Wednesday, February 21, 2007

In which I opine in regards to various works of sequential fiction I have perused in the interval since the last time I inflicted my opinions upon one and all, or to be specific, from approximately 11 to 21 February, some of which may even still be on sale at finer comics selling establishments worldwide if you're lucky. Or not, as the case may be.

S: Kurt Busiek; A: Brent Anderson. (DC/Wildstorm, $2.99)

This comic just isn't working for me, hasn't for several years now actually, but I suppose I'm just too much of a cockeyed optimist to drop the series entirely. Kevin Church would be so disapproving of me, I know. A big reason, I believe, why I continue to get this is because it seems to be the work that Busiek cares the most about; he's a talented scripter who too often rises to the level of whatever corporate junk he's assigned to write by the Big Two, and the promise of getting to read something he's invested in is too tempting to resist. Sometimes, he's clever and inventive, as with the big Eternity/Galactus-style guy in this issue who just stood there in the heavens so long that the people down below got used to him, nicknaming him "Joe". Other times, he can be melodramatic and earnestly dull, as if he has so much reverence for the Good Old Days of Comics as writ by Englehart, Thomas, Bates, Wein, and so on that he must imitate as slavishly and as faithfully as he possibly can...and this causes his pastiches to come across as second-rate imitations of other first-rate imitations, and there lies the rub. Anyway, one thing is constant- I can't stand the third-rate BucklerAdamsisms of Anderson, and I've enjoyed what I've enjoyed from this series in spite of rather than because of, nine times out of ten. Guess I'll stick around for the next two, just in case something happens. Of such feeble hopes are addictions born. B-

S: Matt Fraction; A: Gabriel Ba. (Image, $1.99)

One of many concluding issues that I seem to have obtained this two-week period, and as usual with Fraction and this book it's convoluted as hell...but the one constant has been the fun vibe he's striven to get across: fun for him to write, and presumably fun for the reader as well. I've been begrudging, preferring a little more clarity than Fraction is apparently willing or able to commit to, but taken as a whole, these 7 issues so far have been a wild, kaleidoscopic thrill ride- perhaps the nearest thing to vintage Steranko S.H.I.E.L.D. since the Jaunty One took his brush and got into magazine publishing...or at least as close as we're likely to get this side of Grant Morrison. And of course, the contributions of Ba have been invaluable; this series would be a totally different creature without his input for sure, which is why Fraction goes out of his way to spend at least three text pages per issue to point that out. I am on record as wishing, every time out, that this wasn't such a chore to parse; but hey- nothing worthwhile was ever acheived without a little effort. And so it goes. B+

S: Warren Ellis; A: Ben Templesmith. (Image, $1.99)

Okay, wait. What happened to Richard Fell, the low-key, thoughtful guy I've been reading about in the previous six issues? He's been replaced by a short-tempered, not-too-bright fellow who gets schooled by a slick defense lawyer, with this issue serving as almost the diametric opposite of #5's excellent interrogation room sequence. I'm sure there's method to Warren's madness- I'm sure he didn't forget who he was writing during the longer-than-usual delay between issues- trying to establish character depth or dimension or something like that, but it took me right out of the story. None of which, of course, is Templesmith's fault, he's as expressive in his Baker-meets-Sinkiewicz style as always. Will the real Rich Fell please stand up? B

S: Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti; A: Phil Noto. (DC, $2.99)

I've always thought that Phil Noto's art worked much better when he stuck to single illustrations- movie posters, covers, you know. As a sequential storyteller, he has left much to be desired, tending towards skimpy inks and static composition. However, I'm pleased to report he's gotten much better since the last time I saw a comic with his interiors; there's still the occasional stiff-as-a-board pose from time to time, but he's really improved with the mechanics of layout and such. All in the service of a story which gives us a female counterpart of sorts to Hex, and the promise of a part two which I hope is livelier than part one. B+

KORGI Book One
S/A: Christopher Slade. (Top Shelf, $10. Reviewed from PDF preview.)

OK, here we have what seems to be a textless story, by a former Disney animator, about a young girl who lives in a fairy-tale fantasy world of some sort and her cute doggy, a Welsh Corgi- hence the title. In the course of the tale, they come across a hill that has a buried flying saucer sticking out the top, and run afoul of some huge spiders and the really big ogre who commands them. Oh, did I mention that the cute dog breathes fire? Without really knowing the full story about this, the most immediate thing that I found impressive was the meticulously rendered artwork, as you can see in the relatively simplistic example at right. In the preview, there are pages that are stunning in their intricacy, reminding me a lot of John Findlay's beloved-by-me-anyway Tex Arcana work...but much of this looks unfinished, as if it's ready for coloring and lettering but not ready for print. For art lovers first and foremost, caveat emptor everyone else. B+

S: B. Clay Moore; A: Jeremy Haun. (Oni, $3.50)

Solid finale to this miniseries slash TV series pitch, as the title character manages to extricate himself from the sticky situation he got himself into with panache, leading to the requisite explosive ending. Snappy dialogue, always a Moore hallmark, makes this a lot more fun than it would have been in other, less skilled hands. Haun's art, for his part, has begun to remind me of Jock's Losers work, and that's a compliment. If you're looking for a fun little action-thriller type comics buzz, and you haven't been along for the ride to this point, I'm sure the trade will be appearing any day now...and you should check it out. Yes, you. A-

S: Mark Andreyko; A: Javier Pina, Brad Walker, Robin Riggs. (DC, $2.99)

The character stuff, as usual, carries the day- the Chase subplot is chugging along nicely, and the back-and-forth between Wonder Woman, Blue Beetle, and Kate Spencer is very good. The obligatory Batman cameo is good, too. The pencil art is still as relentlessly ordinary as ever- tells the story, no muss, no fuss. This malaise even extends to the cover- Kevin Nowlan, usually a very good illustrator, has proven once and for all that there are no novel ways to illustrate Batman's cape anymore. Here, he looks like he's pissed at Alfred for putting too much starch in it and leaving it hanging on the clothesline. B+

S: Garth Ennis; A: Peter Snejbjerg, Karl Story. (DC/Wildstorm, $2.99)

Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, Garth gotta write war comics. He's the Robert Kanigher of the modern age of comics, no doubt. This time out, Midnighty skulks around the waning days of the Third Reich looking for the soon-to-kill-himself Hitler, and gets involved with some Hitler Youth in amusing fashion. Actually, not a bad read, and nicely dialogued, something at which Garth has always been a dab hand. And since it's apparently impossible for Chris Sprouse to do a sustained run of an ongoing series, better Snejbjerg (the man whose name I hate to typye) than last issue's Joe Phillips- at least Snejbjerg has something that resembles a style, and he does a wonderful job here, helped by Story. As usual, quite readable. A-

S: Warren Ellis; A: Stuart Immomen. (Marvel, $2.99)

It's a bit of a cliche, to bust out this Neil Young song lyric- but I think it sums up the demise of this title better than just about anything: "It's better to burn out than it is to rust". And for sure, if this madcap little series had been a smashing success, a lot to ask (apparently) from the Great Unwashed of Comics Fandom , then I could see the day when Ellis and Immonen would get tired of making with the bwahhaha and move on. Hard to sustain, you know. Which would necessitate a replacement, and heaven only knows who that would be- so like the Beatles and Barry Sanders, it's good to go out while on top of its collective game. And make no mistake, Ellis and Immonen had reached that point- the last few issues have been absolutely funny and inspired weirdness, the likes of which only perhaps Grant Morrison can top, and the funny has never been his strong suit. If Marvel was smart they'd sell plush baby M.O.D.O.K. toys. Of course, if Marvel was smart, this wouldn't be a dead book. A

S: Christos Gage; A: Doug Mahnke. (DC/Wildstorm, $2.99)

Second straight excellent cover in a row from Doug Mahnke- one which probably speaks to my inner Goth fetishist, I suppose, but ya can't deny it's nicely composed as well. And unlike last time out, the story contained within is engaging even though the female PHD contingent is subjected to that even-now hoary cliche of the Ladies' Night Out, with the requisite complications. But Gage is getting a good handle on his cast, and the character stuff works really well- and he's come up with a really interesting hook for his new sorcerer's apprentice character Black Betty (whoa! bam-a-lam!), a secret I won't spoil but it could be a fine plotline if Gage chooses to go that route. A-

S: David Lapham, Brian Azzarello; A: Eric Battle, Prentiss Rollins, Cliff Chiang. (DC, $3.99)

Status quo: extremely skippable Spectre story, and worth picking up only for the Dr. Thirteen feature, which just keeps getting weirder and weirder. I would never in a million years have considered Chiang an appropriate artist for all these shenanigans, but as staid and controlled as his style is, he still can bring a lot of dynamism to bear and that makes the difference. At the risk of sounding churlish, I hope they never collect it; I don't want to think I exposed myself to these awful Spectres for nothing! C+

BEST IN SHOW: Nextwave. So long, we hardly knew ye.

DOG OF THE WEEK(S): Tales of the Unexpected. Despite the Doc Thirteen story.

No comments: