Friday, July 21, 2006

What I bought and what I thought, July 8-July 17.

S/A: Peter Bagge (Fantagraphics, $4.95)

As usual, the main attraction here is a new Buddy Bradley story, and Bagge doesn't disappoint on that score as we revisit the unfortunate Stinky Brown, or what's left of him anyway. The rest is hit-and-miss: a Biker story that seems twice as long as it is, lotsa Bat Boy strips that I read while standing in line at the supermarket, an amusing sports wife story, a not-bad Matrix satire, and a pretty good illustrated reminisce by Alice Cooper that I could swear I've read in prose form somewhere else before. Whether or not this is worth five bucks to you is a whole 'nother thing. B

S: Paul Dini; A: J.H.Williams III (DC, $2.99)

Well, it's not much of a mystery- if you blink you'll miss the only appearance, before the end, of the bad guy and that kinda comes across as a bit of a cheat- but Dini keeps it no less interesting through his usual solid pacing and dialogue. Williams is simply Williams- always a joy to behold. If he comes back, I'll continue to buy but Dini combined with an uninspiring artist doesn't exactly coerce me to part with my hard-earned three bucks. Unless it's Jingle Belle. A-

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

The Kate Corrigan subplot doesn't get advanced this time out, but we still get more from the round-table discussion back at B.P.R.D. HQ, this time from Liz Sherman and Abe Sapiens. Abe's has Hellboy in it, as well as a cameo from Frances McDormand's Marge Gunderson character from Fargo, and is a kinda sad tale of an encounter with a wendigo that has a decidedly downbeat resolution- as is the norm for our Abe these days. This issue kinda spun its wheels a bit, but it was still good enough and was drawn by Guy Davis, always a strong plus. A-

Various artists (Dark Horse, $0.25)

Dark Horse commemorates its anniversary by giving us this book of pinups, in which artists known for this DH property or that does a rendition of another past or present DH artist's main character. Thus we get Adam (Ghost) Hughes drawing Mignola's Hellboy, Doug (The Mask) Mahnke doing Art Adams' sadly-missed Monkeyman and O'Brien, Frank (Sin City, of course) Miller doing Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo, and so on. Most are pretty good, some not so; some choices are just odd: Sergio Aragones' Conan, for example, looks too much like Groo the Wanderer to take seriously, and while it's a neat idea (I suppose), Tony (Sock Monkey) Millionaire's Tarzan looks like Homer Simpson's nuclear power plant co-worker Lenny Leonard. But hey, it's got a great Tom Yeates Escapist illo, and Adams does a nice Ghost (a character whose appearance I've always liked a lot more than the execution, if you'll excuse the expression) sure, it's well worth the quarter. B

S: Gary Whitta; A: Ted Naifeh (Image, $4.99)

The further adventures of the Grim Reaper's young son, who jumps at the chance to take a summer internship at the old man's office and soon winds up in a Brazil-ian scenario. Meanwhile, his bizarre friends go to camp, and of course get more than they bargain for. So far, so good, as Whitta cheerfully applies sitcommery into this oddball scenario, and Naifeh provides more outstanding art. Between this and Polly and the Pirates, I'm coming to expect his work every month! A-

S: Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti; A: Tony DeZuniga (DC, $2.99)

A couple of issues back, DeZuniga made a triumphant return to the character he's most associated with (when people associate him at all). This time, however, he shoots himself in the foot by making a disjointed, rambling Graymiotti script even more incoherent. Maybe we just better turn the page and move on to next issue... C-

S: B. Clay Moore; A: Steven Griffin (Image, $2.99)

Would you believe it's worth the wait? Of course, it helps that I'm not one to grouse when a title's tardy- I'm content to bide my time and let the creators create...and if I'm committed to the title, then I'll just be happy when it does finally appear. That said, this long-awaited ending was kind of a fait accompli, and didn't quite pack the punch of the last mini's resolution. Still, it's always great to read the interaction between Byrd, Mo and Kahami- Moore makes them real and is outstanding at essaying their dynamic- and this as a whole was lively and fun. And Griffin outdoes himself on art- his facial expressions are nine times out of ten spot on and his coloring is as good as it gets. Sure, I wish it could come out more often too...but this haoli can be patient. A-

S: Rick Remender; A: Eric Nguyen (Image, $2.99)

Unremarkable, holding-pattern-feel issue, with an admittedly surprising character death, which brings the original artist back for an encore...this time with a style that's even sloppier than the one he used originally, and not to his (or our)advantage. I'm still interested in this premise, and the title character is also still intriguing in her non-glamorous way, but something extraordinary is going to happen soon or I'll soon be e-stranged. C+

S: Geoff Darrow, Andy & Larry Wachowski, A: Darrow (Burlyman, $3.50)

The Cowboy travels through the belly of a giant monster, and fends off repeated attacks by a huge shark, a vehicle for the bodiless head he's been scrapping with for three issues now. Again, light story, and lots of insanely detailed Darrow art, and admiring the panels is what gets the reader through despite the totally static feel of the narrative as a whole. I wish I could tell you that I'm perfectly willing to adopt my Hawaiian Dick Zen-like patience stance with this, but I'm afraid I'm getting a bit restless. It's not that clever. Still, this issues ending offers hope, so stay tuned, kids! B+

100 BULLETS 74
S: Brian Azzarello; A: Eduardo Risso (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

A couple of unexpected plot twists (the fate of the Nagle twins, and the new Minuteman) gets this arc over and makes it a keeper. Sporting a great Dave Johnson cover, a 50's paperback/noir pastiche with hints of Russian Constructivism and certainly his best in a while. And of course, Risso just kills. One of these days I'm going to dig out the 73 previous issues and have myself a rereading session. A-

S: Steven Seagle; A: Becky Cloonan (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

Here's another title which is getting more disappointing with each successive issue. Between this, Testament, and Loveless, it hasn't exactly been a banner year for Vertigo, if you ask me. As I said last time, this wants to be a little bit of everything to everybody, and by steadfastly refusing to adopt a tone and live with it, it winds up being nothing to anyone. Becky Cloonan is still doing great stuff, and I really want to stick around to see how this whole business with Adam Chamberlain's dead girlfriend turns out...but I'm not sure how much more coffin-humping I'm willing to endure until then. C+

S: Peter Gillis; A: Mike Saenz (AiT/PlanetLar, $14.95)

Ah, it's the unexpected return of the comic that was always guaranteed to cue up that Stones song in my head every time I'd spy a copy on the racks of my LCS. You know, "Shadoobie- Shatter, Shatter". Heh. Unfortunately, I passed on actually purchasing the comic every single time because it just didn't grab me. The art, as I now rely upon my ever-fuzzier memories of 1984, just looked a little too grainy and fuzzy and sterile for my tastes...and we all know how much stock I've always placed on that crucial first impression, art-wise, that usually makes or breaks the chances of my picking up any given title. So, I've never read this. And you know what? While the art is still mighty sterile, it improves a bit in black and white and is, when examined through my ever-fuzzier eyesight and theoretically more mature and adult perspective, is actually quite good- almost always solid anatomically as well as from a storytelling viewpoint too. And the mind boggles when one takes into consideration that this was done on a prehistoric Apple computer- the amount of time spent alone gives me pause. I remember the first Mac I ever used, back in 1985 (permit me to digress a bit)- it was an Macintosh Classic, used as a Crosfield scanner interface, and I used to enjoy messing around with the desktop, rearranging the pixels to make weird shapes and so on. And that was about the limit that it could do, since it possessed a whopping 134KB of RAM! I can't imagine doing a sustained quantity of work on something even as "advanced" as a IIci, for example. So that's a hell of an accomplishment, in my book. Heck, I can't even do four pages the old-fashioned way! Anyway, with the benefit of 20 plus years of hindsight, this stacks up as a pretty darn good, even somewhat prescient, Philip Dick/William Gibsonesque thriller- rarely predictable, not as dated as you'd think, and the good stretches make up for the occasional slow ones- always a hazard when publishing as an ongoing monthly (or was it bi-monthly? I forget). I can't say if I would have liked it as much at age 24, even if I had decided to buy it on a regular basis, but I'm happy to have the opportunity to reevaluate it now. B+

S: Brian Wood; A: Riccardo Burchielli (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

Now here's the rare recent Vertigo title that's getting better as it goes along. Familarity is breeding interest rather than contempt, in this case anyway. I wish I had a better sense of what's exactly at stake in this whole Matty tug-of-war scenario, but I definitely want to see how it resolves itself. And that's something, especially since I was ready to drop about three issues ago. B+

S: Bill Willingham; A: Sean McManus (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

How can Willingham be so smart over here, then turn around and give us dull hackwork like Shadowpact? Who knows, but as a follow up to last issue's events it's a bit of a letdown- but it's no less readable as this issue's spotlight characters- Cinderella, the Mouse Police, etc., get to enact a espionage thriller with shapechanging magic and castles in the clouds populated by giants, and darned if it isn't a engaging romp. McManus fills in, reuniting with Willingham (I'm sure you remember the Thessaly minis, right? Right?) and fitting right in. He's not as polished as Buckingham and Leialoha, but he'll do in a pinch. I'm not that crazy about the Buckingham/Leialoha team anyway. A-

S: Steve Englehart; A: Tom Derenick, Mark Farmer (DC, $2.99)

Not a disaster, but not all that great either as we watch the Detroit League and the various Royal Flush Gang members run around in the burning woods for page after page, Aquaman in hot (heh, I made pun) pursuit. On the positive side, there's a nice flashback for Vixen, and once in a while Englehart's dialogue scans like the Englehart of old, which gives hope for the future. Plus, it's still nicely drawn in imitation Alan Davis style (and I swear, once in a while, I see a Von Eeden-influenced panel or two). On the negative side, all this angst and fire and running around gets mighty tedious, and I still think that this is yet another two-issue story that's being p-u-l-l-e-d out, taffy-like, into four. Oh Gypsy, the things I do for you...C+

BEST OF THE (2) WEEKS? Probably Hawaiian Dick, although a couple of others (Death, Jr., B.P.R.D.)are right there too.

WORST: Definitely Jonah Hex, but I've been enjoying the title as a whole up till now so let's just hope that this is an aberration.

No comments: