5.07.2009

5.06.09 Reviews

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century: 1910 #1 (Top Shelf/Knockabout): For everyone who thought that The Black Dossier was more of an exercise in structure and literary research than any actual substantive storytelling, Century: 1910 is a return to something more akin to the first two volumes of LOEG. And that’s a great thing. O’Neill’s art is as fantastic and ridiculously great as ever. There’s a particular page that I want to own. It’s the first time we see Mina in her red and black attire adorned with a question mark. It truly gives us a sense that she is a Victorian era superheroine. I’ll need to re-read this a few times to appreciate all of the literary references and themes at play, but at first reading the recurring themes that jumped out at me were about power and control. The ability of the Haddo Cult to control the occult, the loss and then catalyzation of an ascension to power associated with a rape, the team in over their heads and lacking control – being so frayed and falling apart, society losing power to Jack the Ripper, and the inability of anyone to control the incessant chattering of Orlando, who apparently Forest Gump’d his way through nearly every major historical event (and figure) since the dawn of time. The inclusion of Orlando was a welcome addition from The Black Dossier, honed by other members’ suspicion of him and lines about the stupidest thing he’s ever said: “Uh, I don’t know. There was ‘Oh look! What a wonderful horse!’ That was at Troy.” We also see scribe Alan Moore return to a style of storytelling that is both full of intertextual references and part industry commentary, evidenced best by the repeated visual of “Mobilis in Mobili,” Jules Verne’s Latin motto for Nemo in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. It means “Moving in a Moving Thing,” which is generally accepted as showing how change can occur in a changing medium. This is amid many obvious links to Moby Dick, sing-songing our way through familiar Jack the Ripper fare, the Freemasons, callbacks to the pirate motif in Watchmen, British colloquialism inspired names like John Thomas, and the actual team – the aforementioned Orlando, the delightful Mina Murray, fictional occult detective Thomas Carnacki, the bizarro version of Sherlock Holmes that is AJ Raffles, and "Son" of Allan Quatermain. I loved the arc about the ascension of the new Captain of the Nautilus as well as Andrew Norton – Prisoner of London, who reminds me of some Warren Ellis creations like Jack Hawksmoor (King of Cities) or Elijah Snow (Century Baby). I think most LOEG fans will be breathing a sigh of relief to find that things appear to be back on track. I’m anxiously awaiting more (Moore?) and hope that someone like Jess Nevins or Timothy Callahan will be quick to annotate this sucker so that I can discover all the wonder that I’ve missed. [UPDATE: Hurray! Jess has in fact completed his annotations and they're certainly worth a look!] Grade A+.

Invincible Iron Man #13 (Marvel): This issue continues a very strong run by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca. The script is full of little Fraction flourishes that emphasize his points like “…the further-- (the farther?)” The sequence with Controller and Maria Hill is really chilling and intimate; I’ve really grown to enjoy her character immensely. The stoic reserve of lines like “Then I can go find somewhere quiet to die for a little while” are really character honing moments. And what’s her mention of Cap all about?! Larroca is basically turning in the best pencils of his career here month after month and I’m surprised that more people aren’t raving about this title. It’s generally well reviewed (with a few holdouts who seem to feel Larroca’s pencils bear too much CG influence), but doesn’t seem to have reached “hot” status. Fraction handles three plotlines deftly, flitting back and forth between them all in a seamless fashion. Osborn’s would-be interrogation of Pepper Potts really proves what we all already knew about a 500 page classified report recently released by the Obama Administration regarding Gitmo – the CIA in Vietnam taught us long ago that waiving rights and inducing torture is not an effective means of intelligence gathering. Coercion and blackmail are much more successful in securing credible confessions or data. It’s just like Nice Guy Eddie (the late Chris Penn) said in Reservoir Dogs: “if you beat on him long enough, he’ll tell you he started the god damn Chicago fire, and that don’t necessarily make it fuckin’ so!” Grade A-.

Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye #2 (DC/Vertigo): The loony fun of this issue revolves around a sort of Witness Protection Program where former, or would-be, superheroes are vanquished and caught up in a Matrix-style pseudo-reality. Cameron Stewart’s pencils are on fire here, with brilliant depictions of things like the Octomarine, which is a sort of hybrid of Black Manta and Nemo’s Nautilus from LOEG. I particularly smiled at things like El Macho!, the fate of Doc Hero, and Pablo’s Honey Pot. Maria Del Muerto has to be one of the best new characters I’ve seen in a while. I’m still not sure where this is ultimately going or what it specifically wants to say along the way (if anything new, maybe just retread of familiar Seaguy themes), but I’m enjoying the ride. Grade B+.

Cable #14 (Marvel): I picked up nearly the entire run of this Cable series recently from a dollar bin. Unfortunately, the issues that precede the Messiah War were snoozers that really lack the pizzazz that fuels the action and plot of this crossover. They were mostly, blah, blah, Cable and Hope in the future, scenes of Bishop looking grim, killing random highway robbers, blah blah, the Messiah Child. Anyway, this one is Chapter 4 of the Messiah War by Duane Swierczynski and Ariel Olivetti. I enjoy these issues of Cable about as much as I enjoy a Snickers bar when I’ve skipped lunch. They’re confectionary treats, ultimately unfulfilling, but they go down easy, are fun, and will get you through to your next meal. The best part of this issue for me was seeing Domino’s character development. I like the way she was positioned – no longer the character-less, femme fatale, window dressing, would-be fling she’s been to Cable and Deadpool, but someone with the heart of a leader who steps up to fill the void in leadership created by Wolverine and Cable both seeming to lose their footing as field leaders of X-Force. Bishop’s master plan is still pretty convoluted and doesn’t hold up to reason; I fear that someone is going to have to take the fall for this entire war and it might be him. I don’t think Marvel’s editorial department is prepared to truly kill Apocalypse, I doubt they’d kill Stryfe (after struggling so hard to bring him back for this), which leaves poor Lucas Bishop. Olivetti’s art is serviceable, still some awkward poses and overly CG renderings, but it largely gets the job done. As one of Marvel’s still $2.99 books, that helps achieve a Grade B.

New Mutants #1 (Marvel): I was pretty excited to check out this new series from Zeb Wells and Diogenes Neves that reunites 6 of the original team members, somehow in current continuity. The events that drive the assembling of the team are plausible enough in theory, but the execution on the scripting and visuals leave something to be desired. I liked the generational conflict between Sam and Robert and members of the New X-Men, particularly the conviction of (now more adult) Sam. The art in the preview pages was great, Neves boasting some refined detail and great care with the depiction of the various women in the story. The rest of the story pages appear rushed, some panels very skimpy on the details, and most of the men looking horrible. I liked the rapport between Sam and Scott, but I’m not sure I buy Scott’s depiction as an administrative paper pusher. Are we really supposed to believe that Sam would take the time to fill out some “Roster Request” form and officially submit it to Scott for review? Are the last remaining mutants really steeped in this much bureaucratic nonsense? “What do you got?” is one of those lines that might look ok on paper, but turns out to be very clunky when you say it aloud a few times. Wells and Neves could turn this around, and I hope they do. I want to care about these characters and like the title, but the first one was pretty inconsistent on all fronts. Grade B-.

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