9.02.09 Reviews (Part 1)
Northlanders #20 (DC/Vertigo): After a couple of diverting smaller arcs, Brian Wood and Davide Gianfelice return to their original series protagonist with the new Sven The Immortal arc. Immediately, I have to say that I just love the way that Dave McCaig colors the book. The tale we’re told somehow appears as faded as the time period it captures, yet is also able to pop with vibrant purples and lush green hues that give it a more modern appeal. This issue is a good example of everything that makes Northlanders so grand and unique; it’s a blend of tactics, action, personality, and humanity, along with expertly crafted dialogue. Wood has an unparalleled ability to capture characterization in such a minimalistic fashion. Concise lines like “lads eager for reputation” and those with the crisp efficiency of “play the role” are used to explain a dynamic in the plot that would take lesser writers a page of dialogue to convey. I enjoy seeing the father in Brian Wood seep into his protagonist and capture the realistic fears of a father trying protect his children. As usual, Northlanders isn't really about its titular characters per se, it’s actually a more weighty examination of personality drivers, what drives people to do the things they do, informing us about the composition of their identity, and their motivators. It’s a deep psychological and sociological study masquerading as something more tame to the casual onlooker. There was a time when I thought that books like Local and DMZ were my favorite Brian Wood books (and honestly, attempting to choose is a Sophie’s Choice style dilemma), and I still like them all a great deal for different reasons, but Northlanders is quickly becoming the go-to Brian Wood book. It’s surprised me as it’s become the most eagerly anticipated, the deepest and most soulful, the most thought-provoking and enjoyable in his stellar body of work. Grade A.
Sweet Tooth #1 (DC/Vertigo): Kudos again to DC Comics for continuing their $1 issue teaser; I read an interview somewhere with Dan DiDio or someone (how specific my sources are) who indicated that the $1 price point on first issues of ongoing series continues to be a viable financial model and they have every intention of sustaining the program. Cool. I really enjoyed Jeff Lemire’s Essex County Trilogy and it’s sorta’ post-modern commentary on the American experience. But this? Yeah, I don’t know. It didn’t really do anything for me, despite some interesting observations. Sorry. I will say that I like Pat Brosseau’s lettering a great deal and the inclusion of the Peter & Max novel preview was a nice touch. For some reason, the broken down under-educated speech patterns (while in character) felt a little tired and I found myself more interested in the book's construction (there was a two page spread that captured life and death) and background information, like the mysterious pandemic that created this post-apocalyptic reality (but I get the sense that those things aren’t going to be the main focus here). I think that if this title delivers on its hints of an effective waking nightmare, an examination of life and death among marginalized elements of society, and the Animal Farm notes I detected on my sommelier style palette, then it could show greater promise. Grade B.
Justice League: Cry for Justice #3 (DC): Last issue, I didn’t really see the sense in writing a traditional review of this book, so instead I simply listed items that particularly jumped out at me as funny or somehow off, in bullet point fashion. Let’s try that again;
- First page, where our attention is drawn to Supergirl’s tits courtesy of a mysterious light source in the city. GL, GA, Freddie, and Atom (is that Ryan or Ray? I forget...) all seem to be looking at her tits too, especially Ollie. Also, she has no head. Yes, just the tits please.
- On that page, it’s interesting that Supergirl seems to be lit from the left (from the unknown light source just above Atom’s head), which is visually correct. Yet, Green Lantern and Freddie seem to be lit from the right, inconsistently and incorrectly.
- In that shot, Supergirl's hair is also blowing to the left, while Hal and Freddie's is mysteriously blowing to the right. Maybe we're to assume that Red Tornado also "wants JUSTICE!" and is up off panel swirling a clockwise vortex of angry wind over their heads.
- Without a word, Supergirl starts to cry because… Hal questioned her status as a hero?
- “Hey, don’t cry.” (Ollie is so sensitive). “The horrible man didn’t mean it.” (Is that supposed to be funny or actual characterization? Because it fails on both counts).
- “That’s not nice, Ray.” (Freddie is a pussy).
- “Together, we can be JUSTICE!” (Supergirl was crying 7 panels ago, now she’s a badass).
- “That being the thing that those who killed Tony will be minus when I get my hands on them.” (Poor Mikaal, he needs a vocal, diction, and grammar coach).
- Prometheus captured off panel(?) in just two pages.
- Hal doing his best Dick Cheney impersonation; torture ok if “Prometheus is a villain… he’s a murderer.”
- Hal justifying the torture because of the “sting of Bruce and J’onn’s death,” says the guy who died and came back.
- Actually liked Ollie saying “—the cowl’s taken” in relation to Dick becoming Batman, but then it got all fucked up with Hal’s “Speak not ‘in metaphors’” nonsense.
- Congorilla ripping the canopy off of the plane and not being blown off with the force; he and Mikaal somehow then jumping in front of the moving plane.
- The incomprehensible two page spread that follows.
- After that, yet another scene of the GL/GA gang standing around ominously and asking Prometheus for the third time “All right. Again. What did you hope to achieve with all this?”
- The GL ring can detect that a bomb has been “primed” (and by definition, it would have already been primed when originally inserted into Clayface anyway), but not detecting that there was a bomb to begin with, or that the detainee was Clayface and not Prometheus.
- Not sure why the bomb detonating is such a cliffhanger, GL could just instantly encapsulate everyone in a protective green bubble. In some of the Geoff Johns Green Lantern canon, the rings even do some of these functions automatically to protect the wearer.
- Tasmanian Devil now an attractive rug at Prometheus HQ. I hope we get to see him pose nude on it at some point like Burt Reynolds.
- All kidding aside, Mauro Cascioli drew Shade really cool in that first panel. Federico Dallocchio (Origin of Prometheus) also turns in some really nice pencils.
- Robinson's "bonus material" feels a bit like the bread crumbs in Grandma's meatloaf - just filler.
- Robinson wanting Prometheus to be a “great” villain; note to creative team – for greatness, start with redesigning his lame costume.
- There was also something about macramé centaur pillows and R.E.B.E.L.S Annual Starro the Conqueror #1 or something, but I tuned out by then.
You want a letter grade? Seriously? After all of that? I just don't know how. This is one of the worst books, yet it remains one that I look forward to every month. Draw from that what you will.