Your Turn To Curtsy, My Turn To Critic: Most of Jeff's Reviews of 05/09 Books....

Someone spun the Savage Critic Wheel of Unwellness this week and it's still pointing at me--I've felt like ass on a stick for the last 72 hours and I'm not happy at about it at all. On the other hand, if I end up calling in sick on Monday, I can stay in and watch Mario Bava movies all day. So things could be much, much worse, I guess.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #540: This isn't over yet? Seeing as I've read, I dunno, maybe six to eight other Spidey books between last issue (shipped on 3/21?) and this one, the narrative drive seems significantly diminished here--if this had been a weekly event or something, maybe it'd be easier for me to still think that maybe May will die or maybe Peter will kill the Kingpin. But currently? Nah. Between that and the feeling that artist Ron Garney at his most evocative feels like John Romita, Jr. at his most tepid, and I'd call this Eh.

BLACK PANTHER #27: Books like this make me really miss Jack Kirby (hell, I'd settle for Rich Buckler and Joe Sinnott at this point): although overused to the point of visual cliche and pushing characters' reactions into utter melodrama, Kirby's dynamism could nevertheless give stories like "The FF come home from a cosmic adventure; get attacked by giant cosmic bug" a much-needed vitality. As it is, this has absolutely no "oomph"--I felt like I was reading the storyboards to a dull French cartoon--until the last page which, to be honest, borrows all its oomph from elsewhere. It's a competent but very Eh little issue.

BLADE #9: Silly but more or less effective until the end when it's revealed, if I'm reading it rightly, is that the people Blade thinks are the bad guys are in fact the good guys. As twists goes, it's pretty uninteresting--not only is it pretty shopworn, but it's really hard to imagine Blade giving a damn: it might work in a book where the hero is a crusading do-gooder (like Superman) but the current incarnation of Blade seems driven more by vengeance and it just seems...limp. The rest of the book is fun, though, so I think it's in the OK park, overall.

COUNTDOWN #51: Ugh. I'm surprised by how much of this feels wrong, and not in a "Oh My God, you have perverted the laws of God and man," kind of way but in a "why are you going out with your pants on backwards and your underwear on your head?" kind of way. I mean, after all the coverage of 52 where nearly everyone everywhere praised JG Jones' astonishing cover work and singled it out as something that quickly solidified the book's identity on the stands, why would you kick off your next weekly series with a cover more appropriate to a "Justice League and Friends" coloring and rainy-day activity book? After widespread ackowledgement that the best parts of 52 were from the organic growth of the writers' interests, why would you have your first issue read like a bullet point memo from the desk of Dan Didio?

I mean, the book itself, based on the quality of the bland art and the clunky, exposition-heavy dialogue, is really just Eh, but that whiff of publisher hubris in the air--the idea that people are going to like what Dan Didio has in store for them because, dammit, he's Dan Didio and who cares about the cover artists and who cares about the A-list writers and who cares about all the lessons learned over the last year (except, oh, yeah, lose that real time thing)--is enough to make Graeme call it Crap (because it's even worse than he feared) and Brian call it a low Good (because it's much better than he feared) when it's really just Eh. If nothing else, I think that points to how much good will DC and Didio have burnt away post-Infinite Crisis and how much work everyone on this book has cut out for them. I was willing to give 52 between 10 to 12 issues to get things going; based on this issue, Countdown's got about 4 to 6. Hop to, guys.

GARTH ENNIS CHRONICLES OF WORMWOOD #3: This is the first issue I picked up and it was better than I was expecting--I guess maybe something more like Dicks, I guess--but between the near-wistfulness in Ennis' descriptions of Heaven and Jacen Burrows' suprisingly Dillonesque art, I thought this was the closest thing to Preacher I've read in a while--and not just Preacher as it tends to get remembered (twisted humor and over-the-top explicitness) but as I remember reading it (three amusing characters shooting the shit). A real pleasant surprise, although it might be a bitch to hunt up those back issues now. Highly Good.

GHOST RIDER #11: Dumb, dumb, dumb, but did have the benefit of having one sequence so over-the-top in its dumbosity (Ghost Rider rips out a guy's heart, causes it to burst into flames and then jams it back into the guy's chest) that the comic was, for one shining moment, enjoyable. Makes me wish they could figure out a way to set this on Awesome and Dumb rather than Awful and Dumb--this book is apparently selling no matter how terrible it is, so why not go for it?

GREEN ARROW #74: Yeah, whatever. I'm not really down with the marriage of Green Arrow and Black Canary so no matter how well it's done, it's essentially lipstick on a pig to me. But I would've preferred a bit less of the fiery couple checklist ("Arguing, then passionately kissing?" "Check." "Teh sex for hours and hours?" "Check." "The 'you make me want to be a better man' speech?" "Check.") and maybe a little more, I dunno, interesting stuff. Eh.

GRIFTER MIDNIGHTER #3: Reading this, I got the sense Dixon is auditioning to be part of the Wildstorm Cool Kids Club--"Hey, guys! I can write stories where nothing happens with a bit of smart-ass prickish narrative flair! See?"--but it reads like someone who--as Mark Twain said of his wife's swearing--"got the words right but don't know the tune." The art is pretty though, with a very lovely green miasmic color scheme going on, so I'd bump it up to Eh.

IMMORTAL IRON FIST #5: I am so in love with this book right now--any quibblage I've had in the past about action is gone now as this issue hurtles along from one neat scene to the next. And as in awe as I am at the skill with which Brubaker and Fraction have opened up the potential for the character, I think I'm even more astonished by David Aja's art which reminds me a lot, I think, of Gene Day on Master of Kung Fu but possessing none of Day's occasional stiffness (as I recall, it was only when characters stopped moving that Day's work suffered). There's still one or two things I think could be added to the mix, but I'm a lot more confident that they're coming. This book is Very Good stuff, although you might bump it down a grade if you have no former appreciation of the character and up a grade if you do. It's really a terrific, gorgeous-looking superhero book.

INDIA AUTHENTIC GANESHA #1: Another book that had me musing about Kirby, as this book is far too reverent and uninspired with regard to its source material to be at all interesting. Deepak Chopra's introduction has a little more juice to it since he's writing about the symbolism underlying Ganesha, but that's about all you're gonna get that has any vigor to it. Disappointingly Awful.

NOVA #2: Didn't bother with the first issue, but this issue was shockingly good. It's not just a post-Civil War comic that does a better job presenting Tony Stark as a complex figure than any other Marvel book out there, it's also a good Nova comic--featuring characters from the original series, concerns from previous incarnations that feel less like a continuity bog and more like the writers doing their research and crafting a fully-rounded character with some history. Admittedly, as a '70s Marvel nerd, my rating of Very Good is, like Iron Fist, rooted in absolute awe that characters I like are actually being handled with care by talented creators who know what they're doing, but I think the casual superhero reader would like this as well. Wow.

ULTIMATE POWER #5: If only this book had come out three or four years ago when I was still interested in either The Ultimates or Supreme could have totally turned me off to both ideas back then and save me some cash. Now, I just shake my head and wonder how either book is going to have any readers left in six months. Awful.