Saturday, December 18, 2004

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What I bought and what I thought, week of December 15!

Ellis isn't trying to reinvent the wheel here; it's a straightforward Sci-Fi tale in a somewhat novel setting, with his trademark tersity and some interesting received concepts interspersed between. It is moving slowly, but it's slow in that 2001: A Space Odyssey way rather than any desire to pad for the trade. This time out, we find out more about the other corporate-sponsored crew called "Doors" that's involved in the mystery on Jupiter's moon Europa- they share a collective programmed mind that would be the envy of the Bush cabinet, and the highlight here was the exchange between Nathan Kane and the fellow in charge of the Doors ship (crystal, perhaps?). Best of all, we get another full issue of excellent Chris Sprouse/Karl Story art...Sprouse deserves more recognition and acclaim for his skills than he gets. A

Well, even though my inner Scrooge bristles at paying $3.50 for such a story-light publication, with its one-panel ten-page spread, I still enjoyed what has to be the loopiest comic I've read since The Amazing Screw-On Head. If we've got to have something like this, then at least we get a full issue of that wonderful Geoff Darrow's been too long since The Big Guy came out. Don't know where this is going, if anywhere, and it just may be a well-drawn goof...but I was entertained this time out, and hopefully he won't have the Cowboy scavenging through dumpsters three issues on. A-

Another month, another moody, talky, dramatic installment of Daredevil. Fortunately, I'm interested in where Bendis is going with this, and still enjoy his verbosity, so I'm inclined to like. But this arc is really moving at a snail's pace, and I'm getting restless. Hopefully the new White Tiger will bust in next issue, save DD's ass, and we can move on. Artwise, solid as usual from Mr. Maleev, but someone needs to tell him that Daredevil didn't wear his yellow costume when he first faced the Gladiator. A-

Bendis' other book is advancing its plot a bit more rapidly, thank goodness, while juggling the three ongoing plotlines quite deftly. Got a chuckle or two from the Walker-Calista exchange as they were watching the latter's latest escapade as Retro Girl. There were a couple of times where artist Mike Avon Oeming didn't convey the action as clearly as I would have liked, specifically the aforementioned Retro Girl-Magnetic Fields Fucko tilt...but he was otherwise solid as usual. A-

Another title which is taking an inordinate amount of time to get to its point. I can't imagine why anyone who isn't familiar with the previous 56 issues' worth of continuity would want to start buying this now, unless they were prepared to buy all the trades and get caught up. That's not my problem, though- I've been here for a while now and I've invested myself enough by now to still be interested in what happens next. So when I tell you that Lilith, mother of the Lilim, has defeated Lucifer's right-hand person Mazikeen with the aid of some Clive Barker rejects who travel around in an extradimensional sentient house and intend to enlist the Lilim to war on Heaven, which is open for a free-for-all because of God's abdication, and think that the title character is powerless and incapacitated but is actually consolidating his power to combat them with help from the formerly half-angel half mortal now all-godlike Elaine Walker...just nod, smile, and humor me, OK? It's wrapped in a spectacular Mike Kaluta cover, y'know... A-

Status quo here, too- another pinball-like script with fine characterization and wryly humorous tone by Joe Kelly, excellently illustrated by the Mahnke/Nguyen team. The Elite team is undercover, trying to bust some kind of freaky interdimensional drug dealers or whatnot, and run afoul of the JSA. Of course, since they're in deep cover, the JSA have no idea, and thus we have the conflict. No real surprises, but if you've been following this book there are a couple of interesting revelations about a couple of the cast members. A-

Even though this appears to be derivative of about a half dozen different authors and stories, this still manages to be readable, and writer Jason Hall gets in some not-so-subtle social commentary while he's at it. Besides, what isn't derivative, at least a little bit, these days. I've never been a fan of the art of John Watkiss in the past; he has a sloppy, odd, angular style which reminds me of, oh, Mike Vosburg or Brent Anderson inked by Gerry Talaoc using a paint brush, and it just isn't very pleasing to my eye. But to give him his due, he does a solid job of telling the story here, and made this a lot more interesting, I think, than many artists would have. So while I'm not completely won over, I think I'll continue to pick this up. B+

Plas and Co. get mixed up with the "Book of Ftthpthktksk", a forbidden magical tome of which there are only three known copies and which is presumably responsible for the deaths of two people, thanks to a cultist who is looking for all the copies. Loose, frenetic, frequently funny (most of the good jokes, again, are at the expense of the government and its Patriot Act), but sloppily drawn by Kyle Baker, who needs to be taken aside and reminded, discreetly, that cartoon art looks more satisfying and is easier to read with some sort of defining line, and the darker the better. Baker consistently has color on color, with no definition, and it makes this very difficult to follow sometimes, almost as if a printing plate has been left out or something. B-



I've read comics series that started promisingly, then devolved into sludge before they were over. I've read some that got better as the series progressed, and ended satisfactorily. I've read some that were just bad from start to finish. But I can't recall very many that started so promisingly, kept my interest throughout, then completely crashed and burned like this one. For six issues, Brad Meltzer juggled at least three different plotlines, and never really gave us very many concrete clues to the identity, if you will, of Sue Dibny's murderer- which left me (and more than a few other folks) very curious. I was prepared for almost anything, even disappointment, but nothing prepared me for the real thing- a resolution as contrived and as illogical as anything I've ever encountered in any sort of fiction, illustrated or otherwise. So now we're expected to believe that Jean Loring, who, in the last significant addition to the Atom-ic canon, shunned Ray's superheroics, to the point of cheating on him and divorcing him, now wants him back, and wants him back so badly that she concocts a plot by which she steals her ex's super-suit, shrinks down and enters Sue's head, and not-so-accidentally kills her, in order to teach all the spandex guys a lesson and win back her now-desirable-again former spouse? Like Judy Tenuta used to say all the time- "YEAH- THAT COULD HAPPEN!". Then Palmer has her locked away in ARKHAM? Without due process, or anything? The other, non-Sue's murderer related plotlines, like the mindwiping of Batman and Dr Light? Forgettaboutit- not relevant. Unless you consider the Flash's discomfort around Batman a significant character development. The business with Captain Boomerang's son? Oh, we'll see that in the next multi-issue crossover money grab, don't you worry, along with the further tribulations of the Atom as he hides in shame. Since this is now apparently a 7-issue prequel to the next big whatever it completely invalidates and makes everything in it irrelevant, and if it's possible to do a grievous disservice to a fictional character, then the Dibnys (not to mention Ray Palmer and Jean Loring) have been severely wronged, along with all of us who shelled out our twentysomething bucks, thinking we would get a challenging mystery with an equally challenging finale. Ha, how naive we must seem. In all fairness, as with the previous six issues, there are some nice character moments, including Superman with his Ma, Batman at his parent's grave, and the Flash-Green Arrow discussion at the Watchtower. And Rags Morales did a fine job throughout on art- although he occasionally gave us a odd or inappropriate facial expression or three, he still has a dynamic and exciting style, and he seems to have busted his ass on this series. Which makes this total botch job even more of a pity, and don't think I won't remember next time DC foists something like this on us. D+

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