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No Foolin’: Reviews of the 3/30 Books

Brian Hibbs

This could be clumsy: I haven’t read Hibbs’ reviews yet, so as not to color my own thinking (conveniently ignoring the four-plus hours we spent at the store discussing stuff), but my hope is he covered most of the week’s books. I barely made a dent in ’em: it was the store’s sixteenth anniversary yesterday, beers were broken out relatively early, we had a constant stream of customers our last three hours and, of course, there was the crashed car which got towed Friday morning after smashing into a parking meter Wednesday. I took pictures and I’ll see if I can get ’em posted later: last week’s attempt at showing our latest window display was a failure, but that may have been because it went through Blogger from Picasa via Hello…which may have been one too many programs to thread through our FTP.

(Yes, we’re mighty fixated on that crashed car here at CE…maybe because it appeared the same day DC Countdown was released. Hmmm… Coincidence?)

What was the point of that? Oh yes, so I spent most of yesterday yelling and drinking, and not nearly enough reading comics. So this entry might be a little content-light, and/or late, depending. Oh, and SPOILERS! But you knew that.

AMAZING JOY BUZZARDS #4: I tried, man, really, I tried. I picked this book up four times but…beer and partying, you know. Hopefully, it got super-awesome and proved every criticism I had of it totally invalid. But if so, it hadn’t happened by page three. No rating.

ASTONISHING X-MEN #9: Kind of an interesting compare and contrast with Countdown because you have a situation that’s equally hard to accept (a mutated Danger Room) and Whedon gets around it by basically saying, “I know! I know! I need an ultra-special dispensation of disbelief suspension here. I mean, we’ve got characters who turn to diamond, for Christ’s sake!” So, in comparing it to Countdown, I learned (a) as a comic book reader, I can accept some pretty outrageous stuff if the writer can acknowledge it themselves; (b) I can accept some pretty outrageous stuff as long as everyone continues to act in character; and/or (c) I can accept some pretty outrageous stuff if John Cassaday is drawing it. Good because of all of the above, even though I’m not nearly as absorbed with the second arc as I was with the first.

BATMAN #638: There was that great issue of Hush where it seemed like Jason Todd was back, and I knew, after it turned out to be a red herring, it would only be a matter of time until Jason Todd really did come back. Because that red herring was so much more exciting and unexpected than the rest of the story Loeb had lined up, it was only a matter of time before another writer went for it. Looks like Judd did (although who knows? Could be another red herring, and the Red Hood is really Aunt Harriet…) although the main problem is, really, it’s not nearly as exciting the second time around (which is probably why it will turn out to be Aunt Harriet). I thought putting an “epilogue” tag on that final scene made things extra messy since this whole story begins in media res with Batman fighting and unmasking Red Hood and then flashing back—I kinda doubt that scene with the Joker takes place after that opening fight—but I more or less liked this. Winick’s writing has pep, Mahnke’s art is buttery smooth, and Batman might actually be in danger for a change. So even though this was kind of a mess, and the exact sort of cynical mess I don’t want to see DC engage in, I’m giving it a Good because, as a Bat-fan, I jumped right in, read it, and am ready for the next.

CONCRETE HUMAN DILEMMA #4: Didn’t get past the opening sex scene, other than to flip through the book to see if there were other sex scenes. Chadwick’s art is gorgeous but his storytelling has lost a lot of nuance: if Steve Ditko had ended up as the staff cartoonist for Mother Jones, the result would be a lot like this. No rating.

DC COUNTDOWN TO INFINITE CRISIS #1: I’m gonna keep this review short because I bet Hibbs will cover a lot of the same ground, and better. (And there are some areas where we differ that might be kind of interesting, but not worth the 20,000 words it would take to get into it.) But, let me just say, first, I knew what I was getting into when I picked up the book—more than likely, it was going to take its cues from all the stuff I didn’t like in Identity Crisis, which meant (more than likely) a minor character was going to get killed by another minor character in a way that, in order to be a genuine surprise, would have to contradict established thinking at the core of either or both characters. And I knew it would be a lead-in to the upcoming miniseries, so there would be a certain amount of awkward plot hammering to cover stuff like The Rann-Thanagar War. And for all that, for what it did, considering it only cost a buck, it was pretty much OK, I thought. It didn’t seem like a hacked-out piece of crap to me (although I’ve read A.K.’s review since then and now I just wonder if I have no taste whatsoever), although it made me actually kind of sad: I mean if I assembled a list of all the DC titles from the ’80s and ’90s that deserved to be shit on, the Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire Justice League would probably be at the very bottom of that list. And yet, this is about as thorough a shitting on as one can imagine (well, L-Ron didn’t come out and skullfuck Blue Beetle’s exit wound, but maybe they’re saving that for the “Director’s Cut.”) I know Geoff Johns has brought back and cleaned up so many characters that’ve been shit on he probably thinks he can do the same with Blue Beetle (and I’m sure he can!), but can he really unpoison an entire run? I hope DC was at least suave enough to let Giffen, DeMatteis and Maguire know in advance (and/or throw them a bonus or some extra work) because this would feel like a kick in the teeth, otherwise. Depressing.

FANTASTIC FOUR #524: Well-crafted and clever, and kind of has me wondering if the Fantastic Four are, for lack of a better term, dead. I was having lunch with a friend this week, and one of the topics touched on were the imaginary stories Superman used to have and how brilliant and necessary they were. Because with Superman, you have this really brilliantly established status quo and the only way to explore all of its implications without really changing it is by using an imaginary story (or a reboot). So Superman’s dead, more or less, but imaginary stories allow writers and readers to still explore the myth of Superman and weave interesting material from it. Without that in place, you basically get stuff like Supreme Power and Supreme and Legend, which are explorations of the Superman myth without using Superman.
And maybe it’s the same with The Fantastic Four: you’ve got a really iconic status quo, and you’re supposed to explore that status quo without really changing anything. What can you do? You can create very well-crafted and clever stories like this team did and if a scene where Ben argues with Reed that Reed can’t become The Thing, because his stubby little fingers will slow down his ability to save humanity, feels patently false, really, whose fault is it? Certainly not Waid’s, not Weiringo’s, and maybe not even mine. It’s just the nature of the status quo. OK, I guess.

FLASH #220: This is how I know I’m just not a true Flash fan—I just don’t care about The Rogues. Geoff Johns has crafted some stories that make me interested in some of the individual Rogues, sure. But put ten of ’em in a room and I just lose interest. This was probably better than Eh, but I doubt I’ll ever be able to tell.

MARVEL KNIGHTS SPIDER-MAN #12: So first, Green Goblin and Doc Ock get struck by lightning. Then, when it looks like Aunt May is dying, she and Spidey get struck by lightning? One convenient lightning strike is absurdly cheap, two just seems, I dunno, openly contemptuous? And the use of Chekov’s dictum “If there is a gun hanging on the wall in the first act, it must knock a love interest off a bridge by the last,” was also a bit off-putting (As Hibbs put in the store: “why would you even bother to set something like that up? Why not just have her slip and fall?”). I kind of liked the last page, and I thought the text piece by Millar singing the praises of the strange fucked up ’70s Spidey books (an era I also love) was very well done. But it also seemed Millar had spent twice as long composing that text page as he had the previous three issues. Considering the total number of pages I liked in this twelve issue run is approximately four, I would have to give this the Crap rating.

OUTSIDERS #22: I don’t care too much about Arsenal, but I liked how this played out. Something about Deathstroke looking at all those wounds and deciding to give the guy a pass really worked for me. A quibble here, a quibble there (is there a bunch of Deathstroke/Arsenal slash fanfic that I don’t know about? Because that panel where a well-placed boot obscures what may be Deathstroke mounting Arsenal was pretty darn…interesting), so let’s go with OK.

RICHARD DRAGON #11: A pretty good set-up to a what will hopefully be a slam-bang finale. OK.

SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #26: A fateful “lady or the tiger” decision as Spidey must choose whether to go after a kidnapped Mary Jane or a vengeance-hungry Sara…except it’s really more like a “lady or the muppet” decision. Half an hour later, Sara is still in a Mexican standoff with the evil French gangsters until Spidey appears to mop things up. Just one of many reasons I found this issue particularly Craptacular.

TAROT WITCH OF THE BLACK ROSE #31: Yes, we drank and partied so much I didn’t even read Tarot. Aww. No rating.

ULTIMATE SECRET #1: Nice and speedy. The science stuff didn’t drag on too long, and we got some fun big splodey. As long as next issue isn’t just a repeat of this issue: Good.

X-MEN PHOENIX ENDSONG #4: I’m wonder if this was supposed to have been the following arc on Astonishing after Whedon/Cassaday because it really seems to stem from it (in the same way the Whedon/Cassaday work seemed to stem from Morrison’s run). I’m liking it, although Land’s action scenes are a little bit of a jumble and I’m just not following some of the thinking here. (Why does Logan repeatedly killing Phoenix make her more Jean and less Phoenix? Or have I got that backward?) Still, I have to say I prefer it to all of the regular X-books except for Astonishing. Good.

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