Wasteland #21 (Oni Press): I knew I was going to like this issue from the moment I laid eyes on it. Ben Templesmith draws us in with a creepy glimpse into the culture of The Big Wet universe, showcasing a member of the dog tribe front and center. Turn the page and artist Christopher Mitten blows our minds yet again. Look very closely at the texture of the paper he’s penciled on. There are shadows and crinkles there, almost as if he’s crinkled the paper(?) to obtain that worn affect, evidence of a creative team who will stop at nothing to capture the look and feel of the epic they’ve so thoughtfully constructed. Writer Antony Johnston builds layer upon layer to the story with territorial tribalism, altered speech patterns for the dog tribe as they hide something, what looks to be a sand-eater(?), and reminding us how capable Michael and Abi are in a scuffle, all while ratcheting up the mystery and intrigue. Thanks again to Antony, Chris, and the Oni Press crew for including the 13 Minutes pull quote on the front cover; I’m proud and honored to do my part in evangelizing such a wonderful book. Wasteland pulls the audience in effortlessly, slowly and deliberately doling out pieces of a puzzle, the final picture one that we so desperately want to see and understand in its entirety. I’m hooked for life. Grade A.
Northlanders #11 (DC/Vertigo): It’s very exciting to see occasional collaborator Ryan Kelly (Local, The New York Four) jump on to an arc of Brian Wood’s new Vertigo series. I’ll caveat my minor criticisms by saying that I’m a big fan of both, but I did feel that the book faltered a bit this issue. At the start of this series, Wood made a conscious choice to use modern parlance for his historical look at strife in the British Isles. I was perfectly fine with that choice, largely because anything that can make a book more accessible to more people is always welcome, and I feared that using a more dated dialogue style might play like weird homage to Conan. However, I think you have to be careful to maintain the right balance of plausibility to this conceit in order to avoid things that just sound anachronistic. Lines and word choices like “at the college” or “perp” or “hey sweetie” go a little too far in my opinion and lose believability. And if you’re going to bother updating language, blood “spatter” and not “splatter” would be the correct term to use. All those nitpicks aside, this was a fascinating genre blender that mixed Rob Roy or William Wallace (though I know those are Scottish and not Irish) with CSI. We get modern investigative techniques while chasing a serial terrorist, complete with footfall patterns and wound analysis. The part I liked the most about this is that it’s a lesson in perspective. For example, from the POV of the British, the Boston Tea Party was not a heroic revolutionary act, but an act of insurgency from a local terrorist cell. Ryan Kelly’s art is a treat to see in color – Brigid’s eyes look particularly fantastic – but it does change the dynamic. At times, I felt the color unfortunately muted the clarity and emotion of Kelly’s black and white lines. Grade B.
No Hero #2 (Avatar Press): No Hero remains a mixed bag for me and I’m still not sold on my need to continue picking the title up. On the negative side, there are tons of odd or incorrect punctuation and language choices. There are “ands” instead of “ors” sprinkled about, question marks lurking where none are needed, and “especial” is just not a commonly used word. It was all very distracting and tended to push me out of the story, I found myself analyzing for typos rather than absorbing the story. The Garden of Eden/Apple references are painfully overt and you just really shouldn’t leave a couple of metallic chairs in a non-padded room when you’re expecting strong mental and physical reactions to a highly experimental drug treatment. On the up side, Juan Jose Ryp’s art is visually stunning in spots, the leer jet, Mandy’s green hair and facial expressions, and the depiction of the failed project in Guyana. Ostensibly, I’m having a hard time differentiating between this and Ellis’ other recent Avatar Press work, Black Summer. Though I know this is more from the perspective of the person charged with managing the team of super powered beings, rather than from the POV of the rogue agents themselves, it still seems as if the authorial voice is thematically commenting on some of the same things. Grade B.