Joe Rice Media Review 3/8/07

Holy butt crap I got a lot of books this week.  It's kind of intimidating looking at this stack just thinking about writing something about everything here.  I suppose some will be easier than others . . .not a lot can be said about some of these books.  Maybe I'll spread the writing of this out over a couple of days.  AND YOU WILL NEVER KNOW, READERS!!!!  Unless I tell you.

I only got Fantastic Four because of the Allred and Pope bits.  The main story was boringly drawn and served as nothing more than a "this is what happen this is what is happening" summary.  Does every FF writer start with this?  Oh, I see, they're a FAMILY.  They aren't superheroes, they're EXPLORERS.  And yet still everyone still treats them the same.  And adds random members.  Stan Lee, Nick Dragotta, and Mike Allred put together a silly, fun little story that's mostly nice to look at.  The best bit, of course, was Paul Pope's story about Johnny, Spider-man, and race-cars.  Paul Pope could draw a pile of crap melting in the sun and it would look great.  It's a light one-off but it's so beautiful that you'd call her the next weekend.

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips brought Criminal to the only satisfying conclusion it could have.  The revelation about Leo's fear was unexpected but made sense.  It's funny that they mention Point Blank in the text piece in the back, this book definitely had that kind of real, gritty, nihilistic feel.  And thanks for the Long Goodbye shout-out, Charlie Huston.  I wish I were a 14-year old boy so I could enjoy Moon Knight for that one.  I know I'm veering off-topic here, but if Charlie Huston wrote Moon Knight like an Altman movie in the 70s, I'd read it even with the weird Finch art.  Anyway, Criminal was great, pick it up in trade.


Clayton Crain's art is still the weak point of Ghost Rider:  Trail of Tears.  There are times where it goes from "ugly" to "I have no idea what's going on."  But how can you not love a grizzled, honorable former reb on a mission to avenge his black savior?  In a supernatural western setting?  This book is like if my dad and I combined into one person and wanted only one thing.  You know the notes it's going to hit, but they're hit quite nicely.  Although I think I'm surprised as to who the Ghost Rider is in this instance.  And I'm glad.


I got Marvel Zombies Vs. The Army of Darkness for my wife's best friend, and it was cute enough.  The artist is better at drawing Bruce Campbell than anything else, but I guess that's why he was hired for this job.  If you like this sort of thing, you might like this.  Sorry, it's not really for me.


Now, I got this Zauriel one-shot because I like the character and I've heard good things about Steve Gerber.  I realize it was the tail-end of some kind of series of one-shots, but Jesus.  It really felt so pointless.  This was like a fill-in issue from the 70s, and it reminds you why they don't do those anymore.  I'm pretty sure there's some heavy-handed Iraq stuff in there but I couldn't get past how bored I was with everything else.  Snejbjerg does OK.


The Punisher-widows' plan begins in earnest.  I'm not sure if Ennis is slightly poking fun at his recent tendencies or if they were building towards this, but either way that's admirable.  Also, yeah, clearly, Frank is going to survive this.  I don't see a book about a group of women that killed the Punisher as being all that marketable in the long run.  But I'm interested in HOW he survives and just what Punishment he doles out in this case.  And if he's aware of the deception.  He probably is.  This isn't one of the deeper, better Punisher arcs but it's still damn good pulp.


Do you think Garth Ennis sits around thinking, "So, I wrote this scene that was really unbelievably tough.  NOW I AM GOING TO WRITE SOMETHING EVEN TOUGHER!"  I'm curious how he's going to top Midnighter getting open-heart surgery while awake.  Sprouse is back on art and does everything masterfully.  Ennis throws in touches about the future of sexuality and the real reason the Paulus family was put in the camp and actually makes not killing Hitler to be the good decision.  I'm in awe, sometimes, of how quickly Ennis can do good work.  He's done some bad comics and some awful ones, but he also does a lot of good ones all the time. 


Midnighter's team The Authority finally got their second issue this week.  It's basically a confirmation that, yes, this is The Authority in the real world.  It's more set up, which is tough to take with the delay, but you can't say it's poorly-written or -drawn.  New York's Forbidden Planet makes a cameo appearance, as does the surrounding area I've often walked around.  I'd have preferred Rocketship but you can't win them all.  There seems to be a weird printing issue at one point and it confuses things a bit, especially since I've no idea what Jenny Quarx is about.  But it's a concept that is intriguing, if only because I want to see where Morrison goes with this, both artistically and, I guess, magically/philosophically.


I got Civil War:  The Initiative because Bendis and Ellis have both been doing great work lately and I thought, hey, what the hell.  Well, the hell is Silvestri's ugly artwork.  Has this man devolved over time?  I was never a huge fan but it wasn't quite this ugly.  This is almost Finch-level badness here.  The story itself is nothing to speak of, just excuses to plug upcoming books that I won't be buying.  Wow.  Really, really ugly art.


Thankfully, the Bendis that I'm actually growing to like shows up in The Mighty Avengers.  When this book was announced, I was incredibly disinterested.  Bendis hadn't impressed me much.  I've found Frank Cho's work to be well-drafted but a little staid and more an excuse for the same T&A with different wigs to be displayed.  And the high-concept "classic superhero style action" really didn't sound like something I'd go for.  But, well, obviously, I was wrong.  The art does its job, and, with the exception of the unfortunate final page, isn't Boob-Fest '07.  (Joe's hits go through the roof with that last phrase.)  The action is exciting, the characterizations are fun, the plot is intriguing, but the thing I really found interesting was a formal thing.  A lot of people have mentioned the use of thought balloons, but I'm going to, too.  I've never been a fan of them in the classic Claremontian (tell not show) style.  But used here, they're more stream-of-conscious asides that show bits about characters that simple dialogue cannot.  I don't know how long he can pull this off, but I like this formal play here.  It's interesting and I've not seen it used this way anywhere.  If you pull of the generic stuff fine, formal play can really knock something out of the park for me.  It was a small touch, and probably not the thing most readers will take away from this, but I really liked it.


It's no secret that I loved the first issue of Jeff Smith's Shazam!  The Monster Society of Evil.  This issue is even better.  From the big scale issues to the small details, by God does Smith really hit this hard.  The little kid touches like "ant war" and Mary drawing her hood closed . . .wow.  So perfect.  The wonder and the danger and the fear and the joy of childhood are all equally represented here, and done beautifully as well.  And Mary's first brush with power is so fun and funny that it retroactively obliterates all the creepy Sexy Mary Marvel stuff published in the past.  I can't wait to show the kids this.  They're going to flip out.  This is great comics, this is great superhero comics, this is great kid stuff, this is great stuff for everyone.  Love it with me.


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