Wormwood (Ennis / Burrows): I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Ennis has some issues with Catholicism. Wormwood treads a lot of the same ground as Preacher and (kind of) True Faith. God = crazy. Jesus = misunderstood. Pope = corrupt. Devil = conniving. People = mostly awful. Who does that leave as the hero? The Antichrist, of course. (And his talking bunny sidekick.)
There's a fair-to-middling apocalyptic plot, but this is mostly a celestial road trip through Ennis' take on Judeo-Christian mythology. Except for the occasional bout of preachiness, Wormwood is actually entertaining, mostly because of Ennis has enough humor & charisma to pull it off. He clearly has an agenda, but he's conveying it with chuckling and warmth, rather than sarcasm & ranting diatribes. Burrows contributes solidly. It is a good partnership, as a more stylized artist would've spun the entire work off in a random direction. (6/10)
XIII: The Day of the Black Sun (Van Hamme): The first volume of the long-running XIII series, finally released in English. I have very little idea what actually happened in this comic. I understand that part of that (if not all of that) is intentional, but this left me thoroughly confused. Our nameless hero washes up on the beach. After a bit of recuperation time, he's chased around by bad guys, is mistaken for a lot of other people and eventually is accused of being some sort of super-assassin. Presumably, this is a massive pyramid of red herrings, with his real identity not to be revealed until volume 22. Unlike, say KJ Parker's Scavenger trilogy, which deals with identical questions, there's nothing compelling in here that will keep me attached until the end of the series. The character is neither developed nor likeable, the set-piece action scenes seem incredibly dated, and I'm not given any reason to keep going. I think Van Hamme is a living legend, but this failed to impress me. (3/10)
The Adventures of Julius Chancer: The Rainbow Orchid, Part 2 (Ewing): I called out The Rainbow Orchid, Part 1 as one of the best finds at last year's BICS. Part 2 continues the fine work. Although the cliffhanger ending will keep me nervous for the next six months, this is a brilliant middle volume.
Part 2 adds more layers to the story, progresses the plot substantially, gets us closer to the characters and, most importantly, leaves us wanting more. Ewing's skill as an artist also continues to amaze. His detailed first-page rendering of the Natural History Museum (shown at right) had Pornokitsch's resident historian very impressed with its accuracy. Personally, I love the pop-art Lichtenstein style of the work so much that I wound up buying a print of the foxy femme fatale, Crowe. This is a heart-warming book crafted with painstaking devotion. (8/10)
Ultimate Spider-man: Volume 6 (Bendis): Every now and then, I'll drop into the Ultimate universe and buy the next volume in Ultimate Spider-Man, X-Men or Fantastic 4. This volume of Ultimate Spidey introduces the universe's equivalent to Carnage, and then follows with a few silly stories involving Wolverine and the Human Torch. Carnage was never a favorite, but I like the way that Bendis integrated him into the Spideyverse. I thought Gwen Stacey's death, however, was devoid of emotional impact. It felt like Bendis wanted to skip directly to Peter Parker's self-doubt, and Gwen's death was just a handy shortcut. Even then, Peter's issues were only deftly handled for part of the time. The "Detention" issue was brilliant, but the rest - including his Disney-After-School-Special-style conversations with the Human Torch, was just a little sickening. This series is descending into "guilty pleasure" territory, as I'm running out of arguments to defend its maturity. (5/10)