2.21.07 Reviews - Part 1

The Brave & The Bold #1 (DC): There's a lot to like here! A genuine detective story with intergalactic ramifications making for a seamless and respectful Batman/Green Lantern team up, old school banter that hits all the right continuity notes, beautifully detailed and choreograhped pencils from George Perez, and even a little nod to Vertigo/Sandman continuity with the Book of Destiny. Books like this are a special joy to read, not only because they get so much right, but because that very fact also makes them rare. This book has a clear vision of what it's supposed to do - and then does it extremely well. This is one to watch! Grade A.

Wasteland #7 (Oni Press): The thing that struck me this issue was that Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten (aided this time by fan fave Carla Speed McNeil) understand one thing very well. They understand the concept of what I'll call "classic science-fiction." They know that true sci-fi doesn't necessarily involve spaceships and laser beams, those are just tired genre tropes. They know that genuine classic sci-fi is centered around an interesting core premise, asking a series of "what if?" type questions that force the creators and the readers to play those ideas out to their logical conclusion. This is what made the old Twilight Zone show work so well. In that framework, there is a method, a science to the act of creating fiction. They're quickly proving themselves modern masters of this craft. Grade A.

Checkmate #11 (DC): Greg Rucka continues to weave one of the most intricate and sophisticated series of plots that the DCU has seen in a long time. It's an eclectic, but engaging cast of unique personalities (Judomaster's son? Check. Blackhawks? Check.) being woven together to make a wonderful tapestry of rich stories. Yes, it's strong, it's strong, it's very strong. And I know this really isn't a fair criticism, but with every issue of Checkmate that comes out with regularity and increasing strength, I miss issues of Queen & Country which now come out with ever decreasing regularity. I'm glad he's gained some new fans and found this mainstream critically acclaimed hit, but compelled to get completely snobby and irrational about it and say "I like his older stuff." It's like when a band you've been listening to for years finally gets radio airplay and your friends suddenly jump on the bandwagon and like it. Hey man, I've been reading Rucka's taut political spy stuff since I bought Queen & Country #1 off the stands years ago. This is good, but ain't nothing new for him; just new for the DCU. Grade A-.

The Nightly News #4 (Image): At times, it's difficult to find and stay focused on a throughline that runs from the beginning of an issue to the end. Instead, it can read like a random collage of ideas. But, that's not entirely a bad thing. On one hand, it's a bit frustrating because it shakes the traditional comic book paradigm. On the other hand, it shakes the traditional comic book paradigm and I feel like maybe that's the point of the book at a very macro level. It's a new way to experience a comic, a new way to digest the information presented to you from the media, to look at how it's framed, and what it's truly trying to convey (read: manipulate you) with a different (perhaps skeptical) eye. In that sense, this is a very bold experiment. Grade B+.

Powers #23 (Marvel/Icon): Just when I think I'm getting kinda' bored with this title, that there's a little too much exposition, and that I can probably wait for the trade, sardonic gems like "a little taste of darkness in return for cum and nuggets... I wonder if it's because McDonalds announced they're serving breakfast all day? Or that Lindsay Lohan. Who knows?" pop up and crack me up. I like the obtuse tangle with the devil(?) here and all the hints that Bendis is dropping, which are fuel for another few miles of story. Grade B+.

52: Week Forty-Two (DC): In summary, there's only two things worth noting here, one great and one horrible. The great thing about this issue is Darick Robertson's art, which only further supports my old hypothesis that DC pulled a Vanessa Williams and "went and saved the best for last," reserving the "good" artists for later in the run of the book. He's the first artist that not only doesn't suck, but actually is quite good. He's got a gritty mean style that's lean and detailed in the right spots, while being lush and inky in others. I even see bits of Frank Quitely and Paul Pope coming out. The horrible thing is the script, which relies on a *huge* amount of magical exposition to get the points about Felix Faust and what *really* was going on with Neron, Dr. Fate, and Ralph across to the reader. In short, there was no way anyone could possibly have seen this coming in a fair manner. It just feels haphazard and crammed in to start resolving this plot thread. It's like watching a cop movie for two hours where they're hunting down a serial killer. And this move is purporting itself to be a real genuine cop thriller, a realistic whodunit, and in the third act the killer is revealed to be an alien from the Planet Zartron 12. It's so out of left field, a total huhwhat?! moment. So... A for art, F for story = Grade C.

Wonder Woman #2 (DC): All in all, kind of a pointless arc. We all know it's only a matter of time before Diana inevitably resumes the WW mantle, so we sit through 4 *mostly late* issues of this title filled with mystical Circe/Hercules/Donna/Magic Lasso hoohaa which really just returns us to the status quo for Jodi Picoult's run to begin. This is what's known in the industry as "the illusion of change." Superficially there appears to be all these life altering, wacky departures from the norm, and all kinds of consequence, but at the end of the day, we're right back where we started with a copasetic environment that doesn't stretch our familiar characters. The cheesecakey art is pretty distracting too, not visually, but thematically. Dodson's art is great in and of itself. But for a book purporting to be about a strong female lead who is sent to bring peace to mankind and alter the way we think, well gee, there's nothing like reinforcing the objectification of women to alter the way man thinks. Curious to see the new guy's art on Picoult's run. Grade D+.

Ex Machina: Inside the Machine (DC/Wildstorm): The content itself was interesting enough, but the idea of putting it into a single issue was ill-conceived. There have been plenty of opportunities to include some of this in any of the last 4 trade paperback collections - which have been notoriously skimpy on extra material. Better yet, why not save this all up for a big Absolute Edition of Ex Machina? Feeling kind of ripped off, Grade D.

Civil War #7 (Marvel): What a disappointing denoument. Wow, where to start? At a high level, this was really seven issues of nothing. Nothing has changed. Nothing is different. We've gone from point A all the way back around a huge circle jerk to point A again, without learning a thing. Nothing got resolved. There is still a Superhuman Registration Act. There is still a prison in the Negative Zone. There is still a (Reed's words, not mine) "radicalized underground" comprised of Cap's soldiers. Cap's big "realization" that the conflict was futile was recognized by nearly everyone reading this book months ago. There was nothing to "win" in this "war," rendering the fighting meaningless. If Cap's side "won" the conflict, nothing would have changed. That wouldn't have repealed the Registration Act. Similarly, if Tony's side "won," that wouldn't have resolved the issue of oppressing people's civil rights, nor would it have prevented unlicensed superheroes from operating, as evidenced by the underground Avengers still running around in this very book. The only place Cap actually got anything right was when he said they were winning "everything except the argument," which is a cogent point, yet sort of defeats the point of doing this mini-series if it was going to focus on brawling and not ideas the way it did. Not to mention the fact that the attempted resolution (using that word quite liberally here) of those issues all happened off panel. Yes, the most interesting, politically charged, potentially ground-breaking ideas, all happened in between panels in a devastatingly squandered opportunity for storytelling. It's like watching a movie for two hours where idea after complex idea is introduced, only to have the narrator say in a voiceover during the last act "Umm, and then everything was all better and stuff and they like, lived happily ever after. The End." Maybe these ideas could have been explored sufficiently if this was a 12 issue series (but God knows how long *that* would have taken to ship) and we didn't try to shoehorn things in like Namor arriving to save the day and getting a whole 2 panels to turn the tide of the battle. Better to have a 12 issue maxi-series than baiting me to buy 50 other tie-in books to try and get some focus around an idea that's introduced, exploring it, and seeing it through to it's logical conclusion all in one book. And, ooooh! The "big reveal" about what "42" was turned out to be very silly. Tony gives us a monologue essentially telling us that (gasp! no! ohmygod! what innovative storytelling!) 42 is a number! It was idea #42! WOW! That's fucking amazing! By the way, where was the much hyped promise of a "big death" of a "key character" at? Are you talking about Hercules killing Clor? Yeah, nothing like introducing a lame character, only to kill him off two issues later to "shake the foundations of the Marvel Universe forever!" Haha. What a joke. Might as well just kill off "Armadillo Willy" or "The Holiday Armadillo" (for all you Friends fans out there, come on, I've got like 6 more armadillo jokes in my holster here...) from that hokey looking team from Texas. How about Reed actually sacrificing himself to save Susan as penance for backing the oppressors? Now *that* would have been a shocking death and had lasting consequences that rippled throughout the Marvel U. Anyway, escapes an F only because Cloak & Dagger are still pretty cool - glad to see them get some air time, and McNiven's art (regardless of the story depicted) is worth the wait for the most part. Grade D-.


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