Reviews for 11-8-13

11-6-13

Haven’t had time to write reviews lately. Some of these reviews will be rather short due to not remembering the comics in question very well. These reviews are all for comics I read last week at the latest.

PRETTY DEADLY #1 (Image, 2013) – I didn’t love this issue as much as others did (including my friend Abra Gibson). I had some trouble following what was going on, and the poem in the beginning of the issue is still stuck in my head, and not in a good way. Still, there is a lot of interesting stuff here, and I have enough confidence in Kelly Sue DeConnick that I’m willing to continue reading the series. I certainly have no intention of ripping it up in public, at least. Grade: B+/A-

SEX CRIMINALS #2 (Image, 2013) – After I read this issue, it became the focus of an embarrassing scandal when Apple refused to sell it on the Comixology iOS app. To quote what I wrote on Facebook, this comic is all about sexual repression and how Americans can’t have an honest discussion of sex, so holy irony Batman. The letters in the letter column suggest that the previous issue struck a chord with women who ran afoul against our society’s taboo on publicly discussing sex in the same way that Suzie did. And this issue examines that same theme but from the male perspective, focusing on Jon rather than Suzie. This comic is making an important statement on how our society thinks about sex, and shame on Apple for trying to censor it. Now in a way this series is also beginning to seem like a version of Chew that’s about sex rather than eating, thanks to all the sex-related jokes in the background of many of the panels (some of which are almost illegible without a microscope). But I do think that Sex Criminals has a serious angle that is often lacking in Chew. Grade: A+

SANDMAN: OVERTURE #1 (DC, 2013) – I wrestled with my conscience before finally deciding to break my DC boycott and buy this issue. After all, my boycott is primarily motivated not by the desire to financially harm DC, but by disgust – I feel too disgusted with DC to even want to read any of their comics – and so if my desire to read a DC comic is greater than my disgust at the idea of buying it, then I might as well buy it. Now that I’ve gotten that tortured logic out of the way, I can say that I thought this was an incredibly well-written and well-drawn issue. J.H. Williams III is the most gifted artist in mainstream comics today, and this issue is revolutionary even by his high standards. In particular, I was amazed by the four-page splash, something which has only been done once before in a comic book to my knowledge, and in Strange Tales #167 you had to put two copies of the issue together to get the full effect. And Neil’s writing is as witty as ever. I do question, though, whether this is a story that even needed to be told. Neil quit writing the Sandman because he had told all the stories he needed to tell, and that was a possibly unprecedented decision at the time. Is this story so important that Neil has to come back over 15 years later to tell it? Or is this series just a cash grab? The next few issues will tell. Grade: A

FF #13 (Marvel, 2013) – I read almost half this issue before realizing that the dialogue was written by Lee Allred, not Matt Fraction. But perhaps that explains why this issue seems even zanier and weirder than previous issues of this series – sometimes almost to a fault. Still, it’s incredibly fun and it effectively continues Fraction’s storyline. I’ll be sorry to see this series end after three more issues, because it’s the most fun Marvel comic in a while. Grade A-

SAGA #15 (Image, 2013) – Possibly the best comic of the year besides Hawkeye #11. The Nun Tuj Nun sequence is possibly the high point of this series, combining serious character development with hilarious humor. Within the space of just a few pages there are three unforgettable lines: 1) “There are only three forms of high art: the symphony, the illustrated children’s book and the board game.” 2) “Okay, that is… surprisingly progressive. And totally offensive!” And 3) “Is Alana praying?” “No. No, she most certainly is not.” I hope BKV publishes a set of rules for Nun Tuj Nun so we can all play it ourselves. The business with The Will and Slave Girl is not quite as exciting, and I rather doubt that The Will is actually dead. Still, this issue suggests that there is a fourth form of high art besides the three that D. Oswald Heist lists: the comic book. Grade: A+

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #12 (IDW, 2013) – Review removed pending permission to quote someone else’s Facebook posts. Grade: A+

PROPHET #30, #31 and #33 (Image, 2012-2013) – I’ve been buying this series sporadically but not reading it, because the story is hopelessly confusing and I have no idea what’s going on. After reading these three issues back to back, I think I have a better grasp on the storyline, and I begin to see why Brandon Graham is the perfect writer for it: he has the ability to write truly alien aliens, creatures that are truly incomprehensible and bizarre. I suppose you could read this series as a posthumanist work in that it takes place in a milieu where humanity has become completely extinct, yet characters like Prophet and Diehard, who are old enough to remember a previous era, are deeply nostalgic for their old human selves. (Speaking of Brandon Graham, his excrement fixation, which I mentioned in my review of Multiple Warheads, is prominently visible in issue 33.) I need to get caught up on this series. Grade: A- for all

WONDER WOMAN #23 (DC, 2008) – Two weeks after reading this issue, I keep remembering the panel where one of the white gorillas starts grooming Tom Tresser as a sign of acceptance. Besides the white gorillas, my other favorite part of this series is Gail’s portrayal of Diana. As I mentioned in a review written in July, I think Gail has written Diana better than anyone else ever except maybe George Perez, and Gail’s version of Diana is very different than George’s. This issue also prominently features Donna Troy, who used to be one of my favorite characters until she was completely ruined forever by endless meddling with her continuity. There was also an actual story in this issue but it was less interesting than all of the above. Grade: A-

SUPERNATURAL LAW #36 (Exhibit A, 2001) – This issue mostly ignores Wolff and Byrd and focuses on Wolff’s occasional boyfriend Chase Hawkins, who Batton Lash effectively portrays as a sleazy scumbag who lacks restraint when it comes to sex. Obviously the bizarre combination of supernatural horror with real-world law is the primary selling point of this series, but Batton is also very good at depicting realistic human drama. His characters all seem like real people, with realistic flaws, and this issue is an excellent example of that. It also demonstrates Batton’s skill with humor; there’s a nice running gag where Chase keeps trying to find a new psychiatrist, but each of them wants to see him twice a week (I’m reminded of the quack psychiatrist in GTA V). Grade: A

COURTNEY CRUMRIN #4 (Oni, 2012) – Oddly, Dale Jacobs also used a different work by Ted Naifeh as an example in the book mentioned below. I don’t believe I’ve read the previous two issues of this ongoing series, but the plot made a reasonable amount of sense anyway, and it’s a good example of Naifeh’s signature combination of cuteness and scariness. This series actually reminds me a bit of Leave it to Chance, only not nearly as cute. Grade: A-

THE AUTHORITY #1 (Wildstorm, 1999) – I bought the first twelve issues of this series at Comic-Con, but this is the first one I’ve read. This first issue is largely just setup and it doesn’t really indicate what was so important or groundbreaking about this series. However, the artwork and writing are both at a high level of craftsmanship, and I can tell this is going to be one of Ellis’s major works. Grade: B+

BILLY BATSON AND THE MAGIC OF SHAZAM #12 (DC, 2010) – The artwork in this comic, by Byron Vaughns, is just terrible. It doesn’t look cartoony, it looks like a kid drew it. I could draw a better comic than this. However, the story is fairly exciting. Baltazar and Franco didn’t create the same level of magic and excitement on this series that Jeff Smith did in the previous miniseries, but it’s still a better take on Shazam than most of the other stuff DC has done with the character. Grade: B+

ACTION COMICS #1 (DC, 2011) – I bought this when it came out, on my friend Roger Whitson’s recommendation, but I didn’t get around to reading it until I read Dale Jacobs’s Graphic Encounters, where this issue is discussed in the first chapter. Jacobs mostly talks about how Morrison’s approach here is influenced by Siegel and Shuster’s original version of Superman, where he was depicted as a Rooseveltian proactive problem-solving vigilante. Accordingly, in this issue Morrison writes Superman as a rebel who fights the corrupt military-industrial complex represented by Luthor and Sam Lane. The trouble is, I think it’s hypocritical for Morrison to write this kind of story in a DC comic, given that DC is so closely linked to exactly the sort of corporate mentality that he condemns here, and Morrison has personally been loyal to DC despite its creative bankruptcy and its abusive labor practices. I feel that if he really believed in the philosophy behind this comic, he would be writing it for a less evil company. Grade: B-

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