ménage à trois: 1/5/05

[One Marvel, one DC, both published the previous Wednesday, plus a random indie from whenever I feel like it, each reviewed quickie-style: 1 Minute=bad, 10 Minutes=good. Connections, if any at all, may be forced purely for the experience.]

A double dose of Marvel this week, thanks to the late shipping New Avengers #2 and nothing of interest from DC as I bailed on both Toe Tags and Detective Comics this month. (I did give in and pick up last week’s Batman #635 which turned out to be a good decision.) Joining Team Bendis this week is The Tomb of Dracula #4 and Ape Entertainment’s Point Pleasant, making for strange but oddly satisfying bedfellows nevertheless.

Naysayers aside, Brian Michael Bendis simultaneously washes the foul taste of Disassembled away and shoots down the theory that he can’t do cinematic team action with his pulse-pounding, 100 mile-an-hour second issue of the New Avengers. From the dark, claustrophobic fights in the prison depths that includes the most vicious beating of Spider-Man I’ve ever seen depicted, to Foggy Nelson’s impassioned plea for help, to the Sentry’s wordless three-page return to superheroing, to the Purple Man’s wonderfully evil powerplay…this is the comic book equivalent of multiple orgasms. The art team of Finch, Miki, Morales and D’Armata nail the story’s dark atmosphere and tone, and the freeze-frame, black-and-white intros of various villians is a great touch. Oh, and the return of the letters page, including a few wonderfully self-righteous negative ones! Brilliant! Ironically, Bendis has proven in two issues that you don’t need an Ultimate universe or an All-Star spin to successfully reinvigorate a franchise as the Avengers have arguably never been this good. You just need a good story and a writer that’s truly invested in the characters. While the purists continue to complain about Hawkeye’s death – who knew he had such a rabid fanbase? – or that Spider-Man and Wolverine (who still hasn’t appeared) are on the team, they’re missing out on balls-to-the-wall action mixed with just enough characterization to keep it interesting. Bendis knows how to please: 10 Minutes

The Tomb of Dracula is ostensibly a peripheral tie-in to the latest Blade movie, though you’d have to figure that out yourself as Marvel has made no effort to overtly connect the dots for anyone, despite having an unacknowledged Blade appear prominently on two of the first three covers – covers by none other than Bill Sienkiewicz! – and not so prominently on the fourth. That might have as much to with the fact that this series (mini-series?) has a very old-school feel to it, paying homage to the seminal Marv Wolfman/Gene Colan run of the 70s as Robert Rodi spins a tale of Dracula’s millenial acension to godhood and Blade and company’s attempts to prevent it. Jaime Tolagson, Tom Palmer and Scott Koblish provide the art, evoking Herb Trimpe’s G.I. Joe more than Colan’s definitive Dracula, but it serves the book well. In this age of decompressed, six-issue story arcs, Rodi might have been better served with another two issues to tell his story as he squeezes a lot of information in here and the climax comes a little too quickly. In light of Conan’s recent ressurection, it would be nice to see someone take a stab at an ongoing Blade series, but I suspect that’s not going to happen in this case. A pleasant diversion with potential for more: 7 Minutes

Midtown Comics, my LCS and personal mecca, has a great rebate program that gives you a $20 credit for every $100 you spend. While those credits have started coming around a little too frequently for comfort in recent months, it allows me to experiment on comics I wouldn’t normally buy, especially indies. As such, I found myself picking up Point Pleasant this week, a Twilight Zone-ish spin on the true story the movie The Mothman Prophecies was based on. I’ve never seen the movie and am only vaguely familiar with the story, but writer Chad Lambert constructs his take on it in such a way that knowing the source material isn’t vital to enjoying the story as he fits it in seamlessly. In 1967, 46 people died in Point Pleasant, WV when the Silver Bridge collapsed. Rumors of a curse placed on the land by a slaughtered native American in the late 18th century and the huge winged monster it unleashed, the Mothman, persist to this day. In the year 2736, the Paranormal Preservation Society begins an investigation into the mysterious events that led up to the tragedy. Told in four parts – but all in ONE issue! – using time travel as its framing device, Lambert uses the standard tropes to tell an engaging story with an effective, if not terribly surprising ending. It reminded me of the short stories in the old Twilight Zone Magazine – the first and only magazine I ever submitted fiction to, which ceased publication a month after I recieved my rejection letter! – solid genre tales by writers who genuinely loved the formula. The black-and-white art is effective, if not terribly polished – though the cover by Steve Black is wonderful – and the use of different artists for each era works well. The Paranormal Preservation Society itself is a well-executed idea that could serve as the source for many more stories in a similar vein. If Lambert writes it, I will come: 8 Minutes

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