11.04.2010

11.03.10 Reviews (Part 2)

Strange Tales: Volume Two #2 (Marvel): It’s immediately obvious that the second issue isn’t going to function with the same level of gravitas that Rafael Grampa (Wolverine) or Frank Santoro (Silver Surfer) achieved in issue one. Those strips functioned at a more cerebral level vs. the light-hearted approaches that pervade this issue, which I suppose, is an indication that they aspire to be more pure entertainment than art. Nick Bertozzi’s Watcher strips are usually terrific framing devices that put you in the right mindset for the overall project, but here it felt just a little flat and unfunny. Grade C. Old-School Rules! written and drawn by Gilbert Hernandez is a fun Iron Man and Toro team-up that visually captures a retro-revival 1970’s Tony Stark, but the story peters out toward the end. Grade B. Love & The Space Phantom from Jaime Hernandez focuses on the 1960’s beach party adorning the cover, with Wanda, Sue, Janet, and Kitty in attendance. It looks luscious, but relies on a moderately funny Alicia Masters blind gag to finish. Grade B. Jeffrey Brown’s Uncanny X-Men was holistically probably my favorite piece in the issue. He paints a compelling picture of the Scott/Jean/Logan triangle with visually impressive renditions of the trio that seem to incorporate some Josh Cotter into the pencils. I especially like his renditions of Jean and Colossus and could pretty much read an entire X-Men series in this style any day of the week and twice on Sundays. Thematically, he delivers a unique take on the neurotic personality quirks of the characters and boils some of their elements down to a core essence. Grade A. The Ghost Badge piece from Sheldon Vella appeared slightly out of context, looking less like an indie party at The House of Ideas, and more like a stray Heavy Metal strip. I did like the pencils, with a discernible Nathan Fox influence, and a stray line or two caught my ear (“no political panty dropping”), but couldn’t really make heads or tails out of the story or its role. Grade C. Paul Maybury’s Spider-Man was beautiful! I remember his work vaguely from Image Comics’ Aqua Leung (which I think was b&w?), but his work looks so much better in color. The blustering and blocky J. Jonah Jameson is a nice visual counterpoint to his lithe dynamic Spidey. I was really grooving on this story until odd abrupt appearances by Cable and Luke Cage intervened, but there’s no denying the grandeur of the art. Grade A-. I expected great things from Paul Hornschemeier’s Colossus strip, but felt slightly disappointed. The story revolves around Piotr fighting some Arcade-style doppelganger, but ultimately doesn’t really go anywhere and feels unresolved. It doesn’t help that the strong pencils have limited backgrounds and Illyana Rasputin’s name is spelled as “Ilyana.” Tough break. Grade B. Tony Millionaire depicts Thor as some sort of carnival barker in a Billy Hazelnuts style world and the result is pretty fun. Between Thor’s exaggerated speech pattern (“underneathenmoorst”) and characters like Can-Man and Mud-O, this was one of the better pieces. Grade B+. Wolverine & Power Pack from David Heatley was a bit of a snoozer for me. It seemed to take an easy path, attempting cheap laughs at the expense of the silly Power Packers, which is kinda’ predictable and pedestrian, along with cliché Wolverine lines, rather than embracing the indie outsider status and really trying to turn the property on its head. If I was going to go for an off-type portrayal of Power Pack, heck, I’d try to make them all serious and avoid the simplistic humor. Just sayin’. Grade C. Farel Dalrymple’s Silver Surfer/Spidey affair was absolutely gorgeous. I’ve been a fan of Dalrymple since The Pop Gun War, but his pencils here seem even more rich with fine detail than his work on that title or even Jonathan Lethem’s Omega: The Unknown. The luscious color only adds to the drama and internal teen angst of his Peter Parker. Surfer is portrayed crisply as a lone outsider somewhat detached from humanity. I reveled in that big shot of Manhattan and the severely different personalities of the two heroes, despite one crazy typo (“pressence”) lurking about. Grade A. Jon Vermilyea’s M.O.D.O.K. piece employed a great aesthetic texture for the Avengers characters, but relied on straightforward booger humor. Grade B. Ivan Brunetti also contributes an end piece, finding various Marvel heroes working out. Not much “there” there. Overall, this is actually a very middling effort, with only three strips standing out for me (that’s Jeffrey Brown, Paul Maybury, and Farel Dalrymple – ok, arguably four with Tony Millionaire), achieving a very straight Grade B.

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