Sunday, August 28, 2005

Chris' Reviews 8/24, Pt. 1

Howdy! Thanks to a well - timed check from my employer, I managed to purchase a few extra things this week that I haven't been reading regularly. And so, dear reader, on with the reviews. Massive Spoilers Ahoy!

OMAC Project #5

Hoo boy, it's the return of most of the 'Bwa ha ha'-Era Justice League as Brutha Eye gets its killin' on. Ex-Checkmater Sasha Bordeaux turns all OMAC-y, the aforementioned JL gets its collective ass handed to it via OMACs, and Batman...well, Batman just kind of sits there while his spy satellite thumbs its nose at him. In a Soylent-Green like "twist", we learn how OMACs are created (it's not nearly as earth-shattering as Rucka seems to think it is). Finally, every OMAC across the globe gets turned on, and we learn that there's a whole assload of them. Oh, and Rocket Red adds his name to the list of needlessly killed superheroes. Thanks, DC! You sure are Making Comics Fun Again!

This series as a whole has been somewhat of a slow burn, but that only works if you've got a nifty explosion at the end. Quite frankly, most of this series has been a little too drawn out for my tastes, and most of the events have been fairly predictable. My biggest problem is how the OMACs are being used in damn near every other DC comic as a deus ex fight scene . We get it already. OMACs are hard to kill. We know. We promise not to argue that point. Now go back to writing stories that aren't extended fight scenes for your crossover, writer!

Best Moment: Sasha turning into what reminds me of that chick who got 'robotized' in Superman III

Worst Moment: Batman just sitting there all issue looking like a kid who got his lunch money stolen by his teacher.

Comic Book Goodness: 3/5. Pretty mediocre in my opinion, but advances enough of the plot to where I'm actually looking forward to the next (and last) issue.

Day of Vengeance #5

I'll put my cards on the table here: I loves me some Detective Chimp. Never heard of him before this series (and if that makes me a non-purist, then so be it), but he and the rest of this team are turning into one of my most favorite superteams out there right now. In this issue, Nightshade gets to narrate as the Shadowpact sits around congratulating themselves on almost beating the Spectre, then they lay a trap for Eclipso and the Spectre that goes wrong in just about every sense of the word.

I just mentioned extended fight scenes in the last review, and to be fair, the three issues prior to this have been pretty much nothing but a fight between Spectre and the Shadowpact and Captain Marvel. The difference here is that the characters are so distinct and well-written that it's hard not to root for this ragtag bunch. This series has been humorous, adventurous, and so fun that it's well worth picking up.

Best Moment: Black Alice making the case for why you shouldn't eat eggs cooked by a monkey.

Worst Moment: The still-hard-to-swallow relationship between Eclipso and the Spectre continues to seem yucky and stupid.

Comic Book Goodness: 4/5. There's so much to like about this series that I can forgive the fact that the Spirit of Vengeance is shown as having the intellect of a ceiling fan.

Batman: Jekyll and Hyde #5

I'm in the minority here, but I've been really liking this series too. That artwork by Jae Lee and Sean Phillips has been moody, dark, and perfectly Batman-ny. In this issue, Batman has recovered from Two-Face's "inhibition-destroying" serum, and is trying to prevent him from releasing it into the city's water supply.

(By the way, has there ever been a more f#$^-ed with water supply than Gotham City's? How many times has someone screwed with the reservoir now, 100? 200? I swear they should just rename it Gotham City Criminal Piss Pot And Deadly Chemical Repository. I'm pretty sure the Joker has a whole pipe system named after him by now.)

Two-Face actually outsmarts the Dark Knight in a cool twist involving, I shit you not, ice cream and clowns, and the whole thing so far reads like a classic Batman story (and I mean that in a good way). Commissioner Gordon also gets a fair amount of page time here, and they actually let him be a police officer instead of Batman's caddy! Bravo, Paul Jenkins. Bravo. Then the last page comes along and threatens to derail the whole enterprise: we're led to believe that Two-Face isn't Harvey Dent, but his brother Murray.

No, I'm not kidding.

Best Moment: The Chocolate Ice Cream of Death took me by surprise. Either that was really well done, or I'm stupider than I think. (Shut up, Randy.)

Worst Moment: Batman cries. WTF?!? I know from shit about Batman, and if there's one rule that every person writing a Batman story should follow, it's that YOU DO NOT MAKE BATMAN CRY LIKE A LITTLE GIRL.

Comic Book Goodness: 3/5. Between Batman actually being a detective and the outstanding art, I've really enjoyed this series. Between Batman crying and The Murray Revelation, I felt embarassed to be reading this issue in particular.

Conan #19

I'd been hearing good things about this series, so I picked one up. Thankfully, it happened to be a one-shot story before the next arc begins, so I wasn't too lost. The idea here is that Conan and his honey are hanging out in the City of Thieves and for reasons relating entirely to getting in said honey's pants (not that she's wearing any) Conan decides to loot a valuable crown from a temple. This, naturally, causes the Giant Slug-Beast Of Tentacled Doom to arise and pretty much kill everything in its way to get its crown back. In the end, the crown is returned, the honey is eaten by the GSBOTD, and Conan looks for another score.

Let me begin by saying that I'm not one of those people who know the source material so well that they write letters to the comic pointing out that "Zamora is depicted as having a sunny climate, when even the MOST CASUAL reader knows that it lies well south of Cimmeria's 40th parallel. Duh!"

I was entertained as hell by this issue, particularly by its characterization of Conan. He's not the smartest guy in the world, he likes gambling and drinking and screwing, and he's pretty much selfish and narrow minded. In other words, he's just like a real person! The art was good, especially when the GSBOTD starts going all Crunch N' Munch on the populace, and this really scratched my swords and sorcery itch (and no, I'm not telling you where that is). I'll definitely be picking this up regularly.

Best Moment: Conan's honey getting eaten like an Otter Pop. Man, she had that coming.

Worst Moment: I'm all for the ladies, but the fact that fantasy comics continue to depict them dressed in "battle lingerie" still makes little sense.

Comic Book Goodness: 4/5. Well played, Busiek. Well played.

Iron Ghost #1-3

Spurred on by Greg's review over at Comics Should Be Good , I picked up the first three issues of this series. The idea here is that there's a serial killer shooting people in 1945 Germany right before the end of the war, and the comic follows various military personnel and a police detective as they try to decipher who is doing the killings and why. Oh, and the Iron Ghost looks like a badass Phantom Stranger, if the Phantom Stranger carried Lugers, wore a monocle, and was a Nazi. So there.

Yet another comic I really enjoyed, and I'm really glad I picked up all three issues. This is a complex, nice-looking story that you don't see every day, and the characters are all well-defined and interesting to follow. Mystery comics are tough to pull off, but this one's doing it in spades.

Best Moment: The actual piecing together of clues is used to tell us about the Iron Ghost's technology, "powers", etc. Seamless without having to resort to Captain Exposition.

Worst Moment: Struggling to keep track of all the German names and similar faces early on. It was hard to tell the Hauptschweiger from the Braunvolzheim, although the fact that most of the characters are blond and blue-eyed is probably due more to historical accuracy than lazy art. Stupid Nazis.

Comic Book Goodness: 3/5. Three issues in, I'm liking the mystery. Plus, it's a relatively unique premise and it's not even set in an alternate universe! Yay!

Jack Cross #1

I picked this up because I like Warren Ellis. Stop me if you've heard this before:

A Badass Operative who works for an Agency Far, Far More Secret Than The CIA discovers Corruption and Political Infighting and Rogue Activity inside the nation's Intelligence Community. After Years Out Of The Business, he is recruited by an Old Flame to come back and solve the Problem Only His Unique Talents Can Solve.

Billy, can you find at least five action movie/comic cliches in that description? If you did, good for you! You win a copy of Global Frequency. Because you sure as shit won't wanna read Jack Cross.

It is what it is, which is exactly as I've described it above. What makes this "different" is that Cross is a liberal when he's not torturing and killing people in the name of the government. We know this because Jack Cross lives in San Francisco and marches in protest, which apparently is shorthand for liberal. Oh, and because after he shoots off a man's fingers during an interrogation (yup), he cries in the crapper.

So, here's the lesson: paper-thin ideological stereotypes + overused plot + too-cartooony art = bad comic. Warren Ellis is usually a _lot_ more interesting than this. The show 24 would like its plot back, thanks.

Best Moment: The panel showing (for some reason) an X-Ray view of Cross shooting the guy's finger.

Worst Moment: I dunno. Probably the heavy-handed "crying in the toilet" scene that so does not make me want to read another issue.

Comic Book Goodness: 1/5. Effective interrogation; I'm no lawyer, but I do believe dismembering a suspect's fingers may be a violation of their rights.


Blogger Greg said...

Ah, my influence spreads ...

I'm glad you liked Iron Ghost. I would hate to steer someone wrong!

3:11 PM  
Anonymous jake said...

I'm glad I finally talked you into picking up a copy of Conan. Busiek has done a great job of retelling the classic tales and I'm hoping this might convince Dark Horse--or anyone else for that matter--to try more classic pulp heroes like Tarzan without trying to write new, updated tales of--FOOLED YOU! I really just want you to check out my blog about rebuilding your credit so you can buy herbal remedies!

9:22 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Greg: thanks for the heads up on IG. One of the nicest surprises in comics for me this year.

Jake: the lesson, as always: I should listen to you more often.

Personally, I'd like to see Tarzan, Allan Quatermain (the non-Alan Moore-ized version) and Buck Rogers all get a monthly series, perhaps as part of a new line. How fucking fun could that be?

Answer: a lot of fucking fun, my friends.

10:58 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

By the way, I just finished checking out a lot of comics review sites/blogs, and I absolutely cannot understand the love that Jack Cross is getting.

Are people that in love with Erskine's cartoony art? Are they giving Ellis a pass on what may be his most derivatory work ever?

I have no explanation for this. It sucked. And I actually LIKE the show 24.

10:46 PM  
Anonymous Kurt said...

Nice blog guys.

You're dead on regarding Jack Cross and I think those of us who actually took time to think about the book came to the same conclusion: it was pretty darn bad. The negative reviews are finally starting to catch up to it though - I posted mine last night, Rose at Shrew Review raked it pretty good and Jog really dismantled the art.

I don't think people give Ellis a pass so much as just nod and figure if he writes it, it must great.

5:02 PM  
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