Sweet 16 reviews of 3/30 comics

First off, today marks 16 years of Comix Experience. Hooray! My baby is ready for her prom! Joy! It almost was a disaster though, as at some point on Wednesday night a car pulled a hit and run on another car parked in front of the store, pushing it up on the sidewalk, and wrapping it around the parking meter in front. If the meter hadn't been there, the hit car would probably have gone through the store's front window. If the car is still there today, I'll try to take some pictures and get them posted. What was funny is that all day yesterday people were stopping and taking pix of the car with their friends standing next to it. Kinda the ultimate rubber-necking experience.

Ben and Tzipora are off on a "play date" so I have a rare (VERY RARE) morning to myself, and I have about 2 hours to write up the CRITIC before I have to go off to the eye doctor and see if they can fix the pairs of glasses that Ben has ruined so far. I love that boy, though.

I should be at the store around 1 or so, and we'll probably be drinking some beer and stuff, so if you're in the area, pop by and join the low key and wholly unofficial 16-year celebration.

Anyway, hows about some reviews? I've managed to read everything, though I'm not going to even attempt to do a "full" week of reviews -- going to try to keep it around 20 books this week.

(I shouldn't have to do this, but, yes, there are some spoilers below, you're duly warned!)

ASTONISHING X-MEN #9: You have to imagine that Whedon is having a blast -- coming up with stuff that, if he was doing a movie or a TV show would be impossible unless, y'know, he only wanted to do one episode a year or something. There's a few great lines here, as always, but I think the central idea of "The danger room is sentient and will reform itself into a giant robot to kill us all" is... well, it's pretty dumb. If it wasn't for the suicidal mutant kid this would have probably just been a big waste of time, but there's enough of a solid emotional through-line there that it works better than it should have. Still, this was the first issue of the run where I was kinda... well, bored I guess, and I'll go with a medium strength GOOD.

BATGIRL #62: I really don't get how this has lasted for SIXTY-TWO issues, man. Over five years of an emotionally stunted protagonist who really does nothing other than hit people well. Her character is about as deep as a piece of paper. *shrug* There were OK scenes here and there (I thought the near-death sequence worked OK), but even if this book was firing on every cylindar both real and imaginary, I can;t really ever picture this book being much better than a strong OK.

BATMAN #638: I really really want to roll my eyes at this. Bringing Jason back seems like such a hack idea to me, and I can't imagine that it would have even occured to anyone had Jeph Loeb not done it 2 years ago. I wildly disagree with Judd's interview earlier in the week on Newsarama (the oddly named link can be found as http://www.newsarama.com/DC/Countdown_more/Batman_Hello.htm -- doesn't that sound like a badly translated Japanese comic? "In the next issue of 'Batman Hello!' Bruce must face a champion Mah-Jong player!") where he posits that the "how" is less important than the effects. The problem is, I think, in comics the HOW is what allows the WHAT to have emotional resonance or not. It's hard to think of a scenario where the HOW doesn't becoming comic-book-stupid, cutting out the legs of any emotional impact (say, if he is a from a parallel universe or some shit). Even IF the HOW is the best idea evah, though, bringing Jason back... well it's emotionally cheap and easy, to this reader. It worked OK in "Hush" because it was a red herring and a feint, but as the real thing? Meh. If I have one real problem though, it's how deeply insular this is as a self-contained story-unit. That last page reveal really only works if you know your Bat-Backstory. There's nothing within the comic that sets this up, or gives a clue to why the last page is significant at all. Sure, if you've been reading Batman for 20 years then you "get it", but if this was someone's first Batman comic? "Who is the guy in the red mask, there?" I will add points, however, for the word-baloon-driven cover. That looks like Wagner's lettering to me, as well. I'll go with a solid OK, I guess, but future revalations could drive that up or drag that way way down.

BPRD THE DEAD #5: Good ending to the arc, feeling like a solid Hellboy-style story, and giving a few threads to play with for the future. I liked it: GOOD.

CONCRETE HUMAN DILEMMA #4: Meanwhile I really WANT to like this, but the actual HUMAN dilemma of the book feels so rote and staged and emotionally flat, it is very hard to care. We do get to the ironic twist of the story (which I saw coming very early in this issue), which could be clever, but, as always, "there's a fine line between clever and stupid". I'll go with a mild OK, which is disappointing because I doubt I'd've ever given any other CONCRETE tale less than a "Very Good".

DC COUNTDOWN TO INFINITE CRISIS #1: Yes, this is the one you really tuned in to see how I'd rag on this week. I know that. Well, sir, lady, I might just refer you to one of my "Identity Crisis" "reviews" because my stance is pretty much the same -- it is frustrating to me when steps are taken to darken the universe like this, when big events are built UPON corpses and tragedy and horror. It frustrates me when characters act out-of-character and like total asshats because that's what the blueprint demands. In gaming, you call this "plot hammering", and the plot is hammered all over the place in the DCU these days.

Let me ask a serious question: is the story improved by a futile death, and an absence of heroism? Could the story have worked JUST AS WELL if BB had had a lucky last minute escape at the end? Perhaps, even an "Uh oh, IS he dead?!?!" moment, rather than a blantant and no-questions corpse on the floor? See, I think not only would the story have worked just the same, it could have given a possibility that BB could be a starring character again, rather than a sad second string joke. And that, perhaps, is the great failure of the current guardians of the DCU -- enormous effort is being made to bring depth to the also-rans, but the results of that effort is basically to make those characters useless to anyone. This seems like a hugely missed opportunity to me.

Supergirl and Barry Allen died during CRISIS, yes, but they died as HEROES. BB just dies as a sad man way over his head, adding no significance, and wallowing in shock value. SHOCK IS NOT SIGNIFICANCE. What's weird is that at least one of the three primary writers of this KNOWS this -- how much of Geoff Johns' career has been spent in trying to unravel the mistakes of past adminstrations? Killing Superman, breaking Batman's back, Maiming Arther, or driving Hal insane or god the stupidity of what they did to the Hawks... none of those yeilded better stories (Well, OK, the follow ups to the Superman stuff was some of the best modern Super-comics ever, so that's one) -- quite the opposite, in fact. And DC *knows* this: shitting on your characters doesn't yeild dramatic options. In fact, it really reduces them because you've got to spend all of your effort dealing with the plot hammer stuff to the detriment of good STORIES.

Further, I just get queasy when the plot HINGES on continuity minutia (like BG's companion Skeets -- has Skeets appeared anywhere in anything in a comic published in the last 10 years? Longer? I don't think Skeets has appeared since the end of BG's series, has he? That was 1988, according to the Grand COmics Database at www.comics.org -- or 17 years ago!), yet it happily ignores OTHER continuity minutia like how Max Lord has has his mind read by the Martian Manhunter in the past, because that would undermine the plot-hammer.

The idea that Max Lord is behind this all, to me, is just about the worst idea I've ever heard. It is utterly inconsistant with past actions, and just doesn't parse in any rational way. Just about the only way this could have been worse is if it was revelaed that Ma Hunkle was the grand mastermind -- that makes about as much sense, y'know? I almost think someone should go kill Keith Giffen to see if he'll roll over in the grave.

(NOTE: DON'T DO THAT! That was a joke!)

So: ugly, illogical, plot-hammered and filled with asshats. But... at least it is only a buck! The architects say they have a plan, say this is all going somewhere and we'll be happy with the results, but I'm an inch away from just giving up on the U part of the DCU forever because it's really not a place I want to visit any longer. I'd much rather read Morrison's SEVEN SOLDIERS, y'know, where he's trying to reinject FUN rather than misery. All in all: AWFUL

(FOr a good laugh, go read Abhay Khosla's review at http://www.comicscommunity.com/boards/pop/?read=28386)

DOOM PATROL #10: That's kinda a Doom Patrol-worthy origin for those two characters, actually, and I've gone from absolutely detesting them to not TOTALLY abhoring them. Still, this is one meandering directionless book, isn't it? OK

FLASH #220: Lots of threads have been building to this for several years, but now that we're actually IN the "Rogue's War" I find I care a little less. However, this could be because this was the second comic I read this week, after COUNTDOWN. Assume it's just depressive fallout from that, then, because I say OK.

GOON DH ED #11: I loved this issue -- mean, but funny, odd and strange and filled with comic-book weirdness, and oh so very pretty. EXCELLENT.

I'm speeding up from here because I'm down to 20 minutes left to get through the rest of the books.

GRIMJACK KILLER INSTINCT #3: Liked this issue a lot, too. Great action, good dynics, smart ideas: VERY GOOD.

LEGION OF SUPER HEROES #4: Another solid issue, with a good balance of backstory and moving things forward. VERY GOOD.

MARVEL KNIGHTS SPIDER-MAN #12: Thank god for plot-convenient lightning bolts, is all I can say. The plot-hammered MJ's gun finally comes in to play, for no valuable use of any kind. All problems are abruptly solved by the last page, making you wonder why some of it (like the financials) were ever brought into play. This has been a big waste, sorry. EH.

OR ELSE #2: Mostly mentioned so Graeme knows he should pop by. Second issue out, with some great formalistic storytelling attempts. I like Kevin's clean style (especially his lettering -- that's a dying art), but I was underwhelmed by the teeny tiny little package (especailly when not solicited as such), and I think it makes the $6 price tag verging on the steep side. Still, that aside: GOOD.

OTHERWORLD #1: Lots of setup. Lots and lots of it. So much so that it's really hard to judge the issue. The characters seem reasoanbly rich and rounded, and the events are, while a bit cliched, handled well enough, and the art, OF COURSE, is terrific -- but I'm going to need another issue, I think, to see if I LIKE it or not. This issue was just OK.

OUTSIDERS #22: Liked it all around, though the "One of us is a traitor!" is so overused that Judd needs to tread carefully. I got a good laugh out of the next issue box, though it's an obvious joke. GOOD.

PULSE #8: Thought this was terrific, just terrific writing, though plot-wise with SECRET WAR, I am not sure if this title hasn't strayed too far from it's stated point. Don;t care for now, though, I loved the dialogue so much, VERY GOOD.

SECRET WAR BOOK FOUR: This, meanwhile, I was just stunned by. Meandering and pointless and just a big excuse for a fight scene, and it's not much of a "Secret" war, is it? Show, not tell, man -- I guess we'll see in four months and the last issue if this had a point of any kind. EH.

SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #26: Takes at least one twist that I wouldn't have given the writers credit for, so that's good. Still, just one long EH.

ULTIMATE SECRET #1: A much stronger start, I think, than NIGHTMARE's first issue. I liked this all around, dialogue, art, so VERY GOOD.

USAGI YOJIMBO #82: ANother great issue, isn't it criminal this doesn't sell 50k an issue? VERY GOOD.

PICK OF THE WEEK goes to GOON #11, I'm sure you can guess my PICK OF THE WEAK....


OK, now I'm late, gotta run, what did you think?