11.12.2009

11.11.09 Reviews (Part 2)

Supergod #1 (Avatar Press): Warren Ellis and Garrie Gastonny open this third installment of a loosely affiliated trilogy (see Black Summer and No Hero) with references to Moses’ people constructing a false idol while he’s off communing with God. That kept making me chuckle, because all I could picture for some reason was Charlton Heston in the film The Ten Commandments and those hokey outfits and props the people were partying with. I generally like stories that start at the end and then explain how they got there; reading this, Bryan Singer’s The Usual Suspects came to mind, as did the first issue of Brian K. Vaughan’s Ex Machina, which started us off by recounting Mitchell Hundred’s infamous days in office. Simon Reddin feels like many of Ellis’ characters, in that he’s a bit of a cipher for the writer, there are elements of Ellis evident in all his creations, but particularly the ones that show off the books they’ve read or crack wise about their perception of the human condition. It’s an interesting notion that “we’re hardwired for the need to fashion gods.” In my studies, this usually spins out of man’s existential dilemma; man is sentient and self-aware enough to realize that his time on Earth is finite, that leads to asking what the purpose of existence is, and ultimately man’s search leads to trying to find meaning in a higher power. If a higher power doesn’t exist, man must create one, either figuratively in the form of religion, or literally in the case of Supergod. This first issue was very engaging, full of fun throwaway ideas like the children with “fins and flippers,” alternate history that fascinates Ellis like it did in Ministry of Space, and the divergent turns from the prototypical Fantastic Four type origin stories – although Kirby’s genius can certainly be felt here with the tri-headed mushroom god(!). The book's framing device is a bit high on exposition, by design, but it’s so engaging and full of creativity that we don’t mind it much. It’s about man’s need for gods, but also the notion of a superhuman as a god, and “superhuman” is intended in the truest sense of the word, a post-human, super-human piece of forced evolution. It’s thought-provoking in the way that classic science fiction stories like The Twilight Zone episodes are. It makes you consider the ramifications of choices and lingers with you long after you put it down. Gastonny’s art seems better with some of the big huge backgrounds where he can fill the panels with detail, or close up shots full of detail, like the spores. But for me, his pencils got bland on the single static figures or many of the quiet mid-sized ¾ shots. I like that the story feels very accelerated, both in the attempts to manufacture AI and shoehorn it into genetic anomalies, and the “Superhuman Arms Race” in general. The logic behind the AI making an effort to maximize its own chance of success, and dragging human society along with it as a secondary achievement is quite clever, and I enjoyed the spotlighted choices of Great Britain, India (Krishna deciding he must burn the village down in order to save it), Iran, the Somali/Korean jobber, and poor, poor Pakistan. Grade A.

DMZ #47 (DC/Vertigo): The last time I was in Rome, I had a tour guide through the Vatican Museum that said something that really stuck with me. Even though my favorite work in the Sistine Chapel is The Last Judgment, most people focus on The Creation of Adam. Our tour guide said that one of Michelangelo’s great abilities was his ability to capture tension. God’s finger doesn’t quite touch Adam’s, it’s the moment just prior. As in the great Statue of David, we don’t see David actually throwing the rock, he’s preparing to, it’s the moment just prior. “There’s great tension in the moment just prior to action.” Welcome to this issue of DMZ. There’s electricity in the air, in the “calm” just before what I feel is going to be a great storm. Some might say that this issue reads like “all middle,” and true – it will read even better collected, but we’re at a precarious moment where it feels like it’s all on the line. Will Matty snap? Will Manhattan snap? Will America snap? What’s Parco’s end game? He’s lurking about the city, Burchielli really captures the potential for a hidden agenda with his eyes perpetually in shadow during the conversation with Matty. I would have liked to see more of Radio Free DMZ that was introduced in the last issue, but there’s no denying this is a powder keg and I can’t wait to see how this accumulation of experiences, which sometimes play like nightmares, are all going to eventually play out. Also included is a great preview of Daytripper by The Boys From Brazil, Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba. Grade A.

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