Many Comic Books
How about some comics reviews?
- Avengers Forever #12, by Kurt Busiek, Roger Stern, Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino (Marvel): The lengthy mini-series chronicling the "Destiny War" wraps up with an issues which more-or-less ties everything up, sets the stage for the new Captain Marvel series (which I excoriated a few weeks ago), and is generally something of a let-down. Pacheco does a fine job illustrating many dozens of Avengers and their other-world and past/future counterparts, but the final resolution makes me wonder, "Why exactly was this series necessary?" Rather a disappointment, I fear.
- Chassis #1, by Joshua D. M. Dysart, William O'Neill, and Larry Welch (Image): Superficially similar to the 4-issue series Technopolis from a year or two ago, in that Chassis is a retro-science fiction series: It takes place in 1949, but with futuristic technology (sentient robots and hovercraft race cars, in this case). The title character is Chassis McBain, heiress to the McBain fortune and famous as a race car driver. (All that and she's saddled with that ridiculous name? But I digress.)
The text page says, "We really are trying to be the finest (only) retro-swing/pop-opera nook about flying rocket cars on the market," and it's actually pretty good. O'Neill's pencils have that pop-art feel down pretty well, while still working as comic art. It's not quite perfect (the pencils seem stiff at times), but there you are. The story - setting up the characters and instigating a grudge race between Chassis and a rival - is engaging if not earth-shattering. A prologue to bigger things, maybe? Apparently there were 7 previous issues from small publishers. There's also an official Web page.
- Collective #1, by Arvin Loudermilk and Mike Iverson (Duality Press): You may have to hunt for this one, which is a small-press black-and-white straight science fiction book involving a colony on another world in the late 22nd century. Iverson's art is on the minimalist side and could use a little more texture for my tastes, but it's overall very solid, and makes good use of halftones, which is usually the indication of someone who knows what he's doing. If he grows from here, he'll be a fine indeed. Loudermilk's story is rather jumpy, with a large cast and a not-entirely-linear narrative. It's hard to tell if he's still finding his storytelling voice, or if he's just not spelling everything out but wants to make us work a bit instead.
The story seems to involve some rebels who steal resources from the planetary government, and who are in part opposed by the granddaughter of the colony's founder. There are telepathic twins, a mysterious individual who appears to be an alien, and a city which suddenly stops responding to all outside signals. The cast is ethnically very mixed. It's all treated quite seriously, and the last page promises that things will heat up next time, and it's good enough to make me come back for more. Possibly you could order this from the Duality Press Web site.
- Flashpoint #3, by Pat McGreal and Norm Breyfogle (DC): This series wound up being a little disappointing, as none of our heroes really get their just reward. A pity, really. But for three issues, it was by no means a bad series.
- From Hell trade paperback, by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell (Eddie Campbell Comics): Moore and Campbell's award-winning tale of Jack the Ripper is collected in one volume at last (albeit an expensive one - $35.00). It's a good tale, being Moore's interpretation of what really happened in the Whitechapel murders of a century ago. His page-by-page annotations at the back are almost as engaging as the story. I'm not a fan of Campbell's art, but it's quite readable here, and some panels are impressive in the extent of design and draftsmanship which went into them. If you're not daunted by the price and this is your sort of material, check it out.
- JLA: Earth 2 hardcover, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (DC): Reprising the classic tale of the alternate-world Crime Syndicate from Justice League of America (first series) #29-30, but without the Justice Society. Alexander Luthor of the anti-matter universe comes to "our" Earth to ask the Justice League's help handling the Crime Syndicate (their counterparts) who terrorize and rule his Earth. With only a couple of brief exceptions, the book is free from smash-'em-up combat scenes.
Quitely's art is very good, and Morrison returns to the ultra-competent, planning-ahead approach to the JLA he sometimes employs in the regular series, but the story is basically unsatisfying because of the lengths to which the book relies on almost everything on the two Earths being mirror-images of each other. Clearly most of the effort here went into designing Earth 2's characters in their appearance and background, and they are very clever. But, unless you're a comics nut like I am, you're probably better off waiting for this to come out in paperback.
- JSA: The Liberty File #1, by Dan Jolley, Tony Harris, and Ray Snyder (DC): First of two issues in this Elseworlds series, in which the Bat, the Clock and the Owl (respectively, Batman, Hourman and Dr. Mid-Nite) hunt down Jack the Grin (the Joker) in Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II to learn the secret the Nazis are themselves hunting him for. Harris (the original artist for James Robinson's Starman series) does a bang-up job with the artwork, and the story drops just enough hints about other well-known characters' counterparts in this reality (Black Canary, Wildcat, and one other key figure) to be satisfying without being gratuitous.
The story's a little light on characterization, but is enjoyable nonetheless. It has the terrific line, "Well... there's something you don't see every day. A guy wearing a disguise of a guy wearing a disguise." And it ends on an understated but compelling "how the heck are they gonna get out of this one?" cliffhanger. It doesn't have the certain something that makes it ring true as a real JSA story, but it's worthwhile despite that.
- Strange Kiss #1, by Warren Ellis, Mike Wolfer, and Dan Parsons (Avatar): Without question, the worst comic book I've read in recent memory. Ellis is clearly just going for the gross-out factor here: Imagine the grossest scenes from the movie Alien and then imagine a string of those scenes appearing throughout the movie with hardly any respite. It's simply unrelenting. The text page claims the book is going for "disturbing", and it certainly is that: Genital mutilation, facial mutilation, executions, lizards living inside human bodies: Yuck, yuck, yuck. I personally can't see how there can possibly be a point to this story which justifies all this. I don't plan to buy any further issues, and I suggest you give it a wide berth as well.
- Thieves & Kings #29, by Mark Oakley (I Box): You know, everyone touts Cerebus for maintaining a regular monthly schedule all these years, but after five years, Thieves & Kings has very nearly stuck to its bimonthly schedule when most other self-published books (e.g., Bone) have fallen well behind. Oakley's charming fantasy story chugs right along, and is still a joy to read. His teenaged thief Rubel is slowly growing up, and this issue largely involves seeing him use his brains to break out of a chained and enchanted coffin he's being held in. Recent issues have involved the girl Heath learning to cast spells, and the army the Princess is assembling in the woods to fight her brother the Prince. It's all very quirky, and even more so when Quinton the wizard appears on-stage. It's one of those rare stories where I'm not really sure where it's going, but I'm enjoying the journey nonetheless.
And yes, I Box has a Web site.