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The Timer is Running: Jeff’s Reviews of 8/24 Books.

Brian Hibbs

Dude. I’m getting married in three weeks! What does this mean for you, the SavCrit blog reader? Mainly, it means you should go see One Night in Mongkok at the Presidio Theatre because I can’t. Yes, my busy schedule means you must overcompensate for me, because that’s the kind of dysfunctional shell game I’m running here.

Also, it means that you’ll be getting reviews from me of the 8/31 books and maybe the 9/8 books and then I’ll be offline until mid-October. Since I can’t speak for Hibbs even a little, it may mean the site will lay fallow for a little while or, alternatively, maybe it won’t. But at least your eyes will get a break from all these red letters for a bit.

Which is why you should go see One Night in Mongkok—to celebrate!

As for the comix, I’m still a few books short (picked up that gorgeous looking Rocketo from last week but haven’t read it or Conan yet) but here’s what I thought about:

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #643: I know Rucka was trying for something different, but Superman sorta came across as “Wait a minute, you can’t kill someone in cold blood! Hot blood? Sure! But cold-blooded murder? That’s inhuman!” I feel the weight of the plot hammer about to drop again… OK.

ANT #1: I’m a fool. As if the cover wasn’t bad enough, the “Dedicated to Todd McFarlane,” really should have given things away. This has McF’s “tell, tell, tell, until you get to the fight scene and then show, show, show” storytelling all over it, overwrought and intellectually desolate. It’s like early era Image all over again. Even supervillain mimes couldn’t save this one. Awful, more or less.

BANANA SUNDAY #2: I thought this was great. It’s like Coover and “Nibot” have reinvented Harvey Comics all over again—perfectly cartooned characters given perfect comic obsessions—except there’s extra wit in the dialogue, to boot. I hope they can sustain this long enough to get collections into the kids’ market. For an enjoyable all-ages (mostly–there’s a bit of sexy talk) read, this is in the upper echelons of Very Good.

BATMAN #644: I’m a little late to the Internet garment-rending party, but I wholeheartedly agree with it. This was an intensely stupid story, all the moreso because it pointlessly wrecks a perfectly good character for no reason other than to sell a few more books. Hibbs went on about this at great lengths on Friday, so I bet you’ll see a review on Tuesday, and I’ll save all the good points for him. What I will say, since the Bat-team is so set on trying to create a working Millerish version of Batman but have only managed to catch the unlikeable asshat part: it’s not the media riffs; it’s not the sadistic villains; and it’s not the snark. Miller’s Batman only works if traditional positions of authority are irredeemably corrupt, either in the government (Dark Knight Returns) or the police force (Batman: Year One). Otherwise he just seems like a churlish dickhead. I’m going right to the Crap end of the scale here, because of the sheer waste involved. Very sad.

BLACK PANTHER #7: Yummy art plus a guest-star ass-kicker on the last few pages made this a highly OK read. Won’t make you swoon, but good art does go a long way, doesn’t it?

DAREDEVIL #76: Like Black Panther #7 only better: Alex Maleev’s art has improved so much during his run on this title, it’s daunting. It was able to sell me on the story even though I found myself a bit emotionally detached. It may be because I know this is the last (or, uh, next to last?) Bendis/Maleev storyline and I don’t feel like any of the Murdock-as-Kingpin material got explored at all (another reason the ninja demon baby storyline left me a little nonplussed). But I’d call it Good.

DAREDEVIL VS PUNISHER #3: Nice action setpieces, but the Stray Bullet type sequences and the superhero punch-‘em-ups are awkwardly jammed together. Hopefully, they cohere down the road in some other way than the villain-grabs-the-family-Frank-Castle-seems-emotionally-invested-in route one would expect. OK.

DAY OF VENGEANCE #5: Again, hopefully a book Hibbs will cover because he had some pretty sound points about its weaknesses. Me, I didn’t like any of it, really, but didn’t hate any of it either. Eh.

FANTASTIC FOUR #530: About as thin as the skin on a grape, but as a by-the-numbers FF story that lazily attempts to throw a bit more into the mix, OK.

HULK DESTRUCTION #2: Much better than last issue, in part because another artist does a lot of the flashback sequences. And David’s script is clever although, of course, occasionally too clever. A drastic improvement over the last issue (even with a page of dropped dialogue), but still only Eh, sadly.

JACK CROSS #1: Good setup and really keen art—in fact, the body language in the interrogation sequence was great. The main character is maybe a little underdeveloped for a first issue and I didn’t put this down feeling anything was particularly at stake, either for him or generally, but the talent involved guaranteed I’ll be back next issue to see if/how that changes. Good.

JSA CLASSIFIED #2: Without Amanda Conner’s art (and Johns loosening up his scripting style for the art) this really could have been a bore. But thanks to some terrific cartooning from Conner and the promise of a larger “I’s will be dotted!! T’s will be crossed!” payoff, I found this pretty Good.

LEGION OF SUPER HEROES #9: The art wasn’t terrible or anything, but without Kitson’s very clean pencils, I find myself overwhelmed by all the narrative detail. In short, I gave up about five pages in and didn’t finish it, so No Rating.

MARVEL KNIGHTS SPIDER-MAN #17: I think I’d rather read an FF book by Hudlin than a Spider-Man book—those scenes struck me as not bad at all. Eh.

MEGA MORPHS #2: If you want to break your brain, try to imagine a giant robot Spider-Man swinging on a web. From trees. My hats off to the creative team if they actually completed this job while sober. So hilariously Awful, I kinda enjoyed it.

OMAC PROJECT #5: So Batman’s ex-girlfriend is the new DC Deathlok? The idea of it makes me feel like Marcello at the end of La Dolce Vita: jaded, tired, cruel. A very low Eh, unless Sasha turns out to conveniently be the resolution to this issue’s cliffhanger, in which case I’ll retroactively drop it down to Awful.

SIMPSONS COMICS #109: Would ya believe it’s been almost two years since I’ve seen an episode of The Simpsons? So I may not be the best judge of these things any more, but I thought this was pretty damn funny. Why hasn’t anyone hired Ian Boothby to, I don’t know, ruin the Batbooks or something? Shouldn’t work this good generate more work? Very Good.

TEEN TITANS #27: “And this is just my day job.” Oh, how that sloppy, awkward first page made me laugh and laugh and laugh. Hiring Rob Liefeld to draw comics is like hiring Mike Milken to manage your retirement funds, and yet it still happens. God bless you, comics! Awful.

WALKING DEAD #21: The ending more or less fizzled, but I actually preferred that to another “Dear God! Yet another surprise murder!” This book still has me hooked. Very Good.

WOLVERINE #31: As the Bard said, there’s a thin line between clever and stupid, and the end to the big fight struck precisely the right balance with me. The final pages seemed like a padded afterthought, but this was a satisfying wrap-up to a big, enjoyably dumb epic overall. Good.

PICK OF THE WEEK: Banana Sunday #2, because it was just a fun little read, and I’m a sucker for monkeys.

PICK OF THE WEAK: Not even close: Batman #644 stank up the joint, screwed the pooch, and broke a useful and important part of the Batman mythos. Yay, team!

TRADE PICK: Iron Wok Jan, Vol. 12. It’s been such a long time since the last volume, it took me a while to get into this. But around the time the demented Richie Rich character drove up two massive kitchen RVs so he and Jan could have a cooking streetfight, I was in love all over again.

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