Friday, March 25, 2005

COMICS: Quick Comic Reviews!

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Spider-Man/Human Torch #3 (of 5)
The last thing I thought I needed was another Spider-Man cash-in miniseries, but at the rate it's going, Spider-Man/Human Torch might actually be one of my favorite comics of 2005. This proudly light-hearted, old-fashioned superhero comic actually revels in the 40 years of Fantastic Four/Spider-Man comics history, rather than trying to be "hip" and "modern." The five self-contained issues simply follow the friendship and rivalry of Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four's youngest member over the years, with each issue stopping in at a different point in their history. This issue checks us in what would be about 1974 in "real" comics time, just after the death of Gwen Stacy in "Amazing Spider-Man." Writer Dan Slott has a fine touch on humor with being too goofy (see: "JLA: Classified" below) and moments of character that ring utterly true. The friendship between the two young superheroes, one an outsider and one a public idol, has rarely been done as well as it is here. Ty Templeton's brightly colored, fluid art is a real treat, too. And my god, how can any Spider-Man fan not love a comic that includes the swingin' '70s relic, The Spidermobile, the villainy of "The Red Ghost and his Super Apes," and to top it all off, a nice riff on those insanely silly Hostess Fruit Pie superhero comics ads of the era? Simply the most fun I've had reading a comic in a good while, and writer Slott continues to show why his star is on the rise. Grade: A

New Avengers #4
I'm still enjoying this. Like most of writer Brian Michael Bendis' work, it's weak on plot and strong on characterization and dialogue. The banter and camaraderie between the disparate characters shoved together here is the highlight for me, with the Spider-Man/Luke Cage dialogue a real treat. Still not sure where it's going, and worried it'll collapse in the next few parts, but enjoyable enough superhero team fun for me. And the most controversial claw-wielding "New Avenger" finally makes an appearance at the end of this issue. For what it is, this works for me, and is better than any of the "old" Avengers comics of the past few years for certain. Grade: B+

Shaolin Cowboy #2
I wasn't nuts about the first issue of this Geoff Darrow production, but part two is a whole lot better. Really, this experimental, beautifully drawn and utterly insane comic should've been released as one graphic novel, rather than two incomplete parts. In part one, mysterious cowboy monk encounters huge group of bad guys, proceeds to fight them all in Darrow's gorgeous, painstakingly detailed art. That was pretty much it, so I wasn't really into picking up #2. But I did anyway, and in this issue, we learn the violence is a plot by the evil King Crab, a... crab... angry at the monk for eating his family. Much violence ensues again, with the highlight being a man/crab kung fu battle that has to be seen to be believed. It's clearer now to me that Darrow doesn't mean this to be taken seriously at all, making it a lot easier to just bask in the glory of his art. The story apparently wraps this issue, and I'm not even sure if there'll be an #3. But overall, it's recommended as totally off-the-wall exploitation crab-fu fun. Grade: A-

JLA: Classified #5
Goofball superhero comedy, in part two of Keith Giffen and Kevin Maguire's "I Can't Believe It's The Justice League" storyline. What with the DC Universe's increasing grimness lately, it's nice to see a superhero comic all for laughs, and I've got a soft spot for the "comedy" Justice League of the '80s this series revives. Still, this issue seemed a little "off" to me; the Marx Brothers type comedy got a bit shrill and over-the-top, with a little too much shouting and flailing of arms. A few scenes also lacked clarity to me. But any comic that ends up with the heroes accidentally banishing themselves to Hell is OK with me. Grade: B

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