Reviews for week of 8-12-15

Now that I’m getting new comic books every week, I’m going to try to post these reviews on a weekly basis.

CASANOVA: ACEDIA #3 (Image, 2015) – It’s been so long since I read the last issue of this series (about four months) that I don’t remember the plot at all, and on top of that, the plot of this series doesn’t make logical sense. Also, I’ve decided that I like Gabriel Ba much better than Fabio Moon, although I still have trouble remembering which is which. So overall this was not a highly impressive comic.

THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #8 (Marvel, 2015) – A satisfying conclusion to this series, which is thankfully going to be relaunched in a couple months and is not cancelled. The funniest moments in the issue were Loki’s cat head, and Nancy bringing Bluetooth to Asgard.

ODY-C #6 (Image, 2015) – This is a weird issue. Matt points out in the letter column that it’s based on a lot of inspirations, ranging from Romulus and Remus to the Jataka Tales to the Arabian Nights, and it has more in common with some of those other texts than with the Odyssey. This story is very evocative of a lot of things, but I’m not sure what it all adds up to. I don’t know of any myth where Helen doesn’t make it back to Sparta with Menelaus; this seems to be Matt’s own invention.

Another thought I had when I was reading this issue is that it’s a side story, whose function is to enrich our knowledge of the storyworld rather than to advance the plot. As far as I know, the original precedent for this sort of story is Jack Kirby’s “The Pact.”

STARFIRE #3 (DC, 2015) – Amanda and Jimmy’s version of Koriand’r is rather different from Marv Wolfman’s version – obvious differences include that this Koriand’r has straight hair and doesn’t use contractions. Yet I feel that Amanda and Jimmy understand the essence of this character in a way that no other writer does besides Marv Wolfman himself. Kory’s key character traits are her emotional intensity and her naiveté, and both of those character traits have been displayed very prominently in this series. As a result, this comic is adorable. The surprise this issue is the guest appearance by one of Amanda and Jimmy’s pet characters, Atlee.

GOTHAM ACADEMY #9 (DC, 2015) – This is no longer the best DC title, but it’s still fun. I hardly remember anything about this issue, though, except that I’m finally starting to understand what happened to Olive’s mother. Oh, also, Olive seems eerily similar to Antimony from Gunnerkrigg Court in that they both have a dead mother who had some kind of fire-related powers.

SECRET WARS: BATTLEWORLD #4 (Marvel, 2015) – I looked at this and couldn’t remember why I ordered it, until I opened it and saw the James Stokoe artwork. The James Stokoe story in this issue takes place in a world resembling ancient Egypt and stars the Silver Surfer and the Juggernaut. The plot here is rather flimsy but the art, as usual with Stokoe, is mind-blowing. His visual imagination is incredible. The backup story, by Peter David, is pointless.

HOWARD THE DUCK #5 (Marvel, 2015) – Another hilarious issue. Chip Zdarsky is becoming one of the funniest writers in the industry, and this issue also includes a surprisingly tender scene, Howard’s reconciliation with Tara. Though I still wonder what the hell happened to Bev. I love all the fake footnotes.

HARLEY QUINN #18 (DC, 2015) – This was fun, but I barely remember anything about it except that it involves Captain Strong. I think I was falling asleep when I read this comic. This series is a definite guilty pleasure.

DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS #1 (DC, 2015) – Another comic I can’t remember very well, though I enjoyed it. It seems quite historically accurate, although one of my Facebook friends was complaining that the timeframe seems to be off.

LONG DISTANCE #3 (Image, 2015) – This issue answers my major complaint about this series, which was that there was no real conflict. At the end of the issue, Lee loses her guarantee of a postdoc for next year. This is a very realistic and disturbing scenario that hits close to home for me as a non-TT academic, though I assume it’s all going to work out fine – that Dr. Navi Gownde is going to offer her a job. But then maybe she’ll end up on the other side of the country, which is another common occurrence in academia. More generally, Thom is just such an amazing dialogue writer and he draws such beautiful facial expressions. As I wrote on Facebook, “I didn’t like Thom Zahler’s Long Distance at first, but now I’m obsessed with it. His characterization is so good.”

PRINCELESS: BE YOURSELF #2 (Action Lab, 2015) – Both the plotlines in this issue are very funny. The best joke in the issue is the massacre/masquerade confusion, but the horse thing is cute too. When Adrienne asks Delores Grunkmore if a lot of people use goblin guides, I wonder if that’s an intentional Magic: The Gathering reference. My main gripe about this comic is that the lettering is ugly.

PROVIDENCE #2 (Avatar, 2015) – This issue is more obviously fantastic/SFinal than last issue, and it appears to be a direct reference to Lovecraft’s story “The Horror at Red Hook.” The connections to Alan’s other work are also more obvious – the Kurdish Yazidi man obviously makes me remember King Peacock from Top Ten. The diary entries at the end of the comic are very cumbersome to read because of the illegible font.

EMPIRE: UPRISING #4 (IDW, 2015) – I think I’m getting fed up with this series. Every issue is just a bunch of pointless blood and gore, with no substantial plot progression. In 2003, this sort of thing was original enough to be interesting, but not anymore. I think the next issue of this series will be my last.

LAZARUS #12 (Image, 2014) – And here’s another series that I’m going to stop ordering. This issue typifies the problem with this series: it’s just a lot of internal Family politics that I don’t care about, with no significant worldbuilding or development of Forever’s character.

LAZARUS #13 (Image, 2014) – See above. The poker game is kind of a funny scene, but whatever.

THUNDERBOLTS #12 (Marvel, 1998) – I was reluctant to read this because it’s double-sized, and that also meant I couldn’t read any of the later issues of Thunderbolts in my to-be-read boxes. I finally managed to get through it. I’ve never liked Thunderbolts as much as Kurt’s other major works, and I think it’s because I have little affection for the characters. I guess I like Songbird and Jolt but otherwise my favorite Thunderbolt, oddly, is Zemo, with his unrepentant evil. And this issue is a somewhat formulaic superhero story, though it becomes genuinely exciting toward the end.

OMEGA THE UNKNOWN #2 (Marvel, 2008) – I read this because I was in the middle of reading The Wrenchies, and I realized that this series also has Farel Dalrymple artwork. Farel is clearly a major talent, but his artwork here is less impressive than in The Wrenches or It Will All Hurt. In particular, his coloring is much more flat, without three-dimensional modeling of volume. Reading this issue, I had the sense that he was phoning it in – that he was not doing the best work he was capable of. As for the story, it makes even less sense than that of the original Omega.

LAZARUS #14 (Image, 2015) – This is the best issue of the series since #4, and it partly redeems this series. Forever finally gets to talk to Jonah about his text message, and starts to realize that the things she’s been told about herself and her world are not the complete truth. The silent pages with Forever watching Jonah swim away, and then watching her hand injuries heal, are quite powerful. The problem is that I feel that the previous ten issues did nothing to advance Forever’s character arc – there was no reason this scene couldn’t have happened right after issue 4. What I want is for Forever to realize that the society she lives in is deeply unjust, and to start working to change it, and it seems like that’s not going to happen for a long time.

GODZILLA: THE HALF-CENTURY WAR #1 (IDW, 2012) – More absolutely gorgeous artwork by James Stokoe, one of the leading draftspeople in comics right now. What impresses me about this issue is the sense of scale he creates. Godzilla seems just toweringly huge – and in a way he even looks more realistic than the people in the comic. With his style, Stokoe is clearly not capable of doing a monthly series, but it seems like he’s managed to build a career out of doing miniseries and one-shots, which is reassuring.

LAZARUS #15 (Image, 2015) – With this issue, we’re back to boring stuff I don’t care about. Michael Lark is the leading artist of action scenes in the current comics industry, and this issue’s epic swordfight between Forever and Sonya is an impressive piece of work. Even then, it wasn’t enough to get me emotionally invested in this comic, because I didn’t care about the stakes involved.

THE ELTINGVILLE CLUB #2 (Dark Horse, 2015) – This story takes place ten years after the previous issue, as the four Eltingville Club members reunite at Comic-Con. Evan uses Comic-Con as an opportunity to make fun of many of the problems affecting the current comics industry, including rampant sexism. Bill’s angry rant about Jerry’s girlfriend is kind of the perfect expression of the Gamergate mentality. This issue also includes Evan’s typical over-the-top cathartic mayhem, as the Eltingville Club causes a riot which leads to the end of Comic-Con. This feels like it could be the last Eltingville Club story. If so, it’s an appropriate sendoff.

PHONOGRAM: THE IMMATERIAL GIRL #1 (Image, 2015) – As explained earlier, I don’t like this comic nearly as much as other Gillen/McKelvie works because I have no interest in the subject matter. I get what Kieron is saying about how music is magic, but I feel that way very rarely myself. This is probably a matter of personal preference: I like media that don’t have a strict temporality attached. I prefer reading and playing video games because I can set the pace myself (though obviously that’s not always true in the latter case). Anyway, I am still going to keep reading this comic because it’s Kieron and Jamie.

HELLBLAZER #48 (DC, 1991) – This is the sequel to “The Pub Where I Was Born” (I remember that title because it’s a Pogues lyric), in which Constantine’s favorite bar is blown up by mobsters. In this issue, Constantine pursues the people responsible, but it turns out that they’re already being pursued by the vengeful ghosts of the murdered bar owner and her previously deceased husband, and Constantine has to get the ghosts to calm down. It’s a violent but also a very touching story. The weak link here is Mike Hoffman’s artwork. His storytelling is fine, but his draftsmanship is so loose and sketchy that it reminds me of Frank Stack – not that I have anything against Frank Stack, his style of art just doesn’t seem appropriate for this comic.

SILK #5 (Marvel, 2015) – Again, I liked this comic but I can hardly remember anything about it now. Probably the best thing in the issue is the scene where Peter and Silk are talking, and in the background the dragon villain dude is escaping, and Peter is like “That is why I don’t team up with bad guys.”

LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD #9 (Marvel, 2015) – Like Lazarus, this is a series that I’ve been buying but not reading. Its initial momentum was killed off by excessive involvement in crossovers. This issue is a good example of that. It’s a crossover with Axis, a story which I know nothing about. It seems like the idea here is that in Axis, all the villains turn good and all the heroes turn evil. This does lead to an exciting scene where Loki picks up Thor’s hammer because he’s become worthy to wield it. But at the end of the issue, the good/evil switch is reversed due to events occurring in some other comic, and Thor and Loki both forget that Thor lifted Loki’s hammer. So effectively the events of the issue never happened. After this, I had little interest in reading issue 10, though I suppose I’ll get to it soon.

SUICIDE SQUAD #22 (DC, 1988) – This is the one where Amanda orders the Squad to stop Rick Flag from killing Senator Cray, and Deadshot obeys her order – by killing Cray himself. I already knew about this plot twist secondhand, but it was fun to see it actually happen on-panel. Besides that, this issue, like every other issue of Suicide Squad, is full of exciting action and effective characterization. The one thing that bugged me about this issue is the black-haired character wearing a black shirt and sunglasses. This person is never identified and has no lines of dialogue, and I’m mystified as to who he might be.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #90 (Marvel, 1982) – This issue is certainly not a classic, but it’s fun anyway. Spider-Man and the Thing run into each other at a Renaissance Fair, where, by coincidence, an inept magician has accidentally spoken an incarnation that summons a giant green monster. This leads to some ineffective fight scenes but also some funny dialogue, especially in the last panel where Spidey wonders what to do with the defeated monster, and Ben suggests the Central Park zoo might like a donation. This story is by Jan Strnad, a highly underrated writer, and Alan Kupperberg, who sadly just passed away.

HELLBLAZER #78 (DC, 1994) – As I’ve probably said here before, this series, not Preacher, is Garth Ennis’s greatest work (that I know of). This is part one of his last Hellblazer story, “Rake at the Gates of Hell” – another title taken from a Pogues song. It’s not clear at this point where this story is going, but it does seem to involve two themes of Ennis’s Hellblazer – John’s deal with the First of the Fallen, and the British National Party. This story has an overwhelming theme of despair, as John realizes that he’s doing awful things to his friends but he can’t help it. Steve Dillon’s artwork is terrific; I think he and Ennis are better together than either of them is alone.

LAZARUS #16 (Image, 2015) – This issue is a side story that focuses on the nun who appeared in the Lift storyline. It would have been a better side story if not for all the unreadable text and the numerous pages that are wasted on infodumps. This story didn’t do much to expand my knowledge of the world of Lazarus, besides telling me that this world is a horrible living hell, which I knew already.

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