11.20.2008

11.19.08 Reviews

Scalped #23 (DC/Vertigo): In the hands of a lesser writer, Dino Poor Bear would really be a throw-away contextual character, but Jason Aaron gets a lot of mileage out of him. His tragic story arc is used to comment on personal choices; man’s capacity to do good stands on a precipice of forks in the road that we navigate every single day. Thematically, Aaron continues his examination of systematic socialization into the bitter, repetitive cycle of life on the rez. We see hope dashed and the only viable alternative to getting off the rez is the cheap and easy way for youth to otherwise try to recapture the power and control they lack, by turning to violence and crime. In that regard, this is not unlike Gipi’s superb Notes For A War Story. With an assist from artist R.M. Guera, Aaron hits nice story beats around tough love from Granny Poor Bear and the ruthlessness of the Hmongs. Scalped is still miraculously delivering visceral visuals bonded perfectly to thematic depth, creating a beautiful modern epic. Grade A.

Pax Romana #4 (Image): Jonathan Hickman offers up a nice examination of the repercussions of personal loyalties and individual wishes vs. mission objectives in this final issue. That dynamic of the “fallacy of sentimentality” is explored by the check and balance of the Gene Pope and the Rossi line. As many more self-aware time travel stories do, Hickman is careful to point out the ultimate frailty of attempting to affect the timeline with a desired outcome when there are so many unpredictables, too many variables, and endless cause and effect permutations. The ending felt a bit rushed; there are many interesting elements compressed into just a couple of pages that I wish had been explored over the course of another issue or two. With the wars alone that are mentioned, the Britons, the Visigoths, the Templars, the African campaign, and the Silk Road Wars, there are no less than five very appealing sounding story threads that had potential. With the establishment of New Rome on the moon and the Red Project pushing this reality toward Mars, I wondered if Hickman actually wanted to somehow connect this as precursor to his other work, Red Mass for Mars. Overall, the end plays a bit anti-climactic; the “ah!” moment of discovering all of this took place by the year 1421 is really pretty one-note and ultimately lacks some punch. Grade B+.

Uncanny X-Men #504 (Marvel): Terry Dodson’s art is certainly more affable and flowing than Greg Land’s tendency toward cheesecake photo-referencing; it reminded me here of some of the 80’s Claremont run that frequently featured Colossus, Dazzler, Havok, etc. I also thought Fraction’s notion of “psychogeography” was a nifty storytelling framework to explore. Those positives aside, this issue felt disconnected from the previous issue with many plot threads left dangling (Red Queen? Madelyne Pryor?). Most of the threads introduced in this issue feel like scattered vignettes. I’m starting to get nervous that Fraction is trying to juggle waaay too many balls here. It’s hard to get any momentum going when you’re trying to get no less than six plotlines off the ground at once: Mojoverse, Peter’s depression, Scott & Emma’s “psychogeography,” Peter’s discovery of a villain, the recruitment of Dr. Nemesis, and Trask’s newsfeed. Fingers crossed he can pull it off... Grade B.

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