Three cheers for last week's books!

*EDIT (12/22/04, 12:16 AM): Uh-oh! Look what I forgot! LAST WEEK'S REVIEWS!!!

A Story About Collectin’!, Redbird Vol. 1 #1, VS. (Redbird 1.5), Insomnia, Horace (a rather large batch of minicomics reviews!)

Shaolin Cowboy #1 Vol. 54

The Return of Shadowhawk #1 (of 1)

Ok. I'm going to tie a string around my finger...

*It’s reviews like this that provide my motive for not actually purchasing books like “Identity Crisis” and simply following the action on the Internet. Quite a lot of reviews have boiled down to “Gosh that was stupid,” but rarely with this much wit. Enjoy!

*OMG LATEST CONTEST: Mike is giving away a copy of the latest "Swamp Thing" trade, because he is the Internet King of Swamp Thing. You must e-mail him and tell him why you want the book, but you must do it in less than 25 words. I bet a nice piece of "Swamp Thing" flash-fiction will go a long way...

*I finished buying and reading the things that were out last week, and bought a lot of other things out of the Special Box of Value, but today we’ll just look at things you’ll have a risk of finding without much inquiry.

Metal Hurlant #14

Well, I was quite wrong: “Lucha Libre” is returning in issue #15, not this one. On the plus side, Jean-Pierre Dionnet’s recommendations column is back, highlighting more comics and illustration and ephemera books that everyone might be interested in. The early 20th century illustration review “Images” looks particularly neat (site here); I must have run into this before in one of Bud Plant’s catalogs. It looks great, but individual issues (now up to 44 pages) are awfully pricey at $20 (in the US) after postage, though they’re all limited editions of 2000 and I’m sure the reproduction quality is high. The two black and while annuals at $25 are over 100 pages, and probably a better deal. I may look into one of those.

Elsewhere in the issue, Jerry Frissen and Guy Davis’ “The Zombies that Ate the World” features romantic tension, as Freddie the Belgian pines for Maggie, who’s infatuated with a hipster musician who’s decided to kill himself on stage to become a zombie (which, as we all know, is much cooler than being alive these days). It looks like only emergency amateur brain surgery (with a little help from Communism) can win the day for our beloved non-heroes. The characters are distinctly awful individuals, the exploration of a post-zombie society is wholly flippant, and there’s no sight of a deeper theme, but it’s brisk, energetic fun, and Davis is one of my personal favorites these days. Even the other continuing serial, Stefano Raffaele’s “Fragile”, manages to be fairly entertaining this time around. Semi-zombies Alan and Lynn are very much in love, despite missing arms and pallid complexions. The two encounter a lovely lady with a secret and unfortunate connection to Alan’s past, but all is naturally not what it seems. Everyone learns a nice lesson about respecting others’ differences and someone puts a fist through the back of a zombie’s skull. Above average for the serial.

There’s also a special prologue for Adrian A. Cruz and Marc Riou’s “Seed” (which has just recently debuted in France). Cruz is apparently a new writer, but that doesn’t quite excuse the typical plot, using the trials and ultimate death of the young female lead as fuel for characterization between a pair of hazily defined men (presumable the hero and villain of the main story). You see, some time ago an errant Demon fathered a whole slew of superhuman children around the globe; now those kids are reaching maturity and the sinister Talbot, himself one of the Seeds, wants to recruit them all into an army to conquer the lowly humans or something sufficiently reminiscent of Magneto. His pal Solomon is uncertain about the whole deal, and has fallen in love with the lovely (and unaware) Victoria. But Talbot has no time for such games, and orchestrates the unlocking of Victoria’s powers, in effect forcing her to kill all of her best friends. She gets really mad at this, and spends a year tracking Talbot, who lures her into a huge library, and Victoria, who loves books, can’t bring herself to unleash her still-uncontrollable power and destroy all that knowledge. So Talbot stabs her to death and Solomon is like really pissed because Talbot just totally killed his chick and that’s the end. Riou’s art is pretty decent, reminiscent of David Lloyd in its use of hard black lines and heavy shadow, but its not doing much to elevate this far too typical sort of plot.

As for the one-offs, there’s two cool little stories and one less accomplished bit. Jim Alexander and Gerald Parel present an Old West tale of a seemingly superhuman surgeon whose amazing abilities have bestowed a type of immortality on the residents of the town, which quickly becomes the shootout capital of the US once word gets out. Jim Macdonald and D-Pi (illustrator and album cover artist) craft a tale of a heroin addict who discovers that he gains a secret power when he overdoses. He then uses his amazing abilities to score more drugs. But drugs are bad, kids. Don’t do them. Finally, Stephane Levallois offers, well, pretty much the first thing that still springs to mind when you think of “Metal Hurlant”: a dark future where machines have gone mad and an epic war and a Chosen Hero. Only this time it’s all over in 8 pages. And if you can’t guess the twist ending about three pages in you’ll have to go to comics summer school.

So there’s only two particularly weak entries this issue, and the rest range from highly enjoyable to at least pleasantly distracting. It’s a lot of stuff, and generally amusing stuff for a low price, which a high level of visual polish across the board (even the weaker stories here at least look quite good). And you’d think that a thick, glossy, low-priced collection of genre material would be selling better than this, but that’s the mystery of the Direct Market.

Ocean #3 (of 6)

Some interesting material this issue, as Weapons Inspector Kane investigates the mysterious Jupiter outpost of the monolithic Doors Corporation. Most Doors employees have long since had their free will overridden to transform their brains into repositories for mandatory corporate memorandums and tasks, downloaded directly into their brains by the Station Manager, who himself is receiving orders downloaded from a more prominent outpost’s authority, and so on and so on. It’s a fun idea, and naturally things are starting to go wrong, which only makes such ideas even more fun, provided that everything advances in an interesting way (at least as based on what information we’ve been given). It seems that certain parties are planning to take a stand in favor of the Free Market, regardless of the danger posed to anyone; after all, what are a few lives in space compared to a cutting-edge source of weapons technology? The comments on ‘past policy’ were by far my favorites, and its kept well-obscured as to how far back this particular plot goes. Sure there’s a rescue that relies on total dumb luck (unless the rescuers were somehow being signaled, which might be the case if you read into what happens, although this is never directly suggested in the dialogue or art), but its mostly a very fun issue, probably the best of the series thus far, and it even does a decent job of advancing the plot while exploring the book’s world. Nice work.