ménage à trois: 3/30/05

[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.]

On a comic book Wednesday dominated by DC’s creatively bankrupt death and resurrection tales in Countdown to Infinite Crisis and Batman #638, it was tough work to pull together a satisfying threesome of graphic pleasures. So tough, in fact, that I ended up settling for a mixed bag of great (Mu #3), good (Batgirl #62) and, “It took how long for this crappy issue to finally come out?”

The latter, of course, would be Marvel’s long-delayed Secret War #4, the penultimate issue of the mini-series and a craptacular waste of trees and ink that would easily fit into the federal case of the United States of Fanboy vs. Brian Michael Bendis as People’s Evidence #27. I’m totally rescinding my vote for him to head a Moon Knight revival until he clears his plate and can refocus his talents. An issue-long fight scene featuring the murkier-by-the-issue painted artwork of Gabrielle Dell-Otto reveals, kinda sorta, the bad guy’s evil plot that is overloaded with the kind of “clever” banter that makes one long for the goofy dialogue of the Silver Age. “Holy suck, Batman! Why am I still buying this?” 3 Minutes

Speaking of Batman, considering Judd Winnick is quickly making the Dark Knight’s already inconsistent primary title unreadable with the return of Jason Todd (screw a spoiler tag, if you didn’t see it coming, you deserve it!), it’s nice that Andersen Gabrych continues his own entertaining run on Batgirl #62. Post War Games, Batgirl has moved from Gotham City to Blüdhaven and Gabrych has begun to develop a new supporting cast for her as well as some of her more interesting character traits that have inexplicably gone underexplored during her five year run, particularly the fact that she’s illiterate. This issue concludes a 3-issue arc that is effectively a table-setting jump-on point for new readers, with a relevant recap of her origin, a [comic book] plausible re-appearance by Spoiler, and a great fight scene against the Brotherhood of Evil. Artist Alé Garza’s work improves with each issue, and this is one of his best efforts yet. Next to Gotham Central, this is the most reliable Batbook being published right now: 8 Minutes

On the flipside of the spandex spectrum, Devil’s Due continues to deliver the sword and sorcery goods with Mu #3. Like Image’s Freedom Force, Mu is based on a computer game played by more people than currently read every comic book combined in any given month, and yet it stands completely on its own, not requiring a single iota of awareness of the game to follow its story. (Unlike the Big Two’s continuity-crippled event books like Disassembled and Countdown…) Manson Khan and Andrew Dabb’s overlapping past-and-present storyline of the evil Secneum’s defeat and return continues to unfold as scholar Icarus Estro finally unravels the translation of the lost prophecy of the Secronomicon, while 1,000 years in the past, Etramu Renos and Kundun Mephis engage in the final battle that resulted in Secneum’s defeat. Tolkeinesque without feeling derivative, Khan and Dabb are developing an epic story that is matched by the artwork of Mark Lee and Zach Suh. Lee’s exaggerated physiques, evoking the early days of Image, have a certain flair to them that works for this kind of story, Suh’s background work is frequently stunning in its varied detail and subtlety, and the coloring by Suh and Kano Kang is comparable to Dave Stewart’s stellar work on Conan. Mu rolls a critical hit for double damage: 9.5 Minutes

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