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An Invitation, Plus Jeff’s Reviews of 10/18 Books…

Jeff Lester

Oh, man. Thank God Hibbs has been posting and Graeme’s back in the game, because I’ve been a busy little chimp. I’d like to say the worst is over and I’ll be back to posting reliably, but…well, that’s why we have three people writing this, I guess.

Speaking of writing, National Novel Writing Month is right around the corner, and I wanted to invite any and all who might be interested in giving it a go. Nanowrimo is a great way to break old bad writing habits, develop bad new writing habits, and write a crappy 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I love it to death, although this may be the last year for me for a while–I’ve got five stinky first drafts sitting around and really have no need for a sixth–but I recommend it for anyone who’s always said they were going to try their hand at a novel “someday.” I’ve got a small mailing list of people doing Nano, so I also invite you to drop me a line at PIGdotLA/TINatGM/AILdotCOM (remove the two ‘/’ marks and convert the rest appropriately) after you’ve registered at nano’s website if you want to be part of my list. (Believe me, you’ll find plenty of community even without my mailing list–Nano’s message boards and community are supportive and extensive.)

So, there you go.

100 BULLETS #77: Too lazy to review TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED from last week, but wanted to echo the praise for the Dr. 13 feature there–the art was gorgeous, but even more stunning (for me) was Azzarello’s successful creation of a voice different from his typical “who you think you are , winnie the fucking pooh?” “No, but I think I *am* winning this fucking pool” “Not once I finish skinning this fucking fool,” etc., etc., you typically find here. If you’re looking for something a bit different from “the Azz,” go find that premiere issue of TALES.

52 WEEK #24: Last two weeks of this have been great fun although this issue took a strong turn into What-The-Fucksville right at the very end. The whole set-up with Super Chief only having his powers for an hour makes you expect that he’s going to get chronoblasted an hour into the future, but, um, instead, he’s, like, dead and stuff? And getting lectured by some spirit about who he fucked things up by expecting power without sacrifice and like that? Made not a lick of sense, particularly since one would think grandfather-smothering fits most traditional definitions of “sacrifice.” Oh, well. Great art by Phil Jimenez (definitely the loveliest looking issue of 52 yet) and a prominent appearance by Ambush Bug puts this at a high Good, anyway.

ANITA BLAKE VH GUILTY PLEASURES #1: This should have huge crossover appeal: I know at least three people at work who swear by the Anita Blake books, and two of ’em might probably be tempted to pick this up. Me, I flipped through it and couldn’t quite bring myself to read it–I know it sounds snobbish but if the work isn’t being adapted by the author, I don’t much care. (It’s why I doubt I’ll bother with the upcoming Dark Tower stuff from Marvel, as well.) But if your idea of a dramatic cliffhanger is seeing a vampire get a knee to the chump stump, then maybe you’ll be more receptive.

AUTHORITY #1: I found both the Morrison Worldstorm books underwhelming, but for different reasons. Here, you’ve got some amazing Gene Ha art and absoutely nothing happening. I think I know where this is going–The Authority is going to end up in “our” world–and if so, the evocation of real life is fascinatingly dreary (I particularly liked the blurring as a way to evoke movement without resorting to any kind of speed lines and the associations with comice they might evoke). Lovely, but, seriously: Nothing. Happens. Supremely gorgeous Eh.

BIRDS OF PREY #99: Aw, and here I was hoping the new Batgirl would be, basically, Batmite (the teleportation, the thrown together outfit, the weirdo speech patterns–it all fit). Alas, no. Anyway, I continue to be emotionally vested in BoP, despite never quite being contented with any particular issue, and I can’t imagine that’s going to improve as we lose Black Canary. But who knows? Soundly OK.

BLADE #2: I know I read comics way too quickly, but at what point did Blade decide he was going to save Doom’s mother instead of kill her? It seemed like he changed his mind between panels or something, didn’t it? Still, if you’ve got to buy only one Chaykin drawn title out of the last year or so (sadly, the Chaykin fans I know have bought all of them), this is probably be the one to go–there’s a lot more dynamism in the art here than I’ve seen from the Chay-man recently. Eh.

CABLE DEADPOOL #33: I don’t get it. Why would you spoil your cliffhanger ending on the recap page? Is it some wacky “by spoiling it, I’m actually not spoiling it because the readers will never expect me to actually spoil it” double-blind? Middle of the OK scale for that reason, although it’s a pretty decent issue overall.

CASANOVA #5: I’ve got quibbleage–for one thing, this issue is as heavy-handed in its way as some of the DC “message” books from the ’70s (although I found that kinda charming, even as it dragged me right the fuck out of the narrative)–but five issues in five months and you can pick ’em all up for a hair under ten bucks? This is really Good work despite minor complaints, and a great deal.

CATWOMAN #60: Similarly, what I like about this title currently is what’s also driving me crazy–like many of my beloved Marvel titles in the ’70s, this title appears to be so far under people’s radar that it’s free to do all kinds of quirky, crazy crap. But it’s also unfocused, draggy and almost all about the villain who, while entertaining, is really, really one note. It’s Eh, unfortunately, and I’m frustrated I’m not having as much fun reading it as the writer seems to be writing it.

CHECKMATE #7: I missed last issue so: Hey! The Suicide Squad! Probably too little too late, as far as sales go, though. The story probably has too many ideas and characters already, as well, so–kind of a bust. More or less OK, and maybe better if last issue set things up well.

CIVIL WARDROBE: Ouch. I’m a fan of Rich Johnston’s writing (I have the first two issues of Holed Up somewhere, although I can barely remember reading them) but this really stank. I thought the first three pages were kinda funny as Johnston does a parody of the opening of Civil War #1, but that’s just a set-up for unamusing single-page riffs on Marvel characters–imagine Not Brand Ecchh as a pin-up book and that’s Civil Wardrobe. I wanted to like this, I really did, but it was Awful.

DAMNED #1: Initially, I thought this was gonna be a slog–the milieu where gangsters and demons mix freely seems fresh from the High Concept Easy-Bake Oven–but the creators are taking their cues from Miller’s Crossing (or The Glass Key, take your pick) and that helps makes the protagonist a cut above your usual hard-boiled mug. If it can keep itself from being too derivative of the work(s) inspiring it, it could be quite Good, and, frankly, even it does get a little too derivative, I’m a big enough Miller’s Crossing fan to not care. Not great, but surprisingly Good.

DESOLATION JONES #7: Hmm. Interestingly, I think new artist Daniel Zezelj will make me want more from this than I did on the first arc. There, the suave J.H. Williams III made the various pop nods seem inherently woven into the theme of the work. Here, Zezelj’s work brings a spareness that could make a similar approach feel flat (if Williams had been doing the work, I’m sure I would’ve been much more giddy to see the Phil Dick book pop up) as things become more–I dunno, unadorned?–in the telling. Fortunately, Ellis seems up to the challenge in Round I (I thought it was great that the characters introduced each other at the begining of each scene, for example. True, they were probably written that way before Zezelj signed on, but as it made the storytelling a thousand times so much clearer, I’m not entirely sure) and I’m lookng forward to the next issue. Finally, kudos to Jose Villarubia for helping ease the transition between two very different art styles–there’s something about that urine-yellow sky that ties the two arcs together for me. Very Good.

HELLSTORM SON OF SATAN #1: A lot like the Son of Satan stories I remember reading as a kid: surprisingly superheroish art, an interest on the part of the writer in everything but Satanism, and capable of fostering the suspicion in the reader that, maybe, if you think about it for a while, the Son of Satan really *isn’t* that cool an idea. Eh but I’m in for another issue because dammit, he’s the Son of Satan! He could be really cool!

JOHN WOO’S SEVEN BROTHERS #1: Struck a pretty good balance–it read more briskly than most current Ennis work but it didn’t seem like he phoned it in, either–and I think that Ennis has ideas about brotherhood, courage and sacrifice similar to Woo’s, even if the work of the two men is different in tons of other ways. Highly OK, I thought, but hardcore Woo fans or non-Ennis readers probably won’t think so much of it.

KING OF KINGS #1: This actually came out 10/11, but I’m so smitten with this book I wanted to mention it. It starts off in a futuristic, Blade Runnerish city and a sky car wherein a prostitute discuses Scripture with a client. Then, another prostitute (named, I shit you not, Gomer) shows up and the two prostitutes start arguing about the accuracy of Biblical prophecies, and then giant crabs show up and bite off people’s shins. In short, if the words “Jack Chick manga” strike any sort of sympathetic chord with you, seek this book out. Beautifully drawn and batshit crazy, I loved it from start to finish. No rating, because we don’t really have a “So Bad It’s Heavenly” rating.

LONE RANGER #2: A little heavy on modern remake syndrome (where everything you expect is given a twist so that, for example, Tonto first appears saying “How. …did you ever survive so many gunshot wounds?”) but an unsettling and over the top villain, some fine art and a general intelligence make up for it. (Gotta say, though, between the evil, flensing murderer here, the cowardly pimp in Seven Brothers and the New Orleans muggers of Hellstorm, it’s not really the best week for portrayals of African-Americans, no matter how Casanova #5 tries.) High side of OK–I’ll be back for more.

MS MARVEL #8: First: The Shroud lost his eyesight in a ritual scarification ceremony that’s part of his origin so I have no idea who this Shroud is. Second: Every character in this book is more likeable than the title character and I don’t think that’s really a good direction for the book. Third: I wonder if Marvel’s sales are gonna drop post-Civil War because I don’t know if I can take another four or five months of it. Fourth: Not that I’m any kind of canary in a coalmine about that kind of thing, because I ain’t. Fifth: Highly Eh, because I like C-list Marvel characters (like the Shroud) and read the last three issues because of that.

WILDCATS #1: The more successful of the underwhelming Morrison Wildstorm books, just becuase stuff happens. Jog’s of the opinion that this issue doesn’t quite work because the Cats characters aren’t mythic enough to have the characters presented the way they are in this first issue–I think the problem is rather that Mr. Morrison is currently exceeding his grasp (deadline-wise, if nothing else) and so everything he’s turning out is pretty uneven. I mean, that page of Grifter killing guys while disembodied word balloons yell at you in German? Fucking awesome. But kaleidoscopic sex scenes and characters speaking in flattened metareferences (like when Spartan refers to the onset of superhero violence as “widescreen”)? Pretty tired. Part of this may be Jim Lee’s art, which has hit comic book entropy–some kind of storytelling heatdeath where every single scene is presented so dynamically, none of it has any impact.

Or maybe I just had my expectations set too high and this thing shipped later than it should have. A lowish OK, because who really knows?

PICK OF THE WEEK: Desolation Jones #7, for teh win!

PICK OF THE WEAK: Civil Wardrobe #1, for teh lose!

TRADE PICK: Lots of good stuff this week, but I dug into Vol. 5 of NAOKI URASAWAS MONSTER like a starving man. Very episodic, but also very enjoyable.

NEXT WEEK: Me and the missus celebrate my birthday in Vegas! Got any good (non-pervy) suggestions for attractions?

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