11.02.2006

11.01.06 Reviews (Part 2)

Jonah Hex #13 (DC): I've sampled early issues of Jonah Hex and been really unimpressed. While Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti's writing boasts interesting bits, I really couldn't get over the pencils that borrowed extremely heavily from Clint Eastwood's Spaghetti Westerns and other pop culture influences. So... when European Comics God Jordi Bernet signed on for an arc, an origin story arc no less, I decided to give it another shot. And I'm glad I did! This was phenomenal. Very pleased to see that instead of infusing his origin with the supernatural, Gray and Palmiotti made a wise decision to just tell an interesting tale of a former Confederate Soldier and how he came to be transformed into the entity known as Jonah Hex, a name feared in the Old West. And Jordi Bernet, my God. This man cannot receive enough praise. His pencils are a dichotomy of feel. They are light and airy, yet dense and detailed. They seem best suited for action, yet surprise you with their poignancy during quiet moments. They can be bright and hopeful or dark and dreary and shift modes accordingly. One minor quibble is that that last page splash has a "CS" on Hex's belt buckle. Typically, the standard issue Confederate buckle would have actually had a "CSA" on it for Confederate States of America. While the comparable Union buckles had "GAR" on them (no, not for Gar Logan from the Teen Titans!) for Grand Army of the Republic. Sorry. But, I've actually owned one. Part of the fallout from growing up with parents who are Antique Dealers and a Dad who is a self-proclaimed Civil War nut. Anyway, I'm totally on board for this three issue run and may even give the whole series another shot. Grade A.

Criminal #2 (Marvel/Icon): Man, I'm going to catch hell for this... Ok, I like Ed Brubaker's writing. Really, I do. I think he's good. I'm not, however, one of these people who is like rabidly blown away by everything he does. This issue kind of smacks of The Italian Job (which Brube does cop to), some elements of Pulp Fiction, and definitely more than a pinch of The Usual Suspects. Complete with the diversionary heist, which ends with the drugs-being-substituted-for-diamonds switcheroo. And the entire set of cops turning on them was absolutely telegraphed, so it wasn't all that suspenseful when the shootout in the tunnel finally occurs. There are moments of sheer brilliance in his writing, the line "I'm sinking here" basically sums up the character of Greta in just 3 words of dialogue. That's just brilliant. I dig the protagonist's deferential respect for his dad's pal, old-timer Ivan. It's really a dense read too, it moves very spryly for what amounts to a series of pages full of "talking heads." And I like Sean Phillips' art, it's actually lost some of the blocky hard edges it had in say, Wildcats, and looks here to be a bit more on par with Michael Gaydos' (Alias, Snakewoman, etc.) relatively softer lines. I guess what I'm saying is that this is done very well, it's just not as original as I think some people give Brubaker credit for. Sheesh, what a backhanded compliment. Grade B+.

Superman Confidential #1 (DC): This is a very pretty, well written book about Superman's early career in Metropolis. And that's basically what you'd expect from artist Tim Sale and writer Darwyn Cooke, both of whom have a fondness and strong ability to capture this era. I thought it was interesting that for me personally, I actually was enjoying their portrayal of the quiet character moments between Jimmy/Clark/Lois more than any of the superheroic bits. Having Kryptonite be the initial narrator for the series was, I know - the point, the origin of Kryptonite and all... but nevertheless felt a little awkward and didn't flow so well in the early pages. I guess my apprehension here is that it's just hard to say anything new about Superman. I'm *mildly* interested in the Jimmy/Clark/Lois being investigative reporters angle, with them sniffing around Tony Gallo's Casino, so that may hold my attention for another issue or two. If you like Superman, you'll probably really dig this. I've just never been a huge fan. Grade B+.

The Nightly News #1 (Image): Hey! Jonathan Hickman! Over here! Dude, it's called spell-check, look into it. It's plagiarize, not "plagerize." It's conscientious objector, not "contentious" objector. It's the International Monetary Fund, not the "Internation" Monetary Fund. It's savvy, not "savy." And finally, the author's name you're referring to is Arthur Desmond, not "Authur" Desmond. So... after wading through the spelling bee reject files, I actually like this book. It takes a little bit of Brian Wood's Channel Zero type work, tosses in a smidge of Joe Casey's The Intimates, adds a heaping dose of beautiful design sense, and pulls off a very condemning view of modern media conglomerates. Specifically, I like the idea that modern media juggernauts don't truly educate as they would like to believe, but are merely government controlled vessels that indoctrinate us into being good little consumers. And it's like The Matrix, the world is so fleshed out and fully realized, we don't even have the ability to recognize that the wool is being pulled over our eyes. For me, the concept of The VOICE and The HAND is a little too "cultish" for my taste, and I would have preferred more of a lone gunman type of approach to rebellion, but I do enjoy trying to decipher whether or not The VOICE is just another type of "Big Brother" entity or merely the delusional internal "voice," ie: the mental ravings of a bunch of lunatics. There are some nice implicit messages in here, like changing or making your own reality vs. simply accepting what you're given. Hickman has taken a lot of flak about the design of this book being "non-traditional" in its layouts, but I think that's its strongest quality. I'm in for the mini-series, but my eye for spelling accuracy will be relentless. You've been forewarned. Grade B.

Please Release (Top Shelf): I was pleasantly surprised to see the release of another work from indy upstart Nate Powell, and then pleasantly disappointed by the outcome. There's no denying the authenticity his work is rooted in and the heartfelt emotion that he conveys. However, there are moments where his use of language has a side-effect that makes his words come across as pretentious. Lines like "As advocate and staff, my role in checking and debasing power is crucial," or "my relationship to power dynamics as advocate and radical is a compatible polarity," just sort of suck my enthusiasm for the work away. They're trying to sound important. Powell needs to study Hemingway and develop an appreciation for the short declarative sentence. Sometimes you can convey an idea more effectively by using simple language rather than flowery prose that shows your mastery of vocabulary. "Nick drank the coffee. It was bitter. Nick smiled." vs. "Mr. Adams' forlorn reluctance to imbibe the bitter apertif was evidenced by the eventual capitulation of his subsequent smirk." I do dig his pencils though. His layouts are imaginative and his style is extremely versatile. Check out how his tiny characters climb the panel walls in the gutter on page 15. For extremely strong work by Powell, I'd suggest his earlier graphic novel Tiny Giants. Grade B-.

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