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Three Up, Three Down: Jeff’s First Few ‘Views of 03/14 Books…

Jeff Lester

Back when I first started co-writing these with Hibbs (and although it feels like forever, was really only about five years ago), I would sit down with a pile of the books in alphabetical order, read each book, write a review immediately after finishing it, and then move onto the next. It took forever, and usually I’d have to break the work into two different readings or else I’d get incredible headaches, and I could pretty much only do reviews every other month because at the end of that session it’d take at least ten days before I could even begin to look at comics for fun. And although I was seeing Edi at the time, I was single, living on my own and so had countless empty hours to spend on comic reviews and crippling migraines.

Over time, I got a method that worked pretty well–read a ton, write it a day or two later, fire and forget, and thank readers when they pointed out that I called the protagonist of Ex Machina Tony Millionaire for the entire paragraph.

So I’m understandably reluctant to go down that path again, even though while I was reading books at the store on Friday, I was thinking “Oh, shit! I’m never gonna remember anything about this book by Sunday! Hell, I won’t remember anything about it by this afternoon! But I can’t go back to the old method; it’ll kill me!” But, obviously, I can’t write intelligent, funny paragraphs about books every day if I can’t remember a fucking thing about them, can I?

Hibbs had a sort of similar moment at the store yesterday, where he looked at me and said, “Yeah, the page is full of essays now. I can’t just sit down and write, ‘This story sucks! Blah-bloo-bloo-bloo!’ It’d look stupid–actually, I should say it looks even more stupid–next to all those well thought out opinions n’ shit!” So I know I’m not going through this alone–obviously, we all can’t be sleek, sexy Graeme McMillanauts, exploring the heavenly proscenium arch of comics incisiveness–but it’s gonna take some time before I feel like I’ve hit my stride under the reign of our self-imposed daily content overlords. After five years, I’m sure it’s good for me to shake things up. On the other hand, I read 18 comics (and one trade yesterday) and I’ve gotta say something cogent over the next week about ’em? No wonder people started scanning old comics pages and posting them on the Internet!

Right, right, enough stalling. So, anyway:

52 WEEK #45: I hope the taste of “nah, I just don’t buy it” washes out of my month quickly, because I couldn’t tell which parts of this I wasn’t buying because of last week’s plot-hammery renunciation by Isis, and which parts of it, well, just weren’t buyable. I spent an absurd amount of time grousing to Hibbs about whether Black Adam, like some deathly version of Santa Claus, could speed around an entire country and kill everyone. (Bri for his part mentioned Johnny Bates’ destruction of London in Miracleman and then more or less left it at that, content to watch me sputter about like an idiot fanboy.) If it wasn’t for Greg Rucka’s incredibly satisfying interview at CBR this week–which restored a certain amount of faith and a tremendous amount of respect for everyone directly involved with this book–I’d be even more Eeyoreish about what the next seven weeks will bring than I am now. This issue was still pretty Eh, though.

BLADE #7: Either I’m gaining more appreciation for his work, or Chaykin seems to have shaken off a lot of his recent doldrums, working harder to make his art serve the story rather than vice-versa. Narratively, the book is constructed so the Blade scenes hurtle along and the flashbacks are left to carry any additional resonance and it’s a nice way to pick up each issue and feel like shit is happening…but I wonder if anything really is happening other than big fights, lovely looking flashbacks, and strewn seeds that may or may not flower into sub-plots. On the one hand, as long as it’s done well, what more do you need from a superhero comic? On the other, without some sort of narrative thrust tied to the character’s actions (as opposed to reactions), I don’t know if it’ll ever break out of the high end of OK. Maybe it doesn’t need to.

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER #1: Tell you what. I’ll give you my review and you can decide what caliber of Buffy fan I am.

If nothing else, this issue with its interior narration helped distinguish the comic book Buffy of Season 8 from the TV Buffy of Season 7 and that’s a very good thing. Why? Because Sarah Michelle Gellar sucked ass on that season 7 of Buffy, that’s why.

Admittedly, I thought there was an assload of problems with Seasons 7, not the least of which was Whedon’s love of the “I am the boss and right or wrong you will do what I say because I am the boss” speech which he used too much in both Season 7 and in Firefly (and probably reflects the kind of frustrations he was having during that period trying to oversee three shows), but Sarah Michelle Gellar’s inability to radiate anything other than “I really don’t want to be here” killed Season 7 for me.

Don’t get me wrong, SMG was a far better actress than they ever could have hoped for when the show came out, and she really nailed a lot of moments of vulnerability and heartbreak and humor and bravado over the seasons, but somewhere along the line she obviously wanted to get out and make the jump to movies and couldn’t, and she stopped paying attention to her craft: in that last season, I could’ve watched any given scene and predicted “okay, she’s gonna frown and cross her arms…now” with 95% accuracy.

So what I really enjoyed about this first issue was having a character that felt like Buffy but didn’t have that air of Sarah Michelle Gellar-ness to it. The Buffy in this issue really felt like a leader (as opposed to the whiny, self-righteous Buffy of Season 7 who kept insisting that she was a leader), someone self-confident with a sense of humor but a tendency to fixate on the bad things. Because this issue gave me that, I’d give it a Good (despite Whedon’s writing coming across as too self-pleased, despite the complaints Hibbs and Graeme had, despite the fact that this’ll read a million times better in the trade than in singles) and I look forward to more. I really do.

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