Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Well, new to me, anyway. The BSNCR is the venue by which I take the opportunity, unsolicited, to opine in regards to various works of sequential fiction I have perused in the interval since the last time I inflicted said opinions upon one and all, or to be specific, the period from approximately 10 to 27 March, some of which may even still be on sale at finer comics selling establishments worldwide if you're lucky. Or not, as the case may be...

**-new reviews since last time.

S: Grant Morrison; A: Gene Ha. (DC/WildStorm, $2.99)

Having the Authority end up on "our" world is a not-bad idea, as befits the one-man House of Ideas that is our Grant. Gene Ha has done his usual outstanding job illustrating it, too. So why does this seem so static and inert? Well, the delay between this and #1 doesn't help, but I think perhaps Ha's art, as good as it is, just doesn't provide the dynamism necessary for the subject matter, a state of affairs exacerbated by the muted and glum colors of Art Lyon. Also, really, even though Morrison's idea has promise, it's been done many times before, and the "Eww, this world is so yucky bad" stuff was old the last time. Really, let's face it, the only suspense comes from finding out how much mischief Midnighter will get into, something he's doing just fine over in his own solo title. So, it's almost not not bad I suppose. Fortunately, there's plenty of time to get interesting, as long as it's in this decade. B

S: John Arcudi, Mike Mignola; A: Guy Davis. (Dark Horse, $2.99)

Once more, the sprawling B.P.R.D. cast gets put through their paces in this stage-setting issue which is full of nice little character bits and makes me realize more than ever just how damn good Guy Davis is. I also realized that I still wish that there could be more Nevermen, but that's foolish of me, I know. A-

S: Mark Waid; A: George Perez, Bob Wiacek. (DC, $2.99)

Issue two of 2007's most surprising comic so far pretty much lives up to its not-bad predecessor; sure, the Hal Jordan/flirty Supergirl scenes are a little uncomfortable at best, but kids, older men do have those sorts of thoughts, and right or wrong it's the actions that count and GL did the right thing. Besides, with the way they're portraying Supergirl these days, it can't be easy to write her if you're not looking to it seems to me Waid did the best he could with the cards he was dealt. Can't really defend the later baby-doll wrestler scene too convincingly, but let's not forget that SG was trying to lull the bettors into making sucker bets, so at least there was rationale as well. I've read worse, and I'd be willing to wager (in keeping with this issue's theme) that many of the most vocal critics have, too. All in all, another fast-paced chapter, with a few laughs and a gnarly plotline that surprisingly still hasn't gone off the rails. Yet. For his part, Perez's work is much better suited to this sort of outer-space shenanigans than it is anything which necessitates depicting realism, as he proved in last issue's Vegas scenes, and come what may, he can still clutter up a panel like nobody's business. That cover makes-a my ganglia twitch, as John Whorfin would say. So far, so good- hope it lasts. B+

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

The finale to the first story plays itself out in bloody fashion, no surprise there, and despite a little flash of illogic here and there (really, what are the odds of hitting someone right in the grill with a bag of smack tossed from about three feet away?) is as satisfying as it is disappointing. Not disappointing as a story or as a whole, but disappointing in our hopes for Leo, whom the reader is (in time-honored noir fashion) set up for reader sympathy but it is of course incumbent upon the writer to remind us that no matter how much we may like the protagonist, he's still a crook so he gets what he deserves. As usual, Phillips excels and it's good to see that drawing zombies for a paycheck hasn't dulled his skills. A

S: Bill Willingham; A: Mike Allred. (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

Pat resolution to last issue's cliffhanger as once more it is drilled into our heads that Bigby Wolf doesn't like and/or trust his dad. Good job by Mike Allred on art- while it's still a little stiff, he does inject some dynamism when it's needed. B+

S/A: Andy Hartzell. (Top Shelf, $10)

Well, y'see, it's foxes. And bunnies. And it's not really so funny, unless we're talking funny strange and not funny ha ha. Depicting a world in which foxes live in a society which, logically enough, preys on their long-eared cohabitants and focusing on one fox in particular who has a yen to not hunt and eat, but coexist and perhaps even become a bunny, this sans dialogue, black and white parable of sorts has a point to make about the blurring of lines between people of all sorts of types and the improtance of following your convictions, muses, and so on. It gets a little out of control towards the end, with one of those chaotic endings that have become a staple of most contemporary fiction, but Hartzell's angular art likeably moves it along well enough and the story sticks with you after it's done. Worth a look, especially if you're a fox who longs to be a bunny and vice versa. B+

S: Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti; A: Phil Noto. (DC, $2.99)

So...not only is Jonah an excellent marksman, tracker and bounty hunter, but he also has many of the same skills as Zelda Rubenstein's Poltergeist character, and can use Native American magic to call someone back from the other side!

This bit of silliness aside, I kinda like that Tallulah Black character- the notion of setting up a female counterpart to the title character is a pretty good one. And while this issue's climactic gunfight got stretched out to the point of absurdity, it was redeemed somewhat by the perfectly-in-character bastardly treatment Jonah gives her at the end. So while this wasn't exactly a gripping read, it didn't exactly suck either. Artwise, another slick, superficial job by Noto, who has improved his layout style but still draws interiors like the excellent cover artist he is. B-

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

Unintentionally funny Superman cameos aside, I'm still finding the Chase subplot a lot more interesting than all the superheroics (not to mention the courtroom stuff, which even in my less-than-knowledgable eyes just seems off) involving the lead. Guess that should come as no surprise, since Miz C's supporting role was the reason I started picking this title up in the first place. B+

S/A: Renee French. (Top Shelf, $10)

In which Miz French tries to do something besides the subtly detailed work that most people are familiar with, such as The Soap Lady. Basically an account of two mice who happen upon a ball of "crap" of some sort, and a third who desperately wants to be pals with the others, it's clever enough and often amusing, but if there's some sort of Significant Meaning to it all it completely evaded my often less than perceptive eyes. I understand this has been a serialized webcomic, and perhaps it had more of a plot in that format, can't say for sure because I've never actually taken the time to read it that way. Guess that's something to look into in the future. Even though the drawings are kinda crude compared to her usual style, they're still full of gnarly life, and generally I liked this and wouldn't mind reading more. Seekers for for Deeper Meaning, though, might want to look elsewhere. C+

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

No deeper meaning here either- just Garth writing a revenge tale, implementing his usual funny-gory Preacher-style tricks in this wrap-up of the initial story arc. Don't know what's coming next, but I do know that variations on this theme will get old fast so I hope he, or whoever will be assuming the writing reins after Ennis moves on, will come up with something a little fresher. Hopefully it will involve those bisexual time cops; they're pretty cool. Most notable is the presence of Chris Sprouse pencils for the entire story this time. Will wonders never cease! B+

S/A: Kyle Baker. (Image, $10)

A bit tardy, sure, but well worth the wait. Baker concludes his illustrated adaptation of Turner's account of the slave rebellion that he led in harrowing fashion- this is one brutal, bloody narrative, and one that you won't soon forget after reading it. By far the most powerful artwork he's ever done, and those who only see him as a humor artist might reconsider their opinion afterwards. That said, I sometimes found myself wishing to get some sort of feel for how Mr. Baker the writer/artist felt about the events he was depicting; condemnation, approval, bemusement? Perhaps he felt an objective stance to be the best way to present the subject matter, who knows. Doesn't take away one bit from the overall accomplishment. I also feel like I should send along kudos to Mr. Baker the publisher, who did a fine job of choosing a better paper stock...well worth the additional cost to the purchaser. A+

S: Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis; A: Julia Bax, Mike Cavallaro. (Boom! Studios, $3.99)

Actually, between this and Hero Squared, I believe this title has done a better job of delivering the Bwah- it doesn't get bogged down in incessant (albeit often amusing) dialogue like its cousin. Essentially one big long exposition dump between the prissy Mauve Visitor (does anybody else hear Tony Randall's voice when they read his dialogue?) and his erstwhile teammate Tempting Tigress (make that Purring Pussycat), it moves along at a smart clip thanks to some not-bad art by Bax and a really nice, Animated-style intro sequence by Cavallaro. A-

S/A: Jeff Smith. (DC, $5.99)

Part two is as solid as part one, as we get to see Smith's well-considered takes on Tawky Tawny, Doc Sivana and best of all a preschool-age Mary Marvel, illustrated in his fluid and likable style. Further proof (as I've maintained for about 30 years now) that the Marvel Family works best independent of the DCU, rather than shoehorned into it. A

S: Christos Gage; A: Matt Smith. (DC/Wildstorm, $2.99)

Flashback slash fill-in issue which recounts earlier Stormwatch events, as the stage gets set for future conflicts, one can only assume. Most notable for a whole issue's worth of Smith art; when he's on, he's quite good in his under-inked, sketchy Mignola-esque style, but when he's not, we get The Keep. Fortunately, he's on this time. B

S: David Lapham, Brian Azzarello; A: Tom Mandrake, Cliff Chiang. (DC, $3.99)

Well, how 'bout that- good ol' Tom Mandrake returns to the character on which he (with John Ostrander) had a long and memorable run, The Spectre. Of course, this is the goatee Spec, not your older brother's, so we still get plenty of turgid gory unpleasantness masquerading as riveting horror...but an always-welcome Phantom Stranger appearance, even one in which he is acting somewhat out of character is a plus and Mandrake does a hell of a job on art, especially compared to the Greg Capullo wannabes that preceded him. Of course, the Doc Thirteen backup keeps getting more and more absurd, to quote a Bernie Taupin lyric, but it's beautifully drawn as usual and remains the only real reason to buy this book, even for the extra buck. B-

S: Antony Johnson, Dan Evans III; A: Mario Boon. (Image, $2.99. Reviewed from PDF.)

You know me, I'm always up for a weird western, and this definitely qualifies on both accounts. It's no Mutant: Texas, but it hoes a similar row as we get the adventures of young siblings in a weird kind of MiddleWestern Earth that is populated by Orcs and Elves and magic users and so forth. The brother is a buckskinned Firehair-esque beginning spellcaster, and the sister has obtained (took it from her father, whose fate is not revealed) a magic knife which will, I'm sure, be the springboard for a dozen or so future storylines. In fact, a shaman's advice to take the knife back to where it came from to "lay it to rest" provides the impetus for the events which take the duo from Alaska to Texas in this introductory chapter. The "Texas Strangers" of the title refer to a group of these fantasy creatures, who apparently serve as a branch of some sort to the Texas Rangers. It's borderline cutesy, but it's never dull and while there are a number of different influences from a hodgepdge of sources, they're blended together nicely. Plus, we get a nifty Brisco County-style cliffhanger ending. I'm not quite as crazy about the art; I'm completely unfamiliar with Boon's previous work and based on this I'm not inclined to seek out any more. He works a similar style to Timm, J. Bone, and others; clean and cartoonish, but there's a certain clumsiness to the inkline and figure drawings that stands out (page 15 is an example- the figure drawings are awkward as all get out), and the characters all sport the sharpest chins this side of Dick Tracy. That said, he does help the story move along at that aforementioned quick pace, and that's a plus. Also, I'm not sure how old he is, or how long he's been drawing, so I'm thinking there's room to improve. Since I am, like I said, more than passing engaged by weird Western tales, I'm interested in where this is going. Your mileage, as they say, may vary. B+

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

At long last, the finale of this stretched-out series. To sum: I mostly like the re-imaginings of these venerable characters, and the way they interact with each other. I liked how this got tied in (almost like an afterthought) with Seven Soldiers. Wish Graymiotti had brought it in as a six-parter; there were just too damn many cliffhangers and regroupings for my liking. LOVED the Graymiotti version of Uncle Sam, like I've said every single fricking time I've held forth on this series, and believe Acuna's art got better the farther along he went. Next time, assming there will be one, let's hope that J&J rein it in a little bit more. B+

Done! Of course, just in time to get a new comics box today. Sigh. Anyway:

BEST IN SHOW: Nat Turner. A stunning work.
DOG OF THE WEEK(S): Jonah Hex, although it wasn't really that bad.

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