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Over, Under and Through: Jeff’s Reviews of the 2/28 Books.

Jeff Lester

Wow, Wondercon. Wiped me out, man. And I didn’t even go!

Well, okay. I did go, but like for maybe two hours? On Sunday? And then I just had to leave: thanks to the awesomeness that is Drunken Master, I spent fifty bucks over my budget, found myself overwhelmed by all the other books and this sudden creeping–what? antipathy? shyness? exhaustion?–and cut out. If there was an olympic sport for lameness (as opposed to just most olympic sports being lame), I would’ve certainly been made the U.S.’s number one draft pick.

But, yeah, Drunken Master is awesome: they’re like the PETA for fans of asian films as they refuse to carry bootlegs. So sometimes you have to have an all-region DVD player (or have hacked your DVD player to play all regions) but you can rest in peace knowing that the dudes who busted their hump making an awesome flick like The Host (which I highly recommend you catch when it comes to theaters next month) get paid. Plus, the guys there know their shit, so when you need help finding that kinda obscure Wong Jing flick, they generally know what you’re talking about. I’ve nearly made dudes in Chinatown burst into tears trying to understand that, no, I don’t want God of Gamblers, I want that spoof of God of Gamblers. You know? The one with the kid? Thanks to DM, I finally have a copy of Saint of Gamblers on DVD… and Osaka Wrestling Restaurant…and Welcome to Dongmakgol…and this digitally remastered copy of John Woo’s Bullet In The Head…and more than a few others. It’s awesome, but now I think I’m gonna have to rob a 7-11 to make it ’til payday.

So there you have it–the world’s most retarded Wondercon report: they have non-bootleg DVDs there and I bought some. The End.

As for the week’s books:

52 WEEK #43: Well, fuck. I really liked Sobek, so I wasn’t thrilled by those last two pages (and you know I’ve been on the wah-wah wagon the last couple months about the casual use of explicit violence in several DC books, so I won’t bore you with that) but I did think they were effective. Also, it probably counts for a lot that these were two characters created for this story and to serve the storyteller’s ends (as opposed to, say, if the scene had happened between Capatain Marvel, Jr. and Mr. Tawny). So Good work for the most part, even if though it left me kinda pissed.

ACTION COMICS #846: If this was shipping on time, I’d be more-or-less stoked about it. I’m surprised that a book this late can still feel so slapdash (if nobody ages in the Phantom Zone, as Jor-El states, how do you explain the kid?) but it looks pretty and I appreciated the extra thought Kubert put into finding new angles from which to show someone being punched through a building. So at the least, it’s on the high ranges of OK. Really shows how you late shipping can sap momentum from an extended stoyline, though.

ACTION PHILOSOPHERS #8: Probably their densest issue yet, I think, as I could feel the smoke flowing out my ears from the Hegel/Schopenhauer story alone. But I even made it through that (if just to read the rest of the jokes), which is a testament to the skill and humor with which Van Lente and Dunlavey build their narratives. It’s not what I would give to someone as their first issue, but the exceptionally well-crafted “Immanuel Kant: Epistemological Attorney” story makes this issue a Very Good read all by itself: the rest is just gravy.

BLUE BEETLE #12: The great thing about Hibbs doing more reviews is I can now pick on him mercilessly again. Like, when saying good things about this book, he says it’s his favorite “Not-Superstar” book from DC…like that’s supposed to make a lick of sense to the rest of us. (Does he mean, “Not-Superstar” creators? Or “Not-Superstar” characters? I mean, I think he means the latter, but he’s also a guy who’s got a lovely portrait of Ma Hinkel hanging on his walls, you know?) For me, the only problem about this issue is that the art is little more than functional: yeah, it’s effective, but there’s a weird mix of factors (maybe there’s too much happening for the layouts to really breathe? Maybe the Beetle’s overly detailed outfit doesn’t jibe with the low-key storytelling tact?) that keeps this issue from being more than a Good comic. If you’re reading this book like I am, you’ll dig it. If not, this wouldn’t be the issue I’d try to change your mind with.

CITY OF OTHERS #1: I’ve never been that impressed with Steve Niles’ work, as I think I’ve mentioned here before, so I was surprised I liked this. That Berni Wrightson art helped a great deal, particularly with José Villarrubia doing an amazing job on the color (that panel where the protagonist leaps into the snow with the rest of The Others knocked me on my ass), but there was something that kind of caught me in the narrative voice and the, I dunno, dream-like nature of the narrative. It’ll probably all fall apart by issue #2 as I imagine the creators would like you to believe this story is actually happening, and isn’t just a deliberately unreal story that later reveals itself to be an imagined narrative (a la The Singing Detective, say). But hey, it could happen, and just the fact that I believe that’s a narrative possibility says worlds about how much stronger a piece of work this is compared to Niles’ usual work. I found this highly OK, and hope it somehow manages to stay that way.

CIVIL WAR FRONT LINE #11: Completes the Tony-Stark-as-Ozymandias comparison as Ben Ulrich and Wassername show up and proceed to reveal Tony as the guy with the master plan who saves the world (and loses, if not his soul, then his ability to share the depths of his soul’s sacrifice). The problem is, these two devoted passionate reporters–who’ve cast aside previous job security to strike out on their own–then go, “Of course, we couldn’t tell anyone that because it’d really screw everything so don’t worry, we won’t! See ya!!” To bring the Watchmen comparison back in, it’d be like if there was an extra two pages at the end of Watchmen, where the guys from The New Frontiersman read Rorshach’s journal and say, “Wow! For the good of the world, we can never tell anyone!”

In short: no, I don’t think so. Sub-Eh.

CONNOR HAWKE DRAGONS BLOOD #4: Considering I just started reading last issue, yeah, OK. I have no idea why so many Green Arrow narratives of the last five or so years have to have a mystical component, but for what it is, it’s pretty decent.

CROSSING MIDNIGHT #4: After an exceptionally slow start (I read issue #1 and maybe #2?), this book finally kicks into high gear, with exceptionally lovely art and the high concept (imagine Spirited Away adapted by the writer of Hellblazer, basically) made manifest: on Friday, I not only sold more copies of this issue than all the other issues on all the other Fridays combined, but I had people asking for back issues which had all disappeared. I hope it’s not too little, too late, because I read this issue and felt like “Oh, I get it now. That’s pretty cool.” Good, and worth looking for–I’ll be curious to see what where it goes from here.

DAREDEVIL #94: I think I see what Brubaker was going for here–he was trying to show how Milla and Matt have one of those co-dependent relationships where one member realizes that the whole thing is just going to go through the same thing but worse, time and again, and yet can’t break away. More than that, I think he was trying to have us feel what it’s like for Milla, with the very extensive recapping giving us a similar feeling of watching what we already know get played out again and again. (It’s probably also a way to craft a new jumping-on point with readers.) Unfortunately, it felt less like that and more like an overextended recap story that went nowhere. A cool idea, but very Eh execution.

DOCTOR STRANGE OATH #5: A very satisfying wrap-up to a very strong miniseries, and with Vaughan taking his tongue out of his cheek long enough to give us some very cool little character moments and refine his vision on how this character can still be interesting. Very Good stuff, and should make a satisfying little trade.

ETERNALS #7: Maybe I suffered from too-high expectations on this one, because I read Hibbs’ review and picked this up not long after I got in the store on Friday. But far from rescuing the mini, I thought this was another wet fart of an issue with only the merest flashes of Gaiman cleverness(Gaiman is still one of the few guys that can make a non-violent superhero seem not just sensible, but actually cool) rescuing this from total drudgery. I don’t know. I guess I just feel if I pay out almost thirty bucks for your miniseries, I deserve a bigger finish than “Is it true that I’ll save the world but suffer as no one ever has?” “Beats me. Race you to Sao Paulo! Yeehaw!” Eh.

FLASH THE FASTEST MAN ALIVE #9: Obviously benefits from comparison to the ugsome issues before it, but I like how Guggenheim doesn’t throw the baby out with the bath water, and takes some of the concepts from the original arc (Bart as a telecommuter to his own life; a romantic life that, as befits a speedster, moves too fast). I didn’t love it (in fact, I’m now hard-pressed to remember what happened in the superhero parts of it) but I can honestly say I want to pick up next issue and see how things develop. Hard to gauge, but certainly no worse than OK.

GREEN LANTERN #17: Again, I’m with Hibbs: that opening sequence with Batman was really, really cool. I’m going with a high OK because the rest of it, while competent, didn’t really fry my burger. It was certainly a better issue than the previous issue led me to expect, though.

IRON MAN #15: Making Iron Man the director of Shield has a certain logic to it because I can’t think of two concepts in the Marvel Universe more broken than (a) Iron Man, and (b) Shield. Still, I think Knaupf does OK work with the hand he’s dealt, by playing up the cororate mindset (or at least a near-parody of the Silicon Valley version of it) against the military mindset (as personified by a guy who’s been wearing a non-regulation bowler for over six decades). I’ll check out next issue, but even all the good will and high concept smarts in the world may not be enough to make me excited about two played out one-note concepts joined together.

JLA CLASSIFIED #35: I liked the last few issues, why’d this one feel like a big suck-out? Somehow this issue took all the nuanced momentum and removed it, making it feel like just one more issue in a story that should’ve been three issues shorter. Awful.

KILLER #3: An anticlimactic end throws off an otherwise strong issue, but that amazing sliced-up bit of action on page 21 trumps any number of bad chapter breaks. Very Good stuff, and well worth you seeking out if you like gorgeously illustrated crime stories.

SUPERGIRL AND THE LEGION OF SUPER HEROES #27: Despite me not being a big fan of big cosmic wars (which always seem to happen in this title every ten issues or so), I thought Waid and Kitson gave us an enjoyable, highly Good issue. But even better was the passionate, edifying and touching tribute to Dave Cockrum which really laid out in no uncertain terms Cockrum’s tremendous contributions to the LSH. I thought that was exceptionally classy and noteworthy.

TRUE STORY SWEAR TO GOD #4: Wasn’t until I re-read it that I realized Beland more or less put two self-contained stories side-by-side (I re-read it because I couldn’t remember the first part to save my life) which is a pretty neat trick–although it might’ve been better if the two stories flowed into each other a bit better, it probably reads far better than if Beland had devoted an issue to each. A highly Good read.

WALKING DEAD #35: I agree with Hibbs again on this one–a very strong issue, and I also hope the end is a fake cliffhanger. Although the art is awesome as always, I really appreciated the shorthand Adlard is using here–that little set of panels on the top tier of page 9 reads as incredibly thrilling and violent even though, when you really look at it, it’s barely more than abstraction. Adlard’s managed to find that sweet spot where he barely has to put any detail on most of the zombies and the reader fleshes them out with their own fears and details. A pretty neat (and time-saving) trick, that. Very Good.

WOLVERINE #51: Hibbs giving this an AWFUL but encouraging those of you who buy this sort of thing for the art to do so seems baby-splittingly wise, and yet I can’t follow suit–not only is Bianchi wasted on this story, but he’s kinda wasted drawing Wolverine and Sabretooth, generally. Maybe I’m wrong and Bianchi thinks it’s great he’s getting paid hundreds of dollars a page to draw two hairy rednecks with bad haircuts fuck each other up, but I think it’s kind of a waste. Sub-Awful, unless you’ve been looking for some material to add to your hot S&M bears-with-mullets slashfic story in which case, hey, this is the book for you.

X-FACTOR #16: An exceptionally strong issue, and the one I would use if I had to pitch a Madrox TV pilot–David really takes a swing for the existential fences here, and does it without going for the glib. Unfortunately, the art was flat and I couldn’t care less about the B-story, so it just gets a plain ol’ Good. But it’s worth hunting up if you’re not reading the title already.

PICK OF THE WEEK: I don’t know, really. Action Philosophers? Walking Dead? Killer? Last issue of Dr. Strange? Love is in the air, baby!

PICK OF THE WEAK: You’d think I’d go with Wolverine, right? But, no. JLA Classified made me feel like a sucker, retroactively, and I can’t imagine the last two issues will redeem that.

TRADE PICK: I want to do an all-trades post, hopefully this week, so I’ll go into more detail later, but, yeah, BECK MONGOLIAN CHOP SQUAD VOL 7 was great.

Et tu?

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