13 December 2004

ménage à trois: 12/8/04

[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.]

Since it's our first time, I'll kick this format off comfortably with two regulars and a newcomer I'm already fond of: Gotham Central #26, Spectacular Spider-Man #22 and The Lurkers #1. Much like the real thing, it's a bit of an awkward mix that ultimately makes for a pleasurable, if highly subjective, experience across the board.

Gotham Central, one of my Top 5 Comics of 2004, is the proven stud of the group, consistently producing high-quality output throughout its 2+ year run. Unfortunately, it happens to everyone at some point, it's not its usual pretty self this time out as regular series artist Michael Lark has left the Distinguished Competition for an exclusive contract with Marvel, and his stand-in, Jason Alexander, doesn't measure up, delivering a blotchy, muddied product that would shrivel most other comic books. But as distinctive as Lark's artwork always was, Gotham Central's strength lies in the writing of Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker, and in the beginning of a new post-War Games two-issue arc, Brubaker comes through with another solid effort as Detective Josie Mac, she of the knack for "knowing" where things come from, steps into the spotlight. As always, strong character development rules the day as Mac and her suspicious partner, Driver, investigate the murder of a prominent televangelist where all of the clues point to Catwoman, leading to a tense confrontation in a snowy cemetery. Because reputation can sometimes compensate for a misstep: 7.5 Minutes

Meanwhile, in Gotham City's real-world counterpart, the erratic Spectacular Spider-Man joins the party with a strong one-shot from writer Paul Jenkins and guest art duo Talent Caldwell and Norman Lee. Jenkins writes a complex Peter Parker, capturing the angst and humanity of the character in a way even the movies haven't quite matched, and this issue is told purely through internal narration as he's confronted with the consequences of his tendency to punch his way to a solution when he meets a former super-villain living on the streets as a homeless man. It's not all talking heads and maudlin navel-gazing, though, as Jenkins gives Caldwell enough action to keep things moving, from rain-soaked streets and mental horrors to an amazing Mary Jane, ensuring a powerful climax that reminds you why, in the right hands, there's few super-heroes that measure up to Spider-Man: 8 Minutes

Steve Niles, then, is the earnest newcomer who's eager to please. With The Lurkers, a police procedural with a zombie twist, Niles comes fast and hard, stretching roughly 13 pages of text over 22 pages of comic, but making it work thanks an assist from Hector Casanova's pitch-perfect, creepy-as-hell artwork. Lieutenant Dietz is a hard-working schlub in the LAPD, forced to bail on a playdate with his son in order to investigate a grisly cemetery crime scene where someone has dug up a body for a little corpse buffet. Examination of a tissue sample reveals that this might be the start of something good: 6.5 Minutes

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