Weekly Comic Review for 4/2/08

Abe Sapien: The Drowning #3 (of 5)

W: Mike Mignola

A: Jason Shawn Alexander

As happens with nearly every book in the Hellboy universe, there comes a moment when a whole bunch of stuff happens and you find yourself not exactly sure what’s going on.  This has nothing to do with the talent of the writers or artists involved with the project.  It just seems to be a narrative decision made somewhere back in the murky, swirling miasma of time.  And, everything gets cleared up eventually.  (I say eventually, because it might not be in that mini-series…you might have to wait until the next mini to get a concrete answer.)

Abe Sapien: The Drowning #3 is the issue where I found myself (if you’ll pardon the sea metaphor) adrift.  Partly, I think, it has to do with the lack of dialogue.  Many of Mignola’s characters are rather laconic, so there’s always the possibility that you’ll run into an issue where someone is so focused on the job at hand that they just don’t have time to blather.  (Interesting factoid: that is one of the reasons that DC pushed for the creation of Robin.  To give Batman someone to talk to.)  The centerpiece of this issue is Abe’s street battle with a giant eel monster, however the main mystery of the book remains the corpse of Dutch warlock Epke Vrooman, and how his creepy little gobliny goons are going to remove the Tibetan dagger from his heart.

While Mignola continues to craft a delightfully complex pulp-style story, Alexander backs him up with more-than-capable art.  And, if you think it’s easy to draw facial features on a fish-man, you need to get out of the house more.

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Angel: After the Fall #6

W: Joss Whedon & Brian Lynch

A: Tim Kane, David Messina, Stephen Mooney & John Byrne

Anyone who wants to find out what happens to the un-demony Fred who showed up on the last page of issue #5 had better settle down and grab a helmet.  In true Whedon fashion, the fans are made to suffer.

Starting with this issue, Lynch is delving into what happened the night that L.A. was sucked into hell.  Judging from the layout of this issue, it looks like Lynch will be using vignettes to show us what each of the main characters was up to immediately “after the fall.”  Issue #6 focuses on Connor, Spike and Lorne.  It’s funny, that spell that Wolfram and Hart used at the end of season four must have really worked, because I constantly forget all about Connor until he shows up again.

Of the three, Spike’s story is, in my opinion, the best.  The writing is good.  Messina’s art is beautiful.  And, it really captures where Spike is at the moment.  He’s survived two apocalypses and he’s pretty sure he’s earned some kind of reward by now.  But, until his reward arrives, he’s just as happy to beat the crap out of stuff.  Lynch even gives us a classic moment that could have come right out of an episode of Angel (actually, I think it might have): standing on a rooftop, surveying the city, Spike spots trouble on the street below.  Ready to jump into action, he turns, coat twirling.  We cut to the next panel, and Spike’s riding the elevator down while “The Girl from Ipanema” plays, lamenting that he should have just jumped off the roof.

Although not as good as the Spike story, Lorne’s story is befitting the character.  Told in Seussical verse and peppered with Lorne-isms, Lynch and Byrne tell us how Lorne went from killing Lindsey to being crowned lord of Silverlake.

Connor’s story has it’s moments, particularly when his memory starts coming back–did Wolfram and Hart do this on purpose or is it just something that happens in hell?–and he realizes that he banged his surrogate mother.  But, a lot of it is one long philosophical examination of the differences between Connor’s three fathers: Angel, Holtz, and Laurence Reilly.

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer #13

W: Drew Goddard

A: Georges Jeanty

It’s funny.  Last month, the news was all a-buzz with the uproar surrounding Buffy’s night of intimacy with a girl.  However, this month there wasn’t a single story about the adorably awkward homosexual tension between Xander and his former “Master,” Dracula.  Why is that?  Was it just too goofy to be spun into anything other than a fictional story told with pretty pictures?  That must be it.  Anyone who tried to use this issue of Buffy in their agenda of swirling infernal asinine rage would have been laughed out of the Bund meeting, or whatever.

Personally, I was never a fan of the Dracula episode of Buffy.  I thought that throwing in that foppish, over-romanticized Euro-trash kind of vampire undermined everything the show had done to make vampires back into the scummy, scavenging bottom-feeders they’re supposed to be.  Yes, there were some good moments.  Xander becoming Drac’s thrall and later proclaiming that he no longer wants to eat insects, get the “funny syphilis,” or be everyone’s butt-monkey.  But, as a whole, I’ve always thought it was one of the show’s weaker episodes.

However, all of that aside, this was one of the funniest issues of any comic I’ve ever read.  The scenes between Xander and Dracula were one great line after another.  Dracula repeatedly referring to Renee as Xander’s Moor and cursing the “filthy yellow swine” who stole his powers leads Xander to note that he didn’t remember Dracula being so racist.  And, what would an issue with heavy homosexual undertones be without an extended cameo by Andrew?

The rest of the issue revolves around Buffy and the Slayers tracking down the trio of Japanese vampires who stole the Slayer’s Scythe.  The bad news: these vamps have found a way to reverse the spell that Willow performed on the scythe, essentially deactivating all of the new Slayers.  Now, the question remains: are these three working with Twilight or on their own?

The only problem I had with this issue of Buffy was that I thought Willow drilling Satsu for information on how Buffy was in bed was a little too crass for our dear, sweet redheaded Wicca.

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Countdown to Final Crisis 4

W: Paul Dini & Sean McKeever

A: Jamal Igle

Hey, remember how happy I was when Mary Marvel kicked Eclipso to the curb and became good again?  Well, you can forget all of that.  The Challengers are back on their Earth for about a minute and a half and Mary goes home to find Darkseid chilling on her couch watching Judge Judy.  Darkseid convinces Mary to take her Black Mary powers back and work for him.  Super.  I understand that the set-up for DC’s upcoming Final Crisis event requires the Big D to be victorious and that would probably involve him actually getting his hands on the souls within Jimmy Olsen, but does it also have to involve Mary being evil again?

The bad news: it’s obvious that DC had absolutely no idea what they were doing with this series.

The good news: it’s almost over.

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Detective Comics #843

W: Paul Dini

A: Dustin Nguyen

I really love the work that Dini is doing on Detective Comics–which is odd since his Countdown gets worse every week.  Yes, I’m pretty sure a lot of it comes from the fact that my first full-time exposure to Batman came in the form of Dini’s Batman: The Animated Series.  But, let’s not ignore the fact that Dini’s usually a pretty solid storyteller.  One of the best decisions DC ever made was in allowing Dini to write shorter, one- or two-part stories with great villains like Scarecrow, Mad Hatter and (in this case) Scarface.  I also find it hard to fault Dini’s preoccupation with Zatanna, who makes yet another appearance in his Detective run.

Hey, I don’t fault Dini for wanting to put Zee in as many issues as possible.  She’s a leggy brunette with magic powers and an amazing fashion sense.  Plus, when she’s with Bruce, the sparks are obvious.  They have a long history together, Zee’s life in the spotlight balances Bruce’s life in the shadows, and there’s the trust factor.  Bruce has serious trust issues.  Zee monkeyed with Bruce’s mind and he’s forgiven her.  He still hasn’t forgiven Booster Gold for borrowing a batarang and not returning it, but he’s forgiven Zee for invading his noodle.

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Rogue Angel: Teller of Tall Tales #2

W: Barbara Randall Kesel

A: Renae De Liz

This issue of Teller of Tall Tales puts the narrative on hold to explain the back-story of Annja Creed.  I understand that the concept of a modern-day, skeptical archaeologist who also has a magical sword can be a bit to get a handle on.  Unfortunately, as someone who is familiar with the Rogue Angel novel series, this issue pretty much told me a story that I’ve already read.  Actually, I mean that quite literally, since the bulk of issue #2 retells the plot of Rogue Angel: Destiny.

And, while De Liz really captured how Annja is described in the books, the designs for other series regulars–like Roux, Braden, and Doug–don’t feel right.

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Quote of the Week:

“Oh balls.”–Dracula, upon remembering that he lost his powers to a trio of Japanese vampires while gambling on a motorcycle, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer #13.

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