Comics Reviews (September 2nd, 2015)
You know the drill; worst to best of what I bought.
But first, something I didn’t buy, because it’s free.
Out today for free for iPad, this is the digital comics platform Leah Moore and company have been working on, featuring, among other things, Alan Moore and Coleen Doran’s “Big Nemo.” Which is unsurprisingly the highlight of the package here, with a series of clever uses of the virtual page and its mutability that evoke the playful wonder of McCay’s work in a new medium. It feels like it ends on the title page of what should have been a much longer comic, though. The Garth Ennis strip is also neat, but the other two feel more interested in their own whizz-bang gimmicks than in actually being interesting, and the app is still a bit sluggish, resulting in frustrating reading experiences for both of them. Still, well worth the price, and they’re apparently still smoothing it out, so hopefully it’ll end up as a more functional package in a few weeks. Still hard to see this having much in the way of legs as a platform, but a fun little oddity of the world.
As for paid stuff…
18 Days #3
The art takes a turn towards abject mediocrity, the plot seems to wander off completely from anything it had been doing, and Grant Morrison’s not even in the credits as doing anything but “creating” a series that’s just a retelling of classical Hindu mythology. Wretched.
Fine, in the sense that there’s little wrong with it as such, and it’s nice that Waid was given leave to avoid there only being Secret Wars at the end of his run, but the truth of the matter is that he stayed on this book at least a year too long, and probably closer to two. It’s never been bad, but the energy had long since drained, and the denouement, despite bringing Kingpin in, did very little to change that. And the Shroud’s plot seems totally unresolved.
Doctor Who: Four Doctors #4
This lost rather a lot of pace for me, with an ending that’s much more “what’s happening” than “what’s going to happen” and the limitations of Neil Edwards’s art getting in the way of the story sometimes. (His Tennant and Smith can be very indistinguishable in the middle distance.) There are fun bits, but this event is starting to look like it’s going to underwhelm.
Silver Surfer #14
There’s really not such a thing as a Michael Allred comic that’s not fun to look at, but this has to be the most one note comic I’ve seen in a while; it starts with a tone, carries that same tone to the end of the comic, and then, well, ends, generally without doing much. Strange and lazy-feeling, frankly.
The best part of this comic is the edit to Neil Gaiman’s script to refer to “The Original Writer.” So nice to see the project still haunted by its past. In any case, following one of the biggest pieces of rank bullshit in recent comics memory when Marvel fucked up the printing in an iconic scene of their overpriced reprint comic and then didn’t issue replacements, thus screwing collectors who were already, shall we say, impatient with paying $5 for less than twenty pages of story, I’m back on the horse with this godforsaken money sink for the simple reason that I’ve never actually read the Gaiman material, so I’m curious. It’s… not Gaiman’s best work; the psychedelia in the lead-up feels strained, like he’s trying too hard to hit a style that’s just not natural for him. But it’s still a fascinating piece of work, and a pleasure to read a bit of 1990 Gaiman that most people haven’t. Man, though, Buckingham has improved as an artist in the past quarter century.
A fun Thor/Loki interrogation scene occupies the bulk of the issue, which moves along nicely as a result, but overall the degree to which Secret Wars is a millstone around Marvel’s neck right now is a real problem. It’s not this book’s fault at all, but the sour taste of Marvel in effect charging $4 extra for the series because it’s so late really does spoil things, as does a pretty flat ending. Still, the interrogation scene is fun.
Some good plot twists here, although for an arc with this high stakes, this is really feeling kind of… sedate. I like this issue – leaving Forever dead for most of it is a nice way to tell the story that doesn’t overstay its welcome. So I’m hopeful the end of the arc will spark a bit. But for the amount that’s happening, I’m finding myself strangely detached from this book.
The Dying and the Dead #3
In some ways, given how badly the schedule here is borked, a flashback issue that traces alternate history instead of following up on the apparent main characters is wise. It’s apparently going to be a while before #4, so something off in its own little corner is a good idea. Still, hope this book gets its act together, because while this is a good issue, it’s not a sustainable approach.
It’s frankly not a good week when what’s a fairly middling issue of Providence is the only credible candidate for the top slot, but that’s how it is. This is a somewhat understated issue, with some interesting implications for the larger plot, but not a lot happening here. One also gets the sense that we’re setting up a more general shift in the comic – having plowed gamely through “Shadow Over Innsmouth” and “The Dunwich Horror,” the only real remaining top tier Lovecraft story is “Call of Cthulhu.” With eight issues left, then, we’re clearly going to have to veer towards some more obscure stuff, which suggests a change in tone and pace. So this feels a bit transitional. And yet it’s still denser, smarter, and longer on reread value than anything else in the pile, and the only thing that feels like it offers anything like value for its cover price.
September 2, 2015 @ 10:45 am
The Gaiman run on Miracleman is actually what I'm most familiar with; I got The Golden Age from the SF and Fantasy Bookclub when I was a teenager, on name recognition of "the guy who wrote Good Omens and wasn't Terry". Hadn't a clue what was going on except it was some kind of Godlike Power of Shazam thing, but I was intrigued.
September 2, 2015 @ 3:17 pm
Agree with you regarding ELECTRICOMICS. Got to be a Beta tester and mostly enjoyed the books, although I see what you mean about a couple of the titles. You might try to be original in concept when using something cutting edge like this.
Damn! How did I miss THORS #3 in the shop today? I really enjoy that book. Got to head back and pick it up.
Always enjoy your reviews, whether I agree or not.
September 2, 2015 @ 7:43 pm
You don't consider "The Shadow Out of Time" top tier Lovecraft? I would also include "At the Mountains of Madness" and "The Colour Out of Space" as top tier, but those are a bit more debatable. (I'm mostly including Colour as a courtesy to Lovecraft, who apparently thought it was his best story.) And I'm sure there are some others that people would object to being excluded.
I sold off my Miracleman run several years ago, so it's been a while; but if I recall correctly 17 was easily the weakest of the Golden Age stories, by a fair margin. There's some really good stuff on the way very quickly.
September 8, 2015 @ 11:44 pm
Phil, you're completely wrong as Eric Gimlin points out – the best Lovecraft – is yet to come, and I mean that in two ways. One – the stories Eric cites, and two Lovecraft himself: who is clearly being set up as the redeemer created by the Stella Sapienta.
September 8, 2015 @ 11:46 pm
Sorry meant to sign that – Simon Bucher-Jones
My review of Providence 4 is also here: