Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Capsule reviews: Comics from 4/20 and 4/27

(What, you expected prompt and timely?  Hah!)

Legion of Super-Heroes (DC, $2.99, Paul Levitz, Yildiray Cinar) - The ongoing conflict between the Legion and their villainous counterparts continue.  We see elements of the two teams battle on different fronts, with a fair amount of back-and-forth, as Saturn Queen continues to recruit new members into the LSV ranks, and by the end the bad guys have definitely gained the upper hand for the moment.  Interspersed between these fight scenes we get some more info on the Star Boy subplot, Kodama's appearance last issue is explained somewhat, and Mon-El and Dyogene's investigation into the destruction that Saturn Queen has wrought.

Levitz seems to have finally hit his stride on this book, juggling multiple characters, scenes, and setting with aplomb.  Cinar's art continues to shine; this month he's inked by Jonathan Glapion, who seems to work well with Cinar, giving a little extra edge to the fight scenes. Overall, this title has picked up nicely, and continues to entertain.

The Spirit #13 (DC, $2.99, David Hine, Moritat) - The Clockwork Killer storyline concludes. As the gang war escalates, Spirit fights his way through the city in hopes of somehow ending the bloodshed, and Ellen comes to understand the nature of the Professor's obsessions.  It's a damned shame that this book seems to be destined for cancellation, as Hine and Moritat are doing fine work here.  Hine's dialog for the Spirit works in ways that other writers would probably screw up (*cough*FrankMiller*cough*), and Moritat's art, if anything, continues to improve, wonderfully illustrating the mixture of pulp and noir that a book like The Spirit demands.  The highlight of this issue is the treatment of Ellen as a character, who holds her own and shows why she's worthy of being the Spirit's love interest.  Pick this title up while you can, because it probably won't be around that much longer.

Fables #104 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99, Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham) - Part three of the 'Super Team' storyline.  The cover is, of course, a nod to the cover of the 1987 reboot of the Justice League by Kevin Maguire.  The issue starts off with some of the characters visualizing how the fight with Mister Dark will go, in a rather four-color fashion.  Someone who isn't paying attention might think these early pages are a waste of space, but besides acting as a contrast to how the fight will eventually go down, it also hints at the desperate nature of the fables, as they try to talk themselves into believing they really have a chance to survive and win.

There are other training sequences, and more subplots here and there, but the kicker to the issue is Bigby being confronted by his father, who informs him of his intent to kill Ghost. Man, talk about lousy timing.  It's hard to tell where exactly this is all going, but it continues to be a hell of a ride.  Still recommended.  

Dark Horse Presents #1 (Dark Horse, $7.99, Paul Chadwick, Howard Chaykin, Neal Adams, Carla Speed McNeil, Michael T. Gilbert, Frank Miller, Harlan Ellison, Richard Corben, Randy Stradley, Paul Gulacy, David Chelsea, Patrick Alexander) - The inaugural issue of the revival of the classic anthology series.  Now in an 80-page format, with a metric truckload of comic book talent included inside its pages, this is probably one of the best values in the industry today.  Of course, the content is uneven, and it's highly unlikely that all of the stories will appeal to any given reader, but even so, there's a lotta bang for the buck.

Paul Chadwick's Concrete is one of those books I keep intending to check out but have never quite gotten around to doing so.  Here we get an entertaining story with the lead character stumbling across not one, but two different crimes, although the second isn't immediately obvious.  It's a nice little piece, giving a good taste of how the rest of this series probably reads.

Howard Chaykin's Marked Man is the first part of a storyline concerning a criminal who is desperately trying to keep his wife and family from finding out about his illicit activities.  It's a little light, but sets up the premise well, and knowing Chaykin there will be no lack of the characters being complete and utter bastards as the story progresses.

Neal Adams' Blood has some really nice art, as one might expect.  As for the story... well, let's just say that as a writer, Adams is a really good artist.

I don't have any previous knowledge of McNeil's Finder, but part one of Third World is certainly entertaining, and has me interested in possibly checking out more about McNeil's work.

Michael T. Gilbert's Mr. Monster story is pretty much what you would expect if you have any previous familiarity with the character, which is to say, goofy, over-the-top shameless fun.

Next is an interview with Frank Miller plugging his upcoming sequel to the 300 mini-series, Xerxes, with a few pages of art to act as a teaser.  The preview doesn't really give enough to indicate how the sequel might turn out, although the interview has a certain entertainment value.

How Interesting: A Tiny Man is a short prose piece by Harlan Ellison.   It's not Ellison's best, but Ellison's not-best is still usually pretty entertaining, and this is no exception.

Part one of Richard Corben's Murky World, set in what appears to be a post-apocalypse world, is pretty much what you would expect, in terms of both Corben's art and writing.  If you like Corben's past stuff, then there's no reason you won't like this.

Stradley and Gulacy's The Third Time Pays For All comes off as little more than an ad for the latest Star Wars: Crimson Empire mini-series; it's decent enough, but if you're not already following this story arc, this probably won't sway you to start.

David Chelsea's Snow Angel is quirky and cute, and the sort of thing that would never sell big on its own, but complements an anthology series nicely.

Finally, there are two one-page strips by Patrick Alexander; 'quirky' is probably he best way to describe his dark humor and minimalist art style.

Overall, this is an excellent value, and should be sought out by comic book fans who are looking for something new, but don't know where to start.  This first issue is a bit heavy on older, well-established creators, but hopefully following issues will showcase some newer talent alongside the old pros.

King Conan: The Scarlet Citadel #3 (of 4) (Dark Horse, $3.50, Timothy Truman, Tomás Giorello) - The penultimate chapter of the mini-series.  Things start to crank up as Conan struggles to escape his prison, fighting various unholy threats, and encountering a wizard along the way, who may or may not be trustworthy.  Truman's script picks back up a bit from last issue's somewhat pedestrian approach, and Giorello's art continues to shine.  A good setup for what should hopefully be a satisfying final issue.

Conan: Road Of Kings #4 (Dark Horse, $3.50, Roy Thomas, Mike Hawthorne) - Sometimes the enemy of your enemy is your friend.  And sometimes, the enemy of your enemy is also your enemy, and the best you can hope for is that they'll fight each other while you get out of the way.  Conan in this chapter faces torture and death, but the multiple factions at play in this story gives him a chance to escape and fight once again.  Things are slowly building, some secrets are revealed, and this storyline, after a couple of hiccups, is moving along nicely.

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