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The Easter Feast: Reviews of 3/23 Comics

Brian Hibbs

Dear God, he did it. Hibbs actually posted! I am very pleased and impressed. Of course, now I’m in his position, of trying to figure out how to write about the same books without saying the same god-damn thing but that’s okay. I’m just so tickled he’s posted, I’ll happily expose the rest of you to a pointless double-post!

So on that merry note:

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #518: Really glad Hibbs reviewed this first, because I was starting to feel like an AMS whiner. Plus, some of the stuff I’ve bitched about gets mentioned in passing in the script itself (a caption mentioning The Molten Man; a caption mentioning Peter calling MJ) but they actually hinder the narrative. And believe me, if there’s one thing this narrative didn’t need, it was more hindering. Eh.

ARANA HEART OF THE SPIDER #3: I admit that I dove in cold on this issue (I read maybe the first four pages of issue #1 before getting distracted) but it seems like it could be much, much clearer: one of the pages has two women in mid-fight scene when, the last time we saw either, one was in a car and one was diving out of a helicopter. Although not anything new, the emotional drama (Arana’s classmate is her nemesis; her father’s line of work interferes with hers) is solid; it’s the structural drama that sucks: not only is Arana outrageously passive about the whole classmate/enemy situation (he plans a trap that will destroy her; she goes window-shopping for tattoos with a friend), she’s got a whole superteam that only exists to set up situations and/or solve problems. At the risk of sounding like a page out of Robert McKee’s Story, how can we connect with the protagonist when she’s utterly passive and reactive? (Ugh, I really do sound like a page out of Robert McKee’s Story…) A very low Eh.

AUTHORITY REVOLUTION #6: Utterly without oomph. Although I have other ideas as to why this all went wrong, I will, at the moment, point to the story, which strikes me as alternately unbelievable and dull. I’m going to go with Awful just because I got my hopes up for this arc and am pretty much regretting it.

CHOLLY & FLYTRAP #2 (OF 4): Very lovely looking stuff, and it did make me nostalgic for those days of Heavy Metal when you could pick that mag up knowing you were going to get a dose of sumptious grit. But times have changed, and I expect more from my pretty pictures now—a feeling compounded when reading the book’s closing profile pieces which, if self-authored, make Sudyam seem like a narcissist of a very high order. OK, but no more than that.

DAREDEVIL #71: Reads a bit less like Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Decalogue, and a bit more like John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club, than I would have expected, but I’m sure that’s just me. I kinda liked the big fight scene, but it leaves a lot for the reader to infer about the character telling the story and any of the resultant change she went through. And it’s harder for me to give Bendis the benefit of the doubt these days in such matters, unfortunately, so I gotta sit with OK.

ED THE HAPPY CLOWN #1 (OF 9): Everything about this—the price, the quarterly production schedule, that it was printed on the paper towels dispensed in restaurants, Brown’s “this is the only way you’ll ever see this material again, unless I change my mind again, in which case, it won’t!”—annoyed me…until I actually started reading it. Brown’s chops were considerable when he started working on this, but leaning so heavily on his subconscious to provide the story gives the story a freshness and dreamlike allure that can still hold me enthralled all later. Can only give it a Good (and I shouldn’t even give it that, probably), because, really, $2.95 and quarterly publication for completed material printed on industrial strength paper towels, is dangerously close to being a rip-off.

EXPATRIATE #1: Starting the story in media res and at a fast pace is a great idea, and there’s a level of ambition and competence that makes me want to pick up the next issue. But there are some minuses (Hibbs’ reference to the colors being “hideous and garish” is actually an understatement, and I don’t understand how the couple get away from that last shoot-out unless the agents just let them go) that are a little troubling, and put this on the low side of OK.

FUTURAMA SIMPSONS CROSSOVER CRISIS PART 2 #2 (OF 2): I liked part one a lot more, but the whole thing was on the high side of Good—it read like a classic, clever silver-age JLA/JSA crossover, but, you know, funny and with the Bongo characters. Like I said: Good.

HAWKMAN #38: Making Hawkgirl “just” the love interest really misunderstands how Geoff Johns set up this reboot, I think. I also have a big case of the don’t cares where Golden Eagle is concerned. Pretty art, though. Eh.

LEGEND #2 (OF 4): Hibbs and I really disagree on this one I wish I knew how much of this material is patented Chaykin hyper-libido and how much of it comes from the original source material: there may be some perspective gained on the Superman/Lois relationship if the sexual dread found here was in Wylie’s original (and rubbed off on Siegel and Shuster’s creation). And there’s something to be said about a story about someone with superpowers where either fighting or committing crime doesn’t seem to be part of the equation. Other than that, it reads like a bad first novel illustrated by an indifferent Russ Heath. Fascinating in its stinkiness, but the price point keeps it at Awful.

LIVEWIRES #2 (OF 6): As Hibbs pointed out, too much like the first issue to really be satisfying, although lots of very neat touches like the seven cognitive frames panel (between this and We3, I’m kind of eager to see someone try an extended bit of super-saturated panel information, which, now that I think of it, is the sort of thing Chris Ware’s been fooling around with for some time). I thought it was fun, so it’s a low Good, but I feel guilty for doing so becuase I’ve given tons of books shit for doing exactly this sort of “the same issue twice” thing.

NEW AVENGERS #4: The “good” news is that continuity is back: those of us wondering what happened to Wolverine in the Uncanny storyline have a piece of the answer thanks to the last page here. (And this follows a trend I’ve noticed at Marvel the last few months with some books making slight references to events in other books). The bad news is internal continuity is gone, gone, gone: So much was made of Elektro eating at the same restaurant in Boston for three weeks, but then the waitress there says to Elektro she hasn’t seen him for two. Meanwhile we’re supposed to believe that Captain America was able to assemble the team and Stark had set up his entire base of operations in just twenty-four hours? The art looks great, with the colorist, I think, really adding an almost 3-D feel to the art but there are just so many “wha?” and “huh?” and “but…” a guy can ask before rolling his eyes and just deciding: Eh.

NEW INVADERS #8: I thought of Spurgeon’s great John Romita interview over at The Comics Reporter (taken down now, alas) while reading this: we finally got a big fight scene, but it’s so static and limp it’s painful. (And that panel of Captain America making out with Union Jack while Spitfire freaks out was just funny.) The superhero medium is going through growing pains and so you just can’t have that “silent movie acting” that Romita talks about anymore—but then you miss out on an easy transition to the sheer kineticism of a Kirby-styled fight scene, to say nothing on what to do when you’re not styling fight scenes around Kirby anymore. However the problem’s solved, this talking-heads-followed-by mannequins-falling-over-each-other isn’t it. At eight issues in, I’ve decided New Invaders is probably the dullest superhero comic Marvel’s ever published. It’s like watching paint dry, but without the fun of smelling the fumes. Awful.

NEW WEST #1: Wanted to like this—something about the opening page drew me right in—but why bother explaining something to such great length if it doesn’t make any sense? Los Angeles has all electricity wiped out…but only Los Angeles? The rest of the world has power but L.A. doesn’t? So why don’t people just drive some cars up from San Diego? Listen, if you want your private eye on a horse with a samurai sword, go for it (look at Cholly & Flytrap). But if you feel you have to explain yourself, at least come up with something that makes sense at least a little. Phil Noto’s art seemed a million times more fluid than the last time I looked, but at $4.99, this gets an Awful, and another area where me and Hibbs really split. [EDIT: Frank S. Kim schools me good in the comments section on this, leaving me little choice but to conclude I read the damn thing too fast and stuff is better fleshed out than I thought. Fair enough; I’ll bump it up to an Eh just because it obviously wasn’t my bag, and point you to Brian’s more positive review.]

SEVEN SOLDIERS GUARDIAN #1: Wow. This was absurdly great. from the few deliberately over-the-top captions, to the quickly sketched out history of the subway pirates, to just having the newsboy legion reintroduced in a way that makes them seem cool—this was a great big slice of fried gold. At the two-fisted top of Very Good.

SPAWN #144: If you cross a ‘70s Marvel comic with an iceberg, you get Spawn. I actually liked some of the ideas and scenes here, particularly Mammon plucking Simmons’ memories from him, one by one (and I’m always a sucker for stories with tarot cards in them, ever since that one Son of Satan story way back when). But this book seems essentially cowardly to me—it will set up a new status quo without ever resolving any of the old status quo, as if a finger was constantly trembling over a big ol’ reset button. OK, but frustrating in its miserliness.

SPIDER MAN HUMAN TORCH #3: If you are a fan of Marvel Comics in the ‘70s, then you should pick this up because it has everything a Marvel fan from that era would love: an actual explanation of how the Spider-Mobile works, Red Ghost and The Super-Apes; the Torch’s red costume (which is a beautifully specific detail that all but carbon dates the continuity on the story); and, of course, a few well-placed fruit pies (I wrote this back before Hibbs’ review, so there’s probably no need for me to phrase that so elegantly, but still….). Don’t get me wrong, even if you’re not a 70’s nut, you’ll appreciate the very elegant craft of Slott’s script where both the plot and the humor build perfectly off each previous piece. But if you’re like me and read all your issues of Spider-Man and Marvel Team-Up ten times apiece, you’ll think this is Very Good stuff (even though the art is a bit vexing). If not for Guardian, this might have been my Pick of the Week.

X-MEN #168: Hibbs is high on crack. This issue stank; last issue stank; Vulcan logic dictates next issue will stink because drug-induced character revelation when the writer doesn’t understand the characters will stink. Even Larroca isn’t trying anymore and that guy, Lord love him, will work his ass off trying to make anything work. Awful.

Whew. That was a plump little Easter Basket of spite, wasn’t it? But never mind that: go hunt up the good stuff because some of it (Guardian!) was really quite good.

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