Sunday, February 08, 2009


Here I 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 January 31 through February 6, 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 #99: 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, actually I won't. I'll actually try to write something for the final issue. I will say that this issue sports the best Dave Johnson cover in a while. A-

BANG TANGO #1: Well, it's got a clever title going for it if nothing else. Sort of an odd mix of Scarface and Take the Lead with hints of Saturday Night Fever, it's not terrible, and Kelly is a good enough writer to make you think it could go places. The art, by new-to-me Adrian Sibar and old stalwart Rodney Ramos, is adequate to the task, although it reminds me a lot of Ernie Colon with attitude. Worth a look, but as with so many of these titles that keep popping up against all odds, I can't imagine who or what they think the audience for this might be. B-

BLUE BEETLE #35: Here in the waning days of this lame-duck book, we get a return of sorts to the one arc which most people who care about this book at all remember with affection, the big showdown with the Reach at the end of John Rogers' stint. This time, a Reach splinter group, wearing the same tech as our boy Jaime (the KDRA, get it? Cadre? Cah-dray? Better than Qadry Ismail, I guess) has been going around the 'Verse imposing peace and order to various worlds (or else), and stop by Earth to invite him to join up in their crusade. Not a bad idea to go out on, and the high school prom backdrop (with more of the delightful Traci 13) is nicely done as well. That said, don't go adding it to your pull list or anything. A-

DAREDEVIL #115: Here we go again with the misery train. Remarkably engrossing, even though DD is really almost a guest star in his own book, what with all the Tarantulas and White Tigers and Iron Fists and Stick-like mentor figures and recycled Millerisms. And oh joy, Kingpin's coming back. Now THAT'S fresh. B+

EL DIABLO #6: Although I liked the art, this never really transcended its second-hand Ghost Rider/Spectre leanings, and thus our boy will now be relegated to guest appearance hell with the Blue Beetle and Kate Spencer, something which none of the badguys in the last six issues could manage, until someday down the road when smart-ass young writer decides to have him cut in half by a dimensional portal a la poor Anima. Hopefully, like Anima, I won't spend money to see it. C+

FINAL CRISIS: LEGION OF THREE WORLDS #3: If Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary give us comic art for claustrophobes, then it can be said that George Perez serves the same function for the agoraphobic among us out there. Only tangentially a Final Crisis tie-in, despite the title (the re-introduction of the Miracle Machine, not much else), it still has a lot to offer the long-suffering Legion fan, what with three different iterations of same running around and shouting and brawling and shooting blasts in every direction, just like every Perez-drawn comic in recent memory, and a lot to offer the Green Lantern fans as well, what with its Last Green Lantern and all the attendant mythology. OK for what it is, but what it is tends to give me a bit of a headache. B

GREATEST HITS #5: In which we discover the big secret about the Mates' outer-space adventure, which they've been hinting at since the beginning. I hope I'm not spoiling it too much when I say it's as if Hunter Davies was the focus of the Beatles' story. Fabry's art is still groovy, fab, gear and boss, but this is really meandering to the finish line story-wise. B+

IMMORTAL IRON FIST #22: A lot of people bailed after Brubaker and Fraction did, and I can't really blame them, but really, as far as I'm concerned Duane Swiercynski has done a good job of picking up the pieces and carrying on. In this, the first new issue of the latest multi-issue saga, Danny and the other warriors decide to visit the mysterious eighth city from which the previous Big Bad Iron Fist-killer came, and of course find more than they bargained for, as they are captured and forced to fight endlessly until they give its ruler "what he wants"- problem is, he won't tell them what that is. A classic tar baby scenario, and it's a good hook on which to hang this epic. Artist Travel Foreman reins in the tendency towards flashy storytelling obfuscation this time out; you can actually see honest to goodness cause and effect when the characters battle. Promising start, and a book which deserves to be kept around for a while. A-

INCREDIBLE HERCULES #125: Maybe it's because alternate-reality stories, especially magic-abetted ones, try my patience, I just didn't get quite the same buzz from this as I have previous arcs; the Ares battle was epic, as was the whole Skrull thing, even though that was tempered by its inevitable connection to yet another company-wide crossover epic event. This arc, though, while set up intriguingly, went off the rail a bit with its resolution even though it was still handled good-naturedly enough to remain entertaining- loved little sight gags like the Harvey Pekar cameo . I'm also a bit concerned that Pak and Van Lente are making subtle changes to the Amadeus Cho character, perhaps in order to make him more likable but I'm afraid it will take the luster off what makes him interesting in the first place, which is to say that unpredictable, dare I say even malevolent, edge he has, in my perception anyway. And where the hell is his coyote pup? (Actually, one of the NYCC Marvel panels addressed that very question). Maybe it's the art; Espin and Henry are prim, fussy and restrained compared to the looser styles we've seen in previous arcs, and that kinda freeze-dries the action when it calls out for something more kinetic. Hardly a deal-breaker, though, and this remains one of the more interesting books coming from the majors. B+

JOHN CONSTANTINE: HELLBLAZER #251: Pete Milligan, that Man For All Seasons, steps up to take his turn on ol' Conjob and gets things off to a good-enough start by giving Johnny a scab-like rash, of supernatural origin of course- which may or may not be tied in to a worker who has crossed picket lines during labor strike nearby- and more importantly, I believe, a new love interest. Where this is all going is anybody's guess, but Milligan (whom I'm surprised hasn't written this character long ago) gets the "voice" down OK and while he's never been a writer that I've found especially interesting over the years, the odd issue of Human Target or X-Statix aside, he may turn out to be a solid if uninspiring choice. We'll see. Giuseppe Camuncoli provides layouts while Stefano Landini does the inking honors; they have a style together that looks like pretty much every Vertigo artist of the last 20 years, with perhaps a sharper edge here or there; competent but unexciting. I really wish that the decision-makers behind the Vertigo imprint would take a good, hard look at their policy vis-a-vis artists; it certainly seems like homogeneity is what they're encouraging, rather than seeking out illustrators with individualistic styles, young talent like Amy Hadley (herself beholden to manga's influence) notwithstanding, and that just seems at cross-purposes with an imprint which purports to be on the "edge". B+

THE MIGHTY #1: Reviewed at B+

MISTER X: CONDEMNED #2: It's as if this series got canceled back in 1984! Of course, I know that Dean Motter did at least two dozen more Mister X stories after Los Bros. dropped out, and other, lesser talents continued the character after that, and I read the majority of them- but you'd never know it because it sure seems like Dean's picking up where he left off when Jalmie and Gilbert bailed oh so long ago; Radiant City's still inspiring suicidal thoughts, the movers and shakers behind the city (and behind the scenes), not to mention organized crime boss Oscar Zamora, are still plotting their machinations for good and ill; the title character is still skulking around looking for documents to help him reverse the negative effects of the designs he had a hand in, and he still has a bitter girlfriend in every other building, it seems. And as I was in 1984 to diminishing effect as time went by, I am intrigued. Motter the artist is quite a designer himself; although I'm not crazy about the way he draws people, they are good enough and he realizes the stylish noir world they inhabit brilliantly. Frankly, I don't really remember much about the post-Bros. issues anyway, so you guys just humor me on this whole "continuation" thing, OK? A-

UMBRELLA ACADEMY: DALLAS #3: All the quirkiness is still coalescing three issues in, and it's quite interesting to watch, which is thanks in large part to Gabriel Ba's art. It's the closest thing to a new Morrison Doom Patrol we're ever gonna get, so we should enjoy it for that if nothing else. A-

UNKNOWN SOLDIER #4: This livens up a bit with the arrival of less-than-benign merc Jack Lee Howl (Howl? Really? Who was his dad, Thurston Howl III?); at least he knows what's going on, who's who and what's what, because as with the situation in real-life Uganda (as I understand it, which isn't much), that remains unclear four issues in. The art is another example of the Generic Vertigo House Style of Illustration and Coloring that I mentioned above; it just tells the story and little more. I've seen raves for this here and there around the ol' Interweb, but sadly, I remain unmoved although I've seen worse. I don't see me continuing to spend my money on it much longer. Guess B.P.R.D.: 1946 was a fluke after all. C+

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