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Short & Sweet: Jeff’s Reviews of 7/6 Books….

Jeff Lester

The plan is to keep it short, since I’m down to my last four days of vacation and there’s all sorts of things still to do before getting my ass back to work. To keep things moving, I’ve added a few relevant movie reviews in the mix as well, rather than talking about ‘em up top. (Christ, this is taking too long already. I miss having a smart brain.)

52 WEEK #9: I’ve read DC Comics for a long time so you’d think I’d be inured to dull fight scenes by now. But, no. That “punch-fly-land-talk-repeat” fight between Steel and Natasha was stultifying. I can see why Devilance is the God of Pursuit and not, like, the God of Catching Stuff if Also, if Animal Man, Adam Strange, and Starfire can escape in four pages from an entire planet he built to trap them. As a bonus, having Dan Jurgens summarize Identity Crisis in four pages is funny: it’s like having your five year old little brother summarize an episode of Knight Rider for you. Eh.

ALL NEW ATOM #1: Really shows the problem with The Atom: if half your adventures come from almost getting killed when you use your superpower, you are not a good superhero. (This is why Captain I’ve-Got-Bleach-In-My-Eyes never caught on either.) Also, Gail Simone and John Byrne aren’t a good match for telling Grant Morrison stories for exactly the same reason you’d never get Jo Anne Worley and Sebastian Cabot to tell Emo Philips jokes–one hams up the laffs a little too much and the other doesn’t understand there’s a joke being told in the first place. But then, I guess you couldn’t get Peter Milligan and Tony Millionaire in on this, could you? Eh.

BEYOND #1: Surprisingly decent. Of course, I like Scott Kolins’ art (which I know some of you don’t) but Paul Mounts’ colors give the work an extra burst of vibrancy. And Dwayne McDuffie crafts a quick-moving little story where the characters are likeable and the motivations convincing. If you like seeing a bunch of Marvel C-listers slug it out, you could do much, much worse. Good.

CONAN & THE SONGS OF THE DEAD #1: As should’ve been expected, Lansdale and Truman can barely keep a straight face, as Lansdale peppers his dialogue with anachronisms and foul-mouthed jokiness, and Trumans throws in some impressively unsubtle penis-and-vagina imagery. But it looks great and is a fun read, so if you’re not a Conan purist, you’ll find this at least highly OK.

DARK HORSE TWENTY YEARS: Some great pin-ups for a quarter and the round-robin concept worked perfectly up until either (a) the Emily The Strange team tried to think of an iconic Rick Geary character and their heads exploded, or (b) Joss Whedon was told to think of an iconic Rick Geary character and couldn’t be bothered. Either way, some nice stuff with the Eric Powell Darth Vader page probably worth the two bits all by itself. Good.

DEATH JR VOL 2 #1: I wish I wasn’t such a fair-weather Ted Naifeh fan: here I am sitting on all six issues of Polly & The Pirates and haven’t cracked a single cover, but I tore right into the first issue of his work-for-hire Death Jr. It’s fun all-ages stuff and Naifeh’s art looks gorgeous in color. If you wish your kid’s Nicktoons had a little more Charles Adaams to them, you should pick this up pronto. Good.

DETECTIVE COMICS #821: Hmmm. It wasn’t until I got to the end of the issue that I realized Dini was presenting us with a genuine mystery, with clues and suspects and stuff–I’m so used to the typical Bat-hack trick of “run down the pages with small talk and then have villain pop up for climactic fistfight,” I was caught off-guard when someone was unmasked and explanations were proffered like I should have been paying attention. Honestly, some fault with that lies with either J.H. Williams III or John Kalisz: casting the Bruce Wayne sequences in different monochromatic shades seemed like a great idea but it drained all attention away from the background and the background characters. On the other hand, it looked absurdly gorgeous and is worth the coin for that alone. But, honestly, this could’ve been better than highly OK if the creators had been able to correctly guide the reader as to how they should read the book. I’ll be curious to see how future Dini Detective scripts play out without such a strong artist controllig the material.

DEVI #1: Thanks to a canny accumulation of international talent, Virgin Comics can now produce a perfect duplicate of an Image Witchblade comic from 1995! If you ask me, they needed a lot less Shekhar Kapur and a lot more Mukul Anand (God rest his soul). At best, Eh.

GOON #18: With one line (“Is it just me, or has our entire existence boiled down to nasty little things that want to chew our faces off?”) Powell sums up the pleasures and the problems with his book eighteen issues in. Am I still enjoying this book? Oh, hell yes. Do I kind of wish The Goon would take to the high seas and have an adventure fighting the sea hag and maybe meet his pappy (poopdeck optional)? Hell yes to that as well. Surely there’s a way to do that and have the book keep its high quality, yeah? Good, except that I’m a whiny cry-baby and there’s no pleasing me.

HATE ANNUAL #6: Can’t shake the feeling that Bagge is throwing in the Buddy Bradley material to make sure people buy this and he can’t paid twice off his Weekly World News and Matrix material. All it really does is make me wish he’d return to the material with something like consistency–Bagge’s take on the characters and my take on the characters are growing divergent enough to where I probably won’t bother picking this up next time. More Eh from the cry-baby.

INCREDIBLE HULK #96: It’d still be nice if they could get an artist who really sunk his teeth into this kind of material, but it’s probably the best issue of the storyline I’ve read yet. Hope they take their time with the material and don’t just go for the big finish in issue #100. A high OK.

JONAH HEX #9: The second issue in a row I’ve read where the in media res approach is taken to the point of me having no idea what the hell is happening. Is this happening to anyone else? No rating because, frankly: huh?

KRRISH: As Treacher predicted, I thought Krrish was krrrap. Considering I liked Koi…Mil Gaya, an amazing cinematic combo E.T., Flowers for Algernon and Spider-Man, I figured my bars were properly lowered for Krrrish. But I was wrong. While I figured that there most of the superheroics would be in the second half, I had no idea the first half would be an awful summer-camp style romantic comedy nor that the filmmakers would figure the best movie they could choose to rip off for the last third of the film would be Paycheck. (I mean, Jesus! Paycheck?!) Interestingly, Krrish has a lot more of the traditional Superman-Lois dynamic (in that feisty gal reporter Priya stages a life-endangering stunt or two to force Krishna to reveal himself as superhero Krrish) then Superman Returns does. But that’s maybe the only interesting thing about it. It sucked, frankly.

LOVE THE WAY YOU LOVE #1: Imagine watching Absolute Beginners in a South Park animation style and you get a sense as to how bad this is. I think they were trying for a similar energy to Scott Pilgrim, maybe, but O’Malley’s line, although simple, is energetic and here the artwork is stiffer than petrified wood. I wanted to like it, but, wow, I really didn’t. And for the price? Awful.

OCCULT CRIMES TASKFORCE #1: After the initial thrill of going “Hey, that looks just like Rosario Dawson!” at every panel wears off, you are left with nothing except a hole in your wallet where $2.99 used to be. Ghostbusters+Rosario Dawson+fumetti=boring? Who coulda guessed? Awful.

OUTSIDERS #38: If you read Teen Titans first and then this, then I guess the continuity kind of works out, I guess. Doesn’t help with all the dumb scenes that happen for no reason (like Nightwing slapping down Captain Boomerang), however. Awful.

SEX & FURY: If you want a perfect, insane little movie that manages to out-Lady Snowblood the Lady Snowblood movies, you should rent this. Reiko Ike plays the lady gambler Ocho, searching for the three mysterious gangsters who slew her father when she was young. This movie has nudity every four minutes and an astonishing visual every seven, for more or less the entire movie. I thought the sequel, Female Yakuza Tale, was dull (with so much rape even Mark Millar would get bored of the concept) but Sex & Fury is a perfectly executed little exploitation film. If you dig that sort of thing, you should check it out.

SUPERGIRL #7: Ewwwwww! That panel of Kara kissing evil Superman while he’s got his hand on her super-caboose is just the nastiest thing I’ve seen in a DC comic in a long time. (Sadly, that’s an achievement.) If they can turn the classic “Nightwing and Flamebird in Kandor City” story into such a creepy, nonsensical morass, then the re-introduction of Comet The Superhorse and the Legion of Super-Pets oughta make Pier Paolo Pasolini blanch. ASS-tacaular.

SUPERMAN RETURNS (the film not the graphic adaptation): I liked it. Plotwise, it was just an outrageous mess and the script suffered from not having the time to dramatize what it wanted to convey (and so just told you, at great lengths, instead) but Singer, the real-life equivalent of The Simpsons‘ Steven Spielbergo, is finally picking up some of Spielberg’s visual wit, Kevin Spacey made a great Lex Luthor, and nearly all of the cast was decent, and occasionally exceptional. Also, I can honestly say the comments thread on Brian’s post is one of the few times my appreciation for a film has honestly been deepened by the Internet so that helps, too. Highly OK.

THEY FOUND THE CAR: I didn’t read this. I just noticed the title in the list of arriving comics and was transfixed. Has anyone written a story about a kidnap victim held captive at a publishing company who sends increasingly desperate messages out as comic book solicits? It’d be worth it just for the panel of the comic retailer looking at Previews and going, “Hmmm. Sweet Jesus, They’re Cutting Off My Toes With Gardening Shears? I could probably sell three copies of that….”

THING #8: Incredibly charming wrap-up to a very charming little book, even if the Ben & Alicia thing had to be really rushed to make it into those final pages. Guys like me can whine all we want, but the market knows what it wants, and it wants grim, not Grimm. Bummer. Very Good.

UNCANNY X-MEN #475: I liked this a helluva lot more than Graham, it seems. I’m sure in three issues I’ll feel like a sucker for thinking Proudstar is pretty cool with his vibranium blades and super-action poses and all, but, dammit, I thought he was pretty cool. And Brubaker’s take on the characters and characterization is what I want from an X-Men book. Like I said, call me a sucker but I thought this was Good.

PICK OF THE WEEK: Pretty vanilla tastes this week: Beyond #1, Uncanny X-Men #475, Death Jr. v.2 #1.

PICK OF THE WEAK: Is there any doubt at all? Supergirl #7, by a mile.

TRADE PICK: A lot of stuff that I haven’t sat down to read yet. Hibbs pointed out that the ALAN MOORE COMPLETE FUTURE SHOCK TPB is indeed complete, containing stories that didn’t make it into the previous Shocking Futures and Twisted Times trades; I’m enough of a Kirby ho to buy the second volume of BLACK PANTHER stories (with four guys–the very odd quartet of Jim Shooter, Ed Hannigan, Jerry Bingham and Gene Day–needed to wrap up what one guy was doing all by himself); and volumes 5 AND 6 of Death Note are right here waiting for me. So, if you excuse me, I’m gonna get right to ‘em.

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