11-10slide1It's BEEN ABOUT A YEAR AND A HALF since Jim Nelson replaced the late Art Cooper as editor-in-chief at GQ, promising more photography, more utilitarian fashion, and a fresher overall magazine. So how is he doing?

There has been a lot of discussion that GQ was going to dumb things down, going more babe-centric or frat-boy, like so many other magazines (there have been more women on the covers of late). And while the tone is lighter in some aspects, GQ is in fact still quite a serious, sophisticated magazine, with some identity flaws.

In the current January issue, there is a short piece on a resort in Colorado that allows men to simulate being the hero in terrorists attacks - this celebrates the over-the-top Maxim lifestyle in a more mature fashion.

In trying to stay current, the front of the book offers a few lame humor bits on President Bush's inauguration and Jay-Z booting R Kelly from their tour. There's also a piece on Jessica and Ashlee Simpson's father: he's a weird, creepy guy, but I'm not sure most men care.

Yet a profile of Patriots Coach Bill Belichick, who we have already heard a lot about, is surprisingly illuminating, particularly in the imagery used of the coach watching film alone in his office.

Unfortunately, the story on cover girl Kate Bosworth is a bore - at least Maxim knows that guys don't want to know about the pinup girl's relationship with her boyfriend and how tough it is to deal with fame.

Bosworth is also used in the pages of photographs that encompass the GQ spring fashion preview. We're not sure if guys want to see their object of lust with a bunch of male models either (and isn't the 21-year-old Bosworth a bit young for GQ's 30-something audience?)

Otherwise, the magazine's "What to Wear Right Now," smartly takes a page right out of Cargo, with a chart that allows readers to match shoes and shirts by style category. GQ still does fashion well - and there is a ton here.

Later, GQ has some fun with an informative piece on the life of a former joke writer for the "Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn." A list of 47 New Year's resolutions, another item that could have been repetitive, is pointedly opinionated and funny.

But where GQ really scores is in serious journalism in the back of the book.

There is a scary piece on the alleged unpreparedness of the government for the aftermath of a massive terrorist attack. Most powerful is a daring piece, "Say a Prayer for Justin Volpe," that asks readers to consider some sympathy for the rogue former New York City cop who abused a man with a plunger in 1997. GQ takes a thought-provoking angle on a case that outraged many - a position not seen in a while in other publications.

And that's most encouraging, that GQ, while going through changes, can still do what men's magazines once did best.

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