Tagged Back In: Jeff's Reviews of 01/18 Comix...

It's kinda great being able to take a few weeks off without the site lying fallow. I'd like to say I did something meaningful with that time away, but me and the missus took in a couple of movies, I made my way through some of the sale books I picked up, and I followed just about every slothful urge as it occurred to me. T'was nice. Anyway, back to inflicting my opinions on everyone. But, first, if you haven't read Bri's latest Tilting at Windmills, you should check it out because it's an amazingly concise discussion of what the immediate challenges are for the direct market and an impressively open-minded explanation of how things got the way they are. Great stuff.

And but so:

ACTION COMICS #835: Some annoyingly cheap plot twists (the chick struck by lightning is the sibling of the psycho holding Lois hostage? And knows what he's up to? That's mighty goddam convenient, isn't it?) and art by Byrne that's dashed off makes me wonder if this was a hasty rewrite or done around the time G.S. & J.B. found out they'd gotten axed. I also presume I'm not the only one who can't tell if this was Livewire's first appearance outside of the Superman: The Animated Series context or not. Sub-Eh, although not Awful as much as a letdown.

ALL STAR SUPERMAN #2: I was pretty meh about the first issue but this was almost absurdly great, despite a glitch or two in the storytelling. (The mysterious room Lois sees has almost no drama or menace in its intial presentation, for example.) I still think, like the first issue, Morrison derives some drama from playing with long-term reader's expectations of what various relationships would be but this time, Thank God, that's not where all the drama--or the delight--comes from. The only other thing I'd want from the rest of this run would be answers to some of Lois's questions about Superman's dual identity--paranoid or not, they were pretty decent ones, I thought. This is right at the top of the Very Good rating--go get it, if you haven't already.

BIRDS OF PREY #90: I'm not sure if I followed the story as closely as I should, but I was so happy to get a genuine upbeat ending, I didn't mind. And if it also manages to be the last time we see Batman in the title, all the better. A high Good.

EX MACHINA #17: Oy, this book. "The morning after" scene was too coy, and then we get a see-through nightie scene eight pages later that seemed kinda anachronistic and unnecessary--as with other issues, the tone just seems all over the map. But the dramatic hook of a mayor trying to enforce a stance of impartiality in which he doesn't really believe is very sound stuff, one more likely to bring me back next issue than the actual cliffhanger. OK.

FLASH #230: Wow, that just sucked in a mighty big way. It sucked so much that not only will I look on another Joey Cavaleri-written book with suspicion, I'll probably feel the same way about a book edited by Cavaleri. Maybe he actually knows how to tell a story, but he didn't bother to try even a little. What a way to end a book. Crap.

FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD SPIDER-MAN #4: I quite like the team of David and Weiringo and couldn't care less about the crossover they're participating in. (When did Spider-Man become so god-damn, I dunno, solipsistic? It's bad enough that one of his archenemies is a former set of laundry, but now we have to deal with a bunch of the spiders/man, as well? I mean, sure, The Vulture sucks, but jeeezis....) So this issue is pretty much a wash. A very well-done wash, but an eh-worthy wash, nonetheless.

GREEN LANTERN #7: I can't really hate on a story that brings back those awesome flowers from Alan Moore's Superman Annual, but once they turned up in the story, you knew was only a matter of time before they ended up on our heroes' chests. An OK issue, but like of a lot of Johns' recent work, seems a bit too rushed to really live up to its potential. We'll see where it goes next issue.

HELLBLAZER #216: Fuck, I really wanted to read this, and forgot to pick it up. Here's hoping Graeme McHarshypants does reviews this week...

INCREDIBLE HULK #91: The only unpredictable element of this story was it being even more dull than I thought it would. And I would've been much, much happier if the supership had blindly 'ported to another galaxy to escape being destroyed and taken Hulk with him. It would've been hackneyed but not nearly as dumb as Fury's "I'm such a bad ass I'll destroy someone who's finally become a potential ally" maneuver. Awful.

INFINITE CRISIS #4: A lot of big events happen (maybe too many, in fact) resulting in a very enjoyable pageturner that works great if you don't think about any of it too hard. I especially liked Superboy of Earth-Prime going all Kid Miracleman on everyone's ass (never trust anyone from Earth-Prime, that's my motto!) even if nobody bit it but Teen Titans from Dan Jurgen's run (I think maybe even Dan Jurgens himself gets ripped in half, I don't quite remember). And I admire the moxie in proferring the Psycho-Pirate as a possible out for all of the The Big Three's out-of-character behavior, and then not taking it. About as newbie friendly as a Black Mass, but Very Good stuff.

LEGION OF SUPER HEROES #13: Weirdly, I like the little stuff in this title so much more than the big uber-epic stuff. That illustrated letter page, for example? Pure gold. Good.

LITTLE STAR #6: I'll be really interested to see how the trade of this holds up--each individual issue was stellar (not a bad unintentional pun, if I do say so myself) but I don't know if the entire story might feel a bit too slight. I'll have to wait to see (because I'm too lazy to dig up all the individual issues now) but this is certainly a lovely and minimalistic work taken on its own. Very Good.

PLANETARY #24: This may well be one of those books well-served by long publishing delays. Because of them, I tend to take every thing the writer tells as something that's already been shown and since forgotten by me. The scene of Snow telling Jakita why she isn't his daughter felt very poignant, but maybe that's because I don't really remember the whole thing with Snow and Jakita's mother? Maybe there's some sort of extra suspension of disbelief storytellers get from readers when readers admit they're unwilling to dig through four longboxes to find the last nine or ten issues and will just take the storyteller's word on everything? Or maybe this is Very Good? Probably a little bit of both, I think.

SCHIZO #4: This could have been a fucking amazing comic and I'm really bummed that it wasn't. I could overlook (a) the high price; (b) the awkward format; and (c) the high ratio of strips-I'd-already-seen to strips-I-hadn't if Brunetti hadn't been so coy with the underlying theme; that of a miserable person obsessed with comics, women, misery and art who is somehow able to find the possibility of transcendence. (I keep thinking that one deconstructed comic strip is a brilliant formalist meditation on how a depressed person fixates on a singular event to deepen the depression, and the construction of the strip is an conscious acknowledgmeent of that fixation and so constitutes the beginning of constructing a new undepressed persona (and/or comic strip) but I think that's only just because I really want it to be so.)

Okay, so maybe Brunetti himself doesn't know if it was the paxil, or the meditation, or a new love that gave him a new lease on life--fair enough. But what's particularly frustrating is that Ivan Brunetti, a man not previously known for anything remotely like discretion--whose very brilliance previously resided in his absolute ability to explore misery far beyond where most would turn away and detail his discoveries with that hilarious lack of discretion--decides to exercise tasteful restraint (on behalf of his new wife, his job, his beautiful ex-girlfriend) precisely where we need it the least. The previous Schizos were ultra-dense affairs that explained quite precisely how the rest of the world was, at the very least, an equal co-conspirator in creating and maintaining Brunetti's unending misery. This issue of Schizo is a lovely and vacant affair that doesn't explain why or when the artist decided to let the rest of the world off the hook, and that leads me to suspect Brunetti hasn't let the rest of the world off--he's just realized he's got a better chance of being happy if he shuts up about it. And again, fair enough. But in that case, the book is too big, too expensive, has too many reprints, and I'm kinda pissed. Eh.

SEVEN SOLDIERS MISTER MIRACLE #3: I really wanted to follow up on that frustratingly one-sided review where Hibbs made it sound like I thought West Side Story was brilliant because of the New York gangs mileu and not the music. (And maybe also explain where most people writing Mr. Miracle go wrong with the character.) But this issue overshadowed all of that old stuff. Mister Miracle probably end up being the least liked of all the miniseries by everyone but me, and I'm okay with that. But I was skeeved out by this in a very good way and I'll be curious if the last issue is able to present the updated light side of Kirby's Fourth World saga as convincingly as they nailed the dark side. Man, I really, really hope so because this was as depressing as fuck. Up in the Good range.

SGT ROCK THE PROPHECY #1: Kubert can still draw an arresting image (his style was so pared down, it's much more impervious to age than that of his contemporaries) but the Kanigher era cornballery (when I saw the puppy on page one, I groaned aloud) is really, really far from our era's current post-Private Ryan take on WWII. Didn't work for me, unfortunately, but I liked looking at it. Eh.

SIMPSONS COMICS #114: Clever but not nearly close to the Boothby watermark. Really tried, though, and with a stronger ending to the main story might have really wowed me. OK.

TESTAMENT #2: A letdown after a surprisingly interesting first issue in that the Biblical parallels are a lot more forced and the current day situation gets a lot more fuzzy--what was happening to the kids at the end there? And there's a pretty big difference between Lot saving an angel sent to him by God and some kids saving a bum they see manhandled out their window even though it seems superficially similar. For example, superficially, this almost reads like a Jack Chick comic, except Jack Chick comics aren't boring and so they're really not the same at all, you see? Eh.

TRANSFORMERS INFILTRATION #1: Infiltrate what, a car show? I didn't read it to find out, unfortunately.

WALKING DEAD #25: Again with the lousy cliffhanger, but at least the rest of it seems back on track and highly readable. Good.

X-STATIX PRESENTS DEAD GIRL #1: I don't know if it's true or not, but it always seemed with Milligan and Allred's X-Force that Allred's genuine affection for the characters kept Milligan's genuine irreverance for the characters at bay. And maybe that'll be true in future issues, but for the most part, I read this going, "Yeah, yeah, Dr. Strange, you think he's sily. Got it." It was pretty great seeing Tyke again, though: bitching in death just as much as he ever did in life. Despite my crankiness, I'll call it OK.

PICK OF THE WEEK: All-Star Superman #2, no question. But there's plenty of good stuff out there this week.






PICK OF THE WEAK: Also, no question: Flash #230. Horribly lazy check-cashing on everyone's part.

TRADE PICK: Not really a trade but ends up listed there: The Comics Journal #273. Interviews with Eddie Campbell and Junko Mizuno? Fuck, yes! Also, I have to admit, Heidi's review of Dragon Head (and maybe also a positive word earlier from Bryan Lee O'Malley somewhere on the Web?) got me so amped up, I went out at lunch to bookstore and bought the puppy rather than waiting for Hibbs to order it. (Sorry, Bri.) It's a creepy and intense pageturner and I'm digging it.