Late Pass Reviews

Last week I was in the drizzly wilds of Canada doing some camping on Vancouver island as well as the city of Vancouver proper, eating some delicious food and checking out the Vancouver Art Gallery’s recent exhibition of comic art. More on comics in the VAG (eww) later in the week, but first I want to talk about some of the past week’s funny-book issues.

So in addition to being late on reviewing these titles, I’m late to James Robinson’s (Starman/JSA) writing turn on the man of steel. Superman #679 has the big blue cheese getting the everlovin’ splash pages beat out of him by Atlas with attempted rescues by Supergirl (best try: Supes tells her to run), Lana Lang (honorable mention: shutdown and fired by virtual-Luthor), Steel (pathetic: gets beat in a single panel along with some random bald dude* who’s just wearing a Superman T-shirt).

click for larger size

(click for larger size)

Renato Guedes pencils get a lot of help from Hi-Fi’s muted, well textured coloring. Some of Guedes’ facial expressions and poses have a stiffness that lends me to believe he works heavily from photo references, which isn’t a bad thing until you have that awkward stiffness in poses and facial expressions (I’m looking at you too, Tony Harris). Overall the issue is finely paced between the big fight, your standard cutaways to Lois & Jimmy, aforementioned other characters trying to do what they can to help, and has an ending perfectly tailored to ensure readers will pick up the next whizbang issue! Srsly guys, the last page is awesome– a great white hope emerges to help Supes in his time of need and it be spoilerville to tell you exactly who our awesome hero is, so get this one and read the next one!

Speaking of Supermen, Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D is some serious fun. Sure 3D’s a gimmick, but it’s used sparingly and effectively. (“I’m already searching for the source of the attack from nowhere– X-ray vision, telescopic vision, radio vision. But she was right: there’s only one way to process what I’m seeing. 4-D vision upgrade. Great Krypton!”) This is my favorite Doug Mahnke art since he and Morrison collaborated on Frankenstein for Seven Soldiers of Victory. I’m surprised Morrison stopped at giving us four separate Supermen– although tragic Nazi Superman, Overman of Earth-2, and the Dr. Manhattan/Reed Richards stand-in we’re given are thoroughly nutty and enjoyable in true Morrison style. I’ve really never been much of a Superman fan (Luthor has always been a more interesting a character), but between Morrison’s All-Star treatment (which is as brilliant as pizza is delicious), Final Crisis, and James Robinson writing him… well damnit, I guess I’m gonna read me a buncha Superman.

And and and then in Justice Society of America #18 there’s the older Superman from Earth-22 who’s been hanging with the JSA and watching to see if the events that ravaged his world in Kingdom Come, specifically the birth of Magog who really effed things up in that gouache alternate reality. And in this issue we finally get Magog, but more importantly we get to see some of the nuances in different inking styles as Mick Gray, Kris Justice, and Nathan Massengill trade off quill duties on this issue. All do a fine job, but if the credited order corresponds to pages worked (and I can discern them from what little I know about their respective styles)– then I have to say Nathan Massengill FTW on this issue. I especially like the closeup of the alternate Supes which has a real Kevin Nowlan-y feel in the lines’ weight.

Scalped remains awesome in its bleakness and issue 20 concludes “The Boudoir Stomp” storyline, not with a bang but a alcoholic whimper. Dash Bad Horse and Rachel Red Crow commisserate over their shared and separate miseries, both cracking new ground as they excavate rock bottom for a basement addition. This is not the issue to buy if you’ve never read the series before, and I imagine that as far as collected trades go– “Boudoir Stomp” won’t be winning over any new fans. But as someone who’s already well hooked, I gotta say that Jason Aaron has been doing a fantastic job slowing the action down and just letting readers stew in the miserable aftermath of the whambang-shit’s-just-getting-crazier-and-crazier first three story arcs.

Jack of Fables #25 finally gets us back to the main story, filling us in on what a hussy that Robin Page is and more examples of Jack’s epic douchery. Buuut we also get strung along with more tantalizing clues about Bookburner and the nature of Literals, Fables, the Page sisters, etc. Well we don’t really get clues, we get whiffs of clues– implied hints of the general architecture which itself is referenced but not explicated. Basically we still don’t know what the hell is going on, but the story remains breezy, snarky, and charming despite Jack’s lack thereof.

And this week’s biggest disappointment is the freshly renumbered Runaways #1 by Terry Moore and Humberto Ramos. I can’t really speak to Moore’s past work, haven’t read it although I’d always meant to (just like I’ve always meant to reread Tristram Shandy or Don Quixote). I’ve always heard Moore has a knack for believable characters rife with interpersonal melodrama but this issue was mediocre at best. The dialogue tells me that Moore doesn’t really have any idea of who these characters are. Especially egregious are Chase’s lines, punctuated more often with “Duuuudes…” than with periods.

Chase hates this sandwich almost as much as I hate this art

Chase hates this sandwich almost as much as I hate this art

Chase isn’t book smart, but he’s more streetwise bad-seed, than yah-brah bro-heim and the handling of the other characters is equally shallow. Ramos’ ungainly-proportioned art (and much tackier sense of fashion) is also a big turn-off compared to the clear, clean lines of Adrian Alphona (and yes, I noticed and cared that he knew how real teens dress). I really wanted to like this book, especially after Joss Whedon’s run being a bit of a let-down and I really want to see these characters in a decent ongoing title and would be more than happy to regularly pay to see them in decent stories. This is none of those things. And fuck you Terry Moore and Ramos for inserting a lame Kevin Smith reference into an already underwhelming comic. (Oh and fuck you Kevin Smith for being the KING-of-Underwhelming.)

*Who may be someone I’m supposed to recognize but don’t. Maybe he’s the homeless Superman of Zann-bey-whaff on Earth 5-26?

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