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The Sick Trick: Jeff’s Review of 12/13 Books.

Jeff Lester

I’m not capital-S Sick but I am little-s sick: mildly feverish and runny nose to beat the band, sore throat when I wake up, etc. Combine that with the newsletter deadline and a shortened workday on Friday so I could attend the non-CE holiday party, and you’ve got the makings for a whiny, weepy & short set of reviews.

Speaking of whining and wailing, has anyone made the jump from Blogger to Blogger Beta and, more specifically, the jump from Haloscan to Blogger Beta’s improved commenting system? We’re going to be making the jump soon (like by the end of the year soon) and I’m trying to figure out if I should muck about with the template so that Haloscan is still accessible. Any comments or advice you’d want to share would be welcome.

And with that:

52 WEEK #32: It would’ve been nice, although too much to ask apparently, that Ralph’s tour through the magical side of the DCU showed how the universe’s magical side had been broken post-Crisis rather than highlighting how much it’s always been broken. Here, Mr. Dibny gets an “all is love; time is an illusion” message from Rama Kushna that doesn’t quite seem to jibe with, you know, hell and everything that Ralph’s already visited–to me, it just underlines how the magical DCU is a bunch of utterly contradictory ideas and intentions awkwardly jammed under one celestial roof. An overall Eh issue, I thought.

BATMAN #660: I spent most of the issue thinking, “Johnny Karaoke? That’s an awesome idea! No, wait, that’s a horrible idea! No, wait, awesome!” It seems to require a certain balancing act that maybe Mr. Morrison could have pulled off, but Mr. Ostrander certainly cannot. Finally, that final line of Batman’s (“Get ready to bleed.”) seems very pre-OYL Bats, doesn’t it? (And also kind of silly: is the bad guy supposed to let out the choke on his corpuscles or something?) Considering this shipped only two weeks after the last one, you’d think the editor might’ve taken a little more time to straighten things out. Drops to an Eh for me, because I expect more from an issue with a character named Johnny Karaoke, and more from an issue of Batman than a “hmm, what’ve we got in the inventory drawer?” approach.

BLADE #4: Despite that awesome cover and the hilarious blurb from the Spurge, and an enjoyably candid letters page, I was pretty meh about the issue–I just didn’t buy that a body-shifting creature would work itself into a corner that easily. It’s still probably the best Blade title Marvel’s ever published, but my OK rating is still being a bit too generous, probably.

BULLET POINTS #2: Hibbs entered his judgment of “Who cares?” back with the first issue, and this second issue proves him right on the money. While there’s some lovely visuals–that Hulk rampage looked fantastic, I thought–the point seems less “how completely different the world will turn out” and more, “and that’s how Matt Murdock became Galactus’s herald” which I had more than enough of back when I was reading What If. Will likely prove to Hibbs right, in short, and utterly Eh-worthy as a result.

DAMNED #3: This is the issue in which I realized I will be picking up the trade–it’s clever and sharp and not quite readable without the other issues nearby. Good stuff, though, and worth picking up.

ESCAPISTS #6: Despite the character beats feeling a bit rushed, I liked the ending to this quite a lot–it seemed very faithful to the Jack Kirbyishness of the Escapist, as our heroes miraculously turn defeat into victory. It’s kind of a shame that Dark Horse finally gets a creative team that can handle Chabon’s ideas with something approaching the original novel’s alacrity and it has to end after only six issues. I guess that’s the way it rolls in our to-the-trade industry but it’s a shame I won’t have more Good issues to be on the lookout for.

EX MACHINA #25: Took a character I didn’t much care about–Bradbury–in a title I’ve been cooling on, and manages to turn it all around on a dime. My bipolar love affair with Ex Machina continues as I found this to be a pretty Good little done-in-one.

EXILES ANNUAL #1: I liked just about everything this book did–took the classic trope of two versions of the same team battling one another, added a shiny red reset button for anyone who might want to use it in the future, and brought back one of my favorite villains–but I was left pretty cold about the way it did it all. If nothing else, the two teams, despite having largely different line-ups, had essentially the same characterization and that underscored how generic and samey the title has felt for a while. Eh, unfortunately.

GHOST RIDER #6: Bizarro comics week continues as the most annoyingly disposable title in Marvel’s line-up becomes compelling thanks to the addition of artist Richard Corben. The story was pretty disposable, cutting badly back and forth between the present and the past, but Corben’s art made it all spooky, funny and strange: Hibbs pointed the title out to me because he was impressed with how Corben made the Ghost Rider really look like a flaming skeleton, but I thought Corben brought a glitchy stoner washout look to both Blaze and Blaze’s cellmate that was similarly fresh and appealing. I hate advocating books solely on the basis of the art, but for $2.99 you get some damn Good art here.

SPIRIT #1: Now, as long as I’m advocating books for the art, I can totally give this a Good: Cooke’s art and visual storytelling are amazing and I kind of can’t believe we’re going to have the good luck to get it at $2.99 a pop rather than hefty prestige format prices. But once I look past the art, I think this first issue runs dangerously close to being a flop. As relieved as I am that Cooke didn’t try for the difficult mix of noir and vaudeville Eisner utilized, going for just the noir isn’t going to cut it. If The Pill–more visually grotesque than any Eisner villain I can remember–is an indicator of where the book is heading, then it’s a road I’m not going to enjoy travelling down. (And if the little crawlers at the bottom of the NNN broadcast scenes are indications of what we’re in for if Cooke tries to develop the humor angle, I’m not too optimistic about that development, either.) I thought the scenes with Ebony were quite good, however, and the art really is first-class so I’m definitely along for the ride. But I think even I weren’t feeling sick and lousy, I’d be griping about this title. I guess we’ll see, won’t we?

WOLVERINE #49: Hmmm. You’d think sticking Wolverine in the middle of Die Hard would be great in a “hot dog wrapped in bacon” kind of way, right? In fact, it’s kinda lame although compelling art & some clever dialogue will half-convince you otherwise–Wolverine has to share the spotlight with an underdeveloped John McClane type and the story doesn’t end so much as messily stop, and so a lot of the set-up doesn’t deliver. (The whole thing suffers by comparison to the iconic wit of the cover, too.) If I didn’t have to pay an extra buck for it, it’d be OK, but at that price it too gets consigned to the endless fires of Eh-dition.

PICK OF THE WEEK: Either of the Vaughan books, Damned if you can get all the issues all at once, maybe Ghost Rider, and maybe The Spirit.

PICK OF THE WEAK: 52, Batman, Bullet Points, and probably a bunch of other stuff I didn’t get around to reading.

TRADE PICK: Finally, the real reason why I’m cranky comes out: I’ve got both The Drifting Classroom and Sgt. Frog sitting unread in my pull box where they’ll stay until next week. It pains me, it really does.

But I’m sure you weren’t nearly as cranky as I was. What’d you think?

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