Sunday, April 03, 2005

Reviews for Comics from the week of 03/31/05

I was a tad underwhelmed this week, so forgive the lateness:

The Goon #11 – Man, it feels like it’s been a while. The last issue we got of this was before Christmas, and that issue was a Scrooge spoof, so this is our first “real” Goon story in about 5 months, so I’m hankering for a lot more of this. Eric Powell continues to deliver an interesting combination of absurd comedy (Frankie dines with Lord Falderal), black comedy (Frankie threatens to drown the crippled kid who pisses him off), imaginative visuals (The Flesh-Eating Eye Monster) and genuinely disturbing moments of true horror – in this issue, the sequences showing Dr. Alloy’s decomposition were truly unsettling, and his desperation really rang true. Powell’s done a great job creating a supporting cast that is as believable and sympathetic as it is bizarre and exaggerated, and Alloy’s suffering (and resulting transformation) is his strongest work in this regard since he closed The Buzzard’s story several issues back. I’m looking forward to how this continues next issue.

Countdown to Infinite Crisis #1 – Everybody’s reviewed the hell out of this already, so I’ll be brief: I picked this up because I thought that, as a promotionally-priced one-shot, it might be a good jumping on point to see what’s been going on in the DCU and give me an informed leg-up on the upcoming slew of miniseries related to the events of this book. I couldn’t possibly have been more turned off. I have no idea who almost all the characters in this book are and the story does a poor job of introducing most of them. The tangential storylines, both past events referenced and upcoming series teased, were baffling to me as a new reader. I won’t be checking out any related stuff in the DCU for a while.

Zombies and Broken Hearts #1 – This was a reasonably clever parody piece featuring a zombie running around town trying to get laid. It’s decent, but not brilliant. If that sounds like your kind of thing, take a look. Personally, I’d rather read The Goon again.

The Amazing Joy Buzzards #4 – Probably the least shoddy issue of this series yet, which is reassuring. There’s promise here, but I’ve felt it was kinda sloppy thus far and it’s been turning me off; like The Intimates before it, I want to like this but find myself pleading with it way too often. “Please don’t have stupid lettering mistakes everywhere, please!” I’m also a bit tired of independent comics fooling around with clichés in what reads to me as an attempt to be ironic or clever; the revamped Spider-man origin in this issue, for example, put me off more than it made me smile, although I did smile for a moment. That said, I think Smith and Hipp been consistently improving this series since its debut, and I know I’ve come to like The Intimates pretty well, so I’m holding out for another issue or two with this series as well. Enjoyed a lot of the art in this issue, as it did a good job mixing up its own rhythm with ambient, mood-setting sequences, big moment splash pages, and clever experiments – for example, there’s one panel that segues from a flashback story into the present-tense face of the character who’s telling said story, splitting his face up Harvey Dent-style, and I like that sort of thing when it’s successful, as this is. The writing does a good job balancing the over-stylized mod posturing with actual relationships between the main characters. I’m still not laughing as much as I have the feeling I’m meant to be, but as I said, at least the momentum here is in the direction of “better” and not “worse”. The book closes on a cliffhanger with the payoff to be delivered in a web-comic, which is at once clever and irritating. At first, I thought, “Neat. I’ll have to go check that out.” But then I thought: Since the webcomic will be reproduced in the upcoming trade, isn’t that kind of a sneer at the people who’ve been reading this in the serial format, who won’t have that part of the story in any printed form? Anyway, I’m still on the fence here, but I’ll be getting the next issue at least.

Fantastic Four #524 – Waid got a little too sappy in the closing issues of his run for my taste, and he wraps it up all saccharine and cuddly here. Sue gets a moment to discuss how she feels about being Invisible Woman that neatly addresses the haunted characterization Reed received in Waid’s first issue, which is a nice treat for those of us who’ve been reading since then, but it’s done in a manner that should be accessible to relatively new readers. An important question readers have been asking for several issues – if Reed cares so much about Ben, why doesn’t he use the technology at hand to free him from being The Thing? – is well answered also, and the reveal rings completely true. Where the after-school special moralizing completely jumps the tracks is when Ben explains why he must refuse Reed’s solution. It doesn’t really make any sense, and it’s clearly meant to be a moment that makes us admire Ben Grimm all over again, so its sloppiness is frustrating. I was really irritated with Mike Wieringo’s costume design for the revamped Dr. Doom a couple years ago, but in the time since then I have to admit he’s really proven himself the ideal FF artist, combining cartoonish linework and comedic timing with sympathetic facial expressions and convincingly big superheroics to bring us into the Imaginauts’ world with flair. I’m dropping the title as this team leaves, and while I don’t think they went out on a perfect note, they certainly wrapped up their run in a consistent, ultimately satisfying way.

Damn Nation #2 – I’ll be damned. This was not only my Pleasant Surprise of the Week, but also my favorite read. I was expecting this series to wear me out a bit, as I’ve been feeling a little overloaded with zombie/vampire/etc. comics and movies, but this three-issue mini has completely challenged my expectations. This issue is top-notch work in every regard. While I had a hard time really getting into J. Alexander’s art on his Queen & Country arc (I think his style gets confusing in black-and-white), in color I can’t get enough of it – it’s alternatingly frightening, moody, comforting, suspenseful, lush, and panicked, and it tackles all these approaches with amazing success. The characters are clear, the action surprisingly kinetic for painted work, and the coloring really helps it shine – it swings the palette from rich and deep to gray and stark, in perfect concert with what the given scene calls for. Andrew Cosby – this being my first reading of his work, that I know of – impresses me as well, with an amazing amount of story density and convincing, fun characterization; and as strong as his dialogue is, he includes plenty of space for Alexander to show off. One page in particular features only three panels – two are close-ups of characters’ eyes, and the third is a close-up of a character’s mouth with one word of dialogue. It’s remarkably restrained on the part of the writer, and it works to the scene’s benefit in every way, by building suspense and balancing clarity with ambiguity; I know what’s about to happen, but I don’t know exactly how or why, and it’s really brilliant comics making. Exciting stuff, and highly recommended.

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