Dour, Sour Power: Jeff's Reviews for 2/1 Books....

What happens when you take a surly, apathetic, quasi-aphasic grump and make him review comics? Let's find out, shall we? CAPTAIN AMERICA #14: I like Ed Brubaker. I like his writing, and I like him. (He used to shop CE when he lived in the city and he was a mensch.) And considering we're both fans of the Englehart run, I should really like his work on Captain America, and I do...more or less. And, also, I have to give him double bonus-points for managing to actually bring back Bucky (barring some future revelation that he's faked us out) and successfully make his case for it in front of all of Internet fandom. Having said all that, I have to admit I put this issue down feeling kind of underwhelmed. It's probably just my whole resistance to the Bucky thing from the beiginning, or a screw-up in the precious balance of antidepressants I must take hourly, or something, but fourteen issues just to get us to this ending left me cold--so now Bucky is wandering around the Marvel Universe and we'll get to see him and Wolverine making out (err, I mean, fighting)? Now that Bucky is "in play" again, chances seem incredibly slight he won't end up devalued currency in a very short time (heading up some revival of The Champions by Joss Whedon in 2007 or taking X-23's virginity in Thunderbolts in 2008 or something). The writing's good, the art is really strong, so I feel I can't give it anything less than Good, but I found it a demoralizing Good, to be honest. You more than likely will feel differently.

DETECTIVE COMICS #816: Nothing really new here, but I thought it was comparatively understated for what we normally get from a Batman book, particularly one with Zsasz on the loose and Alfred as bait, and a police department in Batman's way. Particularly nice was that Batman's action were clear and yet they weren't over-explained: I dreaded the caption where Batman would explain he's goading on Zsasz just to draw him out, and it never came. Won't change the world, but I found it Good.

DOC SAMSON #2: It's times like this I wish Sal Buscema was still getting work in the industry. Because what we've got here isn't really that different than a weird-ass Defenders story Steve Gerber might've written in 1975. Unfortunately for writer Paul Di Fillippo, the artist here stumbles on a few choice storytelling points making the whole thing seem less like intentional kookiness and more like misguided amateurishness. Or maybe it is misguided amateurishness, plain and simple. Either way, though, it was stinky pile of Crap and that's a shame.

EXTERMINATORS #2: If any of the characters were at all likeable, would I mind such obvious ripping off from the film version of Naked Lunch? Yeah, but probably not as much (because, come on, both the movie and the novel have some pretty amazing stuff in it). Or, come to think of it, I might tolerate such a jaundiced view of human nature if it had an originaility of vision working for it. Should get an Eh, but since I had hopes for the book and I"m stuck buying the issues I signed up for, I'll go down to Awful.

FANTASTIC FOUR #534: JMS seems committed to showing us stuff we've never seen in a FF book. Take this issue, for example: he gives us a battle between Thing and Hulk that is insanely dull. Makes that recent horrible Hulk/Thing mini by Bruce Jones and Jae Lee seem like Wagner by comparison. The epitome of Eh.

FANTASTIC FOUR IRON MAN BIG IN JAPAN #4: As Heidi mentioned, Seth Fisher was one of the very few artists able to stay true to his idiosyncratic vision and still get work drawing superheroes, and it's likely the medium will be the worse for his death. If you're of the half-full approach, you can see this issue (and this mini) as a celebration of his life by the sheer dint of the playful vitality apparent in his art. If you're of the half-empty approach, you can ruminate on the unlikely chance of Marvel collecting it and keeping it in print for any extended period of time. I would've given this issue a Very Good anyway, because Fisher's art is amazing and Zeb Wells crafted a very smart, enjoyable plot. But in the wake of Seth Fisher's death, it kind of transcends all that. So if you see these issues, get 'em. You may not see their like again.

FURY PEACEMAKER #1: By keeping a straight face, Ennis and Robertson pull off a much nastier and much funnier work than their first Nick Fury mini. Here, it's a relatively brutal take on Robert Kanigher cliches--every flashback to a presentation of equipment that could save the new troop's ass is a preface to the troop's torment by said equipment--that creates an unsettling atmosphere of black humor. It's a neat trick, and I hope these guys have similarly effective stuff up their sleeve for future issues. Good, and better than I expected.

FUTURAMA COMICS #23: Similarly, Boothby's tale neatly spoofs the obsessions of Weisinger's Silver Age stories while also recapturing them: I actually found myself worried about Fry and the others as they floated helplessly in "The Fandom Zone." Hibbs thought it was pretty one-note all the way through but the grumpy old fucker never posts here anymore anyway, so what does he know? Quite Good and I think Boothby's work here has inspired me to go hunt down the DVDs of all the seasons of the show I missed.

GOTHAM CENTRAL #40: I guess being a magical construct, Internal Affairs no longer exists in the DCU as a result of Day of Vengeance. Fair enough. It also would've been nice if there'd been another neat little twist once the Corrigan/red herring was shown up. But, whatevs: I'm just glad the book lasted as long as it did. OK.

GREEN LANTERN #8: The key to defeating the Black Mercy was clever, but what was with Mongul punching his sister's head off? I'm not sure why Johns keeps going for the "nacho cheese extreme" version of GL when a well-crafted regular "nacho cheese" version would work just fine. (Maybe it's to distinguish it from all the other GL titles we're going to have in a few months?) OK.

HARD TIME SEASON TWO #3: Another strong issue, all the more so because the ostensible bad guy acts so decent up until the very end. The touchy-feely liberal in me is a little antsy about where it might be going (the body-modification guy is a bad guy? The transgendered person is easily flattered and seduced? It's all very Bruckheimeresque) but Good, overall.

I HEART MARVEL: MY MUTANT HEART: There are the two Daniel Ways--the one who's crafted surprisingly strong Nighthawk and Bullseye minis and the one who seems genuinely bewildered by the basics of concise storytelling. Sadly, the latter Way is getting more work, as evidenced by the embarrassingly incomplete "Wolverine" story here. It's especially embarrassing next to Peter Milligan's story that, alhtough suffering from some of the same faults (less of a stand-alone than a riff on his other work, can see the ending coming from a mile away) but actually gets a beginning, middle and end in there (and is clever to boot). Finally, every character in the X-Men universe has slept with every other character by now, and Sam Guthrie is *still* dating the intergalactic rockstar/thief? Is it only Chris Claremont's worst ideas that hang around forever? Awful, but for the Milligan story.

LEGION OF SUPER HEROES #14: Those illustrated letters pages? Awesome. The rest of it? Good. I hope I'm not supposed to take the metacommentary at all seriously, however. (Although there was something kinda cool about a fanboy rampage being the story's turning point--I hope Graeme caught that.)

MARVEL ROMANCE REDUX: BUT HE SAID HE LOVED ME #1: I agree with Hibbs: opening with that hilarious "President Stripper" story kinda kills the rest of the book, because none of the other stories even come close. That said, they're pretty fun, the art in some cases is mighty keen, and they have their charms. But "President Stripper" blows the rest of them away. Certainly worth reading (although worth buying? Tough call). A lowish Good but "President Stripper"? Awesome.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #17: I couldn't tell if Kirkman's point is that these characters are such losers that, when given a month to prepare, they spend all their time sightseeing and starting up romances, or to give us a certain "Days of Future Past" ruefulness when the bloodshed starts next ish and the time-crossed lovers have to make a sacrifice to defeat the bad guy that means their love never existed. Either way, overly padded by half. Eh.

OUTSIDERS #33: Ironic that Outsiders feels more focused than it has in about six months and everything comes to a screeching halt for the "One Year Later" afterboot. OK, but who knows where it'll go from here.

POWERS #16: Weirdly, I saw this coming--I mean, none of the details, I admit, but the idea that Walker will get powers? Yeah, saw that one from a mile away (so much so, I hope I'm being played). But it was well-executed, and a Good read.

SABLE & FORTUNE #2: Wow, that's some biiiiiig hair. Sable really seems like she should be waiting tables in Vegas with that hair. (And did John Burns' end up doing any well-distributed collections of Modesty Blaise or something? Because as soon as I saw the work, I thought of ol' M.B., and I've never, that I can recall, read any Modesty Blaise stories in my life.) Seriously great art, an utterly predictable story, so I guess I'm going with OK. But if you've ever considered yourself a Neal Adams or Gray Morrow fan, ever, you should really check this out.

SENTRY #5: The ratio of boring/draggy/obvious stuff to cool shit is about 5:1, just enough to ensure I read every issue of this and hate myself for doing so. Yeah, that's just great. Eh.

SEVEN SOLDIERS BULLETEER #3: All the blogspot sites have been down for most of the afternoon, but I bet Jog has more interesting stuff to say about this than whatever I could come up with. So I'll just say the superhero convention commentary is trenchant and depressing and brilliant enough to make up for a relatively scattershot story. (It'd be cool if it's Morrison, not the Bulleteer, that's going here through the archetypal heroic trial pattern Jog sees repeating in all the SS minis). Good.

SUPREME POWER NIGHTHAWK #6: Obvious and flat and probably needlessly bloody, but you know what? I still thought it was pretty Good. Just about everything you'd want in a Batman analogue story (which, admittedly, is its weakness).

THUNDERBOLT JAXON #1: After being deeply indifferent to the Terra Obscura minis, I didn't think I'd care about this either, but the elegance of its first two-thirds drew me in. Something about the insistence on threes, and the understated way the kids talked to each other, and each of their burdens. It caught more of the old, strange magic lurking behind those Captain Marvel origin story than anything I've seen DC do with the Big Red Cheese, that's for sure. So I'm in for another issue, curious to see where it goes. Good.

PICK OF THE WEEK: It would've been FANTASTIC FOUR IRON MAN BIG IN JAPAN #4 even without the tragic events of this week, but now it's kinda impossible not to recommend.

PICK OF THE WEAK: DOC SAMPSON #2 becuase it gives trademark retention a bad name.

TRADE PICK: I have to say, if the MARVEL ROMANCE TPB had been $14.99 instead of $19.99? I would've grabbed it. Some of that Romita, Buscema and Colan work is heartbreakingly good. (There's a short-haired girl in one of those stories that just looks...yow.) And if all of the stories from SUPERMAN MAN OF TOMORROW ARCHIVES VOL 2 hadn't been reprinted in that wonderful SHOWCASE edition, I probably would've gotten that, too. So I'll go with GOON VOL 4 MY VIRTUE & GRIM CONSEQUENCES TPB because it's great stuff.

NEXT WEEK: Jesus fucking Christ, could they have made Wondercon any more irresistible? The only thing missing is an Allyson Hannigan kissing booth! And then after that, I'll be out of the country for a few weeks. So, uh, please understand if I go AWOL for a bit. (I may post anyway, but I wouldn't bet on it.)