Capsule Reviews: Week of February 15th

Joe the Barbarian #2 (Vertigo; Morrison, Murphy, Stewart, Klein)

All hail Chakk.

Hear that? That’s the sound of a possibly awesome book becoming completely awesome. Grant Morrison turns in part two of a story that is rapidly turning into something I wouldn’t have expected from him. While there’s lots of little detail and callbacks to the first issue for the careful reader, those minutia never overwhelm the characters or pacing.

The task of getting those callbacks across often falls to the art, and it fails to disappoint. All those long establishing images of Joe’s house in the first issue that drew semi-critical ire elsewhere suddenly become very important. Sean Murphy’s style and vision settle in a bit and Joe’s world starts to clarify without losing its surrealistic quality. We’re also introduced to another central character, Chakk, the fantasy avatar of Joe’s real-life pet rat Jack. I found Chakk instantly endearing. Claymore-wielding rat-knights? Right up my alley. Vertigo can just go ahead and make a retail statue of him now, I’m good for it.

If you’re not reading this already, start.

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Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D. #6 (Marvel; Bendis, Maleev, Petit)

Make with the blasty.

I’m guessing Bendis decided our heroine had enough mental trauma for the first five books, as issue six is delightfully uncomplicated: Jessica and the Thunderbolts fight. Atlanta burns. You get the idea.

That doesn’t in any way diminish the ride, however, as it’s a pretty fun fight. Ghost gets his ass kicked, Headsman really gets his ass kicked, Ant-Man is snarky, Yelena is annoyed, and Paladin… doesn’t really do anything, now that I think about it. And Jessica is generally awesome throughout.

I get the feeling, out of context, that we’re waiting for all the Siege stuff to be done with before Bendis really moves on with the character, which is understandable. As long as the fights are good, the dialog is fun, and the art remains especially pretty, I don’t mind killing time with Spider-Woman.

As long as she leaves the serious Ghost beatdown to Tony and Pepper, that is. A man’s got his limits.

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Hit-Monkey (Marvel; Way, Talijic, Hollingsworth, Eckleberry)

The Banana Transporter

I’ll admit it right up front: Marvel had my four bucks when I saw the Frank Cho cover preview.

This came out last week, and I thought it deserved at least a few words. I wasn’t prepared, though, for just how straight the concept was played; I sat on it for a week pondering how to approach it. In my defense, the ‘I’ in the logo is replaced with a banana, so I don’t think I can be faulted for expecting something a little more… maybe not wacky, but at least funny. What I got instead was an almost straight-line action/crime comic that just happens to involve a pack of snow monkeys.

There’s nothing outright wrong with it. The script is solid and the art is right in style for the genre. I have to give Way credit for taking the concept so seriously. It works for a one-shot, but if there’s ever to be more Hit-Monkey, I don’t know that the literal take will prove to be sustainable. I’m both glad I got it and not sure what to do with it now that I have it. I won’t be surprised if we never see it again.

Also, in an opinion that truly does not matter, I think I liked the whole concept better when it was called Hitman Monkey. C’est la vie.

Short Notes for This Week

…so, yeah, Chad has been holding down the fort while I’ve been dealing with a cyst in my foot and the corresponding difficulty getting around, but now I’ve got some sort of cold on top of it and can’t breathe very well. In no particular order, then, some short notes on this week:

  • I read Hit-Monkey. It didn’t particularly offend me, but I’m rather wary of Daniel Way’s tendency to overcomplicate nice, clean premises. Art’s great, though.
  • The last Phonogram: The Singles Club is out now. Gillen and McKelvie say it’s the last Phonogram ever, and I’m sad to see it go. I’d like to do a proper review and eulogy for the bastard child of Charles de Lint and Lester Bangs, but that’ll have to wait until I can reliably breathe through my nose again.
  • There’s a preview in the back of Hit-Monkey for Louise Simonson’s X-Factor Forever, which is Simonson picking the title up where she left off in the 1990s. I know better than to buy X-books that are just pitched at the nostalgia demographic, but damned if I don’t like seeing Scott, Jean, and Baby Nathan Christopher all smiles again. The life of a 30something X-fan is fraught with such dilemmas.
  • On the upside, whatever else is going on in X-Factor Forever, it probably doesn’t involve gratuitous mind control plotlines. I also don’t expect much “BDSM imagery as metaphor for inherent spiritual corruption.” Ahem.
  • S.W.O.R.D. #4 has snouty!Beast and snouty!UNIT, as well as a scene that must’ve made letterer Dave Lanphear rue the day he signed on with Gillen’s disreputable outfit. So much love.
  • We were totally going to pick up Hellblazer: Pandemonium today. Really. A Delano/Jock Hellblazer book is up everyone in the Department’s alley… so, of course, our store was totally sold out when we got there. Congratulations, Jamie and Jock, I think you’ve got a hit on your hands.
  • BPRD: King of Fear #2 has a Kate Corrigan A-plot, and I love me some Kate Corrigan. I’m convinced her current relationship is doomed– assuming her boyfriend doesn’t get jumped into the BPRD the way people in Charlie Stross’s Bob Howard books get jumped into the Laundry– but such is the way of the Hellboy universe.
  • Mark Waid’s conducting an eloquent defense of Captain America (in light of today’s Tea Party controversy) over on Twitter.
  • I’ve got the last issue of Strange and the third Daytripper here, too. Not up to reading them tonight.

Again, sorry for my absence. I am still aiming for Understanding Comics on Friday if at all possible, now that I’m not hobbling around snarfing down Darvocet like a cut-rate Dr. House. (Not that that wasn’t entertaining on some levels.)