Monday, May 24, 2004

Looking To The Stars: Quick Tales for 5/24/04

This last week saw me spending thirty dollars on comic books. And that was just what was in my regular subscription list. Throw in a spattering of new titles I just had to give a chance to, as well as some classics I had yet to discover and I’ve had a busy week of reading to attend to. What follows are my quick takes on some of last week’s books or books that I wanted to review in the past month, but didn’t get a chance to touch.

Amazing Spider-Man #507

Everything mystical gets explained away in part two of “The Book Of Ezekiel”. At least, we get an explanation as to why Peter lucked into his powers, that will likely upset all those Spider-Fans who aren’t fond of the idea of a mystic element to the Spider-Man mythos. But whether or not you like Straczynski’s writing, it cannot be denied that John Romita Jr’s art is particularly good in this issue. Such a shame that he’ll be leaving after the next issue. Regardless, I’ve enjoyed this “dream team” pairing since issue 30 as well as this storyline. Don’t expect me to reveal the shocking final-page secret! 7 Out Of 10.

Batman: Gotham Knights #53

Ignoring all issues of how easily master-plotter Prometheus is bested here and the out-of-character way in which Batman deals with Green Arrow (i.e. Not giving him full information on a case), when GA has always been one of the few vigilantes Batman can work with comfortably, let me ask one question. Why the blue blazing heck can’t Oliver Queen be written this well in his own title? Just for the Ollie we all know and love or love to hate from the Grell days, let’s give this 6 Out Of 10.

Birds of Prey #67

The cover says “Girls Rule & Boys Drool.” With Benes and Lei’s artwork fine as ever and a whole lot of wonderful heroines and villainesses to illustrate in this final part of “Sensei & Student”, there is indeed a lot for fans of cheesecake and good artwork to drool over. But we fans of good writings will also find our mouths watering at Gail Simone’s wonderful script. She handles a lot of characters here and all of them (even guest star Catwoman) seem perfectly in place and not the least bit untrue to their usual selves. It is particularly nice to see Simone finally do something with the potential tension between Black Canary and Cheshire that went ignored in the Dixon/Land run. The torch has officially been passed, folks. Simone, Benes and Lei are now officially the best team to work on this book. 10 Out Of 10.

City of Heroes #1

Based on the on-line RPG that has quickly built up quite a following among comic fans, this comic is rather flat stuff. Introduced to three heroes with only the quickest bit of explanation as to their powers and very little look at personality, this comic does capture the feel of the game perfectly. Three people meet randomly, discover a lead and go deal with some crime. A good demo for game players but not so good as a comic. Still, the art is nice. 4 Out Of 10.

Daredevil #60

After three years of taking his time with a story, Bendis switches to extremes and rushes us through a tale. Within the span of one year in comic time and three months real time, Matt Murdock became Kingpin, got married, went nuts, went sane, returned to his costumed roots and now finds his marriage on the rocks. It’s good to see Daredevil back in the pages of his own book… but, and I may kick myself for this one…

Brian? Slow down. It’s okay. We can wait. 6 Out Of 10.

Dork Tower #27

A must have issue if you are a fan of “Vampire: The Masquerade”, if only for the satirical “Clanbook: Mopey” supplement contained within. The comic is good too, centering upon Walden, a.k.a. Sith Bloodheart, leader of all the gamer Goths in the town of Mud Bay. This issue gives some much needed character to a background player who has done little but act as a foil to cheerful goth sister Gilly as well as being a laugh riot. John Kovlaic is a true treasure and the finest cartoonist to cover the subject of gamers and gaming. His artwork is refreshingly simple, bringing to mind the early works of Charles Schultz. 8 Out Of 10.

Dragonlance: The Legend of Huma #4

People pining the loss of CrossGen’s various fantasy titles would do well to check out this, the first in a new line of D&D comics by Devil’s Due Publishing. I never read any of the old Dragonlance fantasy novels, but I may have to go back and give the Legend of Huma series a look, for the story is excellent. While the books do have multiple illustrators, care has been taken to make the change unnoticeable. It is worth noting though, that the anatomy does look odd in a few choice panels… particularly on Gaz the minotaur, whose head keeps changing shape and size in proportion to its’ body. 5 out of 10.

Excalibur #1

Oh. Magneto’s not really dead. I’m so surprised. Really. 1 Out Of 10.

Fables #25

I came on to this title late and just recently caught up with the release of its’ third trade paperback. If you’re a fan of “The Sandman” or just the weird and esoteric, this is one bedtime story you shouldn’t feel ashamed to be caught reading. Not for kiddies or the fait of heart, this is easily one of the best Titles Vertigo has to offer. 9 Out Of 10.

Fantastic Four #513

Waid’s weakest story ever on the title and it stars my favorite Marvel superhero of all. How can you account for it? More, how can you account for me liking it anyway, even if it does play up the fickle nature of the Marvel Universe populace to unrealistic levels and fails to resolve the major issue at the center of it: i.e. How can Spider-Man teach Johnny Storm to deal with being a hero AND unpopular? The answer is that he doesn’t, and Waid simply gives us a throwback to the classic Human Torch/Spider-Man team-ups of the Stan Lee days where they fought each other as much as they did the supervillains. Sure, this comic is silly and lacks serious bones as much as guest-villain Hydroman lacks any bones. It is still a fun read. And those are preciously rare these days. 7 Out Of 10.

Hawkman #28

I’m more familiar with Jimmy Palmiotti as an artist and inker than a writer, but he does a decent job with the plot here. Decent, however, is far below what you get use to on a title written by Geoff Johns for two years. And Ryan Sook is no Rags Morales. Not that this story is bad, mind you. But it is like getting a good cheeseburger when you ordered the steak. And it doesn’t matter how good the cheeseburger is if you keep thinking about the steak. I’ll keep with it for another few issues at least. 5 Out Of 10.

JLA: Another Nail #1

GL/New Gods: Another Nail #1 might have been a more appropriate title for this book Nearly the first half of this book is devoted toward covering the epic battle between The Guardians/New Genesis and Darkseid which took place off-camera (until now) during the events of “JLA: The Nail.” A pity, because this turns out to be more interesting than the quick catch-up on what the JLA of this world has been doing in the time since the end of the first mini-series that takes up the rest of the issue. Still, this story does do a spin on Superman that is new, so I’ll probably keep reading it for that. 5 Out Of 10.

JSA #61

This just in. Hal Jordan screwed up being the Spectre. Again. Thankfully, Johns does some work here to explain why Hal has done such a half-assed job in his new role as the spirit or vengeance turned redemption. Namely, the Spectre is pissed at being turned into a New Testament power. Good read. Good art. But if you’re already reading it, you know that. And if you aren’t reading it, you should be. 8 Out Of 10.

Knights of the Dinner Table Illustrated #34

What could make this unfunny book worse?

An entire issue written in rhyming verse.

Writing this way is a challenging chore.

And reading this mess is a frightening bore.

The story doth stink but the art is all right.

But I would still rather just read Everknights.

3 Out Of 10.

Knights of the Dinner Table: Everknights #12

Oh woe! Woe that this title is published only bi-monthly while the much inferior “Knights of the Dinner Table Illustrated” is allowed to go out once monthly. This issue shows romantic strife among the various members of the Everknights adventuring group and how they settle it with respective boy’s and girl’s nights out. While there is plenty of humor to be found in the characters (especially Drow dominatrix Reniree’s treatment of her lapdancer), the real treat is a funny parody of the show “Insomniac”, with the bald and beardless wizard “O’Tell” showing us the nightlife of the village of Badger Falls. Truly a most underrated title. 7 Out Of 10.

Phantom Jack #2

This book has been disappearing off the shelves at my comic shop. Small wonder, as Epic’s loss is Image’s gain in this magical book about a reporter who can become invisible at will. Beautifully illustrated, with a topical story and a relatable hero, this is one to watch. 7 Out of 10.

Rose and Thorn #6

Can this be a regular series? Please? Can we at least have another mini-series? Please? Or at least a few appearances in the Superman books at some point in the future? 9.5 Out Of 10.

Seaguy #1

Take one no-powered superhero in a world of superheroes where there is no need for heroism. Add one smart-aleck, cigar-chomping, talking flying “chuna-fish” named Charlie. Throw in some living soda, Death as a color-blind gondolier, a moon crying for help in the form of flaming meteor tears and a bearded warrior woman who is saving herself for the first man who can prove his heroism to her and what do you get?

About thirty lawsuits in the making as well as Grant Morrison’s latest work. This is quite possibly the zaniest thing he’s ever written, and yes I am including the complete works of The Invisibles in that statement. Regardless, it is amusing and wonderfully illustrated by Cameron Stewart. Count me onboard for the long haul on this one! 8 Out Of 10.

Sore Thumbs ( )

Depending on whom you ask, this is either one of the funniest Manga satires being published on the web today or the worst propaganda comic ever. Like in most things, I’m somewhere in the middle on this. The artwork is good but nearly every character in this is an exaggerated stereotype, as is typical in Anime and Manga. The problem is that a lot of the political commentary falls flat and that few seem to realize that both sides of the fence are being heavily stereotyped here. The whiny liberal college student protestor protagonist is portrayed as being just as insane as the antagonist of the piece; her racist, homophobic, Bush-worshipping brother who runs the only game store in the country officially endorsed by Joseph Lieberman. (And if you get why that endorsement is funny, give yourself 5 geek points). Sore Thumbs has its moments, but fails to make any real statements of note. Then again, perhaps we should expect little more than big laughs from a comic where the sanest characters are a soldier who has his manhood cut off during the war in Iraq and his midget pet bear. 6.5 out of 10.

Spectacular Spider-Man #14

There seems to be an unwritten rule that there every writer who does Spider-Man must do at least one story where Spider-Man touches the life of either a child, someone who is handicapped or a handicapped child. Jenkins does the second of these stories and manages to pull off the story of a young Spider-Fan with cerebral palsy without it feeling the least bit exploitative or inappropriate. The painted art by Paolo Rivera only ads to the wonder of the story and makes this easily the best issue of the new Spectacular Series. Which is quite a feat considering how good the run has been so far. 10 Out Of 10.

Superman/Batman #10

I want to dislike this story just on the principal that it seems that the sole purpose of the plot is to allow Michael Turner the chance to draw numerous scantily armored amazons. And then we get the scenes with an army of badly-cloned Doomsday replicas attack Paradise island and Batman swinging a broadaxe and I realize that blatant sexism and pandering to the talents of the artist aside, this is one gorgeous book! Jeph Loeb is another writer who isn’t afraid to revel in the sheer silliness of an idea and as much as the idea of a horde of inefficient Doomsday clones might sound like that of Bill Watterson’s infamous “Dinosaurs in Airplanes!” comic, this manages to surpass its unlikely premise and actually deliver some good drama.

On that note, I didn’t know Harbinger was still alive. Oh well…. 6.5 Out Of 10.

Swamp Thing #3

The best take on Swamp Thing in quite some time. That, and it has bloody John Constantine in it. That’s all it takes to put this baby on my pull list. 7 Out Of 10.

Ultimate Spider-Man #59

A talking heads issue, but a very effective one. The Ultimate Gwen Stacy gets some major screen time and the issues of “Hollywood” are finally lain to rest. Good thing as the scenes with Peter crashing the film set of the unauthorized movie based on his life were the weakest part of this past story arc. 8 Out Of 10.

Y: The Last Man #22

If you read comics and aren’t reading this book, you had better be a minor or on a fixed income. It is THAT good! 10 Out Of 10.

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

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