Who? What Where? And Other Questions About The 11/9 Books...

For those of you dropping by for the first time today, Graeme's got reviews just below this so make sure you check 'em out. As for me, I'm supposed to be at 24,000 words today in my crappy novel and I'm about 1,000 words short. However, since I can't stand dwelling on my own crappiness for one minute longer, here's just a few reviews while the self-esteem tries to recharge: ABC A-Z GREYSHIRT AND COBWEB: Veitch's story starts clever and works its way back into tedium--it tells us everything one might want to know about Greyshirt but, uh, honestly, does anyone really want to know much about Greyshirt? (As if to support my point, the colorist gives Greyshirt a lovely brown eye color when the caption for that panel specifies "blue." Whoops.) On the opposite end of the coloring spectrum, Jose Villaruba tries valiantly to make Melinda Gebbie's art on Cobweb's calendar story look anything other than amateurish and succeeds about 25% of the time. The more time goes on, the more I wonder what Lost Girls, provided it ever gets published, will look like. Overall, this little experiment in editorial drawer cleaning was pretty Awful.

ACTION COMICS #833: There's a nice balance between serious and fun being struck here, which is probably why this team is getting the boot: fun doesn't seem to be selling too well in the DCU these days, does it? Highly OK.

BATMAN LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #197: Lovely work, but is it just me or does Chris Weston make everything look very U.K.-ish? Part of that may be the fact that his narrator has an eerie resemblence to Bill Nighy in some panels or that Batman's got a very stiff upper lip, or something. Lacking a certain urgency for the reader perhaps, but still on the very high side of OK--maybe higher depending on Part 2.

DECIMATION HOUSE OF M THE DAYAFTER: Didn't read it, but Graeme spent a lot of time excitedly telling me that the Blob's no longer fat. He was so amused by what sort of epic sweep this indicated for the rest of the book that I kinda want to read it...

DMZ #1: Brian Wood's first issue breaks open the premise from Escape From New York and repurposes it for a commentary on how invading governments and their media dehumanize the people caught in the middle. Wood has a great collaborator in co-artist Riccardo Burchelli, who manages to solidify Wood's conception while keeping its evocativeness, and I'm interested in seeing what changes a never-ending war makes to Manhattan's areas. Unlike Graeme, I think Wood's at his worst when he's trying for ambiguity, so I found this a pretty promising start. Good.

EXILES #72: Bedard does a pretty hilarious job of nailing the essential cheesiness of the New Universe. While admittedly nothing groundbreaking, if you were reading those books back then (and don't care where The Pitt and The War and The End fit into this), you'll probably also find this issue Good.

FANTASTIC FOUR WEDDING SPECIAL: The lead story by Kesel & Co. shows a love and affection for the FF mythos but, unsurprisingly, the reprint story by Lee and Kirby, even looking a little slipshod in its reproduction, has a million times more wit and verve and charm--in part because they don't treat the Reed and Sue's nuptials as anything more than an excuse to show lots of people slugging stuff. Although it was wise not to revisit that territory (and get trounced by their betters), the new tale lacks any kind of bite, and its slight charm burbles away long before it hits its conclusion. OK overall, but for the buck, not nearly enough bang.

FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD SPIDER-MAN #2: Newsflash: Mike Weiringo draws pretty! And, when faced with a hero's potential death, the superheroes of the Marvel Universe treat finding a possible cure with all the breeziness of parents searching for the Tickle-Me Elmo of somebody else's kid. Eh.

GHOST RIDER #3: Too bad Dazzler isn't tied to Hell and everlasting damnation (except through the critical faculties of most readers, that is) because Clayton Crain seems far more adept at dramatically presenting light than motion. And that photo-realistic bus...I don't know, maybe it's just me, but I think Ennis seems uninterested in the material and Crain seems mismatched. I'm at Awful with this one.

GOTHAM CENTRAL #37: I thought this was going to end up somewhere far more interesting (two partners possessed by the Deadly Sin of Lust having to deal with the repercussions of that) than where it did (so guy who was an atheist on page four is praying on page 20? Heavy.) Lieber always lends Rucka's work an understated verisimilitude, however, so this still rates pretty squarely in the OK category.

HAWKMAN #46: Hey, an OMAC! There's something we haven't seen before! And because this is set six months before everything else in the DCU (it leads into Rann-Thanagr War #1), Hawkman and Hawkwoman actually catch an OMAC and Dr. Midnight manages to isolate the nanotechnology that controls the change. To which I heartily say: Nope! I disbelieve! I'm sure this sort of stuff is a bitch for Editorial to keep track of, but isn't that the point of the whole enterprise? Awful because I really wouldn't have cared, even if they had.

INCREDIBLE HULK #88: Hmmm, so the entire State of Alaska is filled with predatory date-rapists, eh? (Except for the undercover SHIELD agents, of course.) Good to know. I think a more TV show-ish approach to the book has some appeal, but this was mighty Eh.

INFINITE CRISIS #2: Graeme wanted me to review this simply because of the preposterously fanboyish defense I offered of Phil Jimenez's art (which, if I remember correctly, was something embarrassing like, "If you managed to split George Perez through the Eclipso diamond, you'd get the good half, which is Phil Jimenez, and you'd get the bad half, which is Rob Liefeld. But they'd both inherit some of Perez's failings, which in Jimenez's case is absurdly overabundant musculature and rubbery, over-emotive faces.") Separate and apart from that, I thought this was highly OK, because, by and large, it did what it was supposed to do: give me some crucial background on what's going on, and focus attention on where my attention should be drawn next. And those of us who followed Power Girl's arc in JSA Classified got the emotional resolution here we should have gotten there--which is kinda assy, now that I think of it, but I like that Johns is trying to give some sort of emotionally resonant beat with each issue--even if he has to shortchange one of his other books to do so. Yeah, highly OK.

LUBAS COMICS & STORIES #6: Between this and last week's Optic Nerve, I'm starting to think alt-cartoonists should be banned from seeing the work of Todd Solondz. This was disjointed and bitter to the point of cruelty. And although interesting to contemplate what, exactly, Gilbert is trying to work out with the character of Fritz, I found this just kind of a depressing, deflating read. As a Beto fan, I can't go lower than OK, but maybe I should.

MARVEL KNIGHTS 4 #24: I liked that Aguirre-Sacasa basically outed himself in a Fantastic Four title; that was pretty cool. But although very cute, very light stories are why The Impossible Man's still around, I don't see why the writer, the writer's roommate, and the writer's editor are in the book, other than to fluff out the pagecount of a very, very minor story. Nice cover, but Eh.

MICHAEL CHABON PRESENTS ADV O/T ESCAPIST #8: I think Vaughan and Bond's front story was very, very enjoyable, far closer to the spirit of Chabon's novel than probably any other story printed in this title, and has loads of potential to get even better as it continues. (Also, although part of me thought a few pages of this ripped off tricks from Chris Ware and Grant Morrison to far lesser impact, I'm just glad to see those very cool tricks being used at all.) The rest of the stories, however, present peak creators dashing off minor pieces with maybe only the possible exception of Harvey Pekar's story that ignores the Escapist and cuts straight to anguished bitching. As anguished bitching it was engrossing reading; as a story, calling it "minor" would be very, very generous. I'm going with OK, although Graeme calling the whole package Eh is probably more accurate.

NIGHTWING #114: So if you were able to swallow the last half-dozen issues of impossible things, you'll probably enjoy this issue: the idea of Dick walking Batman's fine line between good and evil, while on the side of the bad guys, to serve good is very entertaining, but one issue of nuance doesn't make up for the racket of all those plot hammers. OK, but I expect it'll all fall apart before too long.

PULSE #12: I didn't pick up last issue but didn't it show, you know, Luke Cage holding up a baby? And here we've got Jessica just having her water break? That kinds seems like a cheat to me. Maybe next issue can have a cover of the still not-quite born baby graduating college. Grrr.

TEEN TITANS #29: This must be the next stage of Infinite Crisis now that most of the OMACs are taken care of: The Red Hood shows up and kicks ass, then disappears. Either that or Mr. Johns consulted his months-old master outline and saw what was supposed to happen here but couldn't quite remember why it was important. Also, I'm sorry, the Red Hood ripping off his outfit so we can have some hot Robin-on-Robin action was dumb. More or less Awful.

WALKING DEAD #23: I think the lack of zombies caused Kirkman to lose his nerve a little bit, and over-rev his otherwise well modulated personal relationships. Or maybe the "all yelling, all slugging" issue trend is on the upswing. Also, I kinda hope Hibbs decides to weigh on Kirkman's letter page where R.K. announces that they're going to be shipping biweekly so that they can get the hardcover out by Christmas and says, "Sorry retailers, but it's got to be done." Uh no, dude, it doesn't--not if you're interested in being more than a money-grabbing flash in the pan, that is. Eh.

PICK OF THE WEEK: DMZ #1? I guess, but if Vaughan and Bond's The Escapists had been its own equivalently priced book, it would have taken the title.

PICK OF THE WEAK: Ghost Rider #3, because I was sure we'd get more out of this than a fat man and a skeleton awkwardly positioned under a photorealistic bus.

TRADE OF THE WEEK: I didn't actually take any home and start anything (although both Iron Wok Jan Vol. 14 and that Golden Age Human Torch HC are in my sub box) but I made it through the first two chapters of Iou Kuroda's Sexy Voice and Robo and it's very clever and fun. The Harriet-The-Spy-As-Phone-Sex-Operator angle probably will keep this out of the hands of young ones and that's both a blessed relief and a damned shame because so far it's winningly good-natured.

Whew. Back to my kinda terrible stuck-in-first-gear, I'm-calling-in-the-ninjas-if-nothing-happens-soon "masterpiece."