And now, another CONFESSIONS OF A SPINNER RACK JUNKIE, where I frantically attempt to catch up with comments on comics that I have bought and/or received during my two-month hiatus, to be specific since March 21st, 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.
AGENTS OF ATLAS #6: A bit of a changeup, as the flashbacks stop and the flashback artist takes over in the present-day scenes, which is OK by me; Gabriel Hardman's style is a bit sloppy, but he serves the story well enough, reminding me a little of the Mike Lark/Steven Gaudiano team. A visit to Atlantis this time out enables us to get a look at some of the politics involved vis-a-vis the whole Dark Reign thing, Namor, the AoA, and others, and it's well done of course...I hadn't realized how much I had come to like Namora on the team until I was looking at the possiblilty of her staying in Atlantis and doing the cousin-love thing with the Sub-Mariner (no, they're not related, really- this is Atlantis, not Kentucky, and see, I can make with the inbred jokes like anyone), and found myself saying "Hey, keep her around, Jeff!" Oh well, AoA keeps choogling along in its low-key way, and I hope it lasts as long, if not longer, than Captain Britain. A-
BATMAN AND ROBIN #1: Morrison thankfully eschews the opacity and relentless metaphors of his recent epics and plays fair with the readers in what could be looked at as All-Star Batman and Robin II- The Sequel. That said, while I'm fine with Dick Grayson taking the mantle of the Bat, and love the flying car, I'm not so sold on the Damien character yet- although his snippy dialogue is sometimes as amusing as it is annoying. Grant's reunited with his best collaborator, Frank Quitely, to good effect; no one is as good at illustrating Grant's more whimsical side (as well as his ever-infrequent serious side, which gets no play here), and few are in his league at the widescreen action game, which is why this grabs immediately and holds our attention like it does. That said, this wants to hit hard and make a big, rousing action-thriller kind of splash, but the whole business with this Pyg character is as unpleasant and disgusting as it's intended to be, I guess, and evokes the pungent stench of Frank Miller a little to expertly for me to be all that entertained. We will see which direction this goes, I guess. B+
THE BOYS #31: A surprising death is the opening salvo, as the so-called "heroes" look to get a measure of payback from the titular so-called "heroes", and we get to look forward to that dreary scenario for about a half a year. If you're into this book, here's more of what you like, albeit a bit more downbeat than usual. B+
CAPTAIN BRITAIN AND MI13 ANNUAL #1: Wasn't a reader of Excalibur, so the whole
"Poor Meggan" spiel kinda goes right by me. That said, heathen that I am, I can intuit the whole "doomed lover of Captain Britain, accidentally in Hell" thing, and was a little sad when they missed each other in passing a few issues of the regular series ago. Also, the ending with Doc Doom, and the repercussions it suggests for the doomed ongoing, is well played. The art is passable, not especially inspired, but professional and functional. A-
INCREDIBLE HERCULES #127-129: The usual heady mix of myth, adventure, spandex, and good cheer (and a little well-timed dramatics when no one's looking) continues unabated. The whole "reincarnation-via-casino of the dead" idea is brilliant. The art is fine, wish it was better, but it is efficient and looks pretty much what the accepted norm for superhero adventure art is supposed to be, I guess, so that's good, I suppose. You should be buying this, unless you don't like fun and adventure, and I see there are lots of you that fall in this category. All three: A-
MADAME XANADU #9, 10, 11: Matt Wagner is doing a fine job of taking us through DC magic history, and establishing Madame X's place in it; the tour gives us the origin of the Jim Corrigan Spectre in #9, Zatanna's dad Zatara as boy-toy in #10, with bonus Phantom Stranger conflict action (this is an ongoing theme, it seems), and wonder of wonders, Michael William Kaluta providing interior art, giving us a sultry Madame X as opposed to Amy Hadley's manga-inspired babyface. Not that I'm putting Hadley down far from it- I think she's a fresh, exciting talent and expect good things from her once she learns to draw top hats. But comparisons can't be made to Kaluta, who designed the look of the character, for chrissakes, (and is probably my all-time fave comics artist, in the interest of full disclosure) who's been given a story which is right in his wheelhouse, partly taking place in the 1930's. If the Shadow had stuck his enlarged proboscis around a darkened corner, we might be talking geekgasm here. Of course, a lot of the buzz is also about the other half of the setting, in which Madame X is living in the time of the Spanish Inquisition (cue "nobody expects the..." joke; thanks for playing) and also does a little girl-lovin' on the side. This series remains well worth your time and money. #'s 9, 10: A-. #11: A
MYSTERIUS THE UNFATHOMABLE #4, 5: #4 is an enjoyable (if a bit hard to follow sometimes) romp that posits Dr. Seuss-style creatures that are actually extradimensional demons, which would have worked better if Jeff Parker was able to better command the whimsy that Ted Geisel used to bring forth so apparently effortlessly, no easy task, I'd imagine. In #5, our hapless crew are forcibly taken to Burning Man (here renamed, which begs the question- is WildStorm afraid of a lawsuit? Is Parker attempting Mad-style satire?), and meet the brains behind the coven which is causing so much trouble, and of course wind up inside for a Wicker Man style cliffhanger. I really like the lead characters and the world they inhabit, and this really deserves a bigger audience (I hope they sell a metric fuckton of trades). Parker is proving himself capable of writing pretty much anything, and writing it well, (well, except perhaps Dr. Seuss pastiches) and while I wish artist Tom Fowler didn't seem to be trying so hard to channel Mort Drucker by way of Alex Nino, he shines more often as not. #4: B+; #5: A-
NORTHLANDERS #17: Somehow, when I decided to go trade-only on this title, I pretty much fell behind on what was happening, forgetting to check in on it until author Brian Wood was kind enough to send me a link to a PDF of this issue. It's a harrowing account of a battle to the death between two Vikings; if they've been part of the book for the last few issues, I don't know. The narrative alternates between inner monologue and dry tactical details, but it never fails to engage, and a big part of the reason why is this issue's artist, Vasilis Lolos of Oni's Last Call fame; his choppy inkline and dynamic staging bring the script to life. I hope Vertigo brings him back for an encore. Wood seems to be really eager to promote and proud of this issue, which suggests there's perhaps a more personal slant to it than is the norm; as always, I'm too dull to glean any ulterior theme (unless he's referring to a personal struggle against someone or something- editors, fans, the IRS, online comic reviewers, who knows), so I guess I'll have to take his word for it. Regardless, a good job by all concerned just the same. A-
PHONOGRAM 2: THE SINGLES CLUB #2: Took a while, but for the first time, this series- with this issue and its evocative look at how music, especially certain tunes, can recapture mood and summon back memories- finally clicked with me. I also was amused at the Kate Bush homage which followed. As always, there's a bit of a distance, and McKelvie's improving art is so static, but I felt this issue for once, and that's very encouraging. A-
SCALPED #29: In which we see the depths to which ostensible heroic protagonist Dashiell Bad Horse has sunk, trapped in a downward spiral of smack and self-loathing, until he gets coerced by the con man of a few issues ago into helping rob Red Crow's casino, with the resolution hinging, disappointingly, on something of a hard-to-believe coincidence. Still, everything else is wonderfully done, and even the problematic-for-me ending points to something that will, I'm sure, be refined and expanded upon eventually. This, kids, is the mark of good fiction, especially comics fiction. A-
SEAGUY: THE SLAVES OF MICKEY EYE #3: Issues of obtusity aside, what's really disappointing about this, and the first series as well, is how Grant is becoming the Andy Rooney of comics- his heart's in the right place about how he'd like a return to the imagination and "fun" that comics used to sometimes be, as opposed to the dreary status quo we deal with today, and he's sharp enough and smart enough to be able to call bullshit on the rampant consumerism and mendacious homogenization of our everyday experiences as well. But his commentary tends towards needless obfuscation, and his message becomes as hackneyed and tedious as all those "As long as you be yourself, everything will work out fine" type messages were in the 1980's cartoons, no matter how aggressively weird his players become. Maybe it's just that I wish I was half as clever as Morrison seems to think I am, I don't know. Cameron Stewart makes it fun to look at, of course, 'cause he's that good, but for the life of me I just don't get why other reviewers adore this so much. Maybe the next series will bring it all home. Maybe I'll even buy it and see. C+
Lotta A-'s, it seems. Oh well, with this CoSPJ, I am finally caught up with all the comics (and yeah, some recent acquisitions) that I read during my hiatus. Just in time for the new box I'll be getting Friday!