DMZ #45 (DC/Vertigo): Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli reunite and deliver the first installment of the "Hearts and Minds" arc. You’re crazy if you think any of Brian Wood’s books aren’t about the identity of the protagonist and the sweeping arc of their character. Along that journey, the characters typically change and grow if you mark them from the beginning of the story, and then at the end as points of comparison. Look at Matty Roth, that very first page of him leaning in the doorway with some gear on, the military style sweater, and that sidearm strapped elegantly to his hip. He’s journeyed from a wannabe journalist, struggling to fit in, desperately wanting locals like Zee to accept him, and is now a swaggering, confident survivor, with his own crew no less. I love how Parco and Matty’s strategy meeting is all taut with Aaron Sorkin sounding dialogue, reminiscent of the best days of The West Wing. That session is capped with an intense burst of action that really makes the reader ponder what the fuck is going on and what’s happened to Matty Roth – begging the answer to the eternal “good writing” question “What happens next?!” As Parco looks to stabilize his position and gain a reality based perception that he's the democratically elected leader of a legitimate and sovereign city state, otherwise throwaway characters like Claire put a human face on the entire endeavor. In short, this is serious guys doing some serious politicking, just putting it all out there, and it’s driven home by lines like “…we’re both big boys, Matty.” DMZ has slowly, steadily, and quietly crept up to be a powder keg of thought; there’s nothing like this on the stands. Well… now I’m fucked. Last issue of Northlanders I boxed myself into a corner and said that book had suddenly become my favorite Brian Wood book. Now it feels like DMZ is once again positioned to reclaim the throne from its brethren Viking usurper. If you judge based on an entire body of work, I guess I’ll just say that Brian Wood is my favorite writer working today. There. That solves my little dilemma. Grade A+.
Wednesday Comics #10 (DC): Batman is at heart a boring story depicted remarkably well. Big expressive panels with a smaller six panel sequence that intuitively understands the notion of a story beat capturing an isolated moment in time. Eduardo Risso deserves the lion’s share of the credit here. Grade B+. Kamandi makes me feel like I don’t know why the characters are doing any of the things they’re doing and that I don’t particularly care. However, as long as Ryan Sook is drawing them, I’ll be right here waiting to watch it all, just to take in his beautiful images. Grade A. Superman is basically a manic collage of unrelated images. Hey, it’s an homage to Action Comics #1. Hey, it’s Supergirl. Hey, it’s some freak falling from a church steeple. Hey, it’s some fucker with a futuristic jetpack thing. Yeah, like that. I’ve been foolishly waiting for 10 issues now for this strip to get out of first gear and actually do something. Grade D. Deadman blathers on some more about the “rune-stone” with a bunch of people running around that I don’t recognize. Unfortunately, one nice looking Darwyn Cooke style chic is unable to carry this entire strip. Grade C-. Green Lantern explains an old Texas Ranger colloquialism and makes me wish there was a Saturday morning cartoon featuring this character from this creative team. Grade B+. Metamorpho has some really nice images courtesy of Mike Allred, but I think Neil Gaiman figures that if he keeps using words like "transmutational," inserting more annoying Latin phrases, crafting more awful Java gags, and then sprinkling it with some magic dust that he borrows from his pal Alan Moore, that it’ll somehow coalesce into a good story. Really, Allred deserves credit for some very pretty pictures and it makes me want to give the strip a higher score than Grade C+. Teen Titans has really, consistently, been the worst strip in this experiment. I’m inclined to say that it’s probably Berganza’s fault for turning in some very lazy word slop, because sometimes Galloway can actually draw coherently, but as is I just have no clue what’s going on. Trident and some Nazi allegory? Huh? This strip is so far out of its league. Grade D-. Strange Adventures sees Paul Pope take full advantage of the larger format and use some trick psychedelic zeta beams. Yes, more like this please! Grade A+. Supergirl makes me wish that the creative team listened to more Justin Timberlake and instead of bringing sexy back, could bring funny back. Grade B. Metal Men had a neat panel on the lower left where they broke the panel border and the figures spilled into the gutter. Other than that, this is nice (or boring) art with a competent (or lackluster) story. Grade C. Wonder Woman has some clever, kinetic art, but 31 panels (one of which was “L” shaped) and so many words in such a hideous font that I didn’t want to read it. I promise I’ll try to read this again when it’s collected. Grade C+. Sgt. Rock gives us some nice underplayed violence that builds tension well and uses words like “jig” and “noggin” without it sounding hoary and trite. Grade B+. The Flash just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it? The page layout is wicked, the pencils are tight and full of energy. I love looking at this. Grade A. The Demon & Catwoman: I just don’t get why these characters were put together. Grade D. Hawkman captures some Silver Age spirit and aside from the recent ascension of The Flash, has consistently been in the top three. Grade A-. Once again, here’s our visual ranking;
Demon & Catwoman
Overall, that’s extremely consistent with last week, with the same exact percentages. We’ve got 27% in the top tier, 27% in the middle, and 46% at the bottom. We see the same titles in the same brackets, with minor changes within each bracket as titles jockey a bit for position. Notably, Wonder Woman improves slightly, Superman slides down, and Batman and Sgt. Rock continue to duke it out for best in the “B” range. Overall, we get a D+ average (really, how bad are the stinkers weighing down the stars here?!) with an adjustment up for cool format to Grade C+.
I also picked up;
DMZ: Volume 7: War Powers (DC/Vertigo): This came out last week actually, but Sea Donkey didn’t have it then and made me wait a week to get the latest installment in my Brian Wood library.