Time now for a horribly overdue CONFESSIONS OF A SPINNER RACK JUNKIE, where I opine upon comics that I have bought and/or received in the interval between July 4 and July 19, 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 #7, 8: #7 was mostly tying up the loose ends of the whole Namor/Namora/Dark Reign thing; #8 gives us a freaked-out doped-up Hulk doing the sort of stuff you'd imagine a freaked-out doped-up Hulk would do, and we get nods to the old Hulk TV show as well as grotesque mutants to boot. I don't know how much it jibes with what's going on with the character in his own title, or titles, and truth be told, don't care much- he's done well here. Parker and Co. continue to roll on like a well-oiled machine; the effect is similar to that in other genres such as music or film, when a eight minute song, to name but one example, is so good that it doesn't really seem to be an eight minute song, and is over before you know it. Working with and also independently of the whole Dark Reign thing, every character is handled in an intriguing fashion, even Venus (although my standard objections apply), and character interaction as well as plot direction is always fresh. Yet strangely, each issue is also as easy to forget about afterwards as it is easy to read, and if I could figure out why that is (and it may just be me), that would be wonderful. Perhaps if the better-than-I'm-making-it-sound-here art was a little more distinctive, who knows. Both issues: A-
BATMAN AND ROBIN #2: Maybe I'm just being stubborn, but while this is still better than the run of the mill DC comic, the creators seem bored, content to give us a serviceable Batman thriller and little else. Quitely, with his ever-scratchier ink line, gives us a few of his patented time-lapse multi-panel action shots, always welcome but after two issues I find myself underwhelmed by the whole thing, nowhere near as good as the best issues of All-Star Superman. Be that as it may, it's still better than Gotham City Sirens and Streets of Gotham. B+
BATMAN: STREETS OF GOTHAM #2: If Morrison's bored, Dini's just punching the clock here; this is some of the most uninspired Batman writing I've seen since the dozens of late-80's and 90's scribes not named Doug Moench calcified Bats in the pages of Legends of the Dark Knight, Detective, and name your Bat-title of choice. Dustin Nguyen's art is fine, often very good; I still think he could do better but perhaps he's just not particularly inspired by the script. The Manhunter backup is fine, but is hamstrung by the presence of one of DC's less-believable Bat-villains, Jane Doe, whose shtick is completely dependent on comic-book science, and less likable because of it. Still, it's early and I liked Andreyko's stuff enough in the ongoing to cut some slack. C+
THE BOYS #32: The gang gets ambushed in the hospital in which the Female of the Species was recuperating (glad she didn't get killed). By now, you ought to know what to expect from Ennis and Robertson, and here's more of the same. A-
B.P.R.D.: 1947 #1: I was a bit concerned about how smooth the transition would be between the art styles of the Moon/Ba team and 1946 illustrator Paul Azaceta, especially because I've become a big fan of Azaceta's work. Shouldn't have worried; as we all know, the brothers are an excellent team and more that equal to the task. True, they're a bit more whimsical in their choices than the more grounded Azaceta (some of the facial expressions on their Varvara are priceless), but always to the enhancement of the story, never the detriment. Some of the sequences, later in the story when Professor Bruttenholm's quartet is trying to cool their heels in the village, masterfully evoke mood and apprehensive atmosphere. Writer Josh Dysart's straightforward, terse style is much more effective on these fantastic goings-on, as opposed to the more overheated Unknown Soldier, and this continuation of the previous series is promising. A
FABLES #86: In this issue, we get, well not exactly an origin for the Man in Black that isn't Johnny Cash and has done such terrible things to my beloved Fafhrd and Gray Mouser, but more of a look at the mysterious (and quite interesting) magic cabal who is charged with keeping the likes of him in captivity- in particular one brave soul who succeeds in leading the effort to "box", or magically trap and keep him from doing harm. Jim (Scarlett) Fern, at liberty since Crossing Midnight got the axe, teams with Craig Hamilton to provide some very handsome, if a little stiff, art. Another solid issue of Fables, and it's good to be done with the crossover I didn't follow. A-
FINAL CRISIS AFTERMATH: DANCE #2: Well, it's bright, and breezy, and colorful, with the requisite dash of cynicism in place. But it's also X-Statix, in different clothes, and without the benefit of a U-Go Girl. Proceed accordingly. B
FINAL CRISIS AFTERMATH: RUN #3: Of all these Final Crisis follow-ups, I'm enjoying this one the most; it's somewhat gritty, but not so grim- a total superhero wallow, and in the fetid current DC mud bog at that. However, I'm finding the desperate plight of the Human Flame, despite his resemblance to Carl of Aqua Teen Hunger Force fame (well, to me, anyway), improbably interesting, and unlike the other spinoffs (especially the execrable Escape), I actually look forward to finding out where it ends up. Kudos to Matthew Sturges, who has pretty much left me cold in his other endeavors. And kudos as well to Freddie Williams II (what is it with artists named Williams and the attendant numerals?), whose style has really improved since his Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle stint, and who does a good job of depicting the cluttered group superguy fight scenes and not lapsing into incoherence. Nicely done, fellas. B+
INCOGNITO #5: Our hero, or at least our main protagonist, spends the evening on the run with the amusingly named Eva Destruction, who helps fill in some of the blanks in said protagonist's memory as we rush headlong into the resolution next issue. Despite the superficial resemblance to Sleeper, this has been a very good series in its own right, and a testament to how in sync Brubaker and the always-excellent Sean Phillips are. A-
THE MIGHTY #6: I'm pleased to report that this quiet, under-the-radar little title, yet another deconstructionist look at a Superman-ish character who of course isn't as benign as we're supposed to think he is (of course, anybody who's got an IQ of 25 or above saw that coming) is still quite readable, thanks to the continued emphasis on sympathetic human liaison Gabe Cole (a redhead with a signal, but not quite a "Pal"). He begins to put the pieces together in this issue, and a scene in which Alpha takes Cole up into space takes on a nicely done air of tension and danger. Credit to Peter Tomasi and Keith Champagne for taking such derivative material and making something of it; I'd bet that it was some sort of Superman pitch at some stage or another. Also props to Chris Samnee, who took over for original artist Pete Snejbjerg and didn't miss a beat. B+
SCALPED #30: Even though circumstances are closing in on Dash Bad Horse like a vise, he's beginning to get his head straight as well as find his balls and get away from some bad habits, proving that he is shaping up to be a survivor. Of course, surviving is sometimes relative, and I have no hopes of anything resembling a happy ending, when an ending of some kind does arrive (and I hope it's gonna be a long time coming). Nice scene with hoodoo man Catcher at the beginning as well; you'd think introducing the- well, "supernatural" is not quite right, but perhaps "extraordinary", in the strictest sense, will do- extraordinary would completely wreck the mood, but Jason Aaron isn't going to let that happen. Another solid issue in a long line of solid issues of the best dramatic title of the last few years. A
SOLOMON KANE TPB VOL 01: CASTLE OF THE DEVIL: I reviewed this as singles; I was favorably disposed. If you want the details, go here, and here. Just flat out love the Mignola cover to this collection, so reminiscent of old Dell/Gold Key comics cover design. I hope we see more Kane from Dark Horse, and soon. A-
WASTELAND TP BOOK 4: DOG TRIBE: The focus is narrowed in this collection; rather than the Byzantine and often confusing power struggles of all the different classes of people Mr. Johnston has seen fit to populate his post-apocalyptic saga with, we spend most of our time with nominal leads Michael and Abi and their captivity at the hands of the titular tribe, whose entire social structure is based upon dog terminology- and yes, their women are called "bitches", and all the other slang and oaths all the characters use is still kinda sun-damned goat-sucking cheesy. Be that as it may, this more intimate scenario provides more opportunities for drama and tension, with fewer characters clamoring for our attention, as both sides (as well as a well-intentioned but mostly ineffective stranger) get a chance to let us see what motivates and shapes them. I suppose it's a good thing when, four collections in, I find myself more interested now than I was at the beginning. Artist Chris Mitten has improved, as well- he still has a default chin-on-chest position for nearly everybody he draws, but it's not as much in evidence and he's getting real good at using his deliberately spare and scratchy style to give us an appropriately cinematic and evocative feel. Can't really say you should start here, but if you're curious, know that you can start at the beginning and be assured it gets better as it goes along. A-
WITCHFINDER: IN THE SERVICE OF ANGELS #1: Mignola seems determined to flesh out every fringe character that gets a mention is one of the many sagas he's given us so far, and now it's Edward Gray's turn. Victorian-era "occult investigator for the Queen" Gray is, even though he comes across as a cross between Poe, Van Helsing, and Billy Sunday (with his perpetual scripture-quoting), an interesting dude, and Mignola's given him a decent enough mystery to solve, beholden to mummy-movie tropes as it may be. Ben Stenbeck does a good job of giving us approximate-Mignola murk, but keeps it straightforward and manages to keep enough of his own style to not appear to be an imitator. Promising start. A-
Sorry this has taken me so long, but life seems to find new and varied ways from keeping me from reading stuff and writing about same. Hopefully I'll be able to get to the contents of the DCBS box I received last Friday sooner than I did its predecessor...