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Blahs for the Blah: the 3/2/05 Week of Comics…

Brian Hibbs

Good thing Hibbs is weighing in this week; maybe he’ll have something to really get at with this week’s books. I don’t know if it’s the cold I’m fighting, or the week I’m having, but I was at the store yesterday and not really feeling the magic as far as the floppies were concerned. Kind of a nice week for trades, in that I brought home Little Lulu, Vol. 2, Ministry of Space, Promethea Book 4 and Teenagers From Mars and there’s a little bit of everything for everyone in that assortment, you know? But the ongoing titles, I just, hmmm, I don’t know… as evidenced by my very first review. [WARNING: First review is heavy on the scroll-wheelery and eye-bleeding: long, in short.]

ARTBABE PRESENTS LA PERDIDA #5 (OF 5): And sadly, this is Exhibit No. 1 in why I’m doubting my critical acumen this week. I’ve been more or less knocked out by every issue of La Perdida…except this one. Considering how underwhelmed I’ve been about other last issues of minis I’ve also otherwise enjoyed (100% #5, Black Hole #12), I wonder if it’s not some unfortunate end-result of a last issue following far on the heels of a previous one, particularly when the creator chooses a different path than the straight-up ratcheting of tension and expectation placed in the earlier issues. Endings are tricky, tricky things anyway, and perhaps where the creator can use a bait and switch to best effect (throwing expectations off by switching the narrative’s focus from the plot to the theme, for example), but if it’s nine months or a year between issues, then maybe it reads more like a souffle collapsing, a loss of potential, to the reader of the singles as opposed to what’s experienced by the reader of the trade. (And dammit, because 100% is only now coming into trade, I really couldn’t say for sure.)

Or maybe this just fell apart at the end. It felt like it fell apart to me: after four issues of Carla not seeing what’s going on and not doing anything to stop what’s going on around her, she’s finally brought (literally) face-to-face with the situation at the end of issue #4. In issue #5, she’s dealing with a band of kidnappers, including her ex and her closest friend, who have kidnapped a wealthy American who is also her ex: it’s pretty much the height of drama, and Abel’s done an exemplary job of building up to it.

But perhaps because the first four issues have driven their tension from the difference between what Carla thinks is going on and what the reader can see is going on, the fifth issue, where those viewpoints are finally the same, goes slack when Abel puts nothing in place to replace that tension–indeed, Carla’s captions take over the last issue, telling us things so Abel doesn’t have to dramatize them. Abel insists on not switching to a full-tilt crime story, keeping all the double-crosses and death grounded in the uncomfortable banality of life, but without that, or the hook of the schism between the protagonist’s beliefs and ours, it all feels tremendously flat. I get the sense Abel may have struggled with the material–a few scenes jump art style dramatically, suggesting Abel might have tried to draw the last issue in a different style as a way to show the change in Carla’s viewpoint and then ditched it–but it sure didn’t feel like she got it. I hope either I’m wrong (and it’s 100% Syndrome) or she does figure out the proper way to rework the material before the trade, because the stellar work in the first four issues makes this feel much worse than the Eh it probably is–because the story as a whole could be so much more.

CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON #13: Might have worked if I hadn’t known this book is closing down shop (although Captain America killed by a stray bullet…come on) but instead feels like a high-drama way of Priest putting the toys (the Falcon’s recklessness, the anti-Cap) back in the box. Eh.

DEADSHOT #4: Disappointingly seems to go for the “killer grows a heart” option which I didn’t really want. On the other hand, I didn’t want the whole neighborhood to go to shit, either, so I don’t know what Gage would have done. The “and here’s an army of b-grade villains to stop him!” ending didn’t really thrill me, either. I imagine we’ll get some sort of Shane-leaving type scene to wrap this up then. Oh, well. OK.

EXILES #60: I don’t care about the Age of Apocalypse, thus saving me from a rash of related titles this month–and this bored me, more or less right up to the end, where the tie-in lays down some decent groundwork to up-end the series, thanks to that danged M’rkanni Crystal. Whether or not they follow through with that, we’ll just have to see. OK.

LEGEND #1: I wasn’t really expecting to like this just because Chaykin’s recent scripting has left me cold. But it’s a pretty decent spin on the Superman story (I know, I know, the Philip Wylie story came first) hampered by the fact that, with Supreme Power being only the most recent example, we’re pretty much up to our necks in decent spins on the Superman story. Russ Heath’s art is strong, not stellar (he can still convey a sense of weight to objects, making things like the lifting of a truck seem awesome, but I didn’t see any of the particularly supple inkwork that conveys an oddly tactile sense, as in his best work) and if it’d been $2.95, I’d be telling you to check it out. But $5.95? Even with the higher page count, that price tag makes it pretty hard to endorse. Eh.

SHANNA THE SHE DEVIL #2: Separate and apart from the T&A issue (perv that I am, I wish it had been in there), I think this doesn’t work. Although I’m glad Cho didn’t just go for a light-hearted romp in this, he hasn’t fleshed out his characters or his situation (I thought only one military guy survived from issue #1–turns out it’s ten? Twenty? However many as needs to be eaten by dinosaurs?) or, really, his storytelling. He nails down one story point per issue and doesn’t really deviate from it : this issue, it’s: “Shanna has something cold, unfeeling inside. She has the eyes of a killer.” and every three pages is a scene to reinforce that point. I’m sure it’ll pay off…around issue #5, probably, but will anyone care by that point? I more or less didn’t by the time I hit the end of this issue, and I probably would have felt that way no matter how much nudity had been thrown in. A very low Eh.

SUPERMAN: STRENGTH #3: Arghhhh. This may be the best Superman story I’ve read since, I dunno, Red Son, but the mismatched art team combined with the price tag makes it something I can’t really recommend you drop your ducats on. It’s not amazingly special–it’s a very, very good Superman story with some Alex Ross covers–but giving it to an artist who really could have drawn the necessary mix of big and little moments would have at least whipped me into a fanboy lather and convinced me (and you) it was worth all this coin. But when it looks like prettily colored dashed-off storyboards and it’s close to twenty bucks for the whole thing? Drops down to an Eh or an OK. The best I can do is lobby for Editorial to throw some money at McCloud and get him on a regular Superman title because he’d be great.

SWAMP THING #13: Well. It’s not as gruesome as the last couple of issues, the art’s strong, the writing dragged a bit but also put things more or less in place…but unless there’s a stronger twist coming up than “wait, you mean the sinister looking preacher is actually evil?” I don’t really care. In fact, even if there’s a much stronger twist, I may not care. I think my goodwill ran out on the book around issue #8, and I honestly don’t know if they can get it back. Eh.

TOE TAGS FEATURING GEORGE ROMERO #6: I love the fact that Romero is going to jam oodles of social commentary into an all-out zombie title. (The revolutionary leader was a sell-out and not even dead: is that a commentary on, say, the failure of social revolution owing to the leaders frequently being from a different race or social class than the followers?) I just wish he had the facility to do it well. And Tommy Castilo contributes some very nice work (dug those inset close-up panels!), but this was just a big ol’ mish-mash where simplistic characters and an abundance of ambition scuttles any chance to really be drawn in the work. An Eh, basically.

ULTIMATE IRON MAN #1: A dual-edged sword here: although it starts too early (if I’m not mistaken, Tony hasn’t even been born by the end of the first issue), it moves very, very quickly. And Card throws a shitload of wild ideas at us, stacking one on top of the other. But it threatens to swamp some important aspects of the Iron Man story–as Bri mentioned at the store, the idea of Tony Stark as a genetically altered supergenius with brain matter floating through his body just seems very, very wrong somehow, and, as Ellis has pointed out in his first few issues of Iron Man, Tony Stark ends up in the armor because of all of his arms dealing (Iron Man is a pretty potent American allegory, if you think about it), not what someone does to him–and I can’t help but kinda worry what might be coming down the road. But, you know, honestly, I read it and thought it was Good. Whether it stays that way, we’ll see.

WALKING DEAD #16: Must have been a good week to be Robert Kirkman. Not only is it announced that your property’s been picked up by Hollywood and you’ll be seeing Hollywood money to do the first draft, but your zombie book definitively kicks the ass of another zombie book written by Zombie King, George Romero. (Hopefully, you realize that last page reads dopier than hell and make a note to not destroy your tone for the sake of a more powerful last page reveal) But, still: a good week to be Robert Kirkman, particularly when you’ve got a title on the stands as Very Good as all this.

The other problem with such a small week for comics is I don’t really know if I’ve left anything for Hibbs to really talk about. My hope is, something else this week really struck him he’ll want to go to town on.

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