Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Capsule reviews: Comics from 1/26

Fables #101 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99, Bill Willingham, Eric Shanower) – After the battle with Mr. Dark last issue (and aftermath thereof), we briefly switch gears with an issue concentrating on Bufkin the (formerly flying) monkey, who gets conned by the Magic Mirror into climbing up the ancient magical tree beneath Fabletown in order to perform various heroic deeds, and hopefully find a way to escape the Fabletown business office, which is currently cut off from Earth due to the events last issue. He winds up in his old stomping grounds of Oz, and helps the Bungle the cat (who appears to no longer be made of glass), Sawhorse the wooden horse, and Jack Pumpkinhead who are trying to escape from the prisons of the Nome King, who has taken over Oz.

For those whose familiarity with Oz begins and ends with the movie, these characters will be new, but for those of us who have read the original novels, we're on familiar territory. All of this has Willingham's signature approach to this sort of story, and Shanower (who has no small familiarity with Baum's original stories, having written and drawn several original Oz graphic novels back in the late 80's) provides some simply wonderful art. There's a nice touch with the coloring; the first half of the story, in the business office and in where Bufkin is climbing the tree, is done in muted tones, but when he shows up in Oz the colors are bright and vibrant. I know some people haven't cared so much for the recent storylines after the war with the Adversary, but this issue is a real corker. I only wish the next issue would continue this storyline, instead of starting a different one. That said, this issue is excellent, and highly recommended. 

Conan: Road of Kings #2 (Dark Horse, $3.50, Roy Thomas, Mike Hawthorne) – After finding themselves in Shadizar the Wicked, Conan and Krimsar engage in some thievery, while Olivia still wishes to return to Ophir. Honestly, I didn't care much for this issue. Hawthorne's art is okay, but compared to some of the recent Conan artists is nothing special, and Thomas's script feels rather bland and generic, something I never expecting to say about one of his Conan stories. I hope this is just a momentary dip in quality; the first issue was better than this, and hopefully the following issue will pick back up. 

The Spider and Domino Lady #1 (Moonstone, $3.99, Nancy Holder, Joe Gentile, E.M Gist) – A fun little one-shot teaming up two very different pulp characters. The format is similar to the Battle For L.A. one-shot from a few weeks ago, in that you have a lot of text with the occasional black-and-white illustration used as a centerpiece. Overall, I liked this better than Battle For L.A. Holder and Gentile's story works well, being a good, fast-paced story that still showcases the differences between the personalities of our two lead characters. Gist's art helps to highlight the mood of the story nicely, although I'd still like to see these stories attempted in a more traditional comic book format... if you're going to primarily rely on text to tell your tale, why not just publish these as short stories in a prose book? Still, if you have an interest in pulp-style storytelling, this certainly worth picking up.  Edit: I forgot to mention that there are a couple of rather glaring typos in the text.  These appear to be word processing notes that didn't get caught in the final edit.

Glamourpuss #17 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, $3.00, Dave Sim) – This issue forgoes for the most part the satirical look at the fashion industry via the title character that we normally get, instead spending about half the issue with various illustrations and quotes from John F. Kennedy. The rest of the issue continues the history of photorealism in comics, concerning a meeting between comic strip artists Alex Raymond and Stan Drake. Honestly, either you groove on this sort of thing, or you don't. If you didn't care for this book initially, this issue isn't going to change your minds. For me, part of the appeal is seeing Sim's approach to photorealism; even when attempting to mimic another artist in this manner – and honestly, he doesn't do a bad job of it - you can still see that it's clearly a Sim piece of art. 

The Savage Sword of Kull, vol 1 (Dark Horse, $19.99, Roy Thomas, Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, Marie and John Severin, Geof Isherwood, others) – Picked this one up a while back, but just recently got around to finishing it. This volume collects all of the black-and-white Kull stories that Marvel did in the 70's and 80's. Given that it covers about a decade and a half, with a wide variety of writers and artists, the overall quality varies quite a bit, but overall these stories reprinted here are fairly enjoyable. My main complaint is that one of the major storylines reprinted here – where Kull loses his throne to Thulsa Doom - had its beginnings in a color comic, and was concluded in another color comic; neither are reprinted here, so we only get the middle chapters. A summary of this (and other) Kull comic book storylines is touched on in a later text piece that is also reprinted, but until you get there the lack of a beginning or ending for that particular storyline is somewhat jarring. A text summary bookending these middle chapters would have been appreciated.

That complaint aside, most of the stories and art are quite good, and you certainly get a lot of bang for your buck. If you like Howard's orignal barbarian king, this is easily worth picking up.

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