11.11.2009

11.11.09 Reviews (Part 1)

Batman & Robin #6 (DC): I loved that opening sequence! The dial-in-fate of our heroes is a big overt callback to the real world mechanism that killed Jason Todd as Robin II, the very same Red Hood pulling the stunt now, in a nice piece of meta-commentary that breaks the fourth wall in an inventive way. Philip Tan’s pencils actually feel ok in this issue; Dick looks like Dick, not like Bruce, not like a Robin, everyone is quite distinct. Either he’s getting better or I’ve grown more accustomed to his style as the memory of Frank Quitely loses intensity with more issues passing. Some of the shots are beautifully gritty, like the RPG sequence with the explosions and fire. The single panel of Jason saying he beat his arch-enemy is just a beauuuuutifully colored flash of artistic brilliance. I love how the creative team is able to maintain Damian’s attitude, even as the villains sort of “self-destruct” each other, with nothing but frequent “tt” marks to capture the kid’s insolent spirit. I enjoyed the prurient fascination with Dick and Damian's various states of dress, their own and that of the viewing audience. It’s an interesting throwaway bit of commentary on the distraction from real issues that nudity can be in our puritanical culture. At first, it feels a bit like Flamingo comes out of nowhere, but our attention is quickly co-opted by the brutal fight scenes, Jason being so sure he’ll “come back” if killed, and Damian’s “paralysis,” which is surely a temporary red herring. The cape’s bulletproof, right, so it’s not permanent. It’s just the impact of the bullets like when they hit the Kevlar in a bulletproof vest, they can still crack a rib… right? In the end, the disparate elements of the hidden vault, the Lazarus Pit references, the passwords, Oberon Sexton, it all starts to coalesce and makes me feel, along with Tan’s passable art, that at the 25th hour, the guys pulled this one out and may have saved this arc. Grade A.

S.W.O.R.D. #1 (Marvel): I’m not sure if that’s the proper title or not. It is an acronym, and the indicia does use the periods, but they’re not in the cover title of the book, was that just an aesthetic design concern? Oh well… I was surprised to find a pleasant level of humor early on that permeated the book. References like the aliens wanting us to cede North Carolina or the MSS acronym tend to abound and offer slight self-parody. The witty repartee isn’t as grand as something like Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. – but, what is? – it is evident though that the fun is intended to be on equal footing with the non-stop unapologetic action adventure vibe, all with ties to recent events in the Marvel U. Steven Sanders’ art looks a little more cartoony and is rendered less dark and moody than his debut work in Five Fists of Science, but it seems to suit the tone of the book very well. It’s actually a nice change of pace compared to the somber mood most of the other related books possess. However, his designs for Sydren and the Drenx diplomats look very similar. Was that done intentionally? Is that Sydren’s race? It’s a little muddled. Another weird glitch is the attempted rescue sequence. Agent Brand issues an order for her “A-team” to get ready and for the Falchion to be prepped. We also see an order being issued for Lockheed to board the Stiletto. We then see Brand and Beast board the Falchion, without Lockheed. Ok so far. But in the next scene, Lockheed is clearly seen on board the Falchion with them, repeatedly. Brand orders the Stiletto to launch a boarding missile, yet we’re never shown who is on board the Stiletto or what the purpose of having two ships is, nor are we clued into who this “A-team” is beyond the obvious foursome of Abby, Beast, Lockheed, and Sydren. When the boarding missile then punctures the ship, Beast, Abby, and Lockheed are seen, leading us to believe that it actually came from the Falchion, not the Stiletto as indicated, and that they actually were aboard the same ship contrary to the dialogue. It’s very, very confusing and inconsistent. Beast’s Last Starfighter inspired car is a fun mode of transport, blasting us right into Lockheed’s enjoyable temperament, and his banter with Sydren, who both prove to be wonderful members of an eclectic supporting cast. This cast includes the uber-intriguing Unit, a sort of sentient psychic droid who we’re led to believe may have some sinister and ulterior motives, along with Death’s Head(!) You’ve heard of him, yes? There are many clever flourishes, like the pop up communiqué Death’s Head uses, and the small details like the sword “theme” being complete, down to the smaller jump ships, like the Stiletto or Falchion. All told, the creative team gives us a convincing “day in the life” of Abigail Brand episode, as her many lives, personal, family, and work all converge. This manic mixture includes the internal strife of her employer, with Gyrich making a big bold argument that kicks off some additional tension. The back up story with frequent Kieron Gillen collaborator Jamie McKelvie has been the subject of much personal speculation in the circles I run in. Basically it starts to answer the worthwhile question, what the f--- is going on with Kitty Pryde? This story starts off clever, depicting Abby’s limited ability to speak Lockeed’s language in the choppy translation boxes. The story goes a long way to explain the mechanics of the object she’s travelling in itself and its general impenetrable nature, but does not expound on Kitty per se. We learn all about the gravity well associated with the object’s mass and attempts to track and approach it, but the major hurdle of how Kitty has survived without freezing to death or expiring from the lack of oxygen in space are quickly glossed over. They’re not explained away, we’re not shown why she’s alive, we’re merely told she is. It’s reassuring for the audience who loves her, but how would Abby know this if they’ve had such difficulty approaching the object? It’s almost as if there is a text box or two missing regarding the asteroid inhabitants that came in contact with the bullet. It feels like a bit of a cheat so far, but hopefully there’s still some story to tell here. Grade B+.

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