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Monday, March 15, 2004

 

Short, Sharp Shocks -- Concise snippets of critical insight, professionally produced for your protection and consideration. Don't try this at home.

Gabagool #6 -- This may be the funniest comic I've ever read -- for sure, it's the funniest comics I've read this year, and the best issue yet of one of my favourite small-press series. "Nudes and Prudes" concludes the adventures of the gang at one of those decadent "Hedonism" resorts, getting naked, drunk and high with abandon -- only time and again to be brought back to earth by their all-too-human neuroses and bad habits. You don't need the current, opportunistic shroud of creative oppression that came from Janet Jackson's nipple being revealed on live TV for Christopher Viglotti's giant boner to be as hilarious as it turns out to be, but it doesn't hurt. And the hot tub scene has forever changed my ability to even think about eating eggdrop soup. The cartooning here has fully arrived, well-composed and beautifully inked, Gabagool has improved in every way in its six-issue journey from mini-comic to must-read alternative funnybook. This gets my highest recommendation. Grade: 5/5

3-Car Pileup #1-2 -- Rough-and-tumble anthology title with a good deal of potential but a few miles to go before it gets there. #1 gets off to a bad start with a sideways story originally designed for the web -- guys, it's made up of individual panels that I could have rearranged for comic book formatting in Photoshop in ten minutes. Unfortunate, because the story's thin premise -- having deep feelings for someone from afar -- is a worthy subject treated fairly well and with an unexpected twist at the end. The "Koala" stories in both issues seem to be treated as highlights, but are among the least interesting material here. Better are the short "Idiot Box" newspaper-style strips and especially #2's "Bulimic Consumer" by Dan Custer, the standout of the two issues to date. Custer's art is unfinished and needs work, but his writing is clear and he has no problem communicating his ideas and conveying his personality (two cornerstones of good comics) to the reader. Order here. Grade: 3/5

Swamp Thing #1 -- The first Swamp Thing issue I've bought since Alan Moore left the title, this new series gets off to a promising start by hewing closely to the style of Alan Moore, Steve Bissette and John Totleben from a lifetime ago. Writer Andy Diggle sets a properly tense and moody tone, and artist Enrique Breccia evokes Bissette and Totelben without sacrificing his own artistic personality. In Swamp Thing's decades of existence, Moore is the only writer who ever kept my interest for the long haul, but there's every reason from this first issue to think that it might be time to give the book another chance. Grade: 4/5

Coup D'Etat Afterword -- An ugly and dismissable Wetworks story kicks off and dominates this unfortunate mishmash of Wildstorm marginalia, but the brief Sleeper: Season Two preview demonstrates in just a few short pages the appeal of the series. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips deliver a tantalizing appetizer full of paranoia and potential, showing why Sleeper is the best monthly book on the stands. If you've been waiting to jump on the acclaimed series, buy this to sample Sleeper's style, but remember to skip past the awful first story and the filler pin-ups. Grade: (Sleeper story) 4.5/5 (the rest) 2/5

JSA #59 -- An interesting idea for a standalone story -- Per Degaton travels through time to watch key moments of misery for enemies he can't defeat through conventional means. The story is somewhat diminished by nods to current continuity of a book I don't follow -- this month's fill-in art by Sleeper's Sean Phillips prompted me to pick it up, though. Phillips delivers a fun but uncharacteristically rushed-looking issue -- I'd guess this was just thrown his way to keep food on his table in-between Sleeper "seasons." And that's fine, the dude's gotta eat. The best moments are Degaton ruminating on his deliciously twisted, outside-the-box plan. The worst include a clunky, disturbing subplot regarding Captain Marvel (!) and underage sex (!!) and the altogether wrong Ethan Van Sciver cover, which conveys a mood completely at odds with the atmosphere Geoff Johns reaches for here and nearly achieves in his script. Close, but not quite. Grade: 3.5/5

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