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Monday, February 28, 2005

Remarks on recent comics (2005.02.27)

Catching up on reading a few of the stapley-type comics I got recently.

ROB HANES #6 - #7 - Got the two most recent issues of Randy Reynaldo's self-published book, featuring Rob Hanes, globe-trotting agent for Justice International. With these issues Reynaldo has gone back to doing single issue stories, with a focus on humour as well as adventure. It works perfectly in #6, "The Hunt For Octavius Jebru", where Rob and partner Abner McKenna are sent on a mission in Paris to find a missing scientist, which leads to the old favourite chase on the ski-slopes, while a sub-plot deals with his company trying to cut costs. An excellent adventure story in just 20 pages. #7 features "Death on the Moors", which has a mystery set around a dinner party at a mansion. Didn't work quite as well, with a few takes on cliched "dying clues" that didn't work, but it had some nice character bits and other bits of humour, as well as Reynaldo's usual entertaining artwork. In the back of this issue he also includes various pages of unused material that are entertaining, such as samples pages he did for Eisner's Spirit back when they were publishing that SPIRIT: NEW ADVENTURES book (very nice looking pages, I hope they consider him if they ever revive that).

JACK STAFF v2 #6 - #7 - Still enjoying Paul Grist's version of a British super-hero universe quite a bit. He's tossed in a whole bunch of new characters recently (to the point that he's actually started running a scorecard, in the form of the "trading cards" he's been running in the middle of each issue), all of which are fun, but a bit irritating at the same time as they take the focus away from the fun main characters. Anyway, he stays imaginative in his storytelling style as well, I thought one thing that worked especially well in the most recent issue was the dream sequences. Dreams are always kind of tricky to portray in comics, and he did an interesting job of it.

SEVEN SOLDIERS #0 - I picked this up, even though I've never really read anything from Grant Morrison I liked. J.H. Williams art looked nice, though, and there's a big chunk of it in here, 38 pages of story for only $3 (I'm not sure why Morrison comics seem to be singled out for this kind of almost-reasonable pricing). The art is indeed nice, so I can't really complain. Williams is sometimes a bit too fond of "clever" page layout and sometimes does some odd rendering (at times it feels like each character in a page is drawn by a different artist as each has a different rendering technique, generally lifted from another artist who's done "iconic" work in the "archetype" they represent). The story, well, hasn't changed my mind on Morrison in general, although parts of it were mildly entertaining. He grabs a bunch of DC trademarks not in use for a while, throws them together in various ways, with either the original characters, characters related to the originals or what I guess are all-new characters with the same names. It doesn't matter much, since (without giving away the ending) there's a reason none of the characters that gather in this book are headlining any of the "Seven Soldiers" mini-series that follow.

As I said, parts were good. Having read too many comics as a kid, I kind of got a kick out of the oblique references to things like Solomon Grundy's origin, or the JLA/JSA crossover that brought back the original Seven Soldiers (whose membership now, it seems, despite my memories, included an archer not named Green Arrow. I think he was replaced by the father of this new Spider/Spyder character, but I wasn't clear on that), and even a reference to the mystic Seven that guided Dr. Occult (made me wonder if Morrison was disappointed that Sovereign Seven wasn't owned by DC and therefore unavailable). It was almost sad how many of those I got, really, though I hope that there were some I missed.

But overall I just didn't feel any real excitement about the story, and thought it was a trifle mean-spirited in a lot of places (and not in the good way that I'd usually mean), pretentious in others, and just had an aura of pointlessness. I probably won't pick up any of the mini-series taking off from this, though I might pick up the last chapter if it looks this pretty and is this cheap.

USAGI YOJIMBO #79 - #81 - Stan Sakai has been working on single issue stories for the last little while, alternating the focus on Usagi to various supporting characters. So if you've never tried the book, any of the recent issues are a nice place to start to get a feel for Sakai's storytelling abilities. I especially liked #80, "When Rabbits Fly", which reminded me a lot of the first few years of the book. In this one Usagi meets an inventor trying to come up with a flying device. Sakai always manages to come up with inventive twists to these storylines, and backs it up with some excellent layouts on the action scenes.

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