Monday, October 05, 2009


Dearly beloved, we are gathered here together once more for CONFESSIONS OF A SPINNER RACK JUNKIE, in which I opine in shortish fashion about comics that I have bought and/or received and/or read in the interval between September 7 and 30th, 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.

: Final issues (well, final for now, or so we're being told) are rarely satisfying affairs; usually the writer gets the bad news just as he's embarked on a long saga of some sort or another, and then is forced to truncate and edit and wrap up in hurried fashion, and the results usually are obvious on the page. That's not quite the case here; the whole Suwan vs. Jimmy Woo thing probably didn't have the legs (the story, not Dave Johnson's Suwan on the cover- yowza!) to go more than two or three chapters anyway before it would have been necessary to move on. Jeff Parker does a typically satisfying job of giving all the characters room to strut their stuff, and even gets to point a couple in a potentially interesting new direction (M-13's newly discovered scientist/inventor; another Venus, still sadly non-blonde but apparently tied in with the pantheon that Van Lente and Pak are exploring and hey-! Who's going to be appearing in Incredible Hercules now for a while? Why, the Agents!) before all is done. A trio of not-flashy but very good artists (Gabe Hardman- apparently good to find in this case, ha ha-, Dan Panosian and the underappreciated Paul Rivoche) maintain a nice consistency and continuity in their styles, so that the change doesn't detract from the narrative. Said it before, and will say it again; if you haven't been keeping up with this, you're missing out and hopefully you'll get another chance down the road. It's really the best thing of this kind that Marvel's put out since the long-ago Steranko S.H.I.E.L.D. days. Both issues: A-

I signed on for Morrison and Quitely, and to be frank, Moz hasn't made this interesting enough for me to want to stick around for long. A new Red Hood, Grant? Really? This is what you want to give us? Do you even care anymore? Well, maybe I'll stick around for Cam Stewart's turn anyway. New artist Philip Tam is game, and acquits himself well, but he just doesn't have the range and scope his predecessor did. If that's unfair, well, such is life. B

BEASTS OF BURDEN #1: Well worth your time for Jill Thompson's stunning watercolor illustration work, but while Evan Dorkin's story is pleasingly quirky with its aggregate demon frogs and whatnot, a little more effort to let us know which talking dog and talking cat was which and why we should care if one goes missing or meets a horrible fate would have made this work a lot better. Yeah, I know, you could go to Dark Horse's website and re-read past installments in this series, which have seen print in their intermittent hardcover Books of... series, but I'm lazy sometimes. That said, this is still a promising series and I remain interested in where it's going. A-

THE BOYS #34: Well, for those who love seeing one-dimensional Nazi-supervillains getting the living shit beaten out of them, this is one of the best comics of the year. Fortunately, for those of us who are invested in the characters and want to find out where this is going, Garth has not forgotten us and moves things along a bit as well. Although I've never been the biggest Darick Robertson fan out there, I think he's fricking Jack Kirby compared to Carlos Esquerra, who has pinch-hit on Vertigo titles that Ennis has written before so I can assume he got the gig through connections. He's far from incompetent, but his grubby style just doesn't grab me. An old favorite character comes back in this one, and for that I bump it up a half letter grade. B+

BPRD: 1947 #3: As they so often do in B.P.R.D. land, things get kinda out of hand as disaster strikes the ad-hoc team that Professor Bruttenholm assembled to check out the vampiric activity in the Old Dark Chateau. Dysart's dialogue and pace is once again outstanding, and the Moon-Ba team can seemingly do pretty much anything these days, and do it in excellent fashion. A-

CAT BURGLAR BLACK: Another Richard Sala opus that is gorgeously illustrated as usual, but is also strictly by the Established Standard Sala Template. I'm beginning to think that if you've read one Sala story, you've read 'em all, and that's a pity. Handsomely presented, and perhaps a good place to start if you're curious about his oeuvre, but that's where my recommendation stops. B+

DOMINIC FORTUNE #2: I believe returning to this character has got Chaykin flexing muscles that he hasn't used in quite some time now, perhaps not since Blackhawk; this is full of snappy patter and has a definite mature tone, even though it has singing, boozing little people and the main badguy and his temptress squeeze remind me more than a little of Daddy Warbucks and his ward Annie. Sure, his Angel and the Ape pushed a lot of the same buttons, but that came across as outright farce, and this hasn't...yet. Chaykin the artist is also rising to the occasion, eschewing a lot of the tricky layout and typography that worked so well in American: Flagg! and Time Squared, but kinda got in the way of the storytelling in such later work as Challengers of the Unknown. So far, I like. A-

FABLES #88: Well, we always knew that Frau Totenkinder was capable of more than we have previously seen, and now it becomes apparent that we will see even more as she preps for an apparent throwdown with the evil forces that besiege all. Said forces will surely now number among them the Baba Yaga, who's a busy old biddy these days between here and Hellboy, in their ranks. That's pretty much the big reveal (cover image notwithstanding) in this typically well-done chapter, and it's nice to see Steve Leialoha (still subsuming his solo style) back on inks, even if it's partially so. B+

GHOST RIDER: HEAVEN'S ON FIRE #'s 1, 2: In which we see the return of characters that Warren Ellis gave us oh so long ago in his revamp of the by-then somewhat ludicrous Son of Satan, including girlfriend Jaine Cutter. I was a big fan of Ellis' short stint on that long-ago-cancelled title, consider it some of his best work even if he doesn't, and it's great to see that Jason Aaron gets what made them special, even if he's conspired with the artist to radically change his appearance, even making a clever joke about it as they go along. The new look, shaved head and pointy goatee, works just fine, but I think Daimon is a bit more menacing as a long-haired, stubble-bearded biker-type. That's just me. Anyway, this revival is part of an ongoing storyline that apparently began in the Rider's proper title, or a previous miniseries, or something. I'm too lazy to do the research, sorry, and it's not really necessary towards understanding what's going on. It's got something to do with the search for this kid who's supposed to be the Antichrist, on the run from angelic assassins (hey, just like Ellis' War Between Heaven and Hell in Hellstorm!) and it's wisely handled like a QT-type imitation grindhouse flick, with lots of action and very little pretension. Both issues: A

HELLBOY: THE WILD HUNT #6: OK, as if Mignola didn't set enough plates spinning in the first five issues, we now get a new plate: Arthurian legends. Didn't really see that coming, but hey, it works just fine just the same. Another outstanding chapter of the ongoing collaboration between Mignola and artist Duncan Fregredo, who really is the best non-MM artist this series has seen yet, no offense to Richard Corben. A

OK, OK, it wasn't exactly like Sleeper, but it was mighty damn close. Anyway, things get revealed and resolved, and we get set up for a return to this world and these characters when and if the creators choose to do so- and that's a very good thing, especially when one of the creators is Sean Phillips, at the top of his game. I wasn't exactly blown away by this; it's whole storyline was just a tad mundane (by design, I'd imagine, what with all the pulp magazine callbacks in the lead as well as the back), but no less enjoyable for it. A-

INCREDIBLE HERCULES #134: Herc's turn again, and this whole Thorcules saga remains good fun, with lots of lighthearted adventure, some of it PG-13 in nature. Reilly Brown and Nelson Castro's art fits the whole Tolkien-by-way-of-Kurtzman vibe very well, gving us a good approximation of the sort of art this kind of Gods-v.-Elves fantasy material needs. Thor-, I mean Hercules remains one of the best books on the stands right now. A-

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #17: Fraction's "Tony Stark on the run" script remains gripping, even occasionally touching- even in the face of some awfully inconsistent art by Salvator Larocca. Anybody that can get me to follow an Iron Man book as long as I have this one must be doing something right, I figure! B+

Jaime plays fast and loose with "fantasy" and "reality" and gives us some outstanding slam-bang superhero action as he does so, while Gilbert indulges his inner David Lynch on a couple of surreal (one overtly so) stories that tried my patience. If you're a Beto fan, you might feel differently, but so far I don't think he's holding up his end of this, the latest and most expensive iteration of this long running series...which makes me feel like I'm not quite getting my money's worth. Oh well, I'm enough of a Jamie admirer to want to spend it anyway, but still... B+

THE MIGHTY #'s 7,8: Whoops, I think I forgot to write about this last time out, so I will redress that now. Really don't have much more to add to what I've already written; this under-the-radar title is really a very good take on the suddenly-popular "What if Superman wasn't so benign" concept that's making the rounds these days, building credible suspense and identification as we follow Bad Superman's human liaison Gabriel Cole as he seeks to get to the bottom of what's going on. Also, can't say enough about how well artist Chris Samnee has taken over for original illustrator Pete Snejbjerg, without missing a beat. I don't know how much longer this has to go; sales are abysmal and while I thought it was originally solicited as a limited series, it seems to be set up as an ongoing. Hope writers Tomasi and Champagne get to wind it up before the axe falls...and you might oughtta get the floppies because there sure as hell is no guarantee of a collection. A-

STRANGE TALES #1: DC had its World's Funnest and Bizarro Comics, and now Marvel joins in on the "Hey, let's curry some geek favour by letting some indie cartoonists play with our characters" bandwagon with this ad hoc collection of stuff, some of which seems to have been lying around forever, like Peter Bagge's sporadically amusing Hulk that was announced so long ago. This one peaks early, with Paul Pope's fun and clever Inhumans story, in which they try and try to feed Lockjaw some gourmet dog food, only to get interrupted with world-shaking crises; right now everything Pope does is excellent, it seems. Most of these are played for laughs- I mean, if you have Jason, Nick Gurewitch or Johnny Ryan doing Spidey, Wolverine, the Hulk and the Punisher, you don't really expect serious drama, let's face it. And therein lies the rub- each contributor does exactly what one would expect them to do, and meets expectations- and while I can't speak for everyone, I myself would kinda like to see expectations EXceeded once in a while. Once the novelty of seeing, say, Molly Crabapple drawing a She-Hulk story wears off, what you have left is curiosity value, nothing more...and these days, I kinda want a bit more for my four dollars. Still, on its own terms and expectations aside, if you like seeing talented creators shooting fish in a barrel by making fun of eminently mockable licensed properties, well, look no further. B+

THUNDERBOLTS #135: Diggle's so good at this high-tech action-thriller spy stuff that it doesn't get diluted by all the superheroics, and despite my disappointment in the Black Widow-related reveal, I am still very interested in where this is going. And on top of that, Diggle told me on Twitter a few days ago to "Wait till I read #136", which now has me wondering what that will be all about. Guess we will see what we will see! B+

WITCHFINDER: IN THE SERVICE OF ANGELS #3: After the genuine creeps delivered last issue, this one's a bit of a step back, but that doesn't mean it's not worth your time. Seems that much of what's been going on can be laid at the feet of Egyptian weird and interesting wrinkle, the introduction of which seems to be a type of plot twist that Mike's been indulging himself a lot in lately. I'm most impressed with Ben Stenbeck's art; it evokes dread and mood very successfully, and resembles Mignola's in a very satisfying way- not imitative, just evocative. A-

Oy, I'm so behind. I have last Friday's new box of comics, including Thunderbolts #136 (a plot twist I am excited about, for sure! All is forgiven for now, Diggle) and the final issue of Wednesday Comics, which I plan to look at in its entirety in a separate post later on (heck, you could probably just go back and look at the first post I did on the subject; my opinions didn't change that much) patiently awaiting me to finish reading and begin writing.

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