"Please don't be alarmed. I know I look like a special effect, but we're
actually here to help." -- The Beast, New X-Men #116
Spider-Man's Tangled Web #5 (Marvel Comics, $2.99) A good Jedi mind
trick for reviewers to learn: losing expectations. It's something that I have
to do every time someone requests me to watch a Summer Blockbuster at the cinema,
or read an anthology series with themed stories by famous horror authors. The
trick came in handy here.
I'm not a fan of arc-based comic series that focus on a hero or group, allowing
different creative teams to play in the sandbox each month. I purposefully skipped
out on the first three issues of this series, in fact, though Garth Ennis penned
them. I'm that wary of the idea. The solicitations for this issue piqued my
curiosity, though, and the cover gave me the final push to try it out.
Color me pleasantly surprised. Peter Milligan does some really fine writing
here. The story still bears a little of the predictability that the Marvel Universe
carries as a weight, but his characterization of the Rhino (easily one of Spider-Man's
lamest enemies) is strong. By the end, one is almost forced to feel a little
sympathy, if only because we've all made a bad but irrevocable choice or two
in our lives.
Duncan Fegredo provides some nice pencils, as well, but what really makes this
issue worth picking up is the pacing, owing (I believe) a little to both Milligan
and Fegredo. The last panel alone is worth a poster-sized reprint. (8
out of 10)
Rogue #1 (of 4) (Marvel Comics, $2.50) To be fair to Fiona Avery, this
book features my least favorite of the X-Men. Well, one of the least; that title
is actually shared by 75% of the cast. Also working against her is the fact
that she is writing the Mini-Series Focusing On A Character Best Suited For
Group Interplay -- add this to the Cyclops, Nightcrawler, and Storm mini-series
that have come and gone and continue to come, among others.
That said, Avery does a good job with this look back at Rogue's earliest days
with the X-Men. Smartly, the story chooses this as a focal point for an exploration
of Rogue and her powers; if nothing else, it allowed me to avoid wondering why
every time an X-Man steps out and away from the team, a new adventure occurs
(makes you wonder if they travel to the bathroom in pairs). Aaron Lopresti's
pencils, along with Avery's dialogue, do a good job of capturing the flavor
of this incarnation of the team without seeming retro.
Avery does a nice job of showing a young Rogue seeking acceptance where little
is to be given, as well as trying to cope with the fact that her powers are
so dangerous to herself and those around her. It's a little out of character
with the Rogue from that point in time, but very much in step with the Rogue
that most readers have become familiar with. Also, by focusing on her relationship
with other X-Men, particularly Professor X, we are able to see Rogue as defined
outside of a vacuum.
It's a nice start, but there's a long way to go make this a sturdy book. (6
out of 10)
Angel and the Ape #1 (Vertigo / DC Comics, $2.95) A forewarning: this
is not an Art Adams production, though he did provide the cover. Of course it's
not, my brain suddenly informs me -- he's too busy finishing up the current run
of Authority to work on anything else!
Back to the issue at hand -- while Adams appears only on the cover, this book
is far from lacking. In fact, it may be one of the best books to hit this year.
Howard Chaykin and David Tischman provide the writing, and Philip Bond turns
in artwork that I would never have expected to like (bad assumption); the combination
is a book that is pure fun.
The writing is filled with bad puns, both in character naming and visually.
Even with Bond very cartoonish style, Angel is incredibly sexy. The plot is
the sort of thing that fills the late-night Showtime schedule. With all of this,
do you really need any more convincing?
One final note: this book takes full advantage of the Vertigo header. There's
a little nudity and a whole lot of sexual comedy inside, so consider yourself
Thus armed, go out and buy a copy. (10 out of 10)
Unquantified, shameless mark rant of the week: New X-Men #116 (Marvel
Comics, $2.25) You had me at Frank Quitely's cover; Morrison's mad genius storytelling
sent me over the edge. (10 out of 10)