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Paul Jenkins, what were you thinking?: Graeme’s reviews of the 6/7 books.

Graeme McMillan

Ah, to be healthy and actually reasonably current with what’s come out this week. No longer do I have to look online for spoilers about what happened in that week’s books, now I only have to look online for spoilers of things to write about on Newsarama. Another benefit of being healthy: Going to see French wonder Camille tonight at Bimbo’s. I admit it, I’m a fan of the singing in languages I can’t understand. For all I know, she’s singing something about hating all Scottish comic-reading men over thirty-years old, but all I hear is breathy loveliness. Sigh

52 WEEK FIVE: By this point, having read weeks two through four in a batch earlier this week before reading the latest issue, it’s becoming kind of obvious that this would be a much better series without the central “real time” gimmick. The plots that the writers are trying to tell are (with the exception of the Black Adam storyline, which seems like just the latest version of “A hero who goes too far”) interesting enough, but things seem to fall apart when you take each scene’s timestamp into account: Did a cult of Superboy really have time to learn all about Kryptonian mythology, including resurrection myths, and recruit Wonder Girl, before defacing Sue Dibny’s grave in just five days? How did Booster Gold get all his sponsorship deals in those same five days, and why did he apparently forget about looking for Rip Hunter for two weeks after realizing that something was wrong with time? Did the majority of this issue really happen the day after the last issue’s cliffhanger? And so on. Another problem is that plotlines keep appearing while existing plots get seemingly backburnered – Part of this, I think, is down to sleight of hand, because I’m convinced that the Steel, Luthor and Will Magnus threads are all part of the same overall story – After a big deal being made of the missing Mad Scientists in issue two, for example, it’s apparently not been something that anyone’s been thinking about since then; me, I think that Luthor is the one collecting the scientists, and that’s how he apparently has been able to synthesize the metagene, but I could be wrong… Overall, the book’s been interesting despite itself; the writing (and editing) has been sloppy and the art unspectacular and fairly generic, but there’s still something that keeps me from thinking that it’s a disaster, even if I can’t tell you what it is. A month in, though, it’s definitely not the creative success that Dan Didio was hyping back in that first issue. Eh.

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA #0: It’s obvious that Greg Pak is a fan of the series, but he doesn’t have a handle on any of the characters’ voices yet (although he comes close in the first conversation between Adama and Roslyn, especially the “It’s a pleasant idea, isn’t it?” response). Similarly, the plot is close to something that the show would do, but executed in such a way as to seem just slightly off. Part of the fault with the execution definitely lies with Nigel Raynor’s art, which lacks any of the visual aesthetic that the show has spent two years perfecting, instead looking like a 2000AD strip in the mid-90s. Sadly, a bit of a misfire. Frak. Eh.

CIVIL WAR: FRONT LINE #1: Oh, where to start… Why not the worst part of the whole book, the third strip that somehow tries to suggest that Spider-Man wondering whether or not to reveal his identity is just like the Japanese being forced into internment camps in World War II? As if that isn’t offensive enough, the way that the internment camps are treated, with a Japanese father explained to his daughter that they’re moving to a new home because it’s their duty as Americans to help the war effort, as they happily walk towards their camp, and captions avoiding any use of negative connotations by describing the event as “one of the largest controlled migrations in history” before going on to explain “these relocation centers had the highest live-birth rate and the lowest death rate in wartime United States”, just adds insult to insensitive injury. Hey, I wish I’d been able to have been “relocated” to one of those wonderful, safe, centers back then! Utterly, completely, shameful.

The rest of the book couldn’t come close to such crassness, but it tries. In the first story of the issue, we learn that 9-11 was just a prelude to Civil War (“This was put in motion the day some angry extremists decided to fly a couple of planes into some tall buildings in Manhattan”) as Paul Jenkins does his best to fulfill Marvel’s desire to make Civil War politically “relevant”. References to Fox News and Bill O’Reilly abound, and we discover that that real life wars are nothing compared with even the most trivial Marvel superheroes (“Johnny had been on at least four tours of Bosnia, three to Afghanistan and maybe eight or nice to Baghdad with CNN. Last year, he won an Emmy nomination for his bit on the USS Abraham Lincoln, and from there he graduated to [working on the New Warriors’ reality show]. This was his big break.”). I’m sure that this will be another success for Marvel, and that Civil War will break the internet in half and everything, but this is hitting a new low on the shameless scale. Ass.

DETECTIVE COMICS #820: Is it just me, or has James Robinson completely lose control of the story here? If, as seems to happen here, the identity of the murderer of various C-level supervillains – You know, what seemed to be the entire point to the plot at the start of this crossover – is revealed almost as an afterthought in the back-up strip, then I’m sure that doesn’t mean anything good. While everything gets dragged into the much less interesting return of Two-Face, there’s still enough here to keep your attention, not least of which is Batman making up for being a dick to a new supporting character in Robinson’s first issue. Andy Clarke’s inks continue to make Leonard Kirk’s art look much better than usual, as well. Despite the main plot being revealed to be a McGuffin, this is still, surprisingly, Good.

STAR WARS: LEGACY #0: As Bri’s already pointed out, this is more a guidebook to the “Legacy” universe than anything else, but that’s not enough reason for me not to complain about it. Legacy, for those of you lucky enough not to know about this, is “Star Wars… One Hundred Years Later,” and more than anything else, an example of the death of creativity in the halls of Lucasfilm. Reading this primer, you discover that a hundred years after the destruction of the Empire, we have… the New Empire! A hundred years after Darth Vader, the last of the Sith, turns back towards the light, we have… the New Sith! But that’s not to say there aren’t some shocking turns; Luke Skywalker’s descendent is… Han Solo! Okay, not exactly; he’s called “Cade Skywalker,” but he’s a bounty hunter and smuggler. Other characters include Jabba The Hutt As A Girl, and A Wookie Smuggler Who Pilots A Smuggling Ship But Isn’t Chewbacca, Honest. It’s depressing that Star Wars: Legacy seems to be less Star Trek: The Next Generation and more Saved By The Bell: The New Class, but maybe that’s more a reflection on knowing what their audience wants. Either way, this is Crap, and makes me want to avoid the new series more than anything else…

WONDER WOMAN #1: I have no idea. CE sold out in a couple of days, so I’m expecting a press release and reprint announcement any day now. Still, DC’s got to be happy about that, because when was the last time that Wonder Woman sold out without the help of a crossover or guest star?

Given the relatively disappointing haul this week, I’m going to cheat with my PICK OF THE WEEK (PICK OF THE WEAK is Civil War: Front Line, which also gets the first YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED, JOE QUESADA award. Which I’ve just invented, but remain confident I’ll be able to award on at least a monthly basis if not weekly. Especially having heard the rumors about Spider-Man, which will unleash a fanboyish rant like you wouldn’t expect when they come true. And not only from myself.) and award it to the same book as my TRADE OF THE WEEK: De:Tales, the short story collection by Brazilian creators Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba. I’ve been a fan of the two since their first US release, Ursula, came out from AiT a couple of years ago, but this is a much more impressive book than that (very enjoyable) fairy tale, a bunch of magical realism centering around romance, optimism and the fear of missed opportunities. If you’ve ever wanted to read a comic version of Amelie, then this is the book for you; alternatively, if you’re just looking for some of the most impressive black and white art around (If you’ve seen Fabio’s work in AiT’s Smoke and Guns last year or previews of Gabriel’s art in Image’s upcoming Casanova, then you know what to expect), then this is well worth the $14.95 you’d be paying for it.

Next week, Civil War #2 comes out, and I will, more than likely, complain very strongly about the events therein. Just you wait.

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