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Jeff’s Reviews of 10/12/05 Books….

Brian Hibbs

Not trying to steal Hibbs’ thunder (like that’s possible!) by posting right after him, but he said I shouldn’t read his review of IC until I post mine. And I figured as long as I was at it….

ACTION COMICS #832: Guh? Reads more like an inventory story than anything really tying in to Day of Vengeance (or a holiday issue crafted a looooooong time before all the Infinite hoo-ha came around), which is fine, I guess, but could have used a bit of finetuning. Also, kinda bummed that a really nice hook (the appearance of Lois’s dad, whose mortality status was a nifty dangling thread from Loeb’s Superman run) got used to such spectactularly cliched effect (Lois hollering “nothing I ever did was good enough for you,” or some such). Just an Eh, but easily could have been better if editors acted more like editors and less like air traffic controllers.

APOCALYPSE NERD #2: In a way, that absurdly long delay between issues reinforced the idea that the two jerks have been out in the woods for an extended period of time. On the other hand, like last issue, I don’t like the characters and find the whole scenario less amusing than frightening. And, like last issue, I greatly enjoyed Bagge’s biographies of heroes from the American Revolution. I can’t remember if I went all the way to Awful with issue #1, so I’ll keep this tottering at the lowest rung of Eh (with only those great bios holding it there). Bummer.

DOOMED MAGAZINE #1: An attempt to bring back the old black and white horror comic mag of the ’70s, with mixed results: Richard Matheson’s “Bloodsong” gets adapted by Chris Ryall and Ashley Wood and doesn’t quite work (Wood’s art makes the story feel allegorical too soon, robbing the ending of some of its impact), F. Paul Wilson’s voodoo hollywood story kinda does (although, again, Ted McKeever’s art makes this feel too unreal to really have the kind of impact it should) and I didn’t get past the page of the naked chick in the David Schow story adaptation. And although the mascot looks lovely, her origin was really dumb and her name (Ms. Doomed) is even dumber. Ms. Doomed? It just sounds awkward. Is there a pun there I’m not getting? If they wanted a dumb name, why not Black Masscot? Count Chickula? Eyepatcherella? Malvella Monovision? Anything’s gotta be better than Ms. Doomed. OK.

EX MACHINA #15: Recent arcs seem crafted with an eye toward showing the Mayor as more complex and unpredictable than he appears on the surface. And that’s fine, I guess, but I’m not completely on the bus for some reason. That might just be a matter of expectation, as I was hoping for this series to be like a superhero version of Eagle, and instead it’s more like, I dunno, a ratings-challenged TV series: currently, there’s more of a focus on focus on the character of the mayor, and less on the process of being a mayor(which the first arc or two did very well). It’ll probably all change up once we’re given enough essential info on Mitchell (and maybe once Vaughan’s got enough research done to really immerse us in the politics again) but until then, only an OK from me.

EXILES #71: Has a sense of urgency to it that the last ten to fifteen issues or so have pretty much lacked. With any luck, they’ll be able to keep that moving through the arcs from now on. More or less Good.

FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD SPIDER-MAN #1: I really liked the non-crossover parts to this issue–David’s Spidey is genuinely witty and the villain seemed sharper and less disposable than you’d expect–but I’m sure it’s the crossover parts that will make this sucker sell. And whereas Weiringo’s art always looked too comical on Fantistic Four, it suits Spider-Man to a T. I’ll be following this title while David’s on it (and maybe even pick up the other issues of “The Other” he’s writing) but I wish he’d gotten a chance to start this series cleanly. Good.

GHOST RIDER #2: Very much crafted in the “Jemas” style, unfortunately: the majority of this issue consists of the angel telling Ghost Rider most of what he told the other angel last issue. Again, some pretty art but Ennis has picked up some bad habits working for Marvel and this shows off most of them. An Eh at best.

GOON 25 CENT COMIC: I handsold about a half-dozen of these yesterday and could have done more if it’d been a busier day. I mean, it’s a full issue of one of the best books on the stands and it’s only a quarter! Seriously, if you haven’t tried the book before, get this. It’s great. Very Good, and unbeatable for the price.

HAWKMAN #45: Pretty much went down as I expected even if I had no freakin’ idea who Golden Eagle and Hawkman were talking about, and the fight was much gorier than I expected (broken bones shown jutting out of arms and everything). The whole thing could have been a lot better frankly, but it could have been a lot worse too. OK.

HOUSE OF M #7: I liked the twist, I liked the scenes with Wanda, I liked just about all of this, to be honest (although a lot of the action scenes were astonishingly abstract, and the panel-to-word ratio went absurdly off-balance in a few places). But despite the $2.99 price tag, this issue really costs $20.93 once you include the six issues building up to it. So I’ll give this issue, on its own, a Good, (if you keep in mind that you can’t really read this issue on its own) and the whole project a very low Eh. Not enough bang for the buck here.

INFINITE CRISIS #1: Back when I was a kid, I’d just started really reading DC titles (going from Claremont’s X-Men to Wolfman and Perez’s Teen Titans and from an ad in those pages, thank god, to Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing) when Crisis on Infinite Earths came along which even to my young eyes, seemed like a noble mess, far better than the flatly panderous bullshit of Secret Wars, but still a mess nonetheless. It was obvious that Wolfman, Perez and DC were trying to address and correct something at the same time they were trying to make fanboys’ brains melt at the scope of it all.

I wish I felt a similar vibe coming from Infinite Crisis–the sense that what I’m seeing is a noble mess–but at this point, all I’m getting is that sense of mess, like some four-color version of Los Angeles, the comic book equivalent of urban sprawl. It is, to be fair, a very well-organized mess, with Geoff Johns doing a capable job introducing the ends of four miniseries, staging a dramatic scene with Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, bumping off the Freedom Fighters (but giving me the Human Bomb scene I more or less always wanted), and introducing sub-conflicts a-go-go. (And Jimenez does his best Perezesque moves, although, to be honest, I’ve thought that Jimenez was always the In-And-Out Burger to Perez’s McDonalds: less wasteful and probably better for you overall yet still not quite as satisfying).

But perhaps unsurprisingly, after months and months of plot-hammering in all the different titles, the scene between Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman had no heft to me–of course, they don’t get along! They won’t get along until they have to, according to page ____ of the Infinite Crisis outline. And weirdly, I guess I’m okay with that if there’s the corresponding sense that the plot hammer is being used to do actual construction work, not just knocking square pegs into round holes for the maximum in cheap drama. Is there really a sense that this whole thing is being undertaken to fix something, to correct some little error in the balance of the DCU that keeps throwing things off? Or is it just blood and guts and spectacle and cameos, The Poseidon Adventure with Superman and Batman in the roles of Gene Hackman and Shelly Winters and a universe in place of a boat?

It seems weird to ask those questions (because nobody asks those questions of TV shows or movies–with the exception of Star Wars movies–or books or any other form of popular culture for the most part) but they’re important ones to ask–DC and Marvel may be the landlords, but these are the houses of the mind most of us grew up in. Unfortunately, it’s too soon to tell if these questions’ll be answered or not. Depending on your patience with this type of stuff, you’ll find it either OK, or maybe even right in the Good range. It defintely brought enough to the table that you won’t feel empty, except in that “I just ate a big plate of junk food” kind of way. We’ll see where it goes.

JLA #120: I wonder if the only associations most comic book writers have with the term “break up” comes from their high school relationships, where couples “break up” one day and then, the very next, can be found in the back of a van making out. That would explain a lot, at least in this case: last issue, the JLA broke up, but here they are again, in the back of the van making out. And it’s just as embarrassing as high school, particularly with that dust-spreading ceremony. Oy. Eh.

MARVEL MONSTERS WHERE MONSTERS DWELL: A lot more new content than the previous one-shot: Giffen and Allred’s story really nails the spirit of things, it’s nice to see Arnold Pander’s art again although I think he’s mismatched with Peter David’s script, and Jeff Parker’s story actually works as a straight faced update of the Where Monsters Dwell blueprint. But I can’t really give it a higher rating than the previous one, because there’s no Devil Dinosaur fighting the Hulk, as written and drawn by Eric Powell. Good, if you can clear the price hurdle.

NIGHTWING #113: Ugh. Give Devin Grayson a Nightwing manga title (I’d actually read it) because this is so abbreviated as to be ludicrous. Rose has been hanging out with Nightwing for two issues and she’s in love with him, too? I’m always happy to have love triangles within love triangles within love triangles (some strange byproduct of my love of the old Flash Gordon serials and Bollywood musicals) but can’t we have a little context for it? Eh.

VILLAINS UNITED #6: In its way, packed with more “What the fuck?!” than Infinite Crisis #1: Luthor as Mockingbird? The Secret Society of Villains Luthor as an alternate worlds Luthor? Last minute supervillain lesbian doublecrosses? Catman and Deadshot all but making out at the end of the mini? What the fuck? And yet, I mean that in more or less a good way. And at least there was some kind of a body count there at the end, so Good.

Y THE LAST MAN #38: Who doesn’t like a sexy one-eyed pirate? And the kite flying scene was sweet. But the rest of it, kinda don’t care too much–someday, a scholar will make a really interesting argument as to why the vast majority of these stories deal with Yorick being “outed,” but it’s just not that interesting to me at this point. Eh.

PICK OF THE WEEK: Same as my Trade Pick: D&Q’s reissue of John Porcellino’s Perfect Example. These stories plucked from King-Cat all take place in 1986 when the author was a teenager, and they perfectly capture that mix of free-floating despair, romantic anxiety, unforced friendship and all the other teen hallmarks with total empathy, yet without any empty sentiment whatsoever. I’d just read recently about Hemingway’s “Iceberg Theory” (“If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.”) and Perfect Example has exactly the sort of dignity of movement Hemingway writes about. It’s great stuff.

And pick up the Goon for a quarter while you’re at it.

PICK OF THE WEAK: JLA #120. If the point of Infinite Crisis is to make JLA read like an X-Men book from the mid-90’s, you can just let me off here, thanks.

TRADE PICK: See above, but also Doom Patrol Vol. 3 TPB, Essential Werewolf By Night TPB (ends just as Moench comes on board, dammit, but some lovely Ploog work in there), Essential Spider-Man Vol. 7 TPB (the definitive Spider-Man work for me, I have to admit), and Krazy & Ignatz: A Wild Warmth of Chromatic Gravy, which wins the award for porniest title of a highbrow book this year.

Okay, now to see what Hibbs wrote…

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