Thursday, April 29, 2004


At the local comics store yesterday, I was browsing through the fifty-cent boxes and picked up four comics: a series I'd wanted to sample, but not at full price; a series I'd sampled before, but without getting hooked; an anthology with some big names; and a title and artist I'd never heard of. Here are some quick impressions.

ROBIN #115 by Jon Lewis, Pete Woods, and Andrew Pepoy (DC). The only reason I looked at this was the writer, Jon Lewis. When Lewis started out, a decade or so, he seemed poised to become one of the next big stars of alt comix, but his slow rate of work, and his failure to finish most of the projects he's begun, have meant that he's only had a fraction of the impact he might have had. ROBIN was, as far as I know, Lewis's first and only foray into mainstream comics. As it happens, the issue I picked up was part four of a four-part story. As storytelling, it's rather awkward: it opens in the middle of a fight against a monster, which takes up the first half of the issue and doesn't mean much without having seen the previous issues; and the issue's second half is mainly devoted to Robin explaining to the reader, and another character explaining to Robin, what's been going on in the entire series. However, Lewis's ideas here are pretty interesting: based on this issue, I'd consider picking up his other issues of ROBIN, or buying the trade if DC releases one. The art, like much mainstream art these days, neither adds anything to the story, nor (most of the time) detracts from it: it basically serves to fill up space. I'll have to devote some thought to the question of why the amorphous, multi-eyed, multi-mouthed monster, which is evidently intended to repulse readers, has no visual impact whatsoever.

FINDER #1 by Carla Speed McNeill (Lightspeed Press). I've picked up odd issues of FINDER now and again and been intrigued by the setting, but never enough to commit myself to the expense of reading the whole thing. This issue can be seen as an introduction to the setting (and to the book's protagonist), and it's interesting enough that if I'd started here, I probably would have kept buying it for a while at least.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #100-4 by various (Dark Horse). To commemorate their anthology reaching its hundredth issue, Dark Horse made DHP #100 a five-part mini-series: hence the weird number. This issue contains a number of big (e.g. Frank Miller, Rick Geary, Harvey Pekar) and semi-big (Ellen Forney, Brian Sendelbach) names doing minor, undistinguished work. The best piece here is an eight-page story written and illustrated by Chris Warner, called "Black Cross." The art tries too hard to be cinematic and expressive, and ends up being full of grimaces and pointless, obtrusive close-ups. But the story, while no masterpiece, is solidly told.

EL MUERTO: THE AZTEC ZOMBIE #1 by Javier Hernandez (Los Comex). I had never heard of this book, this artist, or even the publisher before. The protagonist is not an Aztec, but a present-day Hispanic from Whittier, Ca.; however, he dies and is resurrected by the Aztec gods of death and destiny as a zombie, which I guess qualifies him as an "Aztec zombie." The story in this issue, which seems to deliberately aim for Silver Age Marvel-style cheesiness, doesn't leave me with any desire for El Muerto's further adventures, if any exist. But the art, which reminds me a bit of Mario Hernandez, is promising, though amateurish in spots.

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