11.25.2009

11.25.09 Reviews (Part 1)

Northlanders #22 (DC/Vertigo): Leandro Fernandez has really refined his style in the last few years. At times, I still see a lot of Eduardo Risso in his lines, but with Dave McCaig’s beautiful coloring the overall effect is much warmer and more emotive than any issue of 100 Bullets ever was. As usual, Brian Wood gives us the surface story. It’s about the strength of a mother, about a grueling attempt to maintain a sense of normalcy, and the idea that all it takes for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing. When you step back from it all and lose some of the period context, you see that parent struggling to provide for the safety of their child, trying to influence the common good of the community, while making choices in an attempt to navigate this tragedy. Yeah, it’s all set in the year 1020, but those ideas are much more current themes than we’re probably comfortable admitting. Whether consciously intentional or not, bits of this arc are oddly relevant to today, the plague itself a stand in for swine flu paranoia, but also for the economic crisis. Gunborg as the inevitable taxman who comes calling just like the IRS, parents struggling to make ends meet and protect the future stability of their children's lives. When you start making those links in your mind, it becomes a powerful piece of work that touches on our collective perception about today’s fragile existence. Grade A.

The Lone Ranger #19 (Dynamite Entertainment): Hrmm. Something felt off about this issue. It picks right up where the last issue left off, with The Lone Ranger and Tonto being framed up for some murders, but there are some odd artistic choices that make the storytelling a little unclear. Ranger… hits Sheriff Loring? Why? Was it misdirection to give him an alibi in front of the Fed? If so, that was really not clear. The entire scene with the time constraint and the intercut shots of Sheriff Loring, the Fed, and Cavendish wasn’t clear at all. Ambitious, but murky. I’m still not clear on what happened there. Lastly, there is a very unexpected, almost completely out of character, weird ass turn at the end. It really pushed me out of the story and the budding relationship that was already being clearly established in previous issues. On top of it all, this title usually reads extremely quickly. When everything’s clicking, as it normally does, it just feels like a quick satisfying read, something that leaves you wanting more. However, when there are a series of mis-steps, as was the anomalous case this time out, that seems to be all you can dwell on or remember. For the first time ever, I actually thought to myself “hrmm, maybe it’s time to trade-wait this.” I certainly hope this was an isolated occurrence that’ll read better collected. Giving it the benefit of the doubt with a low Grade B.

Uncanny X-Men #517 (Marvel): I’m really upset by this. I relented and bought the issue even though I keep telling myself I should drop it and put it on the quarter bin list. It started ok, with some fast action fun. At first I thought maybe it could stay in that mindless summer movie, guilty pleasure zone, but then I started looking closely. Land’s backgrounds are so skimpy, sometimes non-existent. Boom Boom saying “Sup, bee-otches?” just sounds so desperately trying to be hip, rendering it not so. Why is Storm’s uniform different all the time? Why are the Predator X’s so… dumb? They are metallic dinosaurs who want to kill mutants. Sorry, but that’s just bush league awful. Why is Thunderbird suddenly popping out of the Predator X? Or is that Warpath? Where'd he come from? Huh? What? And call me too serious, but I'm generally not up for quips during a battle that threatens the very existence of my species. There are minor clever things happening, like the way Rogue uses her powers, but overall Matt Fraction is just capable of so much more. Grade B-.

Justice League: Cry for Justice #5 (DC): This is really the first issue that I can’t completely dog out. True, there are many head-scratchers, gaffes, and weird insinuations, but there are also, surprisingly, a few redeeming qualities. Kara and Freddie are kissing on the cover. For no apparent reason, I guess, since they never do in the actual issue, nor is the cover embrace ever explained. They don’t even flirt in this issue, as they kinda’ have in the past. Moving along, so Kory likes to sunbathe in the nude. Sigh. Ok. Then we learn that Megan Fox, oh, I meant Donna (she’s just clearly had Megan Fox used as photoref), is with her. That leads me to an odd inference that not only are they friends, but that there could be some sort of lesbian thing happening. Since when is one of your best friends the ex-girlfriend of your ex-boyfriend, and why would you want to hook up with that person? That’s a little creepy in itself. On top of that, Robinson has already force fed us the idea that Hal is running around having threesomes with Lady Blackhawk and whoever, so I feel like this is all a big set up to later inform us that Dick must have refereed a little clam-fighting session between Donna and Kory up in Titans Tower. Also note that Kory used to clearly be an orange colored Tamaranian; here she looks like she just got a little bronze skin color by sunbathing nude with Donna. From there, we get Ollie calling Dinah “ugly,” which I could just never see happening, Atom’s speech balloon attributed to the wrong character, and Firestorm suddenly appearing when he hasn’t been in any of the preceding panels. Yeah, lots of issues with Firestorm. He shows up mysteriously to say he’ll immediately leave and go handle something in Gotham, and then he continues to be in the next few pages. This is continuity like in the most basic sense of the word. It’s like a character on TV wearing a blue shirt in one scene, the camera cuts away to a different angle of the same scene and then they’re wearing a red shirt with no explanation. Firestorm literally said he was leaving, and then proceeded… not to. Roy being in danger is extremely telegraphed with everyone offering well wishes for Lian, he might as well be the extra who beams down to the planet on a Star Trek mission. I guess we’re supposed to infer that Congorilla smelled something, or something(?), and went off to investigate suddenly. But, what was he supposed to smell? And if he smelled something, why didn’t anyone else? Supergirl has uhh, super-smelling or something, right? I don’t know. Maybe it’s all misdirection. That last panel is odd. I think we’re supposed to believe that Freddie standing over some ravaged bodies (and where the hell did Flash come from?!) means he’s evil, but the way the bodies are posed, he and Supergirl could certainly be taking on some villain who’s off panel. Over in JLA, Plastic Man is really effed up at the moment, so uhh, does this story pre-date that, or what? Robinson’s writing both, so I’d expect the continuity to be sorted out. Is it? Not sure, didn’t buy this week’s issue of JLA ‘cuz it was basically an issue of Blackest Night. Robinson’s rambling text piece is as obtuse as ever, having not much at all to do with this story per se, only highlighting his adoration for an artist who once worked on Captain Marvel, Jr. Are we meant to believe that Elvis really based his hairdo on Freddie Freeman’s? That sounds really bogus to me, but who knows. What is an odd confession is Robinson saying that he initially got into writing, not because he liked writing, or even wanted to be a writer, but because he wanted the fame. Wow. Oh, and Dinah clearly looks like Jessica Alba in Fantastic Four in some panels. Awesome. The things I liked… well, the Starfire/Animal Man bits of 52 were one of the only small bits of that mess I enjoyed, and they’re juggled well here at the Baker’s pad. If managed correctly, this has the potential to work well as a prelude to the new JLA lineup, but we’re on issue five, so the next two issues had better bring the thunder. Superficially, I liked Roy’s line “she’s cool” about Batwoman, the idea that Dick had told Roy about her. It figures they’d talk, right? They’re pretty tight. But umm, does everyone in that room know that Dick is Batman, or that Dick is even a hero? If not, well, Roy just outed him, and it seems like a rookie move, especially for a guy who was in Checkmate and all. I like that Supergirl is played a bit inexperienced. She doesn’t know who Congorilla is, she’s unfamiliar with Amanda Waller and the Suicide Squad. That’s neat characterization. I like the idea of Shade travelling to the satellite, I like that Hawkman picked up on the relationship between Hawkgirl and Roy. I like that the JLA seems to be finally using all of the resources at their disposal, the JSA, the Titans, reservists, loosely affiliated others, etc. And overall, Mauro Cascioli’s pencils are improving, at times reminding me of an uneasy blend of Simone Bianchi and JH Williams III with some of the panel designs and layouts. It’s not perfect, but it’s… interesting. Not completely unmitigated disaster laughable dogshit like the first few issues (which actually hampers my enjoyment), but simply a train wreck. Grade C-.

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