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Last Year’s Comics!

Brian Hibbs

Actually, some of the comics from last week…which was last year, right? When I left the store on Friday, Hibbs kept saying, “So, write a few reviews okay? Just one or two? And then I’ll riff off ’em!” I, of course, promised I would, then became too damn entranced with setting up my new computer to review anything. But I do feel a little guilty, so let’s see what I remember about:

ADAM STRANGE #4 (of 8): I initially felt a bit gypped by the opening escape by Adam, but realized the whole guy-rescued-from-certain-death-by-hot-chick trope is what powers most of the original Flash Gordon, and so is considered fair game in a book like this. I’m not thrilled about it, mind you, but I can accept it. Overall, a Good read although, man, The Omega Men still suck, don’t they?

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #515: Another JMS continuity implant and while less alarming than “Gwen Did The Goblin,” a potentially bad sign of things to come: goober scientist guy could’ve been a distant friend of Pete’s, some kid who he bonded with at a science fair, rather than going to the same school at the same time. Again, this seems done to maximize the drama of the storyline but violently undercuts the believability of the mythos. (“Oh, hey, it’s that kid I went to school with! Boy, I felt so guilty about him I never thought about him even once in the last _________ years!”) Plus, all that continuity retconning, and the story spins first on Tony and Peter being teammates in Avengers and then on them never discussing the seed money Tony goes on to give? Very, very sloppy and pretty close to Awful.

AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES #4 (of 8): Apart from the very unexplained panels of Rick Jones apparently locking himself in the Avengers’ Cosmic Clothes Dryer, I liked this. The Cap storyline and the Avengers security storyline synched up and progressed nicely. Not a big fan of that last page (if there’s one plot thread that should be retired for a few years, it’s the “will the hero kill?” which has been done, pardon the pun, to death…) but still, a qualified Good.

BATMAN #635: Me likes the Mahnke–that opening fight scene just seemed kick-ass even as it got more and more absurd (guy sticking a knife in a building to slow his fall? Not in a Batman book, I think…). But every arc on this title keeps swinging for the fences and feeling more and more overplayed each time: the first half tried to out-hush “Hush” and the second tried to out-game “War Games,” which, considering those are very, very recent Batman arcs, leaves me uninspired to run out and get next issue. Purty, though. OK.

EXILES #57: Pretty nonplussed by the conclusion to this, and I wasn’t even expecting that much from the arc. It’s kinda like the creative team went, “Oh, wait! The Kulan Garath setting sucks! Let’s move on to something else, quick!” Eh.

IRON MAN #2: Interestingly, I don’t think Warren Ellis understands decompression. He just doesn’t have the patience or something. So when he writes a decompressed storyline, he just writes the same issue twice. I would’ve really liked this…if I hadn’t read it just last month. Eh.

LEGION OF SUPERHEROES #1: I hope Hibbs will get off the stick and write about this, since he’s the DC guy. Me, I liked it–a lot. It seems to have everything one would want in a Legion title, plus it’s easy to follow. If the team stays this inspired, I’ll have a new book joining my list of favorites in pretty short order. Very Good.

SUPERMAN #212: Too bad we don’t have “Huh?” as a rating because that would be my rating for this issue. Oh, what the hell: Huh?

SUPERMAN BATMAN #16: Loeb knows how to make a Kirby fanboy like me cry with joy: not just a Kamandi cameo, but a Kamandi cameo that properly references that bizarre Superman tie-in story in Kamandi? Not just Darkseid and Metreon, but Darkseid keeping Etrigan on a leash like a pet? Batman punching it out with Jonah Hex? Kryptonite buckshot? It’s a big goddamn beautiful mess and I’m enjoying it tremendously. Very Good.

TEEN TITANS #19: Felt a little rushed, particularly if you’ve read Alan Moore’s Twilight proposal which Johns pillages for this arc (I can’t really fault him for that, since it seems nearly everyone, Alan Moore included, has ripped ideas from that proposal–it’s the damn Gnostic text of mainstream comics). I don’t know if I would have gone for a full six issues on this, but maybe four or five? I dunno. OK.

ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR #14: I thought about retyping my exact comments from Iron Man here as a metatextual joke but you deserve better. On the one hand, there’s no reason why the end of this couldn’t have been the end of issue #13. On the other hand, Ellis, like Bendis, writes very funny dialogue when he’s got the room and I’m used to leisurely storytelling in the Ultimate ‘verse. Still, it could be much better than just a grudging OK, I think.

ULTIMATE NIGHTMARE #4 (of 5): I liked Ultimate Unicorn from issue #3, by the way, but Ultimate Red Guardian, not so much. Also, because audiences tend to root for the underdog, I think the Lethal Weapon gambit almost never works. Remember the end of Lethal Weapon where Mel Gibson and Gary Busey are kick-boxing each other to death on a lawn with 37,000 police officers surrounding them? It’s not dramatic because Busey is going to go down either way. Similarly, the Captain America/Guardian throw-down with three other Ultimates standing around with machine guns really doesn’t get me too excited. Unless Ellis miraculously grabs the Ultimate Brass Ring next ish, I think this is gonna be a sludgy failure. Eh.

WALKING DEAD #14: Someone else, maybe Evan Dorkin, pointed out how bad the visual-verbal blend on this book has gotten–there’s just balloon after balloon after ballon of explaining. Wayyy tooo much text. And yet, as a card-carrying member of the Post-Apocalypse Fan Club (I think everyone who grew up in the late ’70s, early ’80s is a member) and a guy who’s read King’s The Stand at least four times, I still like this quite a bit. Just start trimming that text a bit, Kirkman! Good.

WARLOCK #4: An amazingly nice wrap-up. I’d been enjoying the series despite some serious reservations, and I really, really like how this turned out. My guess is Pak had his last issue written in his head, figuring he’d break it out in another year or so, but man it worked like a charm. Sorry to see this book go, and worth hunting up in bargain bins and back issues if you didn’t read this. Good.

WHAT IF DR. DOOM HAD BECOME THE THING?: Pretty dumb, but like the Hulk’s What If?, gets right to the meat of the matter. And the Paul Smith art, particularly in that Thing/Hulk punch-up was so dreamy, I had to give this at least a high OK.

WHAT IF GENERAL ROSS HAD BECOME THE HULK?: A bigger misfire, just because there’s nowhere, really, for it to go and the art was pretty uninspired. This made me realize those old What If’s were double-sized because they needed to be: without the extra pagecount, the story has no space once everything’s in place. So, really, there’s just no way any of these could have worked, I think. Eh.

WHAT IF KAREN PAGE HAD LIVED?: Out of alpha order because it was the first Bendis title I read and the biggest failure. Sure, sure, he took over for Kevin Smith when Smith bowed out or something, but still: ten pages to recap the storyline? Ten pages before you even get to the “What If?” There was no space for anything but tell, tell, tell, tell, making it all incredibly dull, dull, dull. An honest to God postcard (“Dear Jeff: Karen Page lived, so I killed the Kingpin. Visiting hours are ten to five on Saturday. Love, Matt Murdock”) would held more drama. Flat-out Crap.

WHAT IF JESSICA JONES HAD JOINED THE AVENGERS?: May be the biggest piece of professionally produced fanfic I’ve ever read, with Jessica finally revealing herself as Brian Bendis’ Mary Sue par excellence. Because even though Jessica Jones is a fucked-up mess, she marries Captain America and they have millions of beautiful babies! Again, so long spent bringing the reader to the “What If?” point, there was no space for any drama to develop. Also Crap.

So, that’s what I got. Now, let’s see if Hibbs will chime in.

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