Tuesday, January 8, 2008

What I Bought Last Week

I know that this is the day most people tend to put up their "What I'm buying tomorrow" notes. Since I'm a maverick who plays by his own rules, I will instead put up my reviews of last week's stuff!*

LAST WEEK IN REVIEW - Here's an Ellis, There's an Ellis, And Another Little Ellis, Fuzzy Ellis, Funny Ellis, Ellis Ellis, JOSS

SPOILERS! Avert Your Eyes!

Four Warren Ellis comics in one week with just one Joss Whedon chaser? God help me. I may as well just ingest massive amounts of peyote and then try to read Wired while orally pleasuring a Suicide Girl.
. . . which actually sounds like a pleasant weekend. But I digress.

Gravel #1 - Warren Ellis & Mike Wolfer & Raulo Caceres - B-
William Gravel is a combat magician. This means that he is essentially like John Constantine with Rambo's job description. In this opening issue, he comes back to England from a long hard mission of killing Taliban (much in the manner of a particularly homicidal Invisible Woman), only to find somebody's taken his job. He proceeds to investigate why and how, causing bloodshed and one-liners to ensue.

I've been familiar with the character because I've read his appearances in previous wacky romps: Strange Kiss, Stranger Kisses and Strange Killings - the first of which (if memory serves) had a man with an STD that caused geckos to exit his urethra. Yes, it's that kind of Ellis comic. This is the ongoing adventure of the man who kills people bloody to save the Earth, and specifically England, from dark ugly things that make geckos come out of your pee hole and eat people.

I didn't think much of the issue in comparison to earlier reads with Gravel. Comparatively, it's a trifle subdued. Maybe I'm just numbed to the sight of heads exploding and knifes through flesh from previous comics from British people. Still, while I didn't think the opener was as much of a huge grab as it could have been for new readers, I'm willing to give the series time to build up speed.

Ultimate Human #1 - Warren Ellis & Cary Nord - A

This is the good stuff. Mad Science crackling with a whiff of destruction on the wind.

Magnificent bastard Ultimate Tony Stark gets asked for help from the neurotic people-eating mess that is Ultimate Bruce Banner in controlling the Hulk with Tony's own blood. Tony says yes because he's a decent soul and also, he's bored. They decide to go to Tony's superbase in New Mexico because Warren Ellis loves the American Southwest it's so deserted and full of cool mad science gizmos to test the Hulk. Ultimate Peter Wisdom/Leader appears, much to my glee and amazement, making evil plans in England to get a hold of everybody's blood - which turn out to just be the cherry on the sundae as Hulk goes bonkers past Stark's safety levels and prepares to SMASH.

There's going to be a lot of hitting in issue 2. I am enthused, people. Of course, I was enthused about Ultimate Hulk Vs. Wolverine but hey, this is Ellis, not some fly-by-night TV writer. The man's probably written out the whole thing months ago, come down with yet another obscure English plague that made him spit up blood and then sent in a few dialog revisions while he recuperated by drinking scotch that's older than I am.

I'm going to be sad when he dies.

Doktor Sleepless #4 - Warren Ellis & Ivan Rodriguez - A

The art is lovely. I rarely say this but I wish this comic was bigger, just to catch every little detail of tattoos or mad science no bigger than an iPod. Ellis' dialog is grand too, giving us hints of that old Transmetropolitan "the future is beautifully fucked" operatic discourse. Of course, whereas Transmet was "the future is seedy and ugly but look, we can make something good of it", I get the reverse feeling from this one. More of "Somebody made our future seedy and ugly, let's stab people to feel better about it".

Which isn't a bad thing, mind you.

Thunderbolts #118 - Waren Ellis & Mike Deodato - A+

I rarely give out the A+ grade but I just noticed that they put an Emily Dickinson poem on the recap page. C'mon, dudes. I gotta give it up for Dickinson.

I love this comic. I don't know much about the background of these characters, other than Penance, Osbourne, Doc Samson and Venom, but Ellis has made it so you haven't really needed to. Given his disdain for thought bubbles, I wondered how he was going to tell a story about telepaths taking the team apart from the inside-out. The answer is a bunch of hallucinations that the reader sees as real as the characters. It's an effective, trippy strategy that makes me eager to see what happens in the brains of the more well-adjusted characters like Songbird, Radioactive Man and the sociopathic but rock-steady Moonstone.

Things I also loved include
- Penance getting further Good Will Hunting treatment from Doc Samson. It's nice to see Robbie being told that Stanford could have happened to anybody and Doc Samson not acting like a douche (see Hulk, Planet).
(Anybody ever notice how Marvel's the only company with all the good, helpful therapists? Doc Samson and Emma Frost aren't that many, I suppose, but with Harely Quinn, Scarecrow and Dr. Hugo Strange running around Gotham City alone . . . well, I'm just saying I'm not going to the DCU for therapy. Yes, I know about Doctor Faustus. And that Moonstone herself is a therapist. You know what? Shut up.)
- Venom eating people. I'm a sick, sad man.
- The anti-Thunderbolt posters being snuck into a page or two. It's nice to see all the "real world" reaction shots in each issue. Nothing will top "Stabbity Jones" sharing a panel with Stan Lee, however.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer #10
- Joss Whedon & Cliff Richards - B

I wanted to like this one a lot more than I actually did.

This was the issue in which the winner of a contest got to have their face and name immortalized in a Joss Whedon story. I read the story of the winning entry and it melted my dark, cold heart, so I was looking forward to this issue pretty darn eagerly. This is why I feel like the Grinch kicking a puppy just saying I liked it but I didn't love it.

The crux of the story is that Willow and Buffy have to face a demon who lives inbetween realities and delights in showing them how dishonest they've been to one another. We learn what really happened to make Dawn huge, how Buffy's funding the feeding and clothing of a bajillion teenage girls and where Kennedy's been this whole time. Very exposition-y, if pretty to look at.

The major problem I had was that the story cuts don't add to the story so much as make an already confusing tale more confusing. When you've got multiple realities, foreshadowing and flashback revelations, cutting to Dawn & Xander seems almost superfluous.

Also, at one point, Buffy sees Willow schtupping a snake-like demoness and gets surprisingly judgmental. Whatever, you blonde necrophiliac hussy. :P
(One of the things I loved about watching Buffy when it was on air was how, after Buffy lost her virginity to a dead guy and Willow regularly schtupped a werewolf, what got the Christian Right-Wingers outraged was that Willow dared have lesbian sex with a pretty blonde girl. Ah, good times. Good times.)

I wish I'd started this blog earlier, so I could have kvetched about how the otherwise awesome Faith storyline seemed to ignore all the personal steps towards redemption that Faith had made in Angel and Buffy S7 . . . but maybe that's just me being persnickety. Meh.

*Note: My own rules have not been completely formulated yet. I've only had this blog for like a month, people. Get off my freakin' back already. Jesus.

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