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Home From the Wars: Reviews of 11/30 Books…

Brian Hibbs

Whew. I crossed the Nanowrimo finish line last week and it looks like it did what it was supposed to: not only did I get a chance to bask in my 50,000 words of crap but I’m still working on it past the deadline, making my hopeful I’ll be able to actually finish one of my crappy books and begin the process of revising and crap removing.

Naturally, I celebrated my literary ways by playing lots and lots of Resident Evil 4 for the PS2. Oh, man. There have been a lot of exceptional games for the PS2 in the last twelve months and this is right up there. Shooting Lovecraftian European villagers in the brain just never gets old….

Oh, and I read a few comics. Unfortunately, so did Graeme and we tend to post right next to each other so don’t miss his critical savagings just below, yeah? (And if you put our reviews right next to each other, you can pretend you’re reading them in 3-D….)

Oh, and you know about the spoilers, right? Lots of spoilers.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #646: Unlike my esteemed colleague, I thought this was one of the better issues of AoS I’ve read in a long time. It’s chock full o’ nits, however, many of which I can’t help picking–Supes has some throwaway line like, “I can’t believe Professor Hamilton has turned evil again!” which, uh, you know, if I was being taunted by a superpowered guy who claimed to be someone close to me, I would start checking this list, you know, with the people who have an evil track record. (And when the hell was Prof. Hamilton evil?) But it was nice to see some of the threads on this title finally get sewn up, and seeing Mxy as a bum with a funny hat is cheap sentimentality, but effective. I’m going lowish-Good here.

BATMAN #647: A little loosey-goosey with the big fight scene (I find it hard to believe Captain Nazi didn’t just break Red Hood’s neck) but this also worked for me. The Bat-sonar thing is the sort of thing a big ol’ Batman geek like me has been waiting for, and the Red Hood stuff is still interesting. Like Brube’s “Winter Soldier” story over in Captain America, it’s paced much more slowly than I would expect (at the end of each issue, Batman makes an “important decision” about The Red Hood that has him act more or less the same next issue), but Christ knows, the milking of storylines in comics isn’t exactly new. Good.

BLACK PANTHER #10: Generally enjoyed it (as an enjoyable Luke Cage story) until I realized where it was going: a Black Panther/Storm romance, like the Superman/Wonder Woman thing that seems to get broken out over at DC every so often, just seems to me like a bad idea. Particularly now that it seems like Storm has had a failed romance with everyone in the Marvel Universe but The Mad Thinker. As long as you don’t mind watching thirty years of continuity take it in the butt, OK.

DOOM PATROL #18: So at the end of this, everyone’s alive, Robotman’s happy and in love, the Chief is jolly, and a new generation of heroes is already lining up to be trained–I’m surprised Byrne didn’t go all the way and change their name to “The Sunshine Squad.” J.B. is like those programs you submit your text to that strips all of the program-specific formatting out: he creates the comics equivalent of ASCII text. Bleah. Awful.

EXILES #73: Bedard’s fondness for the New Universe is almost infectious, and whether or not Mimic is actually dead, taking him out of the picture for a good, long time is probably smart. Depending on how long you’ve been a Marvel fan, but you might also find it Good.

FEAR AGENT #2: Back in the day, I used to show up at the shop on Wednesday, read a big stack of comics, write the reviews with the books in hand, and return them all to the shop for my Friday shift. Kinda wish I did that, so I could actually tell you what I liked about Fear Agent #2. The press I’d read positioned it as a mix of the E.C.’s war, horror and sci-fi books, but what I read reminded me of Firefly, if there’d just been Mal and nobody else (which I guess means it also reminds me of Cowboy Beebop, too). Funny, and with a lot surer grip on characterization and pacing than I see in Remender’s other book. It didn’t exactly lodge in my brain, but it made enough of an impression that I’ll be checking out next issue. Very, very OK.

FELL #3: Interesting to read without Ellis’s back pages explaining every little thing–it actually held up, which was a distinct relief. As someone pointed out in an earlier thread, Ellis can actually talk a good game so reading an issue that, although more laid back, continued to deepen the book’s themes and fine-tune the very dark humor makes me more confident about where this book’s future. Thought the last page was a bit of a cheat, however, although I can see where everything wrapping up peacefully would have been anti-climactic. Still, quite Good.

GIANT SIZE INVADERS #2: Christ, putting Vince Colletta on Frank Robbins? No wonder I hated the art on Invaders back when I was a kid. (Although Robbins, let’s face it, was completely and utterly lost in a post-Kirby universe–our heroes look like a bunch of goosestepping hunchbacks.) And the new story was extraordinarily lame with FDR acting like an asshat just to get any drama going (when Namor the Sub-Mariner is reduced to pushing a car out of a pond, you’ve come a long way from the mighty Marvel era of over-the-top action.) And the book was pricey to boot, so I’m giving the whole thing an Eh, although I bought it, read it and enjoyed it: I’m a fetishist, and doubt I could expect anyone else to feel the same.

IMAGE COMICS HC: This book is a crowbar to the brain on nearly every level. And did Todd McFarlane make a deal with the devil that he’ll be fiscally solvent as long as he never draws another full page of comics again? Considering this work supposedly held up the publication of the project for three full years, it’s worthy of any derision one can muster. Throw in a very cowardly “I’m-gonna-use-Miracleman-but-not-in-any-way-that-opens-me-to-litigation” tactic, and you’ve got a neat little summary of why McFarlane’s Spawn work sucks. The rest of this I found unreadable, except for Larsen’s Savage Dragon origin which I only wish I hadn’t read. Awful.

INCREDIBLE HULK #89: So, check it: this issue has Nick Fury explaining to Banner why they need his help, and Banner gives lots of reasons why he shouldn’t and the dramatic hook, one would assume, is whether Banner agrees to help. So how does this issue start? With The Hulk being shot into space as part of the job, of course. Daniel Way may be part of Marvel’s Tangy Ten or whatever, but unless the Ten are rated by their willingness to shamelessly pad, I’m not seeing it. Plus, as Hibbs pointed out: why would you ask Banner, when you need The Hulk? Just because Banner agrees to something, that doesn’t mean the Hulk’s gonna do it. Eh.

KEEP #2: Getting a Mignolaish artist to work on Wilson’s tale of Nazis and vampires-or-are-they? seems a smart move but Smith has some real weaknesses with movement and lighting that lead to static sequences. And Wilson’s adaptation of his own work is impressively brisk, but, in tandem with those art problems, make this a pricey Eh.

LIVING IN INFAMY #1: Decent high-concept (trouble brews in a town of supervillains in a government protection program) biffed by some unfortunate storytelling–except for the Tony Soprano riff, nothing is conveyed about any of these characters’ psersonalities and some of the scenes are short on believability. As Hollywood option bait, it’ll probably do the trick, but as an actual book, I’m leaning to the very bottom of the Eh.

NEW AVENGERS #13: Hmmm, so Echo, who is deaf, is actually Ronin? Too bad there are scenes in this very issue (if not earlier–didn’t Matt Murdock pick up a phone and call and ask her to help out? Just the sort of stuff one shouldn’t share with one’s teletype assistance people…) like Iron Man facing away from her and saying stuff, and her responding. I won’t even get into how this is the third book with Silver Samurai in it this week, and how he’s completely different characters in each one, and moreover suffers from Bendisitis something fierce. Very, very sloppy. Eh.

NIGHTCRAWLER #12: The acknowledgments page from Robertson and Aguirre-Sacasa was very, very sweet–almost to the point where I forgot how incredibly dull and misguided this whole series was. Thank goodness the dull and misguided Mephisto stuff was there to remind me. Should be Eh, but considering the wasted potential of the book, let’s go to Awful.

PLASTIC MAN #19: The jabs at the Infinite Crisis were pretty decent, but the R’as Al Ghul “shirtless fighting” sequence was hilarious. Couldn’t they have tried to see how these would have done as Digests before axing this book? Good.

SEASON OF THE WITCH #2: Rolled along okay as whasshername learns and hones her skills until suddenly at the end where she’s suddenly beheading traitors and it reads like someone dropped in the ending from the next issue by mistake. What the fuck? Eh.

SECRET VOICE #1: I liked the earnest and strange Dr. Galapagos story, and The Smog Emperor stuff was fun and odd. And I miss the days of early Eightball and self-published Optic Nerve, where a cartoonist did a bunch of stuff they found interesting until something stuck. So although Zack Soto’s book doesn’t really cohere, and he may have a lot longer road ahead of him (compared to Clowes and Tomine) until his style and his subject matter really clicks, I thought this was highly OK and want to see more.

SENTRY #3: Must be a drag when another writer groks your own concept better than you do–as it stands, I’d say Bendis’s take in New Avengers is a jillion times better than this mess. Jenkins is either too stingy or too timid to push his metafictional conceit into overdrive, and so this just reads like a Marvel writer who’s barely bothered to read Marvel books. Dull and Awful.

TAROT WITCH OF THE BLACK ROSE #35: Just when I thought Jim Ballent’s book couldn’t skeeve me out any more, I got to the pictures of his wedding where he’s dressed up like Darth Vader and his bride’s wearing a Slave Leia outfit. Bless his heart, it may be this unembarrassed willingness to embrace his passions that makes Tarot the intriguingly fucked-up read it sometimes is, and the essential triteness at the heart of those passions that make Tarot the rather depressing piece of work it always is.

PICK OF THE WEEK: Oy. Um, Batman #647? Kinda lame, but there you go.

PICK OF THE WEAK: Image Comics HC is like being mugged by your old coke dealer–the nostalgia is tempered by the fury, which is tempered by the relief of that lifestyle being long behind you.

TRADE PICK: Maybe mighta woulda been the Red Sonja trade except I thought something horrible happened to the line reproduction that made it look pretty crappy. I was just glad to get my hands on Sgt. Frog Vol. 10 TPB–a series that Hibbs openly derides me for every time I buy a new volume. Too bad, he’s missing some funny stuff.

And you?

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