Monday, December 29, 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 December 7th trough the 27th, 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 #98: 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 continue to cut and paste this review for the next 2 issues. A-

AMBUSH BUG: YEAR NONE #5: Perhaps this would have been better served as a Xeroxed mini-comic, passed around among DC staffers, because this tedious, unfunny series is one long in-joke at the expense of the paper pushers at DC, not to mention the poor readers who have bought in, wishing to see what was thought of as clever and funny back in the late 80's and early 90's, rambling on and on and on and on about things that the average comics fan and the presumed audience (cynical comics readers being a minority still, I think) doesn't know about, doesn't want to know about, or more importantly care about. Amusing: Didio on the Source Wall. They do nothing with it. A waste of the talent involved, and oh yeah, our money. The only way this can be redeemed is if Bob Fleming gets more DC work because of it. C-

THE BOYS #25: Ennis continues his pisstake on the X-Men, with Hughie undercover; some genuine laughs are interspersed among the sophomoric hijinks, including one of the most organized circle jerks I've ever seen. Still, the most compelling plotline is the one in which Mother's Milk is doing some detective work, with some good character stuff involving a townie deputy sheriff. For those that likes, here's more. B+

For all you kiddies out there who dote on Twilight and its ilk, not to mention the would-be auteurs who seek to profit by the peddling of same, you should pay attention- this is how to transcend genre cliches and craft a believable and dramatically valid tale from vampire-story cliches. Of course, Ted Naifeh's been doing the Goth thing for a long time now, and he's had the insight to distill it down to what is working and what isn't, both script and art-wise. Even though a tiny part of me was hoping that becoming vampirized might make Courtney's nose grow out a little, this was an absorbing page turner all the way through and it's a pleasure to see how assured and graceful Naifeh's art is these days. If I hadn't already done my Best of 2008 list, this would be on it for sure. I may go back and add it. A+

What? You didn't think this was going to turn out for the best, did you? You must not be one who watches/reads/lives noir tropes. Yeah, I know it's not the knowing of the certain eventual downbeat outcome, but how it all takes place...and it's as engrossing as Brubaker and Phillips at their best can make it when they're in a groove. Next up: Incognito. A

When I first saw this, I thought "Now here's what it would look like if Peter Bagge decided to do a Pirates of the Caribbean adventure series", and expected something arch a la the Disney blockbuster trilogy. But, instead of playing this for laughs, artist/writer Chris Schweizer is dead serious- and the cartoonish art and straightfaced swashbuckling creates an odd sort of frission that makes it work, at least for me- which is not to say that this rivals Scalped in the grimness department; there is some humor in the mix, thank God, and it's integrated seamlessly into the narrative. Even more intriguing is the possible direction he brings up in the inside jacket covers, a gallery of the modern-day Crogan's ancestors, all of which seem to be a varied and interesting lot. Me, I hope he gets the chance to elaborate on this tableau. For open-minded pirate story fans, and lovers of comic book adventure everywhere. A

Reviewed at B+

EL DIABLO #4: This miniseries keeps chugging right along, and while it's trying very hard it never rises above the sort of thing we expect to see from comics starring the Ghost Rider or the Spectre. I like the art very much, although the communication between writer and penciler sometimes breaks down and leaves out little details we need to process what's happening, especially during fight/action scenes. Maybe Hester and Parks should be working with Grant Morrison. C+

FABLES #79: Things just keep on getting worse for our friends in Fabletown, as they get evicted supernaturally from their spacious Mundy city skyscraper, as well as lose most of their magic talismans talismen objects of power. Sure doesn't seem like good times are coming, as the other shoe I was concerned about a while back seems to be falling pretty fast and hard. If you've been following thus far, know that this is equal to the level that Willingham and Buckingham have established. If you're curious, you might want to pick up a trade collection first. If I ever meet Willingham, I am going to smack him upside the head for killing Fafhrd and the Mouser. Only kidding. Sorta. A-

Well, at least this wasn't dull! Even though its rapid-fire, almost strobe-ish method of depicting so many events at once keeps this lively, it also fosters incoherence, even though once in a while some sort of linear storyline peeks out timidly to help us figure out what the hell is going on. Its full of impressive moments, but we're never really given much of a chance to linger on them. Me, I suspect the age-old too many cooks problem; there's just too much disconnect to be blamed on Morrison alone. It's a shame, but be this as it may I'm still very interested in where this is going. Nice job by Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino of making their art blend in with J.G. Jones; you can still tell the difference when you look closely but I shudder to think how this would read in the hands of lesser talents. Still hoping that this can be brought home in smashing form, but my faith is wavering. B+

FINAL CRISIS: REVELATIONS #4: The Question, Rucka's Angel Lady whose name escapes me, and the Spectre versus a transformed Vandal Savage and some possessed hordes straight outta Prince of Darkness. It's all kinda overwrought and a tad pretentious, but at least we find out how all this ties into the Final Crisis series proper so that's a plus. The Tan and Glapion art works OK, I suppose, but what with Tom Mandrake wasting his time on Wildstorm TV spinoffs, I have to wonder why they didn't get him to draw this, instead of two imitators. Not only unnecessary, but not very cost-effective! C+

HELLBLAZER #250: As holiday-themed anniversary issues go, this works well enough as we get a group of writers and artists who have worked on the character before, as well as a few who have never done so, which makes me wonder if we're not seeing tryouts.Regardless, I enjoyed every story in this collection, some more than others of course. Always great to see Sean Phillips draw John again, even in service of a fairly standard story by Dave Gibbons with its 2008-trying-to-murder-2009 imagery; nice twist in the poker story by Alan Moore successor Jamie Delano, with solid David Lloyd art, and the only tale of the bunch that really evokes Christmas; Chicago native Brian Azzarello has Conjob take on the goat curse that keeps the Chicago Cubs out of the World Series, probably the most different Constantine story I've read in a good long while. Art is by one Rafael Grampa, whose oddly distorted style (reminiscent of Paul Pope crossed with the detail of Geoff Darrow) brings the grisly tale to life even as it is hard to figure out what's going on sometimes; upcoming writer Pete Milligan gives us a fairly routine tale of a sort of corruption in high places in tandem with artist Eddie Campbell, good as usual but his John looks disconcertingly like William H. Macy; and a whole bunch of new-to-me people close the book with an unusual story about supernatural fallout from a lab accident; the ending is somewhat memorable. It's a mixed bag, but the quality is high and with a new writer coming on board just might be one of those legendary "good jumping-on points" you hear so much about if you've been meaning to pick up an issue and see what it's all about. A-

When I ran down my comics shipment the other day, I recall hoping that this one didn't lapse into incoherence like the previous Hellboy opus, Darkness Calls, did. I'm pleased to repost that my fears were groundless; this is a very good start to the story, with a dynamite ending that leaves me wondering what will happen next, even as my longtime puzzlement over exactly how much punishment Hellboy, still a flesh and blood being, can take remains unresolved. For my money, artist Duncan Fregredo is on a par with Mignola when it comes to sheer artistic chops, so it's always a good thing to see his art grace these pages. A

A little less dithering about this time, and a little more "what's going on here" as we get not only a few concrete revelations, but an appearance by Abel of the House of Secrets (I had begun to wonder what had happened to him and his brother) as well. I enjoyed this one well enough, even though I'm beginning to think that this is going to affect me the same way its predecessor The Dreaming (which covered the exact same ground) did, and I'll get bored by issue #20. B

LOCAL HC: I bought this faithfully for nine issues, but eventually stopped, brought short by the desire to cut back on my new purchases and also my dislike for this series' highly dislikable lead Megan. That said, I kept thinking that I would perhaps spring for the trade, just to see where Brian Wood took this, but the fine folks at Oni saw fit to take care of this for me, and sent me this gorgeously packaged collection. Seems like while I was gone, Wood mellowed our Megan a bit, made her less of the type that would date me under false names, for example, and took her to a destination which is often a favorite of writers who perhaps yearn for a more rustic lifestyle. Oh well, the grass is always greener, or so the saying goes. I must say that I enjoyed Local more in one sitting than I did in semimonthly installments; it all hangs together better in one uninterrupted flow. Of course, really the biggest reason to invest in this title is artist Ryan Kelly, who, with this work, will no longer be thought of as just a good inker; he excels throughout at not only the details of the various locales each chapter takes place in, but the more down-to-earth dramatics as well. Glad I got caught up. Edited: I made an assumption about Mr. Wood's background which was totally incorrect, so I made an edit which may be only a little less assumptive but a bit more general in nature. Apologies. A-

MANHUNTER #37: In which we fast forward several years, to when young superpowered son Ramsey is trying to get in on the superhero game, much to the annoyance of Mom. I guess if you're playing out the string, as Andreyko is with this title, there are worse things you can do, especially when you throw in a pretty good cliffhanger ending. Let's hope Kate goes out in a blaze of glory. A-

PHONOGRAM 2: THE SINGLES CLUB #1: I bought and read the first series in one sitting, after purchasing the back issues on the eBay; I meant to review them but just never really came up with anything particularly interesting to say about it. I found the story a bit too calculated and obtuse, although it did hold my attention, and McKelvie's art just looked stiff and lifeless, aspiring to a sort of Patrick Nagel look but lacking any illusion of motion or life. And now, here we have the continuation, and while the story is a lot simpler, when your most gripping scene involves a club DJ chewing out our bright-eyed phonomancer lead for using her abilities to influence his song selection, well, all I can say is that I hope you have something else up your sleeve before it's over. Mr. McKelvie, for his part, has gotten better, at least at balancing his darks and lights- his figures still resemble wax mannequins. The color this time out helps a lot, and he seems to have gotten a bit more supple with his ink line. At first glance, you'd think that I, Mr. Music Head, would be the ideal audience for this title- and I do like the idea of people able to use magic as made manifest by music. Problem is, Mr. Gillen's music scene is not one which I was especially fond of; while I've heard and/or heard of (and even liked a couple of) many of the bands he's constantly referencing, they don't really have the resonance with me that I think they're supposed to. I'm interested enough in the concept to see where they take it, but I'm holding out hope that it will go in a more lively direction. Oh, and lest I forget, we get two back features as well, designed to compliment and amplify Gillen's concepts; the first, drawn by the always-good-to-see Laurenn McCubbin, is a thinly-disguised piece of musicrit and the second is a cutesy interlude with the aforementioned DJ, drawn in a style that reminds me a little of Alex Robinson by Marc Ellerby. B

THE REMNANT #1: As I read this, I kept thinking that this HAS to be a situation where the Baldwin came to Ritchie or whoever one goes to at BOOM! to get this sort of thing underway, and said "I have this great idea for a series with me as the lead- can you get someone to storyboard it for me, or even do it as a comic?" and thus, a new title is born. Three writers are credited: actor Stephen Baldwin, BOOM! stalwart Andrew Cosby, and new-to-me Caleb Monroe (who gets principal scripter credit) and the art is by equally-new-to-me Julian Totino Tedesco. It's got a ready-for-CBS-9PM setup, which begins in post-Katrina Louisiana and a young man pulled out of the water while floating unconscious, then switches to a retired CIA agent (who just happens to resemble Baldwin) who almost gets caught in an explosion in the building where he was filing to get his new wife added to his insurance. In the aftermath, our ex-spook sees the aforementioned Katrina floater. His wife comes under suspicion in the bombing, and while he strives to get her released from questioning, he's once again faced with the floater, and they kung-fu fight for a few panels before he flees. I don't know; the script doesn't really hit any false notes, and the artist is competent (not to mention a big fan of the Adam Hughes/Matt Haley school of comic art), even though he needs to work on his fight scenes...and as these sorts of things go, the premise is mildly interesting. I'll probably read the next couple, just to see where it goes. Hope it gets Baldwin the job. B-

P. Craig Russell's elegant retelling of Gaiman's imitation Japanese fairy tale continues in fine fashion; the story is a good one and Russell is simply a master of the form. Brevity is the soul of wit, they say, so this may be my wittiest capsule review ever. A

TERRA #3, 4: Likeable, if not especially innovative, just like the cute-as-hell title character; I personally think all comics could be improved by Amanda Connor art. Kudos to Graymiotti for ending this with a shopping/sushi expedition with Power Girl; a nice way to end the series and leave us with good memories before she gets twisted and perverted into god only knows what in her subsequent appearances in the current DCU. A-

TINY TITANS #11: Yep: cute. A-

This thing has been in draft status long enough; I will cover WASTELAND BOOK 03: BLACK STEEL IN THE HOUR OF CHAOS and LABOR DAYS (still reading them both; yes I can read them at the same time, why do you ask?) in the next Spinner Rack Junkie, due in early 2009.

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