Saturday, October 22, 2011

Capsule reviews: Comics from 10/5, 10/12, and 10/19

In a desperate attempt to get caught up from the last few weeks, these reviews (such as they are) will probably be a little more capsule-y than normal...

Action Comics #2 (DC, $3.99, Grant Morrison, Rags Morales, Brent Anderson) - It's one thing to capture a man of steel, it's another thing to break him, as Luthor finds out the hard way.  Morrison's script continues to entertain, smartly updating the '38 Superman concept for the modern day.  Anderson's guest work here on the pencils meshes decently enough with what Morales is doing, enough so that the difference isn't terribly jarring.  Recommended.

Stormwatch #2 (DC, $2.99, Paul Cornell, Miguel Sepulveda) - A little better paced that the preceding issue, but still a bit clumsy in spots.  The best thing about this issue is that we can already see the different factions and power plays that are showing up in the group.  Hardly perfect, but interesting enough to make me want to see this through at least to the end of the first storyline.

Moriarty #5 (Image, $2.99, Daniel Corey, Anthony Diecidue) - Part one of 'The Lazarus Tree' finds us with a Moriarty who is a different man than he was during the Dark Chamber story - coming face-to-face with his own mortality has changed him.  In search of answers, the Professor heads to Burma, where he quickly gets entangled in the local political and criminal maneuverings.  It's not the blockbuster start to a story that #1 was, but it works well enough, especially in terms of the first chapter of a sequel.  Recommended.

Vescell #2 (Image, $2.99, Enrique Carrion, John Upchurch) - Once again, this issue has two stories in it, although the second story is of the 'to be continued' variety.  And once again, the ideas and background presented here are interesting, but the presentation thereof could use a little fine-tuning.  Also, the second story suffers from an excess of sexual content that serves less to drive the story and more to act as clumsy titillation.  Which is a shame, because the core concept of this book is certainly a serviceable one; I only hope that Carrion and Upchurch start to hit their stride sooner rather than later.

Our Man Flint #0 (Moonstone, $1.00, Gary Phillips, Kevin Jones) - Based off of the Flint movies of the '60's, which were parodies of the Bond films.  I've never seen the Flint movies, so I don't know what tone this book is meant to emulate, but this doesn't work as a comedy, and likewise it's a pretty bland action story.  Neither the writing nor the art overly appeal to me, for that matter.  I'll be giving this one a pass.

Phases of the Moon #2: Honey West/Kolchak (Moonstone, $2.50, Mark Rahner, Glen Fernandez, Matt Hebb) - After the disappointing first issue of PotM, I wasn't really intending to get the rest of the story, but it wound up in my pull list anyways, and it was cheap, so...

Unfortunately, the second installment really isn't better than the first one was.  The art isn't that great, and it doesn't fit very well with the kind of story being told (the coloring is too bright, as well).  The best part of the issue is the Kolchak story, which isn't fantastic, but holds up a little better, and at least Rahner captures Carl Kolchak's 'voice' and narration fairly well.  I'll probably wind up getting the rest of this, but only because there's only one issue to go, and because, well, it's cheap.

Demon Knights #2 (DC, $2.99, Paul Cornell, Diogenes Neves) - This book continues to be one heck of a romp.  Vandal Savage is hilarious, and pretty much steals every scene he's in.  There's no small amount of humor here (including the fact that nobody seems to be fooled by Shining Knight's disguise), but it's not a comedy, and there's plenty of action, and even some drama here, as well.  Of the 'new 52' titles, Action and All-Star Western are probably better written, but overall this is the title that I'm enjoying the most. 

Legion Lost #2 (DC, $2.99, Fabian Nicieza, Pete Woods) - Wildfire narrates this issue, giving some much-needed backstory that probably should have appeared sooner.  The local townsfolk mourn the loss of their dead, and the time-stranded Legionnaires mourn as well, although they apparently can't be bothered to grieve for their two 'dead' teammates in the process.   The team encounters the first victim altered by the pathogen that was released, and suffice to say things don't go well.  Better than the first issue, but there's still plenty of room for improvement here.

(as an aside, can I point out that the concept of the Legionnaires having so much difficulty with the taint of 21st century Earth's atmosphere, when their transuits have dealt without difficulty with the atmospheres of alien worlds that were far more hostile and polluted, is a really, REALLY stupid and ham-fisted concept?)

The Shade #1 (of 12) (DC, $2.99, James Robinson, Cully Hammer) - An enjoyable first issue that re-introduces the anti-hero of Robinson's Starman series.  It moves a bit slowly, and is more character driven than action oriented, but Robinson handles the pacing of the quiet moments deftly enough.  Which is to say, this is written by good-Robinson and not Cry For Justice-Robinson.  Recommended.

Elric: The Balance Lost #4 (of ???) (Boom!, $3.99, Chris Roberson, Francesco Biagini) - Okay, I officially have no idea just how many issues this story is supposed to run.  Is it too much to ask that this sort of information be included either on the cover or in the publishing info?  In any case, the story moves along decently enough, although it's spread a bit too thin at points.  Eric Beck finally looks like he just might develop a personality, and perhaps even a spine; hopefully, he'll actually continue to grow as a character and perhaps even actually have a meaningful impact on the story.

Glamourpuss #21 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, $3.00, Dave Sim) - C'mon, it's Glamourpuss... if you've read the earlier issues then you know what you're in for.  If not, then this sure as hell isn't the place to jump in to find out if it's for you or not.

Liberty Annual 2011 (Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, $4.99, various writers and artists) - This year's anthology by the CBLDF, as part of their ongoing fight against censorship.  Detailing the multiple stories presented here would taken an entire blog post by itself, so suffice to say that not only is this for a good cause, but the stories presented here are quite good, as well.  Very much recommended.

Legion of Super-Heroes #2 (DC, $2.99, Paul Levitz, Francis Portela) - For those still reading after last issue's non-jumping on chapter, this issue is decent enough, especially for long-time Legion fans.  The threat from Daxam is fleshed out a bit, some needed background info is given, and a few subplots are serviced along the way.  It's a workable 2nd chapter to a multi-part story, albeit not an exceptional one.  

Fables #110 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99, Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham) - Part three of 'Inherit The Wind' continues to entertain, in terms of both main storyline and the Oz subplot.  Obviously, this isn't the issue to jump in on to see if you like the series, but really, you should already be picking it up.  Yeah, it's that good.

Conan: Road Of Kings #9 (Dark Horse, $3.50, Roy Thomas, Dan Panosian) - I'm still not crazy about the current storyline, but this issue does pick up a notch with some decent action sequences and a nice twist at the end.  Panosian does a decent job of taking over the art from Mike Hawthorne, giving me a bit of hope for the rest of this series.

Dark Horse Presents #5 (Dark Horse, $7.99, various writers and artists) - One of the best values in the market today keeps on moving along nicely; seriously, any comic book fan whose reading doesn't begin and end with superheroes really should be checking this out.   Eric Powell and Andi Watson provide a pair of enjoyable one-off stories, and the various ongoing serials continue to entertain (with the exception of Neal Adams' 'Blood', which just continues to plod along - *sigh*). Both the overall value and the range of storytelling styles and genres make this pretty much a must-read.

Robert E. Howard's Savage Sword #3 (Dark Horse, $7.99, various writers and artists) -While not as overall as strong in terms of content and execution as Dark Horse Presents, this is still worth picking up for any Howard fan, or any fan of action-adventure in general.  The Conan serial ends well enough, finishing up a bit better than I had anticipated.  A western story featuring the Sonara Kid starts off well enough, there's a fair Brule story, and a pretty decent Steve Harrison story here, as well.  The highlight of the issue is a re-printing of the first part of  'The Vale of Shadow', a Kull story illustrated by Tony de Zungia that was first published as a stand-alone graphic novel by Marvel back in the late '80s. 

Near Death #2 (Image, $2.99, Jay Faerber, Simone Guglielmini) - Another fine done-in-one hardboiled story, with Markham agreeing to protect a man whom others are seeking to kill, only to find out that things aren't exactly black-and-white in terms of doing the right thing.  Faerber avoids taking the easy way out here with the story's conclusion, which I appreciate.  Recommended.

Animal Man #1-2 (DC, $2.99 each, Jeff Lemire, Travel Foreman) - One of two DC titles that I initially wasn't planning on picking up, but decided to give a try based on good word of mouth.  I have a fondness for Morrison's run on the original run of this book, and Lemire wisely acknowledges that part of the character's life without directly trying to emulate it.  It's not quite a horror story, but there are certainly horrific elements to it.   It's very well written, although I'm not certain if it's a concept I want to follow in the long-term; that said, I'm more than willing to give the rest of this story a chance, and see just how it plays out.

Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1-2 (DC, $2.99 each, Jeff Lemire, Alberto Ponticelli) - Another title that I was originally going to pass on, but had recommended to me anyways.  It's also written by Lemire, as it turns out, and it's another book that I wound up enjoying (perhaps I should give Sweet Tooth a try, if this is any indication).  The basic concept comes off as if someone crossed together the B.P.R.D. with Grant Morrison's run on Doom Patrol, which as it turns out is a pretty neat thing in my book.  Lemire isn't afraid to throw plenty of weirdness and high concepts at the reader; not everyone will appreciate this, especially a certain branch of comic book reader who like their fictions to be easily explained and digested.  That said, I enjoyed it quite a bit, and am looking forward to see where this all goes.  Recommended.

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