7.16.2009

7.15.09 Reviews (Part 2 of 2)

The Killer #9 (Archaia): Ok, so it’s been almost a year since the last issue. Let’s get that out of the way. Typically I’d knock off some points for that, but there are some books (Planetary, All Star Superman, etc.) that are so good they can basically overcome the ridiculousness of the delays between the issues with their (eventual) sheer presence. The Killer is such a book. For art, you wait. It’s ready when it’s ready. The cold, clinical detachment to a profession on display here is not unlike the opening scenes of the John Cusack film Grosse Point Blank. I like the notion of the protagonist finding some quiet time to think things through and figure out what it all means. The Killer is pretty unique because it’s so very introspective about violence, examining the reasons behind its necessity, it’s not a glamorized gratuitous thrill ride. Was it Asimov who said “violence is the last refuge of the incompetent?” That just popped into my head. The art is still fantastic. Rachel Cartier’s hair flinging around in the bedroom makes us feel exactly like we’re supposed to. The hues match the story tonally, racy reds or quiet blues, if a little obvious in places. Archaia has returned with great production quality (feel that glossy paper) for an important book about sex and violence doing a seductive dance. A lot of the plot is revealed here, and it feels like we’re gearing up for more death and one final job, asking the question – what toll will this all take? Will The Killer be able to go back underground into the darkness and, as he wishes, “deal with life more than with death.” Still one of my favorite series in the last couple of years. Grade A.

Wednesday Comics #2 (DC): Let me do this lightning round style… Batman is noirish and contains some interesting social class commentary. Batman doesn’t appear. There’s still no “to be continued” blurb. Is that because you don’t want to see one on every page when it’s collected? Can’t they be edited out? The other stories have them. Confused. The hook is the mystery itself. Kamandi contains very rich art. Prince Tuftan reminds me of Tawny the Tiger. A great hook is set in motion with the journey of the heroes. Superman comes with a very rough jump cut from last issue. Unexpected to see Batman. The hook is Supes seeking consoling around his isolation(?). I don’t recall the last strip of Deadman beyond his character intro. What’s the story here? What’s the hook? He’s just… doing stuff. Green Lantern has beautiful energetic art. Hal truly feels like an intergalactic cop. Great colors, great action, the great hook of a villain’s origin(?). Metamorpho has an immaculate looking single page, but is extremely light on story with no real hook. The tongue in cheek strip at the bottom felt too smart by half. Teen Titans was improved over the first issue, but still cluttered and washed out on coloring. Robin’s domino mask is… two black circles? Galloway’s art is a liability, but the writing is getting clever. Robin loosely referring to Nightwing (not in continuity I guess, huh?) as his older brother was cute. “Thanks Nightwing. Dick.” That’s funny. Strange Adventures still very strong. Love the circular panel with Alanna. The story is progressing fast with much happening between panels. They fight, they're captured, they’re brought before their captor, they’re offered a deal. Very compressed. Kooky Silver Age dialogue: “He has the strength of ten Paladons.” Supergirl is so convincing thanks to Amanda Conner’s expressive art. The story doesn’t interest me in the slightest, but I love looking at those emotive faces and great perspective shots. Metal Men flies in with a litany of lousy one-liners, but the art is still fantastic with lots of energy. I’m just not feeling Wonder Woman at all. I get that it’s supposed to be homage to Little Nemo in Slumberland and all, but the monochromatic panels of aqua and maroon are dense, washed out, and lifeless. Winsor McCay’s panels breathed with life and a feeling of forward motion. The panels are much too small, too claustrophobic on the page, and everything feels too dense. The creative team is trying to cram 3 or 4 pages worth of material onto a single page. Words take up half the space of some of the panels. And I don’t want to read that font anyway. It actually hurts my eyes and pushes me away from the page. I can’t engage with this strip at all, it’s so off-putting. Sgt. Rock is classic Kubert, just look at that panel with the German officer seen through the rain soaked window. That’s impressive. I like how the two Flash strips are alternating back and forth. Demon & Catwoman now seems like an odd pairing. The story is very decompressed, Selena getting out of the room takes nearly the entire strip. Hawkman looks fantastic. He truly feels like an off-worlder. There’s so much detail in Baker’s fine line work and the composition of each panel. This may be the best Baker has ever looked(!). Overall, I’m still enjoying this, but I certainly hope the stories grow to be of some consequence and aren’t just the type of filler material you’d find in, well… a filler issue, a back up story, or an old school annual. Feels like a Grade A-.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? #1 (Boom!): As Warren Ellis points out in his essay, if all you know of Philip K. Dick involves Ridley Scott’s rendition of Blade Runner then well, you don’t know Dick. It seems that I’m required by law to mention PKD and this book in the same sentence as Blade Runner, and then bluster on to some other nonsense about him being some singular luminary in the sci-fi genre before I can review the actual book. With that aside, I’ll tell you that I enjoyed Boom! Studios adaptation of the “complete text” to “graphic form” as the book’s intro clarifies, but it’s not without some problems. That method of transference created some unique challenges, such as the odd text boxes that must now accompany the speech balloons in order to stay true to the original but fit into comic book framework. For example, Rick will say “Ever thought of selling your horse?” in a word balloon, and then the text box below it will come with a clunky “Rick asked” right behind it. While it’s interesting to note, in a way it defeats the duality of the medium. You just showed me Rick asking a question, and now you’re telling me he asked a question. These are interspersed throughout almost all of the dialogue in the book. The art is inconsistent. It ranges from being warm and inviting in the best parts, to clunky and off with the perspective angles in the worst. Generally speaking, it’s ok at depicting the end game of science winning the cultural war over religion and magic, a theme that permeates Dick’s work. It also feels like there are a few really rough jump cuts, from Deckard’s scenes to the Wilbur Mercer/John Isidore stuff, and I don’t remember the source material well enough to know if that was the case, but I assume so since this is a literal adaptation. Warren Ellis’ backmatter essay is an examination of the themes that PKD returned to time and time again in near countless novels and short stories. The essay is sprawling with ideas like only Ellis can (on his good days), and highlights some of Dick’s common riffs. There’s the eternal questions of: What’s human? What’s real? There’s the depiction of the slow death of the natural world, evident in the external (humans fervently clinging to real animals as fetishized items) and their own internal emotions slipping away, supplanted by programmable moods and planned emotional schedules. There’s the legislated affiliations with humankind. For $3.99, this did feel plenty dense and I think it’s a good value. I guess my thoughts seem to be falling right inline with many reviewers and I don’t feel like I have anything particularly interesting to say (scathing self-idictment? points for honesty?), so let’s get to it. The art is probably the biggest stumbling block, which detracts from the experience. It’s an interesting way to read a novel, which I’m ambivalent about. The essays are fantastic, which are really worth the price of admission alone. I didn’t think I’d be saying this, but I’ll probably be picking it up for those alone. The next one is by Matt Fraction and I’m anxious to see who else is lined up, we’re talking 24 issues here. And besides, who knows if they’ll be reprinted when/if this ever gets collected 2+ years down the road. Grade B+.

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