Phonogram: The Singles Club #3 (Image): I’ve always been drawn to sharp and decisive language. Kieron Gillen’s roots as a music writer shine through with an entertaining exercise in perspective and end notes which are worth the price of admission alone, provided you’re really just in the mood to witness some good writing. One of the back-up stories, David Kohl: Phonomancer, boasts Leigh Gallagher pencils that use some Silver Age style panel layouts, exposition boxes, and general aesthetic. This short story really captures the spirit of Phonogram with lines like “While I show surface contempt for your feminist pop music, I still come for your women,” met by “Please, come in, evil phallocrat.” Even if you don’t enjoy Phonogram, the industry needs more comics like it, the ones that push the definition and standard conventions of the form with a delicious convergence of pop culture ephemera. Grade A.
Invincible Iron Man #14 (Marvel): It’s amazing how writer Matt Fraction has such a better handle on this single character and his bit players than the big unwieldy cast of Uncanny X-Men. Tony’s wistful tone about what it used to be like to be a hero was well played, as multiple plot threads are managed in a seamless fashion. While Larroca does sneak in a couple gratuitous panty shots with The Black Widow, overall his pencils have grown leaps and bounds in the course of about a year. Lost are the CGish, overly rendered, photoref’d panels. Perhaps the best compliment I can pay is that when I read this book, the pen simply goes down, I forget to take notes for review purposes, and just get sucked into it, eagerly turning the pages as a fan, for sheer enjoyment of the story. Grade A.
Punisher #6 (Marvel): It’s disturbing to see typos and weird printing errors sprinkled about from a big publisher in such a quality book. On the very first page, we have “who’s to say you can’t to it again?” In the character profiles, we can’t seem to decide if the character is named “Leetha” or “Letha.” Then the words “one last thing” appear as free floating text, lacking a proper text box. The first full page shot lets us know that Tan Eng Huat is capable of filling the big shoes left by Jerome Opena. Huat’s pencils capture the gritty fevered feel that’s necessary for Rick Remender’s script. His intrusion scene plays cinematic and overall seems much more refined than his frosh work on DC’s attempted Doom Patrol revival. For the $3.99 price tag, Marvel still tries to compensate with the inclusion of some villain character profiles, which is a nice touch. Grade B+.
Red Mass for Mars #3 (Image): Oh, is this book still being published? The last issue came out in October of 2008. It’s a 4 issue mini-series. And this is all after the original delayed/revised/apologized/whatever explanation date from Jonathan Hickman. Ridiculous much? Yet despite the publishing follies, Hickman is still a creator to watch. And Ryan Bodenheim on art is a true find. In spots, I can see a Frank Quitely influence, with the fine lines in the furrowed brows, lithe women, and thin anemic figures which breathe so much emotion. As for the actual story…? Hell if I remember. Something about parallel Earths, Gods of War, heroes assembling, and some scientists doing… science. Unfortunately, the book is about as entertaining as two straight chics playing drunken kissy-face at a party. I enjoy it while I’m standing there looking, but I have no idea how we got here and if it actually means anything. I can’t tell you anything meaningful about it, other than it happened. In my recollection, the book seems to gloss over the most crucial bits, showing us scenes that happen just before or just after what would have been something interesting. Issue 2 ends with like the last 39 heroes or something being assembled to fight some alien horde (I think) and then this issue opens with the disappointing words “4 months later.” To kill the poor analogy completely, it’s like skipping ahead to find the chics hungover in bed the next morning acting all embarrassed and boring, having missed all the uninhibited mutual exploration of the naughty bits. There’s a terrifically horrific and abbreviated birth scene and interesting themes about power corrupting, absolute systems of government being flawed, and nobody available to watch the Watchmen essentially, but it’s sadly lost in the publishing debacle. Perhaps it’ll read better when finally collected. For now, Grade B-.
Cable #15 (Marvel): As the crossover winds down, it makes you realize just how silly Bishop’s (lack of) plan was all along. This event started with the promise of something exciting with real stakes in play, but has degenerated to some mumbo-jumbo that will just come full circle back to the status quo as most big “event” books do. I guess the reveal of Kiden Nixon was supposed to bear some sort of gravitas(?) but since I never followed Laura or the X-23 business, I have no idea. The depiction of Logan’s bloodlust was interesting for a moment, but in general the art is clunky with awkward poses and disproportion being the norm. There’s a lot of dialogue that sounds like empty Star Wars riffing, all about your father, and your true power at my side, and even the villain being hurled down a chasm in his own throne room. Ah well, there’s only one more issue to go and I’m curious to see what happens to Apocalypse… and that Kaare Andrews cover for X-Force #16 sure is nifty. Grade C+.
I also picked up;
Wasteland: Book 04: Dog Tribe (Oni press): The best book you’re not reading.
Low Moon (Fantagraphics): Jason! Hardcover! Color!