4.02.08 Reviews (Part 2)

Scalped #16 (DC/Vertigo): This issue takes a hard focus on Red Crow as a fulcrum point; he contends with the ego of Sheriff Karnow, Agent Nitz in his house, and escalating pressure from the Tribal Council, which all culminates with a poor cheater being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Meanwhile, Bad Horse tries to keep the pressure on Diesel and is again in a position where he can break the cycle of violence created by the system not working for his “sidekick.” Scalped can compete with many of the best TV dramas; I’m happy to be witnessing the birth of a superstar in writer Jason Aaron. Grade A.

Kick Ass #2 (Marvel/Icon): It’s still disturbingly easy to enjoy the main character’s natural reaction to such outlandish events. It’s surprising to see that the length of his recovery period isn’t able to dissuade him from continuing his attempts at being a hero, as it would a relatively "normal" person. This is a very telling bit about his psychosis; that he’s compelled to act despite what he’s been through. He gets the crap beat out of himself again, but this time there’s a subtle difference; he’s able to inflict a tiny bit of damage to the aggressors, and there’s a slow transition toward validating his path as the person he’s trying to protect mutters a “thank you.” I enjoyed the viral tie to YouTube; though I thought by now most writers worth their salt would have learned their lesson from using what will inevitably become a dated pop culture reference. John Romita, Jr.’s art is bloody! This is an interesting dichotomy considering his style usually boasts a sort of wide eyed innocent charm. This title, especially the second issue, has been taking a lot of flak, but I still enjoy it’s odd fascination with violence, almost to the degree that it showcases an addiction to a masochistic high. The narrative flow wasn’t quite as strong as the first, but this is still bold and entertaining. Grade B+.

Abe Sapien: The Drowning #3 (Dark Horse): Jason Shawn Alexander’s art is the real treat here, with the wide open and airy panels that bring a true sense of awe to these happenings, that would otherwise be lackadaisical monster fare. Aside from some entities taunting Abe about his abilities vis-à-vis Hellboy, there’s not much to write home about on the scripting end here. The coloring deserves a big nod here, as it wonderfully traverses the spectrum from warm earth tones to crimson hues and adds a layer of complexity to Alexander’s already spectacular art. Grade B+.

Secret Invasion #1 (Marvel): First of all, Yu’s art has never looked better. His sketchy line work, while distinctive, can sometimes be a bit distracting, but here is not at all a detractor. What we see here are pencils that are finely rendered, panels packed with clear figures and detailed backgrounds, a diversity of settings, and clarity of flow from one shot to the next. I have a couple of quibbles. The first is that Agent Brand just died over in Astonishing X-Men, yet here she is aboard S.W.O.R.D.’s orbital station. Whedon’s title shipping ridiculously behind schedule doesn’t explain the gaffe either, so… what’s that about? Two, Reed mentions that he’s got volumes of research on the Skrulls at the Baxter Building, which assumably took years to amass, yet he is suddenly able to figure out how they shape-shift undetectably to mutants, magic, and tech in a matter of, I don’t know, hours? Lastly, how is it that Tony Stark basically has access to a global network of advanced tech in his heads up display, the Extremis technology living with him symbiotically, and God know’s what else, yet Hawkeye is able to play with the “motherboard” in the Quinjet and prevent Tony from controlling it (while not crippling the Quinjet in any way, I might add)? Overall though, this is the ultimate summer action movie! There are plenty of shocking reveals, oh crap! moments (like a listing Helicarrier), as all hell breaks loose on multiple fronts. The book is entertaining in its sheer scope and ambition. I've become disgusted with the inorganic regularity of crossovers, but this feels like the rarest old school crossover that really will affect all corners of the Marvel Universe and alter the status quo for years. Grade B+.

Zorro #2 (Dynamite Entertainment): While it is interesting to learn the background of our titular character, the details come quite slow and straightforward. The story unfolds in a competent manner but seems to resist being overly engaging. Our standard story expectations are met, but it never quite rises to a level that causes a shock, a twist, poignancy, a memorable line, or the flair required to distinguish itself in this competitive marketplace. Grade B.

Anna Mercury #1 (Avatar Press): I was quite excited to peruse the new Warren Ellis and Facundo Percio book, but was quickly disappointed. The book literally opens with a misunderstanding of radio communication protocol. Anna saying “Mercury, Launchpad” is completely backward. If Anna is speaking, it should read “Launchpad, Mercury” as if to say “(Hey!) Launchpad, (this is) Mercury.” This mistake is repeated several times throughout the work. Some less formally trained organizations may use a simplified protocol which would play out with Anna saying “Mercury to Launchpad,” but it doesn’t work here either way. That may seem like a petty nitpick, but having spent literally hundreds of hours communicating via radio during crisis management incidents, it pushed me right out and lacks an air of authenticity that I’d expect from a seasoned writer like Ellis. Percio’s art is interesting. I really liked the expansive panels and cityscapes, which brought a nice level of detail. From afar, the characters also looked very refined, with thin lines in their hair and uniforms. But up close, the facial features were extremely flat and overly simplified which made them downright unappealing. The story itself is a bit difficult to comprehend. Anna leaps around for no apparent reason, there’s some sort of tension between New Ataraxia and Sheol, something about electrogravitics, and… I don’t know. The last page reveal is meant to add a level of context, but I’m still not clear on exactly what the story throughline is. I do think the book is aesthetically pleasing to some degree, though illogical and difficult story-wise. In many ways, I feel like it had the opposite effect as Zorro up there. This was more pleasing to the eye, with an unclear story, while Zorro was clear on the story end while nothing else seemed to pop artistically. I can see myself checking out another issue or two based on the intrigue of the art and overall aesthetic, but I’ll definitely be looking for a level of script clarity lacking in the debut issue. Grade B.

North Wind #4 (Boom! Studios): I decided to check this out due to some positive buzz on the interwebs, but didn’t find much reason to return. It’s yet another post-apocalyptic setting, but without much of a hook. I found some overly affected lines like “not a piece of citizen filth” and “…three things have survived through the ages, cockroaches, whores, and dictators.” They’re meant to be a hip, kitschy parlance, but instead come across as desperate attempts to develop a distinct vernacular without an inherent link to the story. In other words, style over substance. The art has some of the quirks that reminded me of Koi Pham and the myriad artists who followed Ryan Sook on X-Factor and ultimately made me give up the title. At a distance, there’s some nice passable detail, but up close the figures are actually not to my personal liking. Grade C.

I also picked up;

The Boy Who Made Silence (AAM/Markosia): 2006 Xeric Grant Winner Joshua Hagler’s book has some beautiful art (reminiscent of everyone from David Mack to Greg Ruth) amid magazine quality glossy pages.

Comic Foundry #2: Come on! It has Matt Fraction on the cover with a funny pose and t-shirt. That’s just golden, can’t wait to read the article about this up and coming star, as well as check out the newly revised format.


At 1:42 PM, Blogger Big Tom Casual said...

I sadly admit that North Wind has also come to leave me feeling...totally underwhelmed. A bummer since it had seemed to have some potential initially.

Anyway, Scalped - Wow. Just caught up on the last two issues and haven't yet read the one from this week but can't wait for our discussion (coming soon, I swear!). The scenes from the issue previous to the one you just reviewed (with the arrowheads bit) hit me with such emotional force that I found myself surprised yet again at how powerful the book can be. Man...

Anyway, glad to see you're on top of things. You should be hearing from me soon.

Keep keeping it real Justin, and talk to you soon!

At 2:36 PM, Blogger Justin said...

Hey Tom, thanks for stopping by! Scalped just never disappoints, just when I think it's sort of levelled of, it keeps pushing ahead with shocking emotion, memorable lines, and fascinating commentary on these characters trying to act honorably in a dishonorable world.

Looking forward to our little collaboration, talk to you soon!


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