Comics For Sale May 21, 2003 (or in the near term)
Arkham Asylum: Living Hell 1 [of 6] (DC)
Imagine a look into Gotham’s least favorite residence inspired by shows like HBO’s Oz. No, not the really graphic scenes, what I mean is the creators try to give a slice of life inside a living hell and they succeed. Sook has improved as an artist, moving away from his early Mignola-influenced style. The one false note is the insistence toward the end of making the story partially a statement about who Batman is. The story stood on its own merits without the “see Batman cameo here!” While the needed him for the resolution, they did not need the heavy-handed monologue.
New Mutants 1 (Marvel)
Defilippis & Weir/Grant/Stull
The best word to describe this first issue is antiseptic (meaning: “neat to the point of being bare or uninteresting”). The initial set-up of the character focused in this issue is nearly laughable. A woman in Caracas, Venezuela, goes shopping in the midst of a protest. It gets more absurd from there. I’m not saying the premise is absurd, I’m saying the lifeless way in which Grant stages the scene looks like something out of one of the high school skits from Wes Anderson’s Rushmore. In other words, it’s ambitious, but comes across as clearly amateurish. By the second page, the art is so bad, the colorist accidentally colors the wrong guy’s shirt resulting in the person who is talking about a mutant standing in the distance in one panel, clearly knowing her, then two panels later, the same fellow asks: “Is that the mutant?” It’s the clumsiest of storytelling efforts I’ve read in awhile and not a good note to start a series.
Wonder Woman 192 (DC)
The character interaction between Trevor and everyone else just gets more strange and nonsensical with each issue. I’m unsure what the point is of this story, but I sadly lost interest awhile back.
I hate to do two HBO comparisons in one set of reviews, but I’m afraid I must. Bendis wants to write for The Sopranos. That’s my best guess as to why the current Kingpin arc. While I enjoyed the pop culture comedy of Typhoid Mary singing the Mamas and the Papas “Monday Monday” as she killed a slew of people, the character’s costume joined the long list of “unrealistic costumes that distract the reader to the point it becomes another nail in the coffin of the issue the reader didn’t like”.
The Crew 1 (Marvel)
While I welcome the prospect of Priest writing a character like James Rhodes, I sighed in disappointment at the opening. It seems that the new hip trend is to take an established character who was pretty stable (that’s why he was a hero in a sense in the first place) and have them hit bottom at the start of the first issue. Then the book is about redemption and you can have major scenery chewing. Or in this case, James goes around calling everybody “Marcy” Priest may think this bit might be effective quirky storytelling, I call it annoying. Nonetheless, there’s enough here in terms of good dialogue and a unique supporting cast to make me want to read the next issue.
Tom Strong’s Terrific Tales 7 (ABC)
A. Moore & S. Moore/Weiss, Adams and McManus
I really loved the clearly European children’s literature feel to the opening “Blanket Shanty” story where a child travels to a fairy tale version of Tom’s Attabar Teru. McManus’s art conveys a vividness and sweetness that elevates the tale. On the other hand, the adventure/slash satire of Jonni Future continues to deteriorate into a worthless waste of Arthur Adams’ talents, after having such a solid start in the early issues. And while I enjoyed the Young Tom Strong story, Steve Moore may have been a tad flawed in setting up a tale where Tom has to save a young Dhalua, but in a way that makes Omotu his mentor (in essence) seem like an idiot. The premise of the story is flawed if you consider the overall roles of Omotu and Tom.
Lucifer 38 (Vertigo)
I had strongly disliked the past few issues I had read in this series, and to be quite honest, I’d written it off. But then I read this issue, and I don’t know if it was the focus on certain characters, or the point to which the plot has reached, and I was impressed. Carey has a firm grasp on how to dialogue a scene to make it move quickly and yet interestingly.
Smallville 2 (DC)
Given the target audience, I understand why there are three news articles and only two comic stories. But it’s the articles that really irk me. In the interview with Sam Jones III (the African-American actor who plays Pete Ross), where Jones discusses the fact that WB cast his role in a color blind manner. What’s the opening lead say “Sam Jones III’s got game.” While the actor may like basketball, to open a lead intro about an African-America actor with a slang basketball phrase seems like the least wisest of choices. Then the interview with Allison Mack (who as Chloe Sullivan provides a fine female lead character/role model) features a cleavage shot of the star on the second page of the interview. If targeted to a mainstream audience, if the news/fan articles hit bad notes like this, how many will actually pay attention to the comic stories?
Beware the Creeper 2 (Vertigo)
The use of the word “beware” in the opening scenes of this issue reminded me of the way Paul Thomas Anderson used transitions in his 1999 film Magnolia. On one level, I’m immensely enjoying the series. It’s not every comic book that features cameos from Gertrude Stein, Jean Cocteau and Pablo Picasso (and all on one page). However, as the average reader (as I feel I am), my unfamiliarity with the intelligentsia of 1920s Paris makes me feel like I’m missing out on something. I fear this element of the book may discourage the less ambitious readers (even in Vertigo circles). I don’t normally comment on lettering, but I’ve read recent reports that DC may be taking their lettering in house, I hope this doesn’t mean John Workman will no longer be used. Workman elevates the quality of lettering (as he does with the unique word balloons in this issue) to a level that few others can achieve.
The Amazing Spider-Man 53 (Marvel)
It seems that nearly ever week I read a mainstream continuity comic in which the writer neglects or decides not to do their homework on a character, and more often than not, the story suffers as a result. JMS has thought through the characters in Spider-Man so much (not over-thought though, thankfully) to the point he’s decided what music MJ’s cell phone plays when it rings. And my concerns expressed last issue about Peter’s business decisions are being addressed with this issue…with interesting results.
Green Arrow 36 (DC)
Don’t think I judge a book by its cover, but the Bond homage cover really was a delightful surprise. I never read much of the Green Arrow in the 1970s (other than the O’Neill/Adams GA/GL reprints), but I’m pretty sure few folks have capitalized on the fact that Queen is a former successful businessman. Just because he walked away from it all doesn’t mean he lost the inherent acumen, as he shows in a great boardroom scene this issue. And in two panels, Winick makes Jefferson “Black Lightning” Pierce a hero again (while not monkeying with current Superman continuity). All and all this is just the read I needed after the very uneven GA/GL crossover.
Exiles 27 (Marvel)
The placement of Nocturne’s hand between Sunfire’s breasts on the cover is a shot that A) distracted me B) would probably invoke some complaints if it was a guy instead of a woman whose hand was there. And yet, fortunately for consumers that’s my only major complaint. Austen continues to carry the spirit of Winick’s approach toward the book, while at the same time making it his own by exploring the concept of bonds and relationships holding up despite the alternate realties. Henry and Morales help successfully execute Austen’s economic style of storytelling that was displayed in this two-parter.
Batman Adventures 2 (DC)
I expressed concern with the new Gotham order of things with the first issue. But the new dynamics are growing on me, with Batman regarded as much a problem as the villains thanks to Mayor Penguin. That being said, one cop’s reaction to Batman in this scene just would not happen in a universe where Gordon is still commissioner. That’s my take at least. In closing however, message to DC: The back-up tales with Templeton on art and Slott writing? Great idea and I hope it’s a long-term feature.
Y: The Last Man 11 (Vertigo)
I guess its prestige to have JG Jones doing the covers to this great series, but I wish the editors would show him Guerra’s interpretation of Doc’s subtle ethnicity. Jones’ interpretation is too blunt in comparison. This issue is rather jarring as time has passed and Yorick is sporting a full beard (which leads to some strange comedy later in the issue). The new plotline introduces some interesting characters with the some (as usual) quirk dialogue. The struggles of speaking in a foreign tongue is one scene of dialogue that must have been strange to write, but Vaughan pulls it off well.
Mystic 36 (CGE)
Forget the magical spells, the political games and the multiple planes of action in this issue, it’s the underlying verbal and visual wit of Mystic that makes it succeed. If you’re one of the many folks (like myself) who wish Marvel was publishing Doctor Strange, Bedard and Lopresti are doing their best to create a modern day surrogate that meets and exceeds folks mystical storytelling needs.
Way of the Rat 13 (CGE)
While Mystic is witty, Way of the Rat continues to be downright hilarious. Granted this issue opens with the aftereffects of the last issue’s tragedy. As always, with any well-written comic, there are some unexpected developments. Dixon is wisely (amidst the comedy) allowing Boon Sai Hong to mature as a character, learning (to a limited extent) from his past mistakes. That being said, some of the political elements (in an effort to be funny) drag the book a bit in this issue. But not too much, as the art team helps create the perfect balance of comedy and chaos inherent to this title.
R.A. Salvatore’s DemonWars: Eye for an Eye (CGE/Code 6)
I really like the new window dressing that CGE has given the covers to the Code 6 line. It allows consumers to more clearly understand the distinction between the two lines of comics. Artistically, Tocchini/Holdredge are more in line with the CGE look than the art team on the last DemonWars mini. That’s not to disparage the previous art team, or to necessarily slam the new art team as well. Their look carries its own unique style that still makes it a tad different than the CGE norm. This series continues to be a solid product for “The Lord of the Rings” crowd, while evolving into a work that offers even some moments to ponder for non-“Ringers”. At one point Andacanavar kills an opponent who shares that “when we die…we see the lives of our murderers pass before our us…” At first I thought (and still do in some way) what a great character bit, but in reality (heh, never try to apply reality to escapist fantasy works, I know) wouldn’t it stink to be dying and have to sit through life of the jerk who killed you? (oh never mind).
Comics For Sale May 14, 2003 (or recently)
Heirs of Eternity 1 (Image)
Jose L. Torres/Tsai/Royal, Schmidt & Fletcher/Roberts, Offredi w/Dittfeld
I had the pleasure of meeting some of the creators of this book at the recent Atlanta Comicon. Stream of Babbling readers will remember that in fact an Heirs fan bought me a copy to review. So first off I apologize for the delay in reviewing this book. The series launched as part of Image’s Manga Month in April. Jose Torres (not to be confused with Canadian-based creator J. Torres) successfully tackles a lot of action (well conveyed by the art team of Jae Tsai and Jim Royal) in the first issue. The art is a nice mesh of traditional mainstream art tinged with the elements that define Manga. It’s a nice balance and I commend the fact that while this issue had three different inkers, the styles meshed seamlessly. For folks looking for a strong combination of action (with both strong female and male characters, which doesn’t happen as often as it should these days) you should check this book out. For a better idea of the quality Image offers previews of issue 1 and Issue 2.
Aquaman 6 (DC)
I’m really enthused getting to see the former Black Panther art team getting to play with other characters. It’s a genuine treat. As for the story itself, Veitch’s approach toward the characters and his place in the DC universe very much reminds me of Morrison in his prime Animal Man days. It’s a character who brings together people from different realms in a seamless and pleasurable manner. It’s a shame he’ll be leaving as writer by the 12th issue.
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight 167 (DC)
This arc fell completely apart for me with this final issue. Batman compromises himself in a way that violates his basic code (not to spoil anything, but he had options) and seems amused by it. Sometimes people tell tales of the Young Batman and mistake that as the “Batman with Lesser Moral and Ethical Standards.” His rigid morals and standards were established well before the Wayne family went to see Zorro and this story ignores that little detail. Plus the whole victimization of women (in retrospect) was played up far too much in both this and the initial arc involving these characters.
Nightwing 81 (DC)
This issue may have had one too many subplots going on for me, as a result at least two of them felt underdeveloped. That being said, Grayson gets to have some Bruce and Dick scenes, which are always interesting when written by her. While I appreciate Grayson’s ability to write female characters, I fear that she places a romantic undertone to nearly every single of them, in terms of their relationship with Dick. It undercuts the strengths of her overall storytelling.
Batgirl: Year One 6 [of 9] (DC)
Fishnets! We have fishnets, people! I’m sorry, folks, but my love of classic Black Canary stories overwhelms my ability to fairly review this issue. Classic Oliver Queen makes my objectivity even more clouded. This book is for people (like me) who love Babs Gordon and long for adventures of her early days. I’m unsure how this book plays with folks that don’t have a fondness for Oracle’s early days.