12.20.06 Reviews

Wasteland #5 (Oni Press): Johnston and Mitten offer up an all out action sequence in this issue that highlights the various complicated ways to eek out an existence in this bleak future. As the truth about the slavers comes to light, Michael's disclosure of what he really knows also comes into question. I enjoy the fact that the style of story the creators have put forth here remains true to itself, and the letters column only reinforces the creators strong belief in staying true to that vision. Johnston and Mitten know the big difference between giving the fans what they want, which is ultimately a futile, fickle struggle, and giving the fans your complete vision and allowing them to react positively to it. It's truly remarkable. Grade A.

The Lone Ranger #3 (Dynamite Entertainment): Hot damn, Cassaday does up a nice cover here! It really captures the grounded sense of strength and nobility that a pulp character like The Lone Ranger has to convey in order to be even remotely plausible. Highly enjoyable script and pencils on the interior, but reads so fast! This creative team nails the essence of the characters and the story sticks to your memory with regretful, but purposeful lines like "I mean to kill a man." Grade A.

Criminal #3 (Marvel/ICON): What I appreciated about this issue was that Brubaker and Philips prove they can do the quiet little moments, even those with romantic overtones, just as well as they can do a noir heist sequence about bad, bad men. Really refreshing to see not only that the craftsmen are versatile, but that they're willing to explore it on the page. Grade A.

New Avengers #26 (Marvel): While the whole "House of M," Wanda Maximoff, "Death(s)" of Hawkeye, etc. might not make a whole heck of a lot of sense under even casual scrutiny, this is a really nice issue. If you can look past all the lead up, Bendis gives us a very interesting look at Clint, his interactions with Doctor Strange, how magic in the Marvel U supposedly works, and a man's difficult quest for closure. Alex Maleev renders the panels beautifully in a way that simultaneously feels both gritty and real, while being dream-like and ethereal. Grade A-.

Checkmate #9 (DC): Why would the Department of Extranormal Operations (DEO) need a Department of Metahuman Affairs (DMA)? I'm just saying. It sounds rather redundant. What kind of dialogue is "to protect Americans give a good goddamn what you or Checkmate thinks you can just pucker up and kiss my--?" I'm just saying. It sounds rather confusing. Why is King Faraday in Checkmate when he was killed in New Frontier? I'm just saying. It looks rather inconsistent. I like this book, and it's too bad, because I want to love it. Yet there's always these minor annoyances that swarm arround my brain like flies and prevent me from fully getting into it. The writing is smart thematically (politics, love, moral quandries, etc.), but damn those very minor recurring little pests that preclude greatness. Jesus Saiz's pencils are growing in their strength, here reminding me in places of Michael (Alias) Gaydos with some of the facial expressions and thick inks. All in all, it's fun to see Sasha flexing her muscles, standing up to Sarge Steel with lines like "I would, I can, and I will." Rucka puts an intricate plot in motion that makes nice use of the larger DCU in all its variety of places and people. Grade B+.

X-Men: First Class #4 (Marvel): Decided to try out this mini-series after hearing some positive things about it on the interwebs. Yeah, it's not bad. The art is simply charming in its clean ability to portray the original X-Men as fun loving kids who aren't sure of themselves and happen to be some of the most powerful mutants on the planet. The script itself is also fun, with magical dimensions and a very enjoyable cameo from Dr. Stephen Strange. The big conceit of this series is that all issues are single issue stories, which is a nice nod to the past. Overall, the story is *just* fun though, there's no other striking feature forcing me to return for more. Possible that I'll pick up the trade someday if I'm bored. I know that sounds like a backhanded compliment, but in today's marketplace you can't be "ehh, pretty good," you have to really push it to stand above pleasant mediocrity, grab my hard-earned dollar, and survive in the long run. There's nothing wrong with it per se, just nothing grand either. Grade B.

52: Week Thirty-Three (DC): Right from page one, I got pushed out of the story with Ralph talking like he's on United 93; "let's roll" is shorthand to me for lazy dialogue and lack of creativity. On the plus side though, the credits list to Santa was ok, the banter between Nightwing and Batwoman was ok, and Joe Prado or Tom Derenick's pencils (not sure who's who) were not terribly offensive in the two opening sequences. There was some refined detail and dare I say it, some Frank Quitely-esque looks to some character poses and the elongated facial expressions. The latter half of the book though was the usual artistic crapfest that ruined what would otherwise have been a touching moment between Renee and Kate, since they looked like big-lipped Bratz dolls. Nice to see the dots *finally* connecting a bit, as we see how Count Werner Vertigo comes to be in the current incarnation of Checkmate under Amanda Waller's tutelage. Grade C.


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