It's Not the 2/23/05 Comics That Are Brain Dead...

It's me, I admit it. My next door neighbor had a noisy lawn party until very late in the night (morning) and I'm running on absurdly little sleep. So if my reviews lack a certain cogent something (like, I dunno, verbs or the like) , I apologize. One would think such a caveat would make me re-think this whole "jamming my opinions down people's throats" thing, at least for this week, but noooooo. Opinion jamming waits for no man, my friend. Also, because last week's gentlemanly disposition toward M. Hibbs prevented me from talking shit about Mark Millar, I reserve the right to review any book this week I want. If Bri doesn't like it, he can double-post.

As for them thar things certain folklings call funny books:

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #517: "Quick, MJ! You've got to get to safety!" "I will! Right after rehearsal!" "Great, and pick up Aunt Wassername! Oh, and toilet paper! We're totally out of toilet paper." JMS's end-run continues to whimper along, as Peter inexplicably lets Vibranium Boy leave his apartment, is inexplicably blase about warning Aunt May or protecting Mary Jane, all so we can get some false drama on that last page reveal. What a drag. Eh.

AVENGERS EARTHS MIGHTIEST HEROES #8: Ends pretty much where you would expect, and how you would expect. Not too crazy about the Cap's "You were great, baby. There's money on the dresser; buy yourself something pretty" scene with Rick but it's pretty close to how it played in the original, more or less. Which brings out my only real nagging problem with this mini, overall: Casey is savvy enough to tease out the dramatic undercurrents in the original stories, but is either unwilling or unable to take them anywhere new. Pretty; competent; pretty competent. OK.

BETTY & VERONICA SPECTACULAR #69: Note: Never, ever, ever see Larry Clark's Ken Park. But if you do, do not read Betty & Veronica Spectacular #69 (or any Archie comic, for that matter) the day after: it's horrible how similarly anti-narrative yr. average Clark film and yr. average Archie story are. Interestingly, the quiz says I'm more like Veronica than Betty, but I may have been subconsciously trying to swing the results. Eh.

BONEYARD #17: Richard Moore's Boneyard continues to be a great little read, month after month. I admit it gets overly cute from time to time, but not nearly as much as you would think, and Moore's got a great handle on his characters. His touch football game in this issue is exactly the sort of enjoyable between-epic breather that once suckered a whole generation into following Chris Claremont on X-Men for wayyyy too long. Good or Very Good, you make the call.

ENNIS & MCCREAS DICKS WINTER FUN SP #1: May have been the first one of these I really truly enjoyed, although I can't figure out why: maybe it's because both Ennis and McCrea seem much more focused this time out, although I really noticed the difference in how much tighter McCrea's work seemed--less loosey-goosey layouts with much tighter linework than usually ends up on Dicks. Just wish it had come out in December, is all. Good.

FANTASTIC FOUR #523: I'm baffled: Waid had a problem with Jemas's proposed FF-as-sitcom direction and quit? Because that's what a lot of his run has read like to me, and this issue even more so. I guess I'm more of a fanboy purist than I thought, because using Galactus as the center of an episode of Friends as directed by Frank Capra kinda irked me. Eh.

LEGION OF SUPER HEROES #3: So, either Waid's work is much better here than there, or it depends on if you're a Marvel fanboy or a DC fanboy. Because I, who've never followed the Legion books, thought this was Very Good material: A done-in-one that also progresses the larger storyline, re-introduces a bunch of characters, and affectionately riffs on silver-age staples. I think it's because Waid just has a grasp on the material here that's infinitely more sound than than on FF, but I'm aware of my biases, certainly.

MICHAEL CHABON PRESENTS ADV O/T ESCAPIST #5: I never quite feel like I'm having as much fun with this book as the creators are, although this issue may have come the closest, what with two relatively strong "straight" bookending stories and the two whimsical pieces in the middle by Chaykin and Geoffrey Brown, respectively. I thought Brown's piece was pretty great, actually, with all of its obviousness somehow not deluting the charm. Good, although kinda too pricey, really, for that not to be a qualified Good.

NIGHTCRAWLER #6: "This is like something out of The Grudge." No, The Grudge was scary. This is like something out of Scooby-Doo...or the Halloween episode of The West Wing, maybe. It looks too good, and Aguirre-Sacasa is too on top of the ball as far as characterization goes, to give this an Awful, but, jesus. Why not just have him be a private detective in Hawaii while you're at it? SEVEN SOLDIERS #0: A little hard to judge it on its own merits, since I'm sure it's layered with stuff that'll pay off later, but I certainly enjoyed it. I kinda wish I hadn't already been in on the issue's central joke, but that's what I get for following the Internet (and/or Previews) too closely. Overall, Morrison has something like Kirby's ability to take bits and pieces and constantly reassemble them in surprising new arrays. And that J.H. Williams sure knows his way around a layout, don't he? Very Good stuff.

SOLO #3: Giving me Paul Pope on OMAC is like giving one of Pavlov's dogs a visit to the National Dinner Bell Convention, but I think I liked the slice of life stories even better--a little piece about that damn flying ghost they sold in comic books way back when, and a vignette about the average night of a streetcorner bar that builds and ebbs like the energy of the evening itself. This was all great stuff, and I can't wait to see Pope throw his considerable energy into a big new project. Very Good.

STRANGE #4: I think I'm beginning to see the pitch here: "I've figured out a way to make Dr. Strange even more boring!" For a guy who worked for so long in film and TV, JMS drops the ball on the drama in a really big way--not only does Strange not have to earn his redemption anymore (since he's "special") but he didn't even earn his damnation (because his evil mystical pal "corrupted" him somehow). Perhaps next issue, we can just have the guy replaced with a block of wood and be done with it. Really awful.

UNCANNY X-MEN #456: By horrifying contrast to super-dull X-Men #167, I could totally see how--if I was still twelve--this would be kinda cool. X-Men versus superheroes from a timeline where dinosaurs remained the dominant lifeform? With a cute chick in an old Wolverine costume? It's not like that absurdly over-the-top issue of Uncanny (#107) where Dave Cockrum basically threw in an entire Legion of Superheroes analogue gratis (and since I was too dumb to figure that out, it seemed like Claremont and Cockrum had access to an infinite number of great throw-away ideas) but thanks to Alan Davis, this makes me remember what that felt like, and ranks a Good for that alone. Or maybe I'm just glad for a little reprieve from all the usual psionic B&D games...

X-MEN #167: Return of the angry mutant houseboy? Can we get ACTOR to fund a team of mercs to forcibly extract Pete Milligan from L.A.? What's scary is that was far more interesting than all the other "Golgotha" stuff, which now reads like "The Naked Time" meets that first half of the Buffy season before the writers have figured out exactly what the threat is. Awful. [And super-thanks to Franklin Harris for straightening out my leaden brain as to which title's which. D'oh.]

Y THE LAST MAN #31: If you can buy the shit that you really would never buy in a million years (355 pops ninja chick three times in the chest and doesn't bother with a finishing headshot? Like hell she does!), this was pretty Good. Mighty contrived in spots, but Good.