Action Comics #842 & 843 (DC): Action Comics #842 was not released this week. Now, this is a fun time. The faux newspaper covers from Dave Gibbons have a 1980's nostalgic vibe to them that is completely endearing (and did everyone catch the "Abraham Simpson of Springfield" reference buried on one of he covers? Ha!). Pete Woods' art is fun and action oriented and he makes the pages simply pop with his use of different and imaginative panel layouts. Busiek and Nicieza's idea of an interplanetary auctioneer coming to Earth is so creative and they get miles of story out of it. Throw away lines like the "rare Kryptonians" or mentions of Nightwing speaking Tamaranian take on such deeper meaning when you realize how logically they are embedded in continuity. It's a fun, eclectic assortment of heroes that are on a non-stop wild adventure. And it feels quite dense, packed with comic adventure goodness. This is anti-decompressed storytelling at it's finest. This is what 52 should have been. This is what The Brave & The Bold was all about. This is the best parts of Morrison's JLA high concepts merged with the manic fun of Giffen's JLA. It's just killer fun while making the point that heroes can be heroes without superpowers, simply by using their brains to outwit villains. It truly lives up to its name. This is Action Comics. Guess I'll have to go track down #841 and see how this thing started... Grade A.
Sock Monkey: The Inches Incident #1 (Dark Horse): In this mini-series we meet up again with Drinky Crow and Uncle Gabby on a seafaring adventure. They appear to be on the run as they discuss such compelling issues and the hearing ability of sand dollars in a completely hilarious "it's a show about nothing!" sort of Seinfeld-ian manner. Tony Millionaire's work can easily be dismissed as funny/weird cartoon nonsense, but it's always worth looking a little closer to pick up comments about life, loyalty, and friendship, or the downright creative fun of lines such as "I'm Oyster Joe, the greatest whalesman in the Cape Ann fleet... and I'll be hanged from the highest yardarm before I let a haunted toy monkey sail away in my best egg skillet!" Grade A-.
Justice League of America #2 (DC): It's still a lot of fun to see the deliberations of Diana, Clark, and Bruce while voting. However, I'm getting confused on sequencing. Dinah, Hal, and Roy are... in the League? Do they know it yet? But they're on a mission? Maybe the voting scenes are flashbacks? Meltzer attempts to balance pesonality inspired dialogue creating nice little character moments with good old fashioned advancing the plot. The switches to and fro are awkward at times, but overall they get the job done. There's a few lines in here about Booster Gold, giving his suit to someone, as a way of honoring... Ted? Assumably Ted Kord, aka: Blue Beetle. How would giving Booster's suit to someone honor Ted? Writers and Editors, are we getting confused by heroes real names again? It was a bit of a head-scratcher, as was what's going on with the villians... so it's a team of baddies sucking up powers via Parasite to put into Red Tornado-bots. No, that was a question. Is that what it is? I'm not sure. Ed Benes' art seems to be improving, there are fewer static cheesecake poses and more panels with nice details that flow together and improve his panel to panel storytelling ability. Grade B-.
Snakewoman #3 (Virgin Comics): This issue relies *so* much on exposition to get its points across. Really, the only thing keeping me remotely interested is Gaydos' art. I find myself sort of zoning out on the word balloons and just letting my eye wander around the page to take in the simultaneously dark and sinister, yet lush and vibrant pencils and panel rendering. While there are snippets of dialogue that are intriguing, like the whole "love-sex-jealousy-violence-remorse-love" infinite loop, most of the stortelling is so expository is just becomes obtuse. I was starting to enjoy the Colonial era flashbacks, but then they became so abstract that they turned into random non-sequiturs. This book was preaching about "reaction without introspection" to survive. Well, my knee-jerk reaction at a gut-check level to this book is that it's going nowhere. Check, please. Grade B-.
Jack of Fables #3 (DC/Vertigo): Willingham has obviously created a fully realized world here and is starting to flesh it out via the prison break plot. The art is pleasing enough, in a soft sort of technically-competent-without-being-terribly-engaging-Vertigo-house-style way. However, I feel like I have no "in" here. There's no character to identify with, empathize or sympathize with. And without that, it's difficult to care about what happens next. Sometimes the dialogue sounds pretty in a flowery, rhythmic sense, but doesn't seem to hold much meaning. Example: "Never you mind, you cottingley dykes. Jack's a saviour, he is. Liberated our people from the evil Boggart Nastyfingers." Sounds clever. Sounds whimsical. But, I really have no idea what that means. The extended gag with the tortoise and the hare also falls completely flat. It's supposed to elicit a "Haha!" as in "Haha! Ohmygosh! You mean the tortoise has been 'racing' this whole time unbeknownst to the reader!?" But instead, it elicits a blank stare as in "Oh, I see. It was the tortoise and the hare. That's right. The tortoise is slow." Check, please. Grade C+.
Batman #657 (DC): I suppose it's fun to see Damian challenge all the conventions of the little world Batman has created for himself, being irreverant with Tim, breaking the case housing Jason Todd's costume, etc., but the events don't really ring true. Bats is letting the kid in too easily. Talia could be mind controlling him, using him as a spy, etc. The list is endless and serves to highlight several instances of mis-characterization. That gets coupled with odd art choices, strange camera angles, and weird shading from what can only be described as "multiple light sources." Overall, it's tons better than the last two issues. Morrison is actually telling more of a story now, not overtly soliloquizing his commentary on the industry. Stronger, but not strong enough for me to continue. Check, please. Grade C.
Eternals #4 (Marvel): The art feels rushed in spots, some panels containing single figures that are lacking in detail or backgrounds of any kind. There is still a likable or mildly interesting quality to some of these characters, such as the creepy omniscience of Sprite. But the story is so bland! Sprite's expository narration of the entire issue only adds a feeling of ennui. It feels so random, as if anything could happen next and I wouldn't know if it was important, should be happening, or held any consequence. I feel that Eternals lacks a story "throughline" that focuses the story on a linear path and also provides the audience with a reference point to latch onto and feel engaged by. In other words, what is this story actually about? Until I know that, it feels like random scenes that aren't strung together by a cohesive idea. I used to love Neil Gaiman's writing, but it's like he's swiping 15 year old ideas from himself here. So, Sprite inspired Barrie to create Peter Pan? So, we have a comic character being woven into the fringes of established literary canon? From Gaiman? Gee, what a surprise. He's done it a million times in Sandman with Will Shakespeare, Marco Polo, Ramadan, etc., etc., etc. It plays completely unoriginal and uninspired. And here, in a cosmic superhero book, it's also misplaced. We're 4 issues into this 6 issue series and I still feel like *something* is being set up to actually happen. And I still don't know what it is because of the lack of throughline, but can't help the sinking feeling that it will be rousingly anti-climactic. Grade C-.
52: Week Twenty One (DC): Infinity, Inc. Hrmm, guess we should have seen that one coming. Wha? No back-up feature? That was like the best part of this mess. The way she was carrying on about being the new speedster, it was a very telegraphed move that Eliza was going to be toast by the end. There's one funny line here, "By Darkseid's testi..." Other than that, it was cute for a millisecond to see Zachary Zatara and Little Barda with this false start of a Teen Titans team, but I still can't escape the feeling that it's just the creation of more unwieldy plot threads, when the whole point is to clarify a missing year of continuity. That feeling isn't helped by all of the rough jump cuts and missing story threads from previous issues that are mysterious no-shows. Starfire? Montoya? Black Adam? Where arrreee youuu? Case in point, Red Tornado was already teased a couple of issues back and never followed up on. Now, here he is again. Grade D+.