A Few Quick Reviews from Jeff

Yo. Since I destroyed all previous comments, I thought I’d make it up to you by giving a few quick reviews of what I’ve been reading lately. Some of it isn’t “current” because I’m a few weeks behind, but, you know, it’ll give you something to look for during those quiet weeks at the shop. (Although as you’ll see, most of what I’ve read so far is probably the stuff everyone picks up.) ASTONISHING X-MEN #3: Sweet Jesus, this is lovely looking work. Remember those young naive days when we thought we’d be getting Morrison and Quitely monthly on New X-Men? This is that book, filled with art and art that can deftly swing from quiet to violent to funny in the blink of an eye. And I like how Whedon plays with the conventions of the page break to bring an extra twist to his story’s pacing. I’m not sure I care very much about that particular story, but that’s probably just me. Very Good.

AVENGERS #500: One of the sad cases where, before reading, I bought in to the hype. Whoops. We’ll see where it goes, but with characters acting less from established character and more because the script demands it, events happening with little explanation and often less resonance (I love how the Vision crashes the Quinjet and everyone just stands around like, “Huh, that sucked.”), I’m not particularly encouraged. Might be useful in determining a qualitative scale of talent, as apparently “bad Brian Bendis=relatively okay Chuck Austen.” Eh.

PLANETARY #20: Planetary is the new cough syrup overdose: so much can happen in one issue, and yet so long can be spent waiting for that one issue, I can feel simultaneously underwhelmed and overwhelmed reading it. I very much liked the emotional beat to this issue—Elijah the perennial explorer is so obsessed with revenge he actively sacrifices a chance to discover what may be the origin of all humanity—but because I spent three months going “Gee, I wonder what the Planetary version of The Thing is gonna look like,” it was almost entirely lost on me. I’m sure that’ll resolve itself in the trade. Good.

POWERS #2.2: I probably like this book too much. Bendis & Oeming could have Deena beat guys up with a baseball bat every week and I’d be very happy. I think if I was a new reader I’d be pretty baffled (I think it would all make sense, more or less, but I’m not sure if it would feel resonant enough for me to care), but that’s a quibble. Very Good.

ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR #9: Pretty much sums up the Ultimates line for me: for every two things that go right (powers being revisualized, heroes being unsure of what they can do) there’s usually one thing that can go very wrong (Dr. Doom goes from being the untouchable head of a distant nation to the Trash King of the Euro-Buskers). It’s nice to have a writer on FF who actually has an idea of what’s happening in science these days, but the idea we'll get to see Doom build his Doombots out of old disposable cameras and expired Eurorail cards is a little underwhelming. OK.

ULTIMATE NIGHTMARE #1: That alien broadcast goes on two and a half pages too long (by page 9, I was chilled; by page 11, eye-rollingly impatient) although that was probably exacerbated by the heavy, heavy ad count in the first half. And Hairsine isn’t half the “actor” Cassaday is—it kinda looks like Nick Fury is pooping his pants on the bottom of page 19—but it’s got potential to be interesting. And I don’t know why Marvel decided 2004 was to be the year We All Love The Falcon, but I ain’t questioning it. Because, you know, I’ve always loved The Falcon. OK.

CARNET DE VOYAGE: Cartoon karma is a fickle, fickle thing. Just a few short years ago (last year?), Craig Thompson’s Blankets became the must-have of the convention circuit, the toast of the comix world, and catapulted Craig Thompson into indy comix superstardom. This year, he releases Carnet de Voyage and all everyone seems to be talking about is The Flight Anthology and the Bone-In-One book (or whatever it’s called). A shame, because I find humble little Carnet, which Thompson himself disparagingly introduces as “a self-indulgent side-project,” to be the most purely enjoyable thing Thompson’s done, and arguably one of the best “young American abroad” novels ever. As page after page of gorgeous sketch goes by, Thompson weaves an achingly honest self-portrait of the solo traveler—lonely, unsettled, observant and deeply horny—familiar to any of us who’ve tried to wander in a distant country. Additionally, Thompson perfectly nails how the razor-thin self-consciousness of Americans abroad can move in a minute from self-conscious guilt to annoyed impatience, from deeply felt internal to external frustration. Even Thompson’s amusingly bathetic ending (a very emo and unnecessary summing up), suggesting a loss of nerve in an artist unsure of himself and his audience, didn’t put me off this. I think this is Excellent work and very much worth picking up: If this doesn’t become huge in our post-Lost In Translation pop culture, it’d be both surprising and sad.