10.18.06 Reviews (Part 1)

Desolation Jones #7 (DC/Wildstorm): Of course I'm sad to see the innovative pencils and page layouts of JH Williams go, but Danijel Zezelj has a unique style that can vibe right along with an Ellis script any day of the week, and twice on Sundays. It's suitably dark and inky for a noir-ish post-modern sci-fi espionage book. "And while you're waiting, someone will find the last friend you thought you had and kill them just because." Yeah, that's noir. Odd that it reads very close to a Queen & Country script, complete with British SIS and oblique references to "C," but I'm not complaining. Perhaps Ellis is on his way to inventing a new sub-genre, mixing Q&C with, well... some Warren Ellis shit, and getting something very cool and unique out of it. He doesn't lose his creepy Spider Jerusalem tone either, "I seen web-sites about you. You want to take my temperature?" And it tickles all my authenticity buttons when he throws around words like "tradecraft." Grade A+.

Sandman #1: Special Edition (DC/Vertigo): The thing that struck me most about Neil Gaiman's writing as I read Sandman #1 for the first time in about 5 years (after having read it countless times before) was how it completely lacks exposition. It's really a rare gift for a writer to be able to intrigue and entice without being completely forthcoming about what's occurring. It's really fun to see him begin planting the seeds that will carry this title another 70-some issues. He really does invent a genre that defies categorization, equal bits horror, fantasy, and superhero, a genre that is still being emulated today with few truly successful examples. Also a treat to re-read his introduction which shows how a few random ideas nagged at him and started to coalesce from nothing but creativity and imagination. He does have a distinct way with the language too. He's not content to merely say that they were "trying to capture Death," he has to take it a step further and add "to bind the reaper." That's just powerful imagery. And the imagery continues as Gaiman weaves together history, comic canon, and literature to form a beautiful tapestry that transcends the medium to become one of the greatest works in modern pop culture. I really enjoyed how much of the series is set in motion due to man's folly. Burgess & Co. screw up the incantation and accidentally imprison Dream, when they were actually after Death, and create the catalyst for a series of events lasting years. This 50-cent book delivers squarely on its intent. Despite having owned the entire series in single issues, despite having owned all 10 hardcover trades, here I am, tempted to once again enjoy what Entertainment Weekly calls "the best comic book ever," explore 50 pages of bonus material, and plunk down $100 for the Absolute Edition. It sounds like folly that could only be induced by the power of the Dream King himself, Lord Morpheus. Grade A+.

X-Factor #12 (Marvel):
Yes, this book is still plagued by the lack of a consistent artist. 'Nuff said. From a scripting standpoint though, the lettercol nails it. Peter David's writing is unpretentious. There is a very tragic thing happening to these characters, but it's understated, infused with subtlety, and sets the stage for the recovery and excitement teased incessantly with the already infamous issue #13. The next issue promises to emulate the much beloved X-Factor #87 from a previous run, where Doc Samson is called in to (mis)diagnose the individuals comprising the X-Factor team after enduring a psychologically damaging mission. Grade B+.

Casanova #5 (Image): Fraction's script seems somehow, I don't know.. calmer? And more focused? That's good. It loses the air of self-indulgent pretention it had and settles into a fun off-beat romp defending Coldheart Island. Seeing him learn to avoid common pitfalls in scripting provides a nice tutorial in the end piece. And, of course, still a steal at $1.99. Grade B+.

Checkmate #7 (DC):
This book has sort of an old school flair to it, with a pseudo-Suicide Squad, characters like Javelin and Punch getting knocked off left and right, a deliciously psychotic Jewelee, complete with Bronze Tiger, and Amanda Waller coming up as a power broker again. Not as much of the political espionage drama as a typical Rucka script, but pretty strong nonetheless. A few awkward panels, but Cliff Richards does ok as a fill-in artist and isn't too jarring a jump in quality. Grade B.

52: Week Twenty-Four (DC): This just might be the best issue yet of 52. It sure feels like Giffen did more than just page layouts and infected the script a bit, as evidenced by the general humorous tone and self-referential lines from Ambush Bug. That was really fun. What a shame (for the Martian Manhunter book), that the Manhunter bits here are far more interesting than anything in the actual MM comic. I liked the idea that folks like Firestorm and Firehawk, who are JLA B-listers at best, would have to step up and carry the torch, attempting to form a League in the absence of any of the big guns. Nature abhors a vacuum, after all. There was a big mis-step with a, ahem... Taylor Hicks reference. I mean, really, let's not suffer from recency in such an overt way, huh? But that aside, we had strong Phil Jimenez art, a lot of the long missing plot threads came back for a spell, it actually felt like the plot was advancing a bit, and it was all topped off by the gravitas of the Skeets-going-berserk sequence. If only they'd all been this strong. Grade B.

Wildcats #1 (DC/Wildstorm): From the first page, it does feel a little bold, full of manic Morrison story ideas. It plays a little more self-aware than other Worldstorm titles and blends the HALO Corporation bits with the good old fashioned heroics of the covert action team and millennia spanning war between the Kherubim and the Daemonites. It hasn't sold me yet, but has earned my attention for about 3 issues to win me over, which is more than I can say for the other Worldstorm titles. Oh, and by the way, Jim Lee... Cole Cash was portrayed as a Navy SEAL when he was with Team 7, so why would he have a US Marine Corps tattoo? Nitpicky, but I'm just sayin'. I realize if you're new to this title, you'll have no idea what the flock is happening here and its pimarily my fondness for the various incarnations of these characters that prompt me to say... Grade B-.

E-Man: Recharged #1 (Digital Webbing): A decent attempt at kooky fun, but sort of lacks a hook. What would have otherwise been a relatively harmless time is really hurt by the $3.99 price tag. It's all pretty middle ground; it will appeal only to die hard fans of the character. It's just not quite funny enough, or not quite campy enough, or not quite serious enough, it just misses any one thematic note and plays it pretty safe, turning into a whole lot of nothing. The behind the scenes section is actually the most interesting aspect from a pure craft standpoint. Grade D+.

The Authority #1 (DC/Wildstorm): Well, it started on page one, with me being baffled by the unexplained acronyms. From there, we go into agonizing decompression as it takes 11 panels to do what could be done in just two. It sort of serves as a harbinger of the fact that the rage of decompressed storytelling has passed, as has the whole "widescreen" action approach that The Authority was originally credited with starting. Those facts coupled together beg the question "should The Authority even be done again?" It makes the whole endeavor feel about 5 years too late; unless there's something fresh and compelling to say, whats the point? At the very least, I was expecting strong pencils, but Gene Ha really needs to pull out from his shots. They're too close up and give a claustrophobic feel. The blurried, muddled composition that can't quite decide if we're going to focus on the foreground or the background requires about 500mg of vicodin to get through. The plot may have been an interesting mystery/sci-fi romp ala Ellis' book Ocean, but it's misplaced here, having zero to do with the title of *this* book. I can only assume that's The Carrier that lets The Authority travel through The Bleed in between multiverses, but I only know that because I've read previous versions of this title. The murky art doesn't help and just spoils a reveal that was already telegraphed anyway. It does nothing for first time readers unfamiliar with the property. And talk about a misleading cover, Midnighter and The Engineer prominently displayed, yet mysteriously absent on the interior. In the very first issue of The Authority relaunch, one would expect to find... I don't know... members of The Authority perhaps? Instead, we get some guy named Ken. This was a total misfire. Grade D-.


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