Saturday, June 16, 2007


That semi-regular feature in which I opine upon various works of sequential fiction that 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 23 May to 13 June, 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.

S: Steven T. Seagle; A: Becky Cloonan, Jim Rugg. (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

Well, this was going to be (once again) my final issue, but Seagle has gone and introduced a new, interesting character who really livens this stagnant narrative up when she appears. Otherwise, more of the same old same old, well drawn as usual, and I guess I'll stick around just to see how long it takes Seagle to kill her off or dump her. This is my yo-yo book, apparently. B-

S: Larry Young; A: Jon Proctor. (AiT/PlanetLar, $2.95)

I did some Googling to try and remember what I wrote about On Ramp, the teaser issue for this series that came out back in 2005 (!) and sadly, I came up empty. Seems I reviewed it for Comic Book Galaxy when I did my Last Call column, and sadly, (I guess that depends on who you ask) those columns no longer exist on the Intarwub. So, at the risk of contradicting myself about what I may have written earlier, I'll just deal with the right here right now- and right off the bat one thing that Black Diamond has going for it is Larry's specialty, the high concept...and this one's 1970's Grindhouse/Drive-in all the way, with (of course) Death Race 2000, the Mad Max films, and even The Searchers or perhaps The Vanishing figuring into the mix. The notion of the government grounding all commercial airflights as a reaction to terrorism fears isn't all that far-fetched and sounds just logical enough to help us buy that the other part of this reaction includes building the high-rise titular super-super highway, which must do wonders for property values on the ground below, as cars are prone to come flying over the barrier, to crash on Earth below. This one's all setup, as we establish the initial scenario in which Baltimore dentist (who just happens to be married to the Diamond's designer) Dr. Don McLaughlin finds out his wife (who's in Washington) has been kidnapped by terrorists, and has to take his brother-in-law's '73 Mercury Cougar, get on the superhighway, and come to the rescue. Pretty cool, huh. If I was inclined to quibble, I'd question the use of a 1973 muscle car when one from 1970 or '71, before insurance companies, Ralph Nader, and government restrictions began to force Detroit to scale back the power as early as 1972 would have been even cooler. Like I said, just nitpicking there. I'm down with the concept, but I'm not completely sold on the art, which seems to be color flats laid down in illustrator and then traced in outline by Proctor; it's a lot like the other trend I've seen from AiT artists (Goodbrey, Milady- see review below) lately, in which photographs are manipulated in Photoshop or some art program to get rid of all midtones and quartertones, resembling old Xerox copies in which all the image detail is blown out. Proctor's is more colorful for sure, and reminds me a bit of Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly and Waking Life, or Ralph Bakshi's not-always-successful rotoscope animation. It's fine as far as it goes, and tells the story well enough, but while his machines look OK even without a lot of surface detail, his figure drawings and especially facial expressions (most notably early on in the dentist office scenes) are not so great. This artificial-looking approach just takes me right out of the story sometimes, especially when I'm confronted with a mouth like that on page three, or faces like those on on pgs. five and seven. Not a deal-breaker, but I'm hoping it gets better. All things considered, though, this promises to be a lot of fun, and those looking for fast-paced action-thriller fiction should make damn sure that this is on their short list. Now, what we need is a KISS cameo and maybe, just maybe, Larry could have a character who drives a '72 Chevelle SuperSport, just like your humble scribe used to own... B+

S: Garth Ennis; A: Darick Robertson. (Dynamite Entertainment, $2.99)

Picking up right where #6 keft off, Garthie takes the usual shots at comics-as-PR in the form of a gnomish old guy (more Bridwell than Lee, I suspect, and good on Ennis for avoiding the obvious cliche) who publishes the propaganda pieces in BoysWorld, and I'll bet ya a dollar that Robertson originally drew him on the toilet in the cover illo. Funnier by far is the plight of poor Tek Knight, who should hook up with the animal buggerers from Preacher. As long as Ennis skewers the so-called good guys along with the so-called bad guys, I'm still on board. When this changes, I'll be sure to let you know. B+

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

Another arc, another criminal...and while AWOL soldier Tracy doesn't promise to be as sympathetic as poor Leo was in issues 1-5, he also promises to be no less interesting as he looks to get payback for the life of his brother from the gang of small-time crooks he was hanging with. As always, Phillips just kills, providing tons of mood and atmospherics. He's so underrated it's a, well, crime! Promising beginnning. A-

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

The "Is Melvin Potter homicidal, or crazy, or both?" storyline rumbles on, and remains solid as it keeps us guessing. Me, I believe the answer lies with surprise returnee Lily, who has been known to drive men astray in the past. Brubaker also seems to be setting up some sort of turmoil within the Matt/Milla marriage, on shaky ground already. So, interesting ongoing subplots, check; a little action to keep things moving, check; typically stellar art by Lark and Guadiano, check. Yep, another outstanding issue of Daredevil. A-

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

In which John sets himself up in the casino owned by last issue's Pearly Gray, in order to perpetrate some as-yet-unnamed scheme. The notion of having ol' Conjob do his business in a gambling establishment is such a good one that I'm amazed nobody's used it yet- and gives me another reason to believe that I'm gonna like Diggle's tenure. Manco, for his part, tries hard but just doesn't enliven the proceedings very much at all. B+

S: Mike Mignola; A: Duncan Fregredo. (Dark Horse, $2.99)

Boy, that was quick- seems like just a week or so ago that I read #1! Anyway, chapter two finds HB struggling with a group of witches (and a deranged undead witchfinder) who seem to want to strike up some sort of truce with him, and through a series of convoluted events winds up in the clutches of the Baba Yaga on some other plane of existence. I was enjoying this just fine until that last wrinkle; the way it developed didn't make a lot of sense and seemed to be a rare breakdown by Mignola the scripter and Fregredo the artist. Otherwise, Fregredo is as dynamic and outstanding as always as he strives to stay true to that static Mignola feel even as he seeks to remain true to his style. The push and pull is really interesting, for those like me who tend to notice such things. B+

S/A: Matt Silady. (AiT/PlanetLar, $12.95)

More and more comics and graphic novels, it seems to me anyway, are coming across as TV show pitches; so it's not all that surprising that we now get a graphic novel that's about TV show pitches. Homeless Channel details the startup of a TV channel devoted to shining a light on the plight of the homeless (hence the title, duh) and focuses specifically on lead character Darcy, who pitches and helms the endeavor. Oh, and she has a homeless sister, too, and of course that figured significantly later on. It's a good idea, and Silady writes good Sorkin-style dialogue, which helps it a lot. Not so good is story structure; scenes often run smack in to each other, without any visual or scripted cues to help the reader discern how much time has passed- more than once I found myself backtracking to look for a character I thought I had overlooked, or to figure out how long after event a event took place. Not the first time I've had to do that with a book, and (I'm sure) not the last, but it does kinda spoil the reading experience. The art doesn't help, either- it's yet another example of someone taking what appears to be photos (many people are thanked at the end for posing- I wonder if they did this gratis or were they paid, and who paid them?) and blowing out all the midtones, quarter tones, and highlights; just leaving the shadow areas and then tracing in the rest...and it's just realistic enough to distract from rather than illuminate the script, unlike when Goodbrey did it, difference being that Goodbrey's surrealism needed a certain visual approach to emphasize its otherworldliness; Silady's story is grounded in the here and now of the real world and the not-quite-realistic approach works against it in a lot of ways. Homeless Channel is a fine, mature read; I found it a little hard to follow sometimes between the art and the somewhat disjointed script, but judging from the other reviews I've seen I"m in the minority there. Say, here's an idea- why don't YOU be the judge? B+

S/A: Mike Allred. (Image, $2.99)

When Alan Moore got all pretentiously metaphysical in Promethea, you could respect, even if you had difficulty following along, because he seemed to have at least done his homework and knew his subject inside and out...because, well, he had. Allred, on the other hand, is utterly unconvincing when he does it because it just doesn't play to his strengths- he just doesn't have the hightoned vocabulary that such undertakings need. Fortunately, he snaps out of it about 3/4 of the way through and finally gets around to the gist of the story- and it begins to read like the Madman we've known and loved. Unfortunately, it may be too little too late, and I'm getting the feeling more and more that Allred did whatever he set out to do with the character over a decade ago, and is only spinning his wheels now. C+

S: Doug Wagner; A: Brian Stelfreeze. (Image, $2.99)

It's been a good two weeks for muscle cars in comics, hasn't it? More high-octane guilty-pleasure shenanigans in this, the latest in the Ride series from the 12 Gauge Comics guys, and it's as enjoyable as the other entires in the series to date. Heck, just seeing Lolita-esque hitperson and series star Laci with her posse of nuns is almost worth the price of admission. Even though it sometimes looks sketchy and underdrawn, Stelfreeze still is as good as anybody at depicting dynamic action, and this series plays to his strengths. First lap, good. We'll see how the rest of the race goes. A-

S/A: Geoff Darrow; additional scripting by the Wachowski Bros. (Burlyman Entertainment, $3.50)

Darrow's insanely detailed art alone keeps me from dismissing this out of hand, but Mary, Mother and Joseph is this becoming a rambling, plotless mess. Characters talk and talk and talk and TALK and not much of anything happens, and I suppose Darrow is counting on his admittedly-excellent art to distract us from the fact that nothing is going on...but at least for my part, it's failing. As Warren Zevon once wrote, "Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana", which roughly translated means "get to the point". Please. C+

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

In which Cooke aims high, seeking to replicate the feel of such Eisner-era mini-epics like "Ten Seconds" and "The Visitor", and is almost successful, sabotaged by an unsympathetic protagonist. As Eisner was prone to do, he makes Denny Colt a secondary participant in the story, and that's fine- the story's not really about him anyway. But the plight of the troubled, antisocial "Blue" just didn't really resonate with me, unlike the desperate Freddy from the aforementioned "Ten Seconds" to name but one, and as a result I just didn't really care much about anybody in the story. That's the way it goes sometimes. I'm happy that Cooke is reaching as high as he does, and I have faith that he'll grab something good very soon. Of course, art-wise this is excellent- Cooke and Bone combine to at least make everyone compelling from a visual standpoint, even though the club atmosphere came across as more 1997 than 2007. Cooke's Spirit remains better than the run of the mill, but still a little short of excellence. B+



DOG OF THE WEEK(S): Sorry to say, SHAOLIN COWBOY #7, followed closely by MADMAN ATOMIC COMICS #2. Oh how the mighty do disappoint.

Coming later this week, reviews of

FABLES #62 and
DMZ #20.

Be there! Aloha!

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