Saturday, April 09, 2005

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What I bought and what I thought, week of April 6!

A reunion with an old "friend" from the first story arc, along with some sharp action and character scenes, distinguish this final chapter of the 3-part "London Calling" story. About the only thing I can bitch about is that they spent a little too much time explaining Max's scam, when it was pretty obvious from the beginning. Also, this arc was structured oddly- it seemed to me to end abruptly, like this was the penultimate instead of the final chapter. Minor stuff. I think fill-in artist Ben Oliver has given us a very acceptable Jock substitute. As usual, the best book nobody's buying, a dubious distinction if ever there was one. A

Boy, did this series ever zig when it looked like it was going to zag. This started out a bit like Little Orphan Flaming Carrot, then suddenly got all serious and downbeat in tone, like writer Brian Marucca became convinced he was embarrassing himself with all the squid stuff and goofy ninjas- and never really recovered its momentum in my opinion. This final issue (for now) awkwardly attempts to reconcile the two approaches, and fails as often as it succeeds, but Afrodisiac is just silly and likeable enough (even in his present-day "serious" aspect) that he gets this across, sorta like Jackie Brown as adapted by Andrew Boyd and Ryan Yount, and artist Jim Rugg gets to let 'er rip with several messy, disjointed double-page fight spreads that work in spite of themselves. Ouch, my grammar. His art otherwise is a little inconsistent; the two-page rendition of the de-arming of the thug in the cowboy hat is underdrawn and awkwardly posed, but his nicely done Marvel-Comic-by-Billy Graham-circa-1975 type flashback comic pages look fine, and a couple of those spreads remind me of Paul Pope. Let's hope Mr. Marucca uses his hiatus to decide exactly which poison he wishes to pick. A-

If only Grant hadn't been so determined to take the piss out of Alan Moore, this would have been twice as enjoyable and interesting- but damned if it doesn't succeed anyway. I am VERY disappointed that we will not witness a Doctor Thirteen/Spawn of Frankenstein reunion, but that's mitigated somewhat by a look at Zatanna which is at least somewhat consistent with previous appearances and a story setup which is mostly fresh. I liked all the character cameos, even though I only recognized a few of them (I wouldn't mind seeing Morrison take a shot at Night Force; his Baron Winters was an enjoyably droll highlight), and artists Ryan Sook with Mick Gray gave us a nicely done approximation of not only Promethea's J.H. Williams but the 80's Steve Bissette/John Totleben Swamp Thing in the seance scenes- the less vitriolic pisstaking that actually worked. I also appreciated the tie-in with Seven Soldiers 0, in the person of Gimmick Girl, or whatever she called herself. So, while it could have been much better, this chapter could have been a lot worse and now that Morrison's hopefully got this out of his system he can move upward and onward from here...rise and reverberate, if you will. A-

I've been quite indifferent to Joe Kelly's Manitou Raven character since day one, but damned if Joe isn't doing a good job in making him interesting, most notably by spotlighting Raven's wife/helpmate Dawn, who's been banging Green Arrow on the sly and feels bad about it now that it looks like her hubby's dead. She was mostly invisible when we first met her, and now she just may be the most interesting member of this very large cast. Otherwise, this issue is consistent in quality with the other 9; if you're invested in these characters and this situation, you're probably digging it, and if not, you'll never see what the attraction is. Kelly, in his Ellis-wannabe way, has given us the comic that DC Countdown to Identity Fiasco should have been- serious, grim even, but not given to stupid plot twists and offputting in its attitude to its audience. And as always, the Mahnke/Nguyen art is stellar. A-

Whimsical and cutesy, and aimed squarely at those who make Lenore and Johnny The Homicidal Maniac as successful as they are, this is Leave it to Beaver if, instead of Jerry Mathers, we get the son of Death as...the Beaver. He goes to school, meets a group of kids who are, well, "special needs", shall we say, gets picked on by a bully, the family cat keeps running away from him and getting killed, Dad's always gone to work, Mom is a "normal" June Cleaver type who fixes DJ and his friend Pandora (she has a compulsion to open things, ha ha) "headcheese and pickle sandwiches", and other sitcom stuff. It's kinda fun but not especially lively, and you wish sometimes it could be a bit less doggedly placid, but it's nicely drawn by Ted (Courtney Crumrin, Gloom Cookie) Naifeh, who's certainly no stranger to this type of thing and serves up a solid, if not especially inspired, art job. Perhaps if Courtney had shown up for a while...anyway, I wish I could have gotten a bit more bang for my six dollars, but I don't really feel cheated either, and I wouldn't mind reading more- but may I suggest perhaps a less pricey sequel? B

Hey, if I'm gonna read stories about super-buff jungle girls fighting T-Rexes in leather chamois bikinis, then by God you can't find too many more artists suited to the task than Frank Cho, who does another outstanding job. The story has something to do with a trek across the hostile jungle island to get an antidote to the plague that accidentally got released among the group of men that discovered our She-Devil, or something like that. I stopped paying attention some time ago. That said, I'd like to know exactly how many men were in the expedition in the first place- they've been stranded on the island for a while, we're told, but it seems like a dozen men get killed every issue and this is only half over! While I'm bitching, the cover bugged me as well- it depicts Shanna in the jaws of a mammoth T. Rex, who's trying to bite down on that tender jungle girl morsel, and she's keeping the jaws from snapping down by using her arm strength. But- the way Cho draws her, she doesn't seem to be applying any pressure whatsoever with her left hand, which is placed casually on the dinosaur's lower jaw just like she sitting at a table reading a book. You'd think some tension or stress would be in order involving that hand, but nope. Am I the only one that thinks this looks odd? Or am I odd for looking at her hand in the first place? B-

Livelier than last issue, but still unfunny and dull and nowhere near as quirky and fun as it wants to be. My last issue. C

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