Sunday, August 14, 2005

Comics Reviews For August 10, 2005

This week, Action Comics, Exiles, Incredible Hulk, and more Girls.

Action Comics 830 – “The Great Society”
By Gail Simone and John Byrne

Now this is how you write an unobtrusive tie-in. Dr. Psycho, a major player in the Secret Society being shown in Simone’s Villians United miniseries, comes to Metropolis to observe Superman, but decides to get a little more hands-on than Lex Luthor is willing to allow. The nice thing is, you don’t really have to know everything about Villains United to get this story; you only need know that Psycho is in a supervillain club of sorts with Lex Luthor and Black Adam, and that’s exactly what we get. The rest is a nasty day for Superman, and a lead-in to what will certainly be an impressive fight next issue.
I know next to nothing about Dr. Psycho, and while this issue doesn’t give me his whole history or anything, it does paint a disturbing picture of a man with great power who enjoys using it to ruin people’s lives. The sadistic lengths he goes to in this issue are both creative and chilling in how well they push some of Superman’s best buttons. I’m now interested to see what Simone is doing with him over in the VU miniseries.
Shrapnel comes off as a much less interesting villain, but I like the way Superman finishes him off.
John Byrne’s art is gorgeous here. I like the detail he puts on Shrapnel, the cold sneer on Psycho’s face, and his great layout for the “jumper” scene. I’ll admit I had my doubts about how well he would do, stepping back into the shoes he vacated 15 years ago, but they’re by now long-dispelled. It’s easy to see why he’s still a top name after so many years.
Simone stumbles on the first page with the dialogue of the young mother. 9 out of 10 readers won’t notice, but I grew up about an hour outside of Tulsa, and nobody there talks like they’re from the Deep South.
Other than that misstep, this is a pleasant Superman story and a thankfully harmless crossover. I look forward to more from this team.
Grade: B+

Exiles 68 – “Destroy All Monsters, conclusion”
By Tony Bedard and Jim Calafiore

You can tell the sentai gimmick was played out by how it almost takes a back seat to the doings in the Crystal Palace this month. The way the plot wraps up is almost too absurd, and you can tell that Bedard was frantically trying to get out of the corner he’d written himself into. I liked how they made fun of Foomy talking about himself in the third person, but other than that, this line fell empty.
On the other hand, the resolution of the Deadpool plotline was very pleasing. Beak once again shows why he’s valuable to this team, and the twist involving Mimic and Hulk surprised me. It also shows the Exiles moving towards some kind of direction for the team, which is important following the events of “Timebreakers.”
Apparently, Jim Calafiore will still be serving as fill-in guy for Exiles beyond this arc. While I hope Paul Pelletier can keep a more regular schedule than some of our past artists, it will be nice to see Jim’s take on some of the new characters who’ll be entering the series with “World Tour.”
While this arc was fun, it was largely a placeholder, and I’m ready to move on to bigger and better things. “Fairy sidekick,” Tony?
Grade: B

Incredible Hulk 85 – “Terra Incognita, part 3”

By Peter David and Jorge Lucas
Cover by Andy Brase

This issue is pretty pedestrian in terms of plot. Bruce Banner is running Australia now, dealing with turning it into a haven for oppressed humans, while it turns out that, gosh, those AIM people aren’t so friendly after all. I saw it coming, and Bruce probably should have too.
Which isn’t to say there’s not some good character work going on. I like how Bruce’s new position only serves to make his relationship with the Hulk more tense, but how he’s still arrogant enough to use the threat of the ultimate weapon of mass destruction to get what he wants. I’m also eager to see what happens next issue with the new Scorpion, as it looks like she’s so far unaware of just what AIM has been up to.
Man, they color this book almost as dark as they shot “The West Wing” in season 5. I’m starting to think the art problem isn’t in the pencils, but the inking. Way too overshadowed in several scenes.
I’ve got close to zero interest in the main House of M storyline (Wanda changes reality, Layla Miller can give people their memories back, there’s lots of talking, Hawkeye’s not dead, blah blah blah), but I’m liking how David’s plugged the Hulk into the concept to do some interesting things that we probably wouldn’t get to see in the normal universe. I’m interested to see how it all ends, and just who and what Hulk will smash this time.
Grade: B+

Girls 2
By the Luna Brothers

The plot thickens. While we don’t get much more of an insight into Ethan’s character with this issue (he’s still a schmuck), we do get some developments on just who (or what) the mysterious woman he met in the middle of the road is, and where she came from. I saw the “She killed Ma” twist coming as soon as it was dropped, but I did not anticipate the last page at all. All of a sudden, our mystery-romance has taken a turn for the weird.
Okay, how the fuck old is Ethan? His pal Merv, it would seem, still lives with his parents, and likes blowing up pumpkins. Ethan lives alone, works at the grocery store, and is old enough to have had a semi-serious relationship with Taylor. The art gives me no clue, as everyone under thirty is drawn with the same generic young person features.
That’s really my only complaint, though. The main plot is interesting, and I’m liking how the various townsfolk react to Ethan’s behavior of last issue. The Lunas have taken an accurate snapshot of anonymous small-town America, with a level of detail and care not usually seen in most popular fiction. I’m also very much enjoying the pacing and layout of the story, particularly in the small moments Ethan has with the girl. The subtle way the sex scene is portrayed is a good example that more mainstream creators could learn from.
Girls is a perfect example of the sort of thing coming from the new Image these days: interesting, off-the-beaten-path comics from bright young creators. Good job, guys.
Grade: B+

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