Phil’s Reviews — Stuff I Bought #174

Lots and lots of books worth buying this week, kids, so don’t expect more than a sentence or two each on the later ones — and let’s get started:

Casanova #1 — Writer: Matt Fraction;  Art: Gabriel Ba (plus a back-up story by Fabio Moon)

The lead story’s four years old, but it was originally a 16-page, monocolored comic; now it’s been remastered (meaning recolored and relettered), with a backup story by Moon added, making it worthwhile even if you’re one of the few people who have the originals. It’s a superspy romp with tons of narrative tricks (Fraction lists influences including Bryan Talbot, Howard Chaykin, Michael Moorcock and Matt Wagner), and it’s mindbending but satisfying, too. They’re taking eight issues to reprint the extant episodes, and then starting in on new ones, so if you missed it in 2006 because you had no idea who Fraction, Ba or Moon were… well, that’s not an excuse any more, is it?

Scarlet #1 — Writer: Brian Michael Bendis;  Art: Alex Maleev

Portland emo girl gets screwed over very badly by crooked cops, toughens up and vows revenge. Bendis uses a first-person narrative ala Alias, which allows readers to quickly get inside her head and like her, and Maleev’s art is, as always, a pleasure. Lots of the typical Bendis editorial extras, too, so unless you just hate the man you should get this book (and, if you only know him from his superhero work, this pulp/noir-style story might be a revelation).

Batman: Odyssey #1 (of 12) — Writer/Artist: Neal Adams

First, the pictures look great: Adams is one of the most influential comics artists of all time for a reason. However, his writing reminds me of another great artist, Jack Kirby: the imagination is there, but there are a number of annoying little tics that pull readers out of the story (for Kirby, it was weirdly-placed bold-faced type; for Adams, it’s ellipses…); in addition, his sense of narrative flow — not the images on the page, but the way the plot is put together — isn’t always very smooth. Finally, it’s hard to believe we’re going to see 12 issues of this on time — but let’s belay the snark and give the man the benefit of the doubt until he’s actually blown a deadline. And, in the meantime, those pictures sure are pretty….

Hellboy: The Storm #1 (of 3) — Writer: Mike Mignola;  Art: Duncan Fegredo

More pretty pictures — I could look at Fegredo’s art all day, and the story, from mini-series to mini-series, just keeps accelerating and building; now Our Hero has King Arthur’s sword and is laying claim to the English throne, as armies gather and apocalypse looms. Oh — and, as always, there’s lots of punching and heavy inking. What else do you need in a Hellboy comic?

Jonah Hex #57 — Writers: Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti;  Art: Jordi Bernet

I could look at Jordi Bernet’s art all day, too, especially in a Western, and here there are guest appeaarances by the likes of Cinnamon, Scalphunter and Bat Lash, among others. Forget the movie, use the ticket money on these comics instead, and you can’t go wrong.

Steve Rogers: Super Soldier #1 — Writer: Ed Brubaker;  Art: Dale Eaglesham

Rogers as a secret agent, tracking down his creator’s grandson and super-soldier formulae in Madripoor. Brubaker attracts artists who deliver solid work for this kind of thing, and Eaglesham’s no exception; as with Captain America and, now Secret Avengers, this isn’t a book that’s flashy or startling, but it flows very smoothly, and is consistently entertaining.

Batman and Robin #13 — Writer: Grant Morrison;  Art: Frazer Irving

Morrison’s a consumate planner, and after a year on this title he’s now gathering all the scattered narrative threads, offhand references and plot elements from previous arcs into one big blowout event. Don’t question it; just enjoy it, and realize that you’re in very good hands.

Demo #6 (of 6) — Writer: Brian Wood;  Art: Becky Cloonan

Not the best of the six self-contained stories in this series — that would be the Post-It-note girl one — but a keeper nonetheless, with a couple whose physical repulsion/attraction for one another becomes a metaphor for long-term relationships. That’s… um, four out of the six issues that were worth buying, a decent percentage for any comic.

iZombie #3 — Writer: Chris Roberson;  Art: Michael Allred

As with Adams and Bernet, I could look at Allred’s art all day, and this is a story designed to play to his strengths, including mod chicks and monsters.

Rawhide Kid: The Sensational Seven #2 (of 4) — Writer: Ron Zimmerman;  Art: Howard Chaykin

Same as above, but substitute “Howard Chaykin” for “Michael Allred,” and “Marvel’s Western heroes” for “mod chicks and monsters.”

The Boys #44 — Writer: Garth Ennis;  Art: Russ Braun

Still wishing for Robertson art (Braun’s faces look a little off-model, especially on Butcher), but there’s a last-page revelation that’s been building for almost four years, and it makes this book impossible to turn down.

Amazing Spider-Man #636 — Writers: Joe Kelly with Zeb Wells;  Art: Marco Checchetto with Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano

Part three of the Kraven thing, and guess what? Spidey isn’t dead! Oh, you suspected as much? The better news is that a really annoying character does seem to have died; the bad news is that there’s no conclusion to this year-long story in sight yet….

X-Men #1 — Writer: Victor Gischler;  Pencils: Paco Medina;  Inks: Juan Vlasco

I was very very close to putting this one back; it’s by a competent-but-undistinguished creative team, and it’s just about what you’d expect from the opening salvo in an X-Men vs. vampires story, and it feels like it’s going to go on forever, and I have zero interest in another long “event.” Still… X-Men vs. vampires… oh, let’s give it another issue, and decide then; it’s not like I have to buy the tie-in books, right? Damn you, Marvel compulsion!

Phil Mateer

About Phil

With 40 years of experience in comic reading, collecting and reviewing, English Professor Phil Mateer has an encyclopedic mind for comics. Feel free to ask Phil about storylines, characters, artists or for that matter, any comic book trivia. He will post your questions and answers on the AABC blog. His knowledge is unparalleled! He is also our warehouse manager, so if you are looking for that hard to find comic book, ask Phil!
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