Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Weekly Chain Reaction: March 25, 2009

Also out this week: Mark Waid and Marcio Takara’s The Incredibles: Family Matters #1 from Boom! Studios.

If I’d known it was written and drawn by the inimitable Roger Langridge of Fin Fang Four fame, I’d also have checked out Boom!’s new Muppets comic, of all things. Maybe I’ll get it next week, if there are any copies left.

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The Amazing Spider-Man #589, by Fred van Lente, Paulo Siqueira, et al. Contrary to what the track record of both the writer and the character would suggest, Mr. Van Lente doesn’t play the Spot for laughs—at least not in the usual, funny-ha-ha way. Rather, this one-shot story goes for a tragicomic interpretation. And why not? Unexpected is good, and the Spot’s ability to travel through self-made holes in space that can take him—or parts of him—anywhere he wants is a pretty handy and frightening one to have for an assassin. But ultimately, it doesn’t go far enough: The Spot’s motivation should be driving the story, the way things are set up, but it’s not. I’m not sure why so much space is devoted to the generic Russian bad guy. If the new direction for the Spot sticks, at any rate, he desperately needs a new costume design. The basic idea of the black spots on a white background isn’t bad, but there has to be a more visually appealing way of arranging them than this.

(Marvel Comics, 22 pages, $ 2.99)

Grade: C+

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Captain America #48, by Ed Brubaker, Jackson Guice, et al. Can I just be glad that this is over and hope for better times? I don’t get why Bucky let himself be captured without a back-up plan. I don’t get why Namor, who’s been Righteous Head-Cracking personified throughout this story, was overwhelmed and imprisoned off-panel. I don’t get what the point of the last six issues is supposed to be in the overall storyline. If there has been any character or plot development, I must have blinked. The idea of Bucky wanting to “salvage” something unspoiled from the Good Old Days is workable, certainly. But like this, tacked on the last page as a last-minute justification for the whole mess? Shame on you, guys. Please try harder next time.

(Marvel Comics, 22 pages, $ 2.99)

Grade: C-

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Daredevil #117, by Ed Brubaker, Michael Lark, et al. Well, at least Daredevil comes out of hibernation after a couple of uncharacteristically dodgy issues. There’s nothing here that knocks my socks off, mind you. For much of the issue, Mr. Brubaker still appears to be on autopilot, playing for time with conventional situations rather than to tell the story with all guns blazing. But that said, I’m still relieved to see that the book has found back to a certain basic level of solidity: Characters are confronting each other, things are happening—all that jazz. And the artwork, as usual, is just stunningly beautiful. I don’t think I’ve read any other comic lately with backgrounds, settings, environments as rich and authentic-looking as the ones in here.

(Marvel Comics, 22 pages, $ 2.99)

Grade: B-

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Fantastic Four #565, by Mark Millar, Bryan Hitch, et al. Last month, Mr. Millar perfectly botched the first half of this story. Supposedly, you recall, it was meant to subtly set us up for the fact that something was not quite right in that little town in Scotland. It was kind of undercut by the revelation, on page two, that BABIES ARE BEING EATEN THERE!!! This second half, now, is where all hell properly breaks loose. As you’d expect, Mr. Millar is rather more at home with hell than with subtlety: Hell is his roommate, subtlety is the little place behind the house where the two of them go to take a dump. Still, there are some panel-to-panel storytelling issues here. During the fight, it’s not very clear what’s going on a few times, for instance—and how on earth did the monster fit through the door of that vehicle? (And what, for that matter, was the point of getting it through if the whole stunt doesn’t work, anyway?) But overall, this is great fun. If you’ve got the Fantastic Four smashing monsters, you might as well move them to Scotland and really go to town—no pun intended.

(Marvel Comics, 27 pages, $ 2.99)

Grade: C+

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The Umbrella Academy: Dallas #5 (of 6), by Gerard Way, Gabriel Bá, et al. “Killing Time” would also have been an appropriate title for this issue. Two different fractions of the Umbrella Academy are stranded in the early sixties—one wants to kill President Kennedy, the other wants to save him. One of them arrived three years too early, and so they’re now fighting Vietcong Vampires and giant resurrected mummies and the like. It’s all gloriously mad, but still makes perfect sense. Once again, Mr. Way and Mr. Bá demonstrate what a brain, a pencil and an empty page are good for when they’re not inhibited by all kinds of strange and imaginary things, like conventions or editors.

(Dark Horse Comics, 22 pages, $ 2.99)

Grade: B+

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Next week: Seaguy! Finally!

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