It's time once more for another Spinner Rack Junkie- that more-or-less ongoing feature in which I write capsule reviews of various works of sequential fiction that I have perused in the interval since the last time I inflicted such reviews upon one and all, or to be specific, the period from approximately March 21 to April 4, 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.
100 BULLETS #89: The Standard Review: Another well-done issue what will engage the already engaged, baffle the uninitiated, and even baffle the initiated upon occasion. I think I'll just cut and paste this review for the next 12 issues. Don't worry, I intend to sum all this up when it's over. B+
ALL STAR SUPERMAN #10: "He's got the whole world...in his hands, he's got the whole world in his hands". That's the song that popped in my head when I first saw the poster-ready cover...Morrison hasn't been this warm and cuddly since, oh gosh, We3 I suppose. While ostensibly advancing the "Superman is dying from solar radiation overdose" plot that I've found myself wondering, on several occasions during the run of this up-and-down book, if he still remembered, it's also a big sloppy wet kiss blown at every Superman story he's ever read. We feel empathy as well as sympathy for Kal-El as he strives to take care of loose ends and unfinished business, even indulging in a little universe building (wonder what Siegel and Shuster would have thought of THAT) and I for one was very impressed with his use of the supporting cast, especially his Willy Wonka-as-super scientist analogue Mr. Quintum, who helps out the residents of Kandor and has become a verty intriguing character in his (its?) own right. Don't want to overlook Frank Quitely's contribution- as always, he has complete synergy with Morrison and while I still hate Supes' baggy uniform that's small beer indeed in the face of Frank's instinctive ability to underplay and lay events out in such a fashion that accentuates whatever feeling- sadness, tension, etc.- that Morrison's trying to get across. I don't know if this packs quite the emotional wallop of Alan Moore's "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow", but it's certainly in the discussion. Saddest thing by far, though, is that we only have two more issues left. A+
AQUA LEUNG GN: Big, sprawling, ambitious epic adventure, loose and cartoonish and full of energy, and is obviously the work of two creators who are totally committed to bringing it to life. I first became aware of writer Mark Andrew Smith via The Amazing Joy Buzzards, a rock and roll fantasy which just didn't work for me. This, on the other hand, shows that he's come a long way since then- the big concepts and main plot points are given appropriate gravity, for sure, but he leavens it with some good old-fashioned funny, which includes but is not limited to oddball pop culture references and works very well, in that Scott Pilgrim vein. The story of a young boy who falls victim to intrigue in the palace of an undersea kingdom, and his eventual return and realization of his destiny, it's a real mishmash of a lot of different things- video games, Aquaman, Conan-style pulp adventure- but against all odds it works very well. Paul Maybury's art is an illustration style best described as Mike Avon Oeming meets Paul Pope hanging out and partying with James Kochalka and of course Bryan Lee O'Malley, and it has a certain crude energy that propels this story along. Also, I should mention the vivid coloring job of Kentucky boy Russ Lowery, it makes the often hallucinogenic visuals even more distinctive. Rounding out the package is a series, and by that I mean more than one or two, pinup pages by a host of outstanding artists, all delivering some pretty good takes on the character. Aqua Leung, even though it is derivative of a lot of things (I'm reminded a bit of last year's Black Metal), transcends its influences and proves to be a hugely entertaining story- a graphic novel in the truest sense of the word. And aren't you proud of me for not mentioning Jethro Tull once in this review? Ooops. A+
BRAVE AND THE BOLD #11: Much has been written as of late, expressing disbelief and confusion, in regards to why this isn't selling better. Me, I think it's fairly simple- this retro approach, as much as I hate to break it to people, just doesn't work now. One would think that there could be a happy common ground, in which good guys can be good but not simplistically so, with wonderfully gnarly plot-driven events and adventure and non-stop action (actually, this description sounds like Iron Fist...) and cynical Billy Walsh-type writers wouldn't take characters into "edgy, dark places" just because they think it would be fresh and indulge in envelope-pushing for its own sake...but really, if the old-school approach was still valid, then this would be selling in unprecedented numbers. There's a reason why, by and large, they don't do it like this anymore. This issue gives us none other than Superman battling against and eventually kinda-sorta with Ultraman, a member of one of DC's most contrived Silver Age creations, in service of Waid's hopelessly convoluted Megistus/Book of Destiny/Challengers etc. etc. story arc. Oh, and we also get a Mirror Mirror-style Mxyzptlk. Yawn. It's all been done before, maybe not as slickly, but done before just the same and it's like one of those chocolate eggs you may have given or received for Easter- tasty, but hollow on the inside. Oh, and now, instead of the persnickety claustrophobia of George Perez, we're given the no less earnestly bland but slightly less cluttered art of Jerry Ordway, who always strives mightily to no great effect. Honestly, I believe the reason why this isn't selling better is because we, and I mean comics readers in general, have moved on. What once seemed so enthralling in 1968 or 1973 now seems stiff, stilted and artificial (with a few exceptions) in 2008. Just like how they don't make sitcoms now like they did in the 60's, 7' or even the 80's. While I certainly don't advocate the sort of offputting writing I mentioned earlier in its stead, I believe this sort of thing can be done better. One thing is fairly obvious, though- Waid, Perez and Ordway, all beholden to the 60's and 70's in their entire approach to their work and the aging fanboys that are their enablers, aren't up to the task. C
CATWOMAN #77: I've complained long and (I'm sure) tediously about Selina being involved in this Salvation Run business, but for once I enjoyed this issue- I mean, geez- it was fun seeing her kick Batman's ass for the second time, then follow that up with sizable portions of the Justice League as well. Of course, and I spoil here, it was all in her mind as it turns out...but no less fun for it. That said, I'll be glad when this crossover is done and we can get back to Gotham business. B+
DAREDEVIL #106: What a waste of Paul Azaceta's talents. It's not that Brubaker's guilty of violating any written or unwritten rules by subjecting this character to such Job-like trials and tribulations- he's writing drama, plain and simple, with all the requisite soap-opera overtones that Uncle Stan established so long ago. It's just that I believe he's capable of so much more, and either is too lazy or doesn't care enough to try and give us something that deviates from the Template of Saint Miller, and that's very disappointing. If you like watching worms wriggling on the hook, you're probably digging this. C+
FABLES #71: Willingham writes this one as if he's bucking to script the next James Bond movie, or at least Bourne flick, as the spotlight is cast on the resident superspy, Cinderella- and she's quite likable and super-capable. Not that the other cast members are ignored; the war with the Adversary continues to heat up as plans on top of plans continue to be made, and no, it's not as dry as it sounds. Very entertaining issue, with the usual fine art job by Buckingham and Leialoha. I can't imagine what people new to the book would make of it, but as always, longtime readers will be rewarded. A-
THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST #13: Ho hum, another predictably solid issue of Iron Fist, one which continues to move the grand adventure forward with a proper sense of "sweep", and great characterization. Iron Fist remains remarkably consistent (despite its ever-rotating group of artist) in its consistent excellence. A-
JOHN CONSTANTINE: HELLBLAZER #242: Anticlimactic resolution to what I thought was going to be a ripping good story arc, but at least we'll get a potentially intriguing conflict down the line, or so we're led to believe. I'm beginning to think writing a satisfying ending just isn't in Diggle's otherwise excellent skill set. B+
SECRET INVASION #1: Ooh, look at that cover, so reminiscent of 1950's drive-in monster movies! OK, I caved. On one of my infrequent trips south to my comics shop, I saw several copies of this on the rack, slightly damaged, and thought "What the hell, I'll see what all the kids are talking about in the 'Sphere". After considering reading it standing at the rack, I decided to be kind to the shop and paid my three bucks. This gets off to a cracking start- as Tony Stark and his group become aware of the Skrull doppelgangers, and set out to investigate a Skrull ship that has crashed in the Savage Land. Spider-Woman, who seems to be straddling the fence in her sympathies, tips off the Unregistered group, which includes Wolverine and Luke Cage, steal a Quinjet and get there first. Then, the story goes completely off the rails and lost me entirely, with explosions and people committing acts of destruction while in a trance, saying "He loves you", Marvel Boy (the Morrison one, not the one with the "0" in his name) makes an appearance, a whole bunch of Marvel superguys shows up out of the blue (or out of the spaceship, actually) dressed like it was 1981 all over again, and of course they all fight...and all I could do is throw up my hands. Maybe if I was better versed in recent Marvel history, I might understand better, who knows. I'll say that the first half to three-quarters was a surprisingly enjoyable read, with Bendis' typical naturalistic dialogue style, good characterization and a nice buildup of tension with all the Sci-Fi trappings...but in the apparent desire to make this an action thriller superhero fight epic, it completely lost me. Leinil Yu, with Mark Morales helping to curb his tendency towards scratchiness, tells the story pretty well, but eventually gives in to the chaos too. I don't know. I'm intrigued by this, but I don't know if I really want to buy this on a monthly basis. I suppose I could try and avoid spoilers and wait for the trade, but that kinda takes away the fun of following something that many other comics fans are following (for once, in my case). Stay tuned. B-
WILL EISNER'S THE SPIRIT #15: Well, it's better than last issue, but this labored diamond smuggling caper is still not all that satisfying. Gotta give Evanier and Aragones points for trying. Paul Smith, despite a tendency to draw some weird, glazed-eye stares on his females at odd times, does a nice job on the action as well as the comedic aspects of the script. He channels that Eisner Studios spirit, no pun intended, very well. This is hardly essential reading, but it's far from a disaster. B-
Two A pluses this time out! What are we to make of it? Can't remember the last time it's happened, that's for sure. Coming soon, reviews of AiT/PlanetLar's reissue of Omaha Perez' HOLMES, RESURRECTION #'s 1-3, THE BOYS #'s 11-17, BLUE BEETLE #'s 7-10, and SALT WATER TAFFY.