Monday, April 25, 2005

Three 4/20 Books That I Read So That You Do Not Have To

You know the basic concept, I take three books that I have not really heard many people talk about and I discuss them (with spoilers!) and then ask you folk to tell me about some books that I might have missed this past week.

Special All-Marvel Edition!!!

Spider-Man: Breakout #1 - This was, in my opinion, the best writing that Tony Bedard has done for Marvel so far. However, that may not be much of a compliment, as I have found his Exiles and Rogue to be fairly lackluster. That being said, he takes part of what made Negation so great - character interaction - and applies it to Breakout, and it works well (heck, Negation also was about a prison breakout, so that's another neat connection).

This issue is basically about two rival gangs of super villains. The U-Foes on one side, and Crossfire on the other side (with a bunch of other random villains with Crossfire. Both sides were played off each other by a Guardsman, and they have been trying to kill each other all the while that they were in prison together, and these attempts on each other's lives have continued since they escaped.

That is the main story, with Spider-Man getting mixed in the middle of it all.

The characterizations are deep, and Bedard uses these older Marvel villains really well. The only problem is that we really are not told who these people ARE and what they DO. I mean, I know all of them, but you cannot expect a new reader to, and I think Bedard (or the editors, who would have been VERY well served to put a character guide in this comic) really dropped the ball there.

The art by Manuel Garcia is good, nothing awesome, but he gets the job done, and his style served the writing style Bedard is going for (slightly darker than average fare).

I would not recommend it generally, but if you're a fan of older Marvel characters, I think there is a good chance that you will enjoy it.

Marvel Knights 4 #17 - I continue to be impressed by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's improvement as a comic book writer. He is like an old pro at this superhero stuff now.

In this issue, he effortlessly mixes together continuity, story, time travel, flashbacks, alternate realities....and it all works for a cohesive, interesting plot. In addition, his dialogue is both strong AND purposeful.

And his character of H.E.R.B.I.E. is cool.

He is being killed by Jim Muniz' art, though, which is a shame.

If you combined Aguirre-Sacasa's CURRENT storyline with the art from the FIRST storyline on this title, you would have one of the best books from Marvel, easy.

Sadly, that mixture is not present, and the art is so off-putting, I do not know if I can even recommend this book.

So I guess not recommended.

Hercules #1 - I don't get this book. I am pretty sure that Tieri is saying that Hercules should be treated better, as he is this epic hero...but then Tieri treats him like trash.

I don't get it.

In addition, a lot of the writing (ESPECIALLY the dialogue) reminds me of Ron Zimmerman's early efforts, when Zimmerman was still writing comic books like he wrote for TV shows...but that was understandable in Zimmerman's case as he was, in fact, a TV show writer. Tieri is it is weird.

Also, the book is about how some ancient villain is trying to make Hercules look bad with a reality show starring Hercules. Wacky, eh? So the perfect artist is, of course, Mark Texeria! "Wait," you might say, "Brian,Texeria does not fit that type of story at all!"

You would be right. I was just being sarcastic.

Texeria's art (with inks by Jimmy Palmiotti) is nice, but does not fit the story at all.

And I will admit, the story is clever enough, but it just does not fit. The juxtaposition between the two ideas (Hercules is an epic hero and Hercules is a big buffoon) just is too jarring.

Not recomended!

Okay, on to the books that I did not read that you folks can tell me about:

Defex #6

Small Hands Graphic Novel

Four Letter Worlds Graphic Novel

Cholly and Flytrap #3

Detonator #3

Small Gods #8


Blogger Ronald Bryan said...

Brian, sarcastic? Never! Never I say!

4/25/2005 08:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my God, stay away from Defex #6! The details are already starting to fade from my mind (maybe I'm repressing it?), so it surprised me when you mentioned that this was just released last week. But I'll try to remember it for you...

It opens up with a Defek (would that be the singular?) in custody of government agents, being questioned. "But wait!" you say, "didn't issue #5 promise us a big battle this time?" Sure it did. But this issue takes place AFTER the battle, as the agents interrogate 2 captured Defex to find out what went on. This give our heroes plenty of chances to mouth off to authority figures, which as we all know is an important form of character development. By explaining about the battle in a series of disjointed flashbacks, it also obscures the fact that the authors didn't really have a coherent plot planned. (Or a coherent goal in mind: Everyone fights to a draw, and the status quo is maintained.)

The issue also tries to remind us that these cool new superheroes are different than the old kind. Maybe you would expect them to do this by actually making the characters different from normal superheroes? No, that's too much work. Instead, it just tells a normal superhero story, but stops every now and then to have a character say, "We aren't like those heroes you read about." For example, one character points out that they don't have good powers for fighting...except that 3 of the 6 Defex DO. They also make tentative steps towards assigning really bad "code names" to everyone.

Then the best part is what's happening to the Aftermath line in general. You remember the hype when it all started: There would be no trades, so each issue would stand alone as a fun story that anyone could pick up. Well, this issue concludes the first 6-part story arc, with the trade solicited for next month. And the editor's note in the back explains that as soon as all the stories finish their 6-issue introductory arcs, they'll be re-launching the Aftermath line with a new title that ties all the characters together! Apparently, the new line isn't doing very well...


4/26/2005 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said... it just that Wolfman's out of touch, or what?

4/27/2005 04:43:00 AM  
Blogger chasdom said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4/27/2005 10:14:00 AM  
Blogger chasdom said...

Four-Letter Worlds -

This was just ok, unfortunately. I expected better.

Most of the stories are either monologues or two-person dialogues. The 16 8-page entires are by a mix of Image and Oni's most prolific creators.

The great:
-- Jaime S. Rich and Andi Watson present a really good monologue on the flexibility of truth and lies.
-- Chynna Clugston-Major tells a sweet story of two old friends recapping their failed love lives.
-- Phil Hester's most gorgeous art ever is the main attraction of a wordless Mark Ricketts tale about divergent thought in a regimented Metropolis (Fritz Lang's, not Superman's).

The good:
Solid and heartfelt contributions from Steve Lieber, Eric Stephenson & Mike Norton, and J. Torres & R. John Bernales. Nothing essential, but they are pretty entertaining.

The icky:
-- Scott Morse has never impressed me, and his entry continues this trend.
-- Jim Mahfood (see: Scott Morse)
-- Jay Faerber and Steve Rolston's tedious entry about a man annoyed by his upstairs neighbor was about 7 pages too long.
-- Antony Johnston and Mike Hawthorne run through a hoary host of cliches in a tale of corporate shills attempting to update the image of Fate.
-- Amber Benson and James McKelvie's story is the blandest of them all, and that means it's pretty bad.

The uninspired:
-- Joe Casey and Mike Huddleston have the beginnings of a nice bit on the cycle of loss after a relationship, but even at 8 pages it seems stretched too thin.
-- The remaining 3 stories are about the same: good concepts that feel unfinished or half-heartedly dashed off.

So, not recommended, and way below the hopes that I had. It may be time to warm up the scanner for the first few stories and then recycle the book.

4/27/2005 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger chasdom said...

Yes, I know that doesn't equal 16 stories. But I'm not deleting it again. *sigh*

4/27/2005 10:19:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

It was still an admirable effort, 16 or not 16, chasdom.

4/28/2005 10:42:00 PM  

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