Prose ain't easy: Graeme's review of the 2/14 books.

As Jeff pointed out, it's a busy weekend due to Onomatopoeia deadlines and other stuff, so short reviews where I'll play nice because I'm now kind of embarrassed about the whole spider-spunk thing now, really. BATMAN #663: Well, that was... interesting. And yet, not so good. Grant Morrison, for all his strengths, overwrote the crap out of this ("The Batman feels the kind of chill that comes from stepping into deep, freezing, black water that rises rapidly around the rubs and stops the breath with a hammer blow. Some like it hot." "She's cute like a Chihuahua pup with rabies, or a baby swinging an open razor." That's just plain bad writing, Grant), managing to bury the actual plot of the story under the somewhat unreadable prose. And it's unreadable for multiple reasons - not only was the writing itself awkward and over the top, but the page design, type and illustrations all work against the readability of the text. John Van Fleet's illos are fine until they involve people, and then the computer-modelling becomes very obvious, adding to the feeling that the whole book is a well-meaning, ambitious misfire. Eh

GODLAND #16: The thing that strikes me as odd about this book is actually how unlike Kirby's work that it is - There are surface similarities, especially in the art, but it doesn't have the beautiful sense of design that Kirby's stuff had, the way that each panel led the eye perfectly into the next panel and around the page. The writing, too, reaches for a Kirby-esque sense of scale and ridiculousness (because, let's face it, the two are pretty much tied together), but then undercuts it with the self-conscious comedy and throwaway lines of dialogue that clue the reader in too much to a sense of "Hey, we know it's dumb too" that... well, kind of ruins the fun. Unlike Jeff, I wasn't too annoyed that this was a recap issue - maybe because I don't normally read the book? - but on the other hand, I didn't really read anything here that made me desperate to read the next one, so I guess that it failed as New Reader Bait. Okay for what it is, but the real New Kirby book that Image publishes is Casanova. Which, of course, I forgot to pick up this week. Because I suck.

THE PUNISHER PRESENTS BARRACUDA #1: I don't know, maybe it's my British White Guy Liberal Guilt or something, but this just made me uncomfortable. There's something that never rings true for me reading British writers in particular writing "black" dialogue like "My nigga," and I can't quite shake the feeling that the entire book exists because the creators have bought into some kind of stereotype of the Scary Black Man that they've seen in countless shitty action movies that doesn't really exist in the real world. That said, it's Okay for what it is, if you accept that it's more or less just a comic version of one of those shitty action movies, down to the improbable McGuffin plot (You have to protect the Mob Boss's son - and he's a hemophiliac!) and unfunny comedy moments (the white guys who keep getting fucked up by Barracuda without his even really noticing who they are). It's just that it worries me, for some weird reason I can't put my finger on.

THE SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN #35: Wait, so am I misreading or did this issue really spoil the cliffhanger of "Are Aunt May and/or Mary Jane about to die"? Admittedly, it's a stretch, but Peter saying "My family has been put through the wringer" is an incredibly polite way to talk about things if one of them was even near death at that point. Yes, there's that whole "they wouldn't give away something as big as a death in a throwaway line of dialogue" thing, but it would've been easier to just avoid the whole subject if spoilers were an issue. Meanwhile, this issue - which, taken on its own is Okay but nothing amazing (or even Sensational, for that matter), and suffers from Angel Medina's art - also spoils one potential candidate for the big death in next week's Civil War, much to Hibbs' chagrin; Reed Richards shows up here, alive and unharmed. Good planning, Marvel.

THUNDERBOLTS #111: I really want Brian to review books this week, because he passed this to me and said that he thought it was enjoyably sick and twisted, and I really don't see it at all - the issue is essentially a fight scene with a couple of moments to show that the characters are bad guys (Oh! Swordsman kicks a man when he's down! Gasp! Bullseye stabs someone!), and it feels very much what's expected of everyone involved. Pretty much Eh, and enough to convince me that I don't particularly want to stick around to watch talented creators phone it in to pick up a paycheck.

THUNDERBOLTS PRESENTS: ZEMO - BORN BETTER #1: Meanwhile, the previous incarnation of Thunderbolts gets to continue in this miniseries that is probably the most old-school Marvel book around right now. It's not just in the plot - The current Baron Zemo is thrown back in time and makes sure that his ancestors become power-hungry bastards - but in the execution, which shuns historical accuracy for a Roy Thomas shine that oddly enough works. It's hard to shake the feeling that this series is a consolation prize for being thrown off the main book, however, and the lack of adolescent grim and gritty tone (which makes the book more interesting to me) underscores both how depressing the majority of Marvel's current output is and also how ultimately inconsequential this series will be in Marvel's grand scheme of things; as soon as someone else wants to write "Baron Zemo rapes Aunt May and Spider-Man cries: A Marvel Comics Event in Seven Parts," this book will be officially forgotten. Okay, but sadly enough, not enough.

PICK OF THE WEEK is Casanova, even though I didn't pick it up; I just have that much faith in it. Of the ones that I did read, it's probably Godland - it was a pretty blah week, but at least Godland was fun enough. PICK OF THE WEAK is Batman, because it was such a strange choice to do it in that format, and the execution only made the choice seem more strange. TRADE OF THE WEEK would probably be the Showcase Presents Aquaman book because I loves me my seamen.

And, yes, self-referential pun intended.

Next week: Civil War #7! And, if good comics are your thing instead, Local #8 finally appears! Which side of that particular battle will you all be on, Earthlets?