3.05.08 Reviews (Part 1)
Scalped #15 (DC/Vertigo): I was very drawn to the emotional arc that Bad Horse travels this issue. He begins by resisting any feelings whatsoever about his dead mother in a very dismissive and emotionally stunted way. By the end, the veneer is cracked and he actually begins some semblance of a glimmer of grieving. Chief Red Crow actually steals the show though, proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the world of Scalped rejects the idea that life is black and white. We see that even a bad man can show concern, or be insulted by an insinuation that he is responsible for the death of someone he’s not ordered the actual death of. Writer Jason Aaron is a master of depicting layered and complex personalities and evolving motivators. I’ve been considering Scalped a lot recently and why I’ve defended it as a masterpiece and even advocated for it as Vertigo's new flagship book. *Sometimes I think that being a critic is easy. You don’t really risk anything. You stand aside those who have created something, judging a piece of their soul that they’ve sacrificed and put out into the world. People are delighted with negative reviews because they’re fun to write and fun to read. Only occasionally does a critic have an opportunity to take on a risk. It’s in the positive review that defends something new and different. The world is harsh on new and different things; they need friends. That’s why I’ll continue to defend Scalped as nothing short of brilliant. Grade A.
(*with apologies to Disney’s Ratatouille)
Justice League: The New Frontier Special #1 (DC): I completely understand the marketing angle with the animated movie here, but the inside of this issue was branded as “Justice League: The New Frontier Animated Special.” All I ask for is a little consistency with the title of the book. I was also a little put off by the soapboxed allegory of giving up personal liberties in order to preserve national security. It’s a worthwhile issue, but I’d prefer it to be less transparent. That aside, I enjoyed Rip Hunter’s intro that wisely throws continuity to the wind, and dug the humor: “If I may say, sir, that was an exemplary bit of parking.” We’re reminded that Bruce is a brilliant tactician, with some foreshadowing to many of the battles that Bruce and Clark will wage through the coming decades. I love that Diana is portrayed visually as a bit on the umm… plump side, not in a hyper-sexualized way. She is curvaceous and voluptuous; a truly classic beauty. I absolutely loved the unexpected and dramatic reveal of Bruce Wayne. I’m reminded of an old issue of (was it Justice League?) a book that explained why Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are indeed the Holy Trinity of the DC Universe and why their relationship(s) are interlocked. It was said that Clark represents the potential of man at his best, he is the hopeful ideal, truly the Man of Tomorrow. Bruce is first and foremost the world’s most brilliant detective, he investigates and recreates, relying on the past for clues, in many ways he is the man of yesterday. Diana must reside solely in the present, the integral bond bridging the gap between man’s broken past and his promise of a bright future, with her Amazonian peace transcending these two extremes. The Robin/Kid Flash story is harmless enough, perfectly capturing the 1960’s hipster aesthetic it strives for. There’s a great faux-house ad for other DC properties related to The New Frontier, and an end piece starring femme power versions of Diana and Dinah that would make Gloria Steinham proud. I have to give DC credit for being really smart about providing a gateway book for kids who will no doubt watch the animated movie and go looking for a related book with a (relatively) affordable price point. Grade A.
Casanova #12 (Image): The opening shootout rattles and hums with little moments of homage to Star Wars, blows our skulls off with extreme forced perspective shots, enamors us with kitschy fourth wall breaking moments, and truly lives up to its name as Zephyr really fucks some shit up. Casanova remains one of the best experimental works in progress. Grade A-.
X-Force #2 (Marvel): It’s a bummer to pick up on two incomplete and awkward sentences in the intro section and it made me wince to read tired lines like “…with extreme prejudice.” The art, once again, runs the gamut from looking overly CGI’d and photo-referenced, coming off as fake, like a bad copy of the old Dragon’s Lair video game, all the way to being kind of charming – I loved the depiction of Warren, it really grew on me. I’m confused by Risman saying that he wouldn’t hesitate to kill another mutant, but then he (merely) shoots Rahne in the knee, rather than killing her, simply to advance the plot. I did enjoy Logan struggling with a leadership role (and doing his best Mr. Blonde), and enjoyed Cyclops letting him make mistakes in order to learn even more. I don’t understand how X-23 (doing her best Boushh) didn’t blow up her entire team – very haphazard. Overall, I think you can see that this title is all over the map. There are elements I enjoy, but times I need to really suspend disbelief and internal logic for the property. It seems to go for big, cool moments at the expense of said logic. As we get a set up for the return of an old character (which makes Rahne's involvement a little clearer perhaps), this may best be described as a guilty pleasure. Grade B.
Powers #28 (Marvel/Icon): I’m generally a fan of Bendis’ writing. As is common in life, I think he gets more credit for the things he does right than he deserves and also takes more crap than he deserves for his mistakes. That said, I think that he lost his way on this title long ago. The basic conceit of Powers during its initial run from Image Comics was that Detectives Pilgrim and Walker were non-powered cops in a city rampant with super powered beings. Now, Walker is some sort of intergalactic guardian chock full of powers, Pilgrim has powers she neither understands, nor is able to control, and Calista is even masquerading as a new incarnation of Retro Girl. The title is full of double page spreads with minimal dialogue, instead of the conversational grids full of talking heads that it once employed. I’m reminded of X-Files; a concept with a great premise that ultimately lingers too long with too much unresolved. I’d prefer a story with a finite end, instead of repetitive plots on the micro level, and no closure on many ongoing threads at the macro level. Grade B-.