COMICS: John’s Wednesday Winners for 3/18/09

It’s that time again!  This week didn’t have as much to offer as most (a fact for which my wallet is thankful) but in some cases quality made up for lack of quantity.

Angel #19

Angel #19

The now subtitle-less Angel #19 begins a new story arc for Angel & Co., which sees them attempting to deal with the constant barrage of attempts on Angel’s unlife.  This issue mainly serves as an introduction to a new character: Desdemona, nicknamed “Dez,” a were-tigress who is hired to assassinate Angel, but decides to double-cross her employer and set Angel up to  take the fall.  Dez makes a strong impression as soon as she is introduced, in large part because she practices the “Valkyrie Wilde” method of self-defense (if you’re naked, the bad guys won’t be able to pick up their jaws in time to shoot you,) and though Dez is naked a lot, she’s usually tastefully obscured or just flat-out missing the Rated-R details. While Kelley Armstrong is doing a decent job blending horror, drama and humor in that uniquely Angel way, Dave Ross it taking the book’s art style back to the early days of Image Comics.  Angel is built like a muscle magazine cover model, and the ladies who are clothed look trashier and more Barbie-ish than they have in previous series.  It’s a style, to be sure, but it may not be a style that fits the material.  Next issue promises to be rather interesting, at least.  Its subtitle is “Girls Rock!” and it is set to feature Dez, Kate, Gwen, and possibly even another long-lost cast member.

Johnny Monster #2 (of 3)

Johnny Monster #2 (of 3)

I’ve always felt that three-part stories are worst in the middle (The Empire Strikes Back notwithstanding) and Johnny Monster #2 falls into the usual middle-act trap.  While the opening 2-page splash is fantastic and helps to draw the reader in to the story (and the backstory helps helps things make a bit more sense) the actual advancement in plot is as cliche and easy to see coming as that of a 1990s Saturday morning cartoon.  This fits entirely into the charm of the series, however, so I won’t begrudge Joshua Williamson until after I’ve read the third and final issue.  J.C. Grande’s artwork is sharp and clean in a cartoony style (though I think the print quality on my copy may be less-than-perfect, as some pages seemed a bit blurry) and the monster-fighting scenes alone are worth the book’s price.  It really is a shame that children’s television has fallen by the wayside, because Johnny Monster would’ve fit right in with the likes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Dino Riders.

Night of the Living Dead: New York

Night of the Living Dead: New York

WARNING: DO NOT pick up John Russo, Mike Wolfer and Fabio Jansen’s Night of the Living Dead: New York one-shot from Avatar Press.  Instead, walk straight to the trade paperback aisle of your local comic shop or bookstore and buy the first volume of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead.  It may be a little bit more expensive, but you’ll actually get a story worth reading that attempts to rise above the cliches of zombie stories rather than using them as a playbook.  I did not find a single thing about this comic’s story to be compelling, and was barely able to identify the characters, let alone identify with them.  The action moves so fast that characters are never properly established, and only the vaguest thread of cohesion connects the scenes together.  In each one, people run arund confused, then hide somewhere, then get horribly killed.  Anything else that might make for a good story is sacrificed for the sake of more scenes of people running scared and dying gruesomely.  The zombies also don’t follow the traditional Romero mold (despite the comic’s title.)  They are apparently clever and coordinated enough to pick up and throw objects, and to know that plate glass will shatter if you throw something through it.  The ending scene (where zombies are holding up severed heads on Liberty Island in a bizarre mockery of the Statue of Liberty) didn’t make a lick of sense.  The only positive thing I will say about the comic is that Fabio Jansen does an excellent job drawing this twisted, pointless tale.  Unfortunately, a bad movie in 1080p HD is still a bad movie, and a bad comic drawn by Fabio Jansen and published by Avatar is still a bad comic.  Seriously, steer clear of this one.

Spider-Man Noir #4 (of 4)

Spider-Man Noir #4 (of 4)

Without a doubt, my favorite comic of the week is Spider-Man Noir #4.  While the mini-series may have quickly jumped genres from noir to pulp horror/action back in issue #2, it succeeds far better at being a compelling story than it would if it were strictly tied to noir elements (and Spider-Man Pulp wouldn’ t have sounded as cool.)  It really is a testament to David Hine and Fabrice Sapolsky’s writing talents that they can take a scene where Spider-Man shoots Vulture to death before he can kill and eat Aunt May and make it feel exactly like a traditional Spider-Man story.  The fact that books like this and Steven Grant’s What If? Spider-Man: Back in Black can so perfectly capture the essence of what makes Spider-Man stories so great while the actual issues of Amazing Spider-Man are completely missing the mark both amazes and disappoints me.  Carmine Di Giandomenico’s artwork is compelling and dramatic, and much clearer and easier to follow than Dennis Calero’s work in X-Men Noir, which helps to illustrate just how much more pulp than noir this Spider-Man story is.  A fantastic read, and definitely worth picking up in its inevitable trade paperback.  I only hope that the rest of the Marvel Noir series will be as entertaining as the first two have been.

Rich Johnstons Watchmensch

Rich Johnston's Watchmensch

Finally, we round out this week’s crop with Watchmensch, a parody of the comics and film industries and their oft-shady collaborations (and, of course, of Watchmen) written by comicdom’s most famous columnist, Lying in the Gutters‘ Rich Johnston and illustrated by Simon Rohrmuller.  It starts off as a slow, deliberate parody of specific panels of Watchmen, with many of the characters being replaced with prominent Hollywood executives or lawyers.  Ozymandias is Ozzyosbourne, Dr. Manhattan is 1700 Broadway (the address of DC Comics), Moloch is Murphoch (Don Murphy, producer of Transformers and LXG) etc.   The story doesn’t really get funny until the end, where a 1,000 foot Alan Moore clone is dropped on the Watchmen premiere, killing everyone in the comics-to-film industry and ushering in a new era for creators’ rights.  This is definitely a niche comic, designed for people who A) Have read Watchmen several times, and B) Know the details of how Alan Moore has been treated unfairly by DC Comics and Warner Bros. for the past twenty-some years.  Rich is kind enough to include a historical context page toward the end of the book that provides a brief history of Moore’s troubles, but those who didn’t know about these things wouldn’t stick around long enough to reach it.  As a series of jabs at DC Comics, Warner Bros. and other assorted parties, Watchmensch is a snarktastic success.  As a comic retailing for #3.99, it just isn’t worth the money.

Well, that’s about it for this week.  It feels good to be posting again, and hopefully I’ll be able to finally put up my Atomic Robo Vol. 2 review later today.  Thanks for reading!

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