Sunday, October 26, 2008


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 October 11 through October 25, 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 #96: After last issue's detour into grim irony, we finally get to find out the outcome of the big Dizzy-Lono fight in #94. Also, we get a cool/funny phone conversation between Graves and the big Hawaiian. Otherwise, as we head into the home stretch, (repeat after me) another well-done issue what will engage the already engaged, baffle the uninitiated, and even baffle the initiated upon occasion. I think I'll continue to cut and paste this review for the next 4 issues. A-

AIR #3:
For this they cancelled American Virgin? C+

Hugely entertaining little serial adventure in which Batgirl and Catwoman play cat and mouse for seven issues' worth of fast-paced and funny shenanigans, even getting Batman and most of his rogues' gallery involved via a detour into Arkham in the process...and all over the stolen notebook of Comissioner Gordon, which Babs lost and Selina stole. And how can I not mention the total fanboy service Gotham sex club scene which I so nicely posted for you all the other day? Typically well drawn by Kevin Maguire, expressive as always, and surprisingly well written by Fabian Nicenza, he of a million dour and dire X-books for Marvel in the Nineties, who manages to channel Giffen and DeMatteis' bwah effectively and consistently. I hope they collect this, and you should too. A

THE BOYS #23: Perhaps it's because the history lesson is finally over and we're back to the usual goings-on, this issue seemed to flow better. Of course, you just knew Garth was gonna get around to taking the piss out of the whole X-Men thing eventually, and that time has come in spades. By now I think you know what to expect from this book, and if you don't, you just haven't been paying attention. For them what likes, and I do like, here is more. A-

B.P.R.D.: THE WARNING #4: This story zigged when I thought it was going to zag, and has lost a lot of its effectiveness when it abruptly switched to a soldiers-vs.-giant robots scenario from the more interesting weird robed guy that haunts Liz Sherman's dreams storyline. I guess that's still there, but it's been folded into a narrative that I think is trying to do too much all at once, and not even the great Guy Davis can prop it up all that much. B-

I'm beginning to wonder exactly is going on with this title, even though Bill Willingham helpfully tries to explain in the text page- by committing to extending this series beyond its preplanned ending, he runs the risk of anticlimax...but he also kinda sabotaged his climax by presenting it as such a fait accompli. So. I think I should just give up wondering where he's going and try and enjoy the ride, I suppose, and that's easy to do when you give me Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser (two of my favorite fictional characters of all time) in everything but name, and wonder of wonders, you do a very good job of writing them to boot. Mark Buckingham, now inked by Andrew Pepoy, does his typical Mark Buckingham thing, you know, that thing he's been doing for several years now. A-

Reviewed at A-

FINAL CRISIS: REVELATIONS #3: More of the same dour mix of superheroics, violence, dimestore theology, philosophy, and other -sophys, filtered through the prism of Jack Kirby, John Ostrander, George Romero flicks, and Gotham Central. It does tie in, tangentially, to FC so if you're trying to play along at home it warrants your attention, or if like me you still have a little affection for the Spectre character, or the new Question, or the new Batwoman. Otherwise, you might want to steer clear because this is a slog. C+

FINAL CRISIS: ROGUE'S REVENGE #3: Now this is a Final Crisis tie-in with teeth- Johns writes these scowling Flash baddies like he was in a bad mood himself when he did so, and it adds the the general sour tone. Some genuinely surprising events here, too, with Libra and the Rogues, even though there is the requisite carnage and grimness as well. If you're going to wallow in this sort of thing, then for gosh sakes don't be half-assed about it, and Johns gets that. Scott Kolins's art is busy and over-rendered, and is a little too distracting because of it, but it's serviceable. One of the more effective FC tie-ins, if you ask me. A-

This reads so clumsily for about 3/4 of its duration that I thought Grant was employing ghost writers to help him stay caught up in the course of this sprawling out-of-control crossover monster he's created, but a second reading assures me he hasn't, which is a little dismaying because it's just so obvious and flatfooted. But then he shows us Jefferson Pierce aka Black Lightning, AND I SPOIL HERE, newly converted to anti-life, burning the same books that he so stiffly and long-windedly spent most of the the story extolling the virtues of, SPOILER OVER, and I was actually horrified and saddened at the sight of it. Maybe it's just the book reader in me, dunno, but that one scene redeems for me what was mostly a poorly drawn and slovenly written comic. Oh, and you might want to read this before you read Final Crisis #4. Unless you read my spoiler sentence, then I may have saved you three bucks. C+

GREATEST HITS #2: Second issue of this clever miniseries doesn't really break new ground, but does continue to expand the core conceit beautifully. Dave Tischman continues to prove that he's not just Howard Chaykin's mouthpiece. I think Pete Best should read this and see that it could have been worse. Also, another great job by Glenn Fabry on art, no big surprise there either. The act you've known for all these years. A

HAWAIIAN DICK: SCREAMING BLACK THUNDER #5: Yeah, sure, it's tardy, and the resolution of the whole ghost pilots in the sky thing was a bit anticlimactic. But I like what Moore's doing with the ancillary characters, especially the would-be crime boss they call the Thinker, who seems to have had a meeting with, gasp, someone who's dead- or is he? (cue thunder crash, or volcano rumble)...and the subplot involving Byrd and the mysterious P.I. who's come to the island is promising as well. Scott Chantler, you made a believer out of me; I wasn't sure your style was a good fit at first but I came to accept it and even enjoy it before it was done. Now get back to work on Northwest Passage, Scott, okay? A-

Another BOOM! title that just screams "film me!" A mix of a lot of elements from a lot of places, Hexed! gives us a young lady named "Lucifer", uh huh, who is a thief for hire whose specialty is stealing supernatural objects. One of her patrons is a snobby art gallery director, with whom she has a Devil Wears Prada-type relationship. She's approached by a not-welcome fellow from her past who coerces her into working off her "debt" to him by stealing some arcane object called a "Carasinth", and she's off, using necromancy of a most disgusting sort to find a way to the demon's realm in which the object is kept. It reminds me of lots of things- Supernatural, Charmed, Tru Calling, Hellblazer, Image Comics' Strange Girl from a couple of years ago, and probably others I'm too braindead to think of at present- but curiously enough, this is enjoyable enough...which is to say that the dialogue's not terribly cliched, and even though the situations are a bit familiar they're at least not especially contrived, or at least one doesn't notice them being so. Artist Emma Rios tells a story well enough, although her pencils aren't really done any favors by digitally inking them in lieu of actual inks, plus the garish colors really are hard on the eyes. A nip here and a tuck there, and this could get its feet under it and become interesting, I do believe. B

They say this isn't trying to tie in with the Dark Knight flick but that's bullshit. We get the sort of story that they used to sell as an "Elseworlds" one-shot, all gussied up and in hardcover, to hopefully attract the attention of the punters at Barnes & Noble. Not that there's anything wrong with that. And all told, this isn't a bad story per's certainly intense, and Brian Azzarello mostly succeeds in capturing Heath Ledger's randomness in his portrayal of the character, but it's also an uninspired, by-the-numbers story we've seen in all sorts of places before. Azz sets up an alternate Gotham City in which the Joker returns from an unspecified period away at Arkham, how he got out no onee knows and he ain't tellin'- and seeks to reestablish his kingdom by any means possible, including gratuitous violence. We witness this through the eyes of reader stand-in Jackie Frost, ha ha, who soon finds out, of course, that he's getting more than he bargained for. We also get some re-imagined Gotham villains, most notably a weird-ass Riddler simulacrum that may just be the most memorable thing in the whole book. Art is by Lee Bermejo, who I remember as doing a bang-up job on Hellblazer a while back, and he does fine for the most part, even though most of his figure drawings are excessively rendered to the point where they resemble paper that's been wadded up and re-spread out. He's a solid craftsman, though, and he makes this look pretty good. Problem is, there's nothing here, other than some visual fake-outs, that we haven't seen in the last decade or so of Batman proper comics...which would seem to diminish the appeal to the hardcore comics fan and limit prospective sales to those who don't know all that much about Batman comics history, but liked the movie, and are seeking a printed sample of more in that vein. And maybe I'm naive and foolish, but I can't imagine that there are that many of that sort of readers out there. C+

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #19: Even though Johns has been on a minor winning streak lately, this was the first issue of this title that I've come away disappointed in since I started reading it. I still have a hard time figuring out why they're all following gargantuan, wish-granting Gog around; I know, they want to keep an eye on him, but there's not a hell of a lot they can do with him if he decides to act out; and the whole battle-within-the-team thing was just contrived and tiresome. Oh well, at least we got some good characterization, mostly involving the people left back home, specifically the charming Cyclone and her pet chimp, and the usual solid art. B+

MEAT CAKE #17: As I've said on numerous occasions, Dame Darcy's whimsically primitive work is a hate-it-or-love-it proposition, and I love it, even though I'll be damned if I can tell you why exactly. A convincing argument could be made by this issue, I do believe- its three stories are some of the best things, both story and art-wise, I've even seen her do...the fairy story, the rude/crude rockstar story, and the expansive, imaginative, dare I say even epic "Spider Silk Tropics", starring her standard repertoire of characters, are all done with a passion and commitment, and yet also with a wink and a nod, and that, I do think, is the mark of an outstanding storyteller. I think, if (to borrow a turn of phrase from Ian Anderson, of all people) you're geared towards the exceptional rather than the average, then I think you might come to agree with me. A

MANHUNTER #35: Kate's still trying to bring down the metahuman farm in Mexico, and this turns out to be another all-star fight issue for the most part- par for the course for a struggling title trying to claw its way up the sales charts. For this sort of thing, it's well-handled enough although I find myself hoping that they move on to other things before this run is done. The subplot with her kid is working OK, and the subplot with Chase just pisses me off. B

TINY TITANS #9: Cute. A-

UNKNOWN SOLDIER #1: Reviewed at B+

ZOMBIE TALES #6: This one's a bit better than #5; fewer ambiguous endings. Lead story has a OK twist at the end; Skywald-worthy, if not Warren-worthy; third story was clever enough in its Shaun of the Dead kinda way, and I liked the sentiment at the end. Second story, by our boy Ian Brill and Toby Cypress, is enigmatic in all the right ways, and Cypress' loose, sketchy but never hard to parse art is outstanding, reminding me of people like Paul Pope or Joe Kubert. Ian, lord love him, has come up with another interesting spin on zombie stories, and I'd like to read more about that Henry Carve guy. Hopefully we'll get to. B+

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