2.15.2007

2.14.07 Reviews - Part 2

Astonishing X-Men #20 (Marvel): Feels exactly like a Whedon book ought to, with some momentary twists and intentional misdirection to keep us on our toes. There's a great balance here of nice character moments (Beast & Agent Brand, Kitty & Peter's fall, Hisako & Wolverine, etc.) and wild !@^&* action. This book belongs right up there with the classic X-Men runs that are as much about relationships as they are about the space-faring plot. This is how a creative team is supposed to end their run, with a huge swan-songy BANG. Grade A+.

Casanova #7 (Image): It honestly took me a couple of issues to warm up to Fraction's mind-bending, genre-laden, opus of an "album." But once I did, I was hooked. I deeply appreciate the way he systematically pushes the envelope of storytelling and extends the medium to its maximum capability. And with endearingly cool lines like "Evil will prevail, motherfucker. Know that," it's hard not to enjoy with a devious giggle. And as readers, can't we all identify with "What about me, Casanova? Can I join you on your globetrotting espionage sex adventures of violent intrigue?" Yes, we want more! I've also grown to enjoy Fraction's text pieces that serve as interesting insights into the creative process and, at their best, are some of the strongest primers on writing I've come across. This one is all about how your characters become imbued with traces of your own life and how their paths become influenced by that. Fraction then unexpectedly bares his soul and bloody deeds to the world. I was kind of speechless after reading that heartfelt, honest piece. In short, it takes fucking balls and a rare strength of spirit to do that. As the father of a 6 month old child... well shit, Matt, I'm speechless again... do what you gotta' do. Cheers, mate. Grade A.

Immortal Iron Fist #1: Director's Cut (Marvel): Kudos to Marvel for printing this. It includes the regular first issue contents, the short story from Civil War: Choosing Sides (which was the best/only good thing about that book), and a couple pages of sketches and script. It was just a cool move and nice thing to do for fans, I loved the story in Civil War: Choosing Sides and it convinced me I needed to support this book. Love that Aja. Love that Fraction. Grade A.

Stormwatch: PHD #4 (DC/Wildstorm): This title is a little sleeper. Nobody knows about it. Nobody's reading it. It doesn't get any buzz whatsoever. I can see how it would be easy to dismiss without taking a close look. And I'm sure it will get cancelled by issue 12. But damn, it's one of the strongest new titles out of Wildstorm in quite some time. It's just honest and straightforward. Christos Gage and Doug Mahnke (are we witnessing a Greek invasion?) know what the book is supposed to do, and they just go do it, and they do it well. I'd keep my eye on these two. Mahnke's art is losing some of that sketchy unfinished look and growing into a crisp refined style that I really like. Gage's dialogue hums along with a natural ease, capturing the odd ebb and flow with which real people speak. It's not so much what it's about, a rag tag bunch of former villains, metahumans, and Stormwatch B-stringers hunting down baddies in a very tactical fashion, but *how* it's about what it's about. It takes a very personal perspective, focuses on interpersonal character dynamics, and finds a nice balance between quirky character moments, which are occasionally punctuated by superheroics. Looking forward to more. Grade A-.

Nextwave: Agents of HATE #12 (Marvel): There are some cool, fun moments to be found here, but it all feels rather fleeting. I got the feeling that this title was going out with a whimper, rather than a bang. Sure, there were MODOK minis and a Devil Dinosaur, but the cutting, crafty, cunning dialogue was pretty paltry. It does leave the door open nicely for future one-shots or mini-series, but I was hoping Ellis & Immonen would exit as they entered, engaging and blusterous until the bitter end. As a whole, the series works just fine and the hardcover trades will sit handsomely on my bookshelf, but individually this issue doesn't do anything memorable, and that's just poor positioning for a final issue that we want to see more of. I'm disappointed. Grade B-.

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