Saturday, July 30, 2011

Capsule reviews: Comics from 7/20 and 7/27

(once again I missed a week, and get to play catch-up)

Legion of Super-Heroes #15 (DC, $2.99, Paul Levitz, Yildiray Cinar, Jonathan Glapion) - The next to last chapter of the current storyline, before the reboot begins.  More fight scenes, although somewhat more coalesced, as things finally start to build toward a climax.  Some have commented that they think that this storyline has been truncated due to the upcoming reboot, and that may well be the case, but there are times when I suspect the opposite of occurring, that Levitz has had to pad things out here to have the story end next month.  In this issue, there's a nonsensical sequence where Dawnstar tries to do... something... to Saturn Queen - I guess she's trying to fly SQ out of the planet's atmosphere to disable her, but it's not exactly made very clear, and in any case it's an idiotic plan because giving a telepath of SQ's power even a few seconds to react is pretty damned foolish.  After both Dawnstar and Tellus are taken down by SQ, Gates teleports in to save them, even commenting on how stupid the plan was.  Given that Dawnstarr was able to approach SQ by surprise with no small amount of speed, why didn't she just try to knock her out instead?  I suppose that would have made too much sense, and ended the storyline too quickly.  As is, we get almost three whole pages wasted on Dawnstar being written as an idiot, using idiotic tactics.

This issue also has the big baddie of the storyline revealed... sort of.  The entity isn't named; I'm guessing it's Krona, but my GL knowledge is kinda threadbare, especially of the stuff that has occurred during the recent rainbow era of that series, so I may well be mistaken.  If I knew for certain who this was supposed to be, the reveal might have had more impact, but as is it comes off as rather lackluster.  I really hope the payoff next issue is worth it.

The Spirit #16 (DC, $2.99, David Hine, John Paul Leon) – A story told entirely in splash pages; this has been attempted before, more than once, but here it actually works.  Nolan gets to narrate the events of the previous week, where the Spirit (whose name appears on each page, cleverly worked into the panels in different fashions) has been framed for murder.  Hine's script here is simple but solid, and Leon's art really helps to pull off what might otherwise be written off as a gimmick issue.  I believe that next issue is the finale for the current run, but if this had been the final issue instead, it would have been a fine, fine way to end the series.

Cinderella: Fables Are Forever #6 (of 6) (DC/Vertigo, $2.99, Chris Roberson, Shawn McManus) – The mini-series wraps up with a final battle between Cindy and her nemesis.  The good news is that, as with the earlier issues, the action sequences and the dialogue are both handled well; McManus does a nice job with the layouts, and Roberson's script for the most part also delivers.  As a bonus we also finally get an explanation for this series' seeming incongruity with events depicted in a previous Jack of Fables storyline, even though it feels as if it was added in at the last minute in response to online complaints.  The big flaw for this book is that Silverslipper's motivation is never given any more consideration than the throwaway explanation we got a couple of issues ago.  Quite frankly, it comes across as flat and uninspired, and fails to sufficiently explain the character's heel turn.  This is the primary flaw in an otherwise entertaining story.

Conan: Island of No Return #2 (of 2) (Dark Horse, $3.50, Ron Marz, Bart Sears) - I didn't realize when I read part one of this that this was a two-parter, so needless to say the betrayals and plot twists come pretty fast in this concluding issue.  This is hardly the most memorable Conan comic book I've ever read, but it hits all the necessary beats, and is by no means the worst Conan pastiche I've ever read.  It's fairly light and disposable, but enjoyable enough while you're reading it. 

Rocketeer Adventures #3 (of 4) (IDW, $3.99, Ryan Sook, Joe R. Lansdale, Bruce Timm, Jonathan Ross, Tommy Lee Edwards, Stephanie Buscema, Joe Chiodo) - More pulpy fun as different artists and writers continue to put their own spin on Dave Stevens' classic character. Ryan Sook's "A Rocketeer Story" is an entertaining mix of adventure and emotion, as both Cliff and Betty have to deal with the complexities and demands of their chosen paths as hero and actress respectively.  There's as much emphasis here on their relationship as their is on the action, and Sook pulls it off nicely.  "Heaven's Devils" is a clever text story by Joe Lansdale, illustrated by Bruce Timm as if it was a short story in a period lurid pulp magazine ("Spicy Adventure Stories" was, in fact, an actual pulp magazine back in the 30's).  Jonathan Ross and Tommy Lee Edwards' "Junior Rocketeers" also entertains, dealing with the common pulp trope of young would-be heroes aiding our main protagonist.  Two fun pin-ups by Stephanie Buscema and Joe Chiodo round out the issue.  None of the stories here may have the length that modern comic book readers, conditioned by four- to six-issue story arcs, expect from their comics, but there's a lot packed into these short stories.  Given the wide range of writers and artists that have worked on this mini-series, it's impressive just how consistently good the stories here have been.

Fables #107 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99, Bill Willingham, Terry Moore) – A new story arc begins, this time concerning the 'Sleeping Beauty' myth.  In the warring remnants of the Old Empire, various factions seek to re-awaken Briar Rose (and in the process, all those who fell asleep as well due to her curse) to further their own aims.  However, the nearby goblins also have their own plans, albeit not realized as flawlessly as they might have hoped.   Guest artist Terry Moore isn't the first choice I would have picked for a fill-in artist, but his work here fits in quite nicely with the Fables universe.  There's a lot going on here, and a lot isn't clear yet, but this looks like it might well be a fun and engaging storyline. 

Undying Love #4 (of 8) (Image, $2.99, Tom Coker, Daniel Freedman) - Well, we're halfway through this story and things are still moving along nicely.  John and Mei have to flee from Shang-Ji's forces, and just when things seem darkest, the pair find sanctuary from an unlikely ally.  We also find out that Mei clearly knows more than she's letting on, including her ties to Shang-Ji.  Once again, this issue is nicely paced, mixing in action and chase scenes with just enough characterization and story to keep things moving along.

Glamourpuss #20 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, $3.00, Dave Sim) -This issue starts off with a look at the novels and relationship of authors Nelson Algren and Simone de Beauvoir.  I'm not certain what brought this particular digression on, but as long as it avoids the inane juvenilia of last issue's crapfest, I really don't care.  After that we continue on with the narrative of Stan Drake and Alex Raymond, getting ever so much closer to Raymod's actual death.  This has been meandering for a fair bit, but still is entertaining in its own way.  While I don't doubt Sim's research on this topic, I do suspect his conclusions speak in part more about him then they do concerning the actual people and events described.

League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol III Chapter Two (Century: 1969) (Top Shelf, $9.95, Alan Moore, Kevin O'Neill) - The latest chapter in Moore's ongoing narrative concerning a Wold Newton style merging of various British fiction characters.  It's easy (and fun!) to get lost in all the little references and in-jokes that are liberally strewn about (even though I was disappointed that I couldn't find any references to The Prisoner), but while doing so there's the danger of overlooking the main story.  Which is a shame, as it's quite enjoyable (it's also quite ribald and very free with the nudity and sexual situations, so more reserved readers may want to skip this one).  In many ways, this is the most straightforward of the League stories so far: three immortals facing a supernatural threat, and in the process lose themselves.  It's a good story, unsurprisingly, but not exactly the ideal jumping-in point for those unfamiliar with the LoEG concept - the uninitiated would be far better off starting with the earlier volumes.

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