I couldn't do it. My plan was to review the comics in the order I read 'em because there were lines of thought that developed from going one to the next, but a super-crap day at work yesterday and the debate last night totally knocked it all out of my head. So back to our good ol' pal alpha order this time around. Foo. A FINE MESS #2: I liked this second issue of Matt Madden's formally playful comix--at their best, they give off the precocious charm of stuff I've read by Calvino, Barth or Cortazar (Madden namechecks Queneau who I should hunt up) and there's great fun in catching on to the games Madden plays in the first two pieces. But there's kind of a big "yeah, so?" price to be paid pretty quick--everything seems clever and glib, but can only point in the direction of emotional resonance. I'm giving this a Good because I had fun, Madden's seems to be getting better and better, and I'm glad someone's picked up the banner of dedicated formalist experimentation that Spiegelman's basically abandoned post-Breakdowns. I do hope future work brings a little more steak to the sizzle, though.
ADAM STRANGE #1: I didn't think I'd like this but, as with his opening run on Swamp Thing, Andy Diggle seems to be only toying with jettisoning the old while bringing in the new (the first third had me sadly shaking my head but the rest of it put a stop to that). The real stars, however, are Pascal Ferry's art and Dave McCraig's colors: Ferry's cleanly detailed work looks surprisingly deep, in no small part because of the way McCraig plays with gradations of color (the mundane scenes are colored in muted greens, blues and browns with flashes of brighter colors during flashbacks and when action finally starts). The story's just starting and it could hit the crapper pretty quickly but this team give me hope. Good.
BATMAN #632: Guys who've just had their big toes just cut off move would still move more gracefully than the events in this issue: the whole "yeah, I planted a bomb out in the hall" manuever felt pretty plot-hammered and of course, Batman's a genius who lets absolutely nothing get by him until the writers need him to act like a trusting lunk (until it's revealed an issue or two down the road...that he was never really fooled at all!). Awful.
BLACK PANTHER 2099 #1: My favorite of the 2099 books I read, mainly because Kyle Hotz draws a really, really nice Dr. Doom (I've had a weird Doom fixation since finishing the "Essential" Super-Villain Team-Up a few weeks back) and you get a Doombot on almost every page. Also, shit really happens, although admittedly too hurriedly to really care about it. For the price? OK I guess, unless you share my Doom fetish in which case a very, very low Good.
BY BIZZARE HANDS #4: Haven't read the Lansdale story Barrett and Verma adapt but they do a very good job: it's got that distinctive Lansdale feel to it, a mixture of explicit gore, black humor and poignant sadness. I'm kinda bummed that without Jacen Burrows' cover I never would've understood how "the roses" look or work, but that's a minor quibble. If there's a fault, it's with the story itself which, adapted as a comic, overwhelms its own emotional point with all the vivid viscera. But that's a quibble. If you're a Lansdale fan (or just a fan of gruesome, but not mindless, horror) I say you should seek this out. Very Good.
CATWOMAN: WHEN IN ROME #1: Ahhh, Jeph, Jeph, Jeph. If there's one thing I always admired about your recent "every cameo ever!" approach, it's that it never descended to "it was all a dream!"...until now. 22 pages of story that feel like 6 (it's actually ten if you ignore the dream sequence) I think it's too flimsy for the price. But if you're buying it for the gorgeous Tim Sale pin-ups, you'd probably disagree (I would still say wait for the inevitable trade where you'll get better bang for your buck). A big Eh from me.
DAREDEVIL #65: As promised, a very pretty issue of Daredevil. Weirdly, I think the least interesting aspect of Bendis' run on Daredevil is what the other Marvel heroes think of Murdock's shit, and that's what this issue is: The all "what other Marvel heroes think of Murdock's shit" issue: only the Dr. Strange bit at the end carried any weight (and yeah, probably in light of the way Murdock acts through the rest of the issue but if you've been following the run it would pack the same punch) with me. Maybe I'd be fangasming over this if the last storyline hadn't felt like a flop to me, but this is a high-priced OK. If you like cameos and pretty pictures, you'll like it much, much more than me.
DOOM PATROL #4: I really liked those first three pages--they showed a lot of, I dunno, moxie. And in this issue, Byrne really breaks up his traditionally stoic panel layouts, which was a very pleasant surprise. But it's all the usual Byrne blah-blah-blah of our heroes figuring out a vaguely scientific solution to their vaguely scientific dilemma--it's like the most boring parts of DC's Silver Age squared. I kinda wish Byrne would kinda take the spirit of those first three pages, drop some acid, and just go apeshit, but what are the chances? Anyway, to sum up, this issue was dull, but surprisingly OK.
ELEKTRA: THE HAND #2: All the stuff that annoyed me about Nu-Marvel in one convenient place: faux manga, decompressed narrative, and a book designed to reach outside the current marketplace while packaged with a hook to sell in the current marketplace. More to the point: I don't care, and I don't know why I should care. Awful.
FUTURAMA #19: Kinda great that I missed parts I and II of an apparent trilogy and it didn't get in the way of any laughs. Some of it runs a little too fannish for my tastes (or maybe it just didn't work--I should have loved that whole Hogan's Heroes, Captain Kirk gag and I didn't...) but a lot of it made me laugh ("A Vote for Xavius is a vote for Big Olive Oil" was pretty great). Futurama fans have gotta be pleased the cartoon is gone but this book is still around. Good.
GAMBIT #2: It's kinda like Layman made a list of things he likes (heist movies, John Woo's Hard Target, Tim Powers novels) and tossed 'em all into a big pot, but he and Jeanty aren't big-time chefs--they're cooks still learning their way around the kitchen and their concoction feels uneven and watery. Got potential, but little more than that here. Eh.
GREEN LANTERN #181: A mixed blessing for me--I'm so happy Kyle didn't get fucked over (by every DC hero's ultimate nemesis, DC Editorial) that I'm willing to let all the inconsistencies slide. Why does Kyle take Force's word about his mom? How does he get the jump on Force after he gives up the ring? What's with the "yeah, space didn't work before, but I gotta do something to give this an ending" conclusion? Answers: I don't care. I give it the Eh of relief.
HELLBLAZER #200: Kinda clever, and the art is lovely, but there's always a problem with these "it's the same thing...only different" stories: if you don't make the vignettes sufficiently different, it just feels like reading the same thing several times over. But as a way of twisting the old "It's A Wonderful Life" angle, and giving John some creepy new adversaries for the future, I think it's highly OK.
INHUMANS 2099 #1: Thank you, Paddy McPadPad. I think it was supposed to be "glimpse insight into other characters' lives so that you feel for them when the twist ending rolls along," and if this was written by, I dunno, Alan Moore I would have, maybe. But it wasn't, and I didn't, plus I didn't buy the twist anyway so it felt like a big ol' waste of time and space and paper. Awful.
LUBA'S COMICS & STORIES #5: Beto is such a tough call because half the time he's ten steps ahead of what everyone else is doing, and half the time I suspect he's ten steps ahead of what he's doing and trying not to act like he's lost--and from back here, it's impossible to tell which it is. I think this was unfocused and lost(?) but it was also charming and funny and lighter than it's been and I really enjoyed it. Good.
MARVEL 65TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL: This almost entirely dashed my hopes of ever seeing Everett's Sub-Mariner and Burgos' Human Torch material collected--I was going to rant about what a sloppy job Marvel did of reprinting the material until I noticed the long list of restorers. Unless someone undertakes collecting all the original art, I guess this stuff is just gone: I've seen wax dixie cups with cleaner reproduction. A shame, because this material, underneath its crudeness, has a slyly subversive nasty edge (Marvel Mystery Comics should've been called More Pricks Comics) Millar lovers and fans of Morrison's Marvel Boy would eat up with a spoon. I loved the stories, but it looks like utter garbage and it's five bucks. How the hell do I rate it? Good, but don't buy it? Awful, but go read it? I honestly wish I knew what to tell you.
METAL GEAR SOLID #1: Wow, a video game adaptation that's just a video game adaptation. Kris Oprisko just played Metal Gear Solid and then wrote down what happened. That's...uninspired. I guess the audience is Metal Gear fans who want to see Ashley Wood draw their favorite characters, but...aren't they gonna be bored reading a story they've already played, and likely played several times (I think I made it through twice, myself, although I gave up at the final boss battle both times)? Seems kinda like a lazy, book-killing approach to me. Pretty book, but an Awful choice.
NEW FRONTIER #6: Man, this just knocked me on my ass. Do I think it's the next Watchmen, like some onliners are apparently saying? Actually, I'd be suprised if you could give this to a "civilian" and they did more than like it and admire the art. But for fans of DC's Silver Age, this is a gorgeous heartfelt valentine and it'll be hugely appreciated as long as there are fanboys still drawing breath. This last issue felt kinda like the movie Return of the King in that Cooke gave us three endings when one would have done (and each kinda diminishes the other's effectiveness accordingly) but man, oh man. Great great work by Darwyn Cooke. A very high Very Good.
Crap, outta time and still about ten books to go. I doubt I can wrap it up before tomorrow or early Sunday, but if I can, I will.