Wow. Long time no see. One of thing about living in Barcelona is that, occasionally, people like to come visit. Sometimes, they all come back to back and everything else goes out of the window. The long and short of it is I’ve got loads to review (on the day when even more stuff comes out). Into the deep end, which would be the Grant Morrison end…
Final Crisis #1 finally hit, after months of full-page ads and a good couple of years of build up and could it possibly justify the wait? Well for a start, the great JG Jones/Chip Kidd cover with Green Lantern on it, used in all the hype, seems to be in the minority! Thankfully I managed to get one, but now it won’t necessarily match the rest (a bit retentive I know but it does bug me).
There’s a lot of set up in this issue, which is fine with me as I haven’t followed two years of weekly comics and spin-offs, I’ve never read the Flash, Green Lantern or Wonder Woman with any regularity and I’ve also no idea why Martian Manhunter has a rubbish costume. It starts hundreds of thousands of years in the past with Anthro the first boy and finishes with Kamandi the Last Boy on Earth so there’s nothing if not scope here. There’ve been some criticisms of continuity issues surrounding the New Gods, following all those weekly comics I mentioned earlier. Having not read them, I basically really enjoyed the first issue and am looking forward to seeing where it’s going. To read Morrison’s take on the first issue you can go to Newsarama here.
Art-wise, I don’t think there’s anyone at DC who could have done this any better. JG Jones has quite a static quality, from the photo reference, but it’s all well drawn and Alex Sinclair’s colours suit it really well, just as when he colours Jim Lee. One thing that worries me is whether, even with the skipped month between issues 3 and 4, we’ll not get DC’s version of the Crusty Bunkers jumping in to help him finish. I was mildly traumatised by the ONE page in Marvel Boy he didn’t draw, so forgive me if I’m edgy. We’ll see.
Batman R.I.P. is two parts in already and as with anything Morrison, it’s not clear where it’s going but there’s build up and stuff going on that you KNOW will be meaningful on a re-read. The Black Glove from the JH Williams arc is revealed to be a group rather than one person, the Joker knows everything but is being obtuse, Hannibal Lector-style, and we’re not sure whether the first love interest Jezebel, is in on it. The panel above gives us a Batman sounding indecisive and also shows the bewildering art of Tony Daniel. We see the inside of the Batmobile and are still left with no idea what it looks like. Wow! Mysterious, edgy…
Lastly from the Morrison file is All Star Supes. What to stay. Understated in the extreme in both the dialogue and the art and yet so huge that one feels obliged to go back and read it again to take it all in. Superman’s getting sicker and sicker, ‘dead’ at the end of it. Lex Luthor is the great, camp, genius à la Gene Hackman in the movies. Morrison also touches on DC One Million again with Solaris introduced, established and magnificently dispatched before you even have time to absorb the concept and chew over the questions posed as to how Superman knows that Solaris will be benevolent in the future. It’s all so fertile and I can’t imagine how anyone will be able to follow it. One more issue to go!
Dave Lapham’s Wolverine: The Amazing Immortal Man and Other Bloody Tales is… weird. I’m a big fan of Lapham and this comic has him illustrating one story, with two guys touted as up-and-comers on the other two. The title story has nice cartooning by a guy called Johnny Timmons that could get him on Gotham Central or Daredevil. The story’s solid and features a silent Wolverine, clearly a bit down and out as a sidehow freak, and in Lapham style there’s no innocents and plenty of revenge! The second story, illustrated by Lapham with Daredevil’s inker Stefano Gaudiano, features one of Lapham’s other themes; the influence of one powerful force, be it Spanish Scott, Batman or the Punisher, on the weak people it comes into contact with.
A brief appearance by Wolverine inspires a bus driver to copycat and try to clean up his bit of the Bronx. The third story in the book, drawn by a fella called Kelly Goodine, did nothing for me on any level. The art’s a bit Leinil Yu (who also does nothing for me), the colours are dreadful and the story’s a bit of a nonsense about a parasitic baby mutant?! Probably worth the money for the first two stories and the nice Simone Bianchi cover. It will also sit nicely next to the great Giant Size Wolverine Lapham did with Iron Fist’s David Aja a year or so back.
Finally got my Hellboy FCBD comic. Just great! It’s no secret that the Mignolaverse makes up the most consistent group of titles being regularly published today. To get three new eight-page stories by Mignola/Fegredo, Mignola/Arcudi/Davis and Mignola/Dysart/Azaceta couldn’t be better. The Hellboy story takes place before Darkness Calls and is a surreal story that’s all ‘a dream’ while we know that nothing that goes on in Hellboy’s head is never just that. Fegredo’s art is excellent, consistent with Mignola’s storytelling without aping his style (as previous artists Matt Smith and even Ryan Sook had done).
The BPRD story follows on from Killing Ground, where Johann Kraus acted kinda weird after getting a body that allowed him senses, having been ectoplasm stuck in a bag for the longest time. This story has him going beyond weird, to suspicious… to be continued! The last story is by the team of BPRD 1946, which I’ve not read yet. However, the story stands alone and bodes well for the series. The art is moody and consistent and the writing’s good. A rare solo Professor ‘Broom’ story. As always, I’m left wanting more.
I picked up the collection of Lobster Johnson this week which I knew I was gonna like. I’d read the first issue in England and knew it was something to look forward to. It’s good and pulpy, nuts, and the art is great. Jason Armstrong provides top-rate cartooning, fitting nicely with the spot blacks and the excellent Dave Stewart colours one expects from the Mignolaverse. I was left a little underwhelmed because I was expecting so much and it was no doubt damaged by the anticipation factor. The Hellboy books are always great with the developmental art at the back, and Lobster Johnson was no exception, showing the artist’s take as well as Mignola’s and in this case we get a bit of Guy Davis’ too. There’s so much care and attention in it that it’s difficult not to go back in and scrutinise it all over again to feel the love!
Palmiotti, Gray and Bernet deliver yet another great one-shot Jonah Hex story. This series is obviously a labour of love and is a western, which, in 2008, is not just good but great! Take the hint, people. Pick it up. The perfect balance of humour, horror and action is only seldom found. I’m sure the Darwyn Cooke issue next month will spur you into action!
Loveless made it to 24 and the last issue is by Daniel Zezelj so it goes out on a high note. While it does feel like there’s history here you need to be aware of the issue also stands alone well enough. It would be worth the $3 for the art alone but the story’s sound too. Azzarello was kind of frank about it all: “I failed you guys with ‘Loveless,'” Azzarello said. “It had a birth defect, and it just didn’t survive. If we can come back to it, we will.” My curiosity is where Zezelj will turn up next.
Neither Paul Smith or Mike Ploog turned up for Spirit 17 and we get art by Aluir Amancio who I’d never heard of and inked by Terry Austin who seemed to disappear some years back from comics. I wouldn’t have bought it if I hadn’t pre ordered it and felt obliged. A good fun read with great looking girls and nice storytelling. The colours are nice the whole thing holds up well. Could have been a lot worse, art-wise, to the degree that I’ll order it in future if they actually tell me he’s going to be drawing it!
To wrap up, I picked up American Spendor 3 because it has Darwyn Cooke in it as well as on the cover. Harvey Pekar comics are always solid and rarely surprise, being as they usually are anecdotal shorts or monologues that give us a working stiff’s view of the world. Still, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it and I found that 22 pages really wasn’t enough so I’ll probably be picking up some collections soon. The real surprise for me was the art of John Cebollero, whose work I knew from inking over Marshall Rogers on several funny looking comics. This was great caricature and nice storytelling. I’ll keep an eye on him!
That’s it! If anyone’s still out there, I’ll be back weekly, give or take holidays, and I’ll see you soon.
– Will Shyne