MIA, Post #2: B&B #17, Criminal #5 &6, Coraline, Crossed

I'm back. I'm sure many of you read this in Google Reader or Bloglines, but just in case: don't let my senile meanderings cause you to miss Jog's thoughts Unknown Soldier #1, below.

This weekend, Edi and I put up these Ikea shelves in the bathroom--that woman likes her creams, and I require an inordinate amount of trimming, shaving and de-stinkifying just to maintain my typical appearance of a guy who looks like he spends the nights in bus terminals. But the walls in our bathroom are miserable wretched things--like they were constructed with the cast-offs from some third grade class's first experiements with paper mache--that the second shelf proved impossible to mount, leaving us with one embedded useless screw and one wretched screw that stuck out a sixth of an inch or so.

So, the other day while I was at work, Edi covered that with this:

From CE

And this is why although I swore long ago that I would not engage in that loathsome blogger trick of talking about how awesome my wife is, I find it occasionally unavoidable.

Reviews of what stuff I promised in that there title at top, after the jump.

BRAVE & BOLD #17: As a San Franciscan, I appreciated Phil Winslade's more-or-less accurate use of San Francisco landmarks and references. And as a comic book reader that's been reading these damn things for the majority of my life, I appreciated that Marv Wolfman is still getting work. But, holy shit, was this god-damned dull. At least in the old days of Marvel Team-Up, it'd be over in one issue. But here everyone natters on and on, and by the time we get to the set-up, the issue is over. Sub-Eh at best.

CRIMINAL #5 & #6: I like the ambiguity Brubaker is setting up here--is Jacob repressing grief, or the fact he killed his wife?--but it'll probably play out better in the trade than in the single issues because the lag allows someone as slow as me to catch up with the inferences. (I say "probably" because Brube usually has an extra twist for slow dumbasses like me who think we're on to him.)

I do worry a bit about Icognito killing off the momentum Criminal has been working toward, and, depending on how the current arc, "Bad Night" wraps up, I might write more about what I think is unique about Criminal, and why it'd be a shame if that happened. But now's probably too soon for that, so lemme just mention how consistently entertaining the back matter is, and how much it gives extra value to the singles.

It seems to me that the most 'successful' alternative books on the market (this, Walking Dead, Fell, and Powers) have, at the very least, a substantial letters page and, at most, an extra dash of bonus materials like essays and art. I can't say it's the only reason why I'm still picking up the singles instead of waiting for the trades for all those titles, but it's certainly a contributing factor. Considering part of the thinking on the part of creators is that it's also cheaper than paying an artist for the extra four or five pages (although they can if the particular issue calls for it), I'm really at a loss why the mainstream books don't have bring these back on a more consistent basis.

Anyway, this arc is on that cusp between highly Good and Very Good, depending on where it pans out and how you feel about smartly done genre material.

CORALINE: Neil Gaiman seems like a sweetheart of a fellow and, when considered purely at the line-by-line quality of his work, is certainly one of the best writers to ever work in comics. But I've always found him a tremendous puss of a storyteller: I bailed on Sandman long before its finale because he seemed to regard the idea of catharsis the way a hemophiliac regards a rooomful of scissors.

I'm sure this is because I missed the point of the whole Sandman blah-blah-blah, but I gave it something like forty full issues before giving up and in that whole time (along with 1602 and The Eternals), I felt I was watching bout after bout by a boxer I knew would always take a fall in the fifth. With the possible exception of Mr. Punch, in which Gaiman uses his reluctance to nicely sketch the limits to which children can understand the business of adults and the way in which what lurks beyond those limits becomes haunting myth, I'm not sure if there was anything of Gaiman's longer work I've truly enjoyed: liked, yeah, but never loved.

All of which is my fucked-up and backhanded way of saying I think the novel Coraline may be the best thing Gaiman's ever done. His essential foppishness serves children's stories well: knowing in advance that the end result of such stories is usually the return of the status quo--hair mussed and shirt untucked, maybe, but really no worse for wear--gives a writer who finds the prospect of truly violent or disturbing resolutions uninteresting or vulgar, license to break out all the considerable tricks they've never gotten around to using, safe in the knowledge they'll have no true repercussions in the story.

And so Gaiman's story of a bored little girl who finds a secret door to the abandoned flat next door and finds her Other Mother--delightful meal in hand and buttons sewn over each eye--welcoming her into a strange world eager to entertain, is genuinely creepy but also genuinely witty. When Coraline asks one of the characters of the other world if Other Mother truly loves her, the character thinks for a moment and then replies, "Yes, or maybe she's just hungry."

If you're like me and have never been able to hop on the Gaiman love train as it choo-choos every few years or so around the tiny toy kingdom of comics fandom, try giving Coraline a read. I found it really Very Good stuff.

CROSSED #1: To further give you reason to doubt my critical judgment, I liked this first issue more than Jog (or, well, anyone else I read on the Net, for that matter). Mind you, I liked it better before I found out there was an issue #0 that apparently sets everything up, and I kinda hope there's a later issue that lays things out so I don't feel like an asshole for assuming that in picking up a book labeled as #1, I'd be getting the first part of the damn thing.

Um, other than that, what can I say now that it's been several weeks since I read it? I guess it's very easy to conclude from reading the issue that, if you identify at all with the guy who plays Magic: The Gathering and/or have ever harbored any heroic fantasies whatsoever, Garth Ennis hates you. I can't really say for sure that's the case, but I found it refreshing that not only did Ennis put it right out on the table but he didn't draw out the rather violent repercussions of his contempt: whatever else is going to happen in the next eight or so issues, it's not going to be the awful end of Magic The Gathering guy. That's already out of the way.

And for what it's worth, considering the narrator talks about an ex-marine having more or less the same fantasy and coming to more or less the same end, and considering ex-military dudes are the standard choice of Ennis protagonist, I think there's a very good case to be made the gruesome end of Fanboy and his family isn't Ennis ladling on the hate (or just ladling on the hate, if you prefer): like Richard Laymon and a generation of splatterpunk horror writers (well, the ones that weren't just horrible gore fetishists who'd read too much Harlan Ellison, anyway), Ennis is curious to see what remains once all heroic fantasy is stripped from the core of horror fiction. Hopefully, he'll have more to find there than titties and rape fantasies. (If ever there was an author whose oeuvre made a convincing case for the chemical castration of horror authors--and I'm sure he was probably a lovely, lovely guy--it was Richard Laymon.)

Before my knowledge of the zero issue, I thought this was Good. Now, I'd give it an OK. If you are anything like everyone else on the Internet, you will probably disagree.

Tomorrow: Ghost Rider #27, Hellcat #2, and (maybe) the first two issues of Marvel Apes.