Comics For Sale April 2, 2003 (or in the near term)
Before I get into this batch of reviews, allow me to apologize. I proofread my own writing and I’ve been doing a lousy job lately. Then again, I’m trying to cover a lot of ground. Clearly I’ve made a choice of quantity (of reviews) over quality. I hope this means the good outweighs the bad. Let me know if I’m wrong.
The Lab 2: Electric Boogaloo (Astonish Comics)
Scott Christian Sava
Computer-generated imagery (CGI) comic storytelling, to a certain extent, is still in its infancy. There are some folks that find it too crude or limiting to enjoy. I’m not one of those folks. This second issue detailing the antics of Esteban and Livingston in the newly rebuilt lab is an enjoyable tale. There’s an enthusiasm and playfulness to the characters which Sava clearly injects in his computer creations. That’s no easy feat. That being said, I think because of the amount of work it takes to create a tale, Sava gets locked into one element of the story. Don’t get me wrong, there’s clearly a beginning, a middle and an end to the tale. And as a comedy, the importance of plot is secondary. Nonetheless, I found myself wishing the story had tried to do more (or had more than just the two characters. Then again, maybe it’s good that I’m left wanting more. Here’s hoping he’ll do more with the Lab gang in the future. Fans of the Astonish line (which are many, including myself) will not be disappointed. In a world where a great deal of junk is being released, Sava is one of the Chuck Yeagers of CGI comic art technology (pushing the edge of the envelope and all that). He’s blazing a trail that many folks would do well to follow.
Days Like This (Oni Press)
Books like this should be in every major bookstore (and comic book store, of course). I kid you not. The future of mainstreaming comic books is not to be found in the Spigelman/Sacco serious (but important) efforts. Rather, great progress can be made with entertainment of this caliber. Reading this tribute to the magic and innocence of 1960s female singing groups was sheer delight. This novel (which reminded me in a good way of the film, “Grace of My Heart”, but which Torres feels to be more like [as detailed in last week’s interview with him] “That Thing You Do!”) is just a great drama on many levels about family and sacrifice, as well as all the complications that result. Most of all, it’s a tale with hope that’s not nauseating in its tone. Which is important for a cynic like me. Chantler’s art conveys a sense of optimism/innocence even in the face of adversity, a style that perfectly suits Torres’ writing.
The Mighty Thor 62 (Marvel)
I may be off in this opinion, but here it goes. Dan Jurgens writes a better comic book than Morrison, Ellis or Bendis combined. He’s elevated Thor to a relevant comic book for the first time since Simonson’s days. In portraying the Asgard ruling Midgard subplot, Jurgens has avoided making it a tale of good and bad. The lines are blurred and as a result, the reader is left wondering where the story will go from here. Cliffhangers that interest even the most jaded reader are rare in comics, so I really appreciate Jurgens’ effort. The Lai brothers still have a long way to go to fill the void left by Raney, but the art is still solid enough to recommend.
Wolverine: Xisle 2 [of 5] (Marvel)
The art is great, but the story is nonsensical. That’s a shame. It almost seems like Marvel is over saturating the market with Hulk and X-Men material to capitalize on the films. Bad move if the stories are like this.
Captain America 12 (Marvel)
Reiber & Austen/Lee
The last time a Captain America book was this low in quality was toward the end of Gruenwald’s run. Jae Lee’s ability to tell a story is hit or miss with me. I often feel like I’m reading the thumbnails of a Bill Sienkiewicz story. Austen appears to be scripting a Reiber plot. If they fired the fellow, I’m bewildered why they’re still using his ideas.
Stormwatch: Team Achilles 10 (Wildstorm Mature)
Just because the characters can cuss doesn’t mean its an adult story. If the conflict is so hard to set up, why are they always so easily resolved in oddly written stories like this one. One to skip, trust me. And hey, remember last month when I pointed out that inker Sal Regla was spelled wrong? They did it again. Got it right on the cover, wrong on the inside credits.
The Punisher 24 (Marvel Knights)
I don’t know if Ennis intentionally wrote a story perfectly suited for Mandrake’s talents, but this story would not have worked with Dillon. And I’m amazed how the dynamics of comedy are more subtle, but just as funny with a different art team.
Marvel: The End 3 [of 6]
Recently The Call went from being a regular series to being a miniseries. I wish that this six-parter had been a two-parter. The characters drone on worse than Ed Grimley on uppers. And more political bias posing as entertainment. Yuck. At least when Englehart did it in the 1970s it was entertaining while being political.
Aquaman 5 (DC)
This issue started out a tad too slow for me, but thankfully picked up the pace after a fashion. Unlike PAD’s approach to the character, Veitch provides a more well rounded lead character with elements of a sense of humor. He’s a more earthly Aquaman, who’s learned somewhat from his past and is yet quick to fall into old habits. The new hand element provides quite a challenge to Arthur and I’ll be curious to see how he “handles” it (pun intended) in both the near and long term.
Green Arrow 23 (DC)
Raab cannot write a convincing version of either Arrow or Lantern. This does not bode well. It reads as if somebody said “Give me a conflict here” with little forethought of how to set it up. At first I greatly disliked Adlard’s art, but after awhile it struck me as a very Gil Kane-ish style, thereby growing on me, but not enough.
Astro City: Local Heroes 2 [of 5] (Wildstorm)
Comic heroes are icons and to many like myself, it’s the appeal of the icons that gets us hooked. Folks like Alan Moore and Busiek like to tweak the icons. Nowhere is that more evident than this issue, where we get to view one superhero’s life through the perspective of one woman, looking back. If this wasn’t interesting enough, Anderson really seems fully back in the groove, giving readers an art style clearly inspired by Neal Adams, but taken to a higher level.
Blood + Water 2 [of 5] (Vertigo)
I’ll be honest, I’ve not read that much vampire literature. So I might be a tad ignorant then when I say this is one of the most sympathetic and interesting portrayal of vampires…so far. I was really starting to enjoy Coker’s art with this issue and adjusting to his atmospheric style, when yet again I was jarred by the way he draws cheeks. Still, this idiosyncrasy does little to detract from the overall strengths of the tale.
Fables 12 (Vertigo)
Normally the way Willingham sets up the tale is seamless. Unfortunately he shoehorns a character into the tale so that he can use her unique powers later in the tale. That being said, the rest of the tale, where the power of Mundy journalism threatens to impact the Fables, is as solid a read as ever.
Gotham Central 6 (DC)
Rather than merely focusing on investigations with this new arc, Rucka is delving into the personal life of one of the cops. And it’s one of the more popular characters in recent years, Renee Montoya. It’s a nice counterbalance after the first five issues.
Exiles 25 (Marvel)
The tone of this arc is vastly different, both in terms of art and also because it’s almost like Winick is channeling for Frank Miller. While to a certain extent there’s always been a sense of hopelessness to Exiles, this time there is an edge to this team. Also Winick gets to do an Inhumans story that old time fans always wanted to see.
The Incredible Hulk 52 (Marvel)
The competing factions of super secret organizations, all vying for Banner/Hulk has gotten tiresome. I could care less about Ricky Myers by now. In addition, the element of mystery is rather nonsensical at times, as the rotating number of artists have made it so that Banner is the only character I can recognize on a regular basis.
Human Torch 1 (Marvel)
It appears that Kesel wants the high school supporting cast to be the focus of this Johnny Storm solo title. But to a certain extent, in doing so, as well as trying to portray Johnny as a hothead (granted an established early character trait from the beginning), he comes across as an unlikable character. Not a likeable character with understandable flaws, but rather an insufferable twit. Kesel has always had a good understanding of the FF. In fact, after Waid, Kesel is at the top of the list of folks I’d like to see write the FF. This first issue is sadly a disappointment in general, but the character and creative team has such potential, I’m willing to check it out again next issue, giving the series time to smooth out the (what I perceive to be) problems.
Uncanny X-Men 421 (Marvel)
Everyone has noses and they look normal in general. Thank you Ron Garney! Austen returns to some elements that made his early issues click with me, while still creating some not-so-engaging (and nonsensical) scenes as well. At the very least, a major development occurred without actually occurring. To say more would spoil things. But I think introducing Juggernaut into the cast was a savvy move by Austen, however, and this issue continues to confirm that impression.
Comics For Sale April 9, 2003 (or recently)
Lady Death: A Medieval Tale 2 (CGE)
Had Pulido been doing storytelling like this all along, maybe Chaos could have dodged financial failure. He’s created a book with a strong female lead without making her a Penthouse employee. The old Lady Death style which kept readers like myself away from the character is nowhere to be found here. Secondly, Reis is doing some incredible art—the cathedral scenes alone are breathtaking.
Meridian 34 (CGE)
Looking at the coloring and art of this comic book, I’m reminded of an old Split Enz lyric: “I had to explore the light and dark to see the sharp and flat.” This is a key issue that I believe will win a great deal of non-readers over. Some folks have never appreciated McNiven, and in fact lamented the loss of Middleton so long ago. I’m not one of them. McNiven’s work is why this book sings. Kesel is at her best as a writer with this book, but she’s only as good as the artist with her. Even in an issue where very little happens, the creators are able to say so much.
The Path 13 (CGE)
PULSE’s Jen Contino made a very good point about another CGE book (The First) recently. In essence she said the book was best read when collected in trade paperback. If you were to read the issues on a monthly basis, it would not work as well. I wonder if the same could be said for this title. I like the new artist (Matthew Smith), but I still find myself confused by the multitude of plot elements and political shenanigans.
Brath 2 (CGE)
This is going to be a quirky book, no doubt. I went in expected a Conan rehash. What I’ve gotten instead has been a near Vertigo like tale at times, which surprises me coming from Dixon. My one complaint is I wish the book had more than just one female character.
Ruse 18 (CGE)
There’s some distractingly out of character moments in this issue, not to mention there are certain plot elements that clearly make no sense, but are there merely to advance the plot. While I love the series in general, this issue in particular was a disappointment.
Solus 1 (CGE)
I really hope an aspect of this series is extremely short-term, as virtual reality plots are extremely dated. That being said, not surprisingly, Perez’s art is breathtakingly exquisite. Here’s hoping the story itself will improve to meet the art quality. Time will tell.
Spider-Girl 59 (Marvel)
There have been stretches in this series where the lead character has been a Parker in name only. With this arc, for the first time in a long time, I felt like “Hey, this is really Peter’s kid.” Unless Marvel is brain damaged they should release this arc as a TPB. But sometimes I wonder if a bias against this title over-rules good business sense. Then again, I could be proven wrong.
The Blackburne Covenant 1 [of 4] (Dark Horse)
When it was previewed in Hellboy: Weird Tales 1, this series really surprised me. And given the preview, I was again thrown for a loop with the first issue. Both times I was thrown in a good way. So far, the series has kept the reader (or at least me) really offguard. And I like it. It’s one part ancient tale, one part modern day. The art fits the story perfectly.