Comics of 10/06

Hmmm. Either I'm just not feeling the comics vibe, or it was not a particularly strong release week. Either statement could be true: I know I spent more time playing Katamari Damacy yesterday than I did reading and thinking about comics. So the following reviews should be taken with a grain of salt--a grain of salt that can be rolled up with a cookie, a thumb tack, a stamp, a mouse, a battery, etc., etc., until eventually it's rolling around the town collecting sumo wrestlers and policemen and cars in its unstoppable mass. 303 #1: I always like Ennis's war stories, and I like Jacen Burrows' art, but this was somehow less than what I expected: the weapons look fabulous and finely detailed, but all the faces seem to have the same broad, broken nose look to them which washes out the sense of individual personalities that, say, Steve Dillon would bring to the project. And I know it's a sign of a mentality ravaged by cheap comic books, but the concept implied by the cover--unstoppable Army guy versus zombies--seems like it might have a bit more going for it than the rather standard Ennis War Story being set up here. I'll be curious to see where it goes, though. OK.

CAPTAIN AMERICA & FALCON #8: I think I may have figured out one of Priest's big flaws--he has to have things both ways. Here, he takes MODOK, the dopey, big-headed guy in the chair, and he and Andrea Divito make him an entirely creepy presence. (That big old head crashing through the walls over the urinals? That disturbed me, man.) But three pages later, Sam Wilson is sitting there reading a paper saying, "He's a big head due with tiny arms. Don't know how you fight the thing without cracking up." Similarly, just as I'm getting used to The Falcon being a hard-edged character, Joe Robertson drags Cap aside and says, "What's wrong with you? Was The Falcon ever a hard-edged character??" Uh, wha? It's like the writer's so aware of any possible criticism he shoots himself down in advance...which may be why so many of Priest's plots feel overly byzantine and labored. All that said, this book seems far less fucked up than most of the books Marvel's publishing these days, which is why I'll pick up next issue, too. OK.

CONAN AND THE DAUGHTERS OF MIDORA: Didn't work for me even on its simplest level--an excuse to see Mark Texiera drawn Conan. Instead of the violently scratchy Texeira work, we get flatly inked figures, dull backgrounds and the occasional landscape that looks like it was cribbed from a Brothers Hildebrandt calendar. The panel-by-panel flow was pretty bad as well. The script didn't do it for me, either, somehow managing to hit every mark necessary to make a good Conan story and yet missing some piece of understanding that would pull it all together. (I'm not exactly sure what it is, but any Conan story where you feel more for the sorcerer than you do for Conan might be one of the problems). Lot and lot of potential here, but it only serves to point out more how it doesn't pay off. It'd be an Eh at $2.99, but at $4.99, I gotta go with Awful.

DETECTIVE COMICS #799: "War Games, Act Three, Part 1" and I've got agree with the cops on this one: it's a fucking bloodbath and it's Batman's fault. I had more fun wondering who in the name of God is so eager to win the Heroscape sweepstakes they'll read a whole page of rules set in bitty ten-point white-on-brown type. I got a migraine just looking at it. Also, in some back-up I haven't been following, Poison Ivy shows The Riddler he's not a particularly impressive super-villain. Yeah, that was a shock. Eh.

EXILES #53: I liked that, finally, some seeds are being sown for a longer arc. (It's pretty impressive in a way that Exiles has been published for over three years now and everyone who's worked on it has just taken the premise at face value.) And, you know, living planets versus Celestials--who can have a problem with that? (Even if it's only for the comedic value of Ego, The Living Planet "hiding.") It seemed a bit more like a Fantastic Four story with The Exiles thrown in, rather than vice-versa, but that's a minor quibbble. It was definitely OK, maybe even Good. I can't quite decide....

HULK/THING: HARD KNOCKS #2: My new theory? Jae Lee is blind. He is completely without sight, and he only picks scripts that are so stinky, he can find them by smell alone. Why else would he waste his chops on a one-shot (in which characters rehash their first fight) padded out to four issues? Hibbs liked last issue's Toyfareish take on Ben Grimm; this issue doesn't even have that. Awful.

JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED #2: Note to the DC marketing department: if you're going to spend a whole page having Johnny DC hype the other all-ages books, maybe showing the character snoring at the bottom of the page gives the wrong impression. Just an idea. As for the comic itself, I think this needed one more pass--all the pieces are in place, but somehow the transition from the poker game to the Royal Flush Gang didn't feel as organic as I would've liked, and the hook about Superman and poker didn't actually seem borne out by the story's events. Good art though, and good enough for a high OK.

MAJESTIC #3: Well, nothing happens but I'm still liking this more than any of the "real" Super-titles. The flashback to The Bay of Numbers reminded me of some of those fucked up "Planet of Krypton" back-ups Superman used to have--I think I kind of miss 'em. Good.

SABRETOOTH #1: Kind of reminds me of the first issue of Venom that Way did, which had a similar horror movie vibe. Works better here, though, in part because Sears really buckles down and tells the story (I dug some of those close-ups where thick tension lines are flying off the head--pretty neat), and in part because Way doesn't let things drag as badly as previous. I'm not thrilled by the last page reveal--I would've preferred a tight suspense story with Sabretooth versus the poor Coast Guard bastards since it's set up properly--but I appreciate the idea that things are going to stay lively. A very accomplished OK.

SUPERMAN/BATMAN #12: I waited four months for that? If I'm going to wait for a third of a year for a comic book, I'd like to feel like the writer spent more than twenty minutes writing it, and the artist spent more than a week drawing it--the only thing more disturbing than Darkseid's reappearing like a superpowered Jason Vorhees was Supergirl's distorted midriff. I read this book *because* it's over-the-top and super-absurd, so it's not like my expectations are high, so for this book to fall short (after that damn long wait!) is particularly grating. Awful.

SWAMP THING #8: Whoops, I missed an issue (I think?), so this didn't make a whole lot of sense. Like the Corben art, of course, and I'm completely unqualified to comment on the story but there seemed something kinda pat about it. The girl wanders into the swamp just based on what Tefe says? And then encounters Swamp Thing? Those two things are pretty much comic book gimmes, I guess, but then she also knows who Max Ramhoff is, and wants to do him? Maybe Part Two lays the groundwork for this perfectly, but it seems pretty Eh plot-hammering to me. And if this is Part Two (because didn't that first story arc run six issues?) then I gotta give it an Awful.

TEEN TITANS/LEGION SPECIAL #1: The first couple of pages read like gleeful Grant Morrison captions: "A hundred Emerald Empresses, all with powerful eyes. A hundred lightning-wielding Validuses. A hundred Manos with antimatter hands..." and I really liked that. I also liked the epilogue in the pocket universe that sets up the Legion reboot's angle. But the emotional subplot of Superboy being torn between two teams felt very tacked on, as did the Impulse subplot, as did...well, everything with the Titans, basically. Still it was done with enough panache I'll give it a Good.

TOMB OF DRACULA #1: Feels like a failed pitch for a Blade sequel that got turned into a miniseries and sadly it looks like the goofy touches (there's a female samurai on the team of vampire slayers, all of whom seem like they sprang directly from their own action figure designs) are far outweighed by the formulaic touches (somehow, I just knew Dracula was going to be shirtless and wearing leather pants on that last page). Dull but competent, seems like a big old harmless Eh.

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #66: Not really the "squirt soda out your nose" type of hilarity the creative team seems to think it is, but I still found the issue amusing. Droll, I think is a good word for it: droll fanboy humor. OK.

WOLVERINE #20: Saying Mark Millar's work these days seems calculated and cynical is like saying today's superhero comics are off-putting to the casual reader--it's taken so much for granted it hardly seems worth pointing out. And, to its credit, this issue seems largely well-calculated: ripping off some choice Millerisms (ninjas in a graveyard, a "nobody's that fast" villain) and having John Romita, Jr. illustrate them seems like a very smart way to go. I also appreciated the story starting as a relatively typical Wolverine story (Logan doing a favor for a pal, writer ripping off the plot of a movie--in this case, Kurosawa's High and Low) and then running into much weirder territory in very recompressed fashion (a year ago, it would have taken three issues to get to that Manchurian Candidate style twist). But the whole "hey, it's Nick Fury! And Elektra! Shield CSI! A superhero hit list! And did I mention Elektra! It's like 'Hush' but in the Marvel Universe!" angle is, I think, too cynical and not as well-calculated. I'm gonna give this a Good because frankly I enjoyed it more than the last thirteen to fifteen issues of the title, but I know I'm gonna feel like a chump for doing so when Wolverine is fighting the Fantastic Four and the Avengers two issues from now.

WORLDWATCH #2: In color, and with 80% less icky sex scenes, Worldwatch still has a little too much of the tittering fanboy to it. Also, I guess Austen liked the "big opening fight scene where it turns out the villain has been sleeping with the hero" from issue #1 so much he recyles it for issue #2..or maybe he's got even fewer ideas for this book than I thought. Padded out with a text piece that's either a shill for another Austen book ("Now that I've done superheroes but with sex, let's do Archie...but with sex!") or a very, very lazy approach to deepen his setting, Watchmen style, this feels really, really skimpy despite a good price and professional presentation. Kinda Awful.

UNCANNY X-MEN #450: Chris Claremont is a wacky dude. Why all the blibbity-blab about Rachel never having seen swashbuckler movies for that opening sequence when it's so clearly a very beautiful Alan Davis homage to Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars books? Claremont knows it too since the Danger Room sequence is called "Burroughs-17," so why? There's a similar feel to the rest of the book, some crucial shortcut in Claremont's thinking, I just don't get: "Everyone will think you did it, Wolverine, that's why you should investigate!" But won't that make everyone jump to the "mutant cover-up angle" like the kid's dad did? Yummy Alan Davis art makes this an OK or better, but man does that Claremont guy hurt my head.

Y: THE LAST MAN #27: I'll forgive some of the San Franciscoisms, because the little twist at the end was enjoyably nasty and the arcs are moving forward finally. Something's kind of rubbing me the wrong way, though, and I can't quite put my finger on it. Until I do, let's call it a Good.

YOUNGBLOOD: BLOODSPORT #1: Those first few pages really made me think of kids who use swear words when they don't quite know what they mean: "Boy, I'm sure liking this blow job!" "Me too, this blow job is great!" "We should apply for this new Youngblood team! Okay, but first I'm gonna have another two or three blow jobs!" Apart from that, weirdly, I thought of Alan Moore. Just as his Promethea sprang from the work he did on Liefeld's Glory, so too is it easy to see Millar's Wanted developing from this ultra-nihilistic Youngblood story. I'm not sure what's more sad, that this came out a year ago and I'm only just reading it now, or that there still hasn't been a second issue, but neither lead me to expect I'll ever be seeing this wrap up. Since I see it as just a dry run for the more accomplished Wanted--given a choice between J.G. Jones and Rob Liefeld, would anyone actually pick Liefeld?--I don't actually care that much. Still kind of a shame, though. Eh.

See? Nothing really show-stopping. I'll update again after working at CE Friday, in case I stumble across anything else.