Backwards Lap: Capsule Reviews from Jeff

Yes, dammit.  I am currently committed to this capsule review thing, if only because it forces Hibbs and Graeme to also write reviews and my WASPy upbringing inherently enjoys guilting people into stuff. After the jump: comics from last week, last year, and a very cool fan letter.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #169-173:  Still pretty much a mixed bag for me, but I do love how loose story plotting becomes during this period:  issue #169, for example, teases J. Jonah Jameson showing pictures proving that Peter Parker is Spider-Man, but that's barely more than three pages of the story and the rest has Spidey beating the crap out of people he encounters essentially at random.  #172 is the debut of the Rocket Racer, but he gets only the opening four pages and then the rest of the book sets up the return of the Molten Man...and even then, interestingly enough, the cliffhanger is Spider-Man being drawn on by two armed security guards.  (The first page of #173 is Spider-Man getting shot by one of those cops and escaping, only to get jumped by bystanders, one of whom has been taking mail-order kung fu lessons.)

I know I carp on this again and again but: although none of that shit would pass muster in your basic Bob McKee workshop (or, as I recall, Dan Slott's advice sessions on Twitter), it's very fun in the right doses and it helps contribute to that "man, anything can happen" feeling...even when every issue opens and closes with a fight scene, and you have Molten Man coming back from the dead and then dying for the fifth or sixth time.

All that said, the highlight of this batch of issues for me was the following letter from issue #169:


Yup. It's that Frank Miller, approximately nineteen years old, saying everything it's taken me the last thirty-five years or so to try and articulate...and doing a better job of it.  I'm heartened but not surprised to find out Miller's a fan of Andru...but the mention of John Buscema is a little odd.  I wonder if that's why the two of them worked on that very odd issue of Daredevil years later?

Anyhoo, it's all pretty low-stakes stuff but I honestly think it's OK or better. The nostalgia factor bumps it up to a low GOOD for me, but I don't think I should really factor that in.

CRIMINAL: THE LAST OF THE INNOCENT #1: I really shouldn't read interviews.  If I hadn't perused Brubaker's interview with Spurgeon over at Comics Reporter, I think it'd be easier for me to see this as an excellent take on the "guy kills his cheating wife" crime tale with the metatextual stuff being a nice little bonus. But having read the interview, I walked into this expecting the metatextual to be meaty and satirical and a brilliant insight on nostalgia and it was...just kinda okay.  I'm hoping there will be a way that stuff goes a little further: it seems to me that Criminal has always been packaged in a nostalgic way -- Sean Phillips' amazing covers clearly reference those Gold Medal Books, among others -- and I think it might be uniquely suited to comment on more than the "wow, now we think of the past as somewhere safe but it was fucked up, too" element of nostalgia, but the "we even miss the fucked up stuff" element that is a little more distressing.  Is it a form of innocence to pine for something evil? Or is it a sign of corruption? I think this book is going to address this stuff (god, I really hope so), but the first issue didn't really deliver on that for me.  It's still GOOD, mind you -- well-written and lovely as hell, but I'd been primed for something great.

FLASHPOINT: BATMAN: KNIGHT OF VENGEANCE #1:  Thomas Wayne as Batman? Don't care. The Flashpoint version of The Joker? Don't care.  Art by Eduardo Risso, colored by Patricia Mulvihill?  I didn't care...until I saw it. Risso's art is just eye-wateringly good and in the sewer fight scene he has this neat trick of using the page turn to up the surprise by reversing the angle or tightening the focus (or, in some cases, both).  A fight between Batman and Killer Croc in the sewers isn't anything we haven't seen before but I don't think I've ever seen it quite like this. I wish the story had been more than your usual alt-universe blather, but danged if this didn't strike me as a GOOD stuff, anyway.

HELLBOY: THE FURY #1:  Also, in the "Holy Shit, Look At This Art!" category is this book, which somehow manages to be jaw-droppingly beautiful from the first page to the last.  Like Flashpoint: Batman, I don't really care know or care what's going on, but the art by Duncan Fegredo (and colors by the amazing Dave Stewart) and the pacing of Mignola's script miraculously negates all that.  I felt flashes of dread and wonder and, more than once, something like awe.  (I guess this'll sound obvious to you if you've read the issue, but reading it made me feel exactly the way I did when I first watched John Boorman's Excalibur, that same weird mix of the epic and the creepy.) I always feel weird giving books VERY GOOD ratings or higher based on nothing more than just the art but here we are.  Amazing stuff.

JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #623:  The art didn't fry my burger this time around but I'm still enjoying the story and Gillen's take on Loki.  In fact, the mix of classic myth and the story's own sensibilities reminds me of the stuff I'm reading in the Simonson Thor Omnibus.  I wish the art didn't look so wispy, but I think I'm gonna give this one a VERY GOOD, nonetheless.