Saturday, November 13, 2004

Hoo-ha, time for Quick Comics Reviews! (Actually, not so quick -- wish I could perfect the art of snarky one-sentence reviews like most of my blogosphere counterparts. Maybe I need an editor; ironic, considering that's my day job, ain't it?)

Iron Man #1
Well... "eh" best sums up my reaction here to the 419th "reboot" of the armored Avenger. Y'know, Iron Man is always one of these characters I like in principle -- billionaire flawed alcoholic playboy inventor fights crime wearing high-tech suit of armor -- but in reality, the majority of Iron Man comics over the past 40 years have really stunk, with the exception of a few runs. This latest attempt to fly, written by Warren Ellis and with glossy computer-aided art by Adi Granov, revamps Iron Man's origin to make him relevant. But it didn't quite work for me. I'll admit, Iron Man's old origin was tied to the Vietnam war which kinda dates it. But tying it to Afghanistan and al-Qaeda has the exact same problem and will date him 10 years from now, and throwing it in jolted me right out of the comic in my fanboy way. Granov's art is technically gorgeous, but suffers from being a bit stiff with too much open space. The story really didn't go anywhere, with wayyy too many pages of exposition and set-up, necessary for an #1 these days but still a slog. It all strains to feel too important, with discourse about whether Iron Man Tony Stark is an arms dealer or not, if action equals inaction, about social involvement, etc., complete with incredibly dull scene featuring a Michael Moore stand-in documentary filmmaker. An awkward attempt to graft substance and style together with numbing results. In the end it was all kind of boring. Grade: B-

Marvel Team-Up #1
Hey, this I liked. It doesn't strain to be relevant, and is the comic equivalent of a Mountain Dew with candy bar on the side -- guilty pleasure. I dug the old "team-up" comics of the 1970s and 1980s, where everybody from Hercules to Black Panther to Quasar could pop up each month. If this one sells well maybe it'll stick around. So far, it's off to a solid start, with writer Robert Kirkman and Scott Kolins on art giving their "A" game for fun, no-frills comics. This first issue maybe goes for the overexposed, with a Spider-Man/Wolverine team-up, but it's told in a breezy way with great interaction -- and it's a pleasure to see an actual, compact 2-part story rather than the bloated 6-part epics that seem to dominate comics these days. More great, detailed art from Scott Kolins, and Kirkman's script has the same accessible flow as his "Walking Dead" work. Maybe I was in a retro mood, but I liked this a lot. I'm going to give this one a try for a while (the affordable $2.25 price also helps). The format dictates that it'll keep being surprising, and I hope for more oddball teamups now that obligatory Wolverine/Spider-Man thing is out of the way. With the hundreds of Marvel characters out there to play with, this could be a great joy ride. Grade: A-

Identity Crisis #6 (of 7)
Whoa. The DC serial killer mystery nears its climax, and the tension is pumped up to 11 or so this issue. Jolting scenes involving Batman's betrayal and reaction to the bloody ending of last issue, and an ending that truly caught me off guard. On the one hand, I'm going to be infuriated if the murderer revealed at the end of this issue is actually the killer -- I have a huge soft spot for this character going back many years, and would hate to see it all lost for a "grim and gritty" makeover. But I strongly suspect Meltzer's not done with the twists and turns here, and I'm really curious to see how he writes himself out of this corner. If what we've learned holds up, how on earth will he establish a motivation? "Identity Crisis" has turned out to be the opposite of those old universe-smashing, cosmic-struggle epics, but it's one heck of an engaging murder mystery. The only question now is if it holds together or falls apart in the final issue. Grade: A

Superman/Batman #13
OK, really, I need to stop reading this comic. I feel my IQ dropping with each issue. But I'm a sucker for the whole Superman/Batman dynamic and love the old "World's Finest" comics they used to star in, so I've been trying to hang tight out of old loyalty. But this latest storyline, featuring the return of (again) Supergirl and the evil of Darkseid, just seemed like a flash-no-substance mid-1990s Image Comics joint. This issue, Superman proceeds to kick Darkseid's gray butt, in a battle utterly lacking in suspense or logic (since when can people talk to each other IN OUTER SPACE?) and then we learn that, ta-daa, Supergirl didn't actually die last issue after all -- can't kill off valuable trademarks after all. Cheeseball and amateurish to the end, with godawful "monologuing" dialogue ("she will never know the simple joy of apple pie with vanilla ice cream"?) and really ugly, anatomically incorrect "bad girl" art by Michael Turner featuring women with 12-inch waists throughout. Pass on this. Grade: D+

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