Friday, January 30, 2009


Yep, 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 January 16 through 30, 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.

THE BOYS #26: Well, this is another of those books about which not much new can be said; Garth's pisstaking superheroes again, the X-Men this time, but he's doing it with an interesting cast and a minimum of nastiness (for a change). John Higgins fills in for Darick Robertson, and I really can't tell much difference. As always, for them that likes, and I do like, here's more. A-

B.P.R.D.: THE BLACK GODDESS #1: Reviewed at A-

EL DIABLO #5: Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters make an appearance, as Chato continues trying to figure out what he's supposed to be doing, as well as fend off bitter rival Vorpal, who wants to go snicker-snack with his head. Lots of talk talk talk, as all characters banter and bicker and philosophize about politics and American Spirits and blah blah blah. Jai Nitz' Uncle Sam is nowhere near as likeable as Jimmy Palmiotti and Jason Gray's, so I guess that means we'll see NItz take over the next Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters series, just you wait. Still nicely drawn, but mostly this is a snooze despite the snazzy looks of the lead. C+

FABLES #80: Things go from bad to worse; Willingham is really putting the screws on this time. Nice to see the creators remain in a good groove for eighty issues; some teams can't go one-tenth of that. The back feature stars Mowgli of Jungle Book fame; it's a storyline which has been kinda going on behind the scenes for some time now and how it all fits in is anybody's guess. That said, Peter Gross is doing a fine job on art. Another consistently good issue of a consistently good title. A-

FINAL CRISIS: SUPERMAN BEYOND #2: Since I read FC: Superman Beyond #2 and FC #'s 6 and 7 pretty close together, I'll just say what I have to say about both of them, since they're pretty much cut from the same cloth, and I'll get to Revelations before I'm done. OK, first things first- as if we needed reminding, and apparently in some circles we did, stories are eternal, comics can be a medium "free from restrictions,", and Superman is the foremost avatar of the manifestation of the human imagination, and superheroes are not meant to have darker sides but should remain heroic, Alan Moore be damned. Also, Grant really, really, really liked Jack Kirby's comics. Or something like that. It's hard to say what this would have been like if Morrison had had his way from the outset; this just reeked of editorial interference, which he denies. That would be an excuse, anyway, because even by Moz's standards, this was so chaotic and messy that it was a real chore to follow. Sure, he at least played fair with the readers by keeping everything as linear as production schedules would allow, but the storytelling style he employed was choppy and haphazard- we got glimpses of things, rather than any sort of coherent, sustained scenes, with admittedly a few exceptions, and while I am not always averse to narratives in which the reader is expected to do his or her share of work to get the total picture, I keep wondering if this message, that's he's given us before, is worth the effort. Part of this readablility issue may have to be laid at the feet of this art collaborators; one wonders what a seasoned old pro like George Perez, who has lots of experience in depicting multitudes of characters, all shouting and brawling and shooting things out of their hands while rubble and cosmic energies crack and sizzle around them, would have done. J.G. Jones is a hell of an artist in my book, capable of drawing lithe, sensual figures and telling a story well, the same with Carlos Pacheco and co., and Doug Mahnke, whom I consider one of the best, if not THE best, artist working on mainstream superhero comics today, comes along at the end and saves the day...but it's as if all of them saw Morrison's involved scripting and took it as a sign to ramp up their OWN tendencies towards obfuscation irregardless of how disjointed it all became. I suppose after all is said and done, though, this has to be viewed as a measured success, even though I have to wonder if this is what the braintrust at DC had in mind when this all got started; Morrison did, I think, say what he wanted to say and in the process gave us some FUCK YEAH moments, some of which will stick with readers, or at least this reader, for a long time- not the least of which was Mahnke's brilliantly realized image of Frankenstein riding a hell hound to the rescue, as well as the ascension of Mr. Tawky Tawny to Chief Tiger Badass (amusing, and fitting), Batman's climactic showdown with Darkseid (I still liked it better when he dodged the Omega Beam in Justice League Unlimited) and Superman's climactic aria (a nicely realized idea, more I should not say). Still, after all this, I have to wonder: first of all, is a more sophisticated-in-the-telling version of Showcase #100, or even Crisis on Infinite Earths, something that we should celebrate and one of our best writers aspire to? And two, is our Grant a one-trick pony? He's been trotting out the same metaphysicalities for two decades now, from Seven Soldiers back through Seaguy all the way to the Invisibles. Based on the odd work like the more-excellent-as-time-passes WE3, I'd say not. But to be honest, I find myself wishing that Morrison would step away from the capes and even comics in general for a little while and take a vacation of some sort, recharge the old batteries, do a little sigil magic whilst masturbating, whatever- think of something new. We'll see where he, and DC, go from here; one has to suppose than event fatigue will someday set in, even among the hardcore faithful, who seem to be dwindling in number. Oh- Final Crisis: Revelations? I'd say that providing the rationale for one panel at the end of your big cross-title mega-event is a pretty sorry excuse for killing enough trees to print approximately 100,000 comic books, wouldn't you? FC: SUPERMAN BEYOND 2: A-. FINAL CRISIS 6,7: B+. FC: REVELATIONS 5: D+

: We pick up where last issue left off, in which Hellboy takes a spear through the chest and lives, making me (once more) wonder exactly how much abuse a living creature can take- even one with demonic lineage. Otherwise, everything else is excellent, as we follow up on the rescued changeling baby (as well as the disgruntled fairy/elf/magical being trapped in the form of a dwarf with a boar's head) from waaay back in the excellent one-shot The Corpse, and Duncan Fregredo shines on art, merging his busily rendered, kinetic, frenetic style with Mignola's placid tone very well. A

HERO SQUARED: LOVE & DEATH # 1: Reviewed at B+

MANHUNTER #38: About as good a way for a lame duck book to go out as any, I guess. Of course, we kinda get a "one more time" look at the cast, as they each get a chance to do their thing, take a bow, and disappear back into the genpop of the DCU continuity prison. I couldn't help but think it might have been better if they all came out and did a curtain call, perhaps a song or two like they did in Freakazoid's last episode. Oh well. It's unfortunate that this version, the first one I've really liked since Goodwin and Simonson's Paul Kirk, just couldn't sell in the numbers DC wanted, but hey- she had a good run, almost as much as the two previous iterations put together. The art on this one is by a diverse group; they don't really fit together very well, but who the hell cares. Nice readin ya, Kate Spencer. B+

MYSTERIUS THE UNFATHOMABLE #1: Now don't quote me, but I think this comic represents Jeff Parker's attempt to avoid being pigeonholed as "that guy who writes the kids comics at Marvel", and yes I know about Agents of Atlas...but let's face it, right now, when you think about Parker, those of us whose memories don't go back farther than, oh, 2004 think (and justifiably so) of his outstanding work on Marvel's all-ages offerings, as well as X-Men: First Class. This is nothing at all like any of those, nor is it like his indie-published debut The Interman's a supernatural thriller dressed in Terry Gilliam clothes. Mysterius is a grouchy, disheveled celebrity mystic who does seances for the rich and famous, and collects a healthy fee to do so, which no doubt adds to his cynical stance. Thing is, he's the real deal, a man who possesses mystic abilities but has let himself slide for reasons which have yet to be made clear. We see all this through the reader identification character, our Alice (if you will) name of Delfi, who has a little mystic aptitude of her own; she starts out as a reporter doing a story on the celebrity seance that takes up the opening part of the book, but soon ends up as M the U's personal assistant. Mysterius is quite a character- he's slovenly and debauched, but still charismatic and even a little rogueish, like a less pissed-off John Constantine gone to seed. You want to know more about this guy from the onset. Delfi, not so much, although she is appealing. At first I wasn't sure about Tom Fowler's art; it seemed too caricaturish and broad to sustain my interest. But the more I read, the more I began to notice what a skilled cartoonist he is, capable of bringing a raised-eyebrow stance and barely-suggested mean edge to the proceedings. If I had to compare him to someone, I'd say perhaps Phil Winslade or even Jack Davis, to an extent, in its looseness...but regardless, he's very well suited. This is a great beginning, certainly a refreshing change from the usual Wildstorm recycled Millarisms and bland TV adaptations, and I'm looking forward to seeing what's next. A

SANDMAN: THE DREAM HUNTERS #3: Look, I didn't read the original, OK, so I'm loving this, not least because I love Craig Russell's art. But if you've already read the hardcover this is adapted from, and are not disposed to like Russell's work, then adjust your expectations. There. Simple, isn't it? A

SOLOMON KANE #4: Things are rapidly coming to a close, as Solomon gets to throw down with a werewolf, and other dire things happen around the castle keep in which the principals are all dwelling, or trying to get away from. I'm still not crazy about the art, but he does do a good job with all the werewolf-fighting stuff so that's a plus; Scott Allie has done a bang-up job of adapting the source material, especially dialogue-wise. Good show, gentlemen. A-

THUNDERBOLTS #128: The Rehabilitation of the Yelena Belova character continues apace; I won't belabor it, especially since I did so the other day. Best thing about this issue (well, besides that) is how well Diggle writes the whole "meeting with the President" scene, full of sly asides and outright hostile exchanges- one is almost sad when it gets interrupted by standard spandex cliché. We also get a gag stolen from the Warren Ellis-scripted episode of Justice League Unlimited, which makes me envious and amused in equal measure, even though I don't know anything about the "Irredeemable" version of Ant-Man. Plus, my inner 12-year-old got giggly at the "fap fap" sound effects Yelena's guns made when fired. Artwise, this is good; this De La Torre fellow has a good command of anatomy and action scenes, even though his ink line recalls the heyday of Tony DeZuniga and Rudy Nebres. A-

TINY TITANS #12: Oh so cute. A-

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