1.14.2010

1.13.10 Reviews (Part 2)

Invincible Iron Man #22 (Marvel): Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca begin with a suitably somber opening, with confusion on the part of all the parties who attempted to revive Tony. At the same time, Tony remains in limbo inside his mind, grappling with his parents perception of him, the influence of technology on his life, and, in turn, his influence on the world around him. It’s not often that an ensemble cast comes together and is equal to, if not more enjoyable than, the ostensible “star” of the book. It’s fantastic to see Pepper, Maria, and Natasha still together, and I’m glad that the trio is still interacting and delighting us with their performances. The most compelling idea Fraction plays with here is the duality in Tony’s being, his worldly self and his spiritual self. Thor, the Caps, and the assembled team didn’t do anything technically incorrect while attempting to revive his body. The introduction of Doctor Strange means that spiritually though, Tony has to decide to come back, if he values his own life enough to warrant the choice. Not only does his physical body have to be safe in the real world, but in a larger sense he needs to know whether or not his return is safe for the world. Rian Hughes’ graphic design continues to delight on the covers, and on interiors Larroca continues to improve, giving Ghost a distinct and amazing look, which appears to be an additional style for the artist. The large one and two page spreads with Doctor Strange are impressive as well, it makes me wish he was on a Doctor Strange book. The only slight criticism I have is that in all of the shuffling of characters coming and going, I lost track of Black Widow. She was there, and then wasn’t, with no explanation given as to why she might have left, as was given for the Caps and Thor. Additionally, some of the Doctor Strange imagery was impressive visually, but made me curious as to the meaning behind it. It’s all a little abstract. There appeared to be some big Numenorean tree coming out of… an armored helmet? Maybe? What does it mean? Life bursting forth from technology… or something? That aside, this team has made me care about a character that I never cared about, at least not since the Kurt Busiek and George Perez run on Avengers have I been emotionally invested in Iron Man. Matt Fraction deserves credit for creating the best Marvel book currently available. Not one time, not for a few months, but consistently for nearly two years now. Grade A.

Daytripper #2 (DC/Vertigo): I’m wondering where exactly we left off from the last issue? It occurred to me that we’re not sure if Bras actually died in the last issue; perhaps he’s just injured, perhaps the nephew of the bar owner shot himself instead? That said, we really don’t know if Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon are just telling the story of Bras in reverse/jumbled order, if he’s in some sort of purgatory style limbo, or if he died again, and whether that’s a figurative death concerning the “deaths” of various aspects of self, or it’s meant as literal “deaths,” as in these are the alternate timelines his life could have taken along the many choices he was presented with? They’re all fascinating and intriguing possibilities to think about, as long as the creators have some definitive stance in mind and don’t leave us unresolved and bobbing in the water by the time eight more issues roll in. I’m more intrigued now because I feel like I have a slightly better sense of where the series might be going, but I’m also feeling a little more cautious about a resolution ever coming. We’re taken back in time to Bras at 21 years old on the post-collegiate trip that was mentioned briefly in the first issue. This issue struck me as being more beautifully written. The language used to describe the protagonists soaking up nature, small town life, the people, and the culture is extremely well done. It’s no surprise that the coloring is spectacular considering Dave Stewart’s name in the credits. Moon and Ba have an artistic style you just can’t miss. It’s inky like Paul Pope or Farel Dalrymple, full of the type of detail you’d see from Nathan Fox (look at how the market place comes alive), and bears thin figures that call to mind Frank Quitely. However, it’s not like those artists at all. The art doesn’t look like those artists per se, but is of a certain style I’m fond of, and those artists seem to occupy that space on a continuum of aesthetic character. I enjoyed the mysterious character of Olinda as devil’s advocate, questioning motive, intent, and status. Their conversation is a flirty and entertaining one, but also helps the reader navigate the main character and his actions in order to derive meaning from what’s occurring. “It’s through his photos that he tells us his dreams.” I find lines like that endlessly satisfying, with their commentary on artistic vision and meaning, and understanding what comprises a person’s true personality traits. Grade A-.

S.W.O.R.D. #3 (Marvel): Follow me here… Kitty Pryde is a beloved, fan favorite character. We love that Joss Whedon used her in his run with John Cassaday. The guys surprise everyone and seemingly write her out in an emotionally charged self-sacrificing move. Then everything goes quiet. Assumably this is so she can be re-introduced in some spectacular fashion. Ok, so far. What I don’t understand is why you would tease her return in a back-up feature in a new book called SWORD. What I don’t understand is why you would then re-introduce her in a book that’s not SWORD, provided that’s where you teased the return in the first place. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t re-introduce her in the book she actually disappeared in, which was Astonishing X-Men. I don’t understand why you would re-introduce her in Uncanny X-Men, which has nothing to do with anything. I don’t understand why you would insert the story into a regular arc of a different series, with a different creative team. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t line up a rock star creative team and create a mini-series, or align it more closely with how she departed. It just seems that you could get more sales mileage, and fan satisfaction, out of this story thread. It just seems a little dismissive, lackluster, and… what’s the word I’m looking for? Oh, haphazard. I never understood the whole handling of her story post-disappearance anyway. All we ever got was one throw away panel between Scott and Peter saying essentially she was gone and there was nothing they could do about it, and an illogical sequence in the SWORD back up story, which never recurred, by the way. There really never was an explanation. There was no big exhaustive search for her, no consultation with the big brains of the Marvel U, no emotional fallout with Peter, no enraged Logan, no concern from Pete Wisdom, no effort from SWORD, no word from the former members of Excalibur, no message to Havok and the remnants of the Starjammers to be on the lookout up there in space, it just didn’t appear very plausible, even for these fictional people. Did they all just assume she’d return since death is somewhat malleable in their reality? Is that really why Magneto has made a sudden appearance in Uncanny X-Men? At this point, I’ve speculated about the storytelling logistics of “returning her” quite a bit, and there are some pretty big issues to resolve, not to mention fan expectations. You have to explain how she survived in the vacuum of space, without oxygen. You have to explain how she survived in space, without freezing to death. You have to explain how she survived for so long, without food or water. You have to explain how she kept her body phased (when she was already nearly terminally exhausted) in order to avoid smacking into something and being killed. Barring some sort of “new power” associated with her extreme phasing (ie: she taps into her equivalent of the Flash’s “Speed Force” and acquires new abilities which overcome her need for air, food, warmth, etc.) or some sort of mystical-time-portal-quantum-physics-anomaly-Star-Trek-techno-babble-horseshit (which makes me nervous since the motion ad makes her look visibly older), I don’t see many viable ways out of this dilemma, except for one. In my mind, the easiest way out of all these storytelling dilemmas is to simply say, she was quickly picked up by another race of beings as she flew through the cosmos, held captive until now, but kept alive, fed, sheltered, treated medically, etc. - which is fantastically boring. The more time that passes, the more I think about it and all of the potential pitfalls and loopholes, and the more I think I will be disappointed by whatever explanation is provided. Anyway, I guess my bitchy extremely long digressing rant’s over since this is only tangentially related to the actual SWORD book, so let’s focus on this issue, shall we?

Saunders’ pencils feel a little less cartoony here, with more of the gravitas I was hoping the book would provide originally (the look of Abigail sitting in that brig holding cell, for example), but Beast still looks like a weird cat-goat hybrid, which is not at all palatable to me. On top of that, I feel like Kieron Gillen is aiming for the type of wise-cracking Beast we saw paired with Wonder Man or appearing in Avengers back in the day, and it feels a little forced and out of character. I do like that Henry Gyrich is not portrayed as a one dimensional personification of evil as a sort of foil for Brand. He actually has a point of view that counters Brand’s point of view. They both believe what they’re doing is right. I don’t necessarily agree with Gyrich’s POV, or even find it all that sympathetic, but it’s nice to see attempts at depicting him with some depth beyond cardboard cutout “bad guy.” My favorite part of this was certainly the cold clinical voice of Unit. You can almost hear him in that same disturbing monotone that emanated from HAL in 2001. “What exactly do you mean, Doctor McCoy?” sounds an awful lot like “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.” That whole conversation, terminating with the verbal chess match was an outstanding bit of writing. I also enjoyed the verbiage around ethics in civilization based on relative size. That was a very compelling conversation, and there still remains a sheer awesome level of potential for Unit, especially considering his past. Gillen also offers a nice page of dual narrative, with reactions to the metroliths. It highlighted the differences between Abigail and Gyrich’s leadership ability and their knowledge of operations. SWORD is harmlessly entertaining and poses some interesting moral quandaries to chew on; there’s certainly the potential for it to continue to improve and rise above a moderately enthusiastic Grade B+.

I also picked up;

No Hero TPB (Avatar Press)

4 Comments:

At 10:39 AM, Blogger Ryan Claytor said...

Man...I think you might have finally sold me on Iron-Man. I'm gonna start looking around for the first trade of this run. Maybe I can catch up. (Can't bring myself to jump on @ issue 22.)

Ryan Claytor
Elephant Eater Comics
www.ElephantEater.com

 
At 10:36 AM, Blogger Justin said...

Yay!

Besides, aren't all former Marvel Interns required to read more Marvels than you probably do?

Seriously, I hope you enjoy it. Don't think it'll disappoint. Starts strong and only gets better!

 
At 6:16 PM, Blogger Ryan Claytor said...

Okay, look, salesman!

I'm gonna have to start hampering the frequency I look over your site because this whole Daytripper thing really has me hooked now. I wasn't planning on trying out this title, but found myself in one of those, "I'd-better-purchase-SOMETHING-today-or-I'm-gonna-look-like-a-hokey-pokey," situation. I saw the DT cover and recognized it from your review. Tried it on a whim. Went back the NEXT DAY (today) for the second issue.

Damn, is this a beautiful comic.

From the luscious inks of the Brazilian bros, to the gorgeously subtle watercolor-esque colors of Dave Stewart (moved me so much I even emailed him), every thing seemed to work. I also like the fact that each of the two issues so far, while following the same character in a bit of a fractured narrative, CAN exist on their own as a self-contained story. So few comics these days will tell a completed tale in 24. Kudos.

One feeling I had that was contrary to yours was...how do I put this...the writing seemed a little over-romanticized in the first half of the story. I think I wasn't buying into the girl in the boat part. However, the twist on the Olinda's identity made it all work beautifully.

Anyhow, pardon the review on your review site. Ha-ha! All this to say, thanks for the mention of another wonderful book.

Ryan Claytor
Elephant Eater Comic
www.ElephantEater.com

 
At 9:20 AM, Blogger Justin said...

Haha! Glad you enjoyed it, Ryan. I definitely liked it more after the second issue. I've seen some reviews that mention your point, that the romanticization is like, too ethereal and flowery, to the point of being implausible.

Isn't that weird feeling? Standing in the LCS with nothing in your hands? I felt that way last week with *just* Uncanny & Joe. Like, is this really it? This is all I'm buying? Felt like a dope.

 

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