Tuesday, June 10, 2008


It's time once more for another Spinner Rack Junkie- that more-or-less ongoing and often overdue feature in which I write capsule reviews of various works of sequential fiction that I have perused in the interval since the last time I inflicted such reviews upon one and all, or to be specific, the period from approximately May 24th to June 6th, 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.

ALL STAR SUPERMAN #11: The big guy continues to prepare for his imminent demise, even as Luthor pulls an Indestructible Man, contriving to give himself 24-hour super powers to boot, then sics our old friend Solaris the Living Sun on him- a nice example of successfully returning to the scene of former storylines by Mr. Morrison. Also along is Luthor's villainous niece, of whom I've previously been unaware, and I can't say that I regret my ignorance even though she's part of a nicely cynical scene involving Lois and Jimmy, aka the Press. All in all, another very good issue; if Grant's spreading himself too thin, and more on that a few reviews down, it's not immediately apparent as this is fast-paced, full of stuff both overt and covert, and as much fun as can be managed, considering the downbeat tone of the whole thing. Quitely, with a lot of help from Photoshop inker Jamie Grant, brings his usual dry, static layout style (and also, once again, Supes' ill-fitting costume) to the proceedings, but by emphasizing the small things, such as the bullet crushing itself against Luthor's palm, it enhances and suggests action just as successfully as all the speed lines and force bursts you can muster, and of course brings out all the connections intended to be made by the dialogue. A

CATWOMAN #79: As nice as it is to have Selina back on the real Earth and free of all the sci-fi bullshit, it seems that we've returned to overfamiliar territory as she is once more involved with Slam Bradley and all the other dangling plot threads (including a couple that I thought had been resolved already) that have been around for what seems like years now. Well, we do get a different villain of sorts, and there's nothing wrong with at least letting us see how CW gets payback for being shipped off to the Salvation Run planet...but it's just a little played-out feeling, that's all. Still, the character interaction is great as always, and the Lopezes once more turn in a good art job. I can't wait to see what Pfiefer has up his sleeve next for Sel- oh. Wait. B+

DAREDEVIL #107: This is still non-stop wigged-out DD, and thus verging on the tedious, and on top of that we have yet another plotline in which a convict is accused of something he apparently didn't do, and it's up to our boy to set things straight. This works more as a Dakota North spotlight than it does as a Daredevil story, and that's OK with me...I just wish that someone could make this book fresh again. Until then, it's either bail or accompany Matt through the wilderness of his soul, it seems, because I don't see this glum direction shifting anytime soon. B

FABLES #73: More war maneuvers, and the first signs of the other shoe dropping that I've been concerned with for so long. Otherwise, without lapsing into my 100 Bullets-type can't-think-of-anything-new-to-say review style, I'll just say that this is another solid issue, and am steadfastly along for the ride, as long as it lasts. A-

FINAL CRISIS #1: Dear Comics Blogosphere: you DO realize that we still have six issues of this to go, right? Everybody and their great-grandmother are analyzing this like it was a Watchmen omnibus or something, when it's merely one chapter of a much bigger story and not really even as dense in its way as Seven Soldiers #0 was. I think everyone needs to step back and breathe a little. As someone who has pretty much ignored DC's prior multi-issue crossover folderol so far and doesn't feel even slightly poorer for doing so, I don't really care if what Morrison lays out here doesn't jibe with certain plot points in some other comic that I couldn't care less about. I can see others' point about this issue, but it certainly seems to me that at this stage in Big Two history, continuity is out the freaking window and running down the highway by now anyway, so caring about it is an exercise in futility and takes up energies that could be best devoted to something worthwhile. Morrison's low-key approach suits the material, I think; I believe an objective tone is the best way to go. Under- rather than overstate, which does fly in the face of a lot of superhero books these days, I know. Sometimes this tone is self-defeating; the petty, offputtingly undignified death of J'onn J'onzz follows a really nice scene in which villains sit around and verbally bitch-slap each other, thus canceling themselves out. Even though I honestly feel like he's spread himself too thin over the last couple of years, I have observed that he generally plans this stuff out well enough to where I think that he has not given us the final word on that subject. The operative phrase here, I think, is WAIT and SEE. If he still comes across as flying by the seat of his pants after #7, as he did with Seven Soldiers #1, then it's open season as far as I'm concerned...and even then I will give him the benefit of the doubt because I, for one, would like to see him just take at least a year off and recharge his batteries. Right now, he's as close as he's ever been to churning out product, complete with the DC de rigueur Batman/Wonder Woman/Superman sitting at a table and...discussing stuff...as much a current fixture in their books, it seems, as apes on covers once was- and that is not good. Anyway, it helps that he has a talented, proven collaborator not named Quitely do bring this to life; Jones is such a talented illustrator that he's capable of adding nuance and feeling even when none is there. Sure, he's on the static side when depicting mayhem, but when it comes to action art, as with Quitely, J.G. Jones is more concerned with showing us the still-life moments that make up the act, rather than trying to somehow simulate the action itself sequentially; sort of a Peckinpah-like approach, I'd imagine. Maybe it's just blind allegiance due to his much-loved-by-me art stints on the first Yelena Belova Black Widow miniseries, or Marvel Boy...but I always enjoy his work, and I'm not so sure I would be buying this if he weren't illustrating it. So, to sum, pretty much love the art, found more to like than to dislike about the story (and while I'm thinking about it, "muk-muks" doesn't sound any less idiotic when Grant's doing it than when Kirby did it, as much as I like the Dan Turpin character) and am willing to be patient with it. I hope my confidence is not misplaced. B+

HAWAIIAN DICK: SCREAMING BLACK THUNDER #4: With only one issue left to go, I'm pleased to report that I've gotten used to Scott Chantler's take on Byrd and Co.. I love Northwest Passage, as I'm always taking pains to point out, but until this issue I've always thought he was awkward fit here. He hasn't changed, it seems, I have...and that's good because while this would still be an enjoyable chapter, in which more seems to happen than the first four put together, it's always more pleasurable when I can enjoy both working in tandem. A-

JOHN CONSTANTINE: HELLBLAZER #244: Finale of the two-part Vatican-baiting adventure, and it's well done with a left-field twist at the end which, when the big picture is considered, is no less satisfying. The Giuseppe Camuncoli/Stefano Landini fill-in art is OK, no more no less, possessed of a willfully angular look which sometimes reminds me of primo Richard Case. That said, any artist team that makes me wish to see Leo Manco back has two strikes against it already in my scorebook. B+

NORTHLANDERS #6: Well, I don't really like protagonist Sven any better now that I know more about him, but I do certainly admire his courage in his convictions, whatever the hell they are. Nice character work, especially dialogue, plus the desire to see where Wood is taking this is the impetus that's keeping me laying down my three bucks. Well, that and the grubby but quietly outstanding art that David Gianfelice brings to the table- he's under the radar now, but I look at his art and seriously think he's a star in the making, or at least an heir to that Frank Frazetta-type historical fantasy adventure artist throne that no one seems to be willing to take up. Gianfelice is my nominee. A-

NUMBER OF THE BEAST #4: Beautifully drawn, as always- in my book, Sprouse is as good as it gets these days, especially when inked by Karl Story. But four issues in, they're giving us leftovers, and even worse putting on airs about it as if this is a SIGNIFICANT EVENT IN COMICS HISTORY, when really all it is is yet another multi-character Crisis-style sci-fi spandex melodrama. It's far from unreadable, especially now that they've stopped introducing everybody and everything in the dialogue, and I suspect that this would be a decent rainy-day read when collected. But one issue at a time, I'm just not feeling it much despite the fact that it looks real purty. B-

SCALPED #17: By sticking to the big picture here, Jason Aaron may have whiffed on the chance to deliver an emotionally charged home run in the course of this ongoing series...but as is, it's still plenty deep and dramatic, and I derive particular pleasure from seeing how he's setting up nominal villain Lincoln Red Crow to be instead in the great tradition of the honorable cad a la Deadwood's Al Swearengen, a man who's willing to do whatever it takes to advance his goals, but has an internal code of ethics that he will not willingly violate. I look forward to seeing his story unfold even more than I do the lead character Dash Bad Horse, who certainly gets his share of the spotlight as well. And then, we get a curve thrown at us via an ending that I certainly didn't see coming, and which raises questions that I'm not sure I want answered in that fashion. Guera is solid as always on art; I wish he could curb his tendency to get cartoonish in his faces, but that's nitpicking- he more than makes up for it with his composition and his good sense of blackspotting. Another excellent issue, and the third trade's coming out in a month or two... A

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