11.01.06 Reviews (Part 1)

Ex Machina #24 (DC/Wildstorm): A satisfying conclusion to another strong arc that's rife with social commentary. If only the big newspapers were daring enough to reprint comp issues of Ex Machina, instead of the dullard 1960's Spider-Man reprints. A move like that would really raise the level of social debate in this country. Anyway. Ex Machina is one of the strongest books on the stands, but I'm struck by how unfriendly single issues are. This is one of those works that *totally* reads better in trade form, I'm wondering if I should be "one of those people" that (gasp!) "waits for the trade" and doesn't support the creators by buying single issue installments? Grade A-.

Midnighter #1 (DC/Wildstorm): *Spoiler Alert* Well, between this and the last arc of Desolation Jones, is Hitler the villain de rigueur these days or what? I'll be pleasantly surprised if Ennis can actually deliver on that last page tease and tie this back to that random issue of the Captain Atom: Armageddon mini-series that showed Midnighter and Captain Atom popping through multiversal doorways capping (at the time) random people. Chris Sprouse's pencils are at his usual best as Midnighter generally fucks people up, is a miserable bastard of a scoundrel, eschews any type of personal relationship, and just likes kicking people's heads off when he's bored. I was a bit confused in the opening sequence at first (ie: why would Midnighter be taking on US M1 Abrams tanks?), but that was explained. Ennis does his usual thing, Midnighter's a badass, the title character is established, and Sprouse makes it all look real purdy, but nothing new is really being said here. If you're simply into the Ennis/Midnighter vibe, you'll be satisfied enough, but I tend to want a little bit more substance, or... art or something with my violence. Nevertheless, this has my attention for about two more issues to see if anything related to the relaunch of the Wildstorm titles is about teaching the proverbial old dogs any new tricks or we're just doomed to see Spot sit, roll over... sit, roll over... sit, roll over... ad infinitum. Grade B.

Justice League of America #3 (DC): It's interesting to me that you can really detect Meltzer was a novelist prior to his comic work, as evidenced by the reliance on caption boxes which seem to carry the crux of the story, as opposed to actual dialogue bubbles. And speaking of those character caption boxes, I'm still confused by the colors. I mean, really. Intuitively speaking, which color box should Roy Harper or Dinah Lance have to be instantly recognizable? That's just it, there isn't one. But that stuff is all construction of the story, I guess. When you get past that, this is fun. Not earth-shattering or award-winning, but just plain fun. There are still nice character moments between Roy/Dinah/Hal, Bruce/Diana/Clark, and Hawkgirl/Black Lightning, as well as the introduction of a fun old school villain. Not as solid and insightful as it thinks it is, but still... Grade B.

Star Wars: Tag & Bink Were Here (Dark Horse): The premise of this collection of shorter stories is brilliant. Two losers begin their Rebel career on the Tantive IV, and unwittingly don Stormtrooper outfits to escape. From there, they embark on a journey that takes them through nearly every Star Wars film. They become bit players, ala Rosencrantz & Guildenstern, who are mysteriously present just before or just after major scenes in the saga. In a few cases, they're right there in the background of major scenes, and in some cases influence the outcome. Hilarious art from Lucas Marangon and chucklesome gags from writer Kevin Rubio. I especially liked the writers comments directly to the audience and will really never get tired of jokes about Lando as a Shlitz-guzzling Space-Pimp who brags about his heroics at the Battle of Tanaab to score with the ladies. The whole package nearly makes it home, except for the last chapter. While the bulk of the work feels well-researched and thought out, the last installment dealing with the prequels feels rushed and just falls short because it's not that funny, relying heavily on a Cyrano de Bergerac inspired plot that goes nowhere. First 3/4 of this would get Grade A, last 1/4 is about a D+. Dont' ask me what that really averages out to, but I'll be generous and give it an overall Grade B.

Agents of Atlas #4 (Marvel): I'm starting to have mixed emotions about this book and wonder if writer Jeff Parker is losing steam toward the end of the mini-series. They're actually not Agents of Atlas per se, they're investigating the Atlas Foundation. Unless this is a purposeful opposite, such as "Nextwave: Agents of HATE," in which the team will discover their benefactor is evil. It's just confusing. Also was bothered by the fact that they decide to make a random and leisurely pit-stop in Fiji, and their arch-nemesis Yellow Claw just happens to be there(?), or was that how Jimmy Woo figured out there was a traitor in their midst? It's not clear. I did enjoy the self-referential swipes that Gorilla Man takes at Marvel on the last page, fun! Beautiful art from Leonard Kirk, has a really solid mastery of both action and quiet facial expressions. Overall though, I'm finding that I'm starting to lose interest in most of the characters, except for the sexuality of Venus and Derek Khanata of Wakanda. Can I have a spin-off series about him? "Derek Khanata: Agent of SHIELD." Has a ring to it... Grade B.

Local #7 (Oni Press): Another solid issue that captures an effective slice of someone's life and how that is juxtaposed against their surroundings. In particular, this issue gives the reader the ability to infer the protagonist's background and temperament solely using effective panel transitions and very minimal dialogue. Grade B.

The Irredeemable Ant-Man #2 (Marvel): It's like a decision needs to be made about what this book is trying to be. Is Ant-Man really going to be despicable and irredeemable or is this book going to be funny? Right now, it's neither. Chris dies. The Helicarrier crashes (and how the hell did those no-name villains bring down a damn SHIELD Helicarrier, by the way!?). Those are pretty serious notes for a "funny" book to hit. And with the path that Eric is now on, it's like he will learn to become a hero... or a path of redemption. Which sorta' negates the title. Hester & Parks' art is great, save for those random red blocky lines... what the hell was that about? Note to creative team: you have two more issues to clarify your intentions before I'm out. Grade B-.

52: Week Twenty-Six (DC): Here, without any further ado, is a string of gripes with a couple of nice tips of the hat boasting absolutely no structure organizing them whatsoever... Actually a pretty clever 1950's monster movie homage cover when you stop to take a look at it. Since you don't really see her directly until the 5th panel, it was sort of difficult to discern than Renee Montoya was the narrator of those caption boxes. I thought it was stupidly inconsistent that Black Adam makes it a point to say "There's nothing for miles, no villages, no settlements," from which we can assume he deduced via a superpowered scan during his overhead flyby. Yet, a mere single page later, one panel after the Black Adam family takes off, one lousy story beat later, someone shouts "Charlie!!!" and there are clearly inhabitants of this remote area a mere 20 feet away. Enter Richard Dragon. Umm, yeah. Last time I saw Richard Dragon was in the last issue of his aborted series. Where he died. Then a bunch of other stuff happens. Steel looks like a bald Colossus. And there's a talking crocodile. A surprisingly decent encapsulation of some very convoluted Hawkman history courtesy of Mark Waid, complete with detailed, but clean pencils from Joe Bennett. Grade C-.


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