Comic Reviews: Week of March 17
Amazing Spider-Man #624: Max Fiumara does some impressive work in this issue as he captures the tenderness -- and the sadness -- of Joe Kelly’s story. This issue still sticks to The Gauntlet format: character before everything else. And the new Rhino we met a few issues ago? Gone. In fact, he’s now probably darker than ever before. I think I should have seen the change coming, but the writers did a great job of “weaving” so many different “webs” that I didn’t foresee this. In addition to establishing the characters for a new age, they’re establishing the new status quo for Spider-Man. This issue does less to resolve Peter’s issues than to compile them into one nasty, heart-wrenching pile. If not for the success of such DC heavyweights as Green Lantern and Batman, I think you’d hear more about Amazing Spider-Man. The journey continues to be one of the best out there.
Siege #3: I read recently that someone says Siege is a terrible series, partially because the Marvel solicits for the “Heroic Age” give away the ending, and partially because the urgency is lost on the changes coming our way. I disagree because knowing the end of a story doesn’t make the journey any less important. And, secondly, because to dismiss Bendis and Coipel’s work would be a sin. Bendis times the splash pages magnificently in this issue -- and there are some amazing full page scenes that, I feel, Olivier Coipel captured perfectly. That said, I could have done without the President/Chief of Staff expository explanations. They cheapened the overall effect of the piece. I understand why Bendis does this: there are somethings he needs to explain without coming out and just saying them. For this issue, however, it doesn’t work well. It feels lazy, and distracts from the artwork. The end of the issue, however, was a bonus. If you have any doubt that the Sentry is one crazy dude, look no further than the last page. We know that Marvel’s Heroic Age is coming, but getting there seems like the true point of Siege.
Green Lantern Corps #46: Occasionally, major things happen in a character’s universe, and these issues are revisited for the visceral impact they have. A few years ago, DC came under fire when Green Lantern Kyle Rayner found his girlfriend’s body stuffed in a refrigerator. Major Force was responsible for this incident in Green Lantern #54. The incident was so powerful that it forced a new term: “stuffed in the fridge,” a colloquialism that refers to a person dying a very gruesome death. Anyway, Peter Tomasi doesn’t forget this, and neither do the Black Lanterns. The revisitation of this scene gives insight in the the mind of the Black Lanterns, something that Tomasi and Johns have enjoyed doing during this whole series. The rest of the issue is filler and fodder for Blackest Night #8. I hate to say that this series has dragged on at this point, but I would like to see it come to an end. Green Lantern Corps has been a consistently strong title, and I’d like to see it once again operate independently from the Green Lantern universe. I think Tomasi has many stories to tell, and I’d love to see him given the opportunity to tell them.
Joe The Barbarian #3 (Vertigo -- Morrison & Murphy): The allure of Grant Morrison’s fantasy epic has not worn off. Joe the Barbarian continues to be a fun read, a visual gem, and a comic book achievement. I’m reminded of Stephen King and Peter Straub’s The Talisman as I read this. It bounces between two worlds, Joe taking different roles in each, much like Jack Sawyer in The Territories. I think we’ve just been introduced to the major villains of the story, but it’s hard to tell. Regardless of Morrison’s erratic storytelling, Sean Murphy is the heart and soul of the series. If not for his humanity, I don’t know if the series would be as impressive as it is.
Fade to Black #1 (Image -- Mariotte and Serra): So now we’ve moved from Zombies to Cannibals in Image’s new comic, Fade to Black. The story is this: a group of actors and film crew members return to their encampment to find it desolated, the people they left behind torn apart. I don’t like that one of the villains had to ask the other for an explanation as to their purpose -- this I found to be lazy writing. It could have been something saved for a later issue, or a moment presented better than a character turning to one and saying, “Tell me again . . . make me understand”. Fade to Black’s introductory issue is nothing spectacular. There’s not much more to the characters than surface level descriptions and pithy, one dimensional actor dialogue. I’m not, however, writing the series off. I think there’s a lot of potential here. The characters are stranded (always a terrifying thought), and they’re faced with something that isn’t supernatural in its nature. It’s just a group of freaks who, in thoughts representing cults, support the belief of consuming human flesh to achieve enlightenment. I hope the first issue is the one that sets everything up before it comes toppling down because if there’s another “explanatory” moment in the next issue, it will be my last foray into Fade to Black.
American Vampire #1 (Vertigo -- Scott Snyder, Stephen King & Rafael Albuquerque): After the dismal disappointments that are The Talisman, The Stand, and the loathed Dark Tower series, I was excited to see Stephen King make his personal contribution to the world of comics. Before I get to his story, however, I have to laud Rafael Albuquerque for his art in this issue. It’s broken into two short and intertwining stories. You would think, however, that a different artist illustrated the first and second parts. The first part, however, highlights Albuquerque’s and Dave McCaig’s skill with ink. The second, in a completely different vein than the first, uses much more irregular tones, jagged lines, and rough pencils. So how does Stephen King do in his first true comic? He’s phenomenal! It’s very “King,” if that makes any sense. There are the standard King digressions, albeit in dialogue. But there’s still the skewed take on humanity that people will recognize from King’s novels. It’s full of rapists (a favorite trait King uses to single out his truly demented characters), psychopaths, murderers, and clowns (not literal clowns -- there’s enough scary things in this issue without overdoing it). I like where this series is going. King knows how to construct a story, and he’s definitely opened the door for several different plot threads, all of which (I hope) will be addressed by the time the series runs its course. The freedom given by Vertigo really allows King to work beyond the normal restrictions imposed by the bigger comic companies. I feel bad for Scott Snyder because he writes an equally creepy story that hearkens back to the innocent damsel whose naiveté gets her wrapped up in a world of violence and destruction, but he has to compete with Stephen King. Any publicity, however, is good publicity and his tale will be read as much as King’s. The story, eventually, will get to a band of vampires who derive their power from the sun, and while this idea is hinted at in this issue, it isn’t fully explored yet. Pick up American Vampire -- it’s a fun read, and the perfect forum for someone like Stephen King.