Saturday, June 11, 2011

Capsule reviews: Comics from 6/8

Doc Savage #15 (DC, $2.99, J.G. Jones, Dan Panosian) - Part 3 of 'Raise The Khan" introduces a new artist; I know most comic fans don't like having a change of artists mid-story, but in this case I'm not going to complain.  Panosian's work here is rough and a bit rushed in spots, but the flaws are more easily forgivable that those of his predecessor, and overall this is still a step up.  As for the story, the pacing moves along nicely, things become a little clearer without giving everything away just yet, and hey, this issue has Doc shooting at a pterodactyl with a pistol while flying with a jetpack and carrying a pretty blonde; it's hard to screw that up.

Mystery Men #1 (of 5) (Marvel, $2.99, David Liss, Patrick Zircher) - There's a bit of a controversy regarding the release of this title; that's a shame, because questionable moves by Marvel aside regarding trademarks,this is a very good first issue. In the early 1930's, a shadowy anti-hero calling himself the Operative finds his alter ego framed for murder, and the story spins off from there, as he fights his way through corrupt policemen, and encounters another masked figure known as the Revenant.  It's a fairly dark set-up; this isn't an idealized 30's, but rather a world of brutal and corrupt policemen, union busting, racism, and stratified social status.  To my mind, it shares some thematic similarities to Matt Wagner's Sandman Mystery Theatre, which is hardly a bad thing. 

The story by Liss flows well, and Zircher's art is some of the best I've seen from him, with a strong sense of period design.  This is supposedly set in the Marvel Universe,but aside from a reference to the Daily Bugle, this first issue could easily be set in any other publisher's timeline (that said, is it too much to hope for an appearance by Dominic Fortune in later issues?).  An intriguing and engaging first issue.

Supreme Power #1 (of 4) (Marvel/Max, $3.99, Kyle Higgins, Manuel Garcia) -This story seems to pick up a bit after Chaykin's 'Bright Shining Lies' story arc.  Hyperion has dropped off the radar, and for the last couple of years Joe Ledger, aka Dr. Spectrum, has taken over as America's primary hero.  Ledger is pretty much the focus for the entire issue, and we get to see how he feels about being thrust into the spotlight, as well as his battle with a middle eastern superhuman terrorist.  More worrying to Joe is the fact that the crystal embedded in his hand still has the capacity to take over in times of stress and danger.  Overall, the issue moves a little slowly, but it gives us a good feel for Joe as a character, so I'm not complaining too much.  Curious to see where this goes, so I'll be along for the rest of the ride.

Robert E. Howard's Savage Sword #2 (Dark Horse, $7.99, various writers and artists) - As always, anthology series tend to be a mixed lot.  Fortunately, this issue has more good than bad to it:

We start things off with "The Incident at Hakim's Rest", an El Borak story by Mark Finn and Greg Scott.  A well told tale with a nice, compact script, and good art to carry it through.  A strong start to the issue.

Following that is the conclusion to the to-part Dark Agnes story "Storytelling", by Mark Andreyko and Robert Atkins.  I didn't care for this one as much, in part due to Agnes causal reaction to the threat she and her friend faces; it's as if she had already read the script and knew she wasn't in any danger, undercutting any sense of tension that might otherwise be present.  Also, the art didn't particularly stand out.  As someone who very much enjoyed the original Sword Woman prose stories, this was pretty much a disappointment.

Next is "A New Game for Costigan", by Joe Casey and Pop Mhan.  Humor is not an element that one immediately identifies with Howard's stories, but 'Sailor Steve Costigan' is put through his paces in what is essentially a comedy of errors.  This was better than, quite frankly, it had any right to be.  Quite fun and enjoyable.

"Sea Curse" is a REH story presented in it's original prose form, with the occasional illustration by Tim Seeley.  This isn't one of Howard's best stories by any stretch, but it is an enjoyable enough yarn, concerning a young woman done wrong, and the curse that follows the men who wronged her.  For my money, Howard's not-best is still pretty enjoyable.

The high point for the issue is "The Valley of the Worm", by Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, and Gil Kane, originally published by Marvel in Supernatural Thrillers #3 back in 1972.  It's a faithful and well-done adaptation of Howard's story, with wonderful art by Kane, and I'm glad Dark Horse chose to reprint this.

Finally, there's part two of the three-part "Conan and the Jewels of Hesterm", by Paul Tobin and Wellington Alves.  It's decent enough, but there's little here that really makes it a Conan story; this could easily be the tale of any other sword and sorcery hero.  That said, it's no worse, and no better, than most other Conan pastiches we've seen through the years.

Moriarty #2 (Image, $2.99, Daniel Corey, Anthony Diecidue) - Moriarty and his sole ally, the Jade Dragon, make their way through a twisting plot concerning the Black Hand and the mysterious Dark Chamber, crossing paths with both Mati Hari and Dr. Watson along the way in this slightly oversized issue (36 pages instead of 32, with only two pages of that being ads).  The high point of the issue is the portrayal of Dr. Watson, who thankfully is not depicted as a bumbling idiot, as has been the case in other adaptions of the character.  This issue isn't quite as a strong as the first one, but it lays a lot of groundwork and moves the plot along nicely.  Recommended.

Blue Estate #3 (Image, $2.99, Victor Kalvachev, Kosta Yanev, Andrew Osborne, Toby Cypress, Nathan Fox, Robert Valley) – The two frat boys from last issue pay for their mistake in judgement, and then we switch to a drug dealer who is being staked out by our narrator's father, Big Roy Devine.  Unfortunately, while this all no doubt ties in to the overall plot, my complete lack of being able to care for, or even be interested in, these characters pretty much  kills this issue for me.   The only high point is when Roy Jr. shows up for a few pages. Hopefully, next issue will get back on track, because this one has kinda stalled out.  Disappointing, but I'll stick with this for the current story arc.

Glamourpuss #19 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, $3.00, Dave Sim) - It's no great secret that Dave Sim has some strong, and unpopular, views toward women.  Throughout the run of Glamourpuss, there's been a fair amount of satirical skewering of the glamor and modeling industry... which, let's face it, is an easy target.  Up until now,  Sim's views towards women in general haven't shown up as much, outside of the focus on female fashion.

That changes entirely with this issue, in which the first half is dedicated to a fairly vile and mean-spirited superhero spoof called 'the League of Extraordinary Hosebags', where Sim goes through a string of ugly stereotypes regarding women who actually dare to enjoy sex.  Beyond the basic offensiveness, in terms of Glamourpuss the greater crime is that it simply isn't very funny.   In the past even when pushing boundaries Sim has shown no small amount of wit and subtlety, but this has all the comedic ability of a ten-year-old struggling to tell a dirty joke for the first time.

The second half of the issue gets back on firmer ground, continuing the Stan Drake/Alex Raymond narrative.  Still, half of a good issue isn't worth the three dollars, and this issue takes a nosedive in terms of overall enjoyability and merit.

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