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Saturday, October 25, 2003

Reviews -- As I mentioned earlier this week, I didn't get much at the comics shop...

Batman #620 killed my interest in the title. Eduardo Risso's Sin City approach is fine, certainly better than Frank Miller's most recent Batman effort, but Azzarello continues his unbroken streak of failing to entertain me. In this case, as Chris Allen noted a few weeks ago, "Azzarello seems to think he has something to prove here on this unfamiliar superhero ground, and as he did in CAGE, he goes way over the top." Nobody seems to be who they are supposed to be, and the ludicrous last page is so lame even Jeph Loeb wouldn't get away with it. Grade: 2.5/5

Planetary #17 demonstrates pretty definitively that this title is not only back on schedule, but back, period. Fittingly, then, this is a period piece that sets Elijah Snow in an African lost city where he meets some isolated but brilliant natives and a Tarzan/Ka-Zar-like white man living among them. Ellis and Cassaday craft a startlingly effective love story for Snow -- I was really in awe of how they managed to convince me of the passion between him and Anaykah in just two pages. Would-be writers would do well to study this sequence, seriously. I was also riveted by the structure of the society that Snow visits and pleasingly surprised by the big reveal at the end. The revelation, in retrospect, is the whole reason for the story. But it's so organic and so well-done that I never saw it coming. Excellent stuff, and highly recommended. Grade: 5/5

Sleeper #10 is another flawless offering from Wildstorm this week, as the sublime creative team of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips deliver the origin of Genocide, move along Holden's relationship with Miss Misery to a new status quo, and increase the tension dramatically in a book that already had readers breathless. I wasn't curious about Genocide's background, but Brubaker once again shows why he's one of today's best comics writers by taking this consciousless murderer and making him completely sympathetic and then twisting the knob again in a different direction all in the course of one, single, blood-soaked issue. There are more layers of subtlety and nuance in this book than in any other that immediately comes to mind, just a delicious blend of suspense, sex, drama, betrayal and tragedy. Holden Carver is DC's most interesting and truly riveting character, and there's not a person reading these words right now that wouldn't love this book every bit as much as I do. There's a trade paperback arriving in stores in just a few weeks, so tell your retailer you want one, and find out how exciting, entertaining and unique Sleeper is. Grade: 5/5

Wildcats #15 was the only other comic I got at the shop this week, and it was a good issue, as always, but not quite as dramatic as usual, it seemed to me. There's at least one unexpected and powerful moment that moves Agent Wax's story along a bit, and Grifter seems to be finding an interesting solution to his problem. All good stuff and excellently done, but I am probably too drunk on this week's Planetary and Sleeper to truly appreciate it as much as I could. Grade: 4/5

This week, I also picked up the Alex Ross book Mythology written and designed by Chip Kidd. It's a beautiful production, and sure to appeal to Ross's fans. The highlights for me are the sketches and step-by-step features, as I love seeing how good artists work. Also of note are some historical pieces of DC characters Ross drew when he was a child -- he's been interested in this stuff for a long, long time now. There's a short, brand-new comic story written by Kidd and painted by Ross that features Superman and Batman. It's an iconic short that recalls the spirit of The Dark Knight Returns and (of course) Ross's own Kingdom Come. The book's contents focus exclusively on DC characters (although Captain America sneaks into one photo), including the JLA together and separately, the Legion, Metal Men, Teen Titans and many others. Kidd's text is non-critical, but that's common for an art book of this type, and he does reward readers with a good eye for what makes the individual pieces work so well. He gets in one particularly good observation early on about why Ross's art won such acclaim so early in his career, but I won't spoil that for you since it's one of the text's better moments. Gorgeous to look at and definitely of historical value to people who appreciate Ross's style, this would be a terrific holiday gift for Alex Ross and/or DC fans. Grade: 4.5/5


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