Sunday, May 21, 2006

Once more, it's time for the BACARDI SHOW NEW COMICS REVUE!
Comments and opinions on works of sequential fiction I have read in the weeks spanning May 13 through May 21.

S/A: Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez. (Fantagraphics, $4.50)

The Bros., once more doing what they do and doing it well. Gilbert's ongoing "Down in Heaven" is no less weird and rambling but for some reason the events depicted engaged my attention more than the last few times out- I'll probably never be a rabid Beto fan- I just don't care for his functional but often crude art and often incoherent storytelling style- but when he's on, he's really on. Of course, it's Jaime's stuff that I keep buying this book for, and once more he doesn't disappoint as he continues last issue's bittersweet Ray and Maggie reunion, incorporating amusing looks at geek culture with a pretty good, and true-ringing little romance story. The other ongoing feature, starring Hopey, is a little less light in tone but no less outstanding. A

S/A: Paul Grist. (Image, $3.50)

Another fun issue, which starts and ends with scenes straight outta Kane, interrupted by a really oddball black and white interlude with his fourth wall-busting Druid character, and one in which the titular hero finally makes an appearance, along with his hilarious Alan Moore rip Morlan the Mystic. Although this is once more tardy to a fault, it's more of the same dynamic and entertaining storytelling I've come to expect from Mr. Grist. Production values leave something to be desired, however- several pages here are poorly reproduced, like the ink wasn't fully up on the presses or they were working from bad scans or plates. After 20+ years in the printing biz, I notice these things. A-

S: Mike Mignola, John Arcudi; A: Guy Davis (Dark Horse, $2.99)

In which we finally get the backstory of Captain Daimio, and it's a weird and horrifying one for sure, even by the standards established long ago. We also get a little time with agent Kate Corrigan, who's in a bit of a pickle herself as she remains the guest of an evil Count of some sort in another place of some sort. I've never really been a fan of this Daimio character- he seems to have been brought on to replace the gruff-and-tough quotient that was missing after Hellboy bailed. But the tale of how he died and was resurrected was some bizarre, surreal stuff, and it grabbed me. And everybody likes Kate Corrigan, so of course we don't want to see anything bad happen to her, now do we? So what we have, to sum, is perhaps the strongest B.P.R.D. mini yet, and in large part because Arcudi's settling in and Davis is outdoing himself every single month. A

S: Many, including Kyle Baker and Robert Loren Fleming; A: Jack Kirby, Dick Giordano, Don Heck, Vince Colletta, Al Hartley. (Marvel, $2.99)

It occurred to me the other day, after I had finished reading this, that this is the first opportunity I've had (since I started blogging three years ago) to review a new script of any sort by Robert Loren Fleming, creator of my beloved Thriller. I only wish it could have been under more auspiscious circumstances. Of course, you all know what the drill is with these books- like the What Were They Thinking?-style remixes that Boom! Studios is putting out, we get old Marvel romance comics re-scripted with moderately amusing results. Fleming's is probably the most effective of the bunch; he adds some funny absurdities to the mock soap-operatics and had me chuckling at several points. Baker's is even more absurd, but not as funny, although I liked his cover for this issue. It doesn't help much that every one of these stories look just alike, be they Kirby, Heck or Giordano-pencilled...those scratchy Colletta inks smother them all equally and keeps all the nonsensical dialogue grounded and flat. Still, it's great to see Fleming back among the living, so to speak, and now that he's astuck his toe in the water once more, I fervently hope someone will come along and give him a chance to create and develop another series. C+

S: Javier Grillo-Marxauch; A: Les McClaine (Viper, $2.95)

If, as they say, creativity is the art of disguising your sources, then this entertaining Men in Black rip is the most creative comic I've read in years. Super-technology, kung-fu, and Mexican wrestlers, and the facile linework of Les McClaine all add up to a good, solid, fun read. But original it ain't. Oh well, what is? A-


S: Bill Willingham; A: Justiniano, Walden Wong, Wayne Faucher, Willingham. (DC, $3.99/2.99)

I was less than impressed with the big post-Identity Crisis Day of Vengeance froofraw; I'd link to my earlier review of the trade but it was done for Comic Book Galaxy and they've erased all traces of the late, apparently unlamented Last Call With... . But anyway, I kinda found it a pretentious, poorly and inconsistently drawn exercise in tedium, and was perfectly content to leave it at that. But y'see, I've always had an abiding love for DC's supernatural stable, and when I saw the cover for the new ongoing Shadowpact (ugh- still hate that cringeworthy name) series, and noticed the Phantom Stranger had a role, well, I couldn't help myself. It's all the Stranger's fault. Anyway, when I stopped by the LCS to get #1, I noticed the double-sized IC special which served as a prequel to the series, and with a sigh I grabbed it too. And glory be- many of the issues I had with the miniseries and its satellites were no longer present; the writing was still a tad hightoned, but the infodumping was kept to a non-intrusive minimum and the artist whose work came across best, Justiniano, did a pretty good job of keeping everything moving along at a smart clip. All the supernatural characters, with the disembodied helm of Dr. Fate's mentor Nabu, strive to reassemble the shattered Rock of Eternity, the sundering of which has allowed the Seven Deadly Sins to raise hell on Earth, and it was a much better read than I expected. Then we get the first issue of the ongoing series, in which a crimson dome is conjured up over a small town by a group of sinister super-types and the Shadowpact is called in by Superman and the Phantom Stranger to get to the bottom of what's going on. Willingham himself does the art chores this time, and his work is OK; it strikes me as very Mike Goldenesque, and he has the disconcerting habit of drawing his characters as if they're suspended in water or something- but it's solid and workmanlike and didn't distract me too much. I was a little dubious about the timeline we're given as well- I'm not veresed enough in what's been going on in the DCU to know if the One Year Later timeline we're given about halfway through is kosher or not, but one thing I'm not eager to see is 12 issues' worth of this storyline and its upcoming struggle. Hopefully we'll get the condensed version. Anyway, for now I'm interested, but I can see a time in the near future when I'll get bored and drop it. Hopefully, Willingham and co. will make it easy for me to put this off. IC SPECIAL: B+ SHADOWPACT 1: B

S: Keith Giffen, Alan Grant; A: Raul Lyra (Boom!, $3.99)

I keep looking for reasons not to like this title, and keep coming up empty every time. You've got a tight, witty script which can be serious when needs must and is populated with sufficiently nasty villains and the surly but charismatic "good" guy, plus lotsa comic relief with the befuddled residents of Earth who get stuck in the middle of this cosmic drama plus you've got nicely detailed art by Lyra, even though it's apparently beyond him to draw an attractive human being. All the pieces fit together nicely, and the end result is a very entertaining read. A-

S: Howard Chaykin, David Tischman; A: David Hahn (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

Bit of a letdown from #1; the murder mystery gets a bit more convoluted than it oughtta and there's a revelation at the end that is as unsavory as it is unexpected. I'm sure it will play an important part in whatever resolution we get, but it just kinda soured me a bit on the whole shebang. If all the characters are amoral, cynical, and spiritually empty, then who exactly are we supposed to care about and why should we anyway? Oh well, complaining about ugly cynicsm in a Chaykin book, even a secondhand one, is a bit like going to Alaska and complaining that it's cold. And besides, it doesn't seem to bother me on other titles (Ultimates comes to mind). David Hahn holds up his end of the deal nicely- his clean-lined and somewhat-static art is loosening up a bit and it's helping move things along very well. B+

S: Mike Carey; A: Glenn Fabry (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

After seven issues, I really don't know what else to say: Carey's doing a wonderful adapting job, adding shades and nuance to Gaiman's characters while never straying from the sequence of events and characterization of the novel, and Fabry's interiors are an imaginative revelation. Also gotta give props to the Hories, Tanya and Richard, who are thankfully deviating from the Standard Vertigo Color Palette of mottled browns, greens and blues to give us vivid when vivid is called for, and subdued when it isn't. I sincerely hope that all of you out there who aren't picking up the singles are waiting for, or are considering, the trade. You won't be sorry. A

More later on, including Cthultu Tales, Batman Year 100 4, Cemetarians #1, and more.

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