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Good Morning Sunshine: Jeff’s Reviews of 12/14/05…

Brian Hibbs

It was kinda awesome to check in on the blog this last week. Not too long ago, I was fretting about posting all the time, and whether or not Hibbs was gonna post, and how many days we could go without just dropping off viewers’ websurfing patterns–and this last week I was able to read five different entries, without one of ’em having to be me. Plus one of the people posting is Graeme so it’s also one of my favorite people to read on the Web. Life is good.

Because despite Hibbs calling me out on some books, I was just too busy at my regular gig and with the CE newsletter to cover anything. However since it’s now the day after the company Christmas party, and all is currently quiet:

ACTION COMICS #834: If you think outside the box on this issue, it’s interesting: here’s a story about Kryptonian fairy tales drawn by John Byrne, the guy who scrapped all that Kryptonian folklore back when he rebooted Superman. Byrne probably didn’t give it a second thought but there’s something kinda Requiem for a Heavyweight-ish about it to me. Additionally, this reminds me of nothing so much as an Elliot S! Magin/Curt Swan issue of Action before Byrne knocked it off–a good, competent Superman story where Superman has to use his wits as much as his strength. Good stuff–I’m still shocked DC Editorial is kicking this team to the curb….

BATMAN LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #198: There’s something kinda hinky about this issue and I just can’t work out what it is–probably because Chris Weston’s art overrides almost any objections. That sniping sequence was pretty goddamn neat, I thought, and just on the grounds of awesome art for a decent price, I’m giving this a Good. If I can work out what’s bugging me, I’ll let you know.

BOOKS OF DOOM #2: Wow, I really disagree with this. It’s competently done, easy on the eyes and Brubaker clearly put a lot of thought into each turn but I really, really disagree with it. Removing that crucial turn, where Reed points out the error in Doom’s calculations and Doom blows him off, just discards one of the more (or most) archetypal components of the character. Some future issue may well have a compensatory action but for now it reminds of that Stoppard’s quote about the unicorn and the thinning of reality: “‘Look, look,’ recites the crowd. ‘A horse with an arrow in its forehead! It must have been mistaken for a deer.'” Eh.

CABLE DEADPOOL #23: Until Whedon/Cassaday’s Astonishing returns, this is my favorite x-book on the stands although I’m hard-pressed to justify why: as far as I can tell, Nicieza will take any Marvel character, no matter how absurd or how convoluted the history, take a quick cheap shot or two, and then proceed to treat that character with some degree of dignity. In other words, Nicieza more or less the way I remember Marvel comics reading, and I enjoy that. The art’s a little weak–the telepathic battle between Cable and Commcast on the borders of the information bleed sounds like something straight out of delirious late era Kirby but looks like late era Jim Valentino–but there’s enough there to give you the gist of things. So, despite my better instincts, I’m giving this Good although it’s really more of an Okay experience, probably.

DMZ #2: Writing about this is kinda giving me the flopsweats, because I’m not sure I can ever remember reading something where the premise is so perfectly aligned with the creator–I really think this is the story Brian Wood’s interests have been moving him toward for a long, long time–and still feel like something’s not clicking. I’d think this book’s theme is how a government must dehumanize the people it makes war against, and how the media is complicit in that, and ties that to the similar approach the government and the media take to true urban culture, but if so, those ideas aren’t dramatized competently. There’s one great scene that nails it, when Roth makes a comment that the media’s been telling him (and the rest of the country) that Manhattanites are eating rats, when in fact they’ve been dining on vegetarian fare in beautiful rooftop eateries, but the rest of the time it’s very clumsily dramatized–no more so than with young snipers in love, one merrily popping off lethal ammunition at another to get their attention, and with Roth’s awakening to the humanity around him, which is terrifyingly banal: “Yeah, I thought these people would be monsters but they’re hip and cool so they must be human!” (I’m paraphrasing, but it’s kinda close to that.)

It’s a tough subject to do justice to, and I sincerely hope Wood gets more adept as the series goes along, or some blinder falls from my eyes, or something. It’s a really great premise, and there’s the potential to do great things with it, but this issue leaves me wary as to how that premise will be fulfilled. Eh.

GHOST RIDER #4: Considering that this issue features someone riding a motorcycle and remorselessly destroying terrified thugs–and considering that person is not The Ghost Rider–I feel pretty safe in saying this mini’s run into the ditch and won’t be crossing the finish line. Really a drag. Awful.

GLX-MAS SPECIAL: It’s really weird seeing Paul Grist in a Marvel comic, isn’t it? I thought this was dark but enjoyable. I found it easier to enjoy than Slott’s recent GLA recent mini because there Slott only shone light at the end, and here he frontloads it, allowing me to enjoy the free range of the whimsy (culminating in a squirrel fight where one of the participants is the embodiment of death). Funny stuff (although the more fannish your tastes, the funnier you’ll find it) and Good.

GREEN ARROW #57: Everything you wanted to know about DC Editorial, Part 1: The cover says “The Shocking Conclusion!” (punning on Black Lightning’s appearance, I guess.) The last page ends with a cliffhanger. Nice. If you cannot pay any attention to your own books–which you are paid to do–then why should I? Not really a bad issue or anything, but that stuff only adds to the feeling that this is being cranked out by the yard by people who can competently do it in their sleep. Eh.

LOCAL #2: You know when Rich Buckler was drawing Fantastic Four and Joe Sinnott was inking it, and it almost felt like you were really actually reading an FF book by Kirby even though you weren’t? I liked those. Admittedly, I was seven or eight, but I liked them. Similarly, this issue felt like I was really actually reading a Paul Pope comic book even though I wasn’t. And I don’t mind, really. I want there to be more Paul Pope comics out there for me to read, and this was close enough to do the trick. As you can imagine, there are caveats that come with a recommendation like that, but I’ll leave them to you to work them out. Good.

MARVEL KNIGHTS SPIDER-MAN #21: Thank God the previous part’s “Death of Superman” riffs didn’t carry over–I thought we’d be stuck with at least one more issue of them–and now we’re back to JMS’s “Anatomy Lesson” riffs. Back when Straczysnksi started on this book, I put up with the Spider-elemental thing because I thought his dialogue was funny, the characterizations were decent, and the John Romita Jr. art was lovely. Now all that’s left is the Spider-elemental thing and it’s deeply frustrating. Hibbs seems to think the previous part was competently done; I think he was just relieved Count Chocula didn’t eat anyone else’s eye in an “all ages” book. If the best you can do is to completely (but competently) misunderstand what makes the character work, I can’t give you more than Awful.

SECRET WAR BOOK FIVE: I’ve sooooo not been following this book since the second issue or so, but to gather all those heroes on a big ultra-covert mission (that Bendis keeps explaining over and over again, I guess to remind us how cool it sounds) and then have Angelina Jolie from Hackers deliver the coup de grace shows a nearly criminal lack of conviction. And it was either painted or reproduced way too dark so it was kinda impossible to see what was happening to whom during the big action sequences. A real waste of time, money and patience, I thought. Awful.

TEEN TITANS #30: Between this, GLX, the GLA trade, and Punisher Silent Night, it was a good week for bleak humor. It was great seeing Captain Carrot again, and it looks like Johns is at least toying with using that goofy old team to comment on the current dark trend in comics, but then again maybe not, because the rest of this is all blood-sucking, and evil-soul-returning and an case of Oedipal longing turned up to 11. I really have no idea where this is going, and that’s kind of interesting: there could be a really spectacular car crash in store here, or Johns might really pull something clever out of left field. Either way, I’m along for the ride. Good.

X-FACTOR #1: I think I liked this even more than the previous Madrox miniseries, which is a pleasant surprise. I can chalk that up to David’s facility with throwing a lot of stuff into action at once while still building on the interesting stuff from the previous mini, and Ryan Sook’s art which gives all the characters a nice, believable range of emotion and body language. I’m sure Hibbs had the twist figured out three letters into the first caption, but I didn’t and I thought it was great. Very Good, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of this.

ZOMBIE TALES DEATH VALLEY #1: At first, I thought Rhoald Marcellus’s art was a little too cute for a zombie book, but this all came together nicely: by being more Night of the Comet than Dawn of the Dead, this book still managed to hit most of the zombie movie highlights without feeling like a cliched retread. I’ve never quite adjusted to the post-IDW indie market, so this still seems a litle pricey to me but I’ll give it between an Okay and a Good depending on where your disposable income’s at. I liked it.

PICK OF THE WEEK: X-Factor #1, as it turns out.

PICK OF THE WEAK: Not entirely fair since I didn’t read all five damn dull issues, but I thought Secret War Book Five squandered the most talent, resources and good will of anything this week.

TRADE PICK: as per Laurenn’s recommendation, I sat down with Jim Mahfood’s Further Adventures of One-Page Filler Man but things got busy and I never cracked the cover. So I guess it’s going to The Best of The Spirit which, to be fair, I haven’t cracked the cover of either, but it passed the quick scan of the contents (The Killer? Check. Gerhard Shnobble? Check. Ten Minutes? Check.) and barring some printing nightmare, should be a great read or gift. The market needs more introductory books for the medium’s masters, I think, and maybe there’s finally room enough in the marketplace to have both their complete works and a greatest hits package. So I hope this sells a ton.

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