Monday, January 22, 2007

Low Blows 01.22.07

“Snakewoman” #6
Virgin Comics
Writer: Zeb Wells
Artist: Dean Hyrapiet

“Snakewoman” is a relatively new series from an equally new publisher that I took a chance on a couple months back. And while the earlier issues had their flaws, I was pretty happy with a turn that the story took in the fifth issue -- one that I didn’t expect, and one that I thought would surely set up future stories that I’d be interested to read.

As it turns out, though, I didn’t enjoy issue 6 as much as the previous ones. A large part of this is probably due to the fact that this is the first issue without the participation of Michael Gaydos (“Alias,” “The Pulse”), whose name attached to the title page of this book prompted its purchase in the first place. Another reason I was a little disappointed with “Snakewoman” this month is that there was very little forward motion to the plot. While I’m certainly no “anti-decompression” activist, there had better be a dynamite story in an issue that spotlights a certain character whom I barely knew was in the previous issue -- and will in all probability never appear again.

Unfortunately, Zeb Wells’ script for this issue focuses more upon the cliché ramblings of a mentally unwell janitor than on the much more compelling theme of Jessica Peterson’s descent into the acceptance of a life of revenge and murder. While the Snakewoman does appear towards the end of the book, just in time to make a very difficult choice, I definitely prefer her to be in center stage, especially when the other story elements aren’t all that compelling.

I’ve never run into Dean Hyrapiet’s work before, either, but his penciling brings to mind Roy Allan Martinez’s art. It’s certainly not as polished as Martinez or his predecessor Gaydos’ stuff, but it does the job well enough. There were some awkward panels, but I’m willing to chalk that up to Hyrapiet still getting a feel for the characters, and not any deficiency in his abilities.

Now, I’ve been reading comics long enough to realize that every series has its hiccups, and I’m not about to give up on “Snakewoman” just yet, especially when I consider the strength of the previous issues. I can appreciate that Wells has tried to make each issue a unique experience, and one mediocre issue out of six isn’t such a bad record. Better luck next time.

[6.5 out of a possible 10]

“Iron Man” #14
Marvel Comics
Writers: Daniel and Charles Knauf
Art: Patrick Zircher and Scott Hanna

When I first heard that Daniel Knauf, creator of HBO’s “Carnivale,” and his son Charles were going to take over the writing reins on “Iron Man” once Warren Ellis and Adi Granov’s six issues had been completed, I was a little disappointed. Not so much because I didn’t love “Carnivale” (I do!) but instead that Ellis was leaving a book that was so uniquely suited to him.

And when the Knaufs’ first six-part storyline ended up being yet another “somebody gets control of Tony Stark/Iron Man and wreaks havoc, thus creating self-doubt in Tony’s mind” story, I was even more disappointed. I’ve never been crazy about Pat Zircher’s art, and if I may be completely honest, it looked horrible on “Iron Man,” especially when compared to how pitch-perfect Adi Granov’s art was for the character.

Here’s the good news, though: the book’s getting better. I’m not crazy about the death of a long-running character in these pages, and the art still seems a little off, but we’re now starting to get some fascinating background for Stark’s mindset and actions in “Civil War.” In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that the character development beginning in issue 13 and especially this issue contains some of the best justification for Iron Man’s continued support of the Registration Act and the tough decisions he has had to make that I’ve read in the entire Civil War event. The meeting with Captain America, and how badly it goes, shows how Cap’s anger is clouding his judgment a bit, and how, like it or not, Stark is just doing the best he can in a difficult situation.

If this book keeps improving by leaps and bounds as it has over the past months, I have no doubt I’ll end up being very happy with it. Truthfully, I’m already feeling pretty good about it. And this is not to mention the addition in the coming months of incoming penciller Roberto De La Torre, fresh off of his great work on “Ms. Marvel,” which will no doubt address my other concern with the book, too.

I’m not sure where “Civil War” will leave Iron Man, or if Tony Stark will even be the bearer of the armor at all after the dust settles. If he is, in fact, going to become the head of SHIELD, as previous issues of “New Avengers” and this title seem to be hinting, that should be a real interesting direction for the character, and I assume, the upcoming “Mighty Avengers” comic. In light of the increasing quality of this book and these very interesting times for this character, my advice would definitely be to give it another chance -- even if you have just recently dropped it due to the Knaufs' lackluster opening arc.

[8 out of a possible 10]

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