Tuesday, May 15, 2007


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 28 April to 10 May, 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...

**- newer reviews

S: Kurt Busiek; A: Brent Anderson. (DC/Wildstorm, $2.99)

One of the ugliest covers in recent memory is wrapped around another fair to middling chapter of Busiek's pastiche universe. He writes it with such a serious tone that I'm impressed with his sincerity and am prompted to follow along, even as I yawn at plot developments and character archetypes that I grew tired of in the early 1980's. As for Anderson, he is called upon to illustrate a man with the physical characteristics of a duck-billed platypus, which turns out to look like practically every other character he draws. Dark age indeed. C+

Words: Marc Sobel; Art: Leontine Greenberg. (Autopsy Press, $4.95)

Kevin Church isn't the only blogger-turned-writer here in the 'verse, it seems- my former Comic Book Galaxy compadre Sobel published this collection of poems and prose last August. He sent me a copy along with a gift of a George Harrison bootleg CD, and I'm glad he did; it's a well-written effort for sure. Not that I'm any great judge of poetry, mind you, but I think he manages to conjure up some effective imagery with his words, and that's half the battle as far as I'm concerned. I especially liked "The Gathering Clouds", an evocative reminisce. While there's an occasional tendency towards negativity and melodrama, it's not excessive. Not quite as successful is the short story, from whence the title comes; it's an oddball tale of an arsonist who is assisted in his/her crimes by a pigeon, who she/he rides in the course of his/her efforts. Of course, it's most likely this person is just narrating a fever dream from the nuthatch; much of the tale's early scenes are set in one. Anyway, it has a lot of manic energy and certainly isn't dull, even though I'm still not sure what the point was exactly. A huge positive in this collection is Greenberg's spot illustrations; she has a loose, imaginative style which suits the writing to a tee. Click on the link above to score yourself a copy. A-

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

Poor junior Catwoman Holly has a rough encounter with a new villainess named "Blitzkrieg", who sports a uniform that reminds me of a St. Pauli Girl by way of Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS, straight out of some Garth Ennis smirkfest. Meanwhile, senior Catwoman finishes the deal with the Calculator, just in time to face the menace which has been arriving for what seems like six months now. Again marred by unnecessary-seeming violence; as in Amazons Attack, decapitations and beatings seem to be included just so we won't forget that this is SERIOUS BUSINESS, DC-style, and belying the otherwise light tone. Anyway, even though I'm beginning to worry about our Wil and the recent nasty streak in his writing as of late, this is still a solid and fast-moving chapter, nicely illustrated by the Lopezes. B+

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

Ho hum. Another month, another outstanding Brubaker/Lark Daredevil outing. I don't know what's up with Melvin Potter aka the Gladiator, but wouldn't it be cool if the Purple Man was behind it? And wouldn't it be cool if more than a few of you out there knew who the Purple Man was? A-

S/A: David Yurkovich. (Top Shelf, $14.95)

I managed to miss Yurkovich's previous efforts, including Less Than Heroes, so this is my first exposure to his work. His writing style, in itself, isn't particularly clever or noteworthy, but his matter-of-fact tone that helps get his stories over in fine fashion. Sometimes the most outlandish ideas are utterly convincing if they're presented with a straight face, as Grant Morrison would surely agree. Artwise, Yurkovich's figure drawings are often stuff and crude but he has an angular, expressionistic storytelling style that meshes very well with the subject matter, giving it an almost hallucinatory vibe. Well worth further investigation. If comics were drive-in movies, and this was the 1950's, Death By Chocolate would make a dandy double feature with The Last Sane Cowboy... B+

DMZ 18
S: Brian Wood; A: Riccardo Burchielli, Nathan Fox. (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

Most notable thing about this opening chapter is the flashback scene illustrated by newcomer (well, new to me, anyway) Fox- he has a loose, expressionistic Paul Pope-esque style which steals the show from stolid-by-comparison regular artist Burchielli. More, please. Storywise, an interesting beginning, as we get Kent State-style soldier vs. civilian type violence in Wood's new New York, through the eyes of one of the soldiers, an interviewee of protagonist Matt. Another solid chapter of this ongoing. B+

S: Mike Carey; A: John Bolton. (DC/Vertigo, $19.99)

Geez, when Hollywood has a stinker this big, they don't show it in advance to critics. DC apparently hasn't learned this lesson, though, so I suppose this is fair game. This isn't hackwork; Carey is a very talented writer as shown on his long Lucifer and Hellblazer runs, and Bolton is a skilled illustrator who has done some fine work in the past, even as far back as his long-ago Harold Foster-styled Marada the She Wolf for Epic/Marvel and the graphic novel Menz Insana, where he began to mix and match styles in a hamfisted manner. But on this the pair leave no cliché unturned as they give us a no-surprises fairy story set in the modern world, and it pretty much follows the standard Gaiman template as it does so- perhaps this might have flown higher back in 1990, but now it's definitely a case of seen-that been-there. Carey can do so much better than this (and via his adaptation of Gaiman's Neverwhere, has proven that he can do Neil's voice very well) that it makes me wonder exactly how old this script is- one of Bolton's pages is signed 2005, and he's never shown signs of being a fast worker previously. That might explain the secondhanded feel of this story- perhaps an early-career inventory script dusted off and assigned to Bolton to try to grab some more of Sandman, or perhaps even Harry Potter fanbucks. That's still no excuse for Carey to indulge himself in a such a heavy-handed cautionary drug parable, asking us as well to accept a thoroughly unlikeable young protagonist and her by-the-numbers fairy-story quest, and failing to surprise, enlighten, or even entertain every single time. Bolton, for his part, doesn't help at all; he's a talented illustrator who seems to be unable to make one single decent storytelling choice these days. He apparently strives to be stylistically diverse as he skips from Maxwell Parrish-style realism to Gerald Scarfe-esque charicature but winds up just being chaotic and scattershot. It's a handsome hardcover package, but believe you me, you've read this all before, and in much better fashion. C-

S: Andy Diggle; A: Leo Manco. (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

Well, this is part two, but I'm not so sure that a second part was all that necessary after last issue's climax. Oh well, this is still a good as finale as one could want, and proves that Diggle has the stuff to write ol Conjob's exploits for as long as he feels like it. A-

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

As usual, my main interest in this book is Jaime's contribution and it doesn't disappoint, delivering another solid chapter in the Ray/Vivian/Sid and Maggie from a distance storyline- great stuff once again. He also keeps streamlining his art style, and unlike some illustrators keeps getting better and better; there's a one panel shot of a nude Viv diving into a swimming pool that is a small masterpiece of seductive linework. Gilbert, for his part, winds up his ongoing "Julio's Day" storyline- at least I think so, because it stopped making sense to me a long time ago. Perhaps it will read better collected, can't say. He also contributes an odd, violent, wordless piece which deals with murder and mayhem among weird creatures with bird beaks, wings, and so on. It doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense either, but it's short and quite striking, and stays with you. A-

S: Mark Andreyko; A: Javier Pina, Diego Olmos, "Cafu", Robin Riggs, Art Thibert. (DC, $2.99)

Last issue before another cancellation false-alarm imposed hiatus, and it ties up the ongoing plot threads to date, at least the major ones. The protracted and convoluted storyline in which Kate Spencer defends Wonder Woman over the killing of Max Lord just meandered and stopped and started along, and never really cohered. I was under the impression that they had established that Wondy had been acquitted by a world court anyway, so I'm still not sure the whole trial thing was even necessary except to inject some DCU superstar cameos into this perpetually sales-strapped title. Oh well. The best thing as far as I'm concerned was the subplot that had Cameron Chase and new boyfriend/Manhunter-Boy-Friday Dylan saving Chase's sister from an old adversary of her dad's- Andreyko did a really good job of capturing a lot of the feel that D.C. Johnson brought to her late, lamented solo title, and surprised me a lot in the process, something I felt was lacking in his previous handling of the character. The art, once more, was bland, a little awkward proportion-wise, and as anonymous-looking as a lot of DC art tends to be these days even though no less than five people were involved in its creation. Anyway, I'm glad that this title will contiunue; Kate Spencer is an interesting character, the supporting cast (especially, yeah, Chase, and Obsidian as well) is top-notch, and if Andreyko can manage to recapture the pizazz he gave her early on, perhaps it will stick around at least another five issues. B+

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

Bendis is stll dragging this out something awful- but this issue resolves a lot of the dangling plot threads, and is a step up for it. There were times in the last couple of issues that Oeming's art devolved into chaos and confusion, but this time out everything's a lot tighter and more linear. Glacial pace aside, this is still a compelling storyline...of course, others might not be as patient as I. A-

S: Peter Johnson, Geoff Johns; A: Matthew Dow Smith, Phil Hester. (DC/Wildstorm, $2.99)

Unlike many of my reviewing contempraries, I actually can say that I am not at a disadvantage when it comes to familiarity with the TV show this is based on and serves as a prequel to- my wife is a big fan and never misses it, and so I wind up watching it with her. It's a passable hour of supernatural-based action-thriller type stuff; the two leads have chemistry together and the writers manage to keep things moving along at a lively clip. The two stories in this comic book tie-in take place when the two leads were kids; one of the ongoing plot threads deals with the boys' fractious relationship with their father, who became obsessed with finding the demon that murdered their mother and spent most of his life tracking it down. Here, we get a tale of the Dad in the first 3/4, and a downbeat back feature which demonstrates the bond the two kids had, and still have in the present. It presumes a lot of familiarity on the readers' part; I have it so I had no problem. Others who don't know the show might not find it so easy to absorb. I'm a little puzzled by the art credit in the lead story; the artist is identified as "Matthew Dow Smith", a name I've never seen before, but his art looks a lot like the Matt Smith that drew the early issues of Astronauts in Trouble, DC's Day of Judgment, and the recent IDW adaptation of The Keep. I think it's the same guy- that faux-Mignola style is hard to mistake- but the new middle name is confusing. Oh well. As with the Buffy, Xena, and X-Files comics adaptations, fans of the TV show might find this useful, if they find out about it at all. All others, not so much. B

S: Antony Johnston; A: Christopher Mitten. (Oni Press, $11.95)

There's not a single note that's hit in Johnston's post-Apocalyptic saga that you haven't heard at some point or another before, unless you count the substitution of "goat" for "bitch" and/or "bull" and "sun" for "God" in the characters' oaths as startlingly original. Fortunately, in this case, it's not so much the tale as the telling of it- and that means that this is more involving that it probably should be by any standards. It's no mean feat to take over-familiar elements and whip them up into a palatable souffle, but in this case the writer is up to the task. Artist Mitten doesn't help much but doesn't hurt either; even though he constantly draws all of his people, men, women, and bloodthirsty sand people the same way- like their chins are permanently bonded to their upper chest area- he knows how to pace and lay out a story for efficient readability and his scratchy ink line adds a lot to the sandblown and windburned atmosphere. When I reviewed issue #1, I thought this had potential, but I declined to buy. Now, I'm interested enough to look for the next trade collection when it comes out. There's some progress for ya. B+

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

Although I have my doubts about how the ad campaign for the Spirit pork 'n' beans would go over in the real world, this is another solid effort. I liked Cooke and Bone's updated Mr. Carrion, stylish and even a little cool in a Tim Burtonish way (one of the best things Darwyn's done so far is give the Spirit some likable foils, a la Hussein from issues previous) and one of the few reoccurring rogues that the Spirit faced in his glory days, even though I could do without the squicky bestiality angle that was no doubt far funnier when Cooke was conceiving it than when he actually set it to paper. Unless I'm mistaken, this issue's Cossack also was another classic character. Anyway, even though I'm enjoying this book quite a lot, especially visually, I would like to remind Mr. Cooke the writer than even though it was often a great part of the charm of Eisner & Co.'s stories, having the Spirit sometimes become little more than a supporting character in his own comic, he just as often let Denny Colt do heroic things from time to time as well. So far we've had plenty of the former and not a lot of the latter, and perhaps the balance should shift back to the other side for a while. A-

Whew! Done once more. Just in time for a new box on Friday! I'll also review Oni's new Shenanigans graphic novel, when I finish reading it...

BEST IN SHOW: Nothing this period really blew me away, but I'll have to give it up for LOVE AND ROCKETS 19, because the Jaime story was so damn good.

DOG OF THE WEEK(S): Most definitely the uninspired GOD SAVE THE QUEEN.

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