The more-or-less ongoing 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 25 August to 11 September, 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.
AMERICAN VIRGIN #18: Even though I'm delighted (and apprehensive in equal measure) that our Adam and super-likable Vanessa are now back together, Seagle really whips out the heavy hand this issue and rubs our noses in the sex- and while I'm thinking (even as I type) that that doesn't necessarily sound bad, heh heh, after a while I began to find my patience being tested. Still, after over a dozen issues of neither-here-nor-there, it's good that he seems to have found a direction to go in...but for the luvva mike I wish he wouldn't be so damn tunnel-visioned about it now that he has. As with Batman, see below, none of this would be as palatable without the lively, expressive Cloonan/Rugg art- it really helps a would-be satire-slash-commentary about sexual and religious mores if your main characters are attractive in the first place. B+
BATMAN #668: It doesn't take any special genius, necessarily, to shoehorn Batman and Co. into Ten Little Indians...but it does help a lot to be fortunate enough to have an illustrator on board that is as clever and gifted as J.H. Williams III (Can II or I draw? Sign 'em up!). Can you imagine how much duller this would be if say, oh, Ed Benes or Barry Kitson or Jesus Saiz or (insert your favorite DC Art Drone here) had been tabbed to draw it? Well, I can. So, anyway, back to the matter at hand, and this is "second verse, same as the first" as in real damn good. Plus, more SQUIRE! I LIKE! A
GREEN ARROW: YEAR ONE #4: Spectacularly illustrated and nicely dialogued, this still doesn't provide much in the way of innovation or emotional resonance. It's kind of the comic-book equivalent of a direct-to-DVD or 2 AM Cinemax action thriller starring someone like Eric Roberts or some other Hollywood C-lister. And at first I thought that the character deserves better...but then I realized that wait- this is Green Arrow. No he doesn't; this is exactly what he deserves! And if the script isn't exactly inspiring, it is solid and Jock impressionistic work has no peer when it comes to this sort of action-thriller hijinx. B+
HELLBOY: DARKNESS CALLS #5: Duncan Fregredo is turning in a masterful job on what amounts to a whole issue of alternating glum pronouncements and monsters hitting each other; he's adapted the basic Mignola style and expanded it, making it more dynamic than Mike could ever be, if you believe such a thing is possible. Best of all, I can't even begin to predict where and how it will end. As usual, all good. A
IMMORTAL IRON FIST #8: Hoo-tah! I suppose all Kung-Fu movie roads lead to this: the Big Martial Arts Tournament in which the hero must defeat all comers and claim his destiny or heritage or whatever. And if we must have this, the uber-cliche of all martial arts movies, then they should be as well-drawn and scripted as this, the Best Iron Fist Comic Ever, is. How can you not like Fat Cobra, who could spend the rest of his career henching for Marvel or James Bond villains if he plays his cards right. I must say for the record as well that I liked the static, but nicely detailed, art of Roy Allan Martinez in the flashback sequences. A-
LUCHA LIBRE: INTRODUCING THE LUCHADORES FIVE #1: Anybody remember Mucha Lucha? Of course, that clever kids' cartoon doesn't have much to do with this, save the pint-sized masked wrestlers, but this reminds me a lot of what it would look like if Ricochet, the Flea, and friends were all grown up and living on welfare in the slums. I don't really know what to make of this- it tries awfully hard to be offbeat and clever, and a lot of what is flung at the wall sticks, but as I read this there was a randomness and an incoherence that really kept me at arms' length. The art, in the main feature anyway, is mostly scratchily-inked semi-manga that benefits from good coloring and layout sense- if only the characters didn't seem to have their chins glued to their chest all the time. In addition to the main feature, you get quirky text pieces and quirky short pieces by different artists that remind me of the likes of Gilbert Hernandez and Stephen DeStefano and quirky maquette pages and the whole thing's just so damn desperately quirky that it becomes really tiresome after a while. The price point of $6, even though you get a lot of content for your peso, doesn't help much either. I'm signed up for #2; let's see how this work-in-progress goes. C+
WILL EISNER'S THE SPIRIT #9: At first I was a bit offput by the blatant supernatural elements that were jammed into this first of two parts, but then I remembered that Eisner often mixed the fantastical into his stories with just as much of a straight face- heck, one of my favorite Spirit stories ever featured a Katherine Hepburn lookalike who just happened to be a spy from frigging Mars, ferhevvinsake- so that's OK. And it is certainly done in a creepy sort of 1940's Universal B-movie kind of way. But once I sorted that out, I was then a bit offput at how bloody and violent this was, and that was something Eisner and co. never had to do. Ordinarily, I don't really have a problem with gore in my comics, but it just didn't fit in here, even though it was beautifully drawn, as always, by Cooke and Bone. So I liked, with reservations. What- did you think I was going to drop it or something? A-
Coming later: Oni's NARCOLEPTIC SUNDAY, as soon as I finish reading it, anyway.