Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Shortbox 9/30/07

Amazing Spider-Man #543
writer: J. Michael Straczynski
artist: Ron Garney
Marvel Comics, released 8-22-07
This month, I kinda fucked up. See, I was going to write up reviews for five or six books, and I had them all picked out the first week of the month. But lo-and-behold it's now the last day of September and I still haven't posted. Tomorrow I'm supposed to get my new box-o-comics, so I have to write these up now. But there's only three of them this time because I've forgotten a ton of details and topic points of most of the ones I wanted to bring up.
Which brings me to this recent issue of Amazing. This is the last issue of this title that I am going to purchase, at least for the time being. I thought bringing back the Black Costume seemed like a cool idea despite being tied to the release of the third Spidey movie, but I was very wrong. Peter acting badass isn't really what I want to see. The best part of this arc was when he threw down with the Kingpen and beat him to a bloody pulp. The only bad thing about that was it was done way cooler about 50 issues ago in Daredevil by Bendis.
This particular issue finds Peter and Mary Jane forced to move a still-comatose Aunt May to a new facility. That would be interesting if this weren't a superhero book, but I just found myself not caring. A little action and humor please, JMS. I cared so little about this issue that I'm not even going to reread it so I can give it a proper review. It was dull, uninspiring and I can't wait for JMS's run to end. On the flip side, I'm glad I dropped the book now before having to pick it up three times a month once it goes into the hands of the convoluted new team system Marvel's developing for their flagship character. Just ridiculous. Avoid this one.
4 out 10

The Mice Templar #1
writer:Bryan J.L. Glass
artist: Michael Avon Oeming
Image Comics, released 8-29-07
This book was not what I was expecting. I had assumed for some reason that it would be a rather light-hearted romp of cute mice in the wilderness getting into trouble. I thought I'd be a great thing to give to my young cousins to get them to read something. I was very wrong and I can't tell you how happy I am about it. The Mice Templar was incredibly unique in the manner it shocked me, twisted my guts and made me care for characters I had only known for a few pages. Sure, you could give this book to a kid, but I doubt they'd fully grasp the gravity of what was occurring in it. It'd be like sitting a 5-year-old in front of Labyrinth who you would expect to enjoy the magic and wonderment in it, but then they got freaked out by Bowie's haircut and his baby-stealing ways because Ma and Pa didn't know that shit was in there. Or that was just me. Anyway, my point here is that this book isn't really for the younger crowd. This is a full-fledged epic. It just happens to feature mice in the lead roles.
Now, I've been raving about the concept of the story thus far, but I don't know that I would have enjoyed this book as much as I did if not for the astounding artwork. Oeming's using a style here that I've not seen from him before, and it's glorious. Keep in mind that I adore his work in things like Powers, too. But there is a fluidity here that his previous work doesn't contain. That said, I don't think a black and white version of this book would work. The coloring on The Mice Templar is what gives it that extra umph and takes it to the next level. Wil Quintana is to be applauded for his excellent work here.
I was intentionally vague as to what this title is specically about because I really think you should go in as green as possible before picking it up. Just be prepared to have a piece of your heart ripped out. You should get this one now. It's immediately apparent that this is a special book.
10 out of 10

Criminal #8
writer: Ed Brubaker
artist: Sean Phillips
Icon/Marvel Comics, released 8-8-07
Amazingly, I have not checked back in with Criminal here since it's inaugural issue. In that time, it hasn't disappointed. Because of this comic, I am now a crime fiction junkie, picking up every pulp novel and renting every film noir I can get my hands on. And what makes this one so great is that Brubaker is just rolling up all the best elements of the stories he grew up on and is smashing them together. The surprising thing about that is that the combination is actually fresh and has a great deal of character development in the stories thus far worthy enough of a college course discussion.
While the first arc concentrated on Leo, a quiet, seemingly cowardly thief, this new arc focuses on Tracy Lawless, a former special ops military man who is trying to find out what happened to his younger brother who he hadn't spoken to in years. Kinda like Get Carter with a heist angle. It's genius concept in my book and can't rave about it enough. Plus this arc has more action in it. Typically a plus.
One of the best things about Criminal is that, as a reader, we are never left with a story that is dragging out, as Brubaker fits into an issue what I expect him to do in an entire storyline. The other thing that I enjoy is the shear detail of the crimes. I'm a little lazy still in this post, so here's a page from this issue on the right that will illustrate what I'm trying to get across. See how Tracy knows how to make sure that the ATM camera won't even be able to film the perpetrator who rendered it useless? That sort of thing is all over the place in the book, and I love it. My brain doesn't work like that and I am amazed by those who are able to think like a criminal but are not actually one themselves.
As you can see, Phillips' art is great as always. This is definitely one of the best things on the stand right now. Unless you're sole interest is in the superhero genre, I can't imagine anyone not liking this book. Criminal has yet to disappoint me.
9 out of 10