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Comics for 02/09/05: A Quick Peep….

Brian Hibbs

Hey, all. Sorry this is a bit later than usual–my scheduling’s a little off, I’m fighting a cold, and I’ve been gathering data for my very first trip to an accountant this Thursday. I knew there wasn’t a chance in hell I’d sift through all my receipts if I started writing reviews beforehand, so here’s a few quick reviews to celebrate having that done, and before I go on to the mightmare that is re-organizing my workspace:

ACTION COMICS #824: If we’d gotten this, oh, ten issues ago, I probably could’ve worked up some enthusiasm. And I know Supes is prematurely aged here because of kryptonite poisoning, but why does everyone think Superman would get weaker as he got older? The dude’s one big solar battery–I think there’s just as good a chance he’d be ten times stronger because of all the built-up solar power. But whatev. This was nice-looking but not quite as batshit, and so more or less OK.

AQUAMAN #27: Well, The image of bio-luminescent jellyfish floating over a tenement block was lovely and surreal, and I dug the idea of using Aquaman’s amputated limb for necromancy; and this got wrapped up in two issues, instead of six. And so endeth the list of the good things about the issue. The bad things? I didn’t care, and I didn’t get much of a sense the writer did, either. The artist has some chops, but if even mirror, mirror can’t get me enthused, I wonder what legs this book has left. Eh.

AVENGERS EARTHS MIGHTIEST HEROES #7: Casey’s retroactive gambit shoots itself in the foot–why does Jarvis and Hawkeye stage that scene instead of just having Jarvis endorse Clint as a possible good match for the Avengers? Similarly, I thought Casey did a perfectly good job with the scene where Cap finally has some closure over Bucky’s death. But that’s completely at odds with all continuity after it, isn’t it? Consequently, this book is too concerned with its own take on things to fit neatly into continuity, and yet carries almost no weight on its own without previous continuity. So it just can’t win either way, alas. OK.

BATMAN THE MAN WHO LAUGHS: Pretty looking, and perfectly okay retcon, although I was left a bit underwhelmed: at times, Mahnke looks like he wants to out-Bolland Bolland’s work on The Killing Joke, but it also looks like he loses his nerve and deliberately tries to undercut that impression at other points. The script is pretty damn good, with lots of fun creepy bits, but maybe I would’ve been fangasming over this if it’d been a $3.50 Annual as opposed to paying $6.95 and giving it a Good without the enthusiasm I would like.

BERLIN #11: How long is it between issues? A year and a half? Two years? The work is incredibly first-rate and, impressively, the issue neatly keeps all the storylines thematically centered on the sexual hedonism but–man, how long again? I almost wish Lutes would pull a Blankets and go straight for a trade, because the publishing schedules hinders the appreciation of Excellent work.

BLOODHOUND #8: Fuckin’ Hibbs. He gets me hooked on this book and now, whenever I ask what he thinks of the most current issue, he just holds up his hands and goes: “Don’t care. It’s cancelled!” Bastard. Me, I enjoyed this issue right up until Zeiss appeared because the closer this book gets to actual supervillains the more contrived it suddenly seems. Although this’ll sound insanely perfunctory if you’ve followed my previous reviews, let me assure you the art by Leonard Kirk and Robin Riggs is really great–there’s so much character in the faces and the body language I can’t stand it. These guys are perfectly suited for crime drama and I hope they can find another gig that’ll allow them to extend those talents. Good.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #3: There’s something very off in the pacing here: “Well, we’re in Paris hot on the trail of international terrorists and the Cosmic Cube–howzabout dinner?” Huh? And I’m not sure what those flashback sequences are building to, but it’s starting to seem like Brubaker didn’t bother to read the Reiber/Austen run. And, y’know, who can blame him, but you’d think the editor might’ve stepped in and informed him that the fake memory storyline was done, like, just last year. Still, OK.

DOC FRANKENSTEIN #2: Weirdly torn: I’m pretty bummed by the whole anti-religion thingy going on here, and yet my favorite pages of the book were the first three where Doc recounts all the previous attacks on him by religious zealots. And without the kooky straw-man arguments against organized religion, I’m not sure there would be anything left but busy, pretty pictures. So Good, but really could be much, much better.

FANTASTIC FOUR FOES #2: Hibbs can cut right to the heart of things. I was utterly irked by the how creepily out-of-character everyone was here, as Reed hatches a horrifying idea to jam prisoners in a Negative Zone prison–an environment so hostile the people would be loath to break out. If Reed Richards really put that kind of idea forward, I think the rest of the Four would assume he’d gotten his mind swapped with Dr. Doom again, not happily going along with this enormous human rights violation. But Hibbs just looked at the issue and said, “Where are the Foes? I thought this was supposed to be FF: Foes, but there’s only one foe, and he appears on pg. 20. Gimme the god-damn foes, damn you!” Maybe this isn’t really Awful, but it’s rubbing me really wrong and I can’t see any other rating for it.

GOTHAM CENTRAL #28: Once again, for me, it’s great until the last page and then the superhero cliches just swamp it. Would the sales for this book be any worse if they just dropped the super elements all together? I’ll give it a Very Good because not everyone has the allergic reation to the last page that I do but I wish these could work differently, somehow.

GREEN ARROW #47: If this had just been a done-in-one with good ol’, dumb ol’ Duke of Oil, this would’ve been just fine. But with the return of the Eurotrash Ninja, I kinda lost some enthusiasm. And I’m not digging Tom Peyer’s pencils–every character looks like an enraged ectomorph suffering stomach cramps. Let’s call it OK.

JLA #111: Finally, people sock stuff! But why couldn’t this have been part two? Or even a “jammed with mad ideas” part one? Another case where I’m not digging the pencils–they seem dashed off to me. Eh.

MARVEL KNIGHTS SPIDER-MAN #11: I appreciated the half-hour argument that ensued in the store over whether Scorpion was an a-list villian or a b-list villain before he got the Venom outfit. (My opinion: most Marvel heroes have barely more than two a-list villains and the rest go straight to c-list villains. The Scorpion was a guy who would hit people with the big green cheeto tied to his ass–that’s all he did, that’s all that ever happened. C+ at best.) But other than that, I thought this was tired and wretched. Shield sends all those heroes to help Spidey but never thinks to set up any sort of watch on Mary Jane? And then–whoa, hold on, Goblin and Mary Jane on the Bridge? That’s never been done before! It’ll be interesting when this is done to see if I took the time to bitch about every single issue of this–that wouldn’t reflect well on me at all. Awful.

OUTSIDERS #20: I miss romance in superhero comics, so this was a welcome little ish. Of course, I also miss the days when “romance” meant more than knocking boots in the quinjet (or whatever the equivalent here is) but that’s another matter entirely. I don’t know why I’m still so “meh” about this book, because although I enjoy each issue at least a little bit, I never really get excited about the title overall. If I can figure out why, I’ll let you know. OK.

STRANGE DAY ONE-SHOT: Was this the story about the two kids meeting while waiting for the release of the new Cure album? I thought the art was ugly and limited, to be honest, but the story drew me in and nicely captured that feeling of teen chemistry and romance. I think it might have worked better as a period piece (these really seemed to be teenagers from pre-cell phone times) and, like I said, the art didn’t really kung-pao my chicken, but a very nice read. Good.

STRAY BULLETS #36: Nice work on Lapham’s part making that last panel as disturbing as possible. If I have a problem with this title, it’s that it doesn’t hold any surprises. If Craig hadn’t actually been a scumball, maybe there would’ve been a little more drama in the story. But there was no doubt, this being Stray Bullets, that he was going to be at least quasi-scumballish and that things were going to turn out the way they did. And while it’s bad form to criticize a work of art for having a consistent worldview, it’s a worldview without enough nuance to really keep me interested all these many issues later: Amy’s continuing corruption would be more moving if it seemed like there was any other choice available to her. Good work, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not knocking me out like it should.

YOUNG AVENGERS #1: Pretty good stuff, actually. I had issues with the portrayals of Jessica and Jonah–and maybe even Kat–but I thought they were handled pretty well and Heinberg is skilled enough to make sure those scenes had their own payoffs, even if a bit forced. And after seeing stuff like New Invaders turn into static mush, I appreciated Cheung and Dell’s attempts to keep things moving, even if a lot of it didn’t really work if you paid attention (that fight scene in the church is really messy and sketchy–those five guys frequently look like at least eight guys, and all of them seem particularly adept at shrugging off lightning bolts–but it’s laid out to keep the eye zipping right through it). This book is gonna rise and fall on the strength of each Young Avenger’s backstory (and even then, as Hibbs pointed out, where it’s gonna go after, say, issue #12?) but I did enjoy it more than, say, any of the Bendis work on Avengers and I’ll be back for more. Good.

I left plenty of stuff for Hibbs to weigh in about (and tried not to steal all of his best lines) so let’s see if he takes the bait. I think I’ll be working on the newsletter this week and Wondercon is coming up on Friday so don’t be surprised if this site lies fallow, at least on my end, for a little bit.

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