Last Week in Comics: January 27-February 2

faked by Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Ahoy friends! This installment of my rambling roundup of the week’s reading is a little more scattered than usual, both because I have a sick girl here at home and because I read a whole bunch of comics this week. Not only was it a heavy week for all the mainstream Marvel/DC titles I buy, but I also attended Wizard World New Orleans and binged on the discount boxes, filling my bag with beat-up 70s and 80s comics and recent titles that I was curious about but didn’t want to shell out $4.00 for when they were new. I have actually never been to a comic book convention before, so have nothing to compare this one to, but I had a great time: it was very generous of pal Victor Gischler to let me hang out with him and crash in his room, and we ended up having drinks with James “Spike” Marsters, so, you know, it seemed like a pretty good con experience. OK, onward:

Captain America #614. Jackson Guice was one of the first artists I learned to recognize as a kid, thanks to his work on the Wally West Flash series, and it’s been a pleasure to see him get better and better over the years, his working having shed some of the stiffness that occasionally weighed it down. On this issue he works well with . . . wow, with a bunch of inkers and colorists to achieve a chilly noir look that, in certain scenes, puts me in mind of Sean Phillips or John Paul Leon. Also, I am a sucker for any story that features Bernie Rosenthal doing something besides pining for Cap.

Fantastic Four #587. Hey, so I think everybody heard about this? Another good installment of a series that has been highly entertaining in the hands of Jonathan Hickman. Kudos to artist Steve Epting for his rendering of Ben Grimm’s “last” look at his pal—not what he’s looking at, but the page of the door slowly irising shut on his recently transformed face. In general, I wish the coloring on the book weren’t so dark, though. FF is at its best a series about scope and sweep, and the heavy blacks combined with Epting’s literalish pencils can make pages come across cramped and a little lifeless. Also: Dark palette + shiny paper = unreadable books. I am not the first to complain about this, I realize.

Jonah Hex #57, 59. Jordi Bernet’s art looks weird in color to me, but still: Jordi Bernet.

Magneto #1. I feel obliged to have an opinion about this Howard Chaykin one-shot, and OK, fine, but I gotta think about it a bit. I did like it a lot.

Osborn #1-2. So far the clear prize of the recent books that I picked up at the convention. Emma Rios’s art reminds me of a Marvel-ized Guy Davis, perfect for this little horror story, and, thanks to writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, these two issues make a stronger case for what makes Norman Osborn distinctive, dangerous, and even appealing than most of the many books that have featured him over the last several years. This is a well paced thriller with smart dialogue and a unique perspective on some characters I thought I was tired of, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out.

Punisher: In the Blood #3. I was worried after the glorious grand guignol of Franken-Castle that Remender wouldn’t have anywhere left to go with the Punisher, and the preview for the first issue—where Frank kills some drug dealers—didn’t help. But while the scale of the story is (so far) less expansive than its predecessor, it’s no less intense. In this case, it gets its juice from its depiction of the screwed up father-son-father-perverted uncle quaternity of Punisher, Jigsaw, Henry (a.k.a Jigsaw junior), and Stu Clarke, and from the suggestion that one of the villains is maybe the Punisher’s wife who has returned from the dead after the Punisher killed her the last time she returned from the dead.

The Shadow #8 (1988). Kyle Baker is an even better fit for Andrew Helfer’s look at the filth and depravity of modern life than Bill Sienkiewicz; with Sienkiewicz, it was clear that everyone was basically a network of dangerous impulses draped in a skin sack, so no surprise when someone did something awful. But Baker gives his characters these pleasant, even comic faces that really begin to creep you out if you look at them too long.

Secret Avengers #9. Having a flying body part break the panel borders to signify the intensity of the physical conflict is a technique as old as comics, and certainly I’ve seen plenty of fights take place on pages with no clearly defined panel borders. So I like what Deodato does here —that floating white panel in the middle gives just enough shape to the page to suggest that there is a norm against which this clash of super-soldiers is being measured and that they are far, far exceeding it.

X-Men #7. Speaking of Gischler . . . This is a great example of what I want from a mainstream adventure comic. Chris Bachalo’s distinctive page design sense and stylized anatomy and facial expressions is a great match for Gischler’s flair for banter and characterization. Some laffs, some thrills, some chills. Good stuff.

Action Comics #897
Chaos War #5
Dark Reign: Hawkeye #1-3, 5
Dark Reign: The Hood #1-2
Deadpool Corps #10
Doctor Voodoo #1, 3
Mighty Avengers #4-5
New Avengers #8
Plastic Man #2
Punisher (2001) #1-2
Secret Warriors #23

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