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"Ooo, mama" and other insightful comics reviews from Jeff on the 10/25 Books.

Jeff Lester

Blab-blab-blab Vegas, blab-blab birthday, yak-yak Nanowrimo.

However, a very sweet week for comics so while I’ve still got time:

52 WEEK #25: The crime bible is one of those really goofy things only comics can pull off, and so I’m very happy to see it here, used to beat people’s brains in and whatnot. In fact, this issue seems to split right down the middle between feverishly odd and enjoyable ideas–crime bible, mad scientist island, some sort of Chinese cybertech Humpty Dumpty dude–and relatively by-the-book melodramatic scenes–some clever dialog spruces up the tired fight scene between the Dark Marvel family and a demon, and we don’t even get that when it comes to the cautionary tale of Felix Faust (in which Ralph Dibny takes the wrong lesson, I should add: Dibny walks away from the story going “Yeah, yeah, I get it, Fate. Be careful of deals with the Devil” when the point of the whole story is that when writers don’t know how to handle a c-list character, that character is in for a whole world of shit and degradation.) Highly Good issue, though.

ACTION COMICS #844: I wasn’t expecting much from this, but ended up liking it for a really unexpected reason–Kubert’s art was odd, whimsical and what the French deconstructionists would call “loosey-goosey.” I think the story should have taken place out of continuity–as long as you’ve got Perry White and the supporting cast acting out of character, why not shoot the moon?–because the orphan of Krypton storyline doesn’t have much weight if it’s happening to the same Superman who went through most of this not long ago with Supergirl. But I’m in for next issue and I wasn’t expecting that to happen at all. Low end of Good, high end of OK.

BLACK PANTHER #21: Hadn’t heard good things about the last couple of issues, but this was pretty OK, truth be told. As Hibbs pointed out, it didn’t have a Civil War crossover cover and it was probably one of the best Civil War issues of the past week or two. The Storm character isn’t recognizable in the least, but at least there wasn’t anything too offensive in her characterization, and Namor was written pretty well. A happy surprise but it’s a shame they didn’t market it correctly, though.

BOYS #4: Weirdly, I think this is the issue where the book has hit its stride, as Ennis’s utter distaste, and Robertson’s full enthusiasm, for the subject at hand somehow function together perfectly–but whether that subject is sex or superheroes, I really couldn’t tell ya. I can’t imagine the book will continue on like this for long (at some point, either the creators or the publishers will become too self-conscious) but what’s amazing is it could: Ennis and Robertson could create original and offbeat scenes of superhero sexual degradation for a long, long time. But, like I said, someone’s gonna flinch before too long so I’d recommend picking this issue up now. Very Good, if you’re either a big fan of examining a work in light of it might say about the creator(s) and their other work, or you just want a book that makes Ennis’s own The Pro read like an issue of Archie.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #23: Brubaker continues to have me in the palm of his hand on this one, even if he might be overplaying the “Bucky is such a bad-ass” angle a little. Very Good stuff.

DAREDEVIL #90: By contrast, things have slipped just a little since the first arc for any number of minor reasons but mainly because this just doesn’t have the breathless “oh, fuck” of the first arc. Still, it looks lovely, reads well, and there’s still a kind of noirish sense of doom to the whole thing. It’s really Good, but I’m not quite rocking my world as much as previously.

CIVIL WAR CHOOSING SIDES: I dropped this out of alpha order so as not to muddle my Captain America/Daredevil reviews (and why isn’t it on our ARRIVING list?) It runs the gamut from the satisfying (Ty Templeton writing a surprisingly strong Howard the Duck story) to the tantalizing (David Aja’s gorgeous looking work on that Iron Fist preview) to the Meh (the remarkably bland Ant-Man story) to the what-the-fuck (Helloooo, Guiding Light preview). As I guess others have noted, very much like DC’s Brave New World book except you’re paying through the urethra for it. If it’d been only a buck I would’ve given it a Good (because yes, I’m just that much of a ’70s Iron Fist and Howard The Duck nerd). At $3.99, though, it gets an Eh.

DEATHBLOW #1: In toying around with a standard genre convention–the guy who shows off a picture of his girl or kid in a war movie is doomed to die–Azzarello comes up with an idea (the superstitions of soldiers bent on staying alive, and the tendency of armed combat to kill them anyway) far more interesting than the rest of the stuff in the issue. If future issues similarly have something off-beat to say about war and the people caught up in it, then this’ll be worth reading. OK.

EXILES #87: An okay twist on the Galactus mythos but how many times has Galactus appeared in Exiles already? I can think of at least one other time and that was drawn by Mike McKone so it trumped this issue. As I said, though, OK.

HEROES FOR HIRE #3: More-or-less OK until the tepid villainess from the previous Daughters of the Dragon mini escaped at the end, and then I felt like downgrading the issue to Eh. Less fickle reviewers may have taken umbrage at the whole “thought we’d really tie in to the main plot of Civil War? Psych!” and started at Eh to begin with.

IMPALER #1: The art was fine until something needed to happen and then it got pretty damn muddled, pretty damn fast. But if the book doesn’t overplay the grim and dour angle, I’d like to see where it goes–the retirement scene of the cop with the dead wife was oddly affecting. The art doesn’t leave me particularly hopeful but OK, nonetheless.

NEW AVENGERS #24: What happens when an unstoppable plot hammer meets an immovable editorial edict? I mean, The Sentry’s real power, it appears, is to rewrite reality on the fly. So if he’s so uncomfortable with the whole Civil War thing why doesn’t he just wipe it out, or resolve it in a way that feeds his dangerously fragile ego? I feel like Bendis has an effectively creepy handle on the character (so much so, I wish he’d written that recent miniseries) but the contradiction just stops my appreciation for anything dead in my tracks. Eh, I guess.

NEXTWAVE AGENTS OF HATE #9: I thought this was absolutely hilarious, more or less from start to finish. And whether Ellis is examining how Marvel, from Not Brand Echh to The Ultimates, has used self-commentary to heighten its own self-mythology, or he’s just having a royal piss-up, it doesn’t matter. Either I was too hard on some of the issues around the middle or the run, or this book is getting a helluva second wind. It’s Very Good smart-ass stuff.

PLANETARY #26: Since I barely remember a damn thing and refuse to re-read issues, you’re not going to get the most incisive review from me on this. (Do you ever? Wait, don’t answer that.) But I thought the character beats were quite strong, and we’ll see what next issue’s epilogue leaves us with. Pretty Good but you should check with the professionals to see whether it’s actually stronger or weaker than that.

SEVEN SOLDIERS #1: As the post title goes, “Ooo, mama.” I loved this, perhaps all the more so because I didn’t understand it, and from what I can tell, it may not have mattered if I had re-read the previous issues and/or online annotations or not: I think Morrison’s intention with this issue was to recreate the experience of the “first superhero comic book” you ever read. Remember that one? It was the one with the whole complex mythology filled with references to other events, and likeable characters and strange motivations and the feeling that maybe, just maybe, if you were, I dunno, devout enough, you could somehow make sense of the whole thing? I think that’s what Morrison is going for here, and thanks to the more-than-capable hands of J.H. Williams III he gets it all–Kirbyesque prologue, Windsor McCay and Maurice Sendak influences, celtic designs, Sterankoisms, and everything else combining into a disparate yet unified whole. I may have a theory or two about what happened and what it means, but I’m actually pretty happy to just read it and re-read it, the same way I read that first superhero comic book from way back when, over and over again. Very Good stuff, in short, and I probably would’ve rated it higher if there’d just been more Frankenstein.

STAN LEE MEETS THING: This week on Stan Lee’s “All The Lies That Are My LIfe:” Stan bicyles down Yancy Street and encounters The Thing who tells Stan it’s okay that The Thing’s a monster because women are really attracted to power, not looks. Also, as a bonus, Roy Thomas writes a tribute to Stan that reads like a pitch-perfect parody of a Roy Thomas story, Johnny Ryan does a very odd two-pager that looks like it had its original chubby-chasing, dual-felching punchline cut for obvious reasons, and a pretty decent Lee/Kirby FF reprint that maybe obliquely makes the same point Stan’s opening story did so bluntly. Not my favorite of the “Stan Lee Meets..” one-shots (because I don’t think there’s any character so squarely at the intersection of Lee & Kirby as The Thing), but odd enough to be worth checking out, maybe. Eh but worth looking for.

SUPERGIRL AND THE LEGION OF SUPER HEROES #23: I wax and wane in my appreciation of this title. There’s so much to like (clever dialogue, lovely art), why does the stuff I don’t dig turn me off so much? I’m inclined to think the good stuff makes the bad stuff stick out that much more (a character thinking she’s just in a weird dream for, like, months, is the main craw currently stuck in my throat) but I really don’t know. Any ideas? OK because it’s too accomplished for Eh even though my real feelings about it are indeed Eh.

SUPERMAN BATMAN ANNUAL #1: Satisfyingly dumb fun, believe it or not. While it may be just as in-jokey and hard-to-believe as the last issue of Loeb’s Superman/Batman, I found it much more enjoyable for one of any number of reasons: art, dialogue, blatant absurdity, etc. The bellwether is pretty much Joe Kelly’s joke that the Deathstroke of Earth 2 (you know, the crime earth from Morrison and Quitely’s OGN) is, more or less, Deadpool. If you think that’s funny, you’ll like this issue. If you think that’s absurdly self-indulgent (or, rather, too absurdly self-indulgent to be funny) you probably won’t like it. Chalk me up in the “I liked it” column. It was Good.

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #101: After all of the intense mind-fuckery of the last few issues, this issue seemed to spin its wheels. Maybe because the UFF showed up, got a free pass, then conveniently disappeared so Peter could still be left in the soup? Surprisingly Eh, this issue.

WETWORKS #2: Whilce Portacio’s work is the stuff of migraines for me–I can’t look at it for too long without getting nauseous and seeing odd visual haloes in my vision. So you’ll have to turn elsewhere to find out if this vampires-versus-werewolves-versus-cybernetically-augmented-soldiers story is proceeding along nicely or isn’t. I’ve got to go lie in a dark room for a few hours and not think about it. No rating.

ZOMBIE #2: Underwhelming in almost every particular. Kyle Hotz’s storytelling has some weird hinks where action is involved and it looks like this is heading toward a very E.C.-ish conclusion, but those are about the only impressions I was left with. Eh.

PICK OF THE WEEK: What are you, crazy? SEVEN SOLDIERS #1, but there was a lot of stuff out there I enjoyed reading. Much better than I would’ve thought.

PICK OF THE WEAK: I think if I could’ve made it through WETWORKS #2 without the hysterical blindness setting in, but who knows?

TRADE PICK: Oh, man. The first forty pages or so of THE DRIFTING CLASSROOM, VOL. 2 really fucked my shit up and I mean that in the most “get out there and get a copy NOW” kind of way possible. I’ve got a variety of things I could rant about but I think most of ’em would be pretty spoilery (save for my weird belief that there’s an odd Chester Gould vibe permeating Kazuo Umezu’s artwork for this). Let’s just say if you draw succor from seeing a talented creator unafraid to explore some really dark ideas, you’ll love this. I found huge chunks of this almost unspeakably satisfying. Just amazing.

And you?

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