3.13.2006

3.08.06 Reviews Cont'd

Fell #1-4 (Image): You ever see one of those ideas? One of those ideas that is deceptively simple? One that maybe shouldn't work, but does wonders? Fell is just such a concept. How about a return to self-contained single issues? How about a quick shot of entertainment? How about no ads? How about a story that feels and reads like a long decompressed arc that's been cinched up tightly into the space of a single issue? How about all this for only $1.99? I mean seriously, one hundred and ninety nine cents, can't we all find that laying under the couch cushions or in the back seat of the car? That's really something. And it's not just a gimmick. This is a damn fine read. Superbly scripted by Ellis. I love the little elements that make me feel as if he's talking to me directly. The little post-it notes and maps left on the various scenes telling me, the reader, where we are. And Templesmith's art really is a balanced treat. It's restrained in that it tells a fluid story from panel to panel (9 panel grids, thanks guys!), yet is still stylish and subtle. There are so many gems to be found, little movements of tomato slices and pints of beer in the background. What a brilliant high concept. Make a single issue entertaining again. Grade A+.

Lost At Sea (Oni Press): To my great surprise, I enjoyed this. I must admit I went into it very negatively, waiting for it to disappoint, and it just never did. I read this in one sitting and by the end was smiling and appreciative. This is really good, I thought to myself. O'Malley basically nails the lost, hopeless, directionless, insightful confusion and fleeting bouts of unexpected self-discovery that most kids go through at some point. Loved the idea of a road trip up through California to Canada. Fun to see names of towns I've known for so long. Grade A-.

Fantastic Four: Unstable Molecules (Marvel): I'm still processing this. It reads a lot better collected and is so much better than I remember. It really helps to read it in one sitting to develop the long view of what happens to these people. I think I'll continue to roll this one over in my brain and do a full review for the paper. Ok, plug time. That's the East County Californian, where I host the weekly column titled "Sequential Essentials." But here are my initial impressions. There are so many cultural concepts from the 1950's intersecting here. We see the rise of the beatnik counter-culture. We see the budding seeds of feminism as women begin questioning their repressed roles of domestication. We see a generation gap form, the conservative WWII veterans pitted against the growing liberalism and artistic disposition of their children. There's cold war paranoia which idolizes science and invigorates a national movement. From a comic book industry perspective, what a grand realization, that the FF was based on real people. Maybe that's part of the reason that these characters have endured so long, the inherent strength of their realism. Johnny's rebelliousness is deeply rooted in his actual upbringing, not a writer's fictional assumption of that. Sue is risking figuratively fading into her surroundings, unseen as the powerful woman she is. Becoming invisible in the comic is just the natural physical manifestation of that fear she holds so tightly. Ben is so grounded in base human emotions, he is perhaps the most "human" of all the characters. All the more reason his dramatic alteration into the Thing is so tragic, at the complete opposite end of the spectrum of who he is. And Reed. Poor brilliant Reed. Reed is shown so clearly as a Scientist. Someone who values science and logic and data over human emotion. Sturm's extensive research comes through so clearly as well. The hidden gems of the kid sidekick to Johnny being the narrator, the splicing in of the actual author of the book's ties to the family, the industry self-aware appearances of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and the eerie images of Vapor Girl to name just a few. The old trope of "write what you know" is proven here as we see exactly how all of this may have come about. Guy Davis is a brilliant choice of craftsman for art duties. He's able to perfectly capture the time period and imbed some great emotions. Reed's ultimate discovery here is that individually "unstable molecules" have the ability to make a very stable whole. While the individual family parts may be out of whack, the family itself functions well. The strength of a family is not in isolated units, but in the interdependencies and spaces found in between them. Grade A.

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