Glutton for Punishment Part II: Jeff Wraps Up His Look At the 12/06 Books.

Oy, I'm such a dink. Not only did I screw up the arrival dates of the books (it's 12/05, not 12/06) but I totally forgot to open my previous post with sincere thanks to everyone who took the time to vote on what I should do for the site this month. I really appreciated janesmith3's vote since it looked like an ASCII cylon raider, but, honestly, I'm grateful to everyone who took the time to give me feedback, both there and just below. Anyhoo, Part 2:

NIGHTMARES & FAIRY TALES #21: One of the things I regret about splitting when I did is never writing about the high weirdness that was volume 1 of "Make 5 Wishes," the deeply odd Avril Lavigne comic from Del Rey by artist Camilla D'Errico and writer Joshua Dysart: it's this book in which a lonely girl ends up with a demon that can grant wishes and the only one who can help her figure things out is her imaginary friend Avril Lavigne. It was one of those books you kinda can't believe you're reading while you're reading it and, while still not in the same league as, say, Fletcher And Zenobia Save The Circus, something so distinct you give it a pass on all of its shortcomings.

I'm tempted to do the same with Nightmares & Fairy Tales #21, since writer Serena Valentino and artist D'Errico are trying something similarly odd (Valentino describes it as a mix of Carnivale, Deadwood and H.P. Lovecraft) in this story of a traveling freak show, the heartless bastard who runs it, and a captive mermaid. Unfortunately, D'Errico's delicately sketched linework doesn't have the same impact without the lovely color work of Make 5 Wishes, and Valentino's script is relatively hackneyed; only the suggestion that the innocent-seeming mermaid might be even more inhuman and terrible than the main character gave me any inclination to pick up the next issue. I gotta go with EH, as much as I'd prefer otherwise, but I hope these creators continue to develop their chops here and elsewhere.

NORTHLANDERS #1: I'm really frustrated with myself on this book--while I really like a lot of the ideas Wood's playing with here (a story that takes echoes of Hamlet and turns them into almost a Norse version of Point Blank, a narration that subtly uses anachronisms to give the protagonist's concerns and thoughts an immediacy), I didn't actually enjoy any of it. Colorist Dave McCaig seems like he's working overtime in every panel to work some depth into Davide Gianfelice's art but it's not quite enough: the book didn't look spare as much as it did not-quite-finished. I'm gonna call it OK and let's see where it goes.

OMEGA THE UNKNOWN #3: Lethem continues to nudge this book toward its own concerns and between him, Dalrymple on art (and--Jeezis!--Paul Hornschemeier doing the coloring!), there's no denying there's a ton of talent tackling this book, but I'm still a little underwhelmed. One of the things that made the original Omega such a strange book was the clash between Gerber & Skrenes' unorthodox scripts and Jim Mooney's traditional art. And while Mooney,like John Buscema, liked working on non-traditional material, his work had enough associations and influences from his superhero work it made the material even more striking. Whereas here, Lethem and Dalrymple (and--Jeezis!--Hornschemeier!) alll seem too much in the same vein: it's a little too glib, too easy, and too superficial. What I'm trying to say is, maybe a book called Omega The Unknown would benefit from a little more not-knowingness, you know? I'm still on board, but the meter keeps moving toward EH, bit by bit.

SILVER SURFER IN THY NAME #2: Simon Spurrier obviously took the time to put himself through Silver Surfer 101. So even though I disagree with The Silver Surfer suddenly being able to astrally project himself (don't even get me started on how it messes with previous contuity, let's just agree the last thing The Silver Surfer needs is yet another vaguely defined power and move on), I'm not even gonna bother. Similarly, although Tan Eng Huat (and ace colorist Jose Villarrubia) aren't really anywhere close to following the moves from the Kirby/Buscema playbook, they're working their butts off. But even taking all that off the table, the book feels really cramped to me, making me think the Surfer is one of those larger-than-life characters who needs less panels per page than the relatively steady six-per-page we get here. I'm bummed I gotta go with EH here as well.

SUBURBAN GLAMOUR #2: It's great to get a big eyeful of Jamie McKelvie's work in color, and the story is blessedly direct. I'd be lying if I didn't admit I have quibblage--for an artist working from his own script, McKelvie occasionally stages things a bit more awkwardly than you'd expect, and there's one sequence that exists for no other reason than to eat up a bit of space--and yet I found it to be GOOD fun, overall. More, please.

SUPERGIRL #24: My first read garnered me an enormous "Huh?" In part, this was while the good people at Supergirl were kind enough to have a story-based recap page, the next few pages were so disorienting I wasn't sure if the recap had stopped. The second read made quite a bit more sense, however, and I guess it makes a case for why Supergirl's discontent that's a lot less gross than what we've seen previously. But unless the first issue (which I didn't read) is a lot more action packed than the first, all the wordless pages makes me wonder if this wasn't a single issue story expanded into two. On its own, I'd generously give it an EH (if I hadn't felt so rusty with this reviewing thing, I doubt I would've given this issue a second read-through and just dismissed it out of hand), but if the first issue is especially kick-ass or sets a tone that makes this pacing more valid, I guess you could bump it up to an OK, if you wanted.

THE SWORD #3: Didn't read the first two issues and maybe that's for the best because this issue moved like a MOTHERfucker, escalating things steadily so the final splash page simultaneously lets you catch your breath and tries to kick you one last time in the gut. I liked Ultra, and thought Girls was a huge ol' mess, but if these guys can keep their control of the material as strong as it is here, The Sword might just knock it out of the park. Very Good stuff, I thought.

ULTIMATE X-MEN #88: Haven't read an issue of this book since Millar left, so I'm coming into this very, very cold and, again, am impressed with the recap page. It wasn't a work of genius or anything but it did give me an idea of the bigger picture. This wasn't a terrible issue, I gotta admit--in fact, as a guy with a thing for girls with glasses, I'll go one step further and admit that last panel of Ultimate Emma Frost made me glad I picked it up--but Ultimate X-Men has clearly become the X-Men equivalent of Beatlemania, where all the greatest hits get trotted out one after the other, or even run together in a medley as needs dictate. For example, this issue alone has Ultimate Cable, Ultimate Bishop, Ultimate Emma Frost, Ultimate Psylocke, the return of Ultimate Beast, Ultimate Phoenix, a round of Ultimate softball out at Ultimate Xavier's Mansion, Ultimate Hellfire Club and a last panel of, I'll assume, Ultimate Apocalypse (though it'd be awesome if it were Penultimate Apocalypse or something). Oh sure, Ultimate Colossus is gay and Ultimate Cable is apparently Ultimate Wolverine from the future or something, but that doesn't seem to matter as much as you'd think. Ultimate Paul is playing and singing Paul's parts, and Ultimate Ringo is playing the drums just like Ringo. In this age of trade paperbacks and CD-Roms and experimental direct comics subscriptions and bit torrent and back issues--to say nothing of how many fuckin' X-Men books are still on the market--does anyone really need this apart from the company and creative teams' bank accounts? Ultimate Emma Frost in white corset and sexy black glasses aside, I'd say no. Sub-EH.

UNCANNY X-MEN #493: See? The regular X-Men books are doing perfectly fine all by themselves at taking all the old greatest hits and mixing 'em up. As for this issue, I read it and, as you would expect from starting a crossover at Part 6, I don't really have the necessary investment as a reader for anything in this issue to have much of an impact. I liked that we got to see someone in striped pajama pants fight the Sentinels, I guess. It all seemed coherent enough even if I didn't care, however, and that's a good sign. I don't know. Issues like this make me wish Paul O'Brien had Google Ads or something set up over at The X-Axis because reading books like this make me realize what an invaluable service he performs each and every week, and he should get paid for it. Because while I feel confident saying this was an OK issue, Paul can really tell you and, to the extent your opinions mesh with his, you can bank on it. That's a valuable god-damn service.

WORLD WAR HULK AFTERSMASH: No offense to the current creative team, but if Marvel put Greg Pak on Iron Man, I think they might be doing themselves a favor: apart from the shout-out to that insane issue of Marvel Team-Up where Hercules tows Manhattan back into place, the only thing in this weak sauce that really impressed me was how well Pak handled the (presently) complex character of Tony Stark/Iron Man. However, between the above-mentioned weak sauce and the price tag of $3.99 for a book that includes six pages of promo material Marvel couldn't even be bothered to color, I gotta go with Awful. I'll assume the rest of the event wasn't this lame.

X-MEN DIE BY THE SWORD #4: I can't really give a decent review of this book since I didn't read the previous three issues, but since Chris Claremont didn't give it a decent script, I'm okay with that.


I kid, I kid. If you're still reading Claremont at this point, you know what you're getting (a morass of characters and plots, quips and aphorisms so hoary they're probably on a motivational poster somewhere) and you obviously either want it or feel compelled to support it. I can dig it. It's a shame that a previously unsinkable franchise like The Exiles is getting rebooted as a result of all this, though, and that Claremont--like some fanboy Captain Ahab--is obsessed with being able to finally write The Fury (or the The Fury Prime, or whatever it's called) but those are my hang-ups. But I think some messy storytelling flubs (the weirdness with Longshot's knife and invisible Merlyn, the lack of a splash page at the end when the Fury emerges so Captain Britain has to tell you what the hell is happening) would bump this down a few notches even for you, right? So I'll go with Awful and you can go with _____, and we'll both go with God, okay?

ZOMBIES VS ROBOTS VS AMAZONS #1: Well, it's dumb. And expensive. But really, really pretty. And here's only one robot (so far). I'd go with AWFUL even though, again, it's really, really pretty. Keep in mind I'm so far afield of Ashley Wood's target audience--pot dealers who like to leave comic books out on the kitchen table so their customers have something to read, I'm thinking--I should not be considered fair counsel.

PICK OF THE WEEK: My memory's a little hazy. I think it's LOBSTER JOHNSON IRON PROMETHEUS #4 and/or THE SWORD #3.

PICK OF THE--ULTIMATES 3 #1!--OF THE WEAK: Sorry, couldn't wait.

NEXT WEEK: Maybe not as many books!

Oh, and make sure you don't miss Diana's post about webcomics below, okay? I'm hoping it's just the first article of several giving noobs like me the lay of the land.