Sunday, May 07, 2006

"Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do."
-Benjamin Franklin

What I bought and what I thought, weeks of April 21 through May 7.

S:Howard Chaykin, John Tischman; A: David Hahn (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)
I still prefer my Chaykinsnark straight up and uncut and not run through the Tischman filter, but apparently Mr. T is getting more skilled at it because this almost reads like it was written by the Man himself. Pretty much picking up where the last not-bad not-great miniseries left off, this is the sanguinary doings of the Del Toro family through the eyes of the police investigators assigned to keep tabs on vampire activity in Miami. Last time out I never really got comfortable with David Hahn's art- it was just too pretty for the lowdown goings-on. But, since last time, I've come to appreciate his style a lot more, and it goes down a lot smoother largely because he's become really good at setting up the snarky patter with a sharp facial expression here or a nicely done gesture there. A good beginning, I do believe. A-

S: Mark Andreyko; A: Javier Pina, Fernando Blanco. (DC, $2.99)
Solid superheroics all around, and enjoyable even though I am utterly oblivious to nearly all the dreary details of the whole Infinity mess. We get the lead character (for once) showing why she's supposed to be as good at her job as she is, and having some great interaction with a character I liked before he got folded into the JSA book, Dr. Mid-Nite, both in and out of the courtroom. In fact, I have to wonder if Andreyko made a concerted effort to get the courtroom scenes right this time because there was so much that seemed to be out of whack when he did it several months ago. Oh well, idle speculation on my part. I've criticized them as being bland and workmanlike on art, but I gotta admit I liked Pina and Blanco's work here (sounds like a fine wine, doesn't it? Pina Blanco), especially their nicely expressive Doc Psycho, who (in a perfect world) would have been portrayed by the late Michael Dunn. Now, if only Cameron Chase would stop calling that lowlife Dylan character, I'd be really happy. Boys and girls, don't look now, but this book is well worth your time if you're craving a good old-fashioned superhero wallow. A-

S: Warren Ellis, A: Stuart Immonen. (Marvel, $2.99)
Once more, the yuks fly fast and furious, and this issue was a bit better than last. It doesn't quite have the smooth flow and sitcom timing of that patented Giffen/DeMatteis bwah- it's a more edgy and staccato sort of humor. I do like the chemistry and dynamic that the team members are showing- they bicker as they battle and get off several funny lines and I'm not really even sure that there is supposed to be a big picture. Perhaps Ellis intends for these guys to go on sniping at each other and fighting giant dragons and robots until he gets tired of it all, and that will be that. And if it sounds like I'm as ambivalent as always about whether or not I really like this book, well, I'm still trying to decide. Ask me again next month. B+

S/A: Ted Naifeh. (Oni, $2.99)
Young Polly comes another step closer to embracing her heritage as daughter of a pirate queen in this penultimate chapter. I feel like I've been saying the same thing every month about this book, which is a smart, sharp and whimsically dark fantasy a la Robert Stevenson or J.M. Barrie. If you've been waiting for the trade, you won't be sorry. A

S: Grant Morrison, A: Doug Mahnke. (DC, $2.99)
Another excellent chapter of one of the highest points in the series so far. Many dangling threads are tied up, or at least we're reminded of them, many characters (some forgotten by me) are referenced, the Squire makes another appearance (even though it's only one panel- geez, I like that character!) and while I can't say this about most of the other Soldiers, I'd definitely like to see another Frankenstein series come from this. But it's gotta have Mahnke on art; I still say he's one of the best, if not THE best, mainstream superhero comic book artists working today. A

S: Rob Markman, Randee Carcano, Daimon Scott. A: Scott, Brian Stelfreeze. (DC, $4.99)
"Graffiti Art is a major influence in my work", Mr. Scott states at the beginning, and he's not exaggerating. At first, I thought this was a jumbled mess- but when I actually sat down and read the thing, I realized that sure, it is a jumbled mess, but it's an imaginative, colorful and heartfelt mess, and despite the neither here-nor-there quality of the stories I found myself enjoying Scott's magic-marker (or aerosol-can) style, which put me in mind of work by the great Overton Lloyd or Pedro Bell. Typically, the entry I liked the best was the blonde-girl Robin and Cassandra Cain-Batgirl story, which had Stelfreeze's inks reining it in and making it readable- plus, we get a new character which I kinda liked, a cutesy Cinnamon/Sheriff Ida Red/Daisy Kutter ish gunslinger named Calamity. The Flash feature was interestingly arranged but the parallel stories didn't really relate to each other very well; the Superman tribute had some nifty moments- I liked the Unity flag illo, as well as the Supes-saves-a-kid-from-trucks-and-cars piece as well. The Tim Drake as Batman romance-with-Batgirl finale was OK but didn't excite me all that much, although there were some nicely energetic layouts throughout. Once more, this tragically lame duck series has allowed me to engage with an artist whose work I wouldn't have otherwise paid any attention, and while I can't say I'll go out and buy the next thing Mr. Scott does, I'm glad I had the opportunity. B+

S: Chynna Clugston, Ian Shaughnessy; A: Clugston (Oni Press, $2.99)
Mysterious young girl is packed off to America on a steamship after she's found wandering naked on some unidentified cliffs; mysterious young girl gets accidentally washed off the ship in a storm and washes up on shore, where she's found by an older lady who takes her in until she dies; Mysterious young girl takes up residence at an inn full of oddball characters, continued in Strangetown #2. Don't really know where this is going and how all this will fit together, but I did like the energetic script and for the first time ever I liked Clugston's mangaesque artwork. Hence, an A-

S: Douglas Rushkoff, A: Liam Sharp (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)
We may be getting Abraham and Lot as reimagined a la Jim Starlin, and wannabe Morrison/Quitely in the present-day, but overall this is coming across more like Tower of Babel, as far as I'm concerned. One more pre-ordered issue to go. D

S: Landry Walker & Eric Jones; A: Louis De Martinis (Slave Labor, $3.50)
Wow. Tron. I remember when it first played theatres, but it didn't hang around long so the first time I saw it was about a year later, when it was released to laserdisc. You remember, the big, LP-sized home video format that came and went in the 1980's. Anyway, I liked the movie just fine- script could have been better, and Disney probably screwed around with it, but the effects and costumes were cool, and actually haven't aged all that badly, and it had David Warner in it! Haven't seen it in ages. And who could forget that wild-ass arcade game? Now, Slave Labor has gotten the rights to put out a comics adaptation/extrapolation of the original screenplay, and this is the second chapter- I must have missed the first one, which is referenced in the recap in the inside front cover. As these things go, it's a logical continuation of the original as the son of Bruce Boxleitner's (thanks to the Tron Sector MB for setting me straight on that account- it's been a good 10 years since I've seen this flippin movie!) character is dealing with his old man's legacy, including the same world-inside-the computer as before. I wish that this hadn't been so dark and TV-show downbeat and dreary; Tron as a concept wasn't quite so serious. Not helping is the fuzzy, gloomy art- it's drawn well enough, but it's needlessly murky despite the splashes of neon color that accompany the visuals of the computer world. Could have been better, but could be worse, and is worth a look- but this is based only on reading part one of this particular story arc. B

S/A: Tom Beland. (AiT/PlanetLar, $14.95)
In which Beland recounts how he met the love of his life in his typically warm, witty, self-effacing style- and when the coincidences and unlikely scenarios pile up and threaten to overwhelm the reader, it's always leavened by his graceful cartooning style, reminiscent of Al Hirschfeld or old Jay Ward cartoons even as early on as the stories in this debut collection. Even so, this still crosses over into saccharine territory, and he does belabor his point sometimes...but this hasn't been such a problem in the later collections I've read so perhaps it's just me being cranky, who knows. At the end of the day, I'm glad that I'm finally up-to-date with this series. A-

S:Michael Alan Nelson, A: "Chee". (Boom! Studios, $2.99)
My esteemed colleagues around the blogospehereiverse are being far kinder to this than I am inclined to be; where some are perceiving a "...subtly creepy air, one where almost anything can happen and reality can take a sudden slide sideways" and " attention to character that you don't often find in horror books", I'm only seeing a whole lot of recycling from a whole lot of different sources- earnestly presented, no doubt, but no less secondhand because of them. And "Chee" provides dull, workmanlike art that adds absolutely nothing to the proceedings, and isn't helped a bit by the decision to switch from #1's full color to a heavily inkwashed and sodden black & white scheme which certainly conveys a sense of gloom, but also makes it as much of a chore to sit through as the unfortunate protagonists' truck ride seems to have been here. I've no doubt that Nelson and Chee are convinced that they're trying to give us a serious take on that hoary old Martian invasion scenario, and by most accounts they're succeeding- but I am unfortunately not among that number. Competent but unexciting. C

More to come, including Daughters of the Dragon 4 and Lucifer 73.

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