Friday, October 22, 2004

Quick comics reviews!

Identity Crisis #5 Wow. Things are picking up speed in this seven-part murder mystery miniseries, and I think this might be the best issue to date. The search continues for the serial killer who's picking off the loved ones of DC's superheroes, and the body count begins to rise. A longtime superhero apparently dies this issue in a rather abrupt fashion, but the real meat of this issue is the stunning climax sequence, a tension-filled, beautifully staged and tragic scene that raises the ante of the series. Hard to write without spoilers to give it all away, but suffice to say this issue gets back a little bit of lost momentum from the last issue. The harsh brutality of this series has a lot of old-school fans up in arms, but the sheer craft of an issue like this redeems that for me at least. It's grim, but it works for me. I'm only curious to see if it can be wrapped up in two more issues without copping out. Grade: A

Ocean #1 Another week, another Warren Ellis miniseries. I'm a big fan of Ellis' hard-edged sci-fi noir, but I have to say I haven't been blown away by his slow-moving "Ultimate Nightmare" or "Ultimate Fantastic Four" work recently. Fortunately, "Ocean" moves a little faster than those, although the first issue is still mostly setup. Something mysterious is happening on Jupiter's moon of Europa in this futuristic tale, as a dour investigator is sent to investigate. This issue sets up the future of space travel, has some brief ultra-violence, and makes you want to read #2. Great art by Chris Sprouse and a building sense of mystery and menace, it's one of Ellis's better recent works and holds a lot of promise. Grade: B+

Spider Man/Doctor Octopus: Year One #1-3 What the world needs now is probably not another Spider-Man miniseries, or another Doctor Octopus story. I'm a Spidey buff but I rarely buy the thin cash-in spinoffs that proliferate like flies in a web. Still, this one, written by Zeb Wells and with art by Kaare Andrews, had gotten good reviews, so I decided I'd pick up the first three (of five) issues. If it's not essential, it's still a remarkably good look into the psyche of Spider-villain Dr. Octopus (despite the Spider-dude's name above the title, this is definitely more of a Doc Ock solo tale than anything). I never thought I'd be interested in learning about Doc Ock's tragic childhood, but Wells does a remarkable job at getting into the head of a lonely, dweebish child who grows up to be filled with arrogance and a fatalistic hatred. Picture Norman Bates as a supervillain. It's a very solid piece of back story that explains why Doctor Octopus is such a psychopath today, and Andrews produces some great, expressionistic art that's like a cross between Keith Giffen and Alex Toth. There's still way too much Spider-product cluttering up the racks today, which is a shame because it keeps a genuinely good one like this from being noticed. Check it out if you can, and look for the final two issues. Grade: A-

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