Monday, November 24, 2008


Here we go again with 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 November 7 through the 24th, 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 #97: Yep, you guessed it: 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 3 issues. Wow. Three issues to go. Seems like only yesterday that this title premiered. A-

BATMAN: CACOPHONY #1: In which Kevin Smith once more deigns to dabble in comic book scripting, in between simultaneously wallowing in his established film style (via Clerks II, which had its moments) and trying to escape from it (via Zach and Miri make a Porno, which I haven't seen). I liked his early Daredevil OK, but after that he went to often-ridiculously-overdue projects in which I had no interest (Spidey/Black Cat) and one which offended the old-school, uptight DC fanman in me (I really try to suppress that guy, really I do, but I couldn't help it this time), his disgusting revamp of Stanley and his Monster in his Green Arrow stint- I mean that one really chapped my ass- and I've managed to avoid his comics work ever since. Unfortunately, he's in similar lowbrow mode here. While the basic "Deadshot attempts to take out hit on Joker in Arkham at the behest of Max Zeus" storyline is decent enough, no better or no worse than those which have appeared in hundreds of Batman comics over the last fifty years, Smith's execution of same is so smirky and juvenile that he effectively hamstrings any chance it has to get off the ground. It reads more like Jay wrote it, actually, snootches. He complicates it a bit by inserting one of his old self-created Green Arrow badguys, Onomatopoeia (the only comic book villain to share a name with a Todd Rundgren song title), giving the miniseries its name, but this character doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense, nor does he make things more interesting. Not helping is the staggeringly ordinary art of one Walt Flanagan (just who the hell IS this guy, anyway?); it's absolutely stunning in its stunning competence, and total lack of anything that approaches a recognizable, individual style. Was a time when crap like this would come and go as a 2-or-3 issue stint in an anthology book like Legends of the Dark Knight- now, it gets its own miniseries and the attendant attention that comes along, not a little due to the presence of Smith, who still has a little cachet among the faithful and which DC hopes will translate into sales of more than 20K copies. That may happen, and he may have a great comic series in him somewhere, but based on the evidence in this first issue, this ain't it. C-

B.P.R.D.: THE WARNING #5: Mostly neat and tidy wrap-up of what has been a very messy, overblown, all-over-the-place five-issue chapter of this ongoing saga. If I wasn't necessarily blown away, I did like a few things here and there- Kate Corrigan finding a boyfriend; the small character bits involving Krauss, Panya and Abe- and Guy Davis art always makes it worthwhile. And once more, the familiar refrain: this will probably read better collected. B+

Last time I saw this 70's character, he was in the pages of Warren Ellis' lamented-by-me Hellstorm, an alcoholic pawn of Heaven in its war on Hell. Don't know what's been done with him since, but it doesn't matter because this is something totally different, as a soldier in Iraq gets mixed up with demonic activity and discovers that he's heir to a devil-fighting tradition that dates back centuries. The plot is nothing new, but the setting is somewhat novel and gives this some juice. Mostly, I checked this out because of Chris Samnee, whose art impressed me a while back when I saw it on his website. Here, he kinda comes across as similar to Kano of early issues of Dial H For Hero fame or Pete Snejbjerg, slightly cartoonish but not excessively so. I don't see this going in a particularly innovative direction, but as long as Samnee draws it, it's worth a look. B+

DETECTIVE COMICS #850: Look- this whole "Hush removes Catwoman's HEART" crap is hooey of the first order, as Dr. Polite Scott will tell you. But Paul Dini is skillful enough to serve you a bullshit sandwich and convince you that it's prime rib, and that's roughly equivalent to the trick he pulls in this, the finale to that storyline. Even though I only skimmed the first couple of chapters, I had no trouble following along with this last one, and kudos to Dini for that as well. The action stuff worked well, the character stuff did too, and it's all drawn well by Dustin Nguyen, whose style kinda looks sketchy and unfinished sometimes, and is just too manga-derived for me to embrace it completely, but is stylish nonetheless and not hard to look at. I don't regret missing the previous issues by this team, but I thought this was a pretty good read. B+

DIANA PRINCE WONDER WOMAN TP VOL 03: Three issues into this most unlikely reprint collection series, and it's more of the same genre-hopping that we saw in the previous two; in one story, Diana does the government spy thing, in another she's taking part in a sword-and-sorcery adventure, here she's in a Gothic horror story right out of Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love; there, she's in a Prince and the Pauper scenario. It's as if Mike Sekowsky was choosing plots out of a hat. Despite this, it's his most consistently good run, script-wise, yet- coincidental plot twists are kept to a minimum, the sexism and slight racism is downplayed, almost nonexistent, and his dialogue scans easy as well. Still, one wishes he'd chosen a direction and stayed with it; no doubt he thought he was exploring possibilities, but the tone shifts from one story to the next are kinda jarring. Yeah, I know, these were never intended for collection and reading in one sitting like many of today's series are, so slack will be given. Most of these stories had Sekowsky pencils with inks by Dick Giordano; An adaptable inker, Giordano pretty much just emphasizes all the hard edges in Sekowsky's style; not as streamlined and slick as his own inked pencils or his work with Neal Adams, it kinda looks crude more often as not and while it's tolerable, I've always preferred the more softer-edged inks of someone like Sid Greene on Sekowsky's pencils. Wally Wood inks one episode, and not having seen Wood over MS before, it was interesting...sometimes Woody could overwhelm a penciller, but not in this case. They looked pretty good together, I thought. Also rounding out this collection is a World's Finest teamup with Superman; scripted by Dennis O'Neil and drawn by Justice League stalwart Dick Dillin, it suffers from lifeless art and a dated, terribly dialogued script, even though it does feature an early instance of Supes being attracted to, and hitting on even, Ms. Prince. I don't know if I can recommend these volumes to fans of today's comics, but they do have their charms and I, for one, am continuing to enjoy the series. B+

FABLES #78: Well, I don't mind telling you that seeing the fate of the Fafhrd and Mouser anagrams in this one didn't bum me out quite a lot; I guess Ningauble and Sheelba weren't paying attention this time, because I don't think they'd approve of what this Morpheus-alike is doing to their boys. Otherwise, another solid issue of this most engrossing and consistently readable series; far from casting around directionless in the wake of the Homelands coup, we now have what seems like a dozen possible storylines popping up, all of them intriguing. Good times. A-

FINAL CRISIS: RESIST #1: I read a few early issues of Checkmate, but just couldn't hang; the book was just so exposition-heavy that it was often a chore to read. I've liked Greg Rucka's work in the past, but in this case his apparent need to be constantly explaining and identifying just wore me down. It changed writers at least once not long after I dropped it, and of course had a merry-go-round of artists, but I was never really tempted to revisit it, until now we get a last hurrah of sorts as Rucka (with Eric Trautmann) once more writes the book in service of yet another Final Crisis tie-in- and I don't know whether he abandoned his overwriting tendency earlier, or figured it wasn't necessary this time out, but this is a lean, mean little comic book story, as he gives us an account of the organization's struggle against the spread of Anti-Life and the minions of Darkseid. Good character spotlights on a disparate bunch- Mr. Terrific (a busy fella, between this and the JSA), Snapper Carr, and the Cheetah all getting a little face time, and in the case of the last two, some of the highly random and very intimate type. We also revisit the whole Brother Eye/OMAC thing, which I missed out on because I, well, resisted buying the previous crossover event that spotlighted them, and only experienced through the crossovers in books like Manhunter. Nice job on art by Ryan Sook, as always; it's interesting to see how his style has evolved from its Mignola-lite early days to something which is now more reminiscent of J.H. Williams III. One of the better chapters in this increasingly-messy event. A-

GALVESTON #1: In which we get an imagined team up between Alamo hero Jim Bowie, of all people, and Jean Lafitte (not to be confused with Jean LaFoote, the barefoot pirate) as they have a Pirates of the Caribbean-flavored adventure on a ship on the Gulf of Mexico. Seems the crew of Lafitte's ship wants some gold they think he has, and is willing to mutiny to get it. Buddy-pic hijinks ensue. It's a neat foundation on which to build an adventure, I guess, and it's not like there's a plethora of Jean Lafitte and Jim Bowie adventures out there...but the adventure itself is one we've all seen before so that's a bit of a drawback. It may get better, though; according to the credits many and divers hands have been involved with this title's gestation...Grand High Poobah Ross Richie, nominal scripter Johanna Stokes, and credit is given for plotting to Old Man Tom and Young Pup (I presume) Mark Rahner. One would like to think that those heads, when put together, can come up with at least a few ideas between them. Artwise, the first few pages are drawn by an aspiring Maleev named Greg Scott; the remainder by one Todd Herman, whose style is a bit more crisp and angular and comes across a bit more lively because of it. Pirates may be so 2005, but this is a title worth watching for the novelty of the leads, if nothing else. And maybe, just maybe, if it becomes a TV series then Glen Campbell will sing the theme song! B-

: Most of the cast is still working their way down into the lower floors of the House, trying to find a way out, and snark/bicker/make love etc., as well as make a most pathetic discovery in this issue's cliffhanger. This is wrapped around a neat little interlude that scans like a Fables inventory story (unsurprisingly scripted by Bill Willingham, with slightly Corbenish art by Mouse Police's David Peterson), told by one of the HoM Tavern patrons, about a war between cats and birds. Here's another title which isn't exactly blowing me away by any stretch, but remains interesting enough to hold my interest. It might help if the cast didn't seem to either be stereotypes or ciphers. Still time, I guess, to improve. B+

JACK STAFF #19: Jack keeps rolling merrily along, in a readable if a bit complacent groove, with Grist entertaining us as always with his ADD (not this guy) storytelling style and wry tweaking of superhero story conventions. As so often is the case, this time out our hero really doesn't do much except get into mischief in Tom Tom's command center; the spotlight is ceded to a rotating cast of backups, including the guy on the cover, one Somerset Stone, whom I dare you to read his dialogue and not hear Sean Connery. If you're attuned to what Grist is doing, then this is another good issue. If not, get thee to some trade collections forthwith and report back here! A-

Reviewed at B+

MANHUNTER #36: They finally wind up that whole Meta-factory in Mexico thing, which really dragged on an issue or two too long; Kate gets to deliver an impassioned speech and deal with the aftermath of her cowboy actions in shutting it down; more with her kid who now has superpowers; and preggers Chase continues to try and find unworthy boyfriend (well, in my opinion anyway) Dylan Battles, on the run from the Joker, and considers abortion. Unfortunately, Andreyko felt the need to undercut Kate's victory, realistic I guess, but also deflating to say the least. Oh well, in a couple more months this book will be dead, she'll go on to make many anonymous appearances in whatever will take the place of Birds of Prey or some team-up book or another, and it won't make any difference whatsoever. Welcome to being a comics fan in 2008, kids. B+

PUSH #1: Another movie tie-in, way in advance of what I understand is a film seeing release next year; it appears to be a kinda by-the-numbers X-Files meets Heroes meets, oh, I don't know, pick your own favorite government conspiracy/group of misfits with extraordinary powers/wannabe action thriller kinda thing. Whatever you choose, it will apply; this is a smorgasbord. I like the work that writers Adam Freeman and Marc Bernardin have done in other places, and I know they're capable of better; the always-outspoken Bernardin has of course Said the Right Thing and has defended this on the Web here and there, 'cause he seems to be a stand-up dude and really, this is work-for-hire, nothing more, so I don't blame him, really. The artist choice didn't do them any favors, either- utterly bland and generic, it's competent, but the figure drawing is often stiff and the layouts just sort of lie there on the page; servicing the story and little more. Good cover by Jock, as usual, but believe me when I tell you that you've read this before many times. If you want to drop tree-fitty to read it again, well, that's your business. Don't say I didn't warn ya. C+

TERRA #1: Can anybody out there give me a reason why this should even exist, except as a vehicle for the lovely artwork of Amanda Connor? Anybody? Outside of fanfic writers, is there a huge Terra cult who has been clamoring for a revised version of Marv Wolfman and George Perez' bucktoothed blonde team chemistry saboteur? I don't know- but somehow, I doubt it. Then again, I am a heathen infidel stranger to the ways of Titan fandom, if such a thing exists...I stopped buying Teen Titans in the late 80s and have rarely been moved to revisit. Anyway, the art is excellent. Story, servicable but again, what's the point here? Trees are dying, maaan... B+

TOP TEN: SEASON TWO #2: Just between you and me and the entire internet, I know that Zander Cannon isn't Alan Moore (I don't think...), but I'll be damned if I can tell all that much difference between Moore's original series and this continuation. I'm sure there are subtle differences, but for my money, I'm getting a good recognition buzz as Cannon puts the myriad of characters through their paces, and that's incredibly wonderful to see. Especially impressive is the dramatics involving the new Girl 2, and the grief that Irma Geddon is feeling over her predecessor (who was her partner)'s death; there's a great scene towards the end of this issue in which Irma calls Synathesia, who feels responsible for Li (Girl 1)'s demise, taking up Syn's offer...but in an example of how people can be unwittingly cruel, the latter winds up getting the emotional release of conversation at the expense of the former. There's a lot of psychological drama going on there that I can't adequately articulate, but I don't think Moore could have handled it any better. Perhaps it's because Gene Ha is back this time as well; it looks like Top 10, so all the appropriate visual cues are intact. Ha thankfully eases up on the soft-focus stuff that slightly marred #1, and the work is more pleasing to the eye because of it. I liked the "bad guy" in the hostage situation early in this issue; a relative of Danny the Street, perhaps? A

UNCLE SLAM FIGHTS BACK #1: Heavy handed political satire, slightly past its sell-by date. Rude, crude and occasionally chuckleworthy, but too often it reminds me of a lot of the emails I get from a right-wing friend of I guess this sort of thing is the opposite end of that spectrum. I think as a writer Ande Parks (whom I know more as an inker, and a darn good one) is capable of much better, and I really need to get my hands on Capote in Kansas (with art by that Samnee fella, see above) one of these days. Artist T.J. Kirsch has a decent enough cartooning style; if I squint I sometimes see some Gilbert Hernandez in there, believe it or not. Not really my cup of tea, but I'm sure some out there might find this amusing. C+

Holy crap, another lazy, uninspired, TV show/film tie-in. I sure do miss Gold Key comics sometimes; they knew how to do this shit back in the day. Storywise, it hits every beat that the old TV show did, with absolutely no spark or enthusiasm whatsoever. One would expect more from the co-scripter of July's motion picture, you'd think. The art is equally as static and lifeless, and it doesn't seem like the illustrator has much confidence in his own ability to work from photo-reference; he hits likenesses as often as he misses. I can see why DC might have wanted to have this in stores and bookshelves when the movie came out earlier this year, but that was months ago, and it wouldn't surprise me if it shipped late. Maybe it can tie in with the DVD release, which must be imminent. Fox, TimeWarner, listen: X-Files is played out. Let's just let it reside with the fond memories we had of 1994, OK? D+

I'm done for now, FINALLY, but I'll have more later, including a pair of books from Oni, Labor Days and Love the Way You Love, but I haven't had much time to read them lately, and a whole new box arriving Friday...I also received current copies of The Damned: Prodigal Sons (#3), Wasteland, and Tek Jansen, but I'm waiting for the trade on the first two, and my opinion hasn't changed about the latter.

No comments: