Comic reviews galore
by Mike Baron

Remains 2
Writer: Steve Niles
Artist: Kieron Dwyer
Publisher: IDW Publishing, Price: $3.99 US

IDW and writer Steve Niles have tapped into a deep, unrequited longing for old fashioned monsters. 30 Days of Night was Niles' minimalist update on vampires. It read like a John Carpenter film, and now it's going to be a John Carpenter film. Niles tells a straight-forward story with no false-steps. But it is a slim story, and you have to submerge yourself in the impressionistic art to get the full affect. Sit there and feel the goosebumps. If you glance at the pictures and speed-read the words, it takes four minutes to read. The above refers to both 30 Days of Night and the new title, Remains, which is about zombies.

At least Kieron Dwyer is more representative than 30 Days smearer Ben Templesmith. Some people prefer to view their horror through a Vaseline lens. I like to see what's going on. A comic book is not a movie. Dark, murky tracking shots that work in a film don't work in a comic. Comic art's strength is its explicitness, not its ability to conceal. Remains works better than 30 Days because it takes place in daylight and we can see what's going on, more or less. This is not the same Kieron Dwyer who drew Superman. This new Dwyer is playing with scratchy, sketchy, quick-draw techniques. His rendering of human anatomy is spot on. The facial expressions, especially for the girl Tori, are real heart-breakers. The art works, but it lacks the finished graphic quality that many fans value. It looks like it was produced in a rush.

© 2004 IDW Publishing

The cover shows the two heroes shooting and chopping atop what appears to be a pile of rotting meat. On closer examination, the pile of rotting meat is a mound of rotting zombies. PETA ought to turn the cover into a poster and hang it in every butcher shop in the land. I haven't read the first issue, but I believe a reader should be able to come in on any issue and be entertained, if it's a good comic. This is a quick, violent read. There's been some kind of disaster leaving a handful of good guys against hordes of flesh-seeking undead, and the usual post-holocaust psychopaths. We've been here before, beginning with Richard Matheson's I, Legend.

The story consists of guy and gal fighting off the zombies from atop an abandoned skyscraper in Reno. Pages four and five are wasted on a sloppy two-page spread of bikers entering town. It's not story-telling, it's not even particularly well-drawn. But there it is. Helped get the book done sooner. The money shot consists of loving close-ups of bikers beheading themselves as they roar through piano wire which the heroes have strung across the road. A little more story, a little more depth, some characterization, please. Thank you.

Wanted 2
Writer: Mark Millar
Artists: J.G. Jones and Paul Mounts
Publisher: Image Comics/Top Cow Productions, Price: $2.99 US

Free the Id and the heart will follow. That seems to be Mark Millar's operating strategy for his new book, Wanted. Why else would he name a character Shithead, a literal walking pile of shit? It's the type of joke twelve year olds make when they get giggly, but Millar takes it to its logical conclusion, populating his universe with monsters from the id. Thus, we get a character named Johnny Two Dicks, whose actions are dictated by his penis, beating a super moron named - wait for it - Fuckwit to death with a crowbar. It's entertaining in a low-level deadpan manner, but for whom are we supposed to root? There are no likeable characters. Various costumed freaks fight other costumed freaks. The art by J.G. Jones is exquisite.

© 2004 Image Comics/Top Cow Productions

Richard Dragon 2
Writer: Chuck Dixon
Artist: Scott McDaniel
Publisher: DC Comics, Price: $2.50 US

Dixon segues seamlessly from Way of The Rat to Richard Dragon, DC's martial arts hero created by Denny O'Neil at the height of the kung fu craze. Dixon's story flies by like a freight train. Dragon and Bronze Tiger are on the trail of a gang of kung fu killers who flew in from Canada. There's a snippet of Richard's training, how he convinced Ben (Tiger) Turner to take him in. The rest is all tough dialogue and furious kung fu action. But, it's not good kung fu action. Chuck - where's the kung fu? Where are the throws, joint locks, and blows that used to unfold in a clear and logical manner when you were working with Val Mayerik on Young Master and to a lesser extent with Jeff Johnson on Way of The Rat? I keep pointing this out, so here goes again. Why make a fetish of martial arts if you're not going to use them in an exciting and creative manner?

© 2004 DC Comics

Aside from that, there are no false notes. Dixon's dialogue, as always, is twenty-four karat, laced with wry humor. McDaniel's art has undergone a strange metamorphosis from his Steranko-influenced days, to a broader, more three-dimensional, manga-influenced form. The logo charms with thirties pulp flavor.

Daredevil: Father 1
Writer and Artist: Joe Quesada
Publisher: Marvel Comics, Price: $3.50 US

Joe Quesada's tribute to his father begins with nine pages of single full-page illustrations. Pages two, three, four, and five, in particular, could have been condensed into one page with no loss in story-telling impact. However, then you notice this comic contains twenty-six pages of story, and is back-loaded. Joe sure draws a gorgeous Daredevil. The first page of a looming DD, and pages six and seven have a powerful impact. Joe's drawing of a furious DD holding down a junkie on page twenty-three is the stuff of nightmares. The story's a riff on A Civil Action. A woman afflicted with ovarian cancer goes to Murdock and Nelson seeking redress from New Jersey Power and Light. Her husband is bitter and hostile. Rivalry develops between Matt and Foggy as to who gets to hold the client's hand, which is peculiar, since she's with her husband. There's a sub-plot about a hip-hop mogul named Nero that looks interesting. Although this comic is a fragment, and we're not quite sure where it's going, it's an entertaining fragment. I look forward to future episodes.

Superman 206
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artists: Jim Lee and Scott Williams
Publisher: DC Comics, Price: $2.50 US

The curse of Superman continues. What do you do with the guy? Azzarello has him debate philosophy with a military strongman named Nox, whose just taken over some African hell-hole. Superman also fights a walking pile of junk named Equus. Of course this is gorgeously rendered, lending some weight to the proceedings, but in the end it's just a lot of talk, the kind you do in college late at night and can't remember the next day.

This country has outgrown Superman. We're too sophisticated to buy the idealized savior of the Free World. We weren't so sophisticated in 1941. It's not Azzarello's fault. Maybe Neil Gaiman or Alan Moore could do something with the character. (In fact, Moore already has, with "For the Man Who Has Everything.")

Mike Baron is the creator of the award winning comic book Nexus and during his career has written an enormous variety of comics from The Flash to The Punisher. He is currently writing Faro Korbit for AP Comics, working on a Green Lantern novel for Byron Preiss, and is working on several projects destined to change the face of pop culture in his secret skunkworks.

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