ménage à trois: 3/9/05

[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.]

When I first started this column, I figured finding a decent indie to review each week would be the hardest part, certain that my pull list included enough from the Big Two to not ever have to review consecutive issues of the same title. In fact, thanks to Midtown Comics, new indies have been pretty easy to track down each week. Some weeks, though, with Marvel and DC, I’ve had to double dip from one or the other, tap into their “indie” imprints a couple of times, and once, I just reviewed fanzines instead. Over the past few months, as my pull list has steadily grown, the number of ongoing titles from the Big Two has shrunk to a mere six from Marvel and seven from DC, less than half altogether of my total list. And that’s not accounting for the manga I’m planning to add to my diet in the next few weeks! Not sure what any of that means just yet but, this week, it means old reliable Gotham Central (#29) is joined by Ultimate Fantastic Four #16 and, from Speakeasy Comics, Atomika #1.

Greg Rucka needs to figure out a way to keep Gotham Central alive because he is doing some his most impressive comics work in it, as his Eisner Award for the stellar “half a life” arc would attest. This issue continues a new storyline featuring his favorite detective, Renee Montoya, investigating a mysterious basement fire in the Gotham neighborhood she grew up in that left one cop horribly burned and, it’s revealed here, mutating, thanks to a chemical booby-trap left behind by one of Flash’s Rogues, Dr. Alchemy. Before Montoya and her partner, Crispus Allen, head off to Keystone City to question the Hannibal Lecter-ish Doctor, Rucka does some great character work with her, her estranged father, and her lover, Daria. For all the gritty procedural stuff, the heart of Gotham Central is its detectives, flesh and blood characters doing the dirty work in Batman’s shadow whom Rucka and the soon-to-depart Ed Brubaker have lovingly crafted over the past two-plus years. There has to be someone on DC’s staff of Bat-writers that can pick up Brubaker’s slack and keep this, the best Bat-book being published right now, going strong: 9.5 Minutes

Warren Ellis is really making me sad that I’m going to be dropping the Ultimate Fantastic Four in four more issues as he continues to set the bar at a level so far beyond incoming writer Mark Millar’s reach, it’s almost embarassing. In his nine-issue run so far, he’s wonderfully fleshed out the quartet, nailing their interpersonal dynamics and personality quirks in a way that doesn’t feel forced or make the whole thing feel like the remix of old stories it ultimately is. (No pun intended.) After three previous issues of great setup and character development, we get some payoff as the Four make first contact in the N-Zone with Nihil, aka Ultimate Annihilus. Adam Kubert makes him perfectly creepy and organic-looking, and Ellis gives him a diabolical but sensible plan that plays out nicely against Reed’s obsessive thirst for knowledge. Solid comic book goodness: 8.5 Minutes

Giddy thoughts of creator-artist Sal Abbinanti’s epic, American Gods-like vision quickly faded as Atomika #1 underwhelemed with its debut, but in his defense, it is a planned 12-issue maxi-series so he can’t have been expected to load all of his eggs into this first basket. Writer Andrew Dabb offers a pretty straight-forward, if somewhat murky and exposition heavy, origin story, where Atomika is the man-made God of an alternate timeline Soviet Union, birthed from a young boy gone wandering into the depths of the earth itself. Destiny, it would seem, but much is unclear at this point; perhaps a bit too much for its own good. Abbinanti’s visuals, including way too many double spreads and splash pages, are rough and surreal and not at all to my tastes. (Neither for that matter is the standard Official Alex Ross Cover™ that doesn’t match the interiors in style or tone.) If not for the potential appeal of the overall story Abbinanti put forth in interviews – mistakenly not so much as hinted at in this issue itself – I can’t imagine picking up issue #2, based on the art alone. Because of that potential, though, I will, but with extremely high expectations for it: 6 Minutes

One thought on “ménage à trois: 3/9/05

  1. I tried a few issues of Gotham Central, but then I started wondering why I was paying so much for the types of stories I can find on TV practically around the clock. It’s well-done, I guess, but so was Homicide: Life on the Street, and you didn’t have to put up with a guy in a rodent costume popping up.

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