Saturday, July 21, 2007

One word about new comics: SHAZAM!

But I'll get to that one later. Here's what I thought about what I bought this week:

Army@Love #5
By Rick Veitch



Man, this book is seriously nuts. I love it. I'm wondering if Veitch is going to be able to keep up the crazy satire (this issue, the army sponsors a concert in the middle of the war zone, and a mullah declares a fatwa against the band due to pressure from a rival record label; also, the "hot zone club" becomes official, with patches being handed out to soldiers who have sex in a battle zone, and an officer's personal problems are dealt with by having his wife sent to a secret prison) while keeping up with his large cast. I imagine he has plenty more planned, but I bet it would be easy to start shifting the focus to the characters rather than the satire. Here's hoping he can keep up the balance, giving us plenty of character moments while going all out with the corporate sponsorship jokes and stuff like that.
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Blackgas 2 #3 (of 3)
Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Ryan Waterhouse



I only just noticed when checking the credits that the artwork in this issue was done by Ryan Waterhouse rather than Max Fiumara. That's probably not a very good sign, that I didn't even notice the change. Unfortunately, this is really not a very good comic. I liked the first miniseries, with a slightly different take on zombies, in that the disease brought out people's worst inner impulses, turning them into murderous, sex-crazed maniacs. This sequel miniseries mostly ignored that aspect, focusing on your standard zombie carnage. This issue ends up with the last surviving character wandering through New York, killing zombies or witnessing their nasty acts (like one zombie fucking a headless corpse) before the army drops a nuke on the city, which causes an earthquake and releases more of the titular black gas into the atmosphere, presumably dooming mankind. The end. Yawn. I dunno, maybe I'm just getting sick of zombies, so this sort of thing just doesn't interest me anymore, but this series seemed especially depressing and boring. Maybe, in the typical commentary that zombie stories inspire, Ellis is trying to say that there is no hope for humanity, and our worst impulses will doom us all. Did I mention that it was depressing?
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Cover Girl #3 (of 5)
Written by Andrew Cosby and Kevin Church
Art by Mateus Santolouco



Ah, now this is more like it; sexy girls, movie stars, and car chases! I'm really enjoying this series, although I have a few questions. First, was it an error when we get a page with the caption "three weeks ago", followed by a page captioned "two weeks ago", and then no caption on the next page? There's a shift in scene, and I was expecting a "now" caption or something. It was slightly confusing. Also, we get a scene of the bad guy threatening his girlfriend, the girl that Alex rescued in the first issue. I know we need a plot for the series, but wouldn't it make more sense for him to just kill the girlfriend and be done with the whole thing, rather than continue to make attempts on Alex's life? There does seem to be a terrorism plot afoot, so I'm sure more dastardly plans will ensue, but it seems he is unnecessarily risking men and resources trying to kill a guy that has probably forgotten about the incident. Oh well, I guess I shouldn't question the plot points of what is trying to be an action-movie-style story. And I don't want to make it sound like I'm not liking it; there's some great stuff, like Rachel threatening Alex with a gun whenever she wants to win an argument, Alex learning real fighting skills from his supposed "girlfriend", rather than the showy fighting that looks good on camera, and a fun car chase, with Alex stuck in the driver's seat as he and Rachel are being slammed from all sides by evil SUV's. There's plenty of good dialogue too, like Alex saying to the car, "Come on, baby, hold together!", with Rachel replying, "Don't call me baby!" I know, that's an old joke, but I liked it. I'm also liking Santolouco's art, which still isn't as good as Rafael Albuquerque's cover art, but it's getting close. So, it might be late to start reading the miniseries, but I definitely recommend reading the eventual collection. Unless the last two issues suck. Don't let me down, Church!
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Ghost Rider: Trail of Tears #6 (of 6)
Written by Garth Ennis
Art by Clayton Crain



Wow, two miniseries by two of my favorite writers ended this week, and I disliked both of them. Of course, I kind of hate Ghost Rider anyway, but I liked the Western premise of this series, and the first two or three issues were just interesting enough to make me want to get the next one, until I got to the point where I felt like I had to finish the story. But now that it's over, I'm left with a big shrug and a feeling of disappointment. Of course, Clayton Crain's murky art doesn't help win me over, but the story just wasn't worth the time (or money) I spent reading it. This final installment did have some interesting discussion of the nature of revenge (and the odd notion that Ghost Rider was some sort of African spirit, rather than a minion of the Christian devil), but really, not worth it. So anybody that was curious, unless you're a big Ghost Rider fan, or love Clayton Crain's art, steer clear of this comic.
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The Goon #19
By Eric Powell



Looks like Eric Powell is finally getting back to his regular story, after a sort of filler issue, the Goon Noir miniseries, and the Satan's Sodomy Baby one-shot. That might explain the "summarize the plot" nature of this issue, with its captions featuring the Goon's inner monologue, as he goes into a swamp to fight an octopus monster, leading to this awesome splash page:



Oh, hell yeah. That's some beautiful stuff there. We also get one of the comedy intros that Powell does every so often, this time lampooning Oprah's hawking of that bullshit The Secret (which I won't link to, because it offends me; you can Google it (or just read this issue) if you don't know about it and really must find out). Unfortunately, it's not as funny as these bits usually are, possibly because it goes on for a bit longer than necessary, but I'll get behind any attack on that idiocy. Anyway, it's a decent issue, and hopefully it signals a return to this book coming out on a regular basis. We do have the Chinatown graphic novel coming out in a couple months, so there's plenty of Powell madness to look forward to.
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The Programme #1 (of 12)
Written by Peter Milligan
Art by C.P. Smith



Wow, this book is crazy. I'm wondering if I should have waited for the trade, but oh well, I don't mind reading something this good on a monthly basis. The story has to do with a superhuman attack on U.S. troops in the Middle East (in a fictional country called Talibstan), which seems to awaken a man (probably also a superhuman) that originated from a Nazi genetics experiment. There are some jarring shifts in time and location, and some really cool art by C.P. Smith, who is helped immensely by colorist Jonny Rench:



I love the gritty texture the colors add to the art. The book has a really interesting, shadow-filled look, with occasional splashes of color, like the greenish explosion when the troops are attacked:



And I'm digging the political atmosphere Milligan is establishing here, with the United States caught in a stupid war in the Middle East, an overly religious and out-of-it President, and tons of state secrets and scandals. I'll be back for more next issue, and the ten after that. Don't let me down, Milligan!

By the way, I thought Jog described the symbolism much more elegantly than I ever could, so I wanted to link to his review.
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Repo #2 (of 5)
Written by Rick Spears
Art by Rob G.



Well, I gave this book one more issue to keep me reading, but I probably should have gone with me gut and dropped it after the first. Sure, some interesting concepts are introduced, like clones that are created for the purpose of harvesting their organs and the army of clones that has risen up to fight this practice, but the art continues to be bad and the humor continues to be stupid. Oddly, the cover looks nice, probably due to the nice coloring, but a version on that picture on the inside cover shows a good example of the ugly art and garish coloring in the interiors:



The story contains plenty of action and violence and such, but I'm still finding myself bored. So, Repo, consider yourself dropped.
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Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil #4 (of 4)
By Jeff Smith



Well, this is one that I probably should have waited for a collection on, but it's still a super-fun story that I loved reading. This issue has the climactic fight, with Billy turning into a 100-foot-tall Captain Marvel and fighting Mr. Mind's giant robots:



And there's also this:



It's pretty awesome, and it even hints at a sequel, which I hope Jeff Smith gets to do someday. It's probably the best comic that came out last week, and I really encourage anyone and everyone to read a collected edition when it comes out. I feel like I should have more to say, but I guess "It's awesome; read it!" will have to suffice.
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The Spirit # 8
By Darwyn Cooke



And then we have Darwyn Cooke's regular dose of coolness, with the Spirit and Silk Satin stuck in a water tower trying to defuse a nuclear bomb. I love how Cooke gets to the meat of the plot by giving some exposition in the form of a news report which is finished in just a few panels on the first page. We get some good scenes, especially when Satin gets amnesia and the Spirit has to try to snap her out of it:



That plot actually sounds lame, but Cooke makes it fun. I think that's the appeal of the book for me: it's a good dose of fun comics each month, without being overly serious or dragging out an overly long story. And the nice art certainly doesn't hurt. If you haven't been reading it, I encourage you to give it a try. Each issue is self-contained, so you can pick any of them up and read them. Hopefully, Cooke will be able to keep this up for quite some time.
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Texas Strangers #2
Written by Antony Johnston and Dan Evans III
Art by Mario Boon



Well, I really wanted to like this series, but it's just not doing anything for me. Being aimed at kids, it's full of cartoony action and larger-than-life characters, but I dunno, I'm just not drawn in. Perhaps a good comparison would be cartoons like Ben 10, which are full of the adventure that kids like but don't really interest me.

Anyway, this issue continues where the last left off, with the Texas Strangers and our heroes fighting some bad guys atop a dynamite-filled chain of wagons, trying to stop it from blowing up a camp of Native Americans (who are elves in this series). It's some pretty good action that I thought was clear and easy to follow. Like I said, kids will probably enjoy this, and hopefully the people at Image will be able to get it into their hands, because I don't think many of the comic shop regulars will be too interested. We'll see what happens, but while I might watch the sales of the series with interest, I don't think I'll be buying it.
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And that's the week in comics. I've got more reviews to write (as always), so we'll see when I can get around to that. See you then!