Back on the Chain Gang: Jeff's Reviews of 01/17/07 Books

Wow. New York. Actually, that'll probably be another post later in the week, but god damn, did that town knock me on my ass. Since I got back last week, I've been laying low and taking it easy but it's probably time I get back into the swing of things and, since this week was so low-key, the time is right. You'll probably also get another post on some of the trades I've been working through...maybe. I've been so deeply annoyed by that first trade of Paul Jenkins' The Sentry (which I picked up super-cheap) that a long, hectoring screed will be in order.

And finally, for those of you who remember me talking about Secret Writing Project X about five or six months ago, I should finally be able to talk about in the next week or so.

So, that's what I've got for you in the future, but what have I done for you lately?

52 WEEK #37: Since I didn't get to the previous week's books until this week, I read this right along with the previous and together they were pretty enjoyable. At the risk of being spoilerific, it's kind of a bummer when Supernova's reveal isn't quite as cool as all the red herrings (kinda like when Hush wasn't Jason Todd but turned out to be that boring doctor dude after all) but at least it's still satisfactory in a larger arc kind of way. And the paragraph where Dan Didio talked like The Architect from the second Matrix movie was pretty enjoyable as well, so I'd say this was relatively Good stuff.

AQUAMAN SWORD OF ATLANTIS #48: Old school alert!! Bee-you-tiful art by Ricardo Villagran (a name I totally remember from those Savage Sword of Conan days) makes this book worth picking up. I have to admit, though, it conjures the flavor of the book I'd like to read (Aquaman, Underwater Barbarian) rather than the book I feel like I'm reading (Aquaman, Whingey Naif). Still, just to see some gorgeously fine linework? Highly OK.

BIRDS OF PREY #102: Graeme does a pretty good job below pointing out stuff with this ish that doesn't work and misses the big one: the conclusion of the big confrontation between Barbara and Lois retroactively strips the scene (and since it's the bulk of the book, the issue) of any drama. I don't know if it was last minute editorial influence, or a sudden "hey, wait..." realization on Gail's part, but there are better ways to have surprise twists on your confrontation than "Did you really think I was gonna out your operation? Psyche!!" Eh, although I should mention I'm digging the art.

CABLE DEADPOOL #36: Maybe moves a bit too much into the realm of outright absurdity (the book never lacks for it, but the Cable storylines mean that it has to be kept under pretty tight leash), but not enough to mitigate my enjoyment. And although I liked Patrick Zircher's art, I'm glad to have a new artist on the book--so much so, it may take me an issue or two before I can tell what Reilly Brown's bringing to the table. Good.

EXILES #90: Chris Claremont finally takes over the book, with remarkably hacky results. (An imaginary "and that's what would happen if..." scenario followed by danger room training sessions--all we need are the Exiles going on patrol and beating up a band of muggers and we'd have 95% of the Marvel Comics openings I read growing up.) Then Psylocke shows up and the countdown to sexy ninja mindrape begins. Although Claremont doesn't fumble the ball, it's apparent he's on Exiles because its sales are remarkably bulletproof rather than anything in particular he needs to say. And that's probably the way it's going to be until (a) the book gets cancelled; or (b) Brevoort takes Claremont behind the barn to show him the rabbits. In a way, all well and good, but in another way, unfathomably depressing. Quasi-Awful.

FANTASTIC FOUR #542 CW: Exhibit A in why Hibbs should do reviews this week, because his comprehensive overview of why this did and didn't work is beyond what you're gonna get from me. Me, I thought McDuffie did a very good save on Reed's CW motivations, and Mike McKone's art seemed a little more lively than it's been. I don't think we're out of the woods yet--Civil War hasn't left this book "revitalized," so much as "just about broken"--but we're getting there. OK, at the very least.

GHOST RIDER #7: Again, lurve the Corben art--particularly those faces--but WTF is up with the story? I think it's flipping between a fiery showdown between Satan and Ghost Rider, and a flashback detailing the events of Johnny Blaze's death before the beginning of the Ennis/Crain mini, but honestly, that's just a wild fuckin' guess. It reads like someone mapped a bunch of cliches to keyboard macros, dropped their keyboard, stepped on it a few times, and then submitted the result. God-damn lovely art, though. Eh.

GREEN LANTERN #16: There's a line here where someone (I think Alan Scott, but I'll be assed if I can remember for sure) says something like, "Every time you and Carol started to get too close, you and Oliver would go on the road to discover America. But you're not running now, Hal," which manages to be a clumsy retcon, a lazy shortcut (So far, Hal appears to have the same relationship with Cowgirl that he seems to have with every other member of the DCU--she admires him and he feels a fierce loyalty to her for which he will break The Rules--and the only way the reader could assume he felt any differently is that the artists always draw Cowgirl super-hot), and hilariously bitchy all at once. Throw in an annoyingly shrill ubervillain (Abin Sur's son, who is apparently the only person in the universe unclear as to how the Green Lantern succession process works) and you've got the very dregs of Eh(--even if it'll maybe lead to a return to Ysmault or something cool like that).

HELMET OF FATE DETECTIVE CHIMP #1: Although competent, it somehow fails to meet the high bar of expectation set by a comic titled "Helmet of Fate: Detective Chimp." Eh.

PHONOGRAM #4: Yeah, I dunno. Although it could well be because I can't follow the theme and the imagery of the story without reading all the copious notes and essays in the back of each issue, I think there's something vital missing from this story four issues in. Whether through inexperience or an overabundance of caution, Gillen has left the genuine heart out of his narrative (probably the real-life emotional events at the heart of the story as alluded to in the notes) and chosen instead to invest his allegory with dense imagery and fervent argument. Consequently, even as the book trembles on the cusp of justifying Why Pop Matters, I'm not emotionally invested enough to have it matter to me. It could turn that around before the end, of course, but currently I'm frustrated that the book doesn't feel more than OK considering the amount of passion and skill being put into it.

SHE-HULK 2 #15: Both Burchett and Slott seem off their game here: although Burchett's work usually looks cartoony, this issue doesn't have his usual top-notch storytelling, and Slott's Agent Cheesecake is just one of several neither-fish-nor-fowl conceits. If they're trying to change gears on this book to save or boost sales, they'd better change 'em quickly and a little more smoothly. Eh.

SPIDER-MAN REIGN #2: There's a certain excitement that can accompany a very bad comic book: unrestrained by good taste or commmon sense, the creator can take the reader to an utterly unexpected place. And for about four panels, where a fat, aged Hypno-Hustler suddenly appears, I was struck giddy at the possibility Kaare Andrews might make the entire issue a showdown between an decrepit, senile Spider-Man and his absolute lousiest villain. Unfortunately, Andrews quickly veers from the realm of the insane and ill-considered back to the realm of the dull and ill-considered, but boy did those four panels give me hope. Awful work, as much as it pains me to say so.

SPIRIT #2: A nice improvement over the first issue--the sudden passage of time wasn't handled as elegantly as I would've liked but that's a quibble--and a Very Good little read. Unlike Graeme, I'm not too worried about how long this book'll last--Darwyn Cooke is clearly meant for better things than easing The Spirit's transition from creator-identified signature character to quirky corporate asset--but I'll enjoy the ride while I can.

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #104: That fight scene went on and on even though neither Bendis nor Bagley had their hearts in it at all, but the emotional scenes worked really well. Not sure if it was worth the extra buck, exactly, but at least I didn't pay it for an eight page black-bordered series summary. Good.

WISDOM #2: Read this right after Phonogram #4, which was amusingly apt as the two books cover surprisingly similar ground. Since I didn't read the first issue, it didn't make a lick of sense to me, which didn't hurt it much, truth be told. Nice art, general insanity, and the sort of thing "New Marvel" would throw at you back in the day. Good stuff if you're a fan of the peculiar.

Y THE LAST MAN #53: I couldn't buy some of the events in this based on the timeframe (I don't care how much closure somebody needs, I can't imagine anyone looking in a sewers for a body years after the fact unless it was presented as the mother of all quixotic quests) but I liked the, I dunno, how brazen it was about its thematic concerns. Still, it felt more like an item on BKV's dwindling to-do list for the book, and needed more finessing than it got. OK, I guess.

PICK OF THE WEEK is SPIRIT #2, one of the few books I didn't beat until it bled from the ears. PICK OF THE WEAK is SPIDER-MAN REIGN #2, which proved to me that I'll take bad & crazy over bad & derivatively dull any day. No TRADE PICK because I hope to cover that at more length shortly.

And you?