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Friendly Neighborhood Reviews of 12/7 comics

Brian Hibbs

In friendly neighborhood alphabetical order, here’s a sliver of what I thought about this week’s comics:

BATMAN AND THE MONSTER MEN #2: I’ll happily be Matt Wagner’s bitch, just so you know. I love his clarity of storytelling, and he does “classic” Batman oh so well. Makes you sorta wonder why work of this quality doesn’t run in BATMAN itself, and instead we have to have spin-off mini-series. I think putting this kind of “timeless” Batman work out in front of the general population would be the smartest course of all. Wonderfully terrific stuff, and a super easy VERY GOOD.

DEADPAN #1: Sometimes dream comics work, and sometimes they don’t. Sadly, this is the latter case — rather than illuminating essential human truths, David Heatley instead seems like a person I wouldn’t want to spend any real amount of time with. Nor with his comic, which at $5 seems nearly half over-priced, and not using color to any specific effect or impact. That’s my way of saying that I don’t think the work would be, in anyway, diminished by being in B&W. Probably look nicer, actually. I’m going to go with AWFUL, but that grade is two steps harsher than this would have been at $2.95…

DETECTIVE COMICS #814: Lapham’s “City of Crime” ends (finally), and while this overwrought vision worked well for me here (and on the first issue, as I recall) it also made me think that a huge chunk of the middle 10 issues were overkill. Not many people stuck around to the end (We lost something like 1/3 of the readers from part 1 to part 12), but I thought it was a GOOD ending, if on the lower side of the rating.

DOWN #2: I thought this issue worked a lot better than #1, though I wonder why the fuck Top Cow thought it was the right thing to do to release this 2 weeks after #1? We’ve waited… well, when was this title first announced? 2001? It was a good long while anyway… so, give us a chance to sell through at retail, yes? Especially when Warren has Too Many Comics on the shelf at once, like right now. That’s why I hate being a comic retailer, some days — trying to predict the sales patterns through the flood of recent work (FELL, JACK CROSS, DESOLATION JONES, the ULTIMATE stuff, etc.) can be like reading tea leaves? Why do I still have more than 40% of my copies of DOWN sitting on the rack, when all of the OTHER books have sold just about what I expected they would? We sold more copies of JACK CROSS than we did of DOWN #1, and DOWN is a better looking and reading book… Ah well. What was I saying? Oh, yeah, my gut tells me that absolutely everything our protagonist was told this issue was pure horse shit, but then I think “huh, already at halfway point, that would be a lot of exposition to reverse in just 2 issues”. Well, I still have a feeling those were GOOD cops she murdered. Anyway, liked the issue, call it the low side of GOOD.

FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD SPIDER-MAN #3: This comic book has a “rating” of “A”, probably as you would want from a comic titled “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man”. That Rating, according to the December MARVEL PREVIEWS, means the comic is “Appropriate for Ages 9 and up.” Mm. Pulped faces, murder, death, yes, that’s what I want to give a 9 year old!

This isn’t what I want from a Spider-Man comic, to be honest. I don’t want to read a comic that should be titled “Grim Worldly Spider-Man”, where the hero kills, or loses an eye, or dies, or becomes some sort of Spider Avatar or something. I really really don’t. I like a happy-go-lucky Spidey, one whose internal monologue is all doom, sure: “nobody loves me/I need money/whatever whine?” that kind of thing… but not one who is like what HAS to come out of this.

Despite hating every single development in this issue, I have to say that it is executed well – it moves crisply, is genuinely suspenseful, and was very pretty. I just hated all of its ideas. AWFUL.

GOTHAM CENTRAL #38: Best fucking issue in months, and, despite the “Spectre” on the cover, the thing I liked best about it was that it proceeded purely on its own internal character interactions — no supervillians, or DCU intrusions, or Batman at all, and hit a homer all the way back to the fences without them. Despite the fact that I guess it WILL resolve with the DCU, in the end (That whole Spectre thing), there’s not even the barest sense of it in here now, and that makes me like this issue more. All around an EXCELLENT. (Hopefully Jeff will post in his reviews what he thought the twist was going to be, because his idea was pretty clever.)

HARD TIME SEASON TWO #1: I thought it suffered from not having enough forward momentum, and way way too much recap. I liked the first series just fine, and would like to see this find an audience, but this wasn’t an auspicious start, with there not being enough event to make me automatically come running back for #2. A very low OK, I’m sorry to say.

IMAGE COMICS HOLIDAY SP 2005: Half killer stuff (most of the Savage Dragon, and -spinoff stuff; and I also liked the Scenes from a Bar stuff, even if it didn’t go anywhere) and half absolute dull phone-it-in stuff, just like pretty much any other holiday-themed anthology in the history of holiday-themed anthologies. Problem is, this one is $10. No, that’s proportionate price, for the content involved, but, yikes man, $10!! Overall, I’ll go with an OK, I guess, because none of the good work was good enough to overcome that $10 price tag for me.

JSA #80: This was the issue that made me realize I don’t need to read the JSA any longer. It’s not the issue itself either, necessarily — lots of blah blah and fight fight, and it was all handled competently enough — but it might be those covers. I mean, it will be cool once the whole set is done, and you can see a whole Alex Ross portrait of the JSA like that, but month after month after month and it is basically the same thing in different colors, and you just grow tired of it, y’know? OK

LOOKING GLASS WARS HATTER M #1: I was really worried about this when I read the description, ‘cuz anything involving characters from Alice in Wonderland runs the extreme risk of being stupid. ESPECIALLY “Alice in the real world!” But, happily, Ben Templesmith’s art helps it over the stupid-hurdle, and I found myself won over by the situation well enough. Gonna go with a low GOOD.

MARVEL ZOMBIES #1: I was wondering how the hell you could get 5 issues of that out, and I see you do it by kinda cheating, and having the characters just be their normal chatty selves. It is a really weird effect when reading the issue, though I was at least “bemused” pretty much all of the way through. I’m still not sure this is even slightly sustainable past 2-3 issues, but I liked the first one well enough. A very high OK.

NAT TURNER #2: What Graeme said, below — this is terrific, emotionally investing material. On the other than, I got to knock down the grade a notch for that wretched and nearly unreadable font chose for the bio material. Even if it is “historically accurate”, it is still really hard to read cursive, and I wish the shit would be banned in comic books. IN spite, that takes us down to VERY GOOD.

PENNY ARCADE 1X 25 CENTS: Now, see, the idea of promotional pricing is to get people to buy further product, and pay full price for that. The best way of doing this is putting your super a-game, solidly introducing your characters, situation, and providing (in the case of a humor strip) some serious belly laughs. What you don’t want to do is pick what looks to be a purely random collection of strips, with absolutely no context or continuity whatsoever, none of which are funny because you, the new reader, has no idea whatsoever you’re looking at. Up until now, I didn’t think it was possible to waste a mere 25 cents on a comic. Now I do. CRAP.

ROCK N ROLL ONE SHOT: Lovely lovely lovely. Not much of a “read”, but still very very nice to look at and flip through. On art alone, lets say GOOD.

SEVEN SOLDIERS MISTER MIRACLE #2: Understand first, that I never really liked the New Gods to begin with. So, that colors everything. I also think that Mr. Miracle is pretty much the least interesting of the NG, and the least sustainable — when your one and only trick is “to escape”, well, that can be a potent enough metaphor, but it’s pretty ass for an ongoing character — or to put it another way: once you’ve opened with an escape from a black hole, where is there to go from there? Again, I hope Jeff posts his bits this week, because he had some really terrific MM/NG theories and I would ruin them if I tried to paraphrase.

I also really don’t think that tying something classic specifically to an individual cultural moment or event is the way to “reinvent” something — and I think that 20 years from now that “Hip Hop New Godz” will seem about as quaint as, y’know, the Disco Dazzler. Jeff tried to tell me I’m wrong because of WEST SIDE STORY, but, with a weekend past to reflect on it, I think it was the addition of music that made that retelling of ROMEO & JULIET “timeless” rather than the tying of R&G to 1950s gang culture (sorta)

So, that long way of saying “I am predisposed to dislike this work” shouldn’t leave much of a surprise that, huh, I disliked this work? Really, truly, and deeply. Even as I thought SHINING KNIGHT was a failure, I thought this was both a failure, and a really boring and unfocused comic book on top of that. The first real failure of “Seven Soldiers”, I say: AWFUL.

SPIDER-MAN BLACK CAT EVIL THAT MEN DO #4: Totally lost for the first half as I was trying to remember what the hell happened 2-3 years ago when the first three issues were released. Both Spidey and DD’s conversation seemed pretty horrifically out of character for each. The art also seemed rushed or something, too. Not worth half of the wait, hate to say it. EH.

SUPREME POWER NIGHTHAWK #4: A better Batman/Joker take than I’ve read in some time from DC, so there’s that. Moving a bit slow, I guess, but still liking it enough (yay! Steve Dillon!) for a GOOD.

ULTIMATES 2 #9: Kind of astounding that Marvel would publish this, the centerpiece of their Ultimate line, and one of the most anti-American comics I’ve ever read in my life. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but let’s all hope Fox news doesn’t catch wind of this. Having said that, very very well executed book, and highly readable stuff — a solid VERY GOOD from me.

WHAT IF CAPTAIN AMERICA: Ew, stinky. AWFUL. Somehow made even stinkier as being the first of 6, this month, new WHAT IF comics, rather than issue #6 of an ongoing monthly.

X-MEN UNLIMITED #12: The lead story by Stuart Moore and C.P. Smith was really terrific, if essentially a throw away. Still, best 12 pages of Wolverine I’ve read this year. The Puck story was pretty clumsy though, and felt more like the author running through his own issues than anything that came from the characters. VERY GOOD for the former story, EH for the latter, which probably averages out to a high OK. Still, the lead story might be worth the cover price alone.

PICK OF THE WEEK: I’ll go with GOTHAM CENTRAL #38, though I suspect I’ll be iffy on the ending of this arc. NAT TURNER #2 would have taken the spot if it wasn’t for that damn lettering…

PICK OF THE WEAK: FNSM #3 was really really bad, but I think that PENNY ARCADE 1X 25 CENTS was the biggest waste of time and money this week. Rather than filling me with promotional love for the book, I have an active derision, bordering on actual loathing. Yow.

BOOK / TP OF THE WEEK: The easy, and possibly correct, choice of the week is the DEMO TP, and I remember solidly liking at least 8 of the 12 stories. But I do think that I should also heap some praise on CHARLES BURNS LIBRARY VOL 1 EL BORBAH SC, hooray, back in print at a reasonable price!

That’s (some of) what I thought: how about you?


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