It's time once more for another Spinner Rack Junkie- that more-or-less ongoing and often overdue 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 April 21 to May 5, 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.
FABLES #72: Mostly satisfying finale to the two-part Cinderella Bond story; it unfortunately whips out a plot contrivance at the end which just plain old seemed unlikely to me, but everything else worked pretty well, as far as I'm concerned. A-
THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST #14: Mostly satisfying grande finale to the big Hydra invasion of K'un-L'un story that's been building since #1, tempered somewhat by the knowledge that this is the last time we'll see Brubaker and Fraction's byline here, at least for the foreseeable future. Drawn by the usual assortment of (I guess) whoever happened to be on the editor's speed dial at the time: Tonci Zonjuic, Stefano Gaudiano, Kano, Clay Mann...a couple of which I've actually heard of. Of course, the art is up-and-down but mostly pretty good overall, at least not hindering the actual scripted stuff that punctuates all the all-out skull-busting, chest-punching, punch-kicking, etc. At first, I had thought I'd continue to buy this after Frubaker left, but now I don't think so. I'm content to have read the best Iron Fist storyline since the Claremont/Byrne late 70's days (and I'm not sure this isn't better than even that), and while the new guys might be great, there's no way they can top it. Of course, I've been known to be wrong before...let me know, wont'cha? A-
NORTHLANDERS #5: Hey, I like Sven's ex-girlfriend that he hooked up with in the big city...but too bad, she's fricking deceased now. Oh well. This issue's one big flashback, as we find out our "hero"'s backstory- but still don't get a good explanation as to why he felt like he had to give up everything he had worked for and had built up in his life to go back to the land of his birth and increase its body count. Yeah, I know, we're supposed to infer and read between the lines, something about self-respect or reclaiming birthrights or some such, but based on what his life was like before he left the first time, and how it was after he had made his name, so to speak, I'm thinking he seems to be smarter than to up and jam himself in a no-win situation. There's a subtle difference in Davide Gianfelice's art this time out, what it is is eluding me but I think his linework looks less fussed-over or something. Regardless, it's as solid as always- he's really proven to be a fine action illustrator with a keen eye for detail. B+
NUMBER OF THE BEAST #2: Better, but the constant exposition is still tiresome, and unlike Top 10, of which I'm reminded (and not favorably, I should add), we don't really get a good feel for what any of the multitude of characters are all about despite the fact that they're constantly trying to explain just that. Anyway, what gets this by is that writer does manage to get across the feeling of impending doom of this Rapture-like event on which the plot is apparently going to hang. So there's that, anyway. And of course, the art is real damn good. B-
THE SPIRIT #16: In which Hollywood vets Evanier and Aragones give us a pleasant little murder mystery slash movie-biz satire which, when viewed objectively, does a good job of approximating one of the more minor late-40's Eisner & Co. Spirit section
stories, and good for them. Paul Smith also brings an likeably cartoonish look to the art, which approximates Eisner & Co.'s more lighthearted efforts as well- you'd never know from Ploog's halfhearted turn which one of the two illustrators was an Eisner apprentice, now would you? All of which adds up to an approximately good comic book...but nowhere near a great one. And I don't think I can afford approximately good anymore. B-
WATER BABY: I'm generally of two minds about the work I've seen Ross Campbell do; I follow his LiveJournal page because he posts interesting art sometimes, and have skimmed through issues of Wet Moon upon occasion. Even though I do think he has a world of talent, there's just something about his voluptuous and bulbous figure drawings, usually all colored a whiter shade of pale with purple or light blue highlights that I find repulsive yet attractive like the rainbow colors on a fish that's been out in the sun too long, which is one reason why I never have actually bought an issue of Wet Moon, I suppose. In keeping with the stated Minx imprint goal of reaching out to young girls, our protagonist is "Brody", an obnoxious young lady of indeterminate age who encounters a shark while surfing and does not get the better of the meeting, losing a leg from the knee down. After she recovers and learns to adjust to life with a prosthetic limb (in what are arguably the most effective scenes in the story- I'm thinking it would have been better if we'd had more of this and less of what was to come) with the help of her longsuffering roommate and former lover Louisa, her lunkhead deadbeat boyfriend Jake moves in and makes such an ass of himself that they decide to load him up in a car and drive him back home to New York. Yeah, it's a stretch- if they have money to buy gas and drive up the East Coast, surely they'd have money for a bus ticket... Along the way, they pick up an other nubile young girl who takes a shine to Jake, and manages to get on everybody's nerves before the book finally grinds to a halt. I don't know, exactly, at who this is aimed; no one, except perhaps Louisa, is shown in a positive light at all and character development is kept to a minimum throughout. You'd think that recovering from a trauma like a shark attack and maiming and dealing with the aftermath would be enough for two graphic novels, but no, Brody recovers just fine except for having odd dreams about interacting with and morphing into ambulatory sharks, which seem to be there just because Campbell wanted to show how well he can do surrealism (I've seen better), and provide a poor substitute for insight...and everything gets shoved aside so we can have booger-eating, puking, arguments about Punk bands, heavy petting and road-trip misadventures. It's as if he started out wanting to do a 20-something male's idea of an R-rated fantasy version of Boys on the Side or Where the Boys Are '84, but got cold feet and delivered it at PG-13 instead. There aren't any lessons to be learned or insight to be gained; none of the characters are explored enough to let us know if we want to know them better or not, and what we do get to know certainly isn't appealing; none of them seem to be the age we're led to think they should be, and you really have to wonder what the thought processes are up at DC that would get something like this greenlighted in the first place. If they think teenage girls want to identify with or even read about Brody, well, maybe they might but I have my doubts- at least not in the numbers DC would like. Aah, maybe it's just an age thing, and I'm too old to appreciate what Campbell's trying to do and this will come to be regarded as a classic coming-of-age or boyfriend-dumping story. Who knows. Campbell is a fine, if idiosyncratic, illustrator, and it's far from hackwork, but this is seriously deficient in the story area and thus is a disappointment. Buy Bryan Lee O'Malley's Lost at Sea instead. C-