Saturday, April 02, 2005

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What I bought and what I thought, week of March 30!

Five issues in, and I'm still enjoying this solid, if not particularly innovative 2001-style space opera. Like Brian Wilson recycling Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen" in order to make "Surfin USA", Warren Ellis is taking a smorgasbord of ideas from many different sources, and is reshuffling them so deftly that there's nary a seam in sight. The characters are all likeable (or dislikeable, in the case of the Doors space station boss) enough to make me care about them, the situation is tense enough and the stakes are high enough that no matter how familiar and low-key this all seems, it's still gripping to me. In this penultimate issue, many long-simmering situations come to a head- and while I have a feeling how it's all going to turn out, I'm holding out for Ellis to throw in one twist towards the end. As usual, no complaints with the graceful, expansive art of the Chris Sprouse/Karl Story team. A

I really can't explain what it is that I find so compelling about Dame Darcy's sometimes whimsical, sometimes morbid fantasies. She's not very facile as an artist; her work is often sloppy and crude and her sense of layout is, to be kind, adventurous. Nor is she really any great shakes as a writer; her stories are constructed haphazardly, often appearing as if she makes them up as she goes along and rarely does rhyme follow reason in any of them. But I've been a fan since issue #3, and I got a strong charge out of many little moments in all of these stories, from the mind-controlling, attacking vampire hats story to a goofy tale about a wish-granting doll (one of the wishes by the recipient: "I wish I could spit candy!"), to a somewhat disturbing free-association about being evicted from her apartment to excerpts from a multi-media project she's trying to get off the ground called "Gasoline", featuring poetry and illustrations that made me think of the work of William Blake in their single-minded determination to be true to her oddball muse...Darcy's work is unique, individualistic, and completely hers, and nobody else's. And when all is said and done, I think that's what keeps me buying. Not for everyone, but if you're geared towards the exceptional rather than the average, you might want to check it out. A

The first thing I thought when I put this down was "How the hell could the Cowboy hit the crab so hard that he passes through several thugs, crashes into a car, which sails backwards for several yards, then abruptly reverses direction, car attached, and goes back towards the Cowboy...then emerges, shell intact, to stagger towards his foe?". And then I thought "You're reading a comic with talking crabs and jackasses, and you're worried about the laws of physics?" just gotta park your brain at the door and enjoy the great art, goofy concept and often funny dialogue. More delightful straightfaced absurdity, always a sure pick to click from me! Whether or not you will find this worthy of your 350 pennies is another matter all together. A-

Well, this was better than last issue at least, or more happened, to be precise. I don't know exactly why this isn't grabbing me, exactly; I don't think it's any more studied, talky and static than previous issues but for some reason this miniseries has been a real slog. I understand that the message is a legitimate concern, perhaps it's the soap opera-ish goings-on with his nervous friend Larry, perhaps it's all the somber art lessons, reminiscent of Terry Moore at his most pretentious (it takes chutzpah, I think to have your fictional characters wax all rhapsodic over one of your own paintings), who knows. The sex scene in #2 livened things up briefly, but last issue was bland and the big reveal at the end of this one was as predictable as it comes. Hate to say it, but I'm looking forward to the end of this quite earnest and quite boring little story. B

Something about this Legion relaunch is bugging me, and I think I know what it is: this Legion is more fragmented and divisive than any I can remember in my less-than-consistent LSH reading history, and the conflicts and confrontations, especially those involving Brainiac and the perpetually-clenched Cosmic Boy, have become tiresome. And that's a problem, because these inner conflicts are the backbone of what Waid's trying to do to differentiate this version from those in the recent past. I don't mind my superteam characters bickering among themselves, but the tone is so oppressive that it cuts into my reading enjoyability, not a good thing. If they can't get along, then why should I want them to, and why should I care if they do? Still, there are enough enjoyable moments and interesting situations to ensure my patronage for now. We get a fill-in artist this time out, Leonard Kirk, of whom I've rarely been an admirer, and his perpetually stiff and bland art here makes regular penciller Barry Kitson look like Kyle Baker in comparison. There's also a back-feature starring Phantom Girl, notable for its Dave Gibbons pencils; Waid's newish origin and explanation of PG's powers sounds dubious at best, and Gibbons is on autopilot. Another less-than-thrilling issue, but I'm going to remain patient. If I can. B

Some very nice Guy Davis visuals and occasionally interesting character stuff by John Arcudi (who finally, towards the end, seemed to get comfortable with them) does not amount to much at all in service of this shrug-inducing opus, which, after all the noise and smoke, maintains the status quo until Mignola decides he wants to do something else with this branch of the Hellboy mythos. I've read worse Hellboy spinoffs, but none that failed to make any sort of impression like this did. Hopefully we'll get better next time. This issue: C+. Entire series: C+.

MIA: STREET ANGEL #5, for the third straight week- guess I'm gonna have to buy this elsewhere; SECRET WAR 4, which I put back in the folder on purpose, and I just might put it back on the rack, and AMAZING JOY BUZZARDS 4, which I put back as well but will probably pick up next week. I also received the 100% trade paperback, an A+ book if there ever was one, and I may just elaborate on that at some future point.

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