That kinda-sorta 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 16 August to 24 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.
BATMAN #667: In which Grant and the supremely gifted J.H. Williams collaborate on an Old Dark House/Ten Little Indians style story, featuring the Batmen of All Nations, believe it or not. You've read everywhere by now how good this first part of the 3-part story is, so I won't bore you with the obvious- believe the hype is all I'm saying. One thing I will make a small note of, since no one else has: THE BERYL HUTCHINSON SQUIRE IS BACK! Woo hoo ha ha! I love me some Squire. A
THE BOYS #9: In these uncertain times in wich we live, it's good to know that Garth Ennis will always be the same ol' "Who me? No, mate, I'm not an arrested adolescent, I just write like one for the funnybooks!" and give us poo-poo and buggery jokes because he likes superheroes only slightly more than Frank Miller does. Fortunately for us as well, he isn't as condescending and as hateful as Miller is, so his Boys remain entertaining, for the most part- kinda like the immature jerk at the bar who's a ball to share a glass or two with, but you don't want him to accompany you when you leave. And as far as Robertson's stunningly adequate work goes, well, I like it here about as much as I liked it on Transmetropolitan. B+
B.P.R.D.: KILLING GROUND #1: Gotta take my hat off to writer John Arcudi; taking Mignola's story ideas and running with them- and not seeming mawkish and even worse, boring- surely is not as easy as it seems; the only other work of his I've enjoyed as much was the late, lamented Major Bummer. This issue is mostly character stuff and scene-setting; sometimes funny, as with Johann the ghost-in-a-"bag"'s new synthetic body, and sometimes "aww"-inducing scene with Liz Sherman and new cast member Panya. And, as always, Guy Davis = brilliant. A-
BRAVE AND THE BOLD #6: It's really hard to dislike this straight-outta-1979-style superhero opus; it's so determined to try to show everybody why people liked comics by Gerry Conway and Dick Dillin back then that it wins you over through sheer persistence if nothing else. For my part it is at least entertaining, if one can overlook the egregious comic-book science, cliched dialogue, and Perez's cluttered, claustrophobic art. This gets by, but I hate to break this to the aging fanboys out there: there's a reason why they don't make 'em like this anymore. It's played out. B+
CASANOVA #8: Fabio Moon's inkline and layout sense is just a little bit more lively than brother Gabriel's, which is not to say that I don't like both men's work, and it helps that Fraction has at least temporarily curbed his tendency for chaos for chaos' sake, making this a more accessible read. However, I sincerely hope that we don't revisit this issue's cerulean blue color pallete anytime soon- it was harsh and glaring and just plain ugly. A-
CATWOMAN #70: CW takes care of the unfinished Amazons Attack crossover business in fine fashion, then realizes what I was trying to tell her months ago: the life of a costumed adventurer just isn't conducive to good parenting! Anyway, it's solid and well-written as always, and the Lopezes turn in another outstanding job on art. A-
CLICK/FLYTRAP #3: The latest mini-comics from Sara Ryan and collaborators, and they're every bit as engaging and well-written as the outstanding Me and Edith Head and Flytrap #1 were (I never got Flytrap #2, but I have no reason to believe it wasn't as good). Click assays a situation which has happened to a great many of us, especially at a certain age it seems: one make a friend suddenly, all is great for a while, then just as suddenly the "friend" no longer seems to want to have anything to do with you, and worst of all won't explain why. This happens to the story's main character, and I don't know how Ryan could have done it any better. We get a remarkably vivid sense of the frustration and confusion she feels, and artist Dylan Meconis is up to the task, enhancing and adding nuance. Flytrap has developed, it seems, into less of a focus on the young lady who has wound up managing and promoting an alternative circus, and shifted to some of the performers in the circus itself; this time we get the backstory of Bishop, who had to make some difficult choices to be where he is today. I wish it had been a little clearer about what Bishop actually does in the circus, but that's just a nitpick- we find out what we need to know about him well enough. Ryan has a spare, matter-of-fact style that scans naturalistically, but still manages to convey a multitude of feelings and impressions- and that surely isn't easy to do. I look forward to reading her work like this in the future, and I think I better dig out $2 so I can get that issue of Flytrap I missed... CLICK: A; FLYTRAP #3: A-.
CRIMINAL #8: Tracy, Tracy, Tracy. Don't you ever watch noir gangster movies? Once more, some well-meaning (relatively speaking, of course) slob who's good in a fight falls for some dame who you just know will double cross him, or break his heart, or both. For the first time, Brubaker embraces, rather than subverts, a noir trope and that's troubling. Fortunately, he's got Sean Phillips on hand to make it look wonderful. A-
DAREDEVIL #99: If I have to have superhero soap opera, then for my money let it be superhero soap opera written with the deft hand and ear for dialogue that Ed Brubaker has. Plus, we get a surprising twist at the end which (unless it's a trick of some sort) doesn't bode well for poor Milla Murdock. Mike Lark and Steven Gaudiano are as outstanding as always. A-
FABLES #64: Aaron Alexovich's stylized art, which reminds me of Rick Geary trying to do manga, distinguishes yet another inventory-filler issue involving Snow White, Bigby Wolf, and that pack of wolf-wind kids. I'm not so sure it was 100% successful or even appropriate, I do applaud the taking of the chance by the editor to give him the gig anyway. And, since Bill Willingham's still on board for quality control, you can bet that he's not focusing on those kids so much for nothing. B+
FAKER #2: At first, I thought it was a mistake for cary to have all his protagonists be so unlikeable; but after this issue's increasingly weirder turn, I think he has method to his madness. At least I hope he has. While we wait for Cary to get where he's going, at least we have Jock art to look at. B
GLISTER #1: Andi Watson is back, with an account of a precocious young lady who acquires a haunted teapot, and the shenanigans that ensue. It's very twee, and almost too cute by half, but features a nice twist towards the end and is still enjoyable, even though the title character really has no discernible personality to speak of. Watson's newish scratchy style, redolent of 1950's and early '60s children's book and magazine illustration, just isn't as pleasing to the eye as work he's done with a more substantial ink line. Also, I found myself wondering why the hapless antique dealer who tries to auction the teapot just didn't leave the room rather than allow the ghost to force him to bid against himself, and what kind of auctioneer would allow him to do so. And while I'm at it, what IS it with Watson and fine china anyway, between this and Breakfast After Noon and (if memory serves) a small part of Love Fights? However, despite all this, what makes it worthwhile for me is the long-overdue return of Skeleton Key's Kitsune and Tamsin in a short supernatural-themed tale as the backfeature. It tries half as hard, and is twice as much fun, as the lead. B+
GREEN ARROW: YEAR ONE #3: On the one hand, we have the usual sharp dialogue from Diggle and outstanding expressionistic art from Jock. On the other we have an "exotic" villainess named China White and a opium operation inside a dormant volcano, which places us squarely in James Bond-land. Still, heck- this is Green Arrow here, who's "died" and come back to life, met Stanley's uncle of Stanley and Monster fame and Darkseid, and lived on an orbiting satellite. So what am I complaining about again? A-
HELLBLAZER #235: Speaking of Diggle, here he is again, and although he sometimes seems to want to channel James Bond when writing big, explody action stuff, he has his head screwed on straight when it comes to writing the more earthy exploits of John Constantine- no doubt about it. The latest storyline, involving possessed street toughs (but of course there's more than meets the eye) is tightening up, and there's a great John C out-of-body scene as well. Manco, for his part, is adequate- better than last issue. B+
HIGHWAYMEN #3: Wonder of wonders, we actually get some explanations and answers in only the third chapter, something which flies in the face of normal shoot-em-up comics/movies/TV series of this ilk. Livelier than last issue, to boot, oddly enough, with fewer improbable stunts. I think this one is going to be all right. B+
JONAH HEX #22: Somebody's been watching The Prestige, haven't they? Ordinarily, I like a little turn-of-the-century technology mixed into my Western adventure, and this qualifies on that count. By steadfastly refusing to excite or engage, though, and I have to blame the prosaic art of Phil Noto here, this is less than successful. C+
OUTSIDERS FIVE OF A KIND: METAMORPHO/AQUAMAN #1: Main attraction for me here is the fine-line, soft-focus illustration work of Josh Middleton, who provides wonderfully expressive takes on Metamorpho and a young Aquaman with whom I'm totally unfamiliar. Placing them in the desert is a most unusual move, and thanks to Middleton's gauzy style it works very well. It's not your typical DC Art Drone job, that's for sure, and I'd like to see more. I was also surprised by the sharp, naturalistic, non-cliched script by one G. Willow Wilson, whose work is completely unknown to me- and that should change. I would buy a Metamorpho book by this team; I would perhpas buy an Outsiders book by this team. Hell, I might even buy an Aquaman book by these creators. Of course, I know that isn't going to happen either, but I will keep an eye out for Wilson. A-
POWERS #25: The fact that this a double-sized issue that still doesn't resolve anything further underscores how long and drawn-out this at-first interesting storyline has become, and maybe I'm just being too impatient in this decompressed age, but jeez I wish Bendis would get to the climax already. Sometimes too much foreplay is too much foreplay, if you know what I mean. Oeming isn't helping- he's solid as usual but is showing a distressing tendency towards chaotic, unreadable layouts. I'm still interested in where this is going, but Jesus Mary and Joseph I wish it would get there already. B-
SHANNA THE SHE-DEVIL: SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST #1: Hoping for a little Daughters of the Dragon magic here as that series' creative team is reunited in what amounts to a direct sequel to the Frank Cho Shanna series of a couple of years ago. I don't really get it- the script is nothing special despite some clever exchanges here and there, and Khari Evans doesn't look sharp, despite Palmiotti's inks. Oh well, as I recall I wasn't especially impressed with DotD #1 either. But it got better. C+
X-MEN: FIRST CLASS #3: Parker's lively script in the opener is done in by blah, cookie-cutter pseudo-manga art, but as everybody knows by now the real reason to buy this is the wonderful Parker-scripted and Colleen Coover-illustrated Marvel Girl/Scarlet Witch backup feature, which is far too short at four pages but more satisfying than some series' entire runs. B
BEST IN SHOW: BATMAN #667. Edged out CLICK by a tiny margin.
DOG OF THE WEEK(S): JONAH HEX #22. Missing a certain spark, heh heh.
I only had a small DCBS order last Friday, including BATMAN #668, so hopefully I'll get those reviews up a little bit quicker than I did these. Thanks for reading, and I appreciate your patience.