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Jeff’s Reviews for 3/16

Brian Hibbs

I am always amused and impressed at what a bad blogger Hibbs is. After all, just yesterday, he posted a new Tilting at Windmills at Newsarama, a really lovely little piece that not only brings up some great points, but is a bit of a love letter to the comics stores he knew as a kid. You’d think he’d be posting here, pointing you to it, trumpeting his greatness, etc., right?

No dice.

So I figure the least I can do is post the link for him (the discussion thread is chugging along nicely, too) before getting around to this week’s books. I just finished writing 7,000 words for the CE newsletter so I may have already passed my limit for writing coherently about comics. If so, I apologize.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #638: Rucka’s very clever idea about Mxy (since he appears every 90 days, he should pop up every three issues or so) sounds much better than it reads, for any number of reasons. Hibbs had some impassioned argument about the mistake of introducing real time into the books that I had fun rolling my eyes at (“…which means that Superman is now at least 87 years old!”) but my complaint is far more practical: Mxy is pretty played at once a year unless you’ve got a great take on him; at four times a year, he’s really played out, maybe even if you do have a great take. Rucka may think he’s got that (Mxy is kind of both Daffy and the animator in “Duck, Amuck” simultaneously) but I hope this issue might correct him: it was kind of a train wreck, with the idea of Lois and Kent having a kid explored in a way that was supposed to read as wacky and incisive but was no more than flat and obvious riffing. The ideas were more-or-less sound, but the execution was, at best, Eh.

BIRDS OF PREY #80: I kinda fade in and out on this book: for each thing I like (the Rose and Thorn tie-in), there’s pretty much one thing I don’t (I know I’m a jaded comic book reader, but one guy with a gun in a stairwell against two superheroes and a cop is not an exciting dramatic showdown–even if Gail goes out of her way to let us know it’s a very, very narrow stairwell). The art seems less exploitive these days, Simone gives her characters a lot of depth, and she seems very “on” with regard to her research (that opening surgery scene was pretty cool) but this still feels like a long way from firing on all cylinders. Eh.

BLACK PANTHER #2: Okay, so last issue Hudlin re-introduced the one Black Panther story everyone does (the return of Klaw) and follows it up with the other Black Panther story everyone does (“T’Challa’s throne is rightfully mine!”). And for this they had to wipe out all previous continuity? Also keen was how Hudlin wrote the big fight scene with an idea (“anyone who can defeat the Panther can take the throne!”) he seemed to realize was a bad one and undercut it as it progressed (“So it’s a good thing only someone in the Royal Family has ever beaten The Panther! Ever! And no one ever thinks that’s rigged! Because Wakanda is really cool!”) rather than just throw it away and start over. I’m really, sadly underwhelmed. A very low Eh.

CABLE/DEADPOOL #13: A fun read if you like Deadpool (which I do) and you don’t think about it too hard (which I didn’t). Cable/Deadpool is kinda turning out to be the Power Man & Iron Fist of the new millennium: a financially expedient team-up book of two very different characters that somehow manages to work (in large part because of Fabian Nicieza’s scripting). Call me crazy, but I thought this was Good.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #4: Unless the subtext to Brubaker’s first arc is a dire warning about the future of transportation, maybe he should stop having Cap getting into fights while in transit to someplace else. This is the second time in four issues, at least. That said, I did like this issue and it feels like things are building to a head so: Good.

CATWOMAN #41: Part of why I thought the more cartooned look was such a great choice for Brubaker’s work on Catwoman was that it allowed the reader a bit of distance from the relatively bleak setting of runaway prostitutes, junkies and corruption. I really would have preferred a bit of that here, where the opening scene of the guy killing the dog and killing the streetwalker had me cringing. It’s actually decent stuff–much, much better than that Wooden Nickel story–but I finished this issue feeling a bit skeevy. OK.

EX MACHINA #9: I don’t think I can say anything new here–I started the title kinda dreading the gay marriage press conference but appreciated the turn it took, and thought the showdown with the female reporter was smartly done. Not thrilled with the last page but this is undeniably Good work.

EXILES #61: The team here continues to keep the pace fast, and we’re more or less out of the AoA business as quickly as we got into it, which suits me fine. Bedard also does a very good job setting up conflicts that come from characters acting intelligently, and we need more of that in superhero books. If there’s a problem, it’s that the fight scenes are unexciting but I’d think they’d be hard to make interesting without slowing down the pace. A very high OK.

HUMAN RACE #1: The art was nice and expressive, but there’s some disturbingly obvious padding (It’s not enough that the mother runs up the stairs and yells, the father has to be shown running up the stairs too, so the sequence can fill three pages instead of two) and occasional bits of brainlessness that I’m not sure any first issue in this marketplace can afford. I’m simultaneously relieved and disappointed the super-powered fraternity thing isn’t the easy target for jokes it might be, but wonder if Raab might not have had better luck taking that route and running with it: this feels generic. Eh.

HUMAN TARGET #20: A taut and smart storyline, and stronger than the book’s been in while. Yet, the cliffhanger feels somehow simultaneously underdeveloped and forced–I can’t believe Chance would be so blase about the whole situation as the ending has him. But, you know, Good.

INCREDIBLE HULK #79: It looks great–just amazing stuff to look at–and David’s Hulk is an enjoyably genuine bastard. But I found the other characters’ dialogue flat and grating–David’s “wink, wink, nod, nod” approach to the reader has become more of a “twitch, twitch, grimace, grimace” and makes it really hard to invest any emotion in the story. OK, because the art and colors on this are super-sweet.

JLA #112: Doing stories in a “widescreen” style is a bit like telling a joke–if the pacing’s off, forget about it. And this seemed really off, as three big fight scenes take place simultaneously but read to me like a big jumble of who/what/where/don’t care. The dialogue seemed very, very flat as well. (I don’t know if the Qwardians have previously used “Spent shafts!” as their oath of choice, but it sounds so porn-o-rific, it totally pulled me out of the story.) A distressingly big mess, and I’m inclined to go with Awful.

LOVE & ROCKETS VOL 2 #13: Jaime’s work just knocked me on my ass this issue, particularly “Angel of Tarzana” which was just so gorgeous and keenly observed, it seemed somehow trenchant in its apparent pointlessness. (The Hopey and Ray stories were stellar, too.) Gilbert’s work didn’t resonate nearly as strongly, but that didn’t stop this from being a Very Good issue. It was pretty great.

PVP #15: Two of the strongest storylines I think Kurtz has ever done, and the strongest issue of the PVP comic by far. But the letter column where Kurtz berates a female reader who’s informed him she’s quitting the book over the cheesecake covers is one of the most cringe-inducing things I’ve seen since watching The Office (which, admittedly, was just last week). I’m a big believer in separating the creator from the work, but that really robbed me of the glow I got from reading this, making this a more reluctant Good than I would like.

SHAOLIN COWBOY #2: Holy fuck, this was good. After the dialogue-light first issue, I thought all the talky, jokey dialogue wasn’t going to work, but Darrow knew when to use his art as a straight man to his story (King Crab going through the kung-fu training montage is one of the funniest things I’ve read in a long time, all because it’s presented so straight) and when to let it also get insane and absurd. An absolute blast to read, and top-notch Very Good work.

SIMPSONS COMICS #104: Started as really funny, ended pretty funny, but not particularly funny in the middle at all. Bummer. Eh.

TEEN TITANS #22: I really like McKone’s art–the guy’s a knock-out talent–but apart from a nice scene between Light and Green Arrow, I didn’t care one whit. I have no idea what “the tough” Dr. Light’s powers are so the fight had no tension to me. Thus, the idea of every Titan ever ganging up to kick his butt again offers no tension either. And don’t even get me started on the new Hawk and Dove… Eh.

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #74: Strong, well-written and convinces me even more there’s absolutely no reason it shouldn’t have been USM #73. Again, the end of this would be even stronger if we hadn’t been shown so much of where Harry’s head is probably at. Good, though.

ULTIMATES 2 #4: After seeing some of his recent output, it’s hard to believe Millar can still be subtle, but here, just as it definitively looks like Thor’s a nut, he again pulls the “Is Thor crazy, or is Loki fooling everyone?” idea, just so you’re not sure either way. And that, along with that Tony and Natasha scene, made this a damn Good read for me, despite there being any number of other things I just didn’t buy.

UNCANNY X-MEN #457: Again, this looked great, but was dumber than a sack of black labs: Rachel now thinks she’s always been a dinosaur chick? Then how is she able to access any of her memories about the X-Men to use against them? What about her possible feelings for Kurt? (I also can’t believe anyone still thinks Rachel is anything other than a glaringly awful reminder of how little sense the whole Phoenix thing now makes, but that’s a whole ‘nother rant.) But beautiful art, a fun idea and kind of nice handle on X-23 (she’s defiant, but so much more openly needy than Wolverine ever was) made this highly OK.

WOLVERINE #26: I think John Romita, Jr. needs a nice vacation–the opening fight scene, like the fight scenes in Black Panther #2, seemed so dull and by the numbers, I almost couldn’t believe it was JR, Jr. (The colors, however, were gorgeous throughout.) And Millar keeps trying to top any of his previously over-the-top efforts, so that parts of this read like blatant self-parody. (“By six, he had finished his first opera and tried to commit suicide twice.” Sorry, but if a six year old wants to kill himself and can’t do it, he’s not a child genius. Dumb-ass six year olds manage to get themselves killed all the time.) But there was something so winningly dumb about the end of this (Hydra’s big plan is to load two hundred evil undead superheroes and supervillains into a big catapault and ka-sproing them at the helicarrier…or something.) I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. A very guilty Good.

YOUNG AVENGERS #2: Unlike last issue, stumbles very badly with its pacing. Once we learn Iron Lad is Kang, we get it: we don’t need four-plus pages to show the why or the how unless there’s something unexpected: frankly, that probably didn’t need more than one. But the Cassie Lang stuff I liked a lot, and the YA’s are all likeable enough (even though it seems kind of silly that they keep asking “Do you think we’re ready for Kang?” when they keep having problems beating up four ordinary guys). Disappointing after last issue, but still a high OK.

Wow, look at all those high marks. Since I’m usually much tougher and more burnt out on comics after working on the newsletter, I’d say this was probably a pretty good week for the floppies. I picked up 100 Percent as my sole trade this week, and am really curious to see how it reads as a whole. I’ll let you know.

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