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Reviews (Such As They Are) for Comics of 12/15/04 (Such as They Are)

Brian Hibbs

Man. Yesterday at the story was psychotically busy (holiday shoppers, putting together the newsletter, Hibbs sorting through a just-purchased collection), and I left early for a company Christmas Party at the other job, so I didn’t get very far into this week’s books. Still, operating under the idea that something’s better than nothing:

AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES #3: Scott Kolins draws a kick-ass Iron Man but I’m not down with this pacing. There’s no reason we couldn’t have had the “Zemoooo!” scene at the end of #2; Cap’s not any better developed at the end of this issue than last issue. This story is either padded or flat-out inert, I can’t quite figure out which. OK for the art, but that $3.50 price point stings.

CATWOMAN #38: I appreciate a crazy-ass new villain as much as the next guy, but Wooden Nickel? (Or whatever he’s called?) Splinters aside, I’m just not that scared or intimidated by…wood. In fact, thanks to the Paul Gulacy artwork, it seemed less like a story and more like an outtake from Will Smith’s Wild, Wild West starring Robert Mitchum and Trinity from The Matrix. An anachronism filled Eh.

EXILES #56: I’ve never liked the Kulan Garath fantasy setting: it always feels more like a high-concept D&D campaign my little brother would come up with, rather than something with any real thought behind it. Nonetheless, I’m such a big old Marvel fanboy (emphasis on old) that I’m enjoying the supernatural twist with Ghost Rider and Morbius and Werewolf By Night. (I really like how Jack Russell looks straight out of Ploog’s art, in fact). So, you know, if you get all starry-eyed when someone starts talking about It, The Living Colossus, you’ll probably also find this OK.

FANTASTIC FOUR #521: Sums up my whole take on the Waid/Wieringo FF: despite all my objections to it (and I’ve got a lot), I have to admit it works. The process by which a herald of Galactus is created was well-dramatized and seems well thought out. So, Good.

IDENTITY CRISIS #7: I started to write this and realized that, although I don’t really wanna, I need to give this another read-through before reviewing. In the few brief minutes Hibbs and I had to talk about it, it was apparent we had taken from it some dramatically different plotpoints. And, in fact, Hibbs tried to re-read it to clear up them up, got about ten pages in, and then threw it aside, mumbling: “To hell with it.” You should hear from one or both of us about the damn thing in the next day or two.

INVADERS #5: A big ol’ train wreck, I thought. I can’t tell the characters apart, the fight scenes lack drama (showing vampires burst into flame by having them be colored yellow and adding a “FWOOSH” sound effect seems very Ed Wood-ish for a comic book), but the writing isn’t any better than the art: a lot of sloppy nonsense used to wrap up the fight, and a story that might have worked better in Year Two when the characters are more familiar is just a big old mess here in issue #5. I thought we’d get widescreen global adventure from this book, not inbred British vampire hijinks. Awful.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #3: Again, love that Kolins art (and, at $2.50, much easier on the pocketbook than the Avengers), but I felt like the White Queen in Alice: there were just too many impossible things to believe before breakfast in this one. Pretty pictures, though. Eh.

OCEAN #3: Too soon to tell if this mini is going to be anything more than a very smart dressing up of 2001 (the HAL/”spreadsheet people” comparison seemed pretty obvious) but it was another strong issue that moved the story along. Good.

RETURN OF SHADOWHAWK #1: Man, has a patently silly character ever had so much self-important backstory ladled on them as Shadowhawk? (Hmmmm… in the realm of superheroes, that’s probably best left as a rhetorical question.) It was kind of nice to read the back and find out that the stuff that read like warmed-over Alan Moore actually came from Alan Moore, and there were at least three or four good story hooks, but it was all very ineptly done–it was like reading an old Charlton comic, and not in a good way. Eh.

SHAOLIN COWBOY #1: This is the second straight week a Burlyman comic has kicked Marvel and DC’s ass–slightly troubling considering neither book was particularly deep: this is nothing more than Geoff Darrow taking a joke and a fight scene and expanding both past the point of deliriousness. This book makes the first part of Kill Bill seem like Howards End by comparison, and Darrow deserves some special award for taking over-the-top medium like comics and going even higher over-the-top that you might expect. Really amazing stuff. Very Good.

SIMPSONS COMICS #101: Feels like the “B” Story overwhelmed the “A” story and it took a bit too long to get to that twist on the set-up. I think a passive-aggressive inert magician showdown between Homer and David Blaine would’ve been funnier than what we got. Still, some decent laffs; Boothby; etc. OK.

TRIGGER #1: The art was a little too murky for me–I think Seaguy, with all the bright colors right on the edge of spoiling, actually conveyed a better sense of how a citizenry is lulled into accepting a corporate dictatorship–and the story a little too pat (those corporate assassins must be using Saturday Night Specials if The Long Goodbye can stop their bullets). But some clever transitions, a certain ambition in the sweep, and a possible subtext about how violent escapism enables a fascist culture have me kind of interested to see what might be coming next. Not quite OK, really, but not a total Eh, either. Let’s see where it goes.

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #70: The TV special on the Ultimate Dr. Strange seems like a bad mistake: I have enough faith in Bendis (still) to chalk this up as part of the revamp of the concept (a “hiding in plain sight” approach to the character) rather than a really, really lazy form of info-dumping but I don’t like it, nonetheless. I also don’t like the father-and-son gimick either, which I think really undermines the essential premise of Doc’s origin (a Sorceror Supreme isn’t about a bloodline or worldly power, it’s about talent…which is why a washed-up bastard, not Baron Mordo or some Ancient One, Jr., gets to be picked). But even though I didn’t really like, um, technically any of this except maybe Ultimate Deathlok, it’s not terribly done or anything. And I kinda admire how Bendis is clearly trying to figure out how to tell action-packed stories in a shorter space that can still fit together into a thematically unified trade. And yet: Eh.

WORLDWATCH #3: Yes, I read this–right after Identity Crisis #7, in fact, which together made for a nice little bit of psychic mind-rape, I must say. Speaking of which…I’ve read comic book fight scenes for over thirty years and at no point have I ever wondered: gee, why didn’t the villain ever try to rape the attractive heroine in the middle of a fight? Between that and the back pages with the naked chicks and their airbrushed “costumes,” I found this uncomfortably skeevy. I’m a much bigger perv than Bri, but I still grimace thinking back on this issue. Very creepy Crap.

So that’s thirteen reviews and a pathetic excuse. I have a few books at home I haven’t read (to say nothing of that IC#7 re-read) so you’ll probably hear from me again before the ened of the weekend. And hopefully Hibbs will weigh on IC #7 at the very least; even in the few minutes we spoke, it was clear he had a far better handle on Identity Crisis than I did.

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