Funnybook Babylon

February 27, 2008

Pull List Reviews for 2/27/08

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , — David Uzumeri @ 5:33 pm

This… is going to be long.

Before I begin, this week has three Ed Brubaker books, two Geoff Johns books, two Mike Carey books, a Mark Millar book, a Brian Michael Bendis book, a Greg Rucka book, a Grant Morrison book, a Frank Miller book, and a Jeff fucking Smith book. The new releases shelf is a dizzying array of talent this week.

All Star Batman & Robin #9All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder #9: This is a really fantastic comic that, with this issue, really starts to show its range. As a matter of fact, I’d say this issue serves as a good breather after eight issues of high-octane insanity – but not before the first half of the issue, which, as anyone who’s checked out the preview can attest, is one of the funniest scenes in recent memory and certainly cements this Batman as an updated version of his trickster self from the Silver Age. The second half starts off like a record stopping, as the book changes mood dramatically in a way that’s perfectly consistent and finally brings some humanity to these loonies after Batman has a much-needed moment of clarity. It’s taken a while to get there, but this is easily in the pantheon with Miller’s other Batman work.

Action Comics #862: The highlight of this Legion arc so far as a few issues I had were brought to the surface, especially the fact that the whole Legion-reject thing was kind of dickish of the Legion, as well as Gary Frank continuing to settle in and get comfortable and typically cool (without being senseless) action that you’d expect from Geoff Johns. Not a masterpiece, but better than basically anyone’s come to expect from a monthly Superman comic.

Batman #674Batman #674: Tony Daniel has improved immensely over his stay on this title, and Sandu Florea’s inks raise the game as well. I’m a huge fan of Daniel’s creepy new depiction of Bat-Mite, who Morrison is reintroducing brilliantly. Anyone who’s read the recent Newsarama interview knows just how much thought Grant has put into Batman’s life and character, and that love and understanding oozes from every pore of this page to the point where my only complaint is that it almost might be too jarring and confusing for non-longtime Batman fans. It certainly has more impact if you’ve read all the wacky ’60s shit it’s referencing. That said, it’s a fantastic issue that continues to raise the bar on this run.

Captain America #35Captain America #35: Butch Guice fills in on art, but that’s not really a complaint since Guice is really damn good and fits this book perfectly. It continues to astound me what a meticulous and capable plotter Brubaker is – even through the crossover fires of Civil War and The Initiative, this book has retained its identity and paid off earlier plot points in such a well-paced and logical manner that it’s astounding how non-manipulated the book feels. At this point positive reviews of this book are almost passe, so let’s just call this one a winner as usual.

Daredevil #105: I haven’t been so hot on this arc, but a few details in this issue finally drive home the relevance and impact of a story that I was coming close to sleeping through for the past five issues, especially since it’s really of a piece with the arc previous – bringing us, finally, to the end of this 12-part Mr. Fear epic. So how was it? Well, it was alright, with an incredibly strong finish, but at the end of the day I don’t think this story needed a full year, with an artist showcase extra-sized anniversary issue with nothing but flashbacks and reprints in the middle. It’s weird, too, because Cap has been moving along so briskly that this just feels sluggish in comparison. Still, Daredevil on a bad day still beats most other books on a good day, and if Brubaker keeps the quality up from the end of this issue – and with the upcoming Gotham Central Reunion Tour, I think he will – I’m excited again about what’s coming for ol’ hornhead.

X-Men: Legacy #208X-Men: Legacy #208: Professor Xavier’s solo book begins. It looks nice, with improved art by Scot Eaton interspersed with predictably impeccable storytelling from the World War Hulk team of Romita, Janson and Strain (who does especially effective work on the watercolor look for some of the mindscape scenes). This is an unconventional X-book, but still central, and it’s treated with the seriousness it deserves: there may not be any actual X-Men in it, but make no mistake, this is still the equal companion book to Uncanny and will contain the resolution to many of the open-ended plots from the “end” of Mike Carey’s run on vanilla X-Men. I just hope that it doesn’t fall into the trap of, quality or not, depending too much on the reader’s familiarity with the characters, but Mike Carey doesn’t strike me, nor does his work hint towards him being, a continuity wanker. Awful cover, though.

World War Hulk Aftersmash: Damage Control #2: With the setup out of the way, McDuffie can start with the jokes, and oh man does he lay them down. Cheers to him for making Penance funny without trivializing him, as well as the deftness with which he incorporates Kirkman and Guggenheim’s addition to the cast without missing a beat. McDuffie has clearly been keeping up on most of the Marvel Universe, and there’s a little bit of tough love here, but it’s still definitely love. Salva Espin is really coming into his own on this book as well – actually, to hell with “his own”, I’d never heard of him before this – and impressing the hell out of me with this clean, uncluttered style that’s pretty damn expert with storytelling and, especially, emotion. This guy has a long and successful career ahead of him if there’s any justice. It’s not the week’s most essential book, but if you’re looking for a laugh that doesn’t make you feel guilty it’s an excellent choice.

Criminal #1Criminal #1: This is a great place to jump on (hence the new #1) as Brubaker rolls out an extra-long story (on the nicest paper stock I’ve ever seen a single issue have) about Gnarly the bartender and how he ended up with the Undertow. It’s an inspired piece of world-building as Brubaker continues fashioning his world in nonlinear time with a series of seemingly disconnected arcs that all flesh out the same world and provide hints towards his metastory. Sean Phillips is excellent as always. If you’re a fan of anything Brubaker’s done, or crime comics at all, you really owe yourself to give this book a try.

Kick-Ass #1: The comparisons to Wanted are going to come on pretty strong, and they aren’t altogether undeserved. However, unlike Wanted, there’s no sense of successful fantasy, no real feeling that Millar is indulging the character in a victory – he’s just set up the dominoes and we get to watch the train wreck. Millar manufactures a typically unsympathetic protagonist who takes on even more unsympathetic villains, but this time there’s a freshness to this approach that may come simply from it being set in the real world. That said, man, some of these pop culture references are just painful – who the hell was listening to the Goo Goo Dolls back in summer of 2007? Despite its faults, however, the book just has a certain sincere and smiling charm that’s infectious, and it looks like Millar may actually drop some serious themes on us without resorting to placing hams around his hands and hitting the keyboard. Millar’s epilogue says that they’re already plotting the third Kick-Ass miniseries, so this can’t be too tragic a story – as long as it doesn’t veer into self-parody, this should be an incredibly compelling read for quite a while.

Spider-Man: With Great Power #2Spider-Man: With Great Power… #2: When I first heard this series’ premise, I thought “Peter Parker as a self-involved prick” was a great tagline and concept for a book. However, this is an incredibly rare case where the creators involved are so distinctive and so unique that it doesn’t come off feeling like a Spider-Man story at all. Peter Parker’s fate plays out like that of so many Lapham protagonists/victims – seduced and confused; meanwhile, it is incredibly difficult to look at art from the Harris/Clark/Mettler team without thinking of Ex Machina. Not a bad comic by any means, but I was really expecting something more.

Teen Titans #56: The first two thirds or so of this issue is fantastic, focusing on Eddie’s day alone and relying on McKeever’s skills to write believable teenaged characters, as well as his experience dealing with themes like ostracization and social schisms. It’s also very funny, as McKeever clearly knows these characters’ personalities and portrays them in a humanistic manner, especially one panel with Robin. Unfortunately, for the last third, Sean McKeever tries to turn it into a superhero comic again, and it’s so jarring and so unbefitting the previous two thirds that it feels like the comic just … changes. Additionally, the antagonists McKeever has introduced here seem not only nonthreatening but also kind of a repeat of, like, the last two stories (“good titans vs. evil titans”). I’m hoping this is leading to something more than that, and I’ll stick around to find out, but I’ll be disappointed if this becomes the book’s new schtick.

RASL #1: Jeff Smith is back, and my major complaint with this issue is that we won’t get #2 until May. His art and composition are, as always, easy to follow and uniquely him, while the subject matter strays far from Bone and Shazam: in fact, given some of the language it’s fair to say this book couldn’t come out at DC without the Vertigo imprint. I’d heard Smith was raising the age bracket of his target demographic with this, but I didn’t realize it’d be to this degree. This is a really strong first issue that introduces a number of intriguing mysteries and concepts, giving you just enough information to feel like you can figure things out but not enough to make it seem lazy or predictable. Much like Bone, Smith is also doing a great deal of worldbuilding here, albeit in a different way – while it takes place seemingly in our reality, the mechanics of dimensional travel, while cryptic in this issue, seem planned in a way that Smith certainly knows the answers. It’s not whimsical or charming like Bone, but it’s got a more rollicking start and simply seems like the product of a more mature writer. I’m looking forward to following this for quite a while.

JSA #13Justice Society of America #13: Guest art from Fernando Pasarin as Geoff Johns finally gets to the mythology and action. It’s also, most definitely, filled with tons of Final Crisis teases, so anyone curious might want to check that part out as well. It’s largely an expository issue regarding Kingdom Come mythology that’s apparently from the backmatter in the Absolute edition or something; however, it’s interesting and overdue exposition that should satisfy readers who’ve been complaining that this book needed to stop with the hanging-out issues and pick up the pace.

Crime Bible: The Five Lessons of Blood #5: This… huh. This is a really hard issue to talk about, other than saying it’s about in the tone and quality level of the previous four issues, but any discussion of the issue centers around the end, which is certainly… unexpected. Not that it’s random – the situation and how they get there is perfectly logical – but it’ll definitely throw a lot of people for a loop and very eager to see where Renee turns up next. Definitely not an ending but more of a new beginning. Manuel Garcia, as Rucka keeps saying, does the work of his life, miles and miles above his Countdown stuff.

Ultimate Spider-Man #119Ultimate Spider-Man #119: Typically deft Bendis storytelling as he does the tired-and-true “classmate comes to terms with mutant puberty” story and manages to make it interesting via pure wit and empathetic characters. It’s a tribute to his ability to influence the reader’s perceptions that Kong has gone from Peter’s torturer to such a well-liked, sympathetic character, and this issue really cements his transition. I’m sure people who aren’t hot on Bendis will say the dialogue is pointless and repetitive, but for fans this is one of USM’s strongest arcs yet – even coming off of the superb Death of a Goblin.

Ultimate Fantastic Four #51: More of Mike Carey’s Ultimate Fourth World he’s thrown in, and it’s really not the strongest work he’s done. It’s paying off on plot points that Carey set up at the very beginning of his run, and it’s all very well-constructed and the dialogue is clever, but something about the story just seems like it’s been done before for reasons I can’t explain. As well, Tyler Kirkham’s Top Cow style art is somewhat too lifeless for what should be an exuberant book. Not bad by any means, but not up to the standard I guess I expect from Carey.

Thor #6: This issue is basically the Asgardians getting used to Oklahoma, and the Oklahomans getting used to Asgard. Straczynski, as he is wont to do, gets more than a little moralistic at times, but by and large the issue is a funny status-quo-establishment installment that teases all the stuff coming up. Despite his recent nonexclusivity with Marvel, JMS claims he’s staying on this title for the long run, so hopefully we’ll get to see him pay off all the setup he’s establishing here. Coipel’s art is, as always, top-notch both in action and character work.

Blue Beetle #24Blue Beetle #24: Man, I’m gonna miss John Rogers. This is the penultimate issue of at least the first section of his run, and it’s wrapping up a huge amount of the ongoing plotlines, deftly interweaving character work on Earth with a battle in space without ever seeming jarring or unfocused, as well as tossing in numerous fanpleasing Blue Beetle moments that nonetheless rise totally organically out of the issue and its plot. Not a jump-on point, since it’s providing the conclusion to two years’ worth of ongoing storylines, but if Rogers’s run ends with the next issue I think that’ll make one hell of an enduring collection.

Legion of Super-Heroes #39: This is a bit of a downtime issue, and while Shooter certainly gets the characters he almost seems to be gleefully taking advantage of the greater editorial freedom afforded him with modern comics by getting rid of whatever subtext may have been in his original run and making it clear Legionnaries love to get down. While it probably helps the versimilitude, all of that goes out the window as soon as the obnoxious fake cursing comes out — there’s one line where Shooter has Colossal Boy say, “I could live with FUTZWIT or even ZORKER. But, FOOB? C’mon.” This line is particularly problematic because A) it doesn’t make any sense because there’s no context for these words and B) nobody just names random curse words out loud in this context. “This is going to amp my rep major.” I’m sorry, but even in the future this sounds dumb.

New Warriors #9: God, this book is dumb. Night Thrasher is thoroughly unlikeable, and his plans are complex to the point of incomprehensibility. The characters are still largely interchangeable and vastly different from any previous incarnations, and Grevioux’s teen slang continues to be completely painful. I really wanted to like this book, but in every possible situation it chooses the most obvious and cliche path. I understand there were greatly different circumstances, but it still seems like a crime to me that The Order died and this didn’t. Simply not a good comic.

She-Hulk #26: Peter David’s run so far has been pretty bizarre. It’s completely replaced the supporting cast and thrown Jen into an unfamiliar situation just to take her back to where he was – while this was obviously so PAD could distinguish his run from Dan Slott’s as quickly as possible, it’s still jarring and leaves me unsure where this book is going, and, even worse, unsure if PAD knows exactly where this book is going. It’s not a bad issue by any means, but it’s not knocking anything out of the park and things have changed around so often that I’m really not sure where it’s going. I could, of course, be proven wrong, and I hope I am.

Black Panther Annual #1Black Panther Annual #1: This was a weird little issue. First of all, it’s presented as a flash-forward; however, at least half of the issue actually consists of a verbal flashback to the 1800s related by Storm to one of her children as Hudlin indulges in a little creative historiography. Other than that, it’s certainly more focused than the last few issues of Hudlin’s run, finally returning to the plot points regarding Wakanda and the wedding’s implications that have been largely dropped ever since the wedding itself. However, the other part of the story – involving the ‘history’ between now and this possible future – doesn’t work as well, with Hudlin substituting hammers for scalpels and waving his “Fuck Tony Stark” flag high. I’d also be remiss not to mention Larry Stroman’s art, which looks like an acceptable Quesadaesque style on some pages and anatomically impossible on others. Eye alignment is a big problem. There is, however, one very amusing double page spread of a future wedding where Stroman does some good work (except for the godawful Daredevil on the bottom). Not the book’s best issue, but an improvement, and hopefully one that’ll start an incline.

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