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Sunday Night Fever: Graeme’s Review of the 8/16 books.

Graeme McMillan

Have you ever had a weekend where nothing goes to plan? All I’m saying is this: I didn’t get to Jeff’s garage sale yesterday, but I did manage to spend a number of hours in Ikea waiting for our current houseguest to choose between two mattresses that seemed completely identical to me. Is it any wonder that a grown man will turn to comics in such a world as unfriendly to my plans as this?

52 WEEK FIFTEEN: So, there’s a theory I’ve seen floating around the internets about the way that Booster proves the existence of predestination in the DC Universe just before his “death” (Because, come on, there’s no way that he’s really dead – Ignoring the unsubtle cover that gives away that plot twist in the most unsubtle way ever, or even the Supernova/Booster exchange that screams both “I was written by Mark Waid” and “Supernova is Booster Gold through some strange time travel plot twist” – Booster’s slated for a two-page origin later on in the run, which suggests that he’s coming back around that time). It comes from Skeets’ future-historical records of what happened that night (“A car-jacking on 33rd… A power blackout in the Bakerline area…”), and Booster apparently later on causing those events. Except… he doesn’t. He does car-jack someone’s car (jack someone’s car? Is that how you say it?), but according to the art, it was on 11.1st, not 33rd. And, yeah, he does cause a blackout… but in the Midtown area (as mentioned in the dialogue). Either these are my misreadings, mistakes that weren’t caught, or more misdirection and proof that history is broken by the creators… Either way, this issue follows up on last week’s action-packed attempt to get all of the plots moving again after a couple of issues’ worth of hijacking by Ralph Dibny and Black Adam, and despite the unbelievable death of Booster Gold, the series seems to be regaining some sense of immediacy and momentum. A low Good, but I may be being swayed by the lack of Ralph Dibny-abuse.

THE BOYS #1: Yeah, I don’t get why so many people seemed to be getting excited about this. With a set-up that feels about five years out of date (and also recycled from other Garth Ennis books: Haven’t we seen the hard military bastard and over-the-top superhero parodies before?), nothing in this book feels genuine – A problem when it comes to the motivation of one of the two main characters (Apparently played by Simon Pegg, in a Bryan Hitch-like jaw-dropping modeling of characters after real life actors moment) centering around the sudden death of his true love. It reads like Garth Ennis writing a parody of Garth Ennis without any spark of originality, or enthusiasm, or anything other than cynicism (There’s a weird mysognistic undertow, as well, considering that there are only two women in the book, and the one that doesn’t exist only to die is shown as powerless to the sexual charms of a man she hates; It may just be Garth’s usual machismo going overboard, though). Darick Robertson’s art is Okay, but the book itself is pretty much Crap.

CASANOVA #3: You have to love a book that starts in a pie store in Oakland and freewheels from there, and if you disagree, then you’re just plain wrong. I admit, I’m biased; I’ve been completely head over heels for this since reading the first issue in PDF format before it was released. Of course, I forgot to buy the second issue, because my family was in town and I was sporadic in my comic shopping and and and I am shit. Seeing this issue in the store this weekend made me get the second issue as well, and the first, because I wanted to read it like a real comic for a change. Reading all three in a row is like having your head blown in a good way, but this third issue may be the best yet – The plot is easier to follow while the execution is both more structured and more playful; Matt Fraction’s script keeps veering between the personal and the hardboiled, and Gabriel Ba’s art is completely kirbymignolamcmahonscrumptuous. Excellent, and that’s before you get to Fraction’s stream-of-consciousness text piece, which may just be my favorite part of the book somehow…

CLAWS #1: God knows how this happened, but this is a really enjoyable romp of a book. Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray’s writing, which has never really worked for me in any other book, completely clicks here with an old-school ridiculous plot and a fun script full of wiseass dialogue (Co-stars Wolverine and the Black Cat do the bickering duo thrown together in dire circumstances very well; the Cat so much so that I’m almost sold on her next port of call, Palmiotti and Gray’s Heroes for Hire ongoing), and Joe Linser’s linework has a cartoony quality that I’d never imagined from his airbrushed “Dawn” covers of yore. Maybe I’ve just been overloading myself on Essential Peter Parker this week – I probably have – but this is Very Good, and much better than I’d expected from the solicit and previews.

DEADMAN #1: Continuing DC’s new tradition of sending bloggers preview issues of books that they must know wouldn’t get the best reception (like Martian Manhunter a couple of weeks ago), this came in the mail last week: Bruce Jones’ latest entry in his “I have some strange issues and I want to work them out with you, dear reader” career. This new Vertigo series has nothing to do with Boston Brand, and it’s all the worse for it: New dead man Brandon Cayce would rather relive his girlfriend cheating on him than wear a cool red costume with a large D on his chest. It’s a slow first issue, but there’s something oddly nostalgic about it, like something from around when Vertigo launched. Maybe it’s John Watkiss’s (wonderful) blocky art, or the awkward urge to be politically relevant in modern times no matter how clumsy. It’s probably that nostalgia at work that makes me want to come back next issue and see just what happens next; either that, or it really is Okay.

PHONOGRAM #1: I have no idea; it had sold out by Thursday at the store, which I’m taking to be a good sign. I’ll have to track it down, though, because if ever there was a book meant for someone like me who secretly thinks that Menswear’s debut album is kind of good, this was probably it.

THUNDERBOLTS #105: When the biggest surprise a book like this can throw at you is the identity of the inker – Yeah, like you expected Gary Erskine, of The Filth and The Authority and various less mainstream projects, fame to be working over Tom Gummett’s pencils – then that probably says something about the book, right…? This is an old-fashioned Marvel book in exactly the worst ways you’d expect: Full of continuity and characters that you have no idea who they are or what they’re doing and why. It’s also a Civil War crossover, which means that not that much is really allowed to happen in and of itself because the massive crossover has to be serviced at all costs, so all the real story is in subplot and therefore somewhat impenetrable to new readers. In other words, it’s kind of the worst of both worlds right now, but nonetheless, done with such gusto (No other word seems as appropriate. Except, maybe, “gumption”) that you kind of have to admire it nonetheless. It’s not good, but it’s professional and it does exactly what you expect it to do, which has to count for something. An Eh kind of something, but that’s better than nothing last time I checked.
PICK OF THE WEEK is Casanova, and if you haven’t picked it up at all yet but would like something that crosses genre with the personal with the fantastical with an air of “anything can happen in the next half hour!” like Grant Morrison’s Invisibles, you owe it to yourself to pick up the first three issues and read them in one sitting. PICK OF THE WEAK is The Boys, and I’m expecting everyone to disagree with me about that one within about three minutes of posting this. But instead of dwelling on that, let me tell you all of my latest addiction, and this week’s TRADE OF THE WEEK: Essential Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man. I’m blaming it on last week’s Essential Marvel Team-Up, but more than anything, I’ve been craving some shitty 1970s Spider-Man action just like I grew up reading, and that’s something that Essential Peter Parker provides like nothing else. Never mind Amazing’s timeless classics, I want dated topical stories about Flash Thompson’s Vietnamese girlfriend Sha-Shan and her evil husband, Brother Power. I want to read about the White Tiger and his student activism on the Empire State University campus. And, much more importantly, I want to read about an evil DJ in a New York nightclub who hypnotizes people in a story called “Spiderman Night Fever”.

Throughout the whole thing, I was left with a wish that Bill Mantlo could somehow be healthy and writing Spider-Man during Civil War, just so I could read thought balloons like “Face it, Parker! You might be a big-shot with the Avengers and Tony Stark’s best buddy – – but Captain America hates you and Jolly Jonah Jameson wants to sue you for fraud! No matter what happens, whenever I win – – I LOSE!”

What else has everyone else been reading?

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