Shiny Shelf

This Week’s Shelf-load

By Mark Clapham on 29 October 2006

As a change of pace, a wade through the general stack of comics purchases for a few words each on titles that don’t quite merit a full review.

‘Seven Soldiers’ #1 (DC) probably deserves a long review if not an essay, but first response is an eye-bleeding migraine. The conclusion to Grant Morrison’s epic and fractal ‘Seven Soldiers’ project, this bookend issue rounds up the conflict with the Sheeda in spectacular, baffling style. It’s either a brilliant exploration of the nature of perception or beautifully written and drawn gibberish, I’m not sure which. Neither am I sure whether the resolution of the threat is an anti-climax, or if the Sheeda were actually the weakest part of the whole project, crushed between the multitude of ideas in each of the component mini-series. In spite of its epic scale, ‘Seven Soldiers’ doesn’t seem to have given all its ideas room to breathe, and hopefully any follow-ups will feel less hectic. For now, this requires a couple of re-reads, which if nothing else will be rewarding as an opportunity to pore over JH Williams III’s dense, varied artwork.

On far more conventional ground, Mike Carey, Chris Bachalo and about seventy two inkers deliver their best issue yet of the ‘Supernovas’ storyline in ‘X-Men’ #192 (Marvel). As one of the more successful ‘Hellblazer’ writers of recent years, as well as creator of the like-‘Sandman’-but-with-things-actually-happening Vertigo book ‘Lucifer’, Carey may initially seem an odd choice for the Marvel mainstream, but his subtle balance of continuity and creativity is actually a very good fit for an ensemble book with a lot of back story. The concept for this book is nice and simple – Rogue puts together a team of some of the most dangerous and ruthless mutants to take on the most dangerous and ruthless threats, in this story a super-evolved group called The Children of the Vault. The character dynamics are as spiky and fun as between the cast of demons and weirdos in ‘Lucifer’, and Bachalo’s art shows greater clarity and discipline than in some of his more out there projects (‘Steampunk’, anyone?). A rock solid book.

The multiply subtitled ‘Transformers: The Animated Movie: 20th Anniversary Special Edition’ #1 (IDW) ties in with the eight millionth DVD re-release of the better-than-you-would-expect toy cartoon. It’s a new adaptation by 80s ‘TF’ comic writer Bob Budiansky and current ‘TF’ artist of the moment Don Figueroa, and is both exactly as good as you’d expect, and a bit disappointing. It’s as expected in that a writer of Budiansky’s limited talents isn’t going to be able to lift a cheesy script like the one from the movie with his old skool Marvel ‘skills’, but disappointing in that you’d expect better from Figueroa. As an adaptation of a cartoon into static form it’s choppy and incoherent, lacking either dynamism or character. Figueroa’s designs and draughtsmanship manage a nice compromise between the simplicity of animation and more stylish approach of modern comics, but as an example of storytelling this is poor. A pointless idea, clunkily rendered. Don’t buy this, buy the new DVD, or watch one of your old ones instead.

Marvel’s ‘Civil War’ crossover currently spreads across most of the company’s titles, with mixed results. Over in ‘Captain America’ #23 writer Ed Brubaker uses the crossover to shed more light on his most popular innovation, the Winter Soldier, as well as shedding some light on what Nick Fury is up to these days. Like Carey, Brubaker has really benefited from the move to Marvel, and his runs on both ‘Cap’ and ‘Daredevil’ have been great.

Less successful is ‘New Avengers’ #24, in which Brian Michael Bendis spotlights the Sentry, and unfortunately imitates Paul Jenkins rather odd second-person narration for the character, and imports all of Jenkins faults as a writer – the stateliness of tone, the lack of actual story development, the semi-clever mystical wibbling. There are a couple of very good bits, but this is a static, pretentious comic and Pasqual Ferry’s pretty but stiff art doesn’t help matters

Finally from war torn Marvel, ‘Civil War: Choosing Sides’ is a rapidly put together comic designed to fill a schedule gap left by delays in the main mini-series. Like DC’s recent ‘Brave New World’ it contributes to line-wide continuity while showcasing a few upcoming series. Unlike most of these preview books, the end result is actually quite good: the tie-in to the upcoming re-launch of ‘Thunderbolts’ is written by Marc Guggenheim rather than Warren Ellis, and therefore is actually allowed to include action, and has a pleasing ruthlessness that the concept has always warranted but never quite got. New stories for ‘The Irredeemable Ant-Man’ and ‘The Immortal Iron Fist’ are tasty tasters for promising books from good creative teams, as is the ‘US Agent’ story leading into the upcoming ‘Omega Flight’. If the intention was to get us to buy these new books, it’s working. The book is rounded off by a fun ‘Howard the Duck’ story, and a pointless TV tie-in that has the perfunctory mediocrity usually associated with a ‘Spider-Man says don’t do drugs/get AIDS’ public information strip. Just ignore it. Overall, ‘Choosing Sides’ is far better than it has any right to be.

Finally, ‘Planetary’ (Wildstorm) is still going but almost done. Warren Ellis’ tiresome combination of pastiche, inertia and brutality grinds ever on, while John Cassaday does nice design work, but some odd character bits – Elijah Snow is gurning so much here that he looks more deformed than the guy who has just had his head crushed. For completists only, and I wish I wasn’t one of them. At least it’s nearly over.

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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named


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