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Can't See the Forest #45-46
Reviewed by Alan J. Porter, © 2005

Format: Comics
Review Date:   September 29, 2005

Dead Men Tell No Tales #1 (Arcana)
By Dwight McPherson & Mike Fiorentino / Fernando Acosta

Great — a book about pirates is back on the shelves. We need good pirate comics. Unfortunately this isn’t one. From the typos on the first page, and on to the shots of a ship looking like it’s only crewed by four people (I guess someone doesn’t like drawing crowd scenes), to the incompressible story, this is a mess. I gave up about halfway through.

Ghost Rider #1 (Marvel)
By Garth Ennis & Clayton Crain

Yet another attempt to re-launch the Ghost Rider franchise in anticipation of the upcoming movie. Perhaps this six-issue series is an attempt to see if there is sufficient interest in the character to justify an on-going series to coincide with the theatrical release. Whatever the reason for releasing this series at this time, it falls short as an engaging piece of storytelling and is not likely to appeal to anyone outside of die-hard Ghost Rider fans (are there any of those?). In fact the title character only appears here in a few panels of flashback as others talk about him. The main story revolves around two angelic types having a conversation while perched on a skyscraper in New York. It’s full of typical Ennis references to various demonic hordes and prophecies. The art by Crain is flashy without being spectacular.

The Hire #3 (Dark Horse)
By Mark Waid & Claude St. Aubin

In the spirit of the BMW short movies featuring Clive Owen as the mysterious “driver”, these books tell short stories by different creators. Mark Waid tells a at times amusing story as The Driver tries to find out why a group of gun-wielding thugs are so interested in his apparently non-descript passenger. St Aubin’s work suffers from an obvious misunderstanding of vehicle dynamics that plagues many comics artists. Overall it’s a reasonable book, but not one to generate any excitement or interest in picking up the rest of the books in the series.

JSA Classified #3 (DC)
By Geoff Johns & Amanda Conner

This new JSA spin-off series is incredibly popular at the moment and the first and second issues have gone through multiple printings, but this is the first issue I’ve picked up (mainly because it also featured The Huntress). I’m not sure what happened in the previous two issues, beyond that Power Girl seems to be having some sort of personal identity crisis following a recent JSA trip through time. In this issue she seeks out The Huntress in the hope of having someone to talk to about here problems. The Huntress seems an odd choice, but Power Girl’s reasoning is well explained. The first half of the book is an enjoyable old-fashioned “team-up” style romp of the heroes beating up the bad guys while indulging in snappy conversation. The second half focuses on Power Girl’s problems and included references to her many different possible origins, which can quickly become confusing even to a reader with a fair knowledge of her convoluted history in the DCU.

The Pulse #11 (Marvel)
By Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos

The cover gives the idea that this issue will include the birth of Jessica Jones’s child and have an appearance by the New Avengers. Well, none of that happens. Instead we get what appears to be two unrelated storylines (that I’m sure will converge in the not too distant future). The main story is basically 13 pages of Jessica Jones having a conversation with Sue Richards and Carol Danvers on the concerns of being a superhero and a parent. This section displays Bendis’ skill at dialog and human observation, but does little to develop the characters. The rest focuses on reporter Ben Urich following a story that involves ex-Avenger D-Man and a jewelry store robbery. Overall a disappointing and disjointed read.

Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle #1 (DC)
By Grant Morrison & Pasqual Ferry

Grant Morrison tackles a Jack Kirby creation in the latest segment of his Seven Soldiers “mega-series.” This isn’t the Mr. Miracle you expect; for a start it isn’t Scott Free but an escape artist named Shilo Norman, who has all the trappings of a rock star. During an escape stunt using an artificial black hole this Mister Miracle encounters the mysterious Metron and gets a glimpse of the worlds of the New Gods. Once back in his own “reality” things are no longer what they might appear to be. This mini-series shows a lot of promise and has the potential to be some of the best work I’ve seen from Morrison in a long time.

Strangers In Paradise #76 (Abstract)
By Terry Moore

Terry Moore is back on form as at long last he brings the key players in his on-going drama back together. From moments of pure comedy to moments of high emotional impact, he once again shows his skill in playing with human drama. If, like me, you haven’t read SiP in a while then this is the issue with which to reacquaint yourself with Francine, Katchoo, David and the rest of the crowd. Reading this issue was like meeting up with old friends again.

Supreme Power: Hyperion #1 (Marvel / MAX)
By J. Michael Straczynski & Dan Jurgens

The start of this five-part mini series focusing on the Supreme Power protagonist is basically little more than a “gathering of the players” episode as a new team of government controlled “supers” is assembled to act as a control against Hyperion. But these new guys have some serious social issues. The combination of JMS’s dark take on the superhero mythos combined with Jurgen’s traditional pencil style adds a layer of irony to an already complex tale.

Thor Blood Oath #1 (Marvel)
By Michael Avon Oeming and Scott Kolins

After a few months absence from the comic shop shelves it was good to see the God of Thunder once again. Opening the book I was even more delighted to find out within a few pages that this was the classic Thor in action. A Thor whose alter-ego was still crippled surgeon Don Blake. The opening pages of him in action among the canyons of New York were an exercise in pure nostalgia. The summoning to the halls of Asgard where among the best and most logical I’ve read in any Thor saga, but once the story moves into the realms of mythology it seems to lose its drive. The motivation of Thor in aligning with an accused Warriors Three is too rash and out of character. The way they are tricked into the quest that will be the main story for this six-issue mini-series also seems too easy. I hope that there is more going on than seems evident in this first issue, otherwise it will just be another oh-hum quest story of the type we’ve seen hundreds of times before.

Ultimate Fantastic Four Annual #1 (Marvel)
By Mark Millar & Jae Lee

This is basically an exercise to introduce The Inhumans into Marvel’s alternative “Ultimate” universe. As such I found it to be a confusing tale which did little to convey the intrinsic nobility of The Inhumans. Jae Lee’s muddy art style and the continuous “fog like” backgrounds were, in my opinion, a mismatch for this particular subject. An opportunity wasted.

Picks Of The Week

Fell #1 (Image)
By Warren Ellis & Ben Templesmith

This new book is Ellis’s self-proclaimed attempt to produce “a slab of culture” at pocket change pricing. The concept is to produce a comic with a self-contained story each issue while fitting into a larger overall story. One that is densely told and can be understood on its own terms. This opening issue introduces the main character, police detective Richard Fell and the city of Snowtown, a place with a mysterious past. In typical Ellis style the strange murder that he solves is based on a true case and given his own inimitable twist. This is Ellis back on form, the best thing he has done since Transmetropolitan, and in Templesmith he has found the perfect artist to delineate the strangeness of the settings and the quirkiness of his characters. By keeping the story to 16 pages and employing a rigid nine-panel page device Ellis succeeds in his aim to tell a gripping tale with a defined beginning, middle and end. The backup text pages give depth to the series and its aims. With a cover price of just $1.99 and no ads interrupting the flow of the story, this is what the modern comic book should be. I’ll be following this series closely and hope that it’s successful enough to encourage some other publishers to take a long hard look at how their books are structured.

Green Lantern Corps: Recharge #1 (DC)
By Geoff Johns, Dave Gibbons & Patrick Gleason

There is something abut the underlying concept of the Green Lantern that I’ve always found to be vaguely ridiculous, and it's always put me off reading any book about the solo GL’s on a consistent basis. However, when there’s a bunch of them together it’s a different story, and characterization and group dynamics can overcome any problems with the basic premise. So Green Lantern Corps was a regular read for me and I was delighted to see it back on the shelf, especially with one of my favorite creators, self-confessed GL aficionado Dave Gibbons attached. Ideally I’d have like to have seen him tackle this project as a solo writer / artist, but we can’t have everything. This first issue is a basic “gathering of the heroes” lead-in to the formation of a new Corps and as such works well. Old favorites returned and some intriguing new characters were established. Personally I’ll be back to keep a check on what they get up to over the coming months.

Alan J. Porter is comics editor for RevolutionSF. Review copies were supplied by Austin Books & Comics.

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