12.18.2008

12.17.08 Reviews

Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse: Down the Pub (IDW): “He once gave Nefertiti the clap” is all you really need to know about this Ben Templesmith send-up which is an odd mélange of de rigeur zombie fun, Hellblazer style occult paranormal activity, and the humor of something like Warren Ellis’ Nextwave. This one shot is largely a reprinting of earlier stories from various miscellaneous appearances, but does include a nice introduction that serves as summary for the series to date. Fans will note that this is actually #13 in the larger series, coming right after the Calamari Rising mini-series, which was functionally #9-12. I’d be remiss in not mentioning the other Wormwood one shot, Segue to Destruction, which was a brilliant and hilarious story, my favorite of the series thus far, and also happens to feature a creator cameo, more on that in just a sec… Grade A.

Ex Machina #40 (DC/Wildstorm): I had decided to forego single issues of this title and put it on wait-for-trade status as it nears its conclusion around issue 50, but the premise was just too good to pass up. In the tradition of Stan and Jack, Grant Morrison’s Animal Man, or even Joe Casey and Ashley Wood’s Automatic Kafka, I’m an absolute sucker for creators placing themselves into a story and delightfully breaking the fourth wall. This was a great ride, full of self-referential industry tidbits and the post 9/11 sociopolitical commentary that the title is known for. The two page Garth Ennis and Jim Lee sequence was a tad confusing, not sure if that means they’re the creative team that Mayor Hundred actually chose, or if it was just a little treat for fans. Vaughan has said in numerous interviews that the title will end in some sort of shocking/surprise/tragic manner and I’ve been thinking about what that could be. With the introduction of a comic creative team hired to chronicle Mayor Hundred’s administration, I’m wondering if the series will end with BKV and Tony Harris (within the comic itself) sitting down to pencil the first issue of Ex Machina (chronicling the career of a deceased Mayor Hundred) and essentially close the loop on itself. Grade A.

Tiny Titans #11 (DC): I don’t normally buy this title, but picked it up for a coworker whose son loves it. It’s got an old school anthology feel, delivering multiple short stories with a brisk pace. It dawned on me that what makes this title work is that it doesn’t rely on the fact that the characters are child superheroes. The fact that they’re heroes is inconsequential. Instead it relies on the school setting and a loose group of friends, moving with the affable mechanics and innocent youthful pitfalls that are more reminiscent of Peanuts than anything DC related. Though the shorts lack any semblance of a cohesive story throughline, I’m not sure that matters or is even the point. At $2.50, there’s a lot of bang for the buck here, complete with a couple of games/puzzles in the back and some nice house ads for other Johnny DC titles. Grade A-.

Uncanny X-Men #505 (Marvel): Terry Dodson’s art seems to be settling down a bit, losing much of the overt cheesecake factor; the shots of Emma, Scott, and Ororo are particularly good. To some extent, it feels like things are moving too slowly, with the reintroduction of familiar plot threads like San Francisco as a home for wayward mutants and Piotr’s past haunting him. It also seems redundant that we have Armor (from Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men run) and Pixie (courtesy of Fraction in this title) both functioning as young Kitty Pryde style POV characters for the audience. But, toward the end the title starts to hum again. At first, it seems off that Scott would house X-23 with the girls when she’s supposed to be part of the secret X-Force strike team, but it’s a good set-up for Emma becoming suspicious of “that little band of theirs.” I don’t know who Madison Jeffries is and the scripted lettering for his caption boxes is hard to read. But, Emma and Ororo’s conversation does help explain Emma’s involvement in Dark Reign. Fraction is still juggling a bit much here, but thankfully not many balls are being dropped. Grade B.

X-Men: Kingbreaker #1 (Marvel): Christopher Yost is a bit of a rising star among the many X-scribes; I enjoyed his early issues of the recent X-Force series and Dustin Weaver’s pencils certainly passed the casual flip test with their compact detail reminiscent of a Jim Starlin/Jim Lee blend. The whole affair smacks a bit of George Lucas, with the deposed “good guys” forming Lilandra’s version of the Rebel Alliance, evil usurper Emperor Vulcan seeking to expand the Shi’ar Empire, dry Galactic Council deliberations a ringer for those on Coruscant, down to parallels like hiding in space debris ala everyone’s favorite Mandalorian Bounty Hunter. The heavy dose of The Force aside, Yost is going for a big sweeping, Claremont style space opera, it’s got my second favorite X-Man in Havok, impressive shots from Weaver like the spread of the Starjammers captured ship, and a nice tease on the last page. Man, I’m a sucker for this despite its glaring flaws. Call it a guilty pleasure with a Grade B.

Invincible Iron Man #8 (Marvel): While Larroca’s shot of the HAMMER dry dock is quite impressive, I think it’s time to officially retire the collective compulsion for creators to develop new acronyms for organizations. SHIELD is a classic, Whedon did a nice counterpoint with SWORD, and now we have HAMMER. What’s next? DAGGER? ARMOR? CHAINMAIL? HELMET? GAUNTLET? PISTOL? BATTLE AXE? SHOULDER PAD? I know this isn’t really Fraction’s doing or anything to do with this title, but it’s getting tiresome. Let’s not run a cool idea into the ground, people. This issue is a mix of interesting ideas with some inconsistency. We get a nice opening sequence that offers an interesting look into Maria Hill’s head, but Larroca’s photo-referencing seems to be on overdrive. Sometimes Tony looks ok, then he looks like a weird porno version of Burt Reynolds. I’ve gotten used to Maria Hill looking like Jessica Alba, but then from some angles she looks like a tub of chubby weirdness. Pepper seemed to be really against the Stark tech in previous issues, but now (even when it’s been compromised no less) she’s totally into the upgrades(?). Wha…? Having the Superhero (Superhuman? There’s still inconsistency on this title to title…) Registration Act DB inside Tony’s head has potential though. Because it’s Fraction, I’ll give it another couple issues to straighten out. Grade B.

John Constantine: Hellblazer #250 (DC/Vertigo): (Insert requisite congrats for the first Vertigo title to reach landmark issue #250 here). The title definitely offers an impressive array of creators, but the results are pretty mixed. Dave Gibbons and Sean Phillips’ opener probably works the best. Phillips is well suited to tell this type of noir caper with a supernatural spin. He brings the dark and moody pencils from his run on Wildcats with Joe Casey and Sleeper with Ed Brubaker, which lend gravitas to the tale of recovering an artifact. This one gets a straightforward Grade A. Jamie Delano and David Lloyd’s story revolves around a game of Texas Hold ‘Em with a few flashes of dialogue brilliance and an infusion of Christmas spirit, but ultimately goes on too long and goes nowhere. The garish colors look a bit Crayola-ish; this one is a harmless Grade C. Brian Azzarello and Rafael Grampa’s short is probably the one I was looking forward to most, due to my lingering high from Grampa’s confectionary treat Mesmo Delivery. The visuals are indeed sweet (particularly his fascination with big ol’ demon types), proving that he can illustrate just about anything, from comic, to wry witty limerick, or even the phone book, and I’d be in line to check it out. This story clocks in with a fun Grade B. Peter Milligan and Eddie Campbell’s contribution highlights an interesting ploy with a death curse, but the colors seem a little too bright and cheery and not in keeping with the tone of the story, a quick Grade B. China Mieville and Giuseppe Camuncoli offer up a soapboxed industrial accident, complete with suffering children, with stiff art, jagged lines, and an overall inconsequential feel, netting a Grade C. As a side note, the cover is pretty attractive, but I have no idea what it means or how it’s supposed to relate to any of the interior stories being told. Averaged out on a four-point scale, the grade tally puts us at a GPA of 2.8, or an overall lackluster Grade C+.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 #20 (Dark Horse): Another pick up for my coworker... I consider myself somewhat Buffy literate, having dedicated years of past Tuesday nights with my pal Sean to pizza and all things Joss Whedon. But, I’m not very sold on this title. We’ve got Jeph Loeb on scripting, George Jeanty on interior art (but, not really), and a bunch of other people on the “animation” sequence. It opens with a series of rough jump cuts that segues into an extended dream sequence. The humor lacks the rhythm that actual Whedon dialogue usually possesses. The change in art styles is jarring, too cartoony, and the whole thing just really plays like a jumbled mess. The story is not terribly engaging and ultimately goes nowhere, jibba-jabbering on about Morgala or some nonsense. Sure, I haven’t read the rest of the series, but I should be able to glean some sense of the plot, were there one present. BTW, I think it’s time to officially retire the hybrid term “ginormous.” Judging from this issue, I simply cannot understand the rabid fans of this title, its award nominations, or placement on any “best of” type lists. A big shrug of the shoulders and an underwhelming Grade C-.

I also picked up;

The Lone Ranger: Volume 2 Hardcover (Dynamite Entertainment): This volume collects the “Lines Not Crossed” and “Downbeat” arcs, including the Paul Pope interlude story!

Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse: Calamari Rising #3 & 4 (IDW): Wormwood was the belle of the ball from the IDW Parking Lot Sale and a title I’ll regularly follow now. I’ve been tracking down the entire run to complete my collection.

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