Monday, April 16, 2007

Comics reviews of a less-timely nature

So here's some comics that I wanted to talk about. There are several contenders here for a Current Favorite Panel, but I just read a comic today that holds that place, so all of these have been eclipsed. I'll make a note of them in passing anyway.

Madman Atomic Comics #1
By Mike Allred



I've been very excited (to say the least) about this as soon as I heard it was coming out. Needless to say, it does not disappoint. It's mostly a recap issue, but Allred plays with expectations, making us wonder what is real and what is/has been part of Frank's imagination. It's a great way to grab old readers, while the flashbacks get any new readers up to speed. The art is beautiful, as expected (and enriched, as always, by Laura Allred's coloring), with Allred showing us new versions of classic Madman moments alongside some truly scary moments of existential horror. I love this shot of Frank looking in the mirror:



While he doesn't really look that bad, that's how he sees himself without his mask. It's very subtle, adding a skull-like nature to his already-scarred face. Very well done. I expected a panel from this issue to be one of the contenders for a Favorite Panel, but nothing jumped out at me. Maybe next issue, when we're sure to get more "new" moments.

Bonus! The tradition of guest pinup artists continues in this issue. Check out this awesome page by Eric Powell:



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All-Star Superman #7
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Frank Quitely



Whenever a new issue of this series comes out, it's sure to get everybody excited. This one was no exception, as Morrison and Quitely give us an invasion by the Bizarro World. It's full of awesome moments, but an early, quiet one is what I'm choosing as the contender for my current favorite panel:



It's a beautiful shot of Superman releasing his pet sun-eater into space. I love Quitely's Mignola-esque depiction of the creature, and Superman's quiet wave goodbye.

But then we move on to craziness, with freaky, lumpy Bizarros invading and turning people into gross, backwards versions of themselves. I love this shot of the chaos, with the cool touch of some Bizarros rearranging the letters on a McDonald's sign:



The crew of the Daily Planet is great here, especially Jimmy Olsen. Morrison makes him really cool, having him hack into the city's blimp network so he can take a girl for a joyride. And Superman has some great moments fighting the Bizarro version of himself. I love the Bizarro speech patterns: "Am no want fight you! Want all you am no become Bizarro!" I know, that's not exactly an innovation; Bizarro-talk has been around for 50 years. It's still cool. I also love the way Quitely draws the action extending beyond the panel borders, making it seem to jump right out of the book. Here's my favorite example:



The tooth in the corner is what makes it. So it's a super-cool issue, with a great cliffhanger that demonstrates Morrison's willingness to take these crazy Silver Age ideas and run with them, even upping the ante. The wait for the next issue is going to be interminable.
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Fell #8
Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Ben Templesmith



I'm hoping the relatively-quick appearance of the last two issues of Fell means that the book will be coming out more frequently. It's one of my favorite series, and probably the best thing Warren Ellis is doing right now (ever since Nextwave ended...sniff). This issue is a perfect chapter to close out the soon-to-appear first collection. It's a trip through a typical night in Snowtown, with Richard Fell giving commentary. Ellis and Templesmith back off of the usual nine-panel-grid format of the pages, going with three wide tiers on each page (except for the last couple). It's a good way to pull back from the cramped atmosphere of a usual issue and give us a wider (so to speak) view of the city. The panels are ostensibly pictures that Fell is taking throughout his shift, but not all of them fit into that mold:



That panel is a good example of Ellis's dry wit at work. The story is a great look at how tiring Fell's job must be, with the constant chaos going on in the city and the neverending string of bodies that signify another murder to solve. It would be overwhelming if not for some well-timed breaks in which Fell steps back to look at the city. Here's an example, which is another contender for my current favorite panel:



God, that's beautiful. So is the final page, which is a perfect way to end the collection. I won't include it here; you'll have to buy the issue or the trade to see it. Suffice to say it's very pretty, and it's a good example of the mixture of cynicism and hope that pervades this series. Keep it up Ellis, and don't make me wait so long between issues!
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Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four #1 (of 4)
Written by Jeff Parker
Art by Mike Wieringo



I had been excited about this series ever since I first heard about it. Jeff Parker is fast becoming one of my favorite writers, and this issue demonstrates his talents very well. He's good at writing funny dialogue, which is a great skill for Spider-Man stories, and it certainly helps with the FF as well. At the start of the issue, Spidey sees what he thinks is the Silver Surfer, but it turns out to be someone else:



That's right, it's the Impossible Man! He's another great character for Parker (not to mention Wieringo's beautifully cartoony art style) since he's so silly. Impy is trying to warn the Fantastic Four about an alien invasion, but he and Spidey end up confronting the guy and getting their butts handed to them. So they bring in the FF (following a scene with a great example of one of those gags that Ben and Johnny are always playing on each other), but it might be too late. Come back next issue to see what happens! It's a lot of fun, and I'm glad to see that my excitement was not in vain. Keep up the good work, Parker!

Bonus! Impossible man strikes a famous pose to demonstrate the results of a young couple's amorous activities:



That's comedy gold, baby!
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I've got a few others to talk about, but I'll get to them later, maybe. Expect reviews of a few more literary-style comics soon, as well as looks at solicitations. Aloha!