3.19.2008

3.19.08 Reviews (Part 1)

Ex Machina #35 (DC/Wildstorm): Aside from Brian K. Vaughan’s Sorkin-esque writing and Tony Harris’ amazing art, Ex Machina’s greatest strength is perhaps its fearless willingness to take on complicated social issues. One of the most challenging things, being a fan of the series, has been trying to understand Mayor Mitchell Hundred’s motivation. Much of the series has been rooted in addressing those social issues and has thus created a plot driven narrative rather than a character driven one. This issue, I feel like Vaughan has finally started to address that, as evidenced by the line “guilt that we got a future with fucking jetpacks before we got one with an even playing field.” Perhaps this fictional development is what drives both Hundred and his scribe Vaughan to address those sticky real-world social issues, be them from New York’s gubernatorial mansion or from behind a writer’s desk. Grade B+.

Checkmate #24 (DC): It kind of bugged that Superman was portrayed as a little naïve in the face of Kobra’s suicidal tendencies, and the ethnocentric religious perceptions were a little one dimensional as well. It also felt as if Rucka and company were trying to cram quite a bit into this issue/arc. We’ve got the JLA, JSA, and basically every known meta on the planet all being deputized by Checkmate to take on millions of sleeper cell agents. In one issue! This is really the type of thing that DC should spin up into a crossover event, not the junk they’ve been choosing to use recently. But, I digress. It’s really all over the map here, but the strong point literally gave me chills when Valentina delivers the line “we are seeking unanimous approval to activate The Rooks.” Grade B.

The Immortal Iron Fist #13 (Marvel): This incarnation of Iron Fist may best be described as a summer action movie with a brain. The action’s wild, but there are poignant introspective moments like Jeryn’s realization that Xao is basically a bully, and you never appease and aggressor. There are so many stories at play here, there’s the comedic value of “Danny has a plan,” Davos being confronted with taking on some personal accountability, and a full scale revolution in K’un-Lun. That’s topped off with a last page cliffhanger that brings out a surprising “woohoo!” from the reader. I still think there are too many artists at play here, and that distracts from the story rather than enhancing it, but you’d be hard pressed to find a more enjoyable superhero book with this much intelligence. Grade B.

The Circle #5 (Image): As usual, The Circle is a bit uneven. I didn’t really like how the denoument of this story degenerates to a couple of chics basically mud wrestling. The glasss/metal piercing Ulee’s hand would have likely put him into shock from the mere sight of it, the blood loss, and the sheer pain. There’s also just a ton of information crammed in here about the resolution of this story and building up some momentum for a potential second arc. Some of the details and texture in the art work that attracted me to the first issue returned though, but as the creators confess awful sales figures and an abrupt stop to the series, it’s all too little too late. It’s a shame these five issues were so inconsistent because I would have liked to see more from these creators and/or this title. Instead, they exit quietly stage left. Good luck, guys. I’d definitely check out the first issue of a future title from this creative team if they’re up for another go. Grade B-.

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