2.03.2010

2.03.10 Reviews (Part 1)

Demo #1 (DC/Vertigo): I think it’s really cool that this issue came out on my birthday. It’s like a little birthday present from Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan just to me. “The Waking Life of Angels” has been billed as a more “supernatural” than “super-powered” take on the manifestation of oddball latent powers. I don’t know why I interpreted that to mean some sort of horror infused motif, but I’m glad the assumption was incorrect and we were treated to a more ethereal reality. Brian Wood will probably call me out for quibbling about something so minute, but let’s chat for a second about the title “Demo.” For me, Demo always dredged up connotations of an underground garage band, as in “here’s our unsigned demo tape.” I’m pretty sure that was the intent of the original series, an unrestrained, pure sound unfettered by the hands of studio executives, or editors as the case was. This book is better than that title might have you assume. It feels here like a more polished experience, like a debut studio album that recaptures and remasters the rough and edgy feel of the original, without all of the annoying background static. But hey, “Debut” is a shitty title for a comic book that would surely stretch the music analogy much too far. Now that that little digression is out of the way, let me say that usually I can’t shut up about Brian Wood’s writing. And while it’s strong, it’s hard not to focus on the pencils of Becky Cloonan here. There are one or two isolated instances where the forced POV shots of Joan’s arms seem a little wonky and out of proportion during the dreamlike sequences, but otherwise Cloonan’s pencils shine throughout. Her pencils feel more refined, less sketchy, and more full-bodied than I recall early issues of the original series being. It’s an impressive display, with her inks also appearing more controlled and exacting. I love her depiction of the lead character, who at times bears a vague resemblance to Dream’s sister Death in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, as depicted in early issues by Kelley Jones, Sam Keith, and Mike Dringenberg, with a little P. Craig Russell thrown in for good measure. The single page shot of the cathedral is immaculate, and I dug the use of several small inset panels to maximize the storytelling real estate the creative team had to play with. It’s interesting to see someone experience the type of disturbing drive that would cause them to just bolt and hop a flight. Though I had correct suspicions as to who the person falling might be by page nine, it was interesting to see it play out nonetheless. There’s a lot to love here, with contemplative back matter, thumbnails, and a teaser trailer for the next issue, all for just $2.99. In a year that has so far not felt terribly exciting, Demo makes me feel like comics are good again. Grade A.

The Lone Ranger #20 (Dynamite Entertainment): If you can imagine an issue of Batman in which Batman invites Commissioner Gordon to The Batcave for the very first time, then you’ll have a sense of what a landmark this issue is. Brett Matthews and Sergio Cariello don’t stop there, offering another example of nuanced writing and art that has flown under the radar screen for too long. When the object of John’s affections doesn’t reciprocate, we finally understand another dimension of the term “lone.” There’s a bit of an awkward transition when our masked vigilante leaps onto Sheriff Loring and dismounts him from his horse. It seemed to come out of nowhere; was that to prevent attracting attention to his hideout? Otherwise, Cariello’s panels are clean and crisp, with plenty of widescreen room to breathe. It allows the audience to stop and soak in the details, getting meaning from the subtle facial expressions and austere sets. Cavendish’s line “take your hat off and the basket” doesn’t really make any sense. It’s constructed very awkwardly and could be rectified with a comma after “off,” but better yet, should be split into two sentences and partially combined with the next to get “Take off your hat. And the basket – put all your money in.” Other than that, Matthews treatment of Cavendish is spot on, giving him a charming, mocking, sarcastic and hypocritical sense of villainy that suits the character perfectly. The result of his quiet contemplation in the church isn’t funny at all though, and results in a chilling realization about the identity of The Lone Ranger that is underplayed superbly. Some of the other lines come off a little contrived, like a painful estimation of what “Old West Brogue” would sound like, such as the affectation of the Federal Marshal at the printing press. I’m still enjoying John’s quest for self; to quote a Coldplay lyric, he’s continually questioning if he’s “part of the cure,” or “part of the disease.” Lastly, I find it interesting that the arc is entitled “Resolve” since the dual meaning (noun, then verb) is played up in this issue. Initially, the term was used to comment on the strength of the title character, as in “John’s resolve.” The set up in this issue though, stresses the term being used to “resolve the conflict” that’s been brewing since the very first issue. As he says, “it ends here and now.” Grade A-.

2 Comments:

At 8:15 AM, Blogger Ryan Claytor said...

Hm. Diggin' the Demo review. I guess I felt like I found out about the original incarnation of the series too late and never researched a good jumping on point. But with a new numbering system on the cover, I guess I'm out of excuses. :) I think I'll give the new Demo a whirl next time I'm in my LCS. Can't wait to take a peek @ Cloonan's pencils after your description and see what this "debut" series has to offer.

P.S. Is it just me, or did the Vertigo titles of yesteryear always have some bit of obligatory nudity or cursing thrown in? You know, there was always that panel you'd come to, whether it was needed or not, and you'd think, "Oh yah, this is a Vertigo book." Have they done away with that (assumed) stipulation on Vertigo books? Is the imprint now more of an indy imprint for DC rather than a naughty imprint for DC now that Bob Schreck (co-founder of Oni Press) is at the helm?

P.P.S. ...and also, Happy Birthday, Justin! :)

Ryan Claytor
Elephant Eater Comics
www.ElephantEater.com

 
At 9:04 AM, Blogger Justin said...

Hey Ryan. One of the nice things about the original Demo (and the new for that matter) was that they are all completely stand alone issues and stories. They can be read in any order, in fact Brian Wood mentions in the back matter that he even wrote them in a different order than they came out. So... any issue is a great jumping on point! Check out an ish called "Mon Dernier Jour Avec Toi" or "My Last Day With You," one of my personal faves.

Re: Vertigo, yeah, I don't get that sense anymore about the obligatory nudity or curse. It seems like a more wide ranging imprint that can function as dark horror, crime noir, indy, whatever tale wants to be told that's not rooted in the main DCU.

 

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