Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Weekly Chain Reaction: April 1, 2009

Before I reel in my Internets for the next two weeks, here are some brief reviews of last week’s comics. I’ll save that full-length review of Seaguy until the series is complete.

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The Amazing Spider-Man #590, by Dan Slott, Barry Kitson, et al. Mr. Slott and Mr. Kitson turn in a story with a perfectly generic superhero plot and focus on the same. It’s not a very solid superhero plot, mind you; it requires half the book’s cast to act like morons half the time. To make matters worse, the story is bogged down in the lingering stench of “One More Day,” the storyline that failed to put a lid on “married Spider-Man” a year or so back. On the plus side, there’s a nice little two-page sequence with the Looter.

(Marvel Comics, 22 pages, $ 2.99)

Grade: C-

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Captain America Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1 (One-Shot), by James Robinson, Marcos Martin, et al. Steve Rogers, right after being rejected by the U.S. Army, accidentally runs into a dying secret agent, single-handedly takes out two Nazi spies—by using a thrash-can lid as a shield, among other things—and, by sheer coincidence, ends up saving the super-soldier serum that later, wink wink, nudge nudge, turns him into Captain America. If the story were at least aware of its own silliness, there might be some charm to the whole affair. I still recommend buying the comic, though, just for Marcos Martin’s double-page splash with Rogers walking through a bustling Manhattan street. It’s, hands down, the most beautiful piece of comics art I’ve seen this year, and it looks like it jumped right out of a John Dos Passos novel. Mr. Martin’s Steve Rogers seems more anorexic than scraggy, but for those fantastic two pages worth of 1930s New York City, it’s all forgiven.

(Marvel Comics, 23 pages plus reprints, $ 3.99)

Grade: D+

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The Flash: Rebirth #1, by Geoff Johns, Ethan van Sciver, et al. This is one of those awkward superhero comics that mistake extensive nostalgic waxing—both in dialogue and in external monologues—for proper storytelling. Nothing in the story means anything to me, and it’s my own fault: because Barry Allen is back as the Flash, and it is good and proper for me to be deeply familiar with the character and care about his return by default, no further effort on the writer’s part required. Mr. Van Sciver tries and fails to draw the first few bloody pages from the perspective of a first-person shooter video game, meanwhile. I’m just a fly on the windshield of this comic.

(DC Comics, 30 pages, $ 3.99)

Grade: D

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Invincible Iron Man #12, by Matt Fraction, Salvador Larroca, et al. Mr. Fraction goes a little overboard trying to sell Norman Osborn as an evil bastard, to the point where it hurts the story’s verisimilitude. Other than that, though, Invincible Iron Man remains a well-refined, jolly good time of a comic. The creators deliver an intense Iron Man/Namor brawl, and the series’ various plot threads are now forming a noose around Tony Stark’s neck. Mr. Fraction and Mr. Larroca even manage to make the Controller seem genuinely creepy.

(Marvel Comics, 24 pages, $ 2.99)

Grade: B-

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Irredeemable #1, by Mark Waid, Peter Krause, et al. It’s 1992 all over again: Irredeemable, another muddled and paper-thin post-Watchmen thing, somewhat helplessly tries to impress its audience by being more brutal and violent than the competition. There’s no substance whatsoever, and even the basic storytelling is unusually shoddy by Mr. Waid’s standards: Who on earth thought it was a good idea to introduce a four-page flashback sequence with a big whopping banner saying “ONE WEEK LATER”…? The part that makes Irredeemable an especially frustrating experience, through, is the cranky “Afterword” by Grant Morrison, who spends his waking days getting mad at the Internet now. Due respect, gentlemen: It would behoove the both of you to worry less about being unfairly typecast and more about imbuing your characters with something resembling a personality.

(Boom! Studios, 23 pages, $ 3.99)

Grade: D

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Jersey Gods #3, by Glen Brunswick, Mark Waid, Dan McDaid, Joe Infurnari, et al. Only a quarter of the book’s 28 pages deals with Zoe, the female lead down in New Jersey; the other 21 are filled with more generic, fairly boring Kirby fan fiction by Mr. Brunswick and Mr. Waid. It looks good, certainly—Mr. McDaid’s work gets better with every issue. But the way this is going, the creators can scratch the “Jersey” from the title by issue #5. Isn’t the point of doing a romantic comedy to show some interaction between the two lead characters?

(Image Comics, 28 pages, $ 3.50)

Grade: C

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Preacher #1 Special Edition, by Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon, et al. I’ve read bits and pieces of Preacher, but never the whole thing. This debut issue, originally released in 1995 and now reprinted by DC as part of its “After Watchmen” promotion, is a bit of a disappointment. It’s not the finely tuned knockout I expected—neither the writing nor the artwork are as tight and to the point as the creators’ later work. That said, it’s still a pretty good comic, and it did make me chuckle a few times. At 40 story pages per dollar, it’s also just about the best value for money in the market.

(DC Comics/Vertigo, 40 pages, $ 1.00)

Grade: B

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Seaguy: The Slaves of Mickey Eye #1 (of 3), by Grant Morrison, Cameron Stewart, et al. Has it really been five years? Intellectually, the second act of the Seaguy saga is every bit as ingenious, multi-layered and creative as the first one, judging from this opening chapter. But whereas the first series was driven by a whimsical lead character on an irresistible quest, this story’s Seaguy is rather less compelling: He’s passive, has grown a double chin and spends most of the comic sulking. Since that’s clearly part of the plan, though, I’m not that worried about it yet. All of the involved creators seem on form here, and the result is a delightful read.

(DC Comics/Vertigo, 32 pages, $ 3.99)

Grade: B

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And with that, I’m signing off for the time being. In the meantime, feel free to read my review of the film Knowing and watch Heidi’s place for the latest DC Comics sales column, which should be up sometime next week. See ya.

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