Sunday, May 25, 2003

Looking To The Stars: Thoughts On...

I read a lot of comics. And I love writing about comics. But sometimes the regular course of the weekly review schedule here at 411Comics doesn’t give me the chance to write about everything I’ve read or would like to write about. That’s why this week I’ll be giving you my quick takes on all the books I didn’t write full reviews of in the last month.

Amazing Spider-Man #53

Simply put, this is the best mainstream Spidey we’ve had in years. Romita Jr. does his daddy proud on the title that Papa Romita helped to firmly establish as a classic. And J. Michael Strayczynski’s lives up to all the praise that is delivered upon him by fan and critic alike.

My one complaint is that sometimes things do get pushed past the 11 mark. For instance, Peter may crack bad jokes under stress… but the “thinger with the killer thong” joke is just painful. And as true as the scene with Mary Jane dealing with Peter as overthinks their relationship rings, it seemed a bit much for Peter to do the overdone “You complete me, make me whole, nothing without you…etc” speech. Although I did like his conversation with God (“I know I complain a lot, but thank you for her.”) and even though it is crawling a bit, I love Digger, the new villain.

Daredevil #47

In a previous “Looking To The Stars”, I talked about the return of Typhoid Mary to this title and explained something of the history of the character. We see a lot more of Typhoid in this issue, but I feel half and half about the portrayal. On the one hand, there is a fight scene which brilliantly depicts Typhoid’s skill as a fighter and her disconnection from reality. On the other hand, I’m a little concerned about how easily the Kingpin has won Mary over onto his team. Perhaps Mary’s past therapy has depowered the Typhoid personality to the point where she no longer has the dominatrix control obsession she once did… or perhaps, in a scenario I find more likely and preferable, Typhoid is playing with the Kingpin’s affections to get what she wants.

In either case, I’m loving Bendis’s slow build up of this story where The Kingpin is trying to regain the empire he had stolen from him and the sly humor that punctuates the action of this issue. From the dark comedy of Mary’s singing as she cuts down a gang of thugs to the slapstick appearance of an old character rarely seen since the days of Frank Miller, this book manages a difficult balancing act with ease.

Fantastic Four #68

While I’m not a big fan of Manga-esque artwork, I cannot deny that Mike Wieringo’s is usually a good fit for the Fantastic Four. The key word here is usually. While I think he draws the main characters very well and conveys the humorous scenes well, Wieringo’s style is just too cartoony and “bright” for the scenes depicting Dr. Doom. I can’t explain why, but Doom just looks less menacing than usual. Perhaps because of the new look to his armor, which boasts a more form-fitting mask.

Still, Waid’s writing is nothing unexpected, showing his typical grasp of comic history as he uses the subtle details of a past story line to spin a more intricate tale in the present. And while I may quibble about how Doom looks, the book excels on both fronts when depicting the humorous scenes, such as Johnny’s abusing his power over Ben’s paycheck and Ben’s complicated, but funny, revenge.

Green Arrow #26

It’s no secret that I was no fan of the “Black Circle” crossover between Green Arrow and Green Lantern. And my opinions seem to mirrored those of the majority of the Arrrowheads out there. So it was with a small degree of dread that I picked up this issue, the first of Judd Winick’s run on the book. And how was it?

100 Times Better. The regular art team of Hester and Parks return and oh, were they sorely missed after the dark, overinked mess that was the work of Charlie Adlard. And Winick shows his usual level of quality this time around, with Ollie sounding appropriately confident and smart alecky. I also have to give him credit for this plot, which not only taps into Green Arrow’s history of going after the corrupt people in power but also gives some screen time to the vastly underused Black Lightning. And here’s to someone finally giving us some insight as to why Jefferson would agree to a seat on Lex Luthor’s cabinet, knowing who he is.

Hawkman #15

Geoff Johns did a masterful job of fixing the mess that was the continuity of Hawkman. Still, there was one sticking point; whatever happened to Shayera Thal, the Thangarian Hawkwoman and how does she connect to Carter Hall and Kendra Saunders now? This issue addresses that point, as well as serving as a good jumping on point for new fans of the book

This book has never lacked for gorgeous art, but it is good to have regular penciler Rags Morales and inker Michael Blair back. Their artwork is similar to that of Tony Harris and it complements the book well, as Johns writing is similar to that of James Robinson. Similarities aside, this book is its own animal and boasts a surprising final splash page that make this book a great jumping on point

JSA All-Stars #1

While I find the idea of a demon named Legacy rather improbable, I can’t complain about any story that gives more exposure to the best superhero team published today. I can’t help but wonder why, with the place of this story in series continuity, this wasn’t published as a part of the regular series before… But I guess I shouldn’t complain as I get to read JSA twice a month for the next few months. If you haven’t been reading JSA (and why haven’t you?), this mini-series is a good place to start learning about the characters while we wait for the brilliant but continuity-heavy “Princes of Darkness” story line to conclude.

Superman : Red Son #1

Just as I was about to give up on Mark Millar completely, he writes this. Easily one of and maybe the best Superman Elseworlds written in the last decade, this story is all about what it would be like if Superman landed in Russia in the 1950’s. And while it would be all too easy to turn this into a typical comic war story of that same era, Millar avoids the easy route of “die Commie scum!” conflict. He shows that regardless of what country he lives in and political philosophy he adheres to, Superman is there to help everyone. Throw in some gorgeous artwork by Dave Johnson and Andrew Robinson, and it is easy to see why this issue sold out so quickly.

Ultimate Spider-Man #40-41

Probably my favorite book of all, this one very rarely misses the mark. Bendis is back on his game after the too-slow Venom storyline in these two issues which mostly focus upon Peter and his relationship with Mary Jane. Make no mistake though. This comic does not lack for action, with scenes involving teenagers fleeing a party being raided by the police and a fight scene which also involves the funniest take on loosing a contact lens ever. It is difficult to write a story which is purely action, drama or comedy. And yet Bendis manages to mix all three elements effortlessly in this book every month. Throw in the excellent artwork of Mark Bagley and Art Thibert and it’s easy to see why this book is a favorite of critics and fan alike.

Wolverine #1

I’ve never liked Wolverine that much as a character. I’ve never liked Greg Rucka’s writing. So the odds on me liking this book in any way were about on par with the odds of my spontaneously combusting after getting a date with Kirsten Dunst the day after I won the lottery.

Imagine my surprise when I found myself actually liking this book. Maybe I was surprised to see that James Logan has a taste in literature similar to my own. Maybe I like the Film Noir feel of the story and the boarding house and the woman on the run who turns to Logan for help. Maybe it was just that this story was more thoughtful and not an excuse for mindless hack-and-slash violence as many Wolverine writers indulge in.

Regardless, I have no hesitation in recommending this book as a readable peace of literature, and not just as this month’s hot collectors item.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt Website.

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