the resolute, stern natures of both characters strike sparks, or something. This time out, the artists appear to be trying to ape Astro City's Brent Anderson, hardly an improvement over the faux early-90's-Image style that they used previously. So while this may be the best Spec story in this run yet, I still have little desire to reread it. No, the main attraction remains the Doc Thirteen story, which is as silly as ever but at least it's not dull, and Chiang's art is solid as always. Cover-wise, it's a nice nostalgia rush to see another Berni Wrightson take on the Spectre, even if the lame-ass Crispus Allen version. B-

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