Monday, June 27, 2011

Capsule reviews: Comics from 6/22

Mystery Men #2 (of 5) (Marvel, $2.99, David Liss, Patrick Zircher) - We learn more about our two masked heroes, and a third hero makes their appearance.  The script by Liss moves along briskly, and doesn't skimp on surprises, which hopefully means there will plenty more twists and turns in the remaining issues.  There's a nice balance of characterization and action here, and Zircher's art continues to give this book the loving attention to detail that really helps to support the story.  My only complaint is the recap text page at the beginning of the issue; it gives info that really wasn't all that clear in the first issue, and this seems to be almost a tacit admission of error.  It really would have been better if we had learned this information through the actual pages of the comic.  Still, that's a relatively minor nitpick.  Besides, in what other comic books out there are you going to see Ayn Rand included in the cabal of villains?  Still recommended.  

The Spirit #15 (DC, $2.99, David Hine, Moritat) – The team of Hine and Moritat return with a rather twisted Valentine Day's story.  The Spirit has always had a way of attracting beautiful-yet-dangerous women, and Honey Steel, the subject of this particular tale, certainly qualifies.  There's more than a few surprises in this bleak tale of unrequited love, which ends with no small amount of genuine emotion and pathos.  Hine's scripts continue to entertain, and Moritat's art works wonderfully here; it's no real surprise that after this book gets wrapped up in a couple of months, Moritat has been tapped to work on the new Jonah Hex book, which should prove a good vehicle for his talents.

Fables #106 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99, Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham) – The conclusion of the Super Team storyline.  Willingham subverts expectations by giving a rather quick (but decisive) battle between the North Wind and Mister Dark; it's a perfectly logical ending, given what's been set up, but it's a safe bet that most people weren't expecting the final battle with Mister Dark to end in this fashion.  The rest of the issue deals with how the various cast members react to what has happened, something that many books would gloss over; the different characters and factions have their own individual takes on what occurred, and it's pretty clear that there's still plenty of trouble brewing, both from within and without.  The ending will no doubt piss some people off, but personally I think it works.

Conan: Road Of Kings #6 (of 12) (Dark Horse, $3.50, Roy Thomas, Mike Hawthorne) - The conclusion to the current story arc.  It's a somewhat by-the-numbers ending, and while this storyline hasn't been awful by any means, neither did it meet the expectations I would have for a Roy Thomas penned Conan tale.  That said, honesty compels me to acknowledge that a certain plot element that I complained about last issue wasn't simple padding after all, but actually the set-up for something that got paid off this issue.  Mea culpa.  Still, I just hope that the remaining issue in this mini-series are a little more even in their quality. 

Dark Horse Presents #2 (Dark Horse, $7.99, Paul Chadwick, Robert Love, David Walker, Neal Adams, Carla Speed McNeil, Howard Chaykin, Michael T. Gilbert, Patrick Alexander, Sanford Greene, Chuck Brown, Richard Corben, David Chelsea) - Anthologies of this caliber can certainly be fun to read, but they can also be a pain in the ass to review.  Let's jump right into it, then:

Another Concrete story by Paul Chadwick, 'In A Wound In The Earth', kicks the issue off.  For someone like me who doesn't have any previous familiarity with the character, you get a little of the character's backstory here, albeit mainly by implication.  It's a decently told tale, with possible implications for the future.

Next is the opening chapter of Number 13 by Robert Love and David Walker, a post-apocalyptic tale (which I'm pretty much a sucker for) showcasing the title character, who comes off as rather odd at first, but by the chapter's end it make sense, although there are plenty of question left as yet unanswered.  A good opening effort, one that wants me to read more.

Neal Adams' second chapter of Blood gives us some background for what's going on, but unfortunately it fails to make me care about any of these characters.  I hate to say it, but Adams' contribution to this series is the weak link here.

Carla Speed McNeil's latest Finder tale gives those of us new to the setting a better feel for what this world is like.  It's an amusing tale, one that plays its humor fairly straight, with the lead character a straight man who can appreciate the irony of his surroundings.

The second part of Howard Chaykin's Marked Man expands a bit on the basic premise, but still plays it a bit cagey in terms of where this will be going.  Very curious to see how this plays out.

To be honest, I had kind of expected that last issue's Mr. Monster by Michael T. Gilbert not to carry over into this issue; Mr. Monster is absurd enough that it was entirely possible that the Earth be taken over would have been no more than a single punchline.  As it turns out, this isn't the case, and the current chapter continues the storyline, in its own absurdest and over-the-top manner.  A highly enjoyable romp that continues to be a great deal of fun.

Patrick Alexander's The Wraith is a light but amusing piece, showing us what a masked vigilante (in a rather familiar-looking costume) would really be like.

The other debut serial is Rotten Apple by Sanford Greene and Chuck Brown.  The first chapter hints more than explains, but it seems that it's a futuristic setting, and our main character is a young female merc who has signed on for a battle between two warring religious factions.  The art by Greene is quite appealing, and is probably my favorite story of the lot, visually.

Richard Corben's installment of Murky World, 'The Treasure', is a fairly thin piece of greed and betrayal, but it's also a fairly standard Corben piece, so if you like Corben, you'll like this, and if you don't, this won't do anything to change your mind.

The book wraps up with another charming chapter of Snow Angel by David Chelsea.  Our lead character doesn't react well to change, and winds up altering the Earth's environment to better suit her needs... all in good fun, of course!  This continues to amuse.

Overall, this anthology continues to entertain, and if its uneven in spots, there's still more good than bad to be had. 

Rocketeer Adventures #2 (of 4) (IDW, $3.99, Mark Waid, Chris Weston, Darwyn Cooke, Lowell Francis, Gene Ha, Geof Darrow) - Another anthology series, albeit a shorter one; fortunately, this issue is pretty consistently entertaining throughout.  Mark Waid and Chris Weston's 'It Ain't The Fall That Kills Ya...' is a fun romp, and if it's perhaps the weakest of the three stories here, that's only because there other two are so darned good.  Darwyn Cooke's 'Betty Save The Day' re-imagines the Rocketeer concept as a period movie serial; if you can't see how that would be entertaining, you've probably never had the pleasure before of seeing Cooke's sense of graphic design and all the strengths he brings to his storytelling.  The highlight of the issue is Lowell Francis and Gene Ha's 'TKO', which uses the device of having the narration of an unrelated event (in this case, a boxing match) parallel the main story.  It's handled quite well, and the appearance of a certain pulp hero (who've we've seen before in previous Rocketeer pages) and two of his assistants just adds the cherry to the top of the sundae.  A nice two-page pin-up spread by Geof Darrow rounds out the issue, showing our hero in mid-air battle against several Nazi aircraft.  Very nice, and so far this mini-series has done a fine job of showcasing Dave Steven's flying hero.

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