Sunday, March 13, 2005

This Bill-- This Blogger! (Comics Review Revue strikes again!)

I'm not a fan of blogs. And I'm not your typical "blogger." And I really should be studying, or writing this history paper, rather than silly comic reviews, but I'm bored and I'm procrastinating. So I'ma gonna talk about the fact that I spent thirty-three dollars at the comic shop and walked out with eleven comics, which may seem crazy to you, and yes, it's true, comics are too damn expensive these days. But there was some damn good material hidden within, and I'll babble on about it until my brain leaks out my ears. This episode of Comics Revue is accompanied by the unofficial Comics Review Revue Showgirls, and I'm sure you'll be entranced by their leggy boogies. Also, aside from the usual numerical review notation, I'll steal from the Savage Critic review scale. On with the show.

Astonishing X-Men #7-8: So I tracked down the issues anyway. These two issues are better than the last few have been (though if you read the first arc straight through with an open mind, it isn't really that bad). Sure, there's still some fanwank and a thoroughly pointless Fantastic Four guest appearance, but the pacing's really good and the plot's intriguing. I'ma give it a 7/10, I suppose. This merits a Good on the SavCrit scale.

Fantastic Four #523: Hmm, I dunno. I read this last, as, well, it's probably my least-favorite comic on my pull list anymore (only one issue to go after this one), and this issue was pretty lackluster, although I liked the previous couple episodes. Some decent bits, but otherwise pretty lame. 5.5/10. This is what we in the business call Okay.

Gotham Central #28-29: I'm liking the better production values of this book (and the price hasn't gone up yet!). This is the first half or so of a new arc which starts off from the perspective of a beat cop, something we don't normally see. The best parts are the character bits, however, and although I think Montoya's a little overused (she's Rucka's pet character), she's probably the most popular character in the book, and I really liked the developments occurring in this story (plus: lesbians! Well, for those of you who are enticed by that sorta thing). The crossover with the cops from Flash is handled well, even though I dislike that book. I'm not so into the whole "cop transformed into monster!" angle, though. It's also pretty hard to tell that Michael Lark left the book, because the former inker is pencilling this arc, and it's pretty damn good. 8.5/10, or Very Good.

Human Target #19: This is part one of the final storyarc of this title, and it's mostly set-up. Tom McFadden, the apprentice to Christopher Chance from the original Vertigo mini-series returns, and he's even more screwed-up than ever, and seems to have some kind of "evil plan" in the works. I hope the book wraps up well, but this issue wasn't necessarily anything exciting. 6/10. High OK, low Good, whatever.

JLA Classified #4: This is part one of the "I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League" arc, which was held back because Identity Crisis bollocksed with the cast, etc, but it's okay! It's here! We've got it! For the uneducated, this is the sequel to "Formerly Known as the Justice League," which reunited the comedy team of Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire, the original creative team of the *funny* Justice League comics from the late 80's and early 90's. It's got my favorite character in it (Elongated Man), and his wife isn't dead in this, so, heh, yay! This one's loaded with quite a few chuckles, and it's all just character interaction, with an old favorite returning on the very last page. Sure, it's nostalgia, but this is one nostalgia train that I'm glad to hop onto. Maguire has a great gift for facial expression and figurework. 8/10, Very Good.

Seven Soldiers #0: Okay, here's where we make Lithium Age Comics Review Revue history. Let me start off by saying this is an absolutely fantastic comic by two creators who are on top of their respective games: Writer Grant Morrison and artist JH Williams III. Plus, this issue is a great deal, with 38 pages of story for a mere three bucks (usually you'd just be getting 22 or 23 pages with that). It starts off the huge Seven Soldiers mega-series with a bang, and I know I'll have to buy every single issue.
The story's a wild romp of triumph and tragedy. The plot: An old hero, rather than head for the retirement home, rounds up a posse of other super-heroes to battle a spider monster that he thought he killed over a hundred years ago. He's the cowboy hero called Vigilante. The Whip, granddaughter of the original Whip, tags along because she's become obsessed with her role as a super-hero, and it writing a book about it. Joining them are Boy Blue, Dan the Dyna-Mite, Gimmix, and I, Spyder.
The design of this comic is just fabulous. The panelwork and layout of the pages is beautiful in itself, and the artwork is absolutely brilliant.
The best bit is how each member of the "Seven" Soldiers represents a different era of comics, and is each drawn a different way to emphasize that. Vigilante is an old 30's/40's comic, Gimmix is a 50's pin-up, Dan (the "hero-vestite") turns into a Kirby drawing, I, Spyder becomes an "Ultimate" version of himself... The art is breathtaking, and loaded with detail. It's a thing of beauty to behold.
I love how Grant Morrison makes me care about all these characters within a few pages, with just a few lines of dialogue, and I love how the characters reflect different periods of comics history. As someone else said, it's like taking a bunch of super-heroes and throwing them into the Big Brother house. Their interaction is fab.
Anyway, I'm gushing. Nevertheless, this is the best comic of the year so far, and it reminds me of why I love the medium so much. Truly an awesome achievement, and deserves an Excellent grading, and also is the very first comic I've reviewed in this column that's ever gotten a 10/10.

Seven Soldiers: Shining Knight #1: This is the first issue of the first Seven Soldiers mini-series, and it's really good stuff. It starts off in the midst of a huge Arthurian legend, with the Knights of the Broken Table getting their butts handed to them by mystical faerie villains the Sheeda. Only young 16-year-old knight Sir Justin can save the day. It's here we get our first glimpse of the main villainess of the mega-series, Gloriana Tenebrae, the queen of darkness. She's every evil woman or witch from every myth or fairy tale wrapped into one imposing figure.
I'm no fan of the fantasy genre, but this issue works for me. It's got knights and monsters and talking winged horses, but it works. It also ties into Arthurian and Celtic myth, and I am a fan of mythology. Of course, by the end of the issue it's taking place in modern day. I look forward to see where it's heading...
Okay, so we know the story's good (it's Grant Morrison, remember), but the art's from someone hardly anyone's heard of (Simone Bianchi) but it's really damn good stuff. It's like a cross between the styles of Gil Kane and Barry Windsor-Smith, filtered through the European school of comic art.
It's a fine comic, and I love it more each time I look at it. 9/10, Very (Very) Good.

Vimanarama! #1-2: This is the third and last of Grant Morrison's wave of three Vertigo mini-series, and it's also my least favorite, so far. Granted, there's one more issue after this, but these first two leave me a bit cold. It's probably my least-favorite Morrison work since Zenith (which came out ages ago).
It's about two Pakistani teenagers in England who are arranged to be married and end up unleashing an ancient evil, as well as an ancient good. It's apparently a big Bollywood epic through the eyes of a Jack Kirby comic, and that sure sounds good, but I'm unsure about the execution. There's plenty of good moments (the evil guy drinking a Molotov cocktail; "My knee... grazed beyond redemption!") but I'm just not feeling the apparent joycore-ness of it. The characters are alright but not spectacular, the mythological background is muddled, and the plot's kinda thin. The art (by Philip Bond, who previously teamed with Morrison on the very good 'Kill Your Boyfriend') is pretty good, but not up to his usual caliber.
As far as I can tell, there's some kind of industrialization vs. mysticism theme going on. Also, I see, as I said on the Barbelith thread devoted to it, the ramifications of ancient religious figures showing up in modern day, where no one cares about them anymore. It's shown most clearly in the scene where these new gods are "restoring the fallen world to glory," but it's really just turning into a frightening science-magic place where the regular humans feel quite uneasy. Perhaps it's about modern society realizing it doesn't need the ancient gods helping it, anymore. It could be some kind of pro-atheist thing, though more than likely it just means that humanity needs to find its own strength, and shouldn't rely on the direct actions of the gods, that humanity can find its own way.
So, yeah, it's alright, but nothing spectacular, and I think it's pretty predictable (I've got the next issue figured out, I think, and I'm not sure if I'll be glad to be wrong or if it *should* go in my predicted direction). Lots of people seem to like, it, though, but others seem to be a bit indifferent, like me. I'll give it a 6/10, so it's just OK.

I see I've finished, and so have the dancers. We all need a break, and hopefully I've honed my review skills enough to tackle this history dealy. So I guess that means I'm off. ...but wait! I've forgotten! We need a...

Celebrity of the Moment (#2): Bill Pullman, ladies and gents! Yeah, the president from Independence Day, or that dude that made me mock The Grudge relentlessly. Basically, he's just like Jeff Daniels, but lamer. I... don't have much to say about him. But he's Bill freakin' Pullman!