Monday, March 13, 2006

Looking To The Stars - A Time For Reviews

Hey everyone. Real Life (and some last minute work on other columns) are taking up most of my spare time for the next two weeks. As such, I don’t have time for a big, in depth rant about anything. But the new faster reviews style (which I’ve been pioneering for quite some time already) makes it super easy for me to collect my thoughts on what I’ve read in the last few weeks.

Aren’t you lucky? Don’t answer that. I’m having a rhetorical conversation.

Ex Machina #18
Company Name: Wildstorm Comics
Writer: Brian Vaughan
Pencils: Tony Harris
Inks: Tom Feister
Colorist: JD Mettler

If the current storyline on this title does not win the Eisner for best mini-series this year, much less get a nomination, I will call the biggest Shenanigans on the proceedings since the 2000 American Presidential Election. Current without being forced, making its point without being preachy and generally an all-around enjoyable read, this is everything a comic book about current events should be. Tony Harris has never been in better from than he is here. If you’re not reading this book yet, it had better be because you’re choosing the welfare of your children over comics.

Grade: A

Fables #47
Company Name: Vertigo Comics
Writer: Bill Willingham
Penciler: Jim Fern
Inker: Jimmy Palmiotti
Colorist: Daniel Vozzo

It is a credit to Bill Willingham’s skill as a writer that he can so skillfully weave a sympathetic and romantic story such as this around two of the villains of the on-going story. As hideous and creepy as The Wooden Soldiers (of the march of the story of the same name) were, it is somehow all the more jarring to see them in love. And the guest artists illustrate this tale beautifully… though I never would have guessed the light inks here were the work of Jimmy Palmotti who usually favors a heavier touch. I predict that much like the character on the last page, there will be a lot of people in tears over this issue.

Grade: A

Green Lantern Corps #5
Company Name: DC Comics
Writers: Dave Gibbons and Geoff Johns
Penciler: Patrick Gleason
Inker: Prentis Rollins
Colorist: Travis Lanham

I wanted to like this series. I really did. But like a lot of cosmic stories, the sheer scope of things obliterated the characterization. And am I the only one who thought Kyle Rayner was horribly out of character in all of this, back to playing eager rookie and straight man to Guy Gardner – the one character who DID seem to be in top form. Between the muddy artwork, poor visual storytelling and all around lackluster show. The one saving grace is that I like the direction of the story if not the execution.

Grade: D

Infinite Crisis #5
Company Name: DC Comics
Writers: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Phil Jimenez, Jerry Ordway & Ivan Reis
Inks: Andy Lanning, Jerry Ordway & Art Thibert
Color: Jeromy Cox, Guy Major & Rod Reis

Perhaps you have to be a brazen DC fanboy to appreciate all the nuances of this series. That is the one flaw with this series – it is a bit inaccessible to someone who hasn’t been keeping tabs on the goings-on and “Who Is Who”. Still, for those of us who can appreciate the subtle things such as a discussion on faith between an affirmed Atheist and a hero who draws his powers from an artifact of faith and the Action Comics #1 cover tribute, this is Heaven in a wrapper.

Grade: B

Red Sonja #7
Company Name: Dynamite Entertainment
Writer: J.T. Krul
Artist: Noah Salonga
Colorist: Brian Buccellato.

A fill-in team does a job worthy of the regular team, for once. Krul’s plot is standard stuff for the old Marvel Sonja comics, but it is not badly done as Sonja teams with a young pirate to recover his birthright before a group of slightly more amoral pirates and mercenaries beat them to it. I may be wrong but it feels like he put more text in this one issue than Carey and Omening did in the whole of the last six issues. Salonga’s style of art is much more conventional and a good deal more inked than the lighter approach Mel Rubi has taken with the series so far, but it is not jarringly out of place as the art in Red Sonja vs. Thulsa Doom. If you’ve missed out on this series so far, this is an excellent time to jump on the bandwagon.

Grade: A

Teen Titans #33
Company Name: DC Comics
Writers: Marv Wolfman and Geoff Johns
Penciler: Todd Nauck
Inks: Sean Parsons, Norm Rapmund & Mario Alquiza
Color: Richard & Tanya Horie

It’s the typical cross-over tie-in issue. We get to see a small part of the big picture, some good character moments, and some rushed artwork. Maybe I missed it being mentioned in the past, but I was rather floored by the revelation that Superboy and Wonder Girl have apparently “done the deed” and this does, in my opinion, explain away a lot of his reluctance to return to active duty in past issues. How weird was it for us, after all, going to school with THEM there after our first time? In the end, this is a serviceable story that well demonstrates the divide between two heroes in approach and temperament but is nothing special.

Grade: C

Ultimate Spider-Man #91
Company Name: Marvel Comics
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciller: Mark Bagley
Inker: John Dell
Colorist: Justin Ponsor

Much as I may despise his work in the regular Marvel Universe, I must admit that BMB’s writing on this book is as enjoyable as ever and Bagley still draws the best Spidey in the business. I like Bendis’ take on Kitty Pryde in this issue as he shows, again, his knack for creating realistic adolescent characters and getting inside their heads. Shame that all of this is just background for the apparent introduction of a character who hasn’t been used properly since Gail Simone wrote him.

Grade: C

Finally, regarding the Real-Life thing that has me so busy.

Those of you in the Dallas and Fort Worth area can meet me, at The All-Con Convention this coming weekend. Friday evening, March 17th, I will be MCing a special performance of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" at 11 pm. Saturday, I'll be exploring the convention proper. Just look for the goateed bloke with the long curly hair in the wide-brimmed black fedora.

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

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