The Weekly Haul: Reviews for May 23, 2008
Kudos to Marvel, who blew the pants off the competition in this week’s batch of issues, with an unprecedented four books being so good I have to list them all as tied for the top spot. And, surprise surprise, none of them were Skrullapalooza ’08 tie-ins.
Superheroes aside, a good mix of indies came out as well, making for a well rounded week that I’ll count as an early birthday present to yours truly.
Book(s) of the Week — While these four Marvel books are all essentially equals, the pole position goes to Black Panther #36. Now, I’ve long been something of a Reggie Hudlin hater, but he packs so much story into this issue without making it feel overloaded that it reads like a pre-Bendis Era comic. Killmonger – who makes a surprisingly good villain – rallies a destitute African nation around him in a way that truly captures the continent’s actual unrest. Meanwhile, we finally see the Storm-BP marriage addressed in a believable way, some intense fighting and the line of the week: "He’s already the Mole Man! What more could we do to him?"
Over in Ghost Rider #23, Jason Aaron follows last issue’s big buildup with a huge explosion (literally), and a storyline that perfectly depicts just how tortured Johnny Blaze really is. The art, by Roland Boschi, continues to shine, all scratchy and intense.
Captain America #38 makes the cut as another flawless entry from Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting, with special credit for an entirely plausible and non-Skrullish explanation to the mysterious Steve Rogers that Sharon found last go-round. Meanwhile, Bucky continues to gain his sea legs as the new Cap and the Red Skull’s plans meet political reality.
Lastly but not leastly, Peter David wraps up his Arcade storyline in X-Factor #31, which pulls readers deeply into the looming destruction of Mutanttown with the little emotional moments David is so good at. He also lets Arcade continue to be a relentlessly entertaining villain and makes this team of non-heroes truly heroic.
The Runners Up:
Scalped #17 — I’ve always been on the fence about this series, which has gone back and forth between too action-heavy and too slow. This issue strikes a solid balance as the community buries Dash’s mother and he finally lets himself mourn.
Robin #174 — The best from DC this week, as Robin and Batman figure out the identity of the new hero muddying Gotham’s waters. I won’t spoil it here, but it’s a true surprise that doesn’t seem TOO contrived. The real highlight is the realistic way Chuck Dixon captures everyone’s emotional response to the big news.
Locke & Key #4 — Another strong, terrifying issue of Joe Hill’s IDW series. This and the previous issue are essentially the part of the horror movie where tension builds and builds as creepy music slowly grows to a crescendo. What makes it really work is how Hill utilizes every moment to fill out the backstory, and each revelation packs a wollop.
Batman and the Outsiders #7 — A perfectly decent bit of superhero fare, though nothing exceptional. The team is in a bad way, and so far in over their heads that one has to wonder what happened to the supposed brains behind the operation. There is a fun little sequence with Metamorpho being chased by zombies in space, but the rest is forgettable.
Mighty Avengers #14 — Yet another example of how Secret Invasion is not a self-contained event, this issue is like one of those fill-in-the-gaps episodes on Lost. Going back a few months, it shows the Skrulls as they make their plans, especially regarding the Sentry (and he almost becomes interesting). One question: Why do the Skrulls talk with a distinct voice on their home planet, but when they meet secretly on earth they talk like normal Bendis human characters?
Fall of Cthulhu #12 — In the back of Boom! Studios books, EiC Mark Waid writes a little column, and in this issue he writes that 22 pages isn’t much space, so each page needs to be fully utilized. Which is a bit ironic, considering the only thing holding down this otherwise great bit of supernatural comics is a several-page stretch of two characters talking and talking and talking.
Hercules #2 and Caliber #2 — These new series from Radical both have interesting set ups (Hercules is a Greek gods tale and Caliber is a Western), some strong moments and high-level art, but each story is too disjointed, which points to the editing as a likely problem.
Checkmate #26 — This issue marks a new storyline and takes a new tone, with a bounce-around-the-world narrative that both fits the story and works quite well, which is no small feat. We witness the death of a real soldier and the secret creation of Chimera, a ferocious super-soldier, and the easy money is on things not working out so smoothly.
Justice Society of America #15 — I’ve been saying for ages that the multitude of characters in this series would likely make any big fight sequence uncomprehensible, and sure enough, there’s a big fight with Magog that looks like Jackson Pollock tried to paint superheroes. At least we get a big reveal on this whole Gog thing, though it could easily fall into stupid territory.
Justice League of America #21 — Remember when this series started, and Brad Meltzer spent the whole first arc with the Big Three sitting at a table, chatting? Apparently new writer Dwayne McDuffie didn’t get the memo that this was interminable, as he spends the better part of this issue with the Big Three sitting at a table, chatting. At least there’s a little background on Libra (tying into Final Crisis), though not enough to make things interesting.
Dead, She Said #1 — The key to good private eye stories lies in the cadence of the internal monologue, Steve Niles manages that in full pulpy glory, but the story of this man who wakes up to find himself dead is too scattered to be compelling. A similar book that’s more worthy of a read is Criminal Macabre.
The Brave and the Bold #13 — Samuroids? No thanks.
Van Jensen is a former crime reporter turned comic book journalist. Every Wednesday, he braves Atlanta traffic to visit Oxford Comics, where he reads a whole mess of books for his weekly reviews. Van’s blog can be found at graphicfiction.wordpress.com.
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