10.14.09 Reviews

Scalped #32 (DC/Vertigo): This was an exhilarating opener that provides follow up for the last issue cliffhanger about a key witness. He barely escapes, amid Dash’s continued attempt to burn the candle at both ends. He tries to further the case against Red Crow - without blowing his cover. Dash has had some highs and lows over the course of the series, but hitting Carol is a particularly rock bottom moment that even he realizes. The larger mission is taking its toll emotionally. I noticed some pretty cool sound effects from R.M. Guera this time out. Things like “HPLYAS!” for a strong slap, or “HPOTH” when Dash and Diesel shake hands quietly are not obvious sounds when you first see them, but they sound right when you work them out phonetically. Are these new? Or have they always been present and I'm just now noticing the unique complexity of Guera's gutteral art? He's particularly effective capturing dark moments, like Red Crow standing in Carol’s door in the rain. It's moody and effective, framing a rare moment of selfless compassion. Jason Aaron's characters are so complex and rich, the unlikely alliances never fail to surprise, I *still* think there's something up with Shunka, and as always - are you sick of me saying it yet? - this is a truly original piece of work that deserves more of a following, widespread critical acclaim, and broader exposure than our beloved medium is capable of offering. Simply put, I want this to be an HBO series. Grade A+.

DMZ #46 (DC/Vertigo): The second installment of the Hearts & Minds arc opens with a burst of terse information that exposes the havoc created by Parco’s city state recently becoming a nuclear power. DMZ excels at depicting alternate points of view, and Danny’s is an interesting one. In his attempt at unity and stability, Matty may have inadvertently been more divisive than expected. The questions that Wood’s characters pose are very enticing. What’s Parco’s endgame, and what’s Matty’s? Are they congruous or at odds? I also really enjoyed the notion of (perhaps duplicitous) “Radio Free DMZ” being introduced as another voice in the region. And hey folks, that gmail addy is hot, I sent a test email to it and it didn’t bounce back – so that has some viral marketing potential. Burchielli’s gritty pencils are as tight and well suited to the material tonally as they usually are. This time out, I noticed his figure work and poses in particular. Zee’s worried posture on the makeshift cinder block couch or Danny’s apprehensive guarded arms bring an air of authenticity to an incredible bit of scripting. Also included is a Luna Park preview from Kevin Baker and Danijel Zezelj, which looks fantastic. New Zezelj work is always reason to celebrate. Now, if he’d only finish up that second Desolation Jones arc with Warren Ellis… Grade A.

Liberty Comics #2 (CBLDF/Image): The First Censor by Jason Aaron and Moritat was a smart opener, generally poking fun at the irony of censorship. I enjoyed seeing Aaron do something against type, as well as the censor’s tunic being vaguely reminiscent of Fred Flintstone’s garb. Having just guest lectured to a bunch of high schoolers about the history of comics and literally beginning with the Lascaux cave drawings, I enjoyed that sequence as well. Big Bad City, Big Bad World by Ben McCool and Ben Templesmith sort of feels like Templesmith’s stalled project with Warren Ellis, Fell, but contains more sarcasm from McCool’s script. It’s full of likable bastards and lines like “my liver’s aching for activity.” Who Sell Out? You Sell Out!” by Jamie S. Rich, Mike Allred, and Dave Johnson bears a fun idea in the physical embodiment of copyright problems, but is not quite as funny as it sets out to be. Loverman by Paul Pope contains clever plays on word, hones in on the whole silly notion of censorship and the hypocrisy involved, and generally runs a self-parody concerning common superhero tropes. At the end of the day, it’s just words and pictures, so what’s all the conservative fuss? I will say that the lettering is a little faded and washed out in spots, but otherwise there’s great detail in the art, with lots of things happening fore and back. Channel Zero: Urban Combat by Brian Wood is fueled by the type of energy from 10 years ago that made him a critical success and captured the minds of his devoted fans. It’s jam packed with big ideas and social commentary, proof again why Brian Wood is one of the boldest and most important new creative voices in the last 10 years, just in case you’d forgotten. The Origin of the Specious by Kathryn & Stuart Immonen is a pretty abstract, free form, stream of consciousness number that I honestly didn’t really enjoy all that much. However, that’s largely the point of this entire exercise, let the ideas flow, it has just as much right to be there as any of the other pieces. Painkiller Jane: Explosive! by Jimmy Palmiotti and Jim Rugg has Rugg’s typical sensuous and clean lines, wonderful page layouts, and generally makes me ache for the upcoming Afrodisiac feature length book by AdHouse. Fucking hot dogs! In the end, it also teaches us that having an opinion is not only your right, but its own reward. That, plus, y’know, nipple slips. This was probably my favorite piece in terms of pure in your face audacity. Jack Staff: Speechless by Paul Grist is a clever, but brief episode. Martha Washington by Dave Gibbons is… just a pin up. I was hoping for more. I Beg Your Pardon by Chynna Clugston Flores lives up to its promise of “misanthropic bitterness” with lines like “Or to beg forgiveness for practically shitting your pants in public? Not everyone wants to inhale the fumes of rotting flesh and pimple pus camped out in your colon!” and “a portfolio of bukkake shots.” Loved it. The Apocalipstix: Taboo Boogaloo by Ray Fawkes and Cameron Stewart highlights the dangers of any governing body having extreme forms of control on society, and the unfeasible nature of attempting it, overall it reminded me of Pleasantville, which was swell. 100 Words by Neil Gaiman and Jim Lee captures an ethereal beautiful mood, and while it speaks of dying specific to one character, it seeks to address man’s general existential dilemma. Essentially if our time on Earth is limited, how does that time hold meaning? Overall, a big price tag for an important project that delivers nearly 100% of the time. Grade A.

Uncanny X-Men #516 (Marvel): I get that many artists commonly use photo-referencing as a tool, but you really shouldn’t be able to tell in the final rendered work product. Land’s visual ticks abound here. We have skimpy backgrounds, like three or four pages of just a pastel sky and nothing more, and a striking lack of details, like several of the characters lacking pupils in their eyes. The first three pages are a complete mystery. I’m not sure who the captors are. I’m not sure who the captive is. I’m not sure where the captors and captive are located or why they’re doing what they’re doing. And when all is finally revealed, it’s got to be some of the most expository dialogue ever constructed: “Because you’re a mutant, John Greycrow, AKA John Riverwind, AKA Scalphunter.” Oh sure, people *totally* talk like that in real life. That’s horrible. Xavier and Erik’s entire exchange is painfully out of character. Fraction is still lifting lines from Star Wars. There are very rough jump cuts from the island back to the strange captor/captive setting. That stupid pose the auburn haired chic pulls! Ugh! Who walks around with one hand on top of their head posing seductively like that!? When Scott talks to Psylocke, why is our POV behind her? Oh right, so we can have a shot of her ass. Just her ass. After a dozen issues, Fraction attempts to explain some of Magneto’s activity in the very first arc with a huge data dump. There are weak X-Force/Cable/Hope references that attempt to ground this in some sort of sensible continuity, but it’s all just too little, too late. I’ve enjoyed nearly all of Fraction’s work, from the independents to The House of Ideas. I maintain that his Invincible Iron Man run is one of the best ever. But perhaps this large cast and years of convoluted continuity is just too overwhelming, too big and unwieldy. It’s like he’s just chasing dozens of chickens around a yard, manically trying to corral them in a futile attempt that never seems to end. It’s all gotten away from him. Aside from the chilling sequence with Nightcrawler screaming “Shoot it down! Shoot it down! SHOOT IT DOWN RIGHT NOW!” this book is just not very good. That sound you hear going plonk! is a few of the many balls Fraction had in the air finally hitting the floor. Sadly, I think this is my last issue. Grade D+.


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