Reviewing and Beta Testing at the same time: Graeme does 2/20 comics

Well, my lesson from Wondercon was “Never believe anything Bill Willingham says.” What was yours?

Also, it's time to test some exciting new potential technology. If all goes well, you'll have to click through to read my reviews for this week. If it doesn't, then I'll have to fix that later somehow... (If it does work, it's all Kate's doing, by the way).

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #551: This really has settled into a strange middle ground, in terms of quality; it’s always just Okay, but in a weirdly comforting way, as if it wouldn’t make sense for it to be any better than that and on a mostly-weekly basis. Marc Guggenheim seems more self-conscious about the retro tone of the book (Those narrative introductions to each of his issues are just the wrong side of annoyingly smug parody), but he really does his best to make it work. Sal Larocca’s art has almost been good as well, but really, I’m just waiting to see the Marcos Martin issues that’ve just been solicited at this point…

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #10: Here’s hoping that the rumors of the removal of Mark Waid from this series are wrong, or at least miss out some kind of “and then he gets given a book called Mark Waid’s Awesome Superhero Book Where He Can Do Whatever He Wants” qualifier. Yet again, this is a wonderfully solid, simple reminder of not only why these characters are awesome (Superman traveling through time as if it isn’t such a big deal? That’s the kind of Superman I want to read more of), but how well done short stories can be – the disguised anthology format that the last couple of issues have taken on have been Very Good, and I could happily read this kind of thing for a long time, thank you very much.

HULK #2: I wanted to dislike this much more than I did, I have to admit. Especially when it came to that “Oh, the humanity!” page (which, by the way, what the fuck?). But… I don’t know. Maybe it was a moment of weakness, maybe it was the “Hey, Rick Jones isn’t the Hulk after all… he’s the new Abomination! Called A-Bomb!” reveal, maybe it was Ed McGuinness doing big and bold art again… I just bought into the sheer dumb action of this much more than I had the first issue. It’ll never be the kind of comic that will make you think, but it’s a Hulk comic – maybe smashing and beating up on Iron Man is all you need from that, really. A guilty, but genuine, Good.

THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST: ORSON RANDALL AND THE GREEN MIST OF DEATH: Whereas this was… Okay, and disappointingly so, at that. Perhaps my brain got mixed up and my usual Matt Fraction love got transferred to Jeph Loeb this week, because this seemed like a hastily put-together, familiar story that didn’t have the usual spark that the book has had in the past. The art was uneven, as well; Dragotta/Allred and Russ Heath provided something with personality, while Lewis LaRosa and Mitch Breitweiser’s work was sluggish and generic in comparison. Every now and again, I feel like I screwed up in reading a book because I disliked it, and this is one of those books – Was it really as disappointing as I felt, or should I take another look at it?

JENNA JAMESON'S SHADOW HUNTER #1: This book, meanwhile, was just plain Crap. It’s actually not as crap as it could’ve been, because of the serviceable art and nice coloring, but the plot is generic and the scripting horrific. The worst part about the whole thing, though, is that it’s just bad; I’d wanted something so bad that I could laugh at it, or rant about it, or have some reaction beyond “Well, that sucked.” What has the world come to if I can’t even say that about a Jenna Jameson comic?

MIGHTY AVENGERS #9: Okay, I get that comics are a visual medium and all, but holy motherfreakin’ spit (as Luke Cage would probably say), this book was so lightweight as to almost be insubstantial. Page after page after page of silent double-page spreads of the Avengers fighting generic bad guys, followed by an almost-silent struggle between Iron Man and Doctor Doom that made both of them seem like the most boring comic characters ever created, add up to an issue that felt less like Brian Michael Bendis was thinking “I’m going to give Mark Bagley a chance to shine” – especially because, well, he doesn’t, here. He’s never been the kind of artist who excels in the busy punching that this issue demands from him, and his double-page spreads are just confusing to the eye, with no dynamism or excitement coming from them – but was, instead, rushing to get the issue finished superfast because of a bet or something. That feeling is added to by the plot, which is literally this: “The Avengers attack Dr. Doom’s castle. Iron Man wrestles Dr. Doom, and in the process, accidentally activates a time machine, throwing both of them back in time. The end.” With a lack of dialogue (or, for that matter, any kind of writerly polish) on top of that bare plot – seriously, this review may have more words in it than there are in the dialogue of the entire issue – the whole thing stands out as much more hacked-out than either of the creators involved normally produce. Really, terribly Awful.

THE SPIRIT #14: Aaaaaaand with the addition of a new creative team, the series suddenly reads like the Will Eisner grave-robbing that we were all worried about in the first place. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the book as such, but there’s no reason for it to exist – the story isn’t particularly entertaining, it’s not particularly stylish (in fact, coming after the Darwyn Cooke issues, it’s almost embarrassingly dull), and it feels as if the only reasons it exists are copyright-related. Eh.

Coming tomorrow: Doctor Who! Project Superpowers #1, which has the strangest corporate synergy that I’ve seen in quite some time! And some other books that I’ll probably not have time to read because I bought four Essentials phone books at the convention and currently think that it’s the early 1980s right now (“Dazzler? For $10! I’ll take it!” Oh dear...)