2.14.2007

2.14.07 Reviews - Part 1

Midnight Sun #3 (Slave Labor Graphics): Ben Towle's remarkable story about a lost Italian dirigible confidently carries on. Towle uses a masterful approach for panel to panel storytelling, relying on sparse energetic dialogue for a truly unique experience. You can see the subtle influences of industry greats like Eisner, Schulz, and even Windsor Mckay, to modern masters like Mignola and Miller - yet his style is uniquely his own. It's quiet, but powerful. Graceful, yet gritty. Having checked his site: http://www.benzilla.com I was sad to learn that this will be the final floppy issue due to low sales, but SLG will be putting out the complete series in graphic novel format later this year. Good luck, Ben! Grade A+.

Manhunter #28 (DC): Well after a momentary (3 issues?) reprieve, Manhunter is back on death row, pretty sure it was announced that issue 30 would complete the run of the title we dubbed "best book that nobody is reading." As if that wasn't certain enough, we have a sure sign of the apocalypse with this issue, the thing that every DC book uses as a hook to either try to boost sales early on or get a spike out of later in the run... a Batman cameo! But, not even that, a cool Kevin Nowlan cover, a recurring Wonder Woman, a Blue Beetle/Infinite Crisis tie in, Azrael/Jean Paul Valley and The Order of St. Dumas, or a great cameo from Sasha Bordeaux and Checkmate is going to grant that last minute pardon this book deserves. I'll read it until the end and just hope that Kate and company get canonized in the same way that Cameron Chase and the DEO became part of ongoing continuity after her book was cancelled. Will there be another great book that uses *both* of those characters in a few years that suffers a similar fate? Probably. Sure. Why not go for the trifecta? Still a classy, fun time that fills in a lot of the spaces between major events and characters in the DCU. It's fun to see the creators have a ball with the property in its throes of death and toss a bunch of ideas out, the art hitting on all cylinders, etc. But, it's fun in a bittersweet way. Sadly, the industry needs more books like this, that are different in just this way, which is why it gets cancelled. Fuckin' DC. Fuckin' people. Why didn't you buy this book instead of the safe, pappy, geriatric, coffee table, dog shit you normally buy? Grade A.

Justice Society of America #3 (DC): That's a pretty slick cover, interesting that the Red Tornado/Ma Hunkel/Cyclone chic doesn't appear to be wearing panties! How'd that one get by the editors? I mean, if it wasn't for some dark inking in the shadows, we'd be looking at full on girly bits. And by the way, Alex Ross' skills are strong enough to pull off the cover, but the design for her costume on the interior is horrible. Dude, so tired of Nazis as villains; can't we just retire them now that the 20th century is over? I like the premise for the arc, that someone would hunt down the bloodlines of heroes that are symbolic of America, additionally placing Jesse and Courtney's families in peril. The double reveal of who's behind it all and what's up with Wildcat's son is nice too. Starman remains pretty funny. I liked the old Sand design better. The art bounces around from being pretty crisp and consistent in spots, to being very awkward with stiff looking poses, like the two page splash where the team splits up. Overall, the execution is a little wonky in spots, due mainly to artistic inconsistency, but as for story threads, there are enough interesting balls in the air to keep me coming back for a couple issues. Grade B.

Tales of the Unexpected #5 (DC): Tales of Dichotomy continues here, with the wildly divergent, contradictory, and opposed stories about The Spectre and Dr. 13 marching on to the beat of two vastly dissimilar drummers. The Spectre is like a bad action movie, loud, in your face, takes itself a little too seriously, offers no real substance or significance, is not engaging in the slightest, you just kind of gloss through it not paying attention, it's totally forgettable the second you turn the page, and completely inconsequential in the long run. As I said before, the story has no real identity, it can't decide what it wants to be. Lapham is largely known for his creator owned title Stray Bullets, a suburban low budget crime saga full of seedy base motivations, and it's quite good. But that style of story doesn't mix well with the big DC supernatural mystical bullshit, so it ceases to be anything except an ill-conceived forum for Lapham to cut his DC teeth on. Why not let Lapham in on something like Gotham Central instead of cancelling it after critically acclaimed runs? I'd rather have that, because this is like mixing Dr. Pepper (which I love) with Green Tea (which is fine), you get Grade F. And on the far opposite end of the spectrum, we have Dr. 13, which clicks in every way. The hilarious intro involving the selling of superhero cars. My crush on super-cute Traci, Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang succesfully blending an amalgam of genres, and the quick intelligent wit of moments like the Pirate calling the Ghost of Jeb Stuart a Yankee and watching trouble ensue. Loved Genius Jones, loved the reject from the Legion of Substitute Heroes, and the Haunted Tank, all totally inspired storytelling. As if that wasn't satisfying enough, this issue takes a metatextual turn with discussion about the architects of the universe "reinventing itself every summer" so "things will never be the same again." They're actually pondering what it means to be a story, to be fictional, and the characters come close to breaking the fourth wall. It's absolutely delightful. Grade A+. Oh, and don't forget. Listen up, DC. I WANT DR. 13 COLLECTED INDEPENDENTLY OF THE SPECTRE. THAT'S RIGHT. NOT *WITH* THE SPECTRE. IT'S OWN STAND-ALONE BOOK. I KEEP SPENDING $3.99 FOR A DAMN BACK UP STORY. SO JUST DO IT. YOU OWE ME. PRETTY PLEASE, WITH A FUCKING CHERRY ON TOP.

52: Week Forty-One (DC): Giuseppe Camuncoli is a nice addition to the art stable, which cuts down the crap factor substantially, and also supports my theory that the relatively "good" artists were retained for the back third of the book's run. But then, right on cue, we get the "silver wheel of nyorlath." Oh. Is that what it is. Forgive my skeptical, predatory eye, but DC is starting to emulate Stark Trek's technobabble ("Captain, the flux modulator required a quantuum phase adapter for the emitter array to work!") only with magic here, as the random deus ex machina of the week, used only to momentarily progress the plot points - never to be seen again, rears its ugly head, and... it's... losing... me... On top of that, the Adam Strange/Starfire scenes don't play in a linear or logical fashion and were very frustrating. The opening sequence makes it look as if their ship is incinerated and they have to evac, then Kory gets shot (by some random thug/bounty hunter with no introduction that exits stage left just as quickly), yet in the end sequence they are mysteriously back inside their craft comfortably "tumbling into a k-type sun" with no explanation as to how they got from point A to B. The Mogo reveal *would have been* a nice moment if it wasn't telegraphed and ruined by the scroll on the front cover. Fun Kory back up story. Grade C-.

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