Wednesday, April 14, 2004

A couple of quick hit comics reviews from last week's shipment o' joy and that's it for this blog marathon day of posting:

Smax #5
This series by Alan Moore spinning out of his "Top 10" turned out so much more interesting, and funny, than I would've imagined. I nearly passed on ordering it and I'm glad I didn't. The policeman Smax returns to his homeworld to settle family business with his partner, Toybox, in tow. Smax's homeland is a world where fairy tales are real, populated by elves, ogres and fairies -- not exactly the kind of place that gruff, gigantic cop Jeff Smax would seem to have ties to. The comedy in "Smax" comes from juxtaposing Smax with the expectations of myth. It's the basic dragonslayer tale told with a wink, but it's also got some thrilling action and highly frightening moments. "Smax" has been one of Moore's stronger recent efforts, playing off his long-established love for myth and legend with humor and originality. The cartoony art by Zander Cannon is the polar opposite of Gene Ha's detailed, realistic work in "Top 10," but it works perfectly for the series. The dragon Morningbringer is like no dragon I've ever seen, a creepy many-eyed catlike beast. If the climax here in this issue is a bit less clever than the rest, it didn't ruin my enjoyment of the overall series. And you have to love a series that ends with a romantic ending revolving around incest. Great fun and a worthy spinoff. A- for the series.

The Pulse #2
I'm not quite sure where this new series from Marvel Comics is going, but like most stuff Brian Michael Bendis writes, I'm digging the ride. Continuing from the late great series "Alias" and the tale of former superheroine-turned-private detective-turned newspaper columnist Jessica Jones, "The Pulse" is supposed to be a blend of journalistic adventure and superhero action -- not exactly a recipe for success in today's comic world, but here's hoping it works. In #1, we caught up with Jessica Jones and her boyfriend Luke Cage as they accepted a job at The Daily Bugle and its new "superhumans" beat. At issue's end, a mysterious murder in a city park may turn out to be their first big story. In #2, we learn who the murder victim was, and it's a fascinating tale. "Terri Kidder," obviously a parody of Superman's Lois Lane, is a brand new reporter at The Daily Bugle. She's confounded by the superhero beat and expectations of her, and desperately trying to find a hot story to break. We follow Terri around on what turns out to be her disastrous final day at work. And that's it. Next issue, I assume the threads come together. Like I said above, "The Pulse" is pretty specialized and while as a journalist and comic lover I'm digging it, I can't say if it'll stick around. Bendis' natural, chattery dialogue is a pleasure as always and Mark Bagley's art as clean as ever --– but I wonder if this series has a real point yet. The "Spider-Man" ties are also kind of gratuitous here. I loved "Alias," but the sequel series doesn't quite have the distinctive voice that excellent book did. Grade so far: B

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