2.09.2007

2.07.07 Reviews

Scalped #2 (DC/Vertigo): As I was taking in the early action scenes and plethora of wild, gritty perspective shots, one word kept springing to mind: explosive. Everything about this book is explosive. The action scenes, the art, the great hook it had with the reveal on the final page of the first issue, the authenticity of the speech patterns, the character motivations, the diverse cast, and the education it deftly spills about life on the reservation. For my money, this is the best new Vertigo book in quite some time and it's perfectly poised to inherit the mantle from 100 Bullets as the entertaining thrill ride about seedy characters from the underbelly of society, where there may be an engaging protagonist, but not a prototypical "good guy" to be found. Grade A+.

Fell #7 (Image): For an issue that is essentially a long series of talking heads pages, this is a rockin' good time with a fascinating but unsettling look into the reality of our criminal justice system. As Kevin Pollack pointed out in the film A Few Good Men, "it's the difference between paper law and trial law." In the interrogation room, based on the evidence available, it's obvious that Detective Fell has this guy cold. But inside a courtoom, where a savvy defense attorney can invoke the M'Naughten rule of temporary insanity (which I often feel it's important to remind people is a legal definition, not a clinical/psychological definition) to introduce doubt, this twisted guy walks. And all for an ad free $1.99! Grade A+.

The Lone Ranger #4 (Dynamite Entertainment): Lean and enjoyable, but reads really fast, which is a testament to the page layouts and sparse but effective dialogue. I like how this take on our hero incorporates bits from the well known canon, but weaves that together with new elements as well. Really looking forward to that hardcover collection advertised, but if it's collecting the first six issues and it's taken us this long to get 4, it does seem a bit premature to market it, no? Grade A.

Action Comics Annual #10 (DC): Well, well, well... an anthology type book with multiple vignettes that actually works! We get an intro story narrated by Luthor that provides interesting insight to his motivation and catalogues various ways to kill Superman. We get a very cool retro story about Clark in Smallville and how the Daxamite known as Valor got his Kryptonian name (Mon-El), which for some reason reminded me of Superman and Dick Grayson's chat, which inspired Dick to adopt the name Nightwing as an homage to Clark and Bruce's adventures as Flamebird and Nightwing in The Bottle City of Kandor - which itself alluded to a Kryptonian children's tale. But I digress... we get a Joe Kubert tale that looks great, but doesn't really do anything, in fact, it stops in mid-swing with no resolution or explanation (the surpisingly weakest offering here). We get some beautiful Rags Morales pencils that tell the fascinating tale of the trio sent to the Phantom Zone by Jor-El and how their relationships intertwined prior to the planet exploding, which ends on a pleasant hopeful note. The last tale about an "Uber-Metallo" sets up a nice segue to what I'm assuming will be an ongoing arc in another Supes title. And even the "filler" pages about The Fortress of Solitude and Superman's Top 10 Most Wanted (rogues gallery) are done well. Overall, this is a nice intro to the Man of Steel and although we don't get a story that deals with Clark as Superman directly, it's a nice way for someone new to the books to get up to speed. This is an extremely well put together package, totally enjoyable, with only one (arguable) loser in the bunch. Grade A-.

New Avengers #27 (Marvel): Leinil Yu's art is quite detailed here, yet fresh, orderly, and crisp. I'm really growing to enjoy his contributions. There aren't many New Avengers to speak of in this book, but I enjoyed the spotlight on the arc of Maya/Ronin's character nonetheless. However, the "New" New Avengers seem to post-date current happenings in Civil War, so their inclusion here serves as a kind of "huh?" moment, with no clear explanation as to who these "New" New Avengers are or why they're the ones specifically sent to rescue Maya from The Hand. Sure, we all know who will comprise the team after Civil War, but that's a shame isn't it? Since Civil War isn't done yet and the only reason we know is because of the shipping delay gaffes with the main title. In any case, I did enjoy the narration style, trying to figure out who the Ronin is that's come to rescue Maya/Ronin, and although the team banter is a little over the top, it was still self-referential and fun. New Avengers continues to be a bit uneven, some issues being "just fun" if you don't think about them too hard, and some even bubbling up to having moments of brilliance. Grade B+.

The Secret #1 (Dark Horse): I had some trouble getting past the core premise. I mean, in this day and age, surely the average teenagers are tech savvy enough to know that games like this would be fraught with danger in a world of caller ID, star-69, and a whole host of anonymous lookup tools on the web. There were also some jump cuts, like from the bedroom scene to the park at midnight, that were very abrupt, pushed me out, and were not what I'd call "smooth scripting." Really, when I'm reading a book I should be enjoying a story, not noticing small mistakes with the craft of storytelling itself, it needs to be seamless to the end user. Publisher Mike Richardson's plot is about as sophisticated as a cheesy, high school slasher movie, but the real treat here is Jason Shawn Alexander's art. His beautiful pencils are rendered with a very lush (I'm not sure which) watercolor or paint treatment that's absolutely fantastic. Grade B.

52: Week Forty (DC): John Henry Irons proves that a man will do anything to protect his family with just a single word: "point." 95% of this issue is dedicated to the Steel/Luthor story (which isn't necessarily my favorite thread), but DC inadvertantly proved that this is perhaps the format they should have followed with 52. Focus on just one story thread per week, rotate threads each week. It's much easier to follow, much easier to connect with as a reader, and much more entertaining overall. Surprised that the art is not horrible this issue either. Grade B-.

Random Note: Some intriguing house ads from DC here. I like the thought of novelist Jodi Picoult on Wonder Woman (the made for TV movie adaptation of her book The Pact that I was forced against my will to sit through ended up being gutwrenchingly good, emotionally honest, and her core premise was surprisingly enjoyable), but I have to question the marketing department's strategy here. It really does no good to place this ad in a comic, what they should do is run ads in other medium where Picoult fans are likely to lurk in an attempt to pull those rabid Picoult readers over to comics - speaking from experience, I know women who are rabid Picoult fans and they had zero clue about the impending WW run until I told them, which proves the marketing is flawed, a squandered opportunity at the very least, as far as I'm concerned. The art on the new Aquaman run looks downright interesting too, having never bought an Aquaman book in my life, this is saying a lot since I'm now tempted to give #50 a try based on the promise of the art alone.

Jonah Hex #16 (DC): Ah think that feller' Noto's art is nice and clean. Ah reckon Palmiotti and Gray are right competent enough writers. Ah did enjoy the last arc by that European feller' Jordi Bernet. Ah greatly appreciate the attempt to tell the origin of one miss Tallulah Black. But ah can't help the distractin' feelin' that every character has used Clint Eastwood for photo referencin'. All in all, it seems a' might like any ol' run o' the mill Western tale, nothin' much too darn special. It's now mah third attempt to partake in this har' book, so I guess I's done with it and callin' 'er quits. Grade C+.

The Leading Man #5 (Oni Press): The combination of the delays between issues and me having missed issue 3 or 4 (can't recall which) puts me in a position where I don't remember a damn thing about the plot and have no idea what's going on here. I have a vague recollection about one of the chics being a co-star and one of them being an assistant or something, but one is also really a spy type like leading man Nick Walker(?). Not too sure. I'm hoping that this will read better in trade format and it's not simply that the story and characters just aren't that memorable. Since I do like the creators previous works, I'll give the trade a shot and give them the benefit of the doubt. Grade C.

Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil #1 (DC): Well. This isn't quite what I expected. So, we're going to re-tell Billy Batson's origin? Okay, I guess. Now, this is going to sound blasphemous since the thing is getting incredibly strong reviews online, but... we all like Jeff Smith, yet his art struck me as kinda'... wonky (gasp!) in spots here, it was a bit uneven with some bulging odd inconsistencies. I also thought it was kinda' cruel the way Billy was getting beaten, which is wildly divergent in tone from the fun look the book has - for a purported kid friendly book, not sure I'd show that scene to my daughter just yet. The humor seemed to fall a little flat for me as well. I'm not a huge continuity hound or anything, but damn this felt like an Elseworlds type of story, and I kept wondering is this in continuity? Does this really take place in the DCU? There was nothing to overtly contradict that being the case and I suppose it doesn't matter that much, but it just felt like it didn't fit. And umm, where exactly was the titular Monster Society of Evil? Didn't catch that part. I really only connected with one panel, as Billy humbly kneels and asks "Are you God?" That was a very powerful, natural moment, which says a lot about Billy's nature. All in all, I was quite excited about this project, but was ultimately left wondering what's the point? And $5.99? Ouch. Grade C.

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