Sunday, April 17, 2005

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What I bought and what I thought, week of April 13!

Is Thor a deluded ecoterrorist, who stole high tech gear and thinks he brother is his evil adversary Loki, out to cause global calamity? Nick Fury thinks so, and dispatches our less-than-likeable superteam along with the Captains to apprehend him, and a brutal throwdown ensues. Appropriately epic and weighty, typically well drawn by Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary with a lot of fine dramatics and action, unleavened by the snideness Millar often brings to his projects that aren't The Ultimates. It may very well be that this comic and its ilk are a major symptom of everything that's wrong with the industry these days, but for my part I am unmoved by these assertations when confronted by books as solid as this one is. A

Samuel L. Jackson is a busy fella these days. Not only is he appearing in at least three films a year, he's also got a thriving comic-book career going on as well- not only as Nick Fury in The Ultimates and Nathan Kane in Ocean, but now as Antoine Sharpe, an "independent contractor" who functions as a cross between Dana Scully, John Shaft and the Amazing Randi, a supernatural debunker who troubleshoots for the government (or the highest bidder) whenever extraordinary circumstances present themselves. Hitman's John McCrea doesn't draw him to look exactly like Sam Jack, but the attitude and vibe is definitely there. And while this is very X-Filesish, I liked this character, who's a no-nonsense brotha with abnormally good "perception" ability...and the situation we're given for him to deal with is a clever enough one, in which spirits of the dead possess the living and converge on Winnipeg, Canada- and one just happens to be a launch control commander at a Minuteman missle silo in Wyoming. Tight script by Phil Hester, if a little talky, and McCrea does a fine job although his work here looks less detailed and more rushed than his Hitman days. A good beginning, and I'm hoping it gets better from here. A-

I read somewhere where this was compared to an old-time cliffhanger movie serial, and that's certainly appropriate. Many ongoing series are paced that way, but they don't all deliver the goods, and so far Diggle and Ferry have done it with this series. After a lull of about an issue or so, this is picking up steam again with sharp characterization and rarely a dull moment, and I don't mind the "DC Space Stars on Parade" affection as long as they are worked into the story as neatly as the likes of Vril Dox and the Big Bad, "Starbreaker", a character I managed to miss when he appeared before. Maybe I've been equally negligent when it comes to Pascal Ferry's ink line, which appears to be sketchier and rougher than in issues past, almost giving it a not inappropriate Infantino-esque look. I don't really have any intention of following this to the next step of the Rann-Thanagar War series, but I've enjoyed this ride so far. A-

The unfortunate choice to recast old Flash bad guy Dr. Alchemy as Hannibal Lecter mars this otherwise fine continuation of the "Keystone Central" storyline. It's not that it's done poorly, it's just been done to death in a lot of different places and it's no fresher here for appearing in supervillain clothes. Still, the dramatics and dialogue are fine, and so is the art although I'm a bit disappointed in inker Kano for aping penciller Steve Gaudiano's sloppy style- I've seen him do much better in his stint on the late H-E-R-O. I guess that he was expected to maintain the "look", but it's a shame nonetheless. B+

Pretty solid denouement of the whole "Murder of the Blackguard" storyline, with Calista's (the new Retro Girl, apparently) participation an exciting highlight. Bogs down a bit after that, with a low-key and talky confession scene, then we get a somewhat surprising cliffhanger at the end. Another solid chapter in what I still maintain is Bendis' best ongoing. B+

We get a whole issue of the Black Knight neƩ Boy Blue snicker-snacking his way through hosts of the Adversary's best orcs, I mean goblins and trolls, with his straight-outta-Carroll Vorpal sword to confront the adversary and perhaps learn the fate of Red Riding Hood. Yeah, it sounds silly, I know- but it's quite involving if you've been with the book this far. I spend a fair amount of time criticizing artists Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha, but I thought they did a fine job here, with some clever page layouts and even a Kirbyesque pose here or there. Good beginning to a promising arc, and what more could we ask? B+

Bob Burden still hasn't shaken off the rust- this is clunky as all get out more often as not, and his art hasn't gotten any better in the last 20-something years. But I still got laughs from page one on, and it slowly builds up a head of steam to the point where there was a nice flow of free-form insanity about the time we got to the two-headed princess performing Shakespeare with our hero. Not quite there yet, but damn close. Or is this just my rose-colored memories telling me that FC was better back in the day? B

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