1.16.08 Reviews

Fell #9 (Image): I’m thoroughly convinced that Templesmith’s pencils are at their most brilliant when he’s NOT doing horror, but is doing work that is grounded and gritty like this title, and uses unique (although admittedly scripted by Ellis) bits like the stick figures on the door. It’s really proof that magical things can happen when you pair an inventive writer with a talented artist. Ellis depicts a psychological angle to this investigation that would make legendary FBI profiler John Douglas proud. I had a little trouble swallowing the end act being all that believable, even in a place as fucked up as Snowtown, because nobody – owed favors from higher ups or not – would ever really get away with what he did, but for $1.99 this is extremely well done. Grade A.

The Umbrella Academy #5 (Dark Horse): I really dug the insightful notes from Dr. Pogo that serve as character profiles; they’re revealing and unique. The vibe I appreciated this issue was Spaceboy’s rooftop conversation that made the very idea of superheroes seem ridiculous, in their detachment from the very humanity they purport to save. Grade A.

DMZ #27 (DC/Vertigo): Nathan Fox is the “guest artist” exception that disproves the rule of guest artists somehow being sub-standard as compared to the regular series artist. His cityscapes and menacing figures truly remind me of early Paul Pope THB work. Somebody sign this boy up for a regular series, I do believe he has a promising future in this business. Wood offers us another in the series of interesting one-shots, this time focusing on DJ Random Fire. It’s a brilliant little analysis of local pride, what it means to be a DJ in general (and in the DMZ), and Trustwell’s monopoly on the closed system of creating fear and then offering protection from it. The dialogue has a ring of authenticity, whether it’s the paramilitary radio protocol or that of the DJ/club scene. First rate comics. Grade A.

Fear Agent #18 (Dark Horse): …or umm, Hatchet Job #2 of 5 depending on how you look at it. I’m still a little confused by the numbering system; they really need to copy the Hellboy/BPRD model for this to make any sense. There’s a nice plethora of activity here involving Mara’s impulsive attack, revelations about family, and acts of selflessness. Lines like “is too bad no one is here to see… I am like star of action movie” are the self-aware gems that make this title hum. Jerome Opena’s sleek lines and full panels perfectly capture this series. I love how Heath is brazen and outspoken, even in the face of danger, even when he’s captured and all hope seems lost. He’s truly a fully fleshed out character with a distinct personality, and the most charming likable rogue since Han Solo. Grade B+.

Immortal Iron Fist #12 (Marvel): While Danny’s involvement in the tournament turned revolution is all well and good, it’s visual and sensory dialogue like “the crush and crunch of snow beneath your toes is a metronome ticking away the last of your tomorrows,” slightly noir inspired, from Fraction and Brubaker, that really tickle the writer in me. That inherent fatalism and the subtle nuances like Mr. Xao grasping his mug of cocoa move this title from good to great. Grade B+.

Checkmate #22 (DC): This is a book with interesting cover art and some interesting history around the Mademoiselle Marie persona that quickly goes astray. The derailment is largely due to blatantly expository dialogue about a neurotoxin with physically impossible effects, and a core story that is less than centered. There are a flurry of French flashbacks, the infusion of the Rocket Reds, a discourse on Russian/Georgian politics, Bialyan terrorists, and instead of feeling like a typical intricate Rucka script, it instead plays disconnected and difficult, with unclear motivations and a story throughline I can’t seem to find. Grade B-.

’76 #1 (Image): The lead story from B. Clay Moore & Ed Tadem is hit and miss for me, but largely the latter. The hit is that Tadem’s art reminds me of Becky Cloonan in spots. The miss is that the Jackie Karma story as a whole doesn’t seem like anything very original. It’s a hybrid Shaft-like blaxploitation/low budget Power Man & Iron Fist sorta’ thing that we’ve really all seen before. I really loved B. Clay Moore’s Battle Hymn, but his other projects, including The Leading Man, Hawaiian Dick, and this just don’t seem to connect with me. I’ll always try his stuff though, that’s for sure, he’s earned that much. Cool by Seth Peck and Tigh Walker is certainly the better half of the book, with a fun (though pointless so far) cop buddy story, reminiscent of Lethal Weapon. Walker’s energetic and emotive art really shines here, but I’d like to see it with a script that resonates stronger with the audience. Grade B-.

Resurrection #2 (Oni Press): I vaguely recall hearing about this title on an SDCC panel with Guggenheim. Despite not warming to any of his other work, I remember thinking to myself “hrmm, I should check that title out.” I have no freakin’ idea why that was. I have no idea what’s happening in this story, something bad apparently happened and it involves bugs(?)… or something. The art from David Dumeer doesn’t help much, with its awkward and stiff poses. I’m not interested in seeing what “519” means and the comparison on the cover to something as grand as Battlestar Galactica seems grandiose to say the least. It appears the creative team is going for a Lost, The Walking Dead, The Exterminators sort of vibe, but I’d rather just watch those shows and buy those books in their pure forms than witness this paltry attempt at hybridization. Grade C-.

I also picked up;

Lust (Fantagraphics): Ellen Forney’s brilliant depictions of online personal ads is really an interesting gem.

The Last Musketeer (Fantagraphics): Hurray! Another book by Jason!

Fight for Tomorrow (DC/Vertigo): Yes! This six issue mini-series from 2002-2003 by Brian Wood and Denys Cowan is finally collected.

Lifelike (IDW): Yes, with the turn of the new year, I vowed not to purchase any more anthologies that I rarely keep, but the art here was just too pretty and the formatting too cool to pass up.


At 11:13 AM, Blogger Big Tom Casual said...

I'm glad I decided to skip '76, good write up on it. I very nearly ordered that one, so worked out well I suppose.

As for Fell, I too wasn't all that sold on the final scene. Particularly the last line about "It's Snowtown, so probably." I get what Ellis is playing at, but it just felt a bit too...staged and self-aware to work.

At 3:42 PM, Blogger Justin said...

Hey Tom... yeah, that ending scene really pushed me out a bit and seemed outlandish even for Snowtown, but hey, for $1.99 I can give a little forgiveness!

I really wanted to like '76, so I was kinda' disappointed. Bummer.

At 12:16 AM, Anonymous Franck Mars said...

What about Lifelike? Did you like it? I am looking for some opinions on this book before ordering.

At 8:55 AM, Blogger Justin said...

Hi Frank, thanks for stopping by!

Regarding Lifelike, I did enjoy it. The art in every single piece is varied, but fantastic. From a storytelling standpoint, I thought some of the endings either didn't really go anywhere or were slightly telegraphed, but overall this is one of the better anthologies I've read. I think based on the strength of the different artists alone, it's worth picking up.

At 3:06 PM, Anonymous Franck Mars said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I will probably check it out.

I discovered your blog very recently and bookmarked it immediately. Your reviews are great. Keep up the good work!

As a side note, it's a shame blogger does not offer RSS feed. It's very convenient, especially for blogs that are updated one or twice a week, such as yours or mine. I will have to come and visit the old fashioned way. ;)

At 3:22 PM, Blogger Justin said...

Franck, thanks for the feedback! Glad you're enjoying it.


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