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Jeff’s Reviews on 5/18 Books

Brian Hibbs

Oh, that Hibbs. He manages to coax more responses out of you guys than we’ve ever gotten, knocks a couple reviews out of the park, than tells me he probably won’t post until Monday at the earliest because of some crazy shit like, “It’s going to be a beautiful weekend and we have plans on both days to take Ben somewhere new. Just post something whenever you can, and I’ll follow up. Maybe.” Gee, thanks, Mr. Sinatra. I’ll be more than happy to warm up the crowd for a few hours until you feel like coming on stage…

Oh, and somehow this wasn’t supposed to be umpteen million words of blabbity-blab. It just ended up that way.

BATMAN DARK DETECTIVE #2: I liked everything up until the patented “Scarecrow gives Batman a hallucinatory freak-out scene” and even that was crafted in such a way (once Bruce figures out the Scarecrow’s responsible, he has to figure out if that means Scarecrow is actually in the batcave with him and Silver) as to add some secondary suspense. If I have anything close to a major complaint, it’s that “Hush” has turned every Batman arc into The Love Boat. Look, it’s The Joker and Two-Face! And Scarecrow and Penguin! And Tom Bosley and Bea Arthur! I can understand it with this team since they’re doing the equivalent of a greatest hits tour, but it’s really undercut by having it happen in every other Batman book, all the time, and for a few years now. OK.

BIRDS OF PREY #82: I didn’t really see much point to the repetition of those captions about Ted Grant’s boxing career other than the second time through I realized how well written they were. Things like that and some of the bits throughout (I liked the litte factoid about fighting on sand) and some super-nice art make me wanna give this a Good, but I really have to qualify it: there’s still some kinks in the pacing (Barbara’s scenes felt tacked on; a story about breaking up a drug ring is becoming a story about Diana and Ted’s fight to not compromise their ethics–which is laudable (and arguably more dramatic)–but also points out what a poor match they were for the assignment in the first place) that keep me from being genuinely enthusiastic about it. A wishy-washy Good vote from me, I guess.

BLACK PANTHER #4: The best of the issues by far and Hudlin has a genuinely interesting idea here (the nationality of the invading villains reflect the countries that colonized and plundered Africa, giving the story an almost allegorical resonance and tension) but the execution is still lacking–like many other filmmakers who’ve come to comics, he seems reluctant to edit anything out or tighten anything up–and none of it is half as interesting or thought-provoking as his response on a letter page to an accusation of racial bias. Taken in tandem though, I’d give this a very high OK.

CABLE DEADPOOL #15: I felt a few self-conscious twinges when Rob L’Heureux mentioned this book specifically as an example of crap in our comments section because, against all odds, Fabian Nicieza has made this book I enjoy reading simply by showing a degree of intelligence and craft that I wouldn’t expect from the material. It’s a pretty trashy pleasure and I do my best to qualify it as such, but for what it sets out to do, it does it well. There. With that shiningly qualified defense of Cable Deadpool put forward, let me say this issue didn’t work for me at all (cue the guy going “wah-wahhhh” on the trombone). Deadpool wasn’t particularly funny, the fight scenes weren’t particularly interesting, and oh sweet Jebus, that recent Age of Apocalypse thingy makes me never want to see that setting again. It’s an Eh issue, but I’ll still see where it’s at next ish.

CHEMISTRY ONE-SHOT: Steve Peters has a fine drawing line, a weakness for magical thinking, and a tendency to overanalyze things to within an inch of their life. This one-shot, drawn at the rate of a panel a day, starts as a stream of consciousness adventure that becomes an allegorical analysis of a relationship’s failings and it alternately charmed and alienated me. It’s charming because the facile line art is strikingly detailed and clean, and Peters seems like a sweet guy capable of injecting humor and insight into his narrative. It’s alienating because, like a religious zealot or a guy whacked out on drugs or someone with mild Asperger’s, he takes something relatively obvious and, incapable of seeing it, keeps insisting it’s something complex and oblique. Chemistry looks at a rebound relationship that didn’t work out and examines every possible reason it didn’t work out (bad karma, self-sabotage, premonitions of emotional dishonesty) except the most obvious one–the girl was looking for a light, fun fling and Steve couldn’t bring the light and fun. Although it can take a certain amount of time for something like that to sink in (and such a problem is certainly a fertile ground for great art), Chemistry made me anxious and depressed, in the same way being trapped in a conversation with the zealot, the stoner or the Asperger’s person can, as the obsessiveness of its approach goes on to yield no greater insight. Chemistry actually gets an OK from me because I kept reading it, and there were parts of it I found greatly enjoyable. If you like work that honestly communicates how someone else’s mind works, you’ll like Chemistry. If you like thinking about why a piece of art works and why it doesn’t, you’ll like Chemistry (particularly if you’ve read Geoffrey Brown’s stuff which covers very similar ground in utterly dissimilar ways). But if you’re the type of person who wants to help people fix their problems, or even see them solve their problems themselves, caveat emptor in a very big way.

DAREDEVIL #73: Changes up what seemed like the rules of the arc and that’s likely a good thing, but I’m going to miss the modular done-in-one approach. Made it very easy to review. Now, I have to give this a high OK because where it goes from here will tell whether this issue worked at all or not. Maleev’s art is fucking rad, though: this issue’s art really knocked me out.

DESOLATION JONES #1: Yeah, came out last week, but I just wanted to say that double-page spread where Jones gouges that guy’s eye out should go in The Double-Page Spread Hall of Fame. I’m just in awe of it–it gave me that same giddy nauseous brain-slap I got when Sonny Chiba breaks that guy’s skull in x-ray during The Streetfighter, and may well work as both brilliant impressionistic storytelling and wicked pop art meta-commentary. No matter how you slice it (and I think Jones is actually an evolution, not a retread, of the classic Ellis character), that spread alone is worth your dollars. Very Good.

EX MACHINA #11: You know when you’re in a plane and it loses altitude and your ears pop? Kinda how I felt this issue as Vaughan really changes up his pacing, drops any B story (after ten issues of scrupulously working the A-B story format), and focuses all of his scenes on Tony’s drive to close down New York’s fortune tellers. On the one hand, the story shot ahead like a rocket and it felt like a shitload happened. On the other hand, none of it really connected with me emotionally which made it even harder for me to buy the premise. Throw in some outrageously bad body language in the opening scenes (it looks like the police commissioner is communicating to Tony strictly through the medium of interpretative dance) and you’ve got your first Eh issue of this book. Considering how little I liked the wrap-up of the last arc, I hope that’s not an indicator of things to come. Fingers are officially crossed.

EXILES #64: Boy, I really miss Mike McKone’s art on this book: that guy can really sell a scene, you know? The plot and the writing are fine–in fact, it’s pretty good despite some quibblage–but the art has kept everything at the same pitch for the last three arcs: it’s the Exiles versus unstoppable bad guy Hyperion, who seems just like unstoppable bad guy Armageddon, who seems just like unstoppable bad guy Sasquatch god. There’s always a danger of things flattening out when the storytellers keep going over the top again and again, but I think the art has really abetted that here. I feel like I’m right at the moment I get with a decent pop song on a radio–where the repetition drives me from really liking it to never wanting to hear it again. Call that a very manic OK.

FRIDAY THE 13TH #1: I think this tongue-in-cheek one-shot really misunderstands the nature of the Friday the 13th films which mercilessly exploit teens’ fascination and disgust with bodies and their functions–the body’s desire to have sex; its ability to break, crack and spurt, all viewed and tested by a brutal, unthinking puritan (by which I mean not only Jason, but also the mindset of a pre-teen child which still lingers in the thinking of a teenger). So, cleaving a body in half with a machete so the insides can be examined like a medical dummy (as happens on page 2): On target. Jason hitting people so hard their heads come out their asses: Very deeply off-target (really, it sounds so much better than it is). Throw in two oblivious teens having sex in a way that parodies all those other oblivious teens having sex and you have a Friday the 13th one-shot perfect for people who really don’t like Friday the 13th movies. I say Awful, but I could well be so high on my artsy-fartsy crackpot theories I’m completely off-base.

GOON #12: Mmmm. Goon. The last two issues have really used the coloring to take things to a whole ‘nother level, haven’t they? And that boxing match with the robot was just a thing of sheer and simple beauty. The story, by its nature, feels a bit redundant but all the little touches more than make up for it. Very Good.

GREEN LANTERN SECRET FILES 2005: That lead story was a little too crafted (the third time someone said “You’ve never flown with me,” I double-checked the credits to see if it’d been based on a Harry Chapin song or something) but undeniably gorgeous-looking, and I thought Cooke switching his typical Toth-based style to a Kane-influenced style in that middle section was clever and audacious. The second story read like a pile of script outtakes from Rebirth and seemed like the sort of thing you’d show people coming on to acid to guarantee that they’d have a really shitty trip. Considering I hardly like Secret Files issues (and I guess really hate people coming on to acid), that all adds up to Good, believe it or not.

HAWKMAN #40: My hope is there’s some very clever bait-and-switch going on with the funeral thing, but either way, I just didn’t like this issue very much. It’s just–I dunno. It reads like a deliberate mimicing of Geoff Johns’ patented Classic Character Dogpile, but it lacks Johns’ ability to indicate what makes each character in the dogpile unique. The art’s darn pretty, but barely rates an Eh.

HERCULES #2: Okay, so much for all the good will I granted Frank Tieri last issue. He’s got a good idea he has no interest in actually executing: He’s only got three issues left and Hercules hasn’t started any of his twelve labors yet! Are we going to get five pages per labor? Perhaps part of the problem is that Tieri is writing this as a comedy, and he and I have two very different ideas about how comedy should work–I think it should be funny, and he doesn’t. Awful.

JANES WORLD #19: Pleasant enough soap opera, and the humor runs the gamut from witty to overdone (I really liked the sports bra joke before it was run straight into the ground). But it feels like Braddock is still learning her craft–very solid cartooning chops, but the writing frequently clunks, and an inability to speed up the storytelling leads to a really high pagecount. Said count may explain the $5.95 price tag but that just seems way too high a price for a book this emotionally slight (at least in a comic book store; it may sell just fine on the racks of a GLBT bookstore). Pricing and other problems drops it to Eh for me, but this was actually a very pleasant little read.

LIVEWIRES #4: This book is drenched in clever touches but I think it’s not enough for me: a scene like the discussion of the emotion hack should feel like a clever bit of tantalization, but I read it annoyed that it didn’t actually reveal anything. I really like Adam Warren’s work a lot but somehow this all went wrong somewhere (I guess that really wheel-spinning second issue) and I’m just not with the program. Eh.

MARVEL KNIGHTS SPIDER-MAN #14: Starts with a really lousy scene–Spidey flips out because Wolverine cuts him, to the point he actually passes out from blood loss, but at no point do the artist or the colorist feel any urge to put, oh, you know, blood, anywhere in the scene–and pretty much goes downhill from there. Initial amusement over the Clark Kent analogue shoving Peter Parker into a supply closet turned to utter incredulity as the analogue apparently convinces Peter to pray(!) so he can conveniently heal him with his Sentryvision or something. My hope is Hibbs gets some really pointy sticks installed in the store so I can just stab myself in the head with them instead of reading the next issue. It would be much less painful. Awful.

PLASTIC MAN #16: Spins its wheels and vamps, even by the standard set by previous issues: I get the sense Baker has fun thinking of some of this stuff, and takes almost no pleasure drawing it–the tip-off being how the quality of art shifts so dramatically upward whenever he’s drawing a female character. As a kid’s book, Good, as my book that I’m paying $2.99 for: Eh.

ROBIN #138: Some really interesting art here with fight scenes where the panel borders disappear entirely (a pretty neat trick). But I just couldn’t get through the book to save my life. Look, I don’t have the faintest god-damn opinion on how a Robin book should read or look, but every page of this oozed wrongness. Either I’m a cranky opinionated bastard (guilty) or this book has seriously got to get its shit together. Or both. Awful.

SEVEN SOLDIERS GUARDIAN #2: If you liked last issue mainly because of the pirate stuff, you’ll like this issue even more. If you liked last issue because of the superhero stuff, you’ll like this issue at least a little less (Guardian maybe does more than jumps from one subway car to the next, but I don’t remember it). The pirate subway stuff is so much fun (and is that an oblique connection to Klarion The Witch Boy on one page?), I gotta go with Very Good.

SIMPSONS COMICS #106: What should have been a solid gold idea–crossing The Simpsons with those old musical parodies you used to see in Mad Magazine–falls astonishingly flat, mainly because the songs are set to tunes like “I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover.” I’m not sure if the editors insisted that the songs be stuff little kids would recognize or what, but it and the weird “we can’t be authentic anymore because we’re putting it all out on stage” angle just did not work for me at all. Disappointingly Eh.

SPIDER-MAN HUMAN TORCH #4: Well-crafted and if the intention was to create an issue as visually boring as the books from the era in which it was set, mission accomplished. OK, but nothing to write home about.

STRANGE EGGS #1: Starts off with a lot of charm and snap, then suffers a real case of the Shared Universe Anthology Blues–a significant chunk of the cartoonists seem to not care about (or completely loathe) the given constraints and just do what they want. Kind of a shame the whole project ended up as corporate roadkill, but pretty understandable. Eh.

SUPERMAN #217: The first half made no sense but I kind of liked it anyway (Lois had been wiped into the negative zone for the better part of a year, then when she returns, Superman disappears for seven weeks? Ms. Lane, you should file for divorce now: your husband HATES you.) I really hated the second half and realized the first half only existed to give the second half some impact, so I now hate the first half, too. A low Eh, because it’s still an improvement over “For Tomorrow.”

TEEN TITANS #24: Effective but I’m pretty shocked Winick let Johns use that last page reveal–it really, really belongs in The Outsiders. I also worry that Judd and Geoff will reinforce each other’s worst impulses on this upcoming crossover, but I hope I’m wrong. Good.

UNCANNY X-MEN #459: Jesus. Here’s a storyline with a intelligent superpowered dinosaurs, the Savage Land, a third faction of supervillains, and it still wraps up in the dullest way possible. And what kind of dinosaur decides to wipe out the rest of the Earth with a new ice age when some judicious overheating would render the rest of the world ready for its culture’s repopulation? I’m almost glad Alan Davis is leaving the book: this way I won’t feel his skills are being squandered when Nightcrawler and X-23 face off against the Sh’iar Empire in a brutal Pictionary showdown. Sumptious looking but Awful.

WOLVERINE #28: I have no idea what Mark Millar was trying to accomplish with this issue. In fact, I don’t think he had any idea either. Is he trying to show he’s not homophobic by having Evil Northstar and his team of zombie ninjas run around killing rednecks and gaybashers? What kind of evil master plan does Hydra have going when there’s an explanation like: “Well, SHIELD’s in ruins and the superheroes are in a panic, so we thought we’d have some fun killing off rednecks?” My mind is still reeling from it. Throw in a really dumb Sentinel sequence (presumably after Romita refused to accept any more pages from Millar that read like: “Pgs. 14-21: Wolverine kills everyone in sight. Really let yourself go on this one, J!”) and you’ve got full-on Eh or lower.

YOUNG AVENGERS #4: As (almost) always, the time travel stuff makes not a lick of sense (and frankly, wouldn’t it be cooler if Kang had set the whole thing in motion because he wants his younger self to be an Avenger and thus give his older self insider knowledge that could help beat the team?) But I liked all the other stuff a lot. There’s a good balance of revealing bits and pieces about the various members and continuing to add characters to the team. So even without the sense-licking, I’m calling this Good.

PICK OF THE WEEK: Pretty easy. Either Goon #12 or Guardian #2. I’ll go with Guardian #2, just because.

PICK OF THE WEAK: Hercules #2 because I was dumb enough to give Frank Tieri the benefit of the doubt last issue. That’ll learn me.

TRADE OF THE WEEK: God damn Marvel’s greedy eyes: you cannot tell me there was any reason Giant-Size Marvel needed to be twenty-four fucking ninety-nine. This could have been a great breezy read filled with lots of fun stories, a real snapshot of the age. Instead, it’s an overpriced vial of Marvel Zombie crack cocaine, and I barely escaped buying it and letting myself be robbed. (Secondary eye-damning goes to DC for making the cover of their Teen Titans trade look like the animated series in the hopes some kids will actually pick it up and be scarred by the Beast Boy vivisection story.) The trade I went home with is Vol. 3 of Walking Dead, so I guess that’s my pick.


So there you have it. Don’t leave me hanging: what’d you think?

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