Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Weekly Chain Reaction: February 25, 2009

I know, I know: Gødland #26 and Dynamo 5 #0 came out on February 18. But evidently, a box showed up late at my store, so here we are.

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Captain America #47, by Ed Brubaker, Jackson Guice, et al. I like Mr. Brubaker’s nuanced take on Namor, for all the two panels he appears in here. Chiefly, though, these last few issues of Captain America make me wonder. Is competently executed but ultimately uninspired work—sooner rather than later—an inevitability for genre-comics writers who are good, then become better, then become popular, then become so popular that they’re working on three or four series simultaneously for Marvel or DC, or both? If that’s indeed the case, I guess we’re lucky that Mr. Brubaker largely failed to succumb to it for all these years. Right up until now, I mean.

(Marvel Comics, 22 pages, $ 2.99)

Grade: C

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Dynamo 5 #0, by Jay Faerber, Mahmud A. Asrar, et al. Is this a representative sample of Dynamo 5? I should certainly hope not. Inexplicably, most of these “loss-leader,” low-priced comics, no matter the publisher, emphatically don’t appear to be viewed by the people who create them as an opportunity to win more readers; rather, with few exceptions, they read like terribly lackluster, carelessly slapped-together things that suggest the creators think half the effort will do because the comic is cheaper than usual. Consider Dynamo 5 #0, the latest one-dollar comic. The writing is so generic and flat as to be nondescript. I get the sense that the characters are sitting around waiting for me to open the book so they can finally start poking me with their dreadful lines of badly written exposition. Why should I care about what’s going on in your boring painting-by-numbers plot? Why do I need to read your book when there are 287 other other ones just like it in the market? Maybe the recap page that I didn’t care to read contains that information, or maybe the two massive pages of text in the back that I didn’t care to read do. The people who make these comics seem to be massively divorced from reality. I don’t think a 10-page, one-dollar comic should leave me with the feeling that I wasted precious time and money, at any rate.

(Image Comics, 10 pages, $ 0.99)

Grade: D

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Fantastic Four #564, by Mark Millar, Bryan Hitch, et al. If you’ve been waiting for a collection of splash pages showing Bryan Hitch’s rendition of a small coast town in Scotland, your time has come. I’m serious: Mr. Hitch really goes to town on the gorgeous scenery (no pun intended), and it’s great fun flipping through this comic just for the very unusual visuals; don’t make the mistake of reading the text, though. Evidently, the idea is to slowly and subtly set us up for a horror story, but in practice, watching Mr. Millar at work is a bit like seeing someone perform brain surgery with a maul. I’m pretty sure it’s not meant to be laugh-out-loud funny, but—Jesus Christ: “All this stress is only going to make that baby taste funny,” they go, and we’re only on page two. The rest is like the first half hour of every generic horror flick you’ve ever seen; because we just needed that one more time.

(Marvel Comics, 29 pages, $ 2.99)

Grade: D+

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Gødland #26, by Joe Casey, Tom Scioli, et al. COSMIC WRESTLING UNLIMITED MAKES PUNCH! MAKES ZAP! MAKES SLAM! SUPER-VILLAIN CONGRESS IS GO! DARK REIGN IN ONE PAGE! STRANGE SKULL! AGITATED! AMBITIOUS! GIANT KIRBY DUDES KICKING ASS IN THE GALAXY OUT THERE IN SPACE! APE MONSTERS! SIZZLE! FIZZLE! CRACKLE! POP! Or, to quote Friedrich Nickelhead, the newly self-appointed leader of the Super-Villain Congress of the United States of America: “It’s a beautiful thang.” This isn’t great, but it’s great fun.

(Image Comics, 20 pages, $ 2.99)

Grade: C+

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The Umbrella Academy: Dallas #4 (of 6), by Gerard Way, Gabriel Bá, et al. Lots of delightfully quirky things happen, as usual. Plot: The Umbrella Academy have to prevent Young-looking-but-old Number Five from preventing Old-looking-but-young Number Five from shooting John F. Kennedy in 1963. (And the Earth goes pop.) The mechanics are getting a tad sloppy here, but at least it’s bold about it: “I slipped an ingestible nano-tracer into a bottle of barbiturates I found in your room… about fourteen years ago,” is Spaceboy’s explanation of how he tracked down Séance last issue. Best deus-ex-machina rescue ever, dude!

(Dark Horse Comics, 22 pages, $ 2.99)

Grade: B-

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Youngblood #8, by Joe Casey, Derec Donovan, et al. There’s a terrible terrible terrible six-page backup drawn (and written?) by Rob Liefeld in which Barack Obama selects the members of a new Youngblood team, of the variety that makes you cringe as you are reading it. Worse, Liefeld promises to be back writing and drawing the series full-time starting with issue #9, evidently hoping to make a few bucks on the now rapidly waning Obamaphoria. (The cover price will go up to $ 3.99, too.) In practical terms, this means three things: (1) Joe Casey and Derec Donovan’s story is over and done with, evidently, despite ending on a cliffhanger this issue. (2) There won’t be another issue of Youngblood in this decade. (3) Even if, against all odds, there will be another issue of Youngblood in this decade, it’s going to be rubbish. The Obama teaser is free extra content, so I won’t downgrade the comic because of it. I’m sorry Mr. Casey couldn’t wrap up things in a more satisfying manner here, but let’s be honest: It wasn’t his best work, anyway. I’m more than happy to redirect my $ 2.99 per issue toward his Super-Young Team miniseries for DC Comics. It’s called Dance, and the first issue is due in May.

(Image Comics, 26 pages, $ 2.99)

Grade: C-

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I’ve got a lot of stuff to catch up on, so no longer reviews this week. They’ll be back as soon as I’ve got time to sit down and, you know, read some comics.


Mark Clapham said...

I think it's a little too soon to write Brubaker off on the basis of one low-key Cap arc. Daredevil is still very good, and Criminal and Incognito are excellent.

Marc-Oliver Frisch said...

I haven't written Brubaker off -- I'm still reading his books, after all, and I can still enjoy them on the basis that they're by people who have the nuts and bolts stuff down so well.

I don't agree on DAREDEVIL, though. The ending of the "Lady Bullseye" arc was disappointing; INCOGNITO hasn't knocked my socks off, either. And CRIMINAL is on hiatus.

Hopefully, Brubaker's stuff will pick up again soon. (At least it seems they're not bringing Steve Rogers back with CAPTAIN AMERICA #50, after all.)