From the stack: THE LOSERS 13

June 27, 2004

Warning: the comments below contain spoilers.

The Losers follow up on a lead in Qatar, but they’re sidetracked by local strife involving terrorists, the CIA, and the Qatari government. They’re presented with an offer they can’t refuse to intercede between two of those factions for the benefit of the third, but it may be too late.

The action movie rolls on, and I mean that in the best possible sense. The pace of events, from car chases to subplots to backroom deals, never flags. At the same time, writer Andy Diggle manages to humanize not only the principle characters but also the people they meet along the way. From the sleek and menacing Qatari adviser to the greasy CIA minion, ever character is distinct.

And, like a good action movie, there are plenty of laughs. They come in different flavors, too, from the “I can’t believe I just saw that” arrival of a tank to an absolutely hilarious sequence where the leads try to communicate in a bugged office. Then there’s Stegler, the agent tracking the losers. It’s hard to tell what he objects to more, the local office’s repellent mission or their disorganization. Priceless stuff.

This really is a terrific title. Try it.

This week’s stack, part one

June 10, 2004

I’ll be going through the stack in two parts this week, as one of the shops I use didn’t get their shipment in yesterday. Still, plenty of books to make it worth an entry.

AQUAMAN 19: This title has improved vastly since the end of the incomprehensible and overlong Waterbearer/Thirst arc. While this issue is basically a chat with the architect of San Diego’s destruction, it offers some twists to that formula. The antagonist of the piece views his actions as a necessary evil, difficult choices serving a heroic aim. He’s also clearly withholding a lot of details, and it’s nice to see the protagonists figure that out fairly easily. It’s nothing revolutionary, but it is a solid chapter in the ongoing story. And the Alan Davis/Mark Farmer cover is predictably gorgeous.

BATMAN, DEATH AND THE MAIDENS 9: Maybe it’s the extended gap between this issue and last, but the concluding chapter of this story is somewhat anticlimactic. It seems more like an epilogue than a finale. Still, the story as a whole has been an interesting character study while shaking up the status quo of Ra’s al Ghul, his daughters, and his organization. It also positions Nyssa as a promising new addition to Batman’s roster of enemies, vastly more interesting than Hush (not that that’s saying a great deal, but I mean it as a compliment). When time permits, I’m going to have to read these issues at once, as I suspect they’ll work better as a collection.

FABLES 26: The citizens of Fabletown try to fend off the attack of an army of disturbingly polite wooden soldiers. Essentially an issue-long battle sequence, it’s a lot richer than other stories of its kind. Filled with character moments, plot twists, politics, and sacrifice, it’s a standout entry from a consistently fine title. There’s also a preview of THE WITCHING included in this issue, which didn’t do anything to make me want to pick up that title. It looks competent, but the characters aren’t particularly vivid, and the art is kind of a queasy blend of cartoon and titillation.

FALLEN ANGEL 12: Peter David heads back in time to the first meeting of the Angel and Doctor Juris. Angel tracks a criminal to New Orleans and runs into Juris on his yearly day off. It’s a perfectly competent story, but I didn’t really learn anything new about either of the protagonists. It’s a decent stand-alone issue, though, and if you’ve been curious about the book, this would be a good chance to give it a try.

GLOBAL FREQUENCY 12: This is the last issue of the series of stand-alone action stories written by Warren Ellis and illustrated this time around by the very talented Gene Ha. The lack of any ongoing narrative from issue to issue doesn’t really make for much analysis, and the formula – mysterious threat to the public, creative and aggressive response by Global Frequency agents – is solidly in place. It’s been a good title, finely crafted entertainment. If it’s all a bit inconsequential, there’s nothing really wrong with entertainment for its own sake.

GREEN ARROW 39: The crisis in Star City concludes in a grimly predictable manner. The point, once again, is that Oliver is a success as a hero and a failure as a person. That’s been established pretty well by now, and perhaps we could move on to some slightly different subject matter? No? Okay, just asking.

IDENTITY DISC 1: I’m a big fan of Robert Rodi’s novels, and I want to like his work in comics, but he still doesn’t seem to have found his stride in the medium. His novels (particularly Fag Hag and What They Did to Princess Paragon) are tightly plotted screwball comedies that are grounded in very recognizable human emotions. You’d think that skill set would translate better to comics than it does. While he manages to humanize some of his characters – a mixed bag of villains blackmailed into pulling off a convoluted caper – it doesn’t hang together very well. (Continuity buffs will also wonder how the events square with any number of other Marvel titles, too.)

NIGHTWING 94: The spotlight is still locked on the truly repellent Tarantula, as Nightwing continues to be completely ineffectual. This book is grim far beyond the point of dramatic, and this is the last issue I’ll be buying for a while.

More to come tomorrow.