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Monday, March 15, 2004


More Short, Sharp Shocks -- All right, I have a ton of goddamn comic books sitting here, and my conscience won't let me just file them away without saying something about them. So prepare yourself for some extremely concise summaries of my opinions of these here funnybooks...and scroll down to the previous entry for a few more from earlier today.

JLA #94 -- John Byrne, Chris Claremont and Tom Orzechowski reunite decades after producing some of the most entertaining corporate superhero funnybooks of my teenage years. But where are Terry Austin and Glynis Wein? Anyway, Claremont's dialogue is a bit clunky and Ordway's inks seem a bit heavy-handed (Byrne's style is completely consumed in some panels), but for the most part, this is serviceable entry-level comics for children, focusing on a goofy-looking vampire who manages to turn Superman to his team. Not as exciting as I had hoped, but far from the train-wreck that everything Claremont and Byrne have done for the past decade indicated was a distinct possibility. Grade: 3.5/5

Gotham Central #17 -- Seemed like a lot of uninteresting blah blah blah in this one, with artwork by Greg Scott that doesn't quite reach Michael Lark's excellence. This is shaping up to be the least compelling storyline of the series so far, unfortunately. Grade: 3/5

The Escapist #1 -- From Happy Endings to Autobiographix to Hellboy: Weird Tales, Dark Horse seems to buck the trend of mixed-bag anthologies, almost always featuring more entertaining and interesting stories than not. The Escapist meets that standard, with a nice blend of styles and stories simulating decades of comics storytelling development in service of the alleged storied past of Michael Chabon's character from his Pulitzer-winning Kavalier and Clay novel. The standout stories are the origin of The Escapist, which conveys the oddball logic of Golden Age origins without aping the bad writing and art that was often in evidence. I also liked the contributions from Jim Starlin and Howard Chaykin, but the book is so packed with fun comics that there's got to be something for everyone here. Grade: 4/5

Cerebus #300 -- Dave Sim either didn't care or didn't realize (probably the former) that many non-Cerebus readers would check out this landmark issue, and so he delivers a slow, uneventful and probably-intended-to-be ironic demise for his decades-old aardvark protagonist. Hardcore fans will probably love the fact that Dave never concedes an inch in his war against sanity, but even the most open-minded new readers (or lapsed former fans like myself) will likely be bored by the dullness of the aardvark's death, the lead balloon impact of the theme inherent in Cerebus's entry into the afterlife, and worst of all, nearly two-dozen pages of deadly dull text pieces. For Sim and a few hundred dedicated readers, this is probably The Event of a Lifetime. For the rest of us, the end of Cerebus arrives with all the magic and wonderment of a mosquito fart. Grade: 2/5

Magic Whistle: Bigger, Larger and Bigger -- I didn't like this as much as I wanted to. Sam Henderson has an appealing line and a simple, energetic style, and there are some fun moments and interesting experiments with style and colour here, but overall I didn't get the same charge out of this that I did from the recent and similarly-themed Further Grickle. Grade: 3/5

Hi-Horse Omnibus -- Diverse and lightweight anthology, with an Andrice Arp undersea-themed cover that is just stunning and really ought to be issued as a lithograph. A lot of different stories and styles, Howard John Arey's Crumb-influenced cartooning being the most entertaining and interesting. But nothing in here grabbed me as much as the subtle beauty of the cover. Grade: 3/5

Real Stuff -- Dennis Eichhorn's autobiographical stories recall Harvey Pekar without the angst or self-loathing. Eichhorn has had a genuinely interesting life and makes some apt observations about what he's learned, with a compelling narrative style that I like a lot and would love to read more of. The artists lined up here to illustrate his stores are a who's-who of altcomix superstars, including Rick Altergott, Jim Woodring, Seth, Joe Sacco, Los Bros. Hernandez, Charles Burns, Dave Cooper, David Collier and a couple dozen more. You want this. Grade: 5/5

8 1/2 Ghosts -- A playful amalgamation of styles including Seth and Dan Clowes powers this odd magazine-sized comic about a ghost movie being made with real ghosts involved in the production. Too cute by half for me, but if you skew to the whimsical, you might find this appealing. Despite the obvious kid-appeal of the style and subject matter, there is copious copulating, so don't leave this laying around if you want to keep young eyes from seeing people having sex. Grade: 2.5/5

Fused #3 -- The story takes a turn for the generic here, with full-page splashes of fight scenes full of sound and fury signifying a padded-out story. Josh Medors does a workmanlike job illustrating the story, but Paul Lee's art from the first couple of issues of the previous mini-series at Image set a standard that has not been seen since. Grade: 2.5/5

Para #1 -- Stuart Moore excels at readable adventure stories (like this, or Zendra) that get the job done at a certain level, but lack of spark of true excitement or ingenuity. Para is about a young woman whose scientist father disappears -- and is presumed dead -- after an accident involving a superconducting supercollider. Imagine Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen, his story being told from the point of view of his young daughter, and you've pretty much got it. The artwork is bland in spots and frustratingly potential-filled in others. I'm intrigued enough to read the next issue, but far from won over. Grade: 3.5/5


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