Joe Rice Media Review 2/26/07

A decidedly mainstream selection of books I got this week, but when it's good mainstream work, what's the difference?  The question, of course, is, "Is it good mainstream work?"  And blah blah blah introductory paragraph nonsense hoooba hooba heeba hee!

So, listen, is Brian Bendis finding his four-color superhero stride?  The last issue of New Avengers worked as an action story and now the second issue of The New Avengers:  Illuminati (dumb title notwithstanding) works, too.  This book doesn't have the benefit of Yu's outstanding craftsmanship.  Not that Jim Cheung is a bad artist . . .he just doesn't really stand out from the pack of solid superhero storytellers.  He's got a clean style, I'm never confused by his work, but I'm not exactly wow-ed either.  The story isn't exactly breaking any new ground, either, but the character bits work well enough to sell it.  The various personalities that you'd normally only see in a crossover crowd shot make for interesting foils of each other.  It reminds me of why I thought the original Sentry miniseries worked . . .a superb expression of the idea that the early Marvel characters were almost familial, so closely were they linked.  Anyway, we get a spin on the "can heroes really deal with ultimate power" yarn and I think it works well.  People stay in character while revealing character . . .the action bits pop and the story has enough ideas thrown in to avoid decompression syndrome.  I feel that Bendis is writing good solid superhero stories here . . .but I don't want to make him sound like Geoff Johns in that awful interview from a while back, bragging about lack of innovation.  His craft is improving so that he can bring his viewpoints to the superhero genre without totally changing the genre in the process.


Ultimate Fantastic Four is another fun superhero book doing things right.  Not having Pasqual Ferry drawing this issue definitely hurt it.  Scott Kolins' work  has always seemed to be unfinished and loose-not in an expressive way, but in an amateurish way.  And I don't know anything about this Mark Brooks but he looks like a boring combination of J. Campbell and Mark Bagley.  Neither artist actively hinder the story, a retelling of a classically goofy FF villain, Diablo.  There were good bits in this, but overall the book seemed weaker than the Thanos/Darkseid riff from the previous arc.  It's worth keeping on for another issue to see for sure.


Brian Woodstravaganza!  It's funny that DMZ and Local almost always come out the same week.  It's like the companies are saving Brian Wood fans an extra trip to the store.  As usual, I thought Local was the stronger book this week.  Wood and Ryan Kelly continue to explore the mind and world of Megan, all by showing and not telling.  It'll be interesting to see this collected.  I really feel it's the strongest work I've seen him do yet.  Megan's a complicated character that he refuses to romanticize or demonize and I appreciate that.  And Ryan Kelly's no longer "Paul Pope lite" in my book, I think the guy's a hell of a cartoonist himself.  DMZ suffers from "penultimate chapter syndrome" as PLOT PLOT PLOT PLOT kind of takes over.  It's a good plot, I just find plots to be the least interesting part of fiction.  So perhaps the pacing could be improved but it's still a good story.


Darwyn Cooke can draw real, real good.  He writes nice, too.  The Spirit is fun as hell.  I read some folks saying they wish there was more to this book.  Sometimes, I must admit, I agree.  It can be a little frothy and easy.  But the world needs frothy and easy, too.  You can't have complex tasting menus every time you want to eat a meal.  Sometimes you just want a cheeseburger.  The trick is, it had better be a damn good cheeseburger.  And the Spirit is.  Every page is a drool-worthy master class on how to cartoon.  J. Bone and Dave Stewart collaborate masterfully, too.  The flashback sequences were just so damn beautiful!  Anyway, would I like to see Darwyn Cooke something else?  Yes, but that doesn't mean I want him to stop making tasty cheeseburgers yet.

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