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God Bless Freeview: Graeme’s reviews of the 7/6 books. And some 6/28 ones, too.

Graeme McMillan

Thanks to the wonders of DirecTV, I’m writing this with the accompaniment of Gorillaz’s “Demon Days Live” – on Freeview all weekend, popfans – and trying my best not to be distracted by Ike Turner milking his piano solo for all it’s worth. Mind you, with the outfit that he was wearing, I can’t say that I wouldn’t have tried the “It takes four minutes for me to walk to the piano” thing myself.

Thirteen comics to review and only an hour to do it in before Kate comes back and we’re supposed to go to Sonoma. REVIEW BRAIN GO!

THE ALL-NEW ATOM #1: With different art, I probably would have liked this a lot more. It’s got a lot going for it – I like the idea of playing the Atom as a scientist who’s just pretending to be a superhero, with a team of mad scientists as his back-up. I like the “microscopic alien invaders that are possessing dogs” subplot, and I like Gail Simone’s dialogue (although the quotes-from-scientists-as-footnotes thing borders on the annoying, especially when the scientists as fictitious; Do we really need to know what Will Magnus, creator of the Metal Men, apparently wrote at some point?). But the art… It just seems weird. It’s Byrne’s strongest work for a long time, I think, helped by Trevor Scott’s inks, but it feels at odds with the tone of the book, far too mainstream superhero for what (writing-wise) seems to want to be an off-kilter alternative to your usual superhero. The incredibly bright, primary-colors don’t help, either… If the book can sort out its identity, it might make it past the first year, but right now, it’s nice-but-inessential, confused, and just OK.

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #533: Yes, everyone else read this last week, but I hadn’t been to the store in a few weeks before yesterday, so I’m playing catch-up; sorry. Anyway, the start of this “Spider-Man unmasks! The world reacts!” issue almost sold me on the whole idea, as J. Jonah Jameson’s reaction – much, much better than the one-panel joke in Civil War #2 – rang true and suggested that everyone had thought this thing through properly. Shame, then, that the rest of the issue was horrifically clumsy, with “bickering Fantastic Four” jokes, and the ongoing portrayal of Tony Stark as manipulative and eeeeeevil to foreshadow Peter changing sides in a few months. That’s one of the things I don’t understand about Marvel’s continued claim that they’re playing both sides as equally right: Tony Stark, the leader of the pro-registration side, is continually being shown as someone who doesn’t care who he uses or what he had to do in order to get his own way – like, you know, a bad guy. Meanwhile, his opponent is Captain America, who’s Marvel’s purest of the pure. It’s already pretty biased in favor of the anti-registration team before you get to the obvious “Tony Stark was only using Peter Parker, Marvel’s everyman point-of-view character, and Peter’s realization of that forces him to also realize that he made the wrong choice and should be supporting Captain America” plot that’s in motion here. Where’s the evidence that the pro-registration side is in the right? Meh. Getting back to this particular book, though: It’s OK, mostly because of the strength of the JJJ reaction.

BRAVE NEW WORLD: In the little-seen Elseworlds 80-Page Giant that DC put out a few years ago, Tom Peyer wrote a parody of Kingdom Come and various other overblown superhero epics where pages would end with random quotations from classic literature that bore little or no connection to what was actually happening on the page itself, as illustration of the desperate pretention and need to dress up superhero books as something more than what they really are. This collection of six uninspiring previews for DC’s next six minis ends with the by-now-seen-all-over-the-internet double-page spread of the Monitors, and the following caption: “How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world that has such people in it. William Shakespeare, The Tempest”. Nuff, as Stan Lee used to say, Said. Crap, although almost worth it for the awkward politics of the Creeper and Uncle Sam stories.

DETECTIVE COMICS #821: In which Paul Dini and JH Williams take over, and Batman starts acting like a detective again. Not the light-hearted Bat-japery that I was expecting given Dini’s animated pedigree – something that I’m not sure Williams could get away with anyway; I think that his attempt at light-hearted may end up looking creepy, but that might just be me – but enjoyable nonetheless. The solution to the mystery at the end is somewhat random: “The bad guy was someone was a background character in one panel earlier on in the story!”, but there’s something to be said for done-in-one mysteries. Good, but I’m curious to see how Dini’s stories will read without Williams’ overly-designed art. I have the strangest feeling the answer may be “better”…

DEVI #1: Virgin Comics’ first title starts with a “Story So Far” blurb. Somewhere, someone must have thought that wasn’t the smartest idea, right? It’s pretty much an omen; the rest of the book is generic superhero mythology and execution and feels like something that’s been going on for years as opposed to an exciting new comic from an exciting new comic publisher: Characters with dialogue like “You walk into my home and threaten me? Such arrogance must be justly rewarded… by a slow and painful demise” fight each other for no real reason other than the story demands a fight, done with a noticable lack of passion or style. Not a good start for the Power Man and Iron Fist of comic publishers, Richard Branson and Deepak Chopra; hopefully their other books will have something in them that’ll let me remember them for more than five minutes after I finish reading. Crap.

FANTASTIC FOUR #538: Dear J. Michael Straczynski, please stop. Each issue I read of your FF run makes me feel as if you’ve never read any Fantastic Four before, but you’ve been told by someone what the characters are supposed to sound like. It’s a very strange and uncomfortable experience. Crap.

FRANKLIN RICHARDS: SUPER SUMMER SPECTACULAR: You know things are bad when the Calvin and Hobbes rip-off that this is – but Hobbes is Herbie The Robot! Genius! – has more of a Fantastic Four feel than the real Fantastic Four book. I don’t know if this is all-reprint – I’ve definitely read the free comic book day story here before – but it’s gentle enough family comedy for what it is. Brian seemed to really like this, but that may be more to do with his sick robot fetish than the quality of the comic itself. OK.

THE LEADING MAN #1: So, yesterday, Hibbs and Lester were giving me grief for the last New Comics I wrote for Onomatoepia, and the apparently obvious hatred I had for everything I wrote about. Now, I don’t think it was that bad, but then again, sometimes I just get grouchy and it makes me hate everything. That might be what’s going on this week, because I came away from this book, B. Clay Moore’s story of hot American actors who are also hot American spies, with a negative opinion that I’m not sure it really deserves. I mean, I couldn’t tell you why I didn’t like it. It’s a cute idea, and Moore’s dialogue has some nice moments; the art by Jeremy Haun is reminiscent of Michael Lark and Sean Philips’ team-up from “Scene of The Crime” years ago, as well. It’s just… It’s missing a story. There’s a plot, sure, but it’s so vague and undefinied that it’s barely there – there’s nothing that happens this issue that makes me want to come back next month, if that makes sense. I want to say that it reads as if Moore was so in love with the high concept that he forgot to put anything behind it, but like I said, that might just be me being grouchy. Eh, but ask me again when I’m in a better mood.

NEW AVENGERS #21: Or “You thought Howard Chaykin was phoning it in on Hawkgirl? Read this and think again, true believer!” Not that I’m saying that Chaykin is lazy here – although feel free to notice that the cover is just a recolored and flipped version of the last panel in the book – but, man, there’s some shitty Chaykin art in here. Thankfully, Bendis brings his writing to the same level, giving us the internal monologue of Captain America and revealing that he is (a) a moany old bastard – “What do you expect from a society that gets all its news from late-night comedy shows? Or course they don’t care! Everything is a punchline. Everything is just – – No. That’s not true. They care. They just care about themselves more than they care about the world they live in.” You half expect the narration to include “Why, in my day, I lived in a cardboard box.” – and (b) Frank Miller’s Batman (“You tried. At least you did that. Poor kids. Just doing what they’re told. Good soldiers.”). Really, really Ass.

OCT: OCCULT TASK FORCE #1: Tom Spurgeon was right. Ass.

SUPERGIRL #7: Hibbs handed this to me with the intention, I think, of seeing whether my head would explode when I read it. I mean, What the fuck is this? I know it’s part two of a story and all, but I have no idea of what is going on here, apart from Joe Kelly is possibly working out some issues and I am getting more and more freaked out with what DC is doing with Supergirl. From what I can gather, Supergirl is in some kind of parallel universe where there’s an evil Superman and he’s a dictator who Supergirl fights against until she decides that she would rather hook up with him in possibly the most fucked-up Supergirl/Superman scene ever published: Evil Superman: “What do you want that only Kal-El can give you?” Supergirl: “I – – Save me.” And then she kisses him while he cops a feel of her ass. No. I mean, just… no. That’s really, really creepy. And isn’t this Supergirl meant to be sixteen years old or something? Aiee. What’s the worst rating we can give here? Let’s go for Really Disturbing Whatever Happened To Quality Control Dan Didio Jailbait Supergirl Is Not Okay Especially When She’s Swapping Spit With An Evil Version Of Her Cousin Steaming Piles Of Crap From An Ass The Size Of The Moon Creepiness, shall we?

UNCANNY X-MEN #475: In which Ed Brubaker becomes a full-time X-Men writer by becoming a full-time X-Men writer. By which I mean, this doesn’t even read like Bru’s writing, except in small bits of dialogue. On the one hand, huzzah for consistancy for the X-fans, but on the other, Ed’s other writing – even on other Marvel franchise books like Captain America and Daredevil – is much, much better than what he’s offering here. Starting his run on the book with what is apparently wrapping up continuity from old storylines is an odd choice as well, considering that the last four pages of the issue start the real plot of Ed’s first storyline – which is, itself, wrapping up continuity from Ed’s first X-Book, Deadly Genesis. It’s a shame, because when Professor X explains his plan for the next few issues (which starts “First of all, the five of you are going to steal a spaceship…”), your immediate reaction is, “Well that sounds like a lot more fun than what I’ve just read.” Eh, but I’ll probably check out the next few issues because I tend to like Ed on other things.

YOUNG AVENGERS #12: Oh, Allan Heinberg. You should feel happy that I didn’t get around to reviewing your first Wonder Woman issue, because, really? By the time you give Nemesis his own logo without explaining to the reader who he is, I knew it was complete continuity porn as much as I personally enjoyed it. The same thing seemed to happen to this book – the amount of backstory necessary to understand it fully overwhelming the story itself – over the last few issues, but this issue manages to sidestep that by going for the interesting solution of “cramming everything into one issue because the book is going on hiatus”. A lot happens here – The Kree/Skrull battle, Patriot’s getting almost killed then getting superpowers that save his life, Kate getting the name Hawkeye, the Young Avengers apparently becoming official Avengers – but it all happens so quickly and without proper explanation that instead of anything being satisfying, it becomes confusing (Especially the Super Skrull’s fate, considering where he picks up from in Annihiliation). It’s all so rushed that it’s a frustrating and annoying read, which is a shame, considering how enjoyable the book was when it started out. Let’s hope that the return of the series next year sees a return to that level of fun. Eh.

PICK OF THE WEEK is, kind of by default, Detective #821, and PICK OF THE WEAK is very obviously the more-disturbing-than-Tarot Supergirl #7. Luckily for this disappointing week of single issues, it’s a bonanza for trades; I’m waiting for Kate to read the latest Fables collection before I can comment on the quality of it, but thankfully I can bide my time with my TRADE OF THE WEEK: SHOWCASE PRESENTS THE ELONGATED MAN VOLUME 1. Skip past the Flash stories at the start of the book and soak in the sheer brilliance of the Gardner Fox-written, Carmine Infantino-illustrated, detective stories that made Brad Meltzer fall so in love with Ralph and Sue Dibny that he had Sue raped and murdered, reducing Ralph to the depressing character that mopes his way through 52, depressing the hell out’ve everyone. No, wait, that sounded better in my head before I wrote that…

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