CONFESSIONS OF A SPINNER RACK JUNKIE.
Time once more for CONFESSIONS OF A SPINNER RACK JUNKIE, that more-or-less ongoing and often overdue feature in which I write shortish 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 September 21 through September 28, 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.
AIR#2: I remain distanced from this; G. Willow Wilson seems to be trying to set up some sort of wide reaching global spy thriller/conspiracy/romance/magic/adventure thang here, starring the jethopping flight attendant heroine Blythe (who apparently doesn't have a regular work schedule, because she's never at work), but the situations stretch disbelief, the characters are bland and derivative when they're not being ciphers (sole exception, Blythe's Indian roommate, who is likable), and the talk/action ratio is way off. I'm still not too wild about the art, either, it's just too stiff and fussy and overrendered. This issue ends with a cliffhanger which doesn't work because we all know that nothing permanent is going to happen to our heroine, unless you haven't read any sort of fiction since you were born. That said, I'm willing to accede that this may read better when collected, so I might hang with it a while longer just in case something, you know, interesting happens. C
ALL-STAR SUPERMAN #12: Many are describing this issue, and the eleven that preceded it, as among the best Superman stories ever...but I remain skeptical. Oh, don't get me wrong- this has been an outstanding series overall- but many of the same issues that impressed a lot of pundits, such as the Luthor-in-prison and Zibarro stories, disappointed me. #4's nutty Jimmy Olsen spotlight was great, as was the touching #6...but really, what Grant seems to have given us is a long, elaborate, swoony love letter to Siegel and Shuster and Boring and Weisinger and Bridwell and Bates and Swan and Maggin! and on and on, and even though I've never been what you could call a big fan of the Man of Steel's four-color exploits over the years, I've enjoyed a Superman story or three, and I am not so Philistine that I can't understand what Morrison's trying to get across. I'm also glad that he's chosen to curb his tendency towards cleverness for its own sake, and its close cousin obfuscation, and has played fair with the reader for all twelve chapters. Also appreciated, since more than anything Grant is a thinking man's comics scripter, was the insights into the character of all concerned. As for #12 itself, it's full of nice moments, and if the ending seems, on the face of it, as anticlimactic it's at least enlivened with some wonderful Quitely illustrations (loved the Metropolis (get it get it) homage in the third from last page)- the man can tell a story like few others even though his tendency towards unnecessary facial crevasses (look at Supes' chin on the cover) and baggy supersuits causes momentary discomfort. Besides, with Grant, on this book, the destination wasn't the point- it was the sights along the way. A-
AMBUSH BUG: YEAR NONE #3: Better this time, or at least a bit funnier, although my goodness does it ramble and shamble to nowhere in particular. Of course, it helps that I'm familiar with most of the 60s and 70s stuff that Giffen and Fleming are dropping in to the stories; those less versed might be a bit nonplussed by the sight of the Odd Man and his family, which includes Danger Street Dingbat "Non-Fat" and others, just to name but one instance. The whole bit with Darkseid singing karaoke was amusing, as was the whole intro with the Bug finding himself in a Vegas hotel, married to the Inferior 5's Dumb Bunny (a fate worse than death, I'm sure, he says, eyes rolling). Odd laughworthy moments that don't always add up to an entertaining read; it aspires to Marx Bros. style madness but it's more Night in Casablanca than Duck Soup. I'm finding myself impressed with Giffen's art; maybe I just haven't been buying the right books, but I don't recall seeing his full pencils on anything for a long time and while he's always been at home with Kirby characters he does well by the diverse likes of Bunny, Super Turtle, and the long-forgotten Jerro the Mer-boy. Al Milgrom, a 70s vet himself, has always been a very good inker and he acquits himself well. So far, this new Bug series has been entertaining enough to warrant attention; one wishes it could be more something...pointed, perhaps, or less DC-centric or...who knows. It's good that DC still cares to put something like this out, but is that enough to justify your continued purchase? Who knows. B+
BLUE BEETLE #31: Nicely done action issue, in which we get a crossover teamup with the current, criminally underused Doctor Mid-Nite of JSA fame and our minimum monthly requirement of plot advancement. Kudos to editor Rachel Gluckstern for finding a fill-in artist (Andre Coehlo) whose art looks so much like semi-regular Rafael Albuquerque's that I didn't even notice until I was almost done- he draws people with the same gritted-teeth grimace. A-
DAREDEVIL #111: I was not expecting anything revelatory or breathtaking here, and I'm sorry to say that I was not disappointed. I've always been an admirer of Brubaker's writing, since the Scene of the Crime days even, but this is as close as I've ever seen to him just hacking something out. The whole Matt/Dakota North shagging thing (sorry if I spoil but you HAD to see it coming, no pun intended) is not so surprising, and works as a logical development, no harm there, but I fail to see any reason to create yet another feminine version of an established character, apparently because the original has been used to death, and then compound the issue by having yet another rape-motivated origin on top of that. If we're that tapped for new ideas (and we just went through about a half dozen issues of a storyline that reminded of the one immediately preceding that, not to mention smacking of much of Bendis' run even earlier)...well, perhaps it's time to bow out gracefully and concentrate on other projects so maybe Joey the Q can find another scripter with some ideas for the character. Just a suggestion. Can't fault artist Clay Mann for anything save idiotic costume design, assuming he designed it- the layouts and figure drawings are just fine and besides, Gaudiano imposes himself over the whole thing just like he always does, making it look like everything else he's ever done. Fellas, we can do better, is all I'm saying...and if you can't, then perhaps I should take my patronage elsewhere. C+
FABLES #76: I just got #75 in the last shipment; what is this book, weekly now? Anyway, an interesting, if not particularly gripping, chapter in which we see Gepetto aka the overthrown Adversary, getting escorted around Fabletown and being cranky and hateful, understandibly so, to all concerned. Drawn in typically stiff and awkwardly posed fashion by fill-in artist Mike Allred with excessive Photoshoppery done by wife Laura, who should consider the old adage that "sometimes less is more". Still, as fill-ins go, I've seen much worse. B+
HELLBOY: THE CROOKED MAN #3: #1 was marvelous; #2 a little less so, but this issue brought it home in grand fashion. Even though the ostensible main character didn't really do much but hit things and react, even to the point of looking a fool more than once, he does get the coolest scene as he gets to wield a shovel, with a crucifix etched on the flat end and charged with the power of God, against the title character, and it's a ripping great scene indeed. This whole mini just hit all the right notes with me, with its unorthodox setting that plays right into my affection for backwoods-set hillbilly magic stories, its unusual utilization of Hellboy himself, Mignola's always-effectively terse dialogue style, and of course the moody, atmospheric art of horror master Richard Corben. I don't know about you, but if they can spin frigging Lobster Johnson off into a miniseries, then I don't see why they can't do the same for wandering Tom Ferrel and his magic bone. A+
THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST #18: Two issues into the post-Frabaker era, it's pretty plain where the problem's gonna be- the art. I'm not talking about flashback artist Russ Heath, he's as good as always. Travel Foreman tries to channel, oh, someone like Travis Charest perhaps or even as far back as Alex Niño...but his storytelling choices are haphazard and random, and the big two-page spread fight scene with Misty Knight, Colleen Wing, Danny, Luke Cage and the Big Bad who kills Iron Fists, which should be cool as all get out, is just incoherent. I will give him points for drawing Misty with her big natural, though, and will say that perhaps he had an off month and will improve. B
MADAME XANADU #4: Speaking of action scenes, however, someone who has surprised me on that score is Amy Reeder Hadley- in this arc, which does require a fair amount of leaping, running, and punch-throwing, she keeps everything clear, moving along crisply, and looking good. I'm also admiring Matt Wagner moving outside his comfort zone and giving us a supernatural-themed bodice-ripper with plenty of court intrigue as well as doing a good job with the Phantom Stranger. Can't help but think that this might have made an intriguing Minx title, with its courageous and resourceful young-lady lead, a recurring character rather than a one-shot, and the compelling off-again-on-again romance between Madame X and the Stranger. A-
POWERS #30: The resolution, for the most part, of the Pilgrim-gets-powers storyline, which seems like it's been going on since 2000 or so. It's a mostly satisfying one, too, and if the series ended on right here I think I could live with it. But I don't think it's going to...and that's a good thing too, since I still believe that Bendis writes Avengers for the money, but writes this because he wants to...and Oeming continues to shine as well. A-
SCALPED #21: Jason Aaron continues his shifting cast focus, this time giving some screen time to Red Crow and Dino Poor Bear- the former dealing with a frustrating number of thorns in his side, and the latter with an unwanted new side occupation as a drug runner for one of the multitudes of corrpt cops on the Res. Of course, this will dovetail at some point in this arc, and this book being as uncompromising in its pessimism as it is, I'm sure it won't turn out anywhere near well. Welcome back to R.M. Guera on art; his work is a big part of why this is one of the best books on the stands these days, smartly (if grimly) written and drawn with character and spark. A
SOLOMON KANE #1: Reviewed at PopSyndicate.com. B+
SUPERMAN #680: Gud dog indeed. Word of mouth about this one got me curious, so I checked it out, and I'm glad I did. Even though I generally like James Robinson's scripting, I'm just not that much of a Superman fan so I haven't been tempted to buy his recent stint. He does remember how to push all the right buttons and make you root for Supes' scrappy pal Krypto (introduced, I assume, when Robinson began his tenure) as he holds off Jack Kirby's obscure one-off strong guy Atlas until his master can get things worked out enough to defeat him- apparently Atlas is wreaking havoc for reasons unknown- or at least reasons that have slipped my admittedly easily-slipped memory. I don't recall him being the world-traveling, conquering type, but it's been a hell of a long time since I read that issue of First Issue Special. Art is by Renato Guedes, last seen providing a realistic, non-explotative rendition of Supergirl which apparently didn't go over as well as some hoped. He does a pretty good job here, but there's an awkwardness to a lot of his figure drawings and fight staging here that I didn't see previously. Oh well, unburdened with the desire to follow any further, I can say that I did enjoy this one overall. Best super-pet story since We3. B+
TINY TITANS #'S 1-8: The kiddie table of the DCU. I don't really know what age group this is aimed at; the admittedly clever but steadfastly continuity-referencing humor can't possibly appeal to anyone but those who are familiar with it, which would seem to rule out anyone still in grade school, and older, whimsy-challenged readers (of which there are more than there should be), including but not limited to the people who are buying the "grown-up" stuff appearing in mainstream DCU books, including the current lugibrous Titans title, probably turn up their nose at it. Young kids who like the fast-becoming-forgotten Teen Titans animated series might be interested, but these cutesy-poo big-head characters bear little resemblance to their kewl, pointy-haired anime-influenced counterparts and would probably think it's for "babies". Guess that leaves people like me, who don't seek to stifle his or her inner child and appreciates a good joke as much as the next aging fanperson, to champion this fun, breezy, and clever comic. That's not a very big demographic, I dont think, but Johnny DC titles seem to play by their own rules so I guess we shouldn't worry about it ending anytime soon and should enjoy it while we can. A-
TOP 10: SEASON 2 #1: Reviewed at PopSyndicate.com. A-
Coming soon, an in-betweener edition of CoaSRJ with looks at DUGOUT, EL DIABLO #2, BATMAN #680, BATMAN STRIKES #50, NORTHLANDERS #10 and the TPB collection of 1-8, and HOUSE OF MYSTERY #6. Maybe even more!