Tuesday, September 7, 2010

This Was the (Funnybook) Month That Wasn't

So it was a long, hard August here on the Dork Forty. Hot. Dusty. Exhausting. Lots of funnybooks went by unremarked. But now it's September. The crops are in. Nobody's wearin' white anymore. And I'm starin' down the barrel of actual free time. So, yep. It's time to rectify my oversights. Time to review the cream of August's neglected crop. And that means... FUNNYBOOKSINREVIEWAREGO!!!

In no particular order...

The Bulletproof Coffin #3 (of 6)
by David Hine and Shaky Kane

The big sexploitation issue, guest-starring Ramona, Queen of the Stone Age! Who looks an awful lot like Our Hero's terrifyingly sexy wife! In a ... rawhide bikini. Hmm. Also! The Hateful Dead! A group of zombie soldiers from the 'Nam! And a big pink dinosaur! Seriously strange! Ridiculously brutal! Still one of the most intriguing comics on the racks today!

Grade: A-

Ex Machina #50
by Brian K Vaughn and Tony Harris

Well. I wasn't sure exactly how this series was going to end, but this final issue really took the story, and Mitchell Hundred, into places I wasn't expecting. [SPOILER] Well, okay. I'll actually avoid the big big big spoilers. But still. You have been warned...

Mostly, I was shocked to discover exactly how much of a political predator Hundred is. Even after the recent reveal that he used his Great Machine powers to rig the New York voting booths, I was stunned. In the back of my head, I think I was assuming that we'd get some larger reveal about the nature of his powers, and discover that his other-dimensional benefactors were somehow controlling his actions through that. But, shit. I guess not. And he turns out to be that most terrifying of all political creatures: a do-gooder who decides that the ends justify the means. I'm going to have to think long and hard on what Vaughn's saying with this. I suspect it might be a commentary on the "might makes right" philosophy that lurks beneath the skin of even the most benevolent super hero character. But I'll need time and a re-read of the series to decide that. For now...

You know the worst part of it all? The look in Kremlin's eyes when he realizes what's happened. That panel's gonna haunt me. It's gonna haunt me for a good long while. [/SPOILER]

Grade: A

Highland Laddie #1
by Garth Ennis and McCrea

This spin-off of The Boys stars Wee Hughie. It's set immediately after the current story arc in the main series, which, from what I can see here, will not be ending happily for the Wee one. He goes home to Scotland to get his head together, and we discover that Hughie had a childhood as the world's most crap boy detective. It's a bit of a mixed bag, to be honest, one of those occasions where Ennis' comedy becomes a bit too broad for this series. It's one thing to have Frenchie's origin story not make any damn sense. But Hughie's a far more grounded character, and this boy detective stuff threatens to undo that. But Ennis still very nearly saves it with some of his patented strong character writing. This is Hughie's "you can't go home again" moment, and I'll be curious to see how it changes him when he returns to the main series afterward.

Grade: B+

And as long as we're talking about The Boys, here's...

The Boys #46
by Garth Ennis and Russ Braun

I've been both awaiting and dreading this moment in the story. Hughie knows that Annie's a supe, and Butcher manipulates the situation to his own ends, thinking that it's for Hughie's own good. Ugly stuff. Ugly stuff that's eventually going to blow up in everyone's faces. Act three of this series is shaping up to be painful. God love it.

Grade: A

Detective Comics #868
by David Hine and Scott McDaniel

I picked this up just because it was written by the man behind Bulletproof Coffin, and I don't have a lot to say about it, except this: "The Imposter Joker" makes me smile.

Grade: B

Scarlet #2
by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev

Another fine issue. This time out we explore vengeance and revolution, as Scarlet investigates the crooked cop who shot her and killed her boyfriend. Her manipulation of the reader becomes more overt, as well, as she makes us complicit in what she does to that cop in preparation for something larger. "Oh, you came back," she says on page one. "Good for you." And then: "If you're going to do what I need you to do next ... I think you need to hear this." That's a fascinating technique to me, something akin to classic brainwashing, or an attempt to induce Helsinki Syndrome. And yet, there's still a part of me that doesn't think she's doing it on purpose.

Well-played, Mr. Bendis!
Grade: A

Strange Science Fantasy #3
by Scott Morse

Morse makes his first mis-step this issue. His art and storytelling style are still firing on all cylinders, don't get me wrong. But the concept fails him. The two previous stories had a grounding in blood and sinew, in spite of the crazy high-tone concepts. This time out, though... His story is a very literal mythologizing of movie-making, with characters like the Script Girl (whose head is a big typewriter), or the Key Grip (who has robot hands), or The Projectionist (whose head is a camera), or... you get the idea. It's all just a bit too cute, and the story's basis in pulp detective writing just can't quite save it. So this third issue was a bit of a let-down.

Grade: B

And The Rest...

There were also some mighty fine new issues of Sweet Tooth, Fables, Jack Staff, Thor: The Mighty Avenger, Battlefields, Secret Warriors, and iZombie in August, but my reviews of those books would just see me repeating the things I always say about them. Which is to say, they continued along in their usual way, at their usual levels of quality. August also saw Hellblazer falter a bit (though I did like Shade's revenge), and the second issue of the CBGB anthology became a little too sentimental for a book about punk rock (though the "ear pussy" gag in the back-up strip was pretty funny). Elsewhere, Nick Spencer's new book Morning Glories failed to grab me because it got wrong all the stuff his previous book, Forgetless, got exactly right. And I read my final issue of Black Widow, because Daniel Acuna's time with it is done, and I can't see myself putting up with that hokey action writing for any artwork that's one iota less awesome.

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