Well, Whatever: Jeff's Reviews of 12/21 Books....

It's not like you have the time to read these reviews, but since I have the time to write 'em... ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #647: Perfect for the holidays since it smacks a bit of the regifting process, or so I assume: I'd think Rucka had this all plotted out long before the Countdown and IC stuff came along, so that the Ruin-ready-to-show-the-world-Superman-killing-him felt like Rucka repeating himself when he probably came up with the shtick here first (where it makes a bit more sense), and decided to run with it later. That, and some other stuff might drive me crazy in another context, but considering I enjoyed reading it: OK. And if you compare it to the other two Superman arcs that started at the same time (Lee & Azzarello, Austen & Reis), you'd probably go much higher than that.

BATMAN GOTHAM KNIGHTS #72: Very surprised by how much I liked this for several different reasons--it's one of those rare stories that would work even without the Bruce Wayne/Batman angles, but once you factor that in, it's strangely resonant: Batman's origin touches on all kinds of childhood abandonment issues so a story about whether Thomas Wayne cheated on his wife is far more evocative than, I dunno, what if he was The Crime Doctor or some such. Also since this is the title that has, frankly, shat on parts of the Batman canon, there was no guarantee there would be a pat reassuring ending. I give it a high Good, but can't guarantee you'll feel the same.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #13: Gone are the Stan Lee influenced days when characters could have their meaningful conversations while participating in all-out fight scenes which makes pacing a bitch when you're trying to craft a book that has both meaningful conversations and the slam-bang stuff. Like other Brubaker/Epting issues, the pacing is a bit jerky but I thought this issue had the best blend of exciting action sequences and interesting plot developments. Thus, Very Good.

FANTASTIC FOUR IRON MAN BIG IN JAPAN #3: A really remarkable issue, although I can't decide whether Seth Fisher's amazing art does the story an injustice. After all, Zeb Wells has crafted a story that starts with Japanese kaiju, links it to Lovecraftian Cthulhu pastiche and then takes that into Morrisonian metafictional hijinks--all of which Fisher draws with simultaneously fetishistic detail and genuinely irreverant whimsy. It's like, I dunno, watching an issue of The Invisibles enacted by Jim Henson's Muppets--it's kick-ass, for sure, but you wonder how the material might have ended up in another artist's hands. On the other hand, I guess I should just be lucky it's not Pat Lee cranking it out. Very Good stuff, and it's not like Mignola is gonna draw a four issue mini for Marvel, but still...

FRIDAY THE 13TH BLOODBATH #2: I missed the first issue and didn't realize this was issue #2. Believe it or not, that worked just fine--in fact, while reading it, I thought it was kind of audacious to drop the audience right in the middle of the formula and then explain on the run what made this different. (Joke's on me, huh?) Anyway, depending on how much you appreciate the fine line between clever and stupid, you might like this. I give it an OK, but that may be because I didn't have a first issue to belabor this issue's points.

GOON #15: I blame the impressive amount of holiday traffic as to why I didn't actually finish it--or maybe it was an abundance of dense-seeming text in those first few pages. In any event, it looks gorgeous as always, but No Rating.

GREEN LANTERN #6: Will Hibbs do reviews? I doubt it but he should because he thought Simone Biachi's art on this was exceptionally gorgeous which more than made up for a story that made little or no sense whatsoever. He really went on and on about the art--it's great to see a jaded old hand like Hibbs get well and truly excited by stuff like "the way the shadow fell on that sailor's face on pg. 2" or whatever it was. Me, I like the art okay (I prefer Van Sciver's deeply unsettling stuff, myself) but think part of the reason the story didn't make sense is Bianchi botched some basic storytelling cues. Even if he hadn't, though, Johns' approach to this series--it reads like Green Lantern: The TV Show as done by the guy who does JAG--isn't really frying my burger these days, anyway. OK, but Hibbs would tell you different.

INCREDIBLE HULK #90: I'm no physics whiz, but how is Hulk able to rip or throw anything while floating unanchored in space? I thought that would pretty much the kibosh on this for me but it since Way may pull Hulk Plot #345--"Join me, Hulk, as we are both outcasts and monsters, and together we will crush the humans who..." blah-blah-blah--and I kinda like that one, I may be around for another issue. Eh.

INFINITE CRISIS #3: Didn't think I would like this either since the first ten pages or so are all "here's what's happening in all the books" summary pages, but then there's the plot and a very strange scene between Batman and the Superman of Earth 2 that somehow moved me despite not making a lot of sense. (As Hibbs pointed out, wouldn't Batman cease to exist if he were to successfully aid Superman?) I dunno, there was something about Batman having an anxiety attack over all the emotion he's been trying to suppress for so long that got to me. And although not particularly sophisticated, this miniseries does have a genuine subtext that (almost/kinda/sorta/or-maybe-not) seems like part of a dialogue between creators and readers--and I also find that kinda cool. So, Good.

NIGHTMARE ON ELM ST PARANOID #1: Oh, so this was the first issue? Whew! Although pretty slight on the over-the-top dream sequences (a bulimic drowns in her own vomit? Ewww, and yet, also, meh), the book sticks close to a really effective conceit--as long as the parents demolish the kids' freedoms and keep 'em drugged to the gills, they're safe--that kinda nails modern day America's willingness to take away individual freedoms in order to protect "the children." Ryp's art can look goregous at times as well, so very highly OK, overall.

PVP #21: I thought the LARP storyline was a highlight of Kurtz's year, and it reads very well here. Maybe not so much with the Christmas story but this is still a solid book, highly OK, and manages to not date as poorly as I thought it would.

ROBIN #145: I gotta say--if this had been drawn by Jack Kirby, I would've loved it. Having not read the vast majority of issues in this title (and/or having been indifferent to DC books for so long), it seemed like every page of this book was filled with another new (and usually dumb) character. (Although The Jury--those twelve guys with the numbers on their masks? Frickin' sweet!) It's no way to run a railroad--or tell a good Robin story--but I found myself won over, more or less by sheer exuberance. Also highly OK.

SEVEN SOLDIERS BULLETEER #2: Wha--? And yet, Good, if only for that scene where they get the criminal to talk by breaking the fingers on his detached hand. That was genuinely hilarious.

SIMPSONS COMICS #113: "Springfield Orphanage: 'If Your Parents Were Dead, You'd Be Home By Now.'" And other stuff that made me laugh out loud. Good.

SPIDER-WOMAN ORIGIN #1: Wow, what a solid issue. It didn't get lost in endless blather, it hit more than a single storypoint in a single issue, it had some really nice old-school shout-outs (I was partial to the Miles Warren one) and the art by the Luna Brothers was clean and attractive. But it was the refreshingly concise script by Bendis that really knocked me out. Good. I'm still kinda amazed.

SULLENGRAY #2: It's people! Sullengray is people! (Actually, I didn't read this. Sullengray is probably not people. That pun just kinda jumped out at me.)

TESTAMENT #1: Failed a casual flip test--I picked it up and put it down no less than three times (but then so did The Goon, and this was while working in a comics shop two days before Christmas)--but I kept trying and got dragged in eventually. Parts of the premise and approach remind me of Promethea(which I doubt is accidental), and Liam Sharp's art is gorgeous, plus it's interesting to see DC/Vertigo, normally skittish when it comes to Christianity, publish potentially blasphemous material. But it seemed more interesting the first time when I skimmed it too fast and I thought they were portraying the God of the Old Testament as a fiery bull-headed deity. Too soon to say where it goes from here, but it's of interest, I guess. Since this is the week for it: OK.

ULTIMATE WOLVERINE VS HULK #1: Fun, if you like books where everyone is pretty much an utter bastard. Which is kinda what the Ultimate Universe is about, by and large. OK.

X-MEN DEADLY GENESIS #2: I've heard rumors that Brubaker's gonna be the next regular writer on X-Men and sincerely hope that's the case. Characters, dialogue, structure--he's got a solid handle on all of it. I may not like where this ends up (Professor X is Bucky Barnes? So that's really how he lost the use of his legs!) and I may not be grooving on the editorial side of things (like, what does that cover have to do with the story, other than provide a spoiler/red herring not in the issue) but overall, I'm enjoying this a lot. Quite Good.

PICK OF THE WEEK: I was the least conflicted about Captain America #13 but FF/Iron Man: Big in Japan #3 was mind-boggling in any number of ways. I call a tie.

PICK OF THE WEAK: Tough call. Not only was I a big ol' softie overall this week, I didn't bother to write a review for a book I didn't at least kinda like because it seemed like too much work. I'm gonna give it too Friday the 13th Bloodbath #2 because it wasn't the first issue which means the mini as a whole could be pretty tedious.

TRADE PICK: Couldn't really tell ya. I liked this issue of Mome more than the first but the bang for the buck is still out of alignment. I remember the Veitch stories from that Swamp Thing trade with fondness but I didn't bother picking it up. And although it's not my pick, let me talk about the Year's Best Graphic Novels, Comics and Manga TPB for a second. It's far from polished, but the medium could use a nice big year-end review and this book covers more of the field than I would have thought possible. Too pricey for a book of excerpted promos, and some of those excerpts cut in and out clumsily, but it's a noble endeavor and worth looking at. Let's see another.

But it's volume 13 of the Knights of the Dinner Table: Bundle of Trouble I'm actually taking home--if you've ever spent any time rolling dice and marking off hit points, this stuff will amuse the hell out of you.

And that's that for me--at least for another week or so. If I don't see you tonight at the CE nog-a-thon, Happy Holidays!