Into the longbox

This is long overdue.

Badger Saves the World #1, Baron and Caron. I liked this much better than Badger: Bull in terms of presenting the Badger. There’s more space to breathe and a little more time to let readers ease into his world. The art still isn’t my cup of tea. It seems a little cramped and much less dynamic than I think the Badger needs.

While the pacing is better, things still seem a little uneven. There’s a Badger vs. demon battle that feels tacked on and rushed, as if to show that Badger’s not just crazy. Without room to change tone, it just feels confusing.

Overall, I’d still send people to the back issue bin to see the Badge at his best. Boy I’d love to see a set of Badger reprints like Grimjack and Jon Sable have been getting.

Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #3-4, Palmiotti, Gray, and Arlem. This one’s still in guilty pleasure land. I do continue to like the art, though it isn’t always simple to follow. It is stylish and matches the tenor and pace of the story, which are considerable plusses.

The writing is more troubling. Every issue seems to add a subplot to the mix without resolving any of the existing danglers, which is a little alarming for a half-over 8-issue mini. I do like the consistent nods to the complexities of the real world, but that isn’t really enough characterization. I guess I’d prefer less going on and more characterization – or even more spectacular punch-ups – to rushed characterization and new subplots. It’s still a fun read, though.

Gravel #0, Ellis, Wolfer & Caceres. Beginning of a new series featuring Warren Ellis’s combat magician. Bought more or less on a lark. So far there’s plenty of Grim’n’grtitty dialogue, but not much beyond that. Gravel’s had a run of mini-series and hasn’t died out, so I’ll stick around a while to see what’s here, but this issue was not anything very special.

Black Summer #4, Ellis & Ryp. Very clearly a pacer issue. Several pieces of the chess game move to new positions, but very little happens in terms other than plot. A bunch of ordinance and people are destroyed by the Guns, John Horus shows he’s a bad ass, and Frank Blacksmith is moving new Guns into position. All well and good, but no one will ever say this is their favorite issue of Black Summer.

Captain America #33, Brubaker, Epting, Guice, and D’armata. Like Black Summer above, this is mostly pacing and plot. Bucky mixes it up with Iron Man and a surprise twist that’s only minimally surprising is revealed. I know why Brubaker needs to incorporate the twist, but the real test will be if this book remains readable after it’s added.

Grendel: Behold the Devil #2-3 (of 8), Wagner. Matt’s getting readers into Hunter’s world at a reasonable pace, though it’s starting to take a toll on his characters. As they start to see what goes on in Grendel’s operatic world, it’s difficult to ccntinue to see it as a game. Unless you’re Hunter, of course. For me it’s interesting to see these characters again, but I wonder how new readers are seeing this whole thing unfold.

Will Eisner’s The Spirit #12, Cooke, Bone & Stewart. Looks like we’re not done with Cooke and Co., and I couldn’t be happier. Another updating of an Eisner character where the team does an excellent job keeping the emotional resonances intact while updating the action for the modern reader. That story is so strong, and the updating done with such care, that this remains classic stuff.

Doktor Sleepless #4, Eisner & Rodriguez. Now, this is the way to keep the pot bubbling. We learn some more about the Nurse, there’s an interlude with the Doktor complaining about the state of music today, and then some strange rumblings of badness to come. Each segment is spooky, oblique and raises more questions than it answer.

Looking at the big stack of comics I’m reviewing I was struck by how clean Rodriguez’s art is and how well he tells the story. There are plenty of subtleties to the art, repeating visual motifs, hints in the backs of panels, and such, but his art never looks cramped or busy. It’s art that so well done that it’s easy to miss.

And what can you say about a series that features disemboweling as a repeating motif? Good stuff.

Fell #9, Ellis & Templesmith. While one of the joys and goals of Fell is that each issue tells a complete story, that doesn’t mean that its world is static. This is another great issue in itself, with a tense plot and unusual crime to unravel, but the real tension comes from seeing the long term effects on Richard Fell. It’s becoming clear from both the issue itself and the backmatter that things will be changing more for detective Fell in the coming issues, and it also seems clear that this will not be a pleasant experience. For anyone.

Except, of course, those of us reading about it. Grab the trade paperback and then join in.

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