3.12.2009

3.11.09 Reviews

Scalped #26 (DC/Vertigo): For 26 issues now (conditioned by so many other shitty books on the stands), I’ve been pessimistically waiting for Scalped to let me down and no longer be good, to slip in quality, to put forward an artist I don’t like, or in some way falter. But, this issue continues to entertain while being socially relevant. Aaron shows us a good case for people being products of their environment (nurture, or lack thereof, and not the nature so much). He also displays what happens when individuals lack a true sense of belonging from a nuclear family or extended social network of friends or coworkers. We see the true character of Diesel (Britt!) emerge when he simultaneously kills two birds with one stone, and then busts a move that lives up to the book’s title. Even when aided and abetted by “fill-in” artists, err… check that, it sounds like a pejorative, let’s say “rotating” artists, Jason Aaron continues to deliver month after month. Just when I think he’s used up his last idea, plot twist, or unique turn of phrase, he amps it up all over again, raises his own bar, and provides another issue that I slowly close when I’m done and smile contentedly. Scalped is a ray of hope that turns my pessimistic outlook into optimism regarding the future of the medium. Grade A+.

Invincible Iron Man #11 (Marvel): The line “So Tony made you to take care of me” really made me smile. Not only was it a touching and sweet moment for Pepper, but it really shows that Tony did design the suit for her protection as she guides the company in his stead, and that it wasn’t designed primarily as a weapon. With his shaved head and no ‘stache, Tony looks (almost too) different. Him making the rounds and dropping off $2 Million to the church reminded me in an (opposite) way of The Godfather when Michael says “tonight the Corleone family settles all of its debts.” Larroca’s art doesn’t appear to be rendered as glossy or CG-ish here and it looks great. Tony’s brilliant doomsday fallback communication plan was extremely cool and nuanced. The untraceable and anonymous plan also functions as evidence of the sheer amount of thought Fraction puts into a script while so many other writers are just… sending it in (pun intended). The armor Tony’s using here is a cool nod to the Busiek and Perez Avengers era. There’s a lot of threads going on here, including introduction of an old school villain and a last page character reveal that promises to extend into a fun tour of the Marvel U, as Tony has to now address the relationships that his recent actions have created. It’s obvious Tony’s got something up his sleeve here and this is all part of a master plan to lure HAMMER down a path, why else would he lead them to the church and then to the staged altercation with Rhodey? It all makes me wonder what’s in store and that’s the best question to ask in order to make us return for more. Grade A.

Ex Machina Special #4 (DC/Wildstorm): John Paul Leon is probably one of the most under-rated artists working today, giving us a style that is part angular representation similar to Sean Phillips and part sensuous line work ala Cliff Chiang. As usual, this issue is full of smart banter about complex ideas with compelling and different positions. That Aaron Sorkin influenced style reaches a climax with lines like “Listen to me. I’m not good cop, I’m not bad cop, I’m the highest ranking officer of the capital of the fucking world. And if you don’t stop lying to me, I will single-handedly revive New York’s death penalty just to see your ass put in the chair.” I like the idea at play here about order vs. chaos and how that feasibly extends to superheroes. Is a superhero truly an agent of order? Do they actually restore order or simply enhance the chaos? While the Swamp Thing and Riddler references are fun and aplenty, what is the deal with all of the self-loathing comic fanboy shit on display? That was a bit annoying, as was the slightly preachy tone in spots, though it was mostly made up for with the duality inherent in the last line of the book. I like considering the implications of the man arrested; is the type of power transfer he suggests plausible or is he simply the paranoid schizophrenic that the authorities make him out to be? Overall, I still don’t understand why there is a need for these special issues to house flashback sequences. The structure of the main book has been to flash forward and back through the timeline to connect all of the seemingly disparate pieces, so the content of these issues could just as easily have been tossed in there. At this point, I’m just hoping they’ll be collected in the Hardcover Deluxe Editions. Grade A-.

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