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Ahead of the Invisible Curve: Reviews of 6/29 Books…

Brian Hibbs

Ahh, holiday weekends. They are truly lovely things, even if you’re a guy stuck in an office on a Saturday. Now that I’ve finished the few crackpot jobs lying around, I’ve got time to grouse about this week’s books for those of you who’ll next check out this site on Tuesday…or Wednesday…or sometime, maybe. Despite all the fake-outs Hibbs and I have been pulling lately with the “I’m not doing reviews/ no wait, I am after all,” he assured me that he’s not doing reviews this week. He’s off doing a family thing and is staying in some hotel down in, uhh, Santa Barbara, I guess? As always, Hibbs talked about it with all the gusto of a convicted prisoner describing his upcoming trip to the gallows, but the important thing is I can pass along his observations about the books (when I remember ’em) and not feel like I’m stepping on his toes.

And it’s not a review, so much as an observation, but didn’t Land of the Dead kinda seem like what you’d get if George Romero and Gene Roddenberry had collaborated on a TV show pilot? Very odd…

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #521: Nothing worse than an issue where the main characters have to act like genuine idiots in order to get any story going at all. (I’m too lazy to look up the exact entry, but google Kung-Fu Monkey for the term “carrying the idiot ball.”) I’m kinda aghast at how far downhill JMS has gone on this title. Awful.

AUTHORITY LOBO SPRING BREAK MASSACRE: Although Giffen writes them in a straightforward fashion, I was delighted by how Bisley makes The Authority look like a pack of deranged supercreeps. I don’t like Lobo and the story did more or less nothing for me, but the art alone (not even close to Bisley’s best, mind you, although his rabbit dictator was amazing) makes this a pretty high OK.

BATGIRL #65: Hibbs liked the dark humor of the ending but thought this was nothing special otherwise; I thought it was both unrealistic and unnuanced. Although I haven’t bothered to keep up with the Batgirl title for a long time, I kinda felt like the story was unfair to the character: apart from Batman, there was no conversation that didn’t begin with a fight, end with a fight, or take place during a fight–and those were with her friends and family. Maybe that last match would’ve meant a little more if it’d been different from the rest of the issue. Eh.

BATMAN #641: Okay, finally with the reveal promised a bunch of issues ago. And I thought this worked well–the art is pretty and Judd’s given the Hood an enjoyable mix of wit and bitterness that gave the issue much more emotional resonance than I thought it might. But it also had a very abrupt ending, and the ground covered in the discussion between Bats and RH sounded more like the talking points of one of Judd’s interviews than I would have liked. There’s a lot of potential in the storyline, but I worry that bad habits on the part of either the writer or editorial could wreck this pretty easily. Good.

BATMAN ALLIES SECRET FILES 2005: Hibbs was pretty funny about this: “Allies? Batman doesn’t have any allies anymore! Shouldn’t they call this the Batman Non-Enemies Secret Files?” I really liked the half-page Joker anecdote in Will Pfeifer and Ron Randall’s story but thought the rest of it lived up to the sloppiness of the title. Super-low Eh.

FANTASTIC FOUR #528: You just gotta wonder about Reed Richards. He’s the smartest guy on Earth, has supposedly been working on Ben Grimm’s cure forever and still seems utterly out of it when it comes to the accident that created the FF–this is no particular slam against JMS, it’s pretty much always been the case, but boy does it seem creakier every time it’s trotted out. And Reed’s analysis of why each of the four got the powers that they did made me nostalgic for a topless Adrienne Barbeau, since the idea seems cribbed from Wes Craven’s Swamp Thing movie more or less outright. But the “Ben Grimm, Millionaire” plot has some potential, I guess. Let’s go with Eh.

FLASH #222 and #223: I liked it, particularly since Johns loads two sub-plots into the Boomerang subplot. [Note: I’d missed the previous issue of Flash and so read both at the store. As Peter Adriaenssens pointed out in the comments, almost all of this review is about Flash #222. Oy!] I almost wish he’d tried for more: “Don’t tell him who his mother is! And keep him away from his broth–Aghhhh! Oh, and I’m not his real father! It’s actually Barry Alll–urghhh! But for God’s sake, tell him to be careful with the anti-life equation tattooed on his testi–clahhhhh!” Good, because I did like it but seriously, between this and Teen Titans (and Wonder Woman…), I’m wondering if DC is preparing us for Infinite Paternity Crisis… [And since that was all about Flash #222, I wonder how good Flash #223 actually was. I remember it ended with The Reverse-Flash and the cosmic treadmill; I also remember Reverse-Flash kept insisting he wasn’t a villain, which must make things a little complex when he’s, you know, meeting with his Secret Society of Super-Villains and everything… Anyway, let’s call both issues Good and go back to pretending I know what I’m talking about, okay? Thanks!]

GREEN LANTERN #2: Kinda dull, and can DC ever bring back one version of Manhunter, without bringing back every version of Manhunter at the same time? It seems to do no one any favors. Eh.

GRIMOIRE #4: Missed last issue (again), but I’ll definitely be picking up the trade on this one when they get it out. A very enjoyable read. Good.

OMAC PROJECT #3: I am deeply confused by those last two pages. Isn’t Clark out in space looking for that satellite? Is Max Lord doing his brain-worky thingy? Or did he travel back in time and space to impregnate Lara on the Planet Krypton? (Crafty Max Lord! Crafty Infinite Paternity Crisis!) Hibbs actually had a better take on the whole deal, since he noticed that Jack Kirby is getting a creator credit for OMAC on the title page. On the one hand, he pointed out, this is the sort of stuff that Kirby would *not* have wanted his name associated with it since Kirby was all about the sweep and the uplift of the new, and this is very much the grim and gritty retconning and regurging of the old. But, on the other hand, Kirby would have wanted his name on it if it meant Roz was getting some money, and got money every time OMAC appeared. If anyone knows what the arrangement is, we’d be mighty interested…. Eh.

OUTSIDERS #25: And so Judd Winick kills the only relationship in the book that I cared about. Also, DC talks a pretty good talk about “quality control” and “tightly managed crossovers,” but this leads directly into the first issue of a mini that came out a month ago, dramatically stunting its impact. I can sorta let Judd off the hook since I really get the feeling the guy really wants to be Chris Claremont circa 1982, and it’s the sort of thing that might’ve maybe worked if the rest of the team weren’t snarly asshats, but DC, on the other hand, has no excuse. Between the scheduling snafus and the lack of crossover notices on the cover, the DCU comes across less like a meticulously coordinated universe and more like a clumsy daisy chain of “goddamned plotless free-for-alls” (to paraphrase Kurt Busiek’s timeless quote on the CE bathroom wall). Somewhere between Awful and Eh.

PENNY & AGGIE #1: Not exactly brilliant stuff, but it’s an attempt to bring a different kind of a book to the market (it’s sorta/kinda like Betty & Veronica in a daily webcomic version of Clueless) and, although it straddles the line between incompetent and inept somewhat precariously, it never entirely flies off into the void of crapitude. Very much Eh, but with the hopes the creators get some chops, develop a more comfortable format to develop their storylines in, and find the skills to suit their ambition. It’d be worth it.

PLANETARY #23: A damned keen issue although the “Worst. Rescue. Ever.” line harshed my buzz a little bit. A very admirable job of both filling in us in on the Drummer (finally!) and underscoring how much of the drama of the finale may well rest on Snow’s internal struggles. Very Good.

SEVEN SOLDIERS SHINING KNIGHT #3: Sadly reminded me of my experience with Sartrean existentialism: Either there’s no real there there and the same stuff just keeps gettting said over and over and over, or I am totally missing fine gradations of nuance and it just seems like the same stuff keeps geting said over and over and over. Considering how badly Morrison telegraphed the identity of the white-haired chick, I’m thinking it’s more the latter. Barring an unforeseen fourth issue Hail Mary, this is a very disappointing Awful.

SHAUN OF THE DEAD #1: This is why Hibbs and I should do reviews at the same time more often: He, having never seen the movie, thought this was funny and a good adaptation; I, who have seen the movie, thought it was a well-intentioned disaster as punchline after punchline gets stamped on or blown. Adapting a movie to a comic is a torturous affair, to be sure, and the one element that suffers the most–timing–is the thing that makes or breaks a comedy. It’s trying hard to do the impossible, but I thought this was Awful (particularly since, at $3.99 a pop, you can buy the entire movie on DVD cheaper than you can read the adaptation). Hibbs, on the other hand, thought it was Good and is now interested in seeing the movie, so go figure.

SOLO #5: Oh my god, this was good. Shockingly good. I’m a fan of Darwyn Cooke’s since before New Frontier and I was still shocked at how good this was. Every one of the stories work, the interludes work, the fun page works, the pin-up page, right out of the heyday of men’s magazines, works, and it all works well by being clever and intelligent and gorgeous to look at. I’ve been really freakin’ stingy with the Excellent ratings since SavCrit got restarted as a blog, so pretend it came from Brian: this is Excellent work and absolutely the best bang-for-your-buck of the week. Go get it.

SPAWN #147: I check this title out every once in a while to make sure I’m not missing anything. I’m not. Awful.

SPIDER MAN HUMAN TORCH #5: If nothing else, a pretty great argument for why Spider-Man would make more sense on the Fantastic Four than on the Avengers. Darn heavy on the sentimentality, but arguably well-earned by all the preceding issues of the miniseries (and, by extension, all the Spidey/Torch stories of yesteryear). A good Spider-Man story is my weak spot, so I can’t blame you if you disbelieve the Very Good rating (in fact, I can imagine Hibbs saying, “Yeahhhh, it was all right, I guess. It wasn’t that good, though.”) but I quite liked it. (Take that, Imaginary Hibbs!)

SURROGATES #1: Competent and assured science fiction (although Hibbs thought it started to fall apart if you read the text pieces, which I didn’t); kinda reminded me of prime Bradbury (without the treacle) (and that example probably doesn’t really tell you more than how generally apathetic I am about science fiction literature). I quite liked it, faux Ashley Wood/Ben Templesmith style art and all. A high Good.

WONDER WOMAN #217: I’m no continuity nerd, but…it looks like the events at the end of this get Wonder Woman caught up for DC Countdown, right? So why does Wonder Girl still think her dad might be Ares in issues of Teen Titans that take place after Countdown when she finds out for sure here? Whatever. Eh.

X-MEN #172: Come back, Chuck Austen, all is forgiven! My new theory is that the editor on X-Men refuses to accept any script outlines that do not read like bad fanfic, and this issue is Exhibit A. Awful, but more like Ewwwwful.

X-MEN KITTY PRYDE SHADOW & FLAME #1: Paul Smith did the art for this and it breaks my heart: a great talent working on a less-than-great script. Beautiful but less than Eh. So sad.

YOUNG AVENGERS #5: The romantic stuff with Iron Lad and Giant Chick seemed to come out of left field, and some of the action scenes caused some head-scratching but I am really enjoying this comic anyway. There’ve been missteps with every issue and yet each issue has enough Good stuff to it, I don’t care.

PICK OF THE WEEK: Solo #5 by the remarkable Darwyn Cooke. No question.

PICK OF THE WEAK: Shining Knight #3 because of the whole dashed expectations thing, or maybe Spawn #147 because it just keeps sucking and sucking and sucking…

TRADE PICK OF THE WEEK: Haven’t really started anything, but I was pretty damn excited to have taken home The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck by Don Rosa, and am looking forward to reading it over the holiday weekend.

I still haven’t written anything on The Push Man and would still like to, and may let you know when I post the latest Fanboy because I was pretty amused when I wrote it, but that’ll probably be around the middle of the week. Happy Fourth to those of you celebrating it!

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