7.05.2007

7.04.07 Reviews

Scalped #7 (DC/Vertigo): This time out, Jason Aaron & R.M. Guera offer up some abbreviated little flashbacks that serve as an origin story of Red Crow, all amid a "day in the life" type sequence. It hits some well-placed mildly comedic notes of repetition as he continually endures one thing after another on a day he'd rather just walk through and attempt to have some normalcy with. Aaron continues his rhythmic cadence that rolls off the tongue so sweetly with lines like "in federal courts and fields of fire," these lines that I read over and over and admire how beautifully they're constructed. I love how Aaron manages the script pauses, writing the dialogue in the patterns that people actually talk in, not just what he thinks sounds cool laying on the page. It adds a level of realism, as does Red Crow's faux success being mired in decay and excess. Guera's art is less murky here, with a brighter, smoother method of rendering and panel transitions. The team introduces a Hmong gang element into the mix, expanding the fabric of criminal society under examination, serving up some seldom seen slices of modern American life. They absolutely nail the heartbreaking tone of the end note, which is one of bleak hope. It gives us a much needed point to connect with, allows us to sympathize with the villainous antagonist, and continues the book's rich tradition of astounding complexity: so that "my dreams might again outnumber my regrets." One minor quibble, Red Crow refers to Columbus as a "ginney," which is a choice slang term and all, but it's actually "guinea" if you want to refer to someone of Italian birth or descent in an offensive or disparaging way. Grade A.

Faker #1 (DC/Vertigo): This new mini-series from Mike Carey & Jock jumps right in and never lets up on the relentless tale of manipulation. Even though it makes you a little uncomfortable, you can't help but be enticed with how slick and effective it is, with that despicable self assuredness of the narration. There are some really cool observances of human behavior here and illuminated small little truths like "all you need for a party is two or three people you can let your hair down with; the rest is just bullshit" or "this part takes a long time... let them come up with the idea for themselves." Jock's art seems to be improving for my taste too, less representational as it was in say, The Losers, and more refined with some Mignola influences. The excellent coloring by Lee Loughridge also deserves a nod for the crisp palette he uses. There's a bunch of shit set in motion here and it will be interesting to see how all of the little hooks get resolved and what Carey wants to ultimately say with this book. Grade A.

All Star Superman #8 (DC): This issue is chock full of Morrison moments, whether it's relatively simple bits like the "underverse" or Bizarro "Le-Roj," to the Twlight Zone-y feeling of the "flawed" Zibarro, who is the outcast and has nobody to share an intellectual conversation with. Morrison also still manages to advance the overarching story by revealing Supes' long time ailment to Lois. But for the most part, it's all about using the reverse psychology that has the charm of the Silver Age, but brains of today. And ya' know, basically three words tell you all you need to know about this book: Bizarro National Anthem. It still looks devine courtesy of Frank Quitely, and Morrison is definitely doing his thing, but I can't help but ask what the point of this arc is? Is Morrison just making the rounds and touching upon all the Silver Age Superman tropes during his All Star tour? Not sure about long term direction, but enjoying the ride for the moment. Grade A-.

Thor #1 (Marvel): Thor has never really been an interesting concept to me. If you're an all powerful Norse God of Thunder, it takes some crafty writing skills to establish any sort of plausible peril or interesting plot thread that can't just be immediately resolved with a flick of the wrist (or magical hammer, as it were). Even on the rare occasions when I did enjoy Thor, it was largely because of the greater context (like during Busiek & Perez's Avengers run). Nevertheless, I still decided to give JMS and Olivier Coipel a chance here because I generally enjoy their work. Artistically, Coipel's pencils are ok, but not my favorite style on him. Here, he's employing a softer, Carlos Pacheco-y kind of quality vs. the earlier sketchy and kinetic Coipel (remember his Legion Lost work from DC?), and I personally prefer the energy of that earlier, more unfinished looking style. JMS attempts to sum up some very convoluted continuity in a very minimalistic way. The intent is definitely commendable, but the execution is still kind of... well, when you distill it down high level enough so that it isn't totally confusing, there's nothing really left there aside from a few random images, and things like Beta Ray Bill will remain very confusing for someone not thoroughly steeped in Thor continuity. So, the insta-continuity wash pretty much fails. Within the story, we're basically told that if a God dies, and if mortals believe in you, then you (who? Thor the God or Donald Blake the mortal?) can find the Gods and wake them up (how?) and... (gasp!) they're not dead! (Why?) You just fight your way out of the netherworld (I guess) against some random demons and you (who, again?) can live. Umm, riiiiight. Ok. Wow. So, "dead" really means nothing in the Marvel Universe, does it? I know this is a basic comic book storytelling conceit and all, and in fashion to mock, but damn this feels cheap. I'll blame it on just watching Bridge to Terabithia (which was a completely fucking enjoyable surprise) where death actually meant something. You see, dear writers, if someone's death holds and is irrevocable, it adds meaning to life. Both the character's life and the lives of the people around them that were touched. Every time the death doesn't hold (Jason Todd, Bucky, Cap, the Flashes, Hawkeye, Thor, yes, I'm talking to all of you, and many many more that have occurred and will continue to occur in order to shock and boost sales instead or organically occurring from a plot point), it cheapens the experience of the person's original existence and becomes less meaningful. And umm, I don't really understand what happened on the last two pages. So, take that. Between this and the recent "Clor" debacle, any paltry interest I had in this property has pretty much been killed. And unlike its comic book character counterpart, it's never coming back. Grade D.

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