Defenders 5 (Marvel): The plot of this mini-series feels like about a dozen other Defenders stories and about a hundred other super-hero stories. An all-powerful super-villain remakes the world in his image, leaving a handful of protagonists to put things right. Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire don’t do anything to reinvent the story, but they invest it with enough character-specific humor to make it a very enjoyable read all the same. The creative team doesn’t go overboard with meta observations, striking a nice balance between straightforward storytelling and knowing smirks at how familiar this all is.
Fallen Angel 2 (IDW): Writer Peter David’s combination of complex character interactions, dark humor, and underlying supernatural mysteries make for very entertaining reading. David reveals more about Lee’s background and gives a better sense of the dynamics of the shady citizens of Bete Noire. Unfortunately, J.K. Woodward’s art seems even less suited to the script this time around. Dive bar Furor’s takes on an inappropriately elegant sheen. The use of black and white to distinguish flashbacks makes those sequences look washed out or unfinished. And at certain points, it looks like characters have been cut and pasted into the frame. There’s some very nice work with light and shadow, creating some interesting effects, but there’s also a stiffness that doesn’t fully express the nuances of the story.
Polly and the Pirates 3 (Oni): Ted Naifeh could easily have delivered six issues of comic counterpoint between his heroine’s primness and the seedy, shabby pirates who think she’s their princess. It’s a great and durable joke, and Naifeh finds lots of riffs on it. In this issue, though, Naifeh puts Polly in a position to learn the difference between doing what’s proper and doing what’s right. It isn’t a huge tonal shift, and it doesn’t hamper the comedy and adventure, but it does give Polly extra layers of complexity and sympathy. Polly and the Pirates could serve as a textbook for mini-series pacing, with new revelations and twists cropping up in each issue and a consistently appealing underlying vibe. It’s great fun, like a terrific kid’s novel brought to illustrated life.