Comic Picks By The Glick

What I’ve Been Reading 3/31/10

March 31, 2010

What I originally started writing here has snowballed into something larger that I’ll want to get off my chest at some point. For now, reviews:

The Bronx Kill: The latest from DC’s Vertigo Crime imprint. I said in a podcast not too long ago that I didn’t think this line was long for the world, and this book doesn’t really do anything to change that impression. It’s a lot better than “The Chill,” but not as good as “Dark Entries” or “Filthy Rich,” or some of writer Peter Milligan’s other work. The story focuses on writer Martin Keane who hails from a family of cops and wants nothing to do with that legacy. He finds himself embroiled in that legacy nonetheless after his wife disappears and later turns up dead with him becoming the prime suspect in the process. While the story has a good ending that ties together much of what has come before, it doesn’t quite make up for the way the narrative feels like a series of loosely connected scenes. James Romberger’s art does a good job of capturing the emotions of the characters and the New York setting, but his use of grays gives makes many of his images look like they’re all bleeding together. Not bad, but not great either.

Dark Avengers: Ares: Collecting the original five-issue miniseries by Michael Avon Oeming and Travel Foreman, and the more recent three-issue one from Kieron Gillen and Manuel Garcia. I’d heard good things about Oeming and Foreman’s original mini-series, and while it had a fantastic first issue, the rest of it didn’t really live up to that promise. It was great seeing Ares, the actual Greek god of war, trying to live a normal life and be a father as he turned his back on his fellow gods. Most of that gets lost in the subsequent issues as Ares gets dragged into the fight between the Greek and Japanese gods. Gillen and Garcia’s mini-series fares much better as it takes the idea of Ares as the drill sergeant from hell and has a lot of fun with it. For instance: After recovering from the explosion caused by the belt of live grenades one of his grunts threw at him, Ares congratulates the man, saying that “Some commanders need blowing up.” Great fun, but not worth the price of admission by itself.

Irredeemable vol. 2: I honestly can’t remember the last time I reached the end of the issues collected in a trade paperback and went, “That’s it!” I did that here partly because I was so engrossed in writer Mark Waid’s continuing tale of a Superman-esque hero, and partly because there were a lot of extra pages of stuff that made me think there was going to be at least one more issue collected here. It’s particularly disappointing since the cover price of $17 is pretty steep for just four issues of content. Yes, there’s also a preview of one of Waid’s other titles from Boom!, “Potter’s Field,” but I’d have rather had another issue to read. That said, the issues collected here are good as we learn about the specific incident that caused the Plutonian to turn evil and find out that one of the ragtag group of superheroes out to stop him might actually have the power to do so. I was highly entertained by the events in this volume, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what happens next, and thankful for the discount Amazon offers on this title.

The Boys vol. 6: The Self-Preservation Society: Writer Garth Ennis, with artists Carlos Ezquerra and John McCrea, turns the title squad loose on an “Avengers” analogue team known as “Payback” and the results are as predictably gruesome and entertaining as you’d expect. After that mayhem is over, artist Darick Robertson returns for a series of issues detailing the backstories of Mother’s Milk, Frenchie, and “The Female.” They range from a serious character study, to a ludicrous character study, and then end up somewhere in between (with lots of references to “Aliens”), in that order. The series continues to crawl its way back across the divide between “funny” and “offensive” after vol. 4’s reprehensible misstep. I enjoyed it, but it’s not at the level where I’d be willing to recommend it to people who aren’t already fans of Ennis.

Ignition City vol. 1: It says vol. 1 on the spine of the book, but I have yet to hear whether or not we’ll be getting any more of this series from writer Warren Ellis and artist Gianluca Pagliarani. That said, it’s not something that really bothers me one way or the other after reading this. It’s a story set in a 1950’s retro-future setting where space pilot Mary Raven heads out to the title city to find out who killed her father. There are some nice touches here with the setting, and the idea that humanity has decided to pretty much give up on exploring space after all of the close encounters they’ve had, but it never really gells into becoming a fully-realized world. Rather than flesh things out by showing us, Ellis and Pagliarani just give us lots of pages of people talking to each other. While Ellis’ dialogue does have an inherent entertainment value to it, the story still feels like a single idea he had stretched out to fill five issues. Maybe we’ll get more of a sense of this world if another mini-series comes out, but this is one more for the Ellis completists than anyone else.

Batman: Heart of Hush: I really enjoyed writer Paul Dini and artist Dustin Nguyen’s last collection of Batman stories, “The Private Casebook,” but this collection of a single story wasn’t really up to that level. While I don’t have the hate for Hush that a lot of other people do, Dini’s exploration of his origin and subsequent plan to steal Bruce Wayne’s life doesn’t really do anything to elevate the villain. Spending years under the thumb of a vindictive mother tends to make a character less threatening than more. More disappointing is that Batman’s escape from Hush’s plan comes from a plot contrivance rather than his own ingenuity. The book is not without its merits as Dini writes the character of Batman very well and he has a great handle on his relationship with Catwoman. Is that enough for me to recommend this particular “Batman” story when there are better ones out there? Nope.

Greek Street vol. 1: Blood Calls for Blood: In addition to his Vertigo Crime book, the first volume of Peter Milligan’s new series for Vertigo proper came out recently too. I can’t quite say that this is better than “The Bronx Kill,” but it only costs half as much. The high concept here is that we’re seeing the old Greek tragedies being played out on the mean streets of London in the present day. Sadly, the mythological elements of the story are working against it in this first volume as it feels that there’s a good crime story in here struggling to get out. Maybe it’s just that my knowledge of Greek mythology is pretty rusty right now, but all of the references came off as either forced or very heavy-handed. Still, I’m willing to keep reading it to see if the references wind up strangling the series in its bed, or if the good crime story it wants to tell emerges triumphant.

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