A Cornucopia Of Reviews

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Time for a whole bunch of capsule reviews in an attempt to clear the backlog before hitting the great stuff coming our way in 2001. Let’s see what the longbox holds…

Hitman #57

DC – Ennis (s), McCrea (p), Leach (i)

It’s part five of the nine-part finale to this series, and the cataclysmic finale draws closer with another flashback tale – this time, the story of how Monaghan and Nate “The Hat” met. It’s almost your typical boot-camp type of tale, but Ennis just tells it so long, with humour, pathos, an accurate eye for dialogue; couple this with McCrea’s visuals easing you through the issue smoothly, and you have another top issue. Will be sorely missed.

The Sentry/Fantastic Four

Marvel Knights – Jenkins (s), Winslade (p), Palmer (i)

The first of the many one-shots before the finale of the Sentry’s battle with the Void, and all are thematically linked – the Sentry plus the relevant heroes are waiting for the Void on Liberty Island, and we visit each in turn. Now that his memories of the Sentry has returned, Reed Richards ponders a mission the FF had with Sentry against “The Android Pirates of Dimension Nine”. A clever (although not unique) comic-within-a-comic device to showcase the flashback hides a fairly basic Silver Age tale – the art is nice, but the whole thing just feels as if we’re biding time for the main event. Not essential to the main Sentry storyline.

Outlaw Nation #4

DC Vertigo – Delano (s), Sudzuka (p), Camagajevac (i)

Slightly disappointing after last issue, this feels more of a collection of vignettes than parts of a cohesive whole: Mr Gloves abuse and uses up a male nurse to quench his depraved tastes; his father diverts him off to Mozambique and away from his Johnsons-pursuit (and he’s not happy about it); and Billy gets it on with the Jennifer, the woman he rescued from her trailer home last issue, but not until his true identity is revealed/deduced by Jennifer’s son, Martin. Still a good read, but you just long for the plot to be advanced a little rather than spend the issue on talking heads.

Hellblazer #155

DC Vertigo – Azzarello (s), Dillon (p+i)

Constantine accepts a mission from the FBI, or the CIA, or some other bunch of twats in suits, who cares who it is, it’s just wrong. Apparently (it is explained to him in a bar), he has pissed off a few people in very important positions – important enough that JC’s life in America could be made extremely nasty indeed. Which beggars the question – why is he still hanging around the US after 12 issues? JC of old could fly back and forth at will, passport or no passport – a little magic and tickets/paperwork/whatever is not a problem.

Now he is reduced to be blackmailed into accepting a little job (yeah right), by a generic man in black. It doesn’t matter who this guy is working for, JC does not accept commissions, you know? The story is set in a bar, so who better to step in for an issue than Steve Dillon, and his art is fine, although brown is way overused on the colouring so the whole issue feels drab. There’s a second story of the other guys in the same bar, and you get the feeling that Azzarello is more comfortable with that than with the main man himself. That’s a helluva problem, and I can’t see it clearing up anytime soon.

Spider-Man: The Mysterio Manifesto #2 (of #3)
Marvel – Defalco (s), Weeks (p), McLeod (i)

Yet another letdown. Last issue’s cliffhanger had Mary Jane and the baby back alive again, a great way to end #1, but this plot is dispensed with after half-a-dozen pages, instead we get a revelation as to who Jack O’Lantern is this time – it’s (dum dum dum) Danny Berkhart! No, not Danny Berkhart! Who the hell is Danny Berkhart? Having to know continuity like that is a big no-no, especially in the context of a mini-series. The heroes escape their confines by the way they always do in these situations – something feels instinctively wrong to them and they bust out… Another twist ends the issue (everyone loses their powers, oh, and here’s a bunch of supervillains to fight) – a nice ending, spoiled by the setup. One issue left to redeem the series!

America’s Best Comics 64 Page Giant #1

ABC – Alan & Steve Moore (s), various (p+i)

And I’ve really been enjoying the ABC titles too, but this is just too expensive for comfort. $7 for 64 pages of story may not seem a lot on the surface (just the price of three issues, and you do get three covers effectively in this one issue), but it’s all staccato shorts, you just get into one and it ends abruptly. If you prefer the anthology title Tomorrow Stories to any of the regulars, then you will love this. If you’d much rather have 22 pages of your favourites, then this will be dissatisfying. Highlights of the issue – the Greyshirt adverts dotted around (specifically the running comic strip throughout), and the Top Ten short (not involving any of the characters from Top Ten, mind).

Starman #74

DC – Robinson (s), Heath (p+i)

Yet another quality DC title that’s about to finish – there’s just six more issues to go after this one, and we’re starting to wrap up the loose ends in anticipation of giving Jack Knight a happy ending in issue #80 (I hope). It’s another Times Past story, telling how Brian Savage, Scalphunter, met his end, but not before clearing corruption out of Opal City in the last year of the 19th Century. His death is as inevitable as it is tragic and unnecessary, but sets the stage for the 20th Century and the O’Dares to police Opal for the next hundred years. A moving story, and it’s not to late to pick it up, marvel at the writing and the art, and order the TPBs covering the earlier issues.

Planetary #13

DC Wildstorm – Ellis (s), Cassaday (p+i)

After all the hoo-hah building up before the release of #12, closing off the first half of the Planetary series and revealing the identity of The Fourth Man, #13 has crept into the stores barely heralded, and with more of a whimper than a bang. This time around it is the story of Elijah Snow as a young man, behind a cover homage to The Strand magazine of the late 19th/early 20th centuries. It’s almost Ellis’s riff on Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, just set thirty or so years later and with characters appropriate for that time. It’s interesting enough, but a slow start to the second and final year. And the colours are all brown and dismal again – maybe an attempt to lend a sepia tone to proceedings, but maybe the colour restrictions afflicting Hellblazer have spread here too?

Deadenders #12

DC Vertigo – Brubaker (s), Pleece (p), Stewart (i)

I’m upset. Not enough of you have been buying this title, so, with issue #16, it’s all over. Despite that, this is still one of the best Vertigos on the stands; Beezer and Anna finally find the other cataclysm kids like themselves, and it’s not good news. Even worse news is that the cataclysm may still be happening at this very moment. The good news is that the moped race at Blue Lake is still on! All participants are producing some of their best work here – let’s hope their enthusiasm doesn’t drop off in the final few issues.

Tom Strong #11

ABC – Moore (s), Sprouse (p), Gordon (i)

Tom Strong from our Earth meets Tom Strange from Terra Obscura. A horrible cover kicks things off, it’s a parody of Marvel covers from the 60s, a typical image on the cover which has no real bearing to events inside this issue. But forget that, and marvel (sic) at the contents – it has taken Tom Strange thirty years to run to Earth – nothing as prosaic as a spaceship for this chap, he literally ran all the way to get help from our Tom Strong. What menace could possibly spark such a dash? Just look at the last couple of pages – nasty. Forget your science, forget your disbelief, just enjoy the romp.

Rising Stars #12

Top Cow – JMS (s), Lashley (p), Alquiza (i), Altiner (i)

An interesting, although slightly confusing, issue, with a little bit too much posing going on from certain characters. The plot advances in bounds yet again – past issues indicate that no-one is safe in this title, so when a nuclear device heads towards the bulk of the group of “heroes” in this tale, you really think that there’s a real chance they might not make it. What happens to the device and the heroes, and the final fate and redemption of Josh are grand themes within, and JMS is finally shaking off the predictability of the last couple of issues. Continue in this vein and Rising Stars will turn into a real landmark series, talked about for years to come.

Promethea #12

ABC – Moore (s), Williams III (p+i), Gray (i)

I’m too stupid for this issue, I’ve decided. It’s twenty-four pages of full page panels, depicting the origins of the universe, of the earth, of mankind, through to the destruction of the same, using reinterpreted Tarot Cards and a pair of rhyming snakes to tell the story. More a philosophical treatise than a comic book story, you also get the life and death of Aleister Crowley at the same time, running across the bottom of each page, whilst he tells a joke – the meaning of would make magic seem as clear as day, if only the meaning could be divined. Furthermore, you also get a set of scrabble tiles on each page making up anagrams of the word PROMETHEA; each anagram ties in at least loosely with the tarot card and bit of history being related on that page. It’s a lot of work to read, rewards going back over three or four times (I promise you, the first time you’ll go “huh?”), and absolutely the best evidence ever that Alan Moore is either completely and utterly bonkers, or a total, total genius. Buy it, and feel your brain try to escape.

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