Tuesday, July 31, 2007


That semi-regular feature in which I opine upon various works of sequential fiction that I have perused in the interval since the last time I inflicted said opinions upon one and all, or to be specific, the period from approximately 9 July to 23 July, 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.

100 BULLETS 84
S: Brian Azzarello; A: Eduardo Risso. (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

The Standard Review: Another well-done issue what will engage the already engaged, baffle the uninitiated, and even baffle the initiated upon occasion. I think I'll just cut and paste this review for the next 16 issues. Kudos this time to Azzarello for confounding expectations in the resolution. Small brickbat to Risso for making one of the female characters look so much like cast member Dizzy Cordova that it took me a minute to realize what was going on. B+

S: Geoff Johns, Richard Donner; A: Adam Kubert. (DC, $2.99)

My first reaction to seeing this was "Is this storyline still going on?" It was, after all last December when I received an earlier chapter to review. It's incongruous that such a pretentious, dreary narrative should be tricked out with a 3-D passage; 3-D is a FUN gimmick, redolent of Saturday afternoon matineés back in the Eisenhower years- this is akin to having a casket decorated with a Hello Kitty motif or something. The gimmick itself is undermined by the choice to color all the scenes in a color that can best be described as "warm concrete"; an occasional shard of fractured reality or an arm or leg sticks out sometimes, but mostly it looks like mud and isn't helped by the decision not to 3D-ize the word balloons, making them hard to read. Kubert does a decent enough job on art; there's a nice dynamism to his figures and layouts that has the unfortunate effect of intensifying the melodramatics, which is the last thing it needs. Like I said before, this is not the Superman I want to read. Your mileage may vary. C+

S: Mark Waid; A: Karl Kerschl, Ian Churchill, Norm Rapmund, Manuel Garcia, Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose, Daniel Acuna. (DC, $2.99)

Pretty much a hodgepodge, featuring what seems to be a dozen different artists and designed to bridge the gap between the old Flash series and the new one. Most of the issue deals with the newly returned (from where I don't know) Wally West and his assumption of the Flash mantle once more, as well as his getting a measure of payback for the murder of Bart Allen; it's not exactly entertaining reading but then again its not supposed to be, is it? Out of the Legion of Comics Artists that are assembled, Kerschl stands out- his lively, streamlined art puts all the others involved to shame, and that includes Acuna, whose Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters art was I liked but sometimes had the tendency to devolve into murk, and that happens on his two-page spread here. Looks rushed. I must admit something straight up here; as indifferent as I am to the dreary dramatics of DC these days and the Flash character in general, I could totally see me getting the ongoing title because I like Kerschl's work here that much. Probably won't happen, but ya never know. Also on the art tip, the majority of the print run is graced with a beautiful Joshua Middleton cover and some with a variant: a nightmarishly bad Bill Sienkiewicz effort. Guess which one I got. I mean, that thing looks like he drew it lefthanded with his eyes closed after a half dozen tequila shots. B-

S: Grant Morrison; A: Frank Quitely. (DC, $2.99)

The conclusion of this two-part story disappoints somewhat, but I really can't put my finger on why. Grant's Zibarro character, a Bizarro with nobility, taste and intelligence as opposed to the rest of the moronic Bizarros whith whom he's forced to share a planet is valid enough, although if Grant is speaking through him then that's a bit more problematic, and the interaction between him and our Superman, turns out to be more engaging than you'd think. Perhaps I got a bit tired of all the slapstick; perhaps I'm just not inclined to like Bizarro stories in general, no matter how cleverly Grant spins them. I was gratified to see that the "Superman is dying" plot thread from the first couple of issues had not been forgotten; it hasn't been brought up lately. Quitely once more shines by developing the body english of all the characters so well; he's outstanding at bringing out all the subtleties that Morrison's scripts suggest. Gee, sounds like I found a lot to like after all, doesn't it? Which is why I always say that mediocre Morrison/Quitely is better than some creators' best work. B+

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

With the introduction of new, almost too-good-to-be-true character Vanessa, suddenly this scattershot story has found its focus, and for my money, this is the best issue yet. Set against the background of a fertility festival in Japan, there's a lot of social commentary and for once the humor works- the sight of Vanessa, her friend, and Adam sucking on penis-shaped popsicles is cheeky and funny, and there's a lot of humor in the bits devoted to East-West custom differences. If this is going to stay this good is anybody's guess, but for now I'm enjoying. B+

S: Rick Spears; A: "Chuck BB" (Oni B&W advance, $11.95)

Two black-clad, Metal-worshiping kids play the latest Frost Axe album (on vinyl! Yeah!) backwards, a portal opens, and they are given a mighty magical sword as they discover that they are the reincarnation of a demon lord named the Roth, who was killed by he evil Von Char and are charged with fulfilling the ancient prophecy of the Hell Baron and gain revenge! It's like Glenn Danzig, Ozzy Osbourne, Robert Plant and J.R.R. Tolkein collaborated on the third Bill and Ted movie. If this was done with a smirk, it would be unbearable, but Spears and Chuck play it completely straightfaced, and it's a hoot and a half- a fun and exciting Black Metal/D&D quest tale that rises above its origins and demonstrates a lot of love for not only the metal genre, but gaming and just the simple state of being a misfit teenager. It's more enjoyable than any five episodes of Metalocalypse you can name. Chuck BB's art helps a lot, it's all square chins and expressionism, reminding me of Marc Hempel or late '90s- early '00s Andi Watson, and it maintains a lively edge throughout, as at home with mundane scenes of mall shopping as it is with huge demonic battle scenes. I was really surprised by this one, folks. It's good. you should check it out. A

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

Appropriately apocalyptic finale to the whole "Garden of Souls" thing, which I do believe featured more weirdness per page than any previous Hellboy story. Arcudi is a writer who is often prone to blending into the woodwork on any given project. Here with Mignola, however, he's managed to blossom once more and bring some of that old Major Bummer mojo back into bear. Guess it's just a chemistry thing. Oh and once more with feeling: Guy Davis is a freaking genius. A-

S: Chris Wisnia; A: Wisnia and others. (Tabloia, $11.95)

More of Wisnia's hilarious tabloid-size sendups of those old Lee/Kirby/Ditko/Ayers giant monster sagas of yore, featuring at least one out-loud laugh per page. And if that's not enough, there are some absolutely outstanding pinups by some truly legendary names, usually preceded by "The Great...", like Russ Heath, John Severin, J.H. Williams III, "Shag", and a truly awe-inspiring and insanely detailed two-page spread of King Kong fighting the Tyrannosaurus by Art Adams. Oh, and best of all there's a pull quote on the back by...ME! My first! A momentous occasion for all, no doubt about it. I just wish that it made a little more sense, but that's the way the giant monster stomps, I guess. Anyway, the price tag is a bit giant-sized as well, but you're getting a lot of bang for your buck so it's worth it I suppose, especially if you're a fan of this period of Marvel history. B+

DMZ 21
S: Brian Wood; A: Riccardo Burchielli (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

The "Day 204" investigation saga continues as Matty is lured into yet another interview, which turns out to be a diversion as the tribunal's verdict comes down, and points to what will surely be an explosive finale next issue. Burchielli's back for the entire issue this time, and while it still looks as if he's rushing to get, or stay, caught up with something it's still solid. His style is beginning to remind me of Ian Gibson or Colin Wilson. I've enjoyed this arc as much as I've enjoyed any to date...hope the ending doesn't disappoint. B+

S: Mike Carey; A: Jock. (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

Less Than Zero meets The Twilight Zone as we get a not-particularly-likeable group of college students who get together one evening, get wasted in a chemistry lab, pass out, then are awakened by another of their group, who only just arrived...and it turns out that this fellow doesn't seem to exist, except to the members of the clique. And then it gets stranger from there. I don't know...Carey's gonna have to do some work to make me want to care about any of these people, but the premise is intriguing enough and holds promise for better, so we'll see for now. Jock, for his part, proves himself as capable of handling more mundane settings as he is action-thriller type stuff, not a big surprise to anybody who's read The Losers. Time will tell about this one. B-

S: Bill Willingham; A: Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

Sirs Flycatcher and Lancelot do a little recruiting at the bottom of Frau Totenkinder's well, and we see the return of some long-gone characters (some for better, some for worse) as the big buildup to what certainly appears to be the Fable war to end all wars continues. Willingham is doing such a great job of moving this along just slowly enough to allow time for characterization (one of his best jobs- Prince Charming, believe it or not) but not so slow that it drags (this has been in the works for over a year now, but it sure doesn't seem like it). Still digging Buckingham and Leialoha too, something I would have never thought I'd say, oh, two years ago. A-

S: Andy Diggle; A: Jock. (DC, $2.99)

I've never been a big fan of the character they used to call the "Battling Bowman"- he worked pretty well in the long-gone 70's Justice League and of course the Green Lantern/Green Arrow series, as well as the Von Eeden-illustrated 80's miniseries that, to be honest, I bought for the art (this was just pre-Thriller) more than anything else; there's just never been anything about him that really grabbed me and made me want to read his exploits on a regular basis. But I loved The Losers, y'see, and there was no way I could resist the reteaming of their creators, even on a Green Arrow comic. So here I am. And what did I think? Well, it read like an issue of The Losers. Wow, three Losers mentions in one review column! What is this, 2005? Anyway, this issue is pretty much all setup; a couple of nice character-defining exchanges at the beginning as we meet spoiled rich kid Ollie Queen, who's got a hole in his heart that goes all the way to China or something like that, and his valet Hackett, who seems to suffer this fool with only a little exasperation showing...but no Alfred he! And then, after Ollie pretty much invites himself along on a business trip with Hackett, we get a "sudden but inevitable betrayal" and soon Mr. Q will be getting his character built on a remote, deserted tropical island. Diggle does a great job of scene setting and showing us all facets of Ollie's personality, both the good and bad sides- of course, we all know that OQ will end up on the side of the angels anyway, but rounding him out as a character, and doing it with nuance, is not as easy as it seems. On art Jock is in his element- giving us an excellent ice bridge scene early on and doing really well on the scene in the middle in which Ollie makes a drunken fool of himself. Only once, when he has Ollie leap at Hackett, super-hero style, on the boat does he misstep, I think. All in all, a good start. A-

S/A: Vasilis Lolos. (Oni Press, $11.99)

If Black Metal was reminiscent of a sequel to Bill and Ted, well, this isBill and Ted Take a Train, directed by Ingmar Bergman or perhaps a collaboration between Miyazaki and Tim Burton. Two young slackers "borrow" a parent's car and take a joyride, then seem to run out of gas and pass out. When they awake, they're on a train which just happens to be carrying a passenger list of weird, demonic/ghostly figures...and not all of them are benign. Altogether well done, with Lolos' art being the most impressive; seems like there's a lot of Paul Pope-inspired illustrators popping up lately, and Lolos is certainly another...but his work is tighter, and looks a lot like early Demo-period Becky Cloonan- lots of thick, black, reckless lines and black, black shadows. He gets the mood across very well as things get more and more surreal for our hapless pair. Another strong Oni publication; hope I get to read the next book in the series. Here's a 38-page preview, if you're curious. A-

S/A: Mike Allred. (Image, $2.99)

Mr. Allred: Navel gazing is one thing, I suppose, but for the love of God do you have to masturbate in front of us as you do so? D+

S: Marc Bernardin, Adam Freeman; A: Nima Sorat. (AiT/PlanetLar, $12.95)

Hey, somebody got their Japanese giant monster movie in their romantic comedy! Moonlighting meets Gammera the Invincible and perhaps Marvel's old '80s series Damage Control as we get the adventures of a group of men and women who deal with crises involving oversized behemoths, who tend to level cities at the drop of a hat. We center on Nate Klingler, head of our particular branch, and the new recruit, a gorgeous young lady from the island nation of Lapuatian. They meet cute, fight creatures, bicker, and have a little bit of the old in-out in-out until the frequency of monster attacks causes suspicion to fall on a visiting industrialist...and perhaps even the new recruit as well. A wise man once said, "Creativity is the art of disguising your sources", and while there are many sides to this we've all seen before, they're presented in such a breezy, fast-paced fashion that one is inclined not to care and just go along for the rollercoaster ride. Between this and The Highwaymen, I believe Bernardin and Freeman are looking like rookies of the year as far as giving us entertaining comics so far. Sorat's art reminds, as so many these days seem to, Paul Pope or a looser Becky Cloonan- in fact, he's often too loose and coherence is often sacrificed at the altar of swooshy speed lines and exaggerated anatomy during the course of the story. It's a problem, but not a big one, and I expect him to get better as time goes on. Inoshiro Honda would be proud, I'd bet. B+

S/A: Brandon Graham. (Oni, $5.99, reviewed from B&W preview copy)

Engaging, imaginative fantasy which reminds me a lot of Vaughn Bodé or even Moebius and Miyazaki, ever so slightly. I'm not familiar with Graham's other work, such as Tokyopop's King City, but if it's as clever as this, I might just have to check it out. Heaven knows I'm tired of dystopic future scenarios, but this manages to transcend that and become quite its own thing. His art is mostly thin-lined and open, with lots of white space and the occasional solid blacks, there for visual balance more than anything, and even more rare gray tones...sometimes it's a bit simplistic, but his figures are almost always graceful and attractive, and once in a while he busts out with some impressively detailed machinery or spaceships, just to show he can, I suppose. Anyway, here's yet another talent worth watching, and this series might just be as well. A-

S: Pete Milligan; A: C.P. Smith. (DC/Wildstorm, $2.99)

Milligan casts coherence to the wind as he gives us the opening chapter of some sort of Sci-Fi/Military Tech thriller, with myriad plot threads encompassing a myriad of time frames, from WWII to the present day, and what seems (at least right now) to be a tale of some sort of long-buried WWII super-soldier project that has been revived today, with consequences yet to be revealed. But by steadfastly refusing to give us anything more that brief glimpses of what's going on in any time frame, he makes this more of a slog than it should be. However, Milligan's too good a writer to let it go at that; I'm sure he'll eventually rein it in. I hope so, anyway. Smith, for his part, does a good enough job on art; his style looks like a clone of Alex Maleev, and fortunately I'm disposed to like that style. He does a lot towards evoking the mood of imminent disaster that Milligan's shooting for, especially when combined with Johnny Rench's garish colors. I don't know- this just feels like it's going to be decent, but that's just a hunch and not based on this one issue. Might be one to wait for the trade on. More than anything, though, it makes me long for the return of The Winter Men. B-

S: Jon Layman, Tom Peyer, Jim Massey; A: Scott Chantler, Robbi Rondriguez. (Oni, $3.99)

On TV, Colbert's arched-eyebrow satire of TV political pundits works pretty well, although I've never found it as funny as he, or his followers, seem to think it is. And this from one who does not skew Red-stater. In comics, however, especially recast in a Sci-Fi setting, it comes across as Duck Dodgers, only not as clever. Nicely illustrated by Chantler and Rodriguez, but a disappointment nonetheless. C

BEST IN SHOW: Honestly, BLACK METAL. It was tons o'fun.
DOG OF THE WEEK(S): MADMAN ATOMIC COMICS #3. I was not impressed.

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