That semi-popular 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 24 July to 15 August, 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.
Many of these are going to be even briefer than usual and all will streamlined somewhat; I'm way behind and I need to do this quickly or not at all. If you want in-depth, go read Jog or Spurgeon or someone who Deppey links to once in a while.
AMERICAN VIRGIN #17
Aha! I KNEW something would happen to cause new character Vanessa to be phased out, and sure enough it's begun right here. Sad, but that's the way it goes. Still, in a lot of ways this continues the modest winning streak that Seagle has going on this inconsistent title; the tattoo scene was a hell of a good idea and it was very well executed by Becky Cloonan and Jim Rugg. A-
BLACK ADAM #1
Doug Mahnke's always-solid art, even inked to distraction as it is here, is the sole reason to pick up this oh-so-serious slice of unpleasantness, which is sadly pretty much par for the course for most mainstream DC efforts these days. I like serious superheroics as much as the next guy, but there are limits. This is not Bad Comics necessarily, just dreary, and life's too short for this twaddle. C+
BOOSTER GOLD #1
I've never really cared one way or the other for Booster; the only thing that's ever really been distinctive about him was his oddball origin, in which he was a 25th century pro football player who threw ballgames. Never bought his original series, just didn't impress me much one way or the other. I tolerated him in the bwah-ha-ha Justice League; he had a nice rapport with Blue Beetle, kind of the Dean Martin to Ted Kord's Jerry Lewis. I understand that he got the Standard 2000's DC Make-Me-Serious treatment via Countdown, and while it made him less of a comedian, like Dino, being serious wasn't necessarily his strong suit. So now, in the wake of Countdown and all that other stuff which I haven't really been following all that closely, we get a new Booster comic- and actually, it starts out OK, with BG trying to get back into the good graces of the JLA. But then Rip Hunter shows up, and this thing devolves into utter time-travel chaos. If time travel in your stories, not to mention the incomprehensible bedlam that is DC continuity these days, doesn't bother you as much as it does me, there's much to like here- mostly thanks to Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund's solid art, and in all fairness Johns writes some decent dialogue before everything blows up in the readers' face. So caveat emptor. B-
BRAVE AND THE BOLD #5
This series remains a tonic of sorts for what ails the latter-day DC reader; it's fast and furious and the character interaction is first rate. So entertaining that you don't even think about how improbable the notion of two beings, one cyborg and one Batman, merging and un-merging as easily as pulling apart two different-colored lumps of Play-Doh actually is. Just because Fox and Broome got away with it forty years ago, doesn't always mean it's a good idea in 2007, and that goes for you, too, Morrison. Still, the best Legion story I've read since Abnett and Lanning were committed, and Perez does a nice job drawing everybody's favorite futuristic teenage superhero team. It's so good, that it's no wonder that sales are anemic. A-
Another series which manages to be down-to-earth but not as middlebrow-leaning crass as so many DC titles seem to be. Easy to follow even though it crosses over with Amazons Attack; not surprising because Pfiefer's writing 'em both but still sometimes tricky. The highlight of this issue is the wonderful Batman scenes, especially the Bat-child safety seat. A-
DOKTOR SLEEPLESS #1
If you've read any Warren Ellis at all, you've read this already; it could be subtitled Warren Ellis' Greatest Hits. Fortunately, I like the way his brain guides him to write, so as far as I'm concerned it's just fine. Your mileage, as the saying goes, may vary. It's interesting to see Ivan Rodriguez drawing comics these days, I'd think that catching for the Tigers would keep him busy. What? Oh. Sorry. Anyway, this Rodriguez's work is detailed enough, I suppose, and it's certainly busy, but there's a lifeless, awkward quality to it that keeps me from really liking it. Oh well, I didn't like Darick Robertson's art all that much either but found Transmetropolitan interesting enough for the first few years...which is just about what I see for this, too. B+
THE GRAVE ROBBERS' DAUGHTER
This reminded me of a magnet I saw once at my comics shop; it said "Can't sleep; clowns will eat me" and sported some creepy clown illustration. Yeah, I know, you've heard that one before. I've never been one of those who thought clowns were "scary" and all that; it's become such a cliche since, oh, Stephen King's It that it just smacks of trendy, shallow me-tooism rather than any genuine fear or dread when confronted with painted actors who only seek to entertain. Oh well, I digress. Nice to see the return of the anti-Nancy Drew, Judy Drood, as she gets involved with a mystery in a typically Salaesque deserted small town, tangles with a group of teenage juvenile delinquents and the evil clown doll army they seem to command, and encounters a strange little girl that holds the key to the whole thing. If you've read any Sala at all, you'll know how this all turns out, but as always with him it's the telling as much as the tale, and his quirky style is as fascinating as always. A-
GREEN ARROW: YEAR ONE #2
Ollie re-enacts Cast Away here in chapter two but the Diggle/Jock synergy is intact, making this another great read. I'm just happy he didn't get a volleyball to talk to. A-
Street punks seem to be getting possessed by demons in this excessively bloody, and not very well drawn, first chapter. I'm used to Manco being apparent Artist for Life on this title, but this one's poor, even by his current standards, which are light years from his mid-late '90s work on another character with Hell- in the title. Regardless, this arc could be interesting, even if I believe we've seen this sort of thing before, and storywise it's a good enough start. In Diggle I trust. For now. B
The first issue was surprisingly good; this one's unsurprisingly competent. We get the standard Ellis-style dialogue, some improbable stunts, the standard wise-ass hottie to complete the character triangle, and for our trouble the occasional amusing dialogue exchange. Artwise, Garbett continues to ape Quitely but doesn't quite have it perfected yet, and I seriously doubt that hitting someone with a tire iron like that would cause such a large explosion of blood. Not that I care to find out for sure, mind you. I didn't get quite the rush in this, the second chapter, as I did the first- but I'm going to hang around and see what happens. B-
IMMORTAL IRON FIST #7
Not exactly in Fables' league when it comes to folklore pastiche, because the humorous vibe felt heavy-handed. But anything which gets me such a sweet cover and nine pages of Khari Evans artwork is aces with me. B+
LOVE & ROCKETS VOL 2 #20
Another issue of L&R, in which I continue to admire Jaime's economical, expert storytelling style and inkline, despite the fact that I've read most of what we get this issue, even as I continue to wonder why I just don't see what everyone else seems to see when it comes to the contributions of his brothers. Note to whoever did the prepress on the Maggie/Rena story: convert the lettering from CMYK to K only- it was a chore to read because the letters were slightly out of register and thus blurry. B+
METAL MEN #1
Rouleau the artist, with his appealing-looking figure drawings and dynamic poses and perspectives (despite a young Doc Magnus who appears, apparently, has the facial structure of a 12-year-old on the cover and in places inside), bails out Rouleau the writer, who tries to cram six issues' worth of text into one, a feat only really carried off by Don McGregor in his salad days and precious few others. It's not Rex Libris text-heavy, but still it's too talky by half, but somehow enjoyable in spite of itself. The tweaks to the Men, both artistic and scriptwise, are neatly done, and even though she's not given much in the way of personality yet, I'm already finding myself really liking new robot Copper. B+
THE RIDE: DIE VALKYRIE #2
Another fine issue of this, my guilty pleasure title- good art covers a multitude of sins, I've always held, and Brian Stelfreeze's propulsive, fine-line illustration looks mighty damn good to me. A-
SHAZAM: THE MONSTER SOCIETY OF EVIL #4
Between Sivana, Mr. Mind, new takes on Mary Marvel and the wizard Shazam, talking cockroaches, the whole mythology of the talking animals including Mr. Tawky, giant hairball-looking aliens, the employees of WHIZ-TV, and even a dash of real-world style political commentary, it certainly seems like Smith has tried to cram too darn much into one series- double-sized though it may be. Fortunately, he plotted it out very well, and nothing seemed forced. I'm still surprised that DC let Smith do this in the first place, but I'm glad they did; it isn't often that you get such an appropriate match of creator and character. That said, I won't stand on one leg waiting for the sequel. A
THE SPIRIT #8
Eight issues in, and Cooke gives us his most Eisner-ish Spirit adventure yet. Unfortunately, it falls kinda flat, but I believe the reason is less that it isn't good but only that it isn't 1949 anymore. And of course, it's brilliantly illustrated- few penciller/inker teams are as good a match as Cooke and J.Bone are. Oh, and here's a nitpick, for what it's worth- "Gainesborough" as a nickname for Denny Colt is not clever, and sounds clumsy- the sort of thing that only a writer would imagine that a character would say. B+
Wow! Done in one night!
BEST IN SHOW: SHAZAM VS. THE MONSTER SOCIETY OF EVIL. The whole series gets an A.
DOG OF THE WEEK(S): BLACK ADAM #1. Not even Doug Mahnke's art makes this grim exercise enjoyable.