The Pilgrim Dilemma (and other things unrelated to Jeff's reviews of 05/17 Books...)

Sorry, 52: this week's release of Scott Pilgrim Vol. 3 is the first book in a long while that would make me hurry to the shop on a Wednesday. In fact, only the dread logic of "the sooner I read Vol. 3 of Scott Pilgrim, the longer I have to wait for Vol. 4" is keeping me from showing up before the store opens on Wednesday and filching my copy. (Hmmm. "Filching." That's another word deviant sex practices have ruined forever. Edi and I are rewatching Season Two of Arrested Development (which even on a second viewing is astonishingly funny) and the writers may have included every gay innuendo in the English language except "filching." With luck, that's in season three.)

Wrote a few reviews yesterday, but they read like gibberish. However, since nobody else is posting and some of last week's books also read like gibberish (yes, I'm looking at you, Superman/Batman #25), I'll give it another shot, with the caveat that I'm not responsible for anyone who mambo dogfaces in the banana patch, yes? Let's to it.

52 WEEK #2: Liked it better this week, and the home game version of 52, "Who wrote what this issue?" is fun to play with your favorite cranky chum. (I thought Morrison wrote the Morrow and Magnus scene which was great, but Hibbs assured me it was Waid. The ensuing recounting of our respective reasoning was, I think, pretty fucking amusing but far too profane to be mentioned here.) And thank god Montoya did what the Question asked and showed up at that warehouse--having a scene in the third issue where the Question popped out of an underwear model's vagina hollering "Who ARE you?" might have been a little too much. Highly OK, but not out of the woods yet.

ALL STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN THEBOY WONDER #4: I can't quite parse my feelings about this in any clever way so lemme try an analogy. Let's say I started showing up to work at Comix Experience without pants and Hibbs didn't fire me. So who would blame me for continuing to show up without pants? In fact, who would blame me if I decided to start teabagging customers whenever they bent down for a comic book?

Change "me" to "Frank Miller," "showing up to work at Comix Experince without pants and Hibbs didn't fire me" to "turning in the Dark Knight Strikes Again and being asked to do All-Star Batman" and I think my analogy becomes clear. And as long as I'm not the one getting teabagged, ASSB&RTBW is hilarious.

I mean, Jog, a.k.a. King Sensible, posts why the gatefold here was inferior to a smilar earlier use in Shaolin Cowboy. And while he's probably more or less right, I have to admit: I laughed out loud when they did it here, in part because that fucking gatefold just...kept...unfolding. I also laughed both times at Superman running(!) at superspeed across the ocean, looking like a Don Martin character drawn by Jim Lee. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I hope Miller pushes this approach even further although the possible bar-lowering effects it might have on Miller's future superhero work gives me pause. (Or is it that merely the strange sensation of something unexpected resting on my forehead?) Good in a "burning your heroes in effigy can be fucking hilarious" kind of way.

ANNIHILATION NOVA #2: Or, issue #2 of Everyone Hates Nova. It's not a bad book--the creators are very clued in to Giffen's wit, so there are some amusing moments here and there, and the story is cohesively focused on character driven drama in a way a lot of today's Marvel comics only pretend to be. But considering everyone in the book seems to have open contempt for Nova (including Nova!), I just can't help but feel the creators would rather be plying their ultra-competent skills on just about anyone else. OK.

AQUAMAN SWORD OF ATLANTIS #42: Jeezis, that whole "No, I'm not Aquaman, I just have the same name and look like him but I'm a totally different guy" thing is really dragging down the forward momentum on this book. And each issue has more characters from the DCU for Arthur to explain himself to, so I assume the grand conclusion of the arc will be Arthur meeting the Justice League and explaining to each individual member, "No, I'm not Aquaman, I just have the same name and look like him but I'm a totally different guy." A real shame, because the underwater Conan/ERB scenes are very enjoyable. OK, but let's get a move on, huh?

BATMAN YEAR ONE HUNDRED #4: I didn't review any of these issues because (if I'm remembering correctly) issue #1 came out when I was in Argentina and I was always an issue behind. But now that it's at the end, please let me recommend this fine Paul Pope miniseries. Compared to most of Pope's work, it's very one note--imagine that issue of Batman: Year One where the cops are hunting Batman in that bombed out building and multiply it by four--but he plays that note incredibly well. If you like to see Batman punching cops, you'll really like this mini. And if you like to see Paul Pope punch up his pacing and design to prove he's capable of turning out a technically accomplished thriller, you'll also really like this mini. Very Good stuff.

CONAN #28: The closest we're ever going to get to a Will Eisner issue of Conan, what with the story being Kurt Busiek's tribute to Robert E. Howard's life and with Eric Powell's expressive, character driven linework. Sadly, however, this issue reminded me of Eisner at his most schmaltzy: the poor dreamer who saves everyone is remembered by the village where he grew up as a coward and a fool, and only the people who know better are aware of how his his power and his talent saved them all. It's well-intentioned and clever, to be sure, but I found it blucky and, at its core, emotionally dishonest. Eh.

FELL #5: Ellis promised us a whiz-bang interrogation room scene last issue and I think he and Templesmith delivered. I'm not sure I bought all of Fell's emotional beats--I feel like Ellis can't decide whether Fell is a nice guy who can be a fucker when he needs to or a fucker who comes across like a nice guy than he really is--but all the body language stuff was fascinating and the simple drama of the situation worked for me. Very Good.

MAN-BAT #2: Shit, is Bruce Jones ripping off the Leopard Man again? Now that I think about it, this whole miniseries is just going to be one big rip-off of that film (creature on the loose is blamed for rash of murders that turn out instead to be the work of a demented serial killer), isn't it? One of the few times I've ever wished there was an afterlife, if only so Cornell Wilde, Ardel Wray, Jacques Tourneur and Val Lewton can deliver the eternal beatdown Bruce Jones so richly deserves. Awful.

MANHUNTER #22: Well, it's off to the quarter bins I go--I found the first One Year Later issue compelling (although not really enough to read the second issue, I admit it) and I dug this issue, too. With its emphasis on humor and the interaction of a wide supporting cast, this book kinda reminds me of She-Hulk, and also of Marvel books from the '70s where the narrative was kept aloft by the buoyancy of all the subplots. Oh sure, it's too late now but I thought this was highly OK and will be kinda sorry to see it go.

MARVEL ADVENTURES AVENGERS #1: Last week, I vowed to read Jeff Parker's all-ages work for Marvel. This week, I vow to continue to do long as it's not Avengers. Admittedly, this is probably not Parker's fault as just about everything about this issue screamed "revised pitch for our animation department" from the set-up of an endless number of robot enemies for future Saturday morning bash-ups to the incredibly weird line-up (you can all but hear the Ted Knight voice intone: "Popular person! Black person! Other popular person! Iconic person! Female person! These are...The Avengers!") Sub-Eh, but sadly that's pretty much all anyone expects of Marvel's all-ages line so, I dunno, maybe it actually should be rated higher or something.

MARVEL LEGACY 1970S HANDBOOK: As you can imagine, for an old school Marvel fanboy like myself, this was pure chewing satisfaction. Pretty much an excuse to show off some great covers and make some easy and amusing cheap shots at some of the sillier Marvel concepts or dangling plot threads left dangling to this day. (As the only remaining fan on the planet of Skull The Slayer, I was delighted to see an entry on Slithicus or whatever the hell his name was). Expensive for such cheap thrills, but I enjoyed it. Very much OK.

MOON KNIGHT #2: Last issue's ultra slow-mo action sequence had that neat little reversal at the end but this one didn't even do that--it just dragged things out. Far from horrible--I like Finch's art and Huston's convinced me that he gets the character--but next issue better get things out of first gear or we're in trouble. OK.

SUPERMAN BATMAN #25: If these had shipped on time...if we'd gotten twenty-five issues of this title in just a hair over two years, I probably would be lauding this run for being a fun, dumb ride (like I did when I reviewed the first five or so issues). But this was a fucking mess, a script apparently hacked out between conference calls and or waiting for the restaurant valet to get the Lexis, that also had the gall to congratulate itself on its many "accomplishments." Really, really disappointing, even for fans of the nonsensical. Awful.

PICK OF THE WEEK: BATMAN YEAR ONE HUNDRED #4 was pretty cool stuff. And it all shipped on time! (I think.) Yay!

PICK OF THE WEAK: SUPERMAN BATMAN #25. Say what you will about Bruce Jones, he doesn't have the nerve (as of yet) to pass off a slice of dried out ham on moldy bread as a five star meal. But not only will Mr. Loeb, he'll also take himself the liberty of writing in a 25% tip on your bill because he found his service to be impeccable.

TRADE PICK: CASTLE WAITING HC is a tremendously gorgeous volume. But I thought it had been solicited as complete? Maybe I misunderstood. It and KRAZY & IGNATZ 1937-1938 were the only volumes that caught my fancy this week. (Well, and that awesome James Bama cover on ILLUSTRATION MAGAZINE #16, but that's not a trade, is it?)

MANGA FIX: I have a pick, but I don't really have my thoughts collected about it and it's not anything recent. Let me get back to you next week on this one.

Tomorrow: SCOTT PILGRIM! SCOTT PILGRIM! SCOTT PILGRIM! Or, alternatively, Friday. But more likely than not, tomorrow.