Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Comic Haul

I haven't been to the LCS in a while, but I still have a backlog of books that I have yet to throw on the ol' blog so, without further ado, here we go-go-go...

Indiana Jones and the Tomb of the Gods #1: The man in the hat is back. This is probably the best Indy mini-series to come out in some time. As much as I loved the fact that Dark Horse was publishing anything Indy related a few years ago, some of the efforts put forth were less than stellar in either the writing department, the art department, or, in some case, both. With Tomb of the Gods, DHC has a winner. Rob Williams concocts a plausible adventure for the intrepid archaeologist and Steve Scott's artwork is very much up to the task of balancing character likenesses and well-paced action storytelling. I'm really looking forward to seeing how the next four issues will play out.

Detective Comics #846: "Heart of Hush", as a story concept, doesn't really grab me by the lapels and scream read me, but I've been liking what Dini has done with this book and, having given up on Morrison's title, think I'll stick with Detective for a while and see how comfortable I get. I'm loving the art by Nguyen which I've praised before in other reviews, and the fact that Catwoman will be making this series her home when her monthly gets the axe is yet another reason to check in every 30 days.

The story itself? Too early to tell, I'm afraid. Hush has a secret hospital of zombies, it appears, Batman and Catwoman start hanging out and that's pretty much it unless you want me to talk about the ads. Still, the atmosphere is good, so far, and I'm anxious to see what Dini does with a 5-part storyline after so many onesies and twosies. It's worth checking out.

Robin #170-173: Hey, when did this series get good? I've been a fan of Robin for a long time (that always sounds weird when I say those words in public) but haven't had any reason to check out Tim Drake's or Dick Grayson's monthlies for many years. A few weeks ago I picked up a trade of some of the Adam Beechen and Freddie Williams stories at my local library, just to see what they were like, and found myself really enjoying them. So, when Chuck Dixon (the guy who launched the series 175 issues ago) returned to the character and the book with issue #170, I had to check it out.

I'm liking where the character is at. I'm liking the fact that Dixon is bringing back things that have been absent, like the long-dead Spoiler and Ives (another supporting character), yet maintaining the feel that this guy is older than when he first wrote him. He has matured, things in his life have changed and it's a tangible thing when you read these stories. I hear Chuck may be leaving the book but I'll give it a few issues post-Chuck to see if the tone stays right for me, or if things go out of whack again and I drop it like a hot potato.

By the way, loving the Freddie Williams covers, too!

Final Crisis #1-2: Okay, I'm liking the issues as I read them, but I'm simultaneously not caring, one way or the other, where this is going or how it fits into the greater scheme of things. I generally like Morrison's writing and I rarely have any complaints about J.G. Jones, so I'm not at all surprised that I'm not outright rejecting this whole event, but I think I'm just Uber-Evented out, you know? I'd rather see these guys doing something with an obscure character off in the corner somewhere, like when Morrison took over Animal Man or Doom Patrol. The DC Universe as a concept just doesn't interest me on this scale, anymore. Less with the 'widescreen' comics, I think.

I know I'm shooting myself in the foot when I say I'll keep buying for the next couple of issues because, really, we vote with our dollars, but when I see the huge stack of these comics sitting at my LCS, I can't help but think my contribution is not being felt. So, at least I can sleep at night.

John Constantine: Hellblazer #245: I think Jason Aaron and Sean Murphy wanted to pay tribute to the Jamie Delano/John Ridgeway era Constantine because this issue has all the hallmarks of that period of the book. For starters, John is nowhere to be seen for 99% of the story. Instead, we focus on a group of documentary filmmakers who are trying to get the skinny on Mucous Membrane, John's old punk band from back in the day. Over the course of the issue we see the slow decay of the group as they all go progressively mad and start doing things that, in some cases, will make you wish you didn't eat that sandwich before sitting down to read.

The end of the story (called "Newcastle Calling", by the way) has the single appearance in the issue of our John and he is buying a train ticket to Newcastle, leaving you, the reader, with the cliffhanger ending.

I've been enjoying this book since Andy Diggle took it over a handful of issues ago, and I think it's fair to say that, despite having big shoes to fill, Jason Aaron does an admirable job here. Sean Murphy's pencils were an added bonus, changing up the look of the book for a couple of issues. Manco's art is a good fit for the series, but after a while it all starts to get muddy and blend together. Besides, even at Hellblazers height of popularity, it has always been able to shift between artists and writers for different takes on the character and this is no different.

Anyway, I look forward to the conclusion (which I know is out, I just haven't gotten my hands on a copy yet) and I'd recommend it to anyone out there who likes a little slow-boil psychological horror with a dash of gross-out thrown in for flavour.

The Batman Strikes! #46: Yeah, you can feel this series winding down. #50 will likely be the final issue so I'm kind of glad this story by Russell Lissau and Christopher Jones stuck closer to the dynamic that fans of the show saw in seasons three and four as opposed to the 'All-New Justice League' show it became in season five. In this issue, Killer Croc gets a crush on a news reporter and Batman, Robin and Batgirl have to save the day. It's not Shakespeare, I know, but it was a pleasant diversion and a welcome return to a format that doesn't undermine the main character in his own book. If the next four are like this the series will go off on a high note, as far as I'm concerned.

Badger Saves the World #1: I consider Nexus to be one of the finest comic books to have ever graced the medium, so it kind of surprises me that I can find so little to like in Mike Baron's other 'famous' creation, The Badger. His appearances in the aforementioned Nexus have always been enjoyable, but the solo stuff I've seen just doesn't grab me, you know? Sometimes the satire and the strangeness of the book just seem forced, and the storytelling...well, off. I know that it's supposed to be manic and fun and zany, but I'm just not buying it. To quote Mr. Horse, "No sir, I just don't like it".

If I ever run across another issue in a dollar bin or see something online, maybe I'll give it another try. In the meantime, I'll stick with Horatio, Dave, Sundra, and the residents of Ylum for my Baron fix.

Will Eisner's The Spirit #13-16: I really wasn't sure what I would think of the post-Darwyn Cooke Spirit series but, I have to say, Evanier and Aragones are writing good stuff that feels very much in line with what Eisner was doing with the character, and Paul Smith is a Godsend of an artist. There have been a couple of other pencil jockeys to take a crack at Denny Colt since Cooke's departure (Risso, Amancio, and Ploog being three worth mentioning) but something about Smith's clean lines and superb storytelling give this book just the right feel to be nostalgic yet carrying the look of The Spirit's world forward.

I'm enjoying it, I'm keeping it on my pull list and so I'm sure DC will cancel it. Maybe they'll hang on to it for a while since the movie's coming out.

Legion of Super-Heroes #42: Sometimes I think ignorance is bliss. Like back in the old days when I bought my books off a spinner rack, and I had no idea what was going on behind the scenes of my favourite monthly comic books. That's the mentality I had when I started picking up the Jim Shooter Legion of Super-Heroes. I thought I'd give it a try because it looked fairly promising. Like it was trying to be classic without tossing out the any of the new stuff that the creators before this had established, and, it should be noted, that the artwork of Francis Manapul's was not entirely unpleasing to the eye. Fast forward a few months when I find out that Shooter's run is just temporary. That he's essentially killing time until the Final Crisis event has its way with the characters and then DC plans to relaunch the book later with a new creative team and direction. So, when I look at the last couple of issues, which feel very much like Shooter is either lost or spinning his wheels a little, I get miffed because I now realise that it's not just a brief lull in the story, it's useless filler to pad out the remainder of Shooter's run.

Overall, I still enjoy it when I do pick it up, but all the anticipation for it, as well as the fun of it, has been sucked out for me. There is probably a half-dozen issues or more to the Shooter run, so we'll see how it goes.

FCBD X-Men: I finally got around to reading this story and all I can say is, "Ugh!" This is why I will not be buying a regular X-Title any time soon. Carey's story is dull and his new X-Character, Pixie, less than engaging. This 'joining the team' story tries to be a new "Welcome to the X-Men, Kitty Pryde, Hope You Survive the Experience" but falls dreadfully short. Considering I dropped Carey's Ultimate FF recently, I shouldn't be at all surprised that I didn't enjoy this issue at all. Add to that Greg Land's art which makes my eyes bleed and I won't be peeking around Xavier's Institute for another couple of years, to be sure.

Amazing Spider-Man #555-557: This is the first time in a looong time that I've been able to buy, read and enjoy a mainstream Spider-Man comic book and this makes me glad. I have no interest in the whole "Brand New Day" brouhaha, but if it means that for short little bursts during the year I can enjoy Chris Bachalo's pencils on my favourite Marvel super-hero, I think I can live with it. Also, Zeb Wells wrote a Spidey that was quick-witted, a little hard-done-by, and utterly human which was, ultimately, the driving force to me actively seeking out all three issues so I can enjoy the whole story. Fun stuff.

I'm not sure if Wells and Bachalo will get another crack at the web-slinger anytime soon (I think it's McKone and Slott right now?), but I'm crossing fingers.



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