5.09.2007

5.09.07 Reviews - Part 1

Tales of the Unexpected #8 (DC): Ok gang, you know the drill. I'm basically ignoring The Spectre lead story here because it's unfocused drivel with no clear objectives. When it's not prevaricating about Crispus Allen and what he's supposed to be doing and how we're supposed to react to it, or failing to string together little murderous vignettes with no common throughline other than the obvious presence of The Spectre, it relies on mis-used lines like "dying in an orgy of his own blood" to try and capture some pseudo-shocking, retro-horror feel from DC's 1970's stable, which doesn't actually make much sense when you think about it. Eric Battle's art ain't too bad though, and saves us from a Grade F. There are little flashes of artistic brilliance scattered about, like his JH Williams-inspired panel borders on a couple pages. Hey, David Lapham! As a person who speaks Spanish pretty well, I have no idea what a "bendeho" is, did you mean "pendejo?" If you're going to bother including a language besides English, and a choice swear word no less, you might want to... I don't know, get it right. I really hope they don't try to launch another Spectre series based on this crap. And that about sums up The Spectre, along with a Grade D. Annnnnd at the far opposite end of the spectrum, we have Dr. 13! All it takes is for me to see the blush of Traci's cute cheeks on the very first page and I smile contentedly to myself. I love this story and everything about it, the double entendres, the laugh out loud lines, and the precious biting, self-referential commentary on it's own DC Universe. Amid all the grand spectacle of multiverses, jacked around with continuity, and planned events, we are reminded that, yes, some of the best stories may not necessarily be "in continuity" or part of a cohesive planned universe from one week to the next, but that doesn't make them any less special. And the point that I think Dr. 13 is trying to make is that characters have the ability to outlive and endure whatever weirdness their creators make them go through, even if we don't agree with the direction. And that fact gives us hope. The character's unwritten tales are the only truly organic "fewcha." Even if they are vampires... or cavemen... or umm, "really dead pirates..." or "girls that can give you diseases." Haha! Someone needs to do an annotated, panel by panel analysis of this undervalued, underappreciated, and largely unnoticed work! This needs to be top-of-mind in the comic book community and permeate the collective zeitgeist. This is an important work, damn it! And don't forget DC, I want this collected separately from that smelly pile of steamy dog shit you're calling a "lead" story. I would love to believe that the ad for the next adventure, "The Quest For Fear," is real and not the tongue-in-cheek, well-placed-before-the-ad-page fake out it is, but as we see, every story must come to a bitter and unexpected e-- If there was a higher grade that could capture the sheer brilliance of this project, I'd give it, because this is well beyond Grade A+.

Note: The image you see is not the cover of TotU #8, nor is it from any interior panel of the series. It's actually a pic of Traci 13 (aka: Girl 13) from an old Superman comic, only thing I could quickly find of her... I just couldn't bring myself to put up a cover displaying The Spectre when I loathe it so much and love her and the Dr. 13 story with equally passionate, but opposing, force. Hrmm, Traci 13...? 13 Minutes...? There's got to be a good joke in here somewhere...

The Immortal Iron Fist #5 (Marvel): The placement and timing of "Brooklyn headbutt" sort of captures the charm of this series for me. 98% of the time it's deadly serious and I really dig that tone, but Brubaker and Fraction are also not afraid of a little tongue-in-cheek humor to ground it to its origins. Aja's art is just fucking amazing, check out the detail in the iron work on the bridge, his graceful lines and kinetic energy in every panel. I feel like I can almost see the characters moving their way through the story. He also tosses out some little cookies like "NYC Eisner" on the manhole cover. We get some good information here on why Orson Randall disappeared, the centuries old Iron Fist legacy, and now see Orson sort of oddly passing the torch to Danny, as he has great responsibility suddenly thrust upon him unexpectedly and an expectation that he'll survive the coming days. Nice Luke Cage and (new) Heroes for Hire cameo. The ending page, and the series itself, is becoming a good writing lesson in "put your characters where they'd least like to be" in order to squeeze maximum drama out of them. Grade A.

New Avengers #30 (Marvel): This issue is very well rounded and basically what I personally want from an Avengers comic. It's got consistent, detailed, and impressive Leinil Yu art, loads of humor, spot on characterization, some long due information about Clint/Hawkeye and Maya/Ronin, fun action sequences, and some explanations that go a long way toward "making up" for the bizarre intentions and lack of thought out arguments or plausible discussions in Civil War. Tony actually has a very eloquent plea to the renegade Avengers here that is an honest, interesting, quiet little moment which plays antithetical to much of how we've seen him portrayed as a manipulator in Mighty Avengers and Civil War. And just when you start to accept Tony's side of the argument, Luke has an equally logical stance about a possible conspiracy in the Marvel U involving SHIELD, Hydra, Fury, and the Civil War. Even goofball Peter Parker jumps in and articulates a well reasoned "sanity check" on everyone about how bad guys never *think* they're the bad guys. This was just the most logical and articulate I've seen any of the Civil War issues being presented. Odd that it happens long after the war is over and doesn't say much for the main Civil War series, but as an Avengers book dealing with the fallout, kudos to Bendis for giving us something that's beyond being just competent or fun, it reaches a level of poignancy that's been lacking for some time. Grade A.

Phonogram #6 (Image): The bold experiment that was Phonogram finally comes to a close with a quiet showdown between Kohl and Brittania. One of the points I took away from this final issue was that events or people living on in nostalgia makes them precious, while actually revisiting that time and attempting to enjoy or relive the experience again leads to utter disappointment and cheapens its meaning. What makes those moments great is that they're inherently memories, gone and in the past, imbued with the focus of time's march forward to help clarify meaning and blur the rough edges. And for me, it's a great point, but it took an obtusely long time to make. As usual, the behind-the-scenes essays on the fear around the homophobia-inducing cover, assorted peeks into the creative process, interesting points about Oasis (my personal Britpop favorite, and all us Americans were really ever exposed to with any regularity), and fated crossing of paths between individuals meant to connect is all more interesting and engaging than the subject matter, or actual comic, itself. The creators clearly have a passion for their material, and it's downright infectious, a great idea, plenty of inspiration and originality, but the execution just leaves me with a lackluster feeling. I don't know what else to say. As someone who's also seen their name in print for the first time, self-published, created something that was put out into the world, and endured that odd mix of elation, pride, and fear, I deeply appreciate their efforts and so completely wanted to like this more than I really did. But, I did like it enough to at least check out the first ish of the next series. These guys are creators to keep an eye on. Cheers. Grade B.

Countdown #51 (DC): At least, I think that's the issue number of this book. Is that the gimmick? Next issue will be #50, then 49, 48, etc? And we'll "countdown" weekly to... something? Ok, first off... it's $2.99. I know that's "regular" comic book price and all, but for a weekly book, this is a pretty significant investment being asked of me, $155.48 by my calculations. I'll buy a couple hardcover collections of something instead. I know the difference between this price tag and the $2.50 price of 52 is negligible (an annual savings of only $25.48), but I still liked the good faith effort to make a gesture to lower the price to help incentivize a weekly purchase. "So Begins The End!" the cover announces. End of what? I need more of a plot description than "it will change the DCU forever! (ahem, again)" to interest me. Darkseid says it will be the end of "existence." Umm, what? Why? Didn't we already do that two or three times with the last few DC event series? I'm so tired of these mindless, empty events that are more devoid of meaning and lasting significance with each successive occurrence. I'm a fairly voracious reader of DC books, but I don't know who Duela is. If I don't know, how is anyone new gonna' know? Tracy Angel, Heat Wave, Jason Todd, Trickster? *These* are the characters who we'll be focusing on? No, thanks. Kind of misleading that all of the DCU big guns are on the cover, but none appear inside. Monitors with guns? Nope. Duela saying she's from a "neighboring Earth?" Nope, a little too much forced self-awareness of the multiverse for my taste. Countdown? Count me officially out of this series. The only positive comment I have is that Jesus Saiz's art is simple and pleasant, much better than anything I saw in 52. Hope he sticks around for a few issues to add some class and consistency on the artistic front. Too bad I won't be around to see it. Grade D+.

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