Scalped #22 (DC/Vertigo): Welcome back to the best Vertigo book being published. That’s not just blind hyperbole; Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera prove it in so many ways this issue. It hums along with grounded prose like “I’m gonna’ fuck you ‘til you scream” and the emotional toll dripping from a reflective Red Crow: “I’m the keeper of her soul” trying to avoid “another ghost to haunt my nights.” In modern comics, we rarely get a story inhabited by characters who are so fleshed out and fully realized. At times, it may be the expansion of the Scalped “universe” with more attention on guys like Dino Poor Bear, who we pin our hopes on in the desperate belief that he won’t go down the same brutal path of the elder generation. Other times, it’s the loyal dignity of Shunka speaking truth to power as a Mafioso-style Consigliere or Caporegime type advisor in Red Crow’s “crime family.” It’s a treat – nay, a pleasure – to read. A dirty, sexy, sad, complex, important pleasure, but a pleasure nonetheless. There are interesting story developments like the reaction to the tipoff about a UC FBI operative, but it’s still set amidst a binding cycle of violence that continues through subsequent generations. It wears down the quality of a people’s existence as hope slowly slips away. The poetic lilt of the last four pages resonate with regret and realism; these pages are some of the best writing I’ve seen. Grade A+.
Echo #7 (Abstract Studio): If you want to attend a relatively inexpensive writing workshop, just start reading this book. Witness the brilliant panel to panel transitions, sound effects that reverberate with effectiveness and glee, and the introduction of an old mysterious drifter. Ivy’s conversation with Rick is a well played look into the dogged thoroughness of a Federal Investigator. What I appreciate the most about Terry Moore’s scripting ability is the way he’s able to portray characters who actually act like reasonable people responding to the most unreasonable of circumstances. That coupled with the charm and innocent sexuality of lines like “You’re making me vibrate!” make this one of the most enjoyable reads out there. Grade A.
Aetheric Mechanics (Avatar Press): Even for $6.99, Warren Ellis and Gianluca Pagliarani offer a dense and thought-provoking package that’s well worth the price of admission. Ever notice how all Avatar Press books have that same smell when you crack them open? But, I digress… Pagliarani’s pencils looks great in black and white; there’s a nice balance between an impressive level of detail and attention to backgrounds and a softer edge to the character’s facial features. It strikes me as an odd mélange of Geoff Darrow (detail), Carlos Pacheco (figure work), and Carla Speed McNeil (emotive expressions). That should give you some idea about how beautiful these images are when unfettered by excessive inking and coloring. On the scripting end, Ellis delivers some Ministry of Space style designs, almost as if this world was a historical precursor that vaguely foreshadows his other. It’s interesting that some of Ellis’ shorter works like this are actually becoming more effective than the longer multi-issue pieces. This title moves with a smart, brisk pace and presents a sharper, self-contained clarity of thought – compared to something like Anna Mercury, which for me lacks crispness and clunks along unevenly from a storytelling standpoint. The dialogue isn’t expository, well, actually it is… what I mean to say is that it doesn’t feel like it is. It’s so well hidden in the verbose nature of the characters that we don’t mind it so much as it informs our understanding of this world. Ellis provides deliberate homage by writing this alternate reality version of Holmes and Watson; we have Raker as Holmes, Watcham as Watson, with the elusive Crowne functioning in the Moriarty foil role. The writing itself is sound, touching on notes of re-assimilation into society after war, with Watcham’s flashbacks and marvel at change. The Miss Meyer reveal sequence bristles with good investigative reality. Killers and arsonists often return to the scene of the crime to relive the twisted emotional high of their accomplishments, to the point that modern crime scene investigators often surreptitiously photograph the gathered crowds in hopes of identifying the perpetrator. The high concept of postulating that the aether is actually a tangible field of particles that can be manipulated to control the matter/energy dynamic is great. Placing Crowne in a role where he is functionally a “time cop” responsible for terminating anomalous timelines is grand. Though the ultimate denoument is not all that satisfying and needs a tidier conclusion, feeling like an unresolved tease for forthcoming issues, Ellis’ willingness to hang the conclusion on man’s existential dilemma is pretty bold. What we see is that ego will usually trump logic, and when confronted with his own mortality, man will fight to survive, even when he simply shouldn’t exist, or even doesn’t from someone else’s perspective, which is a compelling conceit. Grade A.
I also picked up;
Heavy Liquid HC (DC/Vertigo): Hurray! I’m deeply encouraged that this will signal DC’s commitment to a full Paul Pope HC library in the years to come.