5.16.07 Reviews

Wasteland #9 (Oni Press): For me, this was like watching a stovetop full of bubbling pots and being unable to mitigate the impending disasters... they're going to spill over and that well-orchestrated chaos is all pretty damn entertaining. In one pot, I see an analysis of the captor/prisoner paradigm and why it will be doomed to ultimate failure, this one is a good social anthropology experiment to witness. In another pot, I enjoy Michael navigating through the hidden underground resistance of Newbegin, moving between Artisian and slave, in and out of different areas of the city. The act of not telling us overtly about Michael's origin, but rather showing us his capabilities through his actions is a very smart choice - Antony Johnston is revealing his cunning as a writer. There is the feigned execution of Golden Voice, a nice bait-and-switch, which only promises further drama. There's fascinating rumors about Michael thanks to the Sultan, and a brilliant cliffhanger as The Founder's forces break into the home of Abi & Michael's temporary benefactor. There's the branding sequence that smacks uncomfortably of a WWII concentration camp scene. And Christopher Mitten depicts it all with the seamless balance of an ethereal dreamlike quality and a gritty realism you can feel in your gut. "Can all this really be happening to these beloved characters," I plead with myself? "Damn it, it really is happening," I mutter back in entertaining agony! Like a symphony conductor, all the threads are handled masterfully to make sweet comic book music. Wasteland engulfs you with mystery and intrigue as it builds layer upon layer of beautiful suspense, both visually and thematically. It's been a treat to witness the birth of such a unique vision and see the epic unfolding. This is unequivocally excellent comic book craftsmanship. Grade A+.

Special thanks again to Antony Johnston, Christopher Mitten, and the crew at Oni Press for including a review excerpt from 13 Minutes on the back cover of this issue! Thanks for the support and keep up the amazing work!

Local #9 (Oni Press): Megan quickly exits Chicago and goes back to Norman, Oklahoma. We know this from effective establishing shots and transitions, sans dialogue, courtesy of the Pitch Perfect Pencils (Aka: "P-Cubed," *patent pending) of Ryan Kelly. I've said it before and I'll say it again because I think it exemplifies the kind of compliment I want to pay, but Kelly's pencils are a dead bang blender of Paul Pope and Farel Dalrymple. On the writing front, I love how Brian Wood pulls off a little magic act and simultaneously expands the Local "universe" with different towns and settings, but also narrows the focus to one recurring character. Megan's Mom providing her no real boundaries is, I believe, now challenging her to find her true self amid all that ostensible freedom, the quest in itself becomes her own little personal prison. Grade A.

BPRD: Garden of Souls #3 (Dark Horse): I love the attitude of "I guess I didn't make myself clear. I'm a United States Federal Agent." I loved the creepy reveal of the little girl making pictures on the ground, with cats running around in the background. I love that I saw Guy Davis' art incorporate some Paul Grist feel to it (check the panels where Abe is ambushed). I love how his panels are expansive and breathe with plenty of room to flourish on the page (check out the sequence with Abe wandering through the mansion). I love that we're one step closer to discovering the meaning of Abe's past and whose souls are inhabiting this garden. I love Liz's muted reaction to the discovery of Captain Daimio's past. This much love guarantees you a Grade A.

Ex Machina #28 (DC/Wildstorm): What struck me this issue was the cinematic feel to the endeavor, assumably due to the collaboration between Vaughan's script and Harris' penciled interpretation. Look at the cinematic transition between the line "Our people have learned to take care of eachother, it's a new New York" and the jump cut to a driver flipping a pedestrian off. Feel the blue night air of the "go-fast" boat scene, that just feels very Michael Mann-ish to me. Vaughan continues his realistic flow with the dialogue and plays up some nice character moments. And, I'm sorry but that dude from the alternate reality is just really fucking creepy! And so is the alternate reality! Reagan's son is President!? Sheesh! The end cliffhanger was pretty well telegraphed, but I sincerely appreciated the attention to detail from Harris' pencils. He drew us a perfect Sig-Sauer (looks to be a 9mm model P228), complete with de-cocking lever. Yeah, Ex Machina is chugging right along, and it's really good. Yet I'm conflicted. I'm not getting the high from it I used to. I don't find myself really needing the instant fix. There's no real buzz around the title anymore and I think I could get by on purchasing trades only at this point. But not buying single issues is a pretty good way to ensure a beloved series stops and sorta' breaks one of my self-imposed rules about buying habits. What to do, what to do... what say you? Grade A-.

The Mighty Avengers #3 (Marvel): Yeah, Cho's art takes some lashes for the obvious cheesecake factor, but it's really nice in terms of facial expressions and panel transitions too, so let's cut the guy some slack and balance the feedback, shall we? I enjoyed the whispered and desperate attempts by Ms. Marvel to maintain some modicum of field leadership as the team tries to deal with a T2 T1000 inspired liquid metal Ultron. Bendis captures a nice balance of character moments and action, which typifies what a "good" Avengers book should be. This issue actually reminded me of the Busiek/Perez run, but with more general cool factor. The attack on the Helicarrier was scary and we see the team avoid a cataclysmic 9/11-esque incident. The SHIELD Agents trying to find the ranking officer on deck was priceless, and Black Widow, being both an effective strategic thinker and tactical fighter, earns her "Level 10 Shield Agent" status in about two panels. OH SHIT, what a cliffhanger! Grade B+.

Justice League of America #9 (DC): The cover coloring looks a little washed out. What does "gonna' go all Westworld on us" mean? Did someone just refer to the "middle crisis" in a ugly, pedestrian example of self-referential continuity events? All that aside, enjoyed the Gorilla City/Vixen moments, they just play... cool. Benes' art ranges from fun and clean to hurried with cheesy awkward angles (check out the panel with "Big Chin Roy," his huge chin protruding all blocky, while the panel manages to be totally flat at the same time, and we get to look up his nostrils, WTF?). Power Girl doesn't have nipples apparently, because we'd be seeing them if she did wear something that skimpy or shaped that way given the overall shape of her breasts (nipples aren't located on the bottom corner of the breast guys, they're most generally toward the center of the mass of flesh...). Basic female anatomy will just plague some artists forever I guess. All in all, it's a treat to see all these characters, 3 teams worth no less, neat villains, interesting settings, etc. I applaud Meltzer swinging for the fences (really, shouldn't a JLA book always do this?), but hope it doesn't derail and he can keep it all on track. Hey, Brad! Jokes about the TV show Mama's Family? Definitely off track. Well done exchanges between Hawkgirl, Roy, and Power Girl? Back on track. Mister Terrific with a twinge of panic? "Call Bruce. Have him get in there." On track. It's getting better. It's probably going to take until issue 12 at this rate, but I think this title can be dialed in to achieve more. For now, Grade B.

Checkmate #14 (DC): This doesn't even come close to picking up on the cliffhanger from last issue. I'm not sure what happened to get us to this point in the story. I guess I was supposed to read The Outsiders to find out(?) But I didn't, so would a little recap blurb kill you? The art ranges from near-competent to an unfinished look, like someone spilled some watercolors on it, lacks definition or full rendering, and there are some really wonky lines and poses like Nightwing throwing his batar-wing-ding-thing in mid-air, not to mention his grotesque 5 o'clock shadow (how he could ever nail Babs, Starfire, or Huntress with that scruff going on is beyond me). Some of the banter from the infil team was a little painful, but I did like the banter between Fire and Tommy Jaeger, is this the result of two writers? Grade B-.

X-Factor #19 (Marvel): The X-Factor crew reaches a critical turning point for me... I decided to forego upgrading to the third hardcover collection today. The series is just not quite good enough to justify the investment, not consistently anyway, there are moments of sheer brilliance where it rises above the bar, but then moments when it dips way below, largely because of the revolving door policy with artists. I'll buy the single issues only. I'm really tired of mediocre art pulling down otherwise strong writing (hello, Checkmate! yes, I'm still talking about you). Peter David's script gives an interesting "survival instinct" motif that runs parallel with the story and touches upon what people do to survive, what you do for yourself, what you do for the greater good, and how sometimes those are in sync, and sometimes they're at odds. The art jumps around in quality, panels with Rictor and Siryn generally seem ok, as if the artist has the look down... but then we get wild inconsistency with Rahne, Jaime, and Monet with some bad, blocky angular, disproportioned... just crap. Grade B-.

I also picked up;

The Plain Janes (DC/Minx): Really curious to see how DC's new line aimed at girls will play out. They've tapped up-and-coming novelist Jeanne Castellucci here, and I'll pretty much pick up anything with Jim Rugg's name on it due to my instant love for Afrodisiac.

Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 (Archaia Studios Press): Somehow I missed early issues of this book, it seemed to be one of ASP's early hits, so I'm totally excited to check out this very attractive little hardover.


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