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Greetings From Lake McLatey: Some Reviews of 08/10 Books….

Brian Hibbs

I am running behind. As I think I mentioned in a previous post or two, I did not read a lot of comix Friday. In fact, when planning out this entry yesterday at lunch, I realized that there were books I still hadn’t read, despite the fact I had, you know, bought ’em and stuff.

So up I was at the crack of dawn…to read comix. The following reviews are probably tilted toward the “Ooo, look pretty” side of the spectrum as a result. Unless I read them on Friday, in which case there will be a distinct “Uhhh…what happened again?” bias. This is comic book reviewing as it is meant to be practiced, my friends: hastily and inadequately. Let’s hop to.

ACTION COMICS #830: I liked that classic cover, and having Dr. Psycho run around calling himself Nietzsche was very fun (having Byrne draw him as a pint-sized version was even more fun). Fun banter, fun ideas, fun, fun, fun. Of course, you have to be reading at least four other comics to be enjoying any of the fun, but that’s pretty much the way with DC these days, isn’t it? If you’re plugged in to all the DC x-overs, you’ll also find it Good.

BATMAN #643: For a few minutes, this book had me deeply embarrassed: had all my bitching about Batman being out of character in last week’s Detective been in vain? Had that really been the actions of the duplicate Batman found on the first few pages of this book and I’d fallen for a switcheroo? After re-reading Detective, I decided I had not been fooled and the whole second Batman stuff was just Bill Willingham deciding that the storyline wasn’t chaotic enough in the first place. Anyway, after that, I don’t remember much of anything (it’s a Friday book, can you tell?) except the Alfred-Batman batcave dialogue felt especially strained (it must be tough writing variations on the same scene over and over and over), something like, “You know, Master Bruce, maybe if you weren’t being such a passive-aggressive dickhead…” “Alfred, when I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you. Old Friend.” Infinite Crisis better change something up, or these scenes are going to read like Glengarry Glen Batcave in about six months. Eh.

GRAVITY #3: Ah yes, the issue where our young hero grows disillusioned and turns his back on superheroing except, oddly, I found myself hoping that he continues to stay gone and this turns into a very lovely little Felicity-style romance comic. I’m much more interested in the characters than the bang-and-smash. OK.

GREEN ARROW #53: Yay, it’s Bill Messner-Loebs writing! Unfortunately, it was really boring. But! That should not stop the DC editors from giving the man more work. If nothing else, I enjoyed this more than Batman #643. Put the guy back on Flash or something. Eh.

HAWKMAN #43: I think I know where this story is going, but that’s not a bad thing: if it was running directly in the direction it seemed to be, I’d be pretty cranky and annoyed. Still, since this title tends to suffer from “Why am I reading this, again?” syndrome (and has since before the current creative team started in), I’m not sure if people are going to hang out and wait to see how it all pans out. OK.

HOUSE OF M #5: Hibbs quite liked this, and I really didn’t. Admittedly, part of me not liking it was predicated on forgetting this was an eight issue mini, and getting annoyed that five issues had been spent gathering the heroes and next issue was the big wrap up (and then being very embarrassed once Hibbs corrected me). It’s OK, I guess, but I almost found myself wishing the heroes were actually split on their course of action–someone like Spider-Man choosing to fight to protect Magneto would actually be kind of justified here–even though the part I liked most about this issue was the lack of hesitation in the heroes deciding to do what was right.

INCREDIBLE HULK #85: The art on this looked almost coloring-book crude at some points. It’s still a fun little read, if I remember correctly. A high OK.

IRON MAN #4: If this had come out all at once as an OGN, I might be shitting myself over its coolness. But there’s just not enough of it to be sure, and it doesn’t feel like a substantial enough read on its own. Low side of Eh.

JLA #117: Anyone else feel like there’s some sort of bait-and-switch going on here? On the cover: “This issue, Superman finds out!” Inside: “No, I knew that already. Batman told me.” Just think if they had approached the Silver Age books that way: “This issue, A Story You Never Thought You’d Read: Lex Luthor Joins The Justice League!” And inside: “Hmmm. Lex Luthor’s mail keeps getting delivered to Justice League headquarters. We’ll have to speak to the postman about that. Now, back to that freaky Star Sapphire chick…” Eh.

MEGA MORPHS #1: You know, if one does pick up the first issue of a “Marvel Super Heroes in Giant Robots fighting Marvel Super Villains in Giant Robots” comic, the main thing you want to know is: how and why did they get in those damn giant robots? And when the answer is an editor’s note saying, “See the six issues packed in the Mega Morph toys on sale now!” The whole endeavor brutally crashes and burns below even the already lowered expectations one had set. Sean McKeever does his best though (in fact, tries a little too hard in places) and, merch screwing aside, I guess you could say this was OK for what it was. But factor in the “to get the complete story, spend an extra thirty bucks on the toys” and I’ll drop it down to Awful.

NIGHTWING #111: The Shrew did a spot-on review of Nightwing #109 a while back and it really nails why this arc isn’t working. It’s not just the whole Dick-Grayson-going-undercover-as-Dick-Grayson thing (although that really, really makes this all pretty nonsensical), it’s that, as The Shrew wittily put it, everyone wants Dick. It’s taken as a priori by the writer, to the point where a sixteen year old Mafia princess is writing love letters to Nightwing, and breaking pictures of his girlfriend and, and…huh? I don’t mind romantic melodrama–I very much liked the little triangle between Nightwing and Batgirl and Dick’s police partner–but there was no development here, just us being told over and over that Sophia (or, uh, Sonia?) loves him, and being shown over and over that she loves him, but never being shown, you know, why. And we’ll never get shown, of course, because of that whole a priori thing. In a perfect world, Devin Grayson would be writing volumes of Nightwing manga for CMX and get the time and the space to develop the romantic melodrama as fully as she wants (and, with manga, the tools to convey sudden infatuation), but Nightwing #111 shows that we are a long, long way from a perfect world. A low Eh.

SEVEN SOLDIERS ZATANNA #3: G-Mo throws in a few oblique references to the whole Identity Crisis fiasco, but even more impressively, weaves the story here even more closely to the stories in his other Seven Soldiers tales (and maybe his JLA: Classified story? I can’t quite tell.) without making it imperative to know those stories for it to have an effect. Admittedly, part of the way he succeeds in doing that is by making each of the Seven Soldiers minis very episodic, strewn with casual wonders, so no piece seems more important than any other, but I still like it much more than, say, The OMAC Project approach. This mini has been very slow to click with me (and next issue is the last?) but I really enjoyed this issue a lot. A very high OK.

SHANNA THE SHE DEVIL #7: Oh, that ending was a big pile of lame chickenshit. “And after that, they all lived happily ever after, in their diseased, dinosaur-trodden Nazi-infested hidden land. The End.” LAME. And Awful.

SUPERGIRL #1: What impresses me about Jeph Loeb is that once he sets out to do something, he doesn’t let a little thing like doing it well get in his way. An introductory issue that’s almost twenty-two pages of non-stop fighting, with guest stars, and also a summation of Supergirl’s origin and major conflicts, along with a developing subplot? No problem! Just throw in malfunctioning powers, the entire JSA trying to stop Solomon Grundy from beating up a forest, don’t explain a thing, and voila! Instant collectors’ item! I thought it lacked that mysterious fun factor Superman/Batman usually has, but that could be because the formula seemed pretty blatant and because this worked harder to be “serious.” Eh.

TRUE STORY SWEAR TO GOD #14: Hmm. I enjoyed this quite a lot, and thought it was a perfect capper to the plot of Tom being unhappy in P.R. And yet, I have to admit, I totally skimmed Lili’s final speech, presented as it was in thick blocks of text. The fact the issue worked for me even though I didn’t bother with the emotional climax of the story is potentially troubling, I think, but I can’t get my tired little brain to parse out why. Good.

ULTIMATES ANNUAL #1: Quite smartly, Millar treats this as just an extra issue of Ultimates with the smallest number of pages utilized to make it seem like a stand-alone story as possible. Steve Dillon isn’t nearly as good as Hitch with the widescreen action, but he fakes it okay. Good.

ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR #22: Oh, Mark. The fake-out was pretty good, but the whole “superheroes-turned-into-vampire-zombies-from-outer-space”? Did Mansquito not lend itself to easy comic book cut and pasting? Very disappointing. Eh.

VILLAINS UNITED #4: Again, Simone’s Dr. Psycho for the win. I can’t say I was too overwhelmed by anything else here, other than the realization that the Clown is a guy. I don’t know why I thought the Clown was a chick but that shows you how keen my reading skills are. OK.

PICK OF THE WEEK: Geez, I dunno. Ultimates Annual #1?

PICK OF THE WEAK: Shanna #7. If I never read the oath “Holy Buckets!” again, it will be one day too soon.

TRADE OF THE WEEK: Remember that promised essay about Alex Robinson’s Tricked? This will not be it. Damn shame too, since Tricked, perhaps even more than Box Office Poison, really challenges my perception of what I want from a graphic novel. Until I do write that essay (and it’s gonna be a while since I’ve got the newsletter hanging over my head this week), why don’t I just go with Finder, Vol. 7: The Rescuers? I just cracked it open this morning, but I’m already swoony with affection for it.

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