9.05.2008

9.04.08 Reviews

Invincible Iron Man #5 (Marvel): Matt Fraction does his best Warren Ellis impersonation here, with bleeding-edge tech, zero-point quasi-realistic pseudo-science, and it hums right along. Rather than just laying flat on the page as some of Ellis’ occasional misses do (Anna Mercury, anyone?), it sings along emanating organically from the story beats. Fraction is careful to nail the positioning of a futurist, being off-grid in an energy independent way that acknowledges a grounded-in-reality post-9/11 world. Notice how equal play is given to the crisis management decisions and twice a month evac drills, as is given to the standard fight scene. Larroca’s pencils seem to be settling in, only troubled by a rare and overt photo-reference. I swear I saw George Lucas attending one of the tours of the Stark facilities. And is Maria Hill really supposed to look like Jessica Alba? The cliffhanger ending isn’t really believable, but it’s otherwise a decent fight scene and redeemed largely by lines like “Think big, you know? Pandemics. Wave of the future.” Grade A-.

The End League #4 (Dark Horse): Call me a cynical idealist, or maybe a pessimistic optimist. In comics, as in life, I generally hope for the best, but expect the worst. Unfortunately, my expectations seem to be met with great regularity. With that said, welcome to The End League. Conceptually, I like the idea of a post-modern look at a “league” of heroes who are as fallible and flawed as the average human. Conceptually, I like the idea of being able to play around with the stock character archetypes of Superman, or Wonder Woman, or Captain America, or whoever. Creatively speaking, I truly enjoy scribe Rick Remender’s Fear Agent, also from Dark Horse. Where The End League falls apart is largely in execution, specifically in the dialogue, plotting, and art. From the very first few pages, we get not just exposition, but weighty exposition. Divinity soars through the air proclaiming (to no one!) “Brian’s final words have left a great sadness in my heart… I must hold Mjolnir. Earth will be liberated.” Well… thanks for telling me how you feel, what you’re going to do, and why. Wow. Just… wow. This is awful. It really feels like rookie dialogue writing; perhaps since it’s been months since the title last came out, every character has to re-explain who they are and what they’re doing in order to bring a frustrated audience up to speed(?) We’ve now taken four long issues to introduce these obvious character analogues, only to do nothing with them. Yep, there’s the Cap character. There’s the Superman character. Now what? I remember a lawyer I used to work with saying “never use the words ‘heinous, nefarious,’ or ‘egregious’ in a court room; nobody ever uses those words in the real world, and even if folks understand them, they intimidate people.” I think the same could be said for comic book writing. Really, nobody ever uses those words in real life, so they push you right out and bring a stilted fake feel to your character parlance. Exhibit A: “The scheming vermin is moving toward a nefarious goal!” Really? Say that out loud to yourself. That’s how you want your character to talk? Other examples of ineffective dialogue choices include things like “By the golden wreath of Phoebe… Nargri’ri’s arrival… executioner of the Titans… free the Celestial Inferno!” What. The. Fuck. “Fightin’ peanut heads.” What. The. Fuck. Mixing your pantheon to include Zeus (Greek/Roman) and Thor (Norse). Whaaaaa? On the art side of the house… at best, at best Mat Broome’s art is inconsistent. It ranges from looking detailed and polished in spots to being very awkward and stiff with odd poses that don’t really make any sense. Why is Divinity touching her lips? What’s her hand doing? Did she fall? Is she laying on the ground? Why is the camera right behind her ass? Art shouldn’t confuse the reader. The double page splash harkens back to a 90’s Image house style, devoid of any background work. Eric Canete finishes up the latter half of the book. I actually liked his first page, but then the stark contrast just really wore me down. It’s bad in an opposite sort of way. It’s sketchy, rather than Broome’s clean lines. There’s no detail. It’s too stylized and cartoony to fit the gravitas this book is purporting to achieve, you really feel his animation background coming to light with the facial expressions. And it too is hampered by weird, creepy dialogue. There’s a disturbing scene about screwing a spineless possessed chic… because a man has… “needs.” Ick. I just couldn’t get through a page without stopping to shake my head and wince, jotting some bit of confusion or mockery down in my notes. There are so many distracting things happening on all fronts that it’s actually quite difficult to read, I felt like a WWII bomber flying through enemy flak trying to stay on target, but ultimately having to ditch in a field somewhere over occupied France. Yet, this issue does make me breathe a sigh of relief that I’m actually quite thankful for. For months I’ve been wanting to make a final decision about this title, but didn’t have enough data to do so. When will it come out again? Do I keep it? Is it good? At last, I have my answer. Grade D.

2 Comments:

At 2:37 PM, Blogger Matt C said...

Great End League review! I dropped it after #3 - following a promising debut I found myself struggling to keep track of who the characters were, until I realised I didn't really care.

 
At 9:23 AM, Blogger Justin said...

Exactly! If I care about the characters, I can forgive some mis-steps on writing or art... conversely, great writing or art can make me care about characters I otherwise wouldn't. Sadly, this has neither.

 

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