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More Excuses than Reviews: Jeff and the 6/15 Books

Brian Hibbs

Right. Well, not only was it Father’s Day yesterday, but Hibbs had the start of an impressive cold on Friday. I’m assuming he’ll be down for the count this week, but I’m hoping I’ll be as off with this prediction as I was with the last one.

As for me, the CE newsletter is on my plate and I spent most of the weekend working on that, but since this week has a little bit of everything (at least in the trades), I thought I would dash off some very quick comments while I can.

Oh, and Batman Begins: pretty good, huh? I thought Hibbs’ review was spot on, so I won’t add anything.

Also, last week saw the release of Danger: Diabolik on DVD, kind of an amusing compare and contrast to Batman Begins. It’s a pretty great package, cheaply priced but lovingly layered with extras (informative fun to be had watching Steve Bissette dissect Mario Bava’s visuals). Like the only other Bava film I’ve seen (Planet of the Vampires), Danger: Diabolik alternated between delightful and deadly dull but I’m really glad I saw it–if you’re the type to watch your films while, uh, medicated, I’m sure you’d find it delightful through and through.

And let’s see what I can misremember about this week’s comix:

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #641: Superman encounters OMAC yet again and continues to remain impressively clueless about the whole thing, while the sassy police captain kicks the shit out of Pete Ross–ooo, she beat up not just a helpless ex-president, but also my suspension of disbelief! Hopefully, we’ll get to see her push Jimmy Carter down some stairs next ish! As long as OMAC can just show up, kick ass and disappear untraceably, these type of crossovers are gonna be Eh at best, and get tired mighty fast.

AUTHORITY REVOLUTION #9: Remember how Ellis did three four issue arcs with Authority, each one going more over the top until the team essentially beat the shit out of God by the end? I think a similar mix of bombast and concision would have really helped this. Eh.

BATMAN DARK DETECTIVE #4: Pretty much a big ol’ time-waster, which this mini (or any mini, frankly) can’t afford. And at this rate, by 2030, we’ll have Bruce Wayne’s entire pre-Batman life mapped out, right down to his dramatic struggle with fear while exiting a bat-shaped birth canal. Eh, because I’m generous that way.

BIRDS OF PREY #83: I think this is supposed to read like a fast-paced, breakneck adventure where the stakes get upped every few pages, but it actually reads to me like an ambitious writer keeps putting more and more on the plate even though there’s too much there already. The announcement the other week of Geoff Johns’ overseeing the DCU’s path into and out of Infinite Crisis couldn’t be more timely, because a lot of the DCU writers are starting to Geoff Johnsify their work already. OK.

EX MACHINA #12: Seems on much surer footing than last issue did, which is a relief. Good.

GIANT SIZE X-MEN #3: I doubt there’s any way an eight page story is going to be worth this kind of money, no matter how much they were gonna pull out the stops, but I thought felt kinda slapdash with both Whedon and Adams showing their weaknesses (shticky and fussy, respectively) rather than their strengths. Though if Marvel’d just tossed this in an issue of X-Men Unlimited or something, I’m sure it would have felt like a charming little treat. Awful.

HAWKMAN #41: So we finally get one issue where the whole “Hawkman is Conan but he can fly” idea gets the full treatment and people, unsurprisingly, seem kinda skeeved out by it. I thought it was pretty good fun and would gladly read more in the same vein but all the head-loppery and flesh-stabbery underscores how bad a fit that approach is with a character smack in the middle of the DCU. Might be a bit of a moot point what with those last few pages and all but worth pointing out, anyway. OK.

POWERS #11: As someone who’s read this book since its very beginnings, this issue kicked my ass up one side of the comic store and down the other. If you’re a fan of Powers, I can’t imagine this not doing the same. If you’re not a fan, I almost want to advise to start reading the book just so you can have the grim pleasure of this issue. Very Good work, to be sure.

SEVEN SOLDIERS KLARION THE WITCH BOY #2: This paid off for me tremendously well, mainly because of all the interlocking bits with SS: Guardian #2, but also because Morrison kept changing up the plot every few pages or so. Lovely, lovely art, too. Very Good.

SIMPSONS COMICS #107: A strong return to form for Boothby, I thought, with finally a bit of a change-up on the splash page joke, and just a lot of amusingly silly situations. If there’s something that didn’t work for me this issue, I don’t remember it–also Very Good.

VIMANARAMA #3: Late but worth it: this easily cleared beat the dashed expectations left after issue #2 and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Maybe because Philip Bond got to focus on the small human interactions where he really excels, or maybe because G-Mo’s character developments, which previously felt a bit slapdash, here add up to a sum a bit larger than their parts, or maybe because it reminded me of some of Salman Rushdie’s fizzier writing. But whatever the case, felt like a Good read to me.

WOLVERINE #29: That cover made me very uncomfortable, as probably any cover where Wolverine is hurtling his groin at my face might. Fears of forced oral copulation aside, I thought this was better than the last two or three issues as the art and story seem to have a bit more spark to them. Good.

And so we move to this week’s trade section, which really made the week for me:

AEIOU GN: On the one hand, this felt like a rehash of too-similar material Brown’s already explored, which may well be the point–how many times do we go through the same experience of love, but with different partners, until it finally changes? On the other hand, Brown’s keenly observant about the small moments that make and break a relationship, and it’s precisely those moments I love reading about. But I got more and more restless as I made my way through the book, suspcious that Brown may feel he has to do one of these for each of his failed relationships to prove that the most recent was as important to him as the first. Some of the dramatic shifts in time and place in the middle of the titled sections were a welcome jolt, and points to an awareness on Brown’s part that this material needs to be shaken up a little bit. Maybe it’s time for pure fiction, where the observations can inform and be informed by the pleasures of plot? OK.

CAPTAIN AMERICA BY JACK KIRBYBICENTENNIAL BATTLES TPB: Proves the sad truism that anything I buy on Ebay will be collected less than two years later. I love Kirby’s material and it’s a delight to have this in easy access–plus the issues of CA where Kirby riffs on an idea (a planet of lunatics) straight out of Phil Dick. Bonus points for the occult shiver received by seeing Archie Goodwin listed as consulting editor(!) If you’re a Kirby fan, OK to Good.

DER STRUWWELMAAKIES HC: Tony Millionaire’s latest Maakies collection, designed again by the mighty Chip Kidd. Surprisingly, it’s taking me a bit longer to get into the material than previously, but the gay dentures joke at the start gave me a pretty good laugh and I don’t doubt there’s more to come. Preliminary prognosis is between OK and Very Good.

ESSENTIAL FANTASTIC FOUR VOL 4 TPB: You know how they say chocolates cause the production of some of the same endorphins as when you’re in love? For me, this holds true with Kirby inked by Sinnott. This stuff resonates so deeply in me, it must be lodged near my medulla oblongata–I may well have trembled as I read it. Gorgeous stuff and at the top of my Very Good rating.

SCOTT PILGRIM VOL 2 VS THE WORLD GN: I was almost relieved when I didn’t initially take to the opening flashback section–although worried that Bryan Lee O’Malley had hit something like sophomore slump and had already promised more volumes of this narrative than his interest or skills could sustain, I was secretly glad that I wouldn’t have to play the role of frothy-mouthed proselytizer, jumping all about like some sex-crazed chimpanzee, telling you about how O’Malley had met or exceeded the potential of Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life and that you should dash out and buy his book and give him all your money for doing something impressive and delightful and great.

And then I got to the end of the flashback section, and the book proceeded to work a horrifying magic on me, and make me an even more fevrent frothy-mouthed proselytizer than I could have imagined. Scott Pilgrim Versus The World is brilliant, and a real delight and you should dash out RIGHT NOW and buy a copy of this book and give O’Malley ALL YOUR MONEY. The references to video games, RPGs, autobbio comix, manga and anime are still there and arguably better than ever (my heart swelled with love over the Mithril Skateboard gag) but, in making Scott a tool who barely pays attention to the hearts he breaks, O’Malley begins to add shadings to the narrative that speak to human nature (who hasn’t oblivously broken someone else’s heart? Who hasn’t had their heart broken by someone oblivious?) and grounds it all in a more emotionally real context than you’d expect. Throw in some real Toronto locations (and the knowledge that O’Malley and his wife Hope Larson have relocated from Toronto to Halifax) and the second volume suggests that the Scott Pilgrim series may end up a far more clear-eyed farewell to youth than all the giddiness and hilarity and finishing moves might indicate.

In short, I absolutely loved this god-damned book. Please check out the first two volumes when you get the chance, please. Excellent.

PICK OF THE WEEK: Scott Pilgrim! Scott Pilgrim! Scott Pilgrim! But if I had to pick a floppy, I’d go with Powers #11, Klarion #2, or Simpsons #107, depending on what you follow. They were all yummy.

PICK OF THE WEAK: I didn’t bother much with the stinky stuff this week. From what I follow, I was very disappointed in Batman: Dark Detective #4.

TRADE PICK: Scott Pilgrim! Scott Pilgrim! Scott Pilgrim!

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