Today's Special: Jeff's Reviews of Last Week's Books!

Man. I originally wrote half these reviews back on Saturday, and the other half yesterday (should be pretty able to tell which is which, as my memory of Friday's books diminished tremendously by Tuesday--I may actually refer to Batman as "you know, what's his dude with the ears" at a few points) when I thought that Hibbs would either post by Tuesday night or not at all. Of course, as these things work, I have no doubt he'll post all of his reviews fifteen minutes after I do. He should; we disagreed a lot this week. Anyway, we appreciate your patience and hopefully we'll refine this thing a little better as time goes on, but for now:

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #642: I was so relieved this issue didn’t follow the format of the previous issues (Superman flashing back to an unlikely fight with some heavy duty villain, events spiraling out of control, revelation that Superman has done something bad) it took me at least, I dunno, five minutes before the nagging questions set in: What does that cover have to do with anything? Why have those first two parts in there at all, being as they show an utterly different form of mind control from what we see here? Is this anything other than a cynical attempt to sell more books and, in particular, for Greg Rucka to boost sales of Wonder Woman? Considering such questions, I’ll drop this into the Awful ranks.

ASTONISHING X-MEN #11: Hibbs had some very valid complaints, but I liked it a lot. Interestingly, the thing that shouldn’t have worked (mortally wounded X-Men are all peachy keen by page 8 or so) did work for me because of the four-month delay in issues: after Hibbs pointed it out, I was like, “Oh, right. Mortally wounded. Yeah, that’s kinda pat, ennit?” Mainly, I just liked Professor X going all action movie on our asses in a way I found pretty believable. But maybe I’m just fatally infected with “Oooo, pretty pictures!” syndrome in this case. A solid Good.

AUTHORITY REVOLUTION #10 (OF 12): Don’t see the point in bitching about this yet again, but I wanted to point out the odd synchronicity between this and Rucka’s “Sacrifice” arc. There, Max Lord has Superman under his control and uses him to beat the shit out of Batman. Here, Henry Bendix has control over Midnighter and is going to use him to beat the shit out of Apollo. After the Red Hood/Winter Soldier thing, it makes me wonder if Brubaker is either incredibly prescient, or the kind to go jot notes after a big editorial meeting. Either way, I still thought this was relatively Awful.

BATGIRL #66: This is where I differ from the creative team: I would prefer sixteen pages of Cassandra meeting a boy and taking a chance on romance, and two pages of senseless fight scenes with a pig-faced biker guy and gratuitous OMAC, rather than vice-versa. Eh.

CONAN #18: Wow, really terrific. John Severin was the perfect choice for a grimly humorous one-shot by Busiek called “The Helm.” I can see why matching it with the darkly funny “Conan’s Favorite Joke” by Bruce Timm seemed like a good idea at the time, but I think they’d be much stronger presented separately. The pieces diminish each other. But still, a high Very Good for this issue.

DAREDEVIL #75: Bendis’ characterization of Matt Murdock has always been one of the strengths of this run, and his scenes talking to the members of the group were great, and that Alex Maleev art makes the whole thing go down pretty smooth. But am I the only one who thinks the Ninja demon baby was utterly unnecessary, a glib way to counterbalance the episodic structuring of the format? And what the hell do Ninja demon babies have to do with The Ten Commandments anyway? I’m a little unclear on all ten of the commandments (Bendis may be as well, since I think we only got six or seven) but I don’t think “Thou Shalt Not Conjure Ninja Demon Babies” ended up replacing “Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Ass” recently. Good, sure, but kind of a shame it wasn’t great.

DAY OF VENGEANCE #4: Haven’t read an issue since #1, and I get the impression that, since it’s opening with the origin of Detective Chimp, there may have been a certain loss of narrative steam along the way. Willingham seems pretty okay jamming in the editorially mandated Spectre and Eclipso stuff but really cares more about his magical misfits team, and I guess that’s fine. (It’s no migraine-in-the-making like Rann Thanagar War, that’s for sure) But this feels, as corporately mandated product often does, like a collection of bits and pieces incapable of working smoothly together. Although, since I didn’t bother with #2 or #3, I could be completely off-base in that feeling. OK.

DEFENDERS #1: Kinda knocked me on my ass to realize that Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire are doing their Justice League thing with The Defenders, and both Giffen and DeMatteis have both been involved in memorable work on The Defenders previously (for those of us who remember The Defenders anyway: Giffen’s work on the Scorpio/Zodiac storyline is still probably my favorite Defenders stuff, ever). They’ve done a pretty good job re-inventing themselves over the years, those guys. The work itself was a very high OK, not great: as usual, the trump card is Maguire and his winning way with body language (maybe a little too pat here, actually) and illustration. Still, I liked it.

DETECTIVE COMICS #808: I’m hopelessly lost as far as this storyline and am now officially waiting for the trade. Sad to admit, but there it is.

EX MACHINA #13: Liked all of it but for the crazy vet in the jury room scene which I did not like at all: Ex Machina is a book that frequently reminds me of good episodic television, particularly because blunders like these read like bad episodes of good episodic television. (“Then, on an all-new E.R.: Jury duty goes horribly wrong for John Carter as a Gulf War veteran makes an impossible request! Then, stay up for Carrottop on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno!”) So, OK.

EXILES #67: Is doing a good job keeping my interest from issue to issue (particularly as the sort of old school Marvel guy happy to see Red Ronin again), but I’m hoping a long-range hook (to replace the one they solved) gets put in place soon. A high OK.

GIRLS #3: Very much a drag that scenes of attacking naked chicks hatched from eggs seem more believable than a lot of the behavior on the part of the main characters. The ultra-small town setting also rings false to me, too. Seems like sophomore slump to me. Eh.

GOON #13: Another great issue. Everybody’s buying this, right? Please go buy this. Very Good.

HOUSE OF M #4: Another issue of House of Meh: again, if it’d been issue #2, would have been more or less keen. None of it really makes sense if you think about it for more than a second, though, and the Layla character seems lamely convenient unless Bendis has got a further twist with her, which I believe he does. Eh.

INCREDIBLE HULK #84: My preferred House of M crossover book, although, again, there’s a certain “don’t care” factor to it since so little seems to be at stake. But I like it so much better than David’s initial return arc, I can’t even begin to tell you. A very high OK.

JSA CLASSIFIED #1: Amanda Conner’s work knocks me out. I would be a less-than-diligent fanboy if I didn’t point out that her expressive, vulnerable interpretation of Power Girl (and Johns’ obvious awareness of who he’s scripting for) doesn’t quite gibe with her previous characterization in JSA (where her stoicism keeps her from being quite so open) but I don’t really care. If you do, you won’t agree when I say this was pretty Good.

LOVE & ROCKETS VOL 2 #14: Lately, Gilbert Hernandez continually crafts scenes in which I can never fully believe, and yet they’re of such a consistent worldview I wonder if maybe he just lives in a very different plane of reality than anything I’ve seen—or maybe his overarching goal is to bullshit reality itself into behaving the way he portrays it. Either way, it’s never less than fascinating to me. But this issue, it’s Jaime’s Hopey work that knocked me on my ass: even though my points of shared experience with Maggie and Hopey are few, the feeling of life as it’s lived—particularly mid-life, with its excitements and disappointments made appealingly small by accrued wisdom, and the twinned dread and pleasure at being able to watch life go by (it might be leaving you behind, but you’re certainly getting a much better view as it does)—seemed utterly genuine and moving to me. I thought it was Excellent.

MARVEL KNIGHTS SPIDER-MAN #16: Again, those retro pages were pretty awesome, and the rest of this didn’t rankle as much as the first three issues, but it’s still just a big ol’ waste of time. An indifferent Eh.

PLASTIC MAN #17: The endless teenage carnage was pretty hilarious—every time I was sure it would be over Baker would throw in another three pages. Then the actual story started and I kinda lost interest. Really, really slight for the money but if they were Archie Digest sized, and Archie Digest priced, I’d much prefer kids were reading this. OK.

RED SONJA #1: I don’t know, man. Now that the horse is dead, I don’t really have as much interest as I did by, say, midway through the issue. Really. OK, I guess.

SIMPSONS COMICS #108: Dixon’s script is pretty ballsy, with the characters much edgier than I’ve seen them in some time (although keep in mind I haven’t watched the show in two seasons) but maybe it was still a little too edgy. It was funny, but it wasn’t particularly witty, I think. Or maybe I just got my liberal pink panties in a bunch, I can’t tell. OK.

TEEN TITANS #26: Kinda like reading either of the first two issues of “Sacrifice,” but better because there was a point. Highly OK.

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #80: Excelsior, True Believer! Brian Bendis Back on Ball! Or at least this had that blend of a classic scenario going in unexpected directions that originally made this book so interesting. I’m hoping this will continue to hold up. Very highly OK.

ULTIMATES 2 #7: See, Bendis? That’s how you kill Hawkeye. I didn’t even like this version of the character and I thought that was pretty cool. Good.

WOLVERINE #30: Pretty well out of gas, I’m sorry to say. How many times in this run has Millar pulled the “Don’t you see? Now x is on his way to kill y! And it’s too late to do anything!” card? Three times? Maybe four? And way too much time with The X-Men talking about how scary it is to have Logan around—isn’t this the penultimate issue of the arc? Ancient devil lady died an even lamer death than Hawkeye (Avengers Hawkeye not Ultimates Hawkeye) so we could get whining X-Men? Where’s the stuff that made this book great, like the shark fucking? Last issue better have Wolverine fucking some more sharks or I’ll be deeply disappointed. Eh.

There. Just in time to hit the new comics! See you, hopefully, much earlier next week.