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--Quickie Reviews from Two Weeks Ago (Still Haven't Read Last Week's Books)
Identity Crisis #5: The death this issue was rather telegraphed, as was the identity of the hit-man, but the question of who is behind this all still remains. I feel no shame in liking this comic.
Teen Titans #17: I'm a sucker for this type of story, so I dug it.
Firestorm #6: So, was Ronnie killed because of this new Firestorm series, or is there a new Firestorm series because Ronnie was killed?
Manhunter #3: I'm liking this take on the vigilante-type hero. There are no easy answers for the new Manhunter and that's not glossed over.
Robin #131, Batman: Gotham Knights #58 and Batgirl #57: The pace finally picks up somewhat as the conclusion nears. This has turned out to be a better than expected cross-over.
Conan #9: I'm glad that Busiek is playing with the notion that Conan is intelligent, not just a mindless thug as many other writers have tended to portray him. This was a nice, done-in-one story that lays the groundwork for the next storyline.
Plastic Man #11: Hi-larious.
JSA: Strange Adventures #3: Any comic featuring Wildcat fighting Nazi Robots is a good comic as far as I'm concerned.
Ocean #1: If I may utter a dissenting voice, this isn't a decompressed comic. Yes, there are long, lingering panel-to-panel transistions depicting nothing but movement from point A to point B, but there's a lot of jumping forward in time going on here. If anything, Ellis seems to be compressing time a bit to move the plot forward. I think it's a promising start to a hard SF comic, something we haven't really seen in a long time.
--Slightly More In-Depth Manga Reviews
XXXholic Vol. 3 by CLAMP: I love the art-work on this title. It's moody and decadent and perfectly matches the tone of the stories. Yuko is a fascinating character, very much in the tradition of old comic horror hosts, providing warnings that no one will ever quite heed. Also in the horror host tradition, there's a strong sense that the unpleasant fates that meet people have been brought upon themselves. It's got lots of cute humor and charmingly gothic art and designs. This is quickly becoming perhaps my favorite CLAMP series.
From Eroica With Love Vol. 1 by Aoike Yasuko: I will admit, at first the art on this title turned me off. It's a little too much a product of it's time, the late seventies, and the emphasis is strongly on gender ambiguity. But what eventually convinced me to give it a try was the humor. This is a damn funny book! Lots of character based humor and lots of meta-textual jokes. And once you get into the book's rhythm, Dorian Red Gloria is a great character. Enthusiastically gay, decadent, a connoisseur of the most beautiful things, and an an absolutely brilliant thief, he's a compelling and memorable lead character. If I have a complaint it's that his original adversaries, a trio of psychic teens, are a little too "cute" and cliched to really feel like a credible threat. But with the introduction of the German NATO officer Major Klaus Heinz Von Dem Ebberbach, that problem is solved. Klaus is almost the antithesis of Dorian, concerned only with practical military matters and not caring a whit for art or beauty at all. Tellingly, in a scene where he and Dorian are discussing a painting, Klaus can only appreciate it in the sense that the painting costs as much as a tank. Dorian's response? Steal a tank from Klaus. After a while, even the art started to grow on me. And as a side note, the CMX books are probably the best reproductions I've ever seen in an English language manga translation. Good quality paper, crisp reproduction, and a translation that feels neither too "loose" nor too faithful to the original text.