7.09.2009

7.08.09 Reviews

Wednesday Comics #1 (DC): Before I get into reviewing the individual stories, let’s just cut to the chase. I loved nearly everything about this. I love the experimental format. I love how it snubs the collector mentality right in its big dumb ugly head. I love how it’s near impossible to find a perfect mint copy. I love how it’s different. I love how the format makes it creased. I love how it’s meant to be opened, and read, and pored over, and absorbed, and fondled. I love that it’s intended as a perishable commodity, not some sterile objet d’ art to be admired from a distance. I love how all of the creators had to adapt their style for shorter strips. I love that it’s the brainchild of DC Editor Mark Chiarello, who was responsible for the long lamented noble failure that was SOLO, which gave us the Eisner Award winning Paul Pope issue (of which I own an original piece of art!). As for the comics… Batman by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso was a great way to open. The sheer grandeur of the scale just made me smile, seeing Risso’s pencils with that much room to breathe. It allowed me to see the Mignola influence in his bell tower and Azz’s characterization gets right to the point with Gordon’s opening line. The only thing missing on this was a “To Be Continued” blurb at the bottom, which was important to set the precedent with since it’s the lead story. Grade A. Kamandi by Dave Gibbons and Ryan Sook had a nice Silver Age feel to the dialogue and I like the way Sook opened the first panel sans borders and had it bleed up into the open expanse of the title. When you look at the panel designs and dialogue layout, it’s almost as if Sook was channeling his inner Hal Foster, Prince Valiant instantly popped into my brain. Grade A. Superman by John Arcudi and Lee Bermejo was a conventional (dare I say, lackluster?) story, but it had a nice hook and big open panels. Not much to say here, maybe I’m handicapped for my general sense of ennui toward this character. Grade B. Deadman by Dave Bullock and Vinton Heuck was a little high on exposition for my taste, but I enjoyed the pulpy feel and approach to the page as almost being a single large image with its design. Heuck’s pencils also showed a resemblance to Darwyn Cooke, which earned a Grade A-. Green Lantern by Kurt Busiek and Joe Quinones made me miss the first arc of Mark Waid’s recent The Brave & The Bold featuring Hal and Bruce. There’s a nice nod to DC’s The New Frontier and the team nails the 1960’s atmosphere with a modern cartoon aesthetic for Green Lantern himself. I thought it was an interesting choice to intro the supporting cast and setting first, using GL himself as the hook for the second issue. Grade A. Metamorpho by Neil Gaiman and Mike Allred hummed with glee, exhibiting some risqué fourth wall jabs with lines like “Sapph’s love for giant clams” and “hoping for… the pearl necklace”(!) Loved the captioned heads at the bottom, including Element Girl (from Gaiman’s Sandman series) and the mysterious villain. Grade A+. Teen Titans by Eddie Berganza and Sean Galloway was one of the only weak offerings, featuring cluttered, claustrophobic panels, skimpy details and unfinished looking pencils, along with really washed out coloring. Grade B-. It’ll come as no surprise that Strange Adventures by Paul Pope was my favorite of the lot. His style was really a perfect match to depict the capable women, bruised men, and dirty future tech aesthetic that this story honed in on. We get right into the action and the “Foom!” cliffhanger was well played tension. I’m going to buy an extra copy just so I can hang the Pope strips in my office. Grade A+. Supergirl by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner was great, kid friendly fun with really kinetic pencils. Grade A. Metal Men by Dan DiDio, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, and Kevin Nowlan was a well constructed romp that introduced the characters in clever ways and used a strong story hook that relied on their powers, looking beautiful in the process. Grade A+. Wonder Woman by Ben Caldwell was almost unreadable. In fact, by the 4th row, I’d tuned out and just skimmed the thing. It hurt my eyes. The art style bears some similarity to Skottie Young (which is good), but it’s very blurry in spots, with the look of almost a botched printing job or muddy inks or something, and flows very poorly panel to panel. It’s near incomprehensible to understand what the story is or what the characters are doing. The font size is so small that it’s already hard to read in spots and if this thing gets collected in a smaller format, I think it will be too small to comprehend. The title header is designed awfully and it ends with an “it was just a dream” panel. Are you kidding me? Definitely not ready for the big leagues. Grade C-. Sgt. Rock & Easy Co. has a really old school feel courtesy of Adam Kubert on writing and (father) Joe Kubert on pencils. The story is brief but effective, capturing the spirit of this era, holding up well in the larger size. Grade A. Flash Comics by Karl Kerschl and Brendan Fletcher continued the old school vibe and offered a two-in-one story with the main Flash feature and an Iris Allen back up. We get 1950’s romantic flair, a classic villain, and very nice details on the art. Grade A. The Demon & Catwoman by Walt Simonson and Brian Steelfreeze provides a simultaneous intro for both characters dovetailed into one story, which is intriguing and flows seamlessly from panel to panel. Grade A-. Hawkman by Kyle Baker was a treat. It’s interesting to see Baker change up his artistic style to suit the story in such radical ways. Plastic Man, Special Forces, Why I Hate Saturn, and Hawkman all look remarkably different. It was nice to see Hawkman ready for battle with the sword and mace, and although this could have been told in just a single panel or two, the added length gives it plenty of room to breathe. Grade A. Every story in Wednesday Comics required the teams to adapt their style in innovative ways, forcing the art to take center stage due to sheer size, and the writers to seed the stories with clever hooks. It should already be a contender for the Best Publication Design Eisner Award. It’s a good example of the diversity of stories available to the medium and while it boasts a Silver Age glee, it’s not without a more modern sense of self-aware gravitas. It felt very dense, like I was getting my money’s worth too. I’ve heard anecdotal paranoia about its availability, with retailers short ordering it thinking the “anthology” format might not sell well or experimental format (remember SOLO) might scare people off. I don’t know about you, but my LCS looked well stocked on this title, with at least 100 copies alone visible on the stands. Anxiously anticipating more, two or three duds, but largely a success. Let’s call it a Grade A.

I Am Legion #4 (DDP/Humanoids): If Fabien Nury and John Cassaday spent the first three issuees world-building, planting story seeds, laying the groundwork, and getting things in motion with plenty of talking heads, then issue four is the big action payoff that really starts to pop. All of the bubbling pots begin to boil over on the story end. Artistically, Cassaday’s pencils are best exemplified by the shot of the hand grenades being thrown toward the reader, rattling across the floor. It feels like a Kirby panel as they threaten to burst three dimensionally from the confines of the panel. Laura Martin’s colors are immaculate; I love the half page shot of background crimson which splashes you in the face. I like the Christian overtones with chalice references and Magyar research. It's also clever to see each issue looped to the next with the forthcoming title referenced in the dialogue, like "Three Monkeys" is here. Nury is able to portray both incredulity and plausibility simultaneously with lines like “Are you kidding? You want me to explain to Churchill and the Chiefs of Allied Espionage that Victor Thorpe was… Dracula?!” Grade A.

North 40 #1 (DC/Wildstorm): Aaron Williams and Fiona Staples offer up a perfectly competent creepy horror riff amid small town antics. Essentially, a book of incantations is activated and random occult craziness ensues. Staples’ art is clean and effective, particularly in the more visceral and emotional bits. Williams certainly has an ear for inbred, countrified dialogue like “I gotta’ have me a think.” Unfortunately, his script doesn’t provide any sort of strong hook that makes me care enough to come back for more. I’m thinking of Jason Aaron’s last page reveal in Scalped #1 that Dash Bad Horse is an undercover FBI Agent. That’s what I’m talking about. And why wasn’t this a part of the Vertigo line to begin with? I guess I don’t understand the need for all of the various (oh, let’s just call it superfluous) Wildstorm imprints. There’s also a preview for a book called Red Herring, which has some creative appeal with David Tischman (Bite Club) and Philip Bond (the great Vimanarama with Grant Morrison), but there isn’t enough material present to make an informed opinion of. I will say that Bond’s art looks great (some Eduardo Risso in there) and is colored beautifully. As for North 40, Grade B-.

I also picked up;

The Nobody HC (DC/Vertigo): Jeff Lemire’s original work, riffing on The Invisible Man in small town America.

Asterios Polyp (Pantheon): David Mazzucchelli with an already well reviewed best-of-the-year contender, with a wildly different style than his superhero work.

5 Comments:

At 10:11 AM, Blogger Kurt Busiek said...

>> Green Lantern by Kurt Busiek and Joe Quinones made me miss the first arc of Busiek’s recent The Brave & The Bold featuring Hal and Bruce.>>

Very glad you liked our chapter—and the whole issue—so much. But, uh, that was Mark Waid on B&B, not me...

kdb

 
At 10:47 AM, Blogger Justin said...

Haha, crap! My mistake... that's what happens when I write this with a crying child in the background! Corrected now... Thanks Kurt!

Justin

 
At 8:37 AM, Blogger Matt C said...

Great review for Wednesday Comics, Justin. In most other walks of life I would've been all over the mentions of "giant clams" and "pearl necklaces" but I guess I had my 'innocent' hat on because I totally missed it here! Well spotted. :)

Let us know how the Nobody turns out - I was curious about this seeing it in Previews but a bit reluctant to part with the cash.

 
At 7:18 PM, Blogger Justin said...

Hi Matt,

Thanks, man! Will do re: Nobody. I've really been trying to cut back for purely financial reasons, but this just had too many great reviews... I'm expecting it to be something along the lines of Bottomless Belly Button/Skyscrapers of the Midwest.

Are any of you guys coming out for the San Diego Con???

Justin

 
At 4:46 AM, Blogger Matt C said...

Oh, we'd love to make it over to San Diego but at the moment it would require a lottery win or second mortgage to make it possible. One day, one day....

 

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