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The Long Goodbye (and The Longer Hello): Jeff’s Return and 10/5 Books

Brian Hibbs

Getting married is great. Having a long honeymoon is fantastic. Coming back from a long honeymoon and having to return to your job, your cluttered apartment and a short box full of comics you haven’t read but have to buy? Ai-yi-yi.

I’ll save the picture of the short box, a link to Robson’s short blog of the wedding, and the like, for next entry. Right now, I should get back into the reviewing of the books: my vague understanding is the point of this whole “savage critic” enterprise is actually critiquing, or savaging, or something. This’ll be short, because most of my time at the shop was spent catching up on books I missed and I just wasn’t grabbed by a lot of the non-TPB stuff out this week. I’m starting slow, in other words.

AMAZING FANTASY #13: I like new characters. When I was a kid, I used to love titles like Marvel Premiere and Marvel Spotlight that would introduce them. So it’s kind of a shame that this title isn’t doing well in the marketplace. Having said that, this new character, Vegas, was so dull I didn’t make it past page six. Also, naming your character Vegas and then having the first issue take place in Austin is such an obvious misstep I don’t know where to begin. I can’t tell you the exact rating, but I’m afraid it’s sub-Eh.

BLOOD OF THE DEMON #8: The closer Byrne’s work comes to being utterly insane, the more I like it. This should have been a paint-by-numbers “hero realizes they’re trapped in an illusory realm controlled by supervillain” story, but the contrast of Byrne’s workmanlike ways and what I perceive as his inability to control those ways, made this an unpredictable read. If I’d been twelve and read this, it would have scared the shit out of me because bad art made by crazy people is scary. Plus, bonus points for the speed with which the faceless women/vagina dentata monsters became enormous evil penis monsters. That’s some mighty fine craft right there, yessir. OK.

BONEYARD #19: Like Powers below: even when I don’t care too much about a storyline (let’s face it, spoofing Friday the 13th movies is far from timely, particularly if there’s going to be 3+ issues of it), the strength of the characters keeps me happily reading. Because of that, even though I should really just give this an OK, Good.

FELL #2: Another top-notch issue and, again, the concision of the format keeps everything very lean and powerful. Also, to then read how Ellis thought out and solved the pacing problems made me feel like I’d watched a very satisfying magic trick and then got to see how it was done. Very Good stuff. You should be buying this.

FRESHMEN #3: Overambitious, I think. There’s too many characters so no one gets enough “screen time,” so when one of them finally dies, I just didn’t care. I could see where this might work as a TV show or something, where an actor’s charisma can do some of the work the scripts aren’t, but overall, I’m just embarrassed I bought into the hype and got this. A low Eh.

GOTHAM CENTRAL #36: A pretty good end to the arc, and, frankly, a pretty good end to the series since it’s the closest the department comes to learning to love the Bat. Why, then, was I kind of bored? Could be post-vaction blues, or it could be that the whole hostage-stashed-away-and-time-running-out is kinda cliche and, despite all the other dead Robins, kinda tensionless. A reserved Good, but Good nonetheless.

JSA #78: Again, fine and lovely and interesting, but also kind of dull. And, again, it’s probably because it’s not like lying on the beach in Cancun next to one’s newly wedded wife. But maybe it’s also because the Battle for the Fifth Dimension is abstract enough that it’s hard for me to care, and the art representing the Fifth Dimension as just a funny background color and some dirt kind of compounds the abstraction and the don’t-careness for me. Also in the reserved Good category.

MARVEL MONSTERS DEVIL DINOSAUR: Yes, I read this and dammit I really liked it. Powell draws a terrific Hulk (no surprise there) and the story was light and fun. I will admit to being baffled by the scale gradations (I guess the moon people are really tiny, so Devil Dinosaur can be Hulk-sized for convenient Hulk-smashing?). I know not everyone is like me and will happily pay this much money for a not-long Eric Powell story and an old stinky Marvel Monsters reprint (featuring Xenmu, whose entertainingly awful story where he becomes an evil children’s show host was recently reprinted in Essential Defenders) but if you are, you’ll find it Good.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #13: I’ll concede that having both of the stories presented in MTU #12 be fake is clever, but the pacing still kills this. And having a supervillain trick everyone by crushing his own head? Even when this book turns out to be only half as inept as it originally seems, that’s still far too inept for me to be comfortable with. Awful.

OUTSIDERS #29: I read it and can barely remember a thing about it, other than the idea of a team book where the characters are forbidden from congregating or fraternizing is kind of interesting. Is this the issue where the whole Shazam/Rock of Ages subplot kind of comes out of nowhere and suddenly there’s a superpowered demon guy at the end threatening to kick everyone’s asses? I honestly can’t remember. Sorry. No rating.

POWERS #13: All hail the strength of well-crafted characters–I don’t care one lick about the homicide Pilgrim and Walker are investigating, but I’ll happily read page after page of their conversations. So, a high Good just on the quality of some very enjoyable yakkity-yak.

TRUE STORY SWEAR TO GOD #15: Kind of a nice transition issue, as we see things slowly start to change for Tom. Again, like the other books I really enjoyed this week, the characters, not the events, were what kept me engaged. (I suspect I might be suffering from “Company-Wide Eventitis.”) Good.

WILL YOU STILL LOVE ME IF I WET THE BED GN: One of the things I first enjoyed about Hibbs’ reviews, and which I try to keep aware of when writing for the Critic, is factoring in the price of a book when reviewing it. It can make me uncomfortable, though, when encountering work I like and want to encourage is in a format that keeps me from doing so. Liz Prince’s very cute anecdotes about her and her boyfriend are really sweet and charming, and this would have made a really great two dollar minicomic. But as a seven dollar GN, it feels like a bit of a burn: Prince’s work uses a sketchy style (a la Jeffrey Brown) to capture very sweet, slight moments from her relationship with her boyfriend (a la James Kochalka). But Brown’s sketchy style helps accentuate his stories’ emotional rawness, and Kochalka’s cartoonish style lend his slice of life bits an iconic weight. Prince’s work is that of a cartoonist just starting out, openly showing her influences (kind of like Brubaker’s first issue of Lowlife from way back when), with enough charm and talent to deserve encouragement and support. But seven bucks worth of encouragement and support? I know I suck but, really, that’s just too rich for my blood. Eh.

PICK OF THE WEEK: Fell #2, a perfect blend of strong work at an unbeatable price.

PICK OF THE WEAK: A lot of the stuff I didn’t like I either didn’t finish or suppressed all memory of, so let’s go with Freshmen #3. It wasn’t horrible, but I bought into the hype and now have three issues of steak-dwarfing sizzle cluttering my longboxes.

TRADE OF THE WEEK: A lot of really keen stuff this week: both Push Man & Other Stories and Pyongyang: A Journey In North Korea are gorgeous looking hardcovers of substance. I thought Push Man, like some recent retrospectives, suffers from offering comprehensive work of an artist better introduced to the market with a more varied sampling, but enough of Tatsumi’s stories in the collection are devastatingly great to make this worth the purchase. And I haven’t read Pyongyang yet, but Hibbs said it was great. I also picked up Absolute Watchmen which I admit is crazily expensive but look at it this way: considering it’s too unwieldy to lend out, I’ll be saving money in the long run. I figure I’ve bought a copy of Watchmen at least once every three years due to people borrowing it and never returning it.

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