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A Few More 9/9 Books….

Brian Hibbs

Hey, everyone. It’s Jeff. I really didn’t read very many books this week (and bought even less) so initially I figured I’d just skip over doing any reviews this week. But, since I’m tired of sitting here trying to brainstorm the funny for the next FBR, I figured this would be a fine way to productively procrastinate.

So let’s see:

ACTION COMICS #819: Huh. I was looking forward to this because Superman was fighting new villains called “Sodom & Gomorrah” and that seemed so dumb, I thought it would be fun. But, you know, now I wonder: is Chuck Austen, by assigning the names to a husband & wife supervillain team/straw man argument, putting forward the idea that marriage is so heinous a sin in the Lord’s eyes, it should be destroyed? I mean, the rest of the issue is Lana Lang dismissing her marriage while also trying to dismiss Clark & Lois’s, and as far as I can tell, this is the first superhero comic to be structured after Harold Pinter’s Betrayal. All the sort of thing a college-boy like me would be smacking my lips over happily, right? Sadly, although I admire the ambitious cut of Austen’s gib, he just doesn’t have the skills to back it all up: if nothing else, using the actions of characters to underscore points when absolutely no nuance or consistency is shown in manipulating their actions does little to advance an argument. I hope Mr. Austen considers this point before going on to tackle Who’s Afraid of Virginia Werewolf by Night? Eh.

BITE CLUB #6: Uhhhhh, and they’re vampires why, again, exactly? I admit to skimmming this entire miniseries for the patented Chaykin Deviant Sex (and those startling Quitely covers) but did the vampirism serve any point, under than hide at the pitch stage what a big bag of cliches this was going to be? Awful.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #31: See, this is why Robert Kirkman is a fan favorite, and Ron Marz is Public Enemy No. 1: Kirkman kills the girlfriend in the kitchen, but at no point puts her in an appliance of any sort. See how it’s done, Ron? That’s classy. Awful.

GOTHAM CENTRAL #23: Previously my complaint about GC is I tend to love an issue until the last page when they bring in a Bat-villain. This ducks that by putting the villain up front in a tense shoot-out, and then uses that opening as a springboard for a story about internal politics, and is really great reading. It’s part one and could easily go astray from here, but this was a high Very Good, and definitely worth picking up.

JSA #65: Although most of the set-up gets covered, I wish Johns had thrown in a bit of crucial info for new readers (and guys with no short-term recall, like me): what’s the clock count-down again? That’s the amount of time Hourman Sr. & Jr. have together again? Or the amount of time Hourman Sr. has when back in limbo with other people? And what happens again when that time runs out? Something bad, I’m sure, but….? Still, apart from all the head-scratching on my part, I thought this was Good.

OUTSIDERS #15: I know it’s just me, but the digital color over pencils makes the art look like those foreign comics where snakes ooze out of people’s mouths onto somebody’s mutilated breast: seamy, that’s the word I’m looking for. That, and Judd’s affably cynical take on superhero books (The Fatal Five discussing which country to bomb with President Luthor’s stolen secret nukes was fun) made this book read a little–I dunno? darker? stranger? potentially off-putting-er?–than I think is intended. But, y’know, I think it’s just supposed to be fun superhero comics 2004, and for that it’s OK.

POWERS #4: Since I disagreed a bit with the set-up from last issue, I can’t buy into everything that’s going on here. And, also, the whole “cop killer who decides not to kill the cop but give her up to somebody who really hates her shit” twist is not gritty crime drama, it’s just pulp plot device #307, and managed to completely deflate whatever tension this situation might have. Loved that last two page splash, though: Using a chain of horizontal speech balloons to make the reader do a slow pan over the page? Awesome. OK.

THE PULSE #5: If this had come out a month after the last one, I think the storyline may have been fresh enough to have moved me (although I doubt it: wasn’t close to a quarter of the arc spent on Ben Urich and Peter Parker doing the secret identity blabbity-blab?) but it didn’t and so the triumph of the newsteam was represented rather than felt, making Jessica’s following scene lack any counterpoint. Also, this issue (and to a certain extent, Millar’s Spider-Man) shows how broken The Green Goblin concept is. I can understand that nobody likes the hoary chestnut of Norman conveniently getting amnesia whenever the fights over (I’m sure even Stan, if he had known the character was going to be around for thirty years, would have come up with something else) but this whole thing of him knowing who Peter is and not saying anything even when he’s being outted and humiliated to the whole world is unbelievable. And back in the day, there would be a whole Spidey-angst moment where Spider-Man might even be tempted to save Norman so as to keep his own identity secret, but nope. I can understand not wanting to write that story again–I don’t much want to read it, either–and I can understand not wanting to out Spider-Man’s secret identity (and I heartily approve, believe me). But then, you’ve either got to drop the Green Goblin or come up with a new way to work it, because all it does is pretty much advertise how little sense it makes. Eh.

PUNISHER #11: Oy. Be careful what you wish for, I guess. Hibbs and I have argued about how to handle The Punisher before, and my take is that the writer has to tell tough crime/noir stories about people under the hammer and The Punisher as a symbol of all the evil shit they’ve done catching up to them, and now that it’s here, I can barely stand to read it. It could well be that with the length between issues, the lack of any recap whatsoever, and the cast of roughly a dozen (and it seemed like last time I looked, it was maybe six), I’m just confused and tuning it out. Or it could be that it’s a rushed, underdeveloped, garish mess. I really can’t tell, but it can’t be good news for sales either way, I think. I’m gonna plead No Rating but I think anyone picking this up just out of the blue would well think Awful.

SHE-HULK #7: Yeah, Slott and Bobillo are a really great team–I get the sense Bobillo has no idea who Beta Ray Bill is but is nevertheless thrilled to draw a horse wearing boxing gloves–and I liked this issue a lot. Between this and Promethea, that King Solomon gag should probably be retired, but then again, I laughed at both variations, so… Good.

SPIDER-MAN #6: I liked that page that reads like an outtake from Wanted, where Sandman calls bullshit on the Tigra pelt because his cousin is married to Boomerang and knows she’s still alive…which brings the sum total of pages I’ve liked from Millar’s work on this to: one. The rest of the time, I find it to be very badly-written with almost no attention paid from one page to the next: Things are so bad Mary Jane’s packing heat! And she’s so broke, Jameson’s making fun of her! (But then, how could she afford the gun? Or, for that matter, why are she and Peter eating out? Is Millar so buried in Marvel Dollars he no longer understands the idea of “broke,” except as melodramatic conceit?) I don’t like the grim-n-gritty approach to Spidey in the first place, so I can’t say I would like it here even if it was done well, but it’s just not. Awful.

TEEN TITANS #15: Liked the payoff better than the set-up, with a positioning of Gar Logan beyond that whiny misfit undercurrent he’s frequently given. I don’t think anyone’s learned the Sinestro lesson though: a hero and villain with the exact same powers fighting seems totally cool, but is in fact incredibly dull. At least Johns and Grummet try to give it a visual panache, and make it mercifully brief. A high OK.

TOYFARE #87: Is it just me, or was that the first time in maybe ever that Twisted Toyfare Theater wasn’t funny? All the other usual dialogue balloons throughout were really good, but wow. Was itAssistant Editor’s Month for TTT or something? Shocking.

Jesus, what was that–eleven million words? I was gonna gab about In The Shadow of No Towers, Persepolis 2 (and god help me, I can’t turn off the fucking “Electric Boogaloo” meme) and/or the Essential Super-Villain Team-Up–which thanks to Namor being an anti-hero rather than a villian, fighting Dr. Doom more than he teams-up with him, and the book being completely inessential, should get some sort of award for the irony content of its title being a perfect 10.0–but instead, I think I’m gonna get something to eat.

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