2.12.2010

2.10.10 Reviews (Part 2)

DMZ #50 (DC/Vertigo): This landmark issue is largely a look back, so the retrospective tone and POV of series protagonist Matty Roth is perfectly aligned. Roth is reflecting on his time in the DMZ to date and it’s a real “the good, the bag, and the ugly” tour of honesty through the smaller stories comprising the larger narrative of his unique experience. Assumably, Brian Wood writes all of the pieces, aided by a cadre of industry veterans and rising stars. NGO by Rebekah Isaacs captures a dense and cluttered urban landscape. It’s obvious that Roth is no longer the rookie dropped into a war zone, but is now positioned on the other side of the equation as a local unable to be manipulated by scheming outside forces. It’s a great lesson on his evolving identity. MATTY + ZEE by Jim Lee is a beautiful pin-up which captures the tone of the series well in a single static shot. We see hidden eyes and a dejected but hopeful spirit, particularly around Zee as she looks out over the horizon, while Roth is mired down in the rubble. Zee is essentially the physical manifestation of the DMZ; she is the city incarnate. LITTLE PLASTIC TOY by Fabio Moon is a wordless tragic piece, full of paranoid apprehension that reminds me of some lost glimpse of a war torn Serbian inner city, rendering it all the more jarring when you recall it’s New York City. Working in a museum, I have to say that I really enjoyed LOOTED by Ryan Kelly. It’s all about a solitary man who has amassed priceless pieces of art from Fifth Avenue museums. The notion that small acts of humanity and preservation of the arts are going on while the entire world is so focused on mere existence is a supremely interesting little digression into this world, and a strong bit of world-building by Wood. I’d love to see how this story thread pans out if it’s ever followed up on. SNOOZER, THE GHOSTS by Lee Bermejo nicely sums up the hypocrisy and catch-22 of war. It all sort of begs the questions: What are they fighting for? What’s left for the “winner” when the dust settles? HEART OF NORTH JERSEY by Riccardo Burchielli is easily my favorite piece in the bunch, a black and white turn from Burchielli, who was reportedly itching to show off his uncolored work. It’s about the “Supreme Commander” of the FSA, the functional equivalent to POTUS, “On the East Coast, at least.” After my long tirade about wanting to know what’s been happening out West, particularly in California, lines like this and the mention of LA really begin to scratch the itch I had. There are major revelations in this piece, if you buy into their hyped validity, about the wealth of the FSA, the “buying” of mayors, governors, and FBI agents along the way, as well as the misdirected “card” in the big game that is Chicago. Burchielli’s pencils take on an entirely different quality here, gritty and menacing, with an aesthetic that almost feels like Danijel Zezelj in spots. Brian Wood litters the dialogue with intriguing references to the chilling Pacific Northwest/Canada/Hudson Valley connection and bits of speech like “the Federals,” which has a ring of 1860’s Civil War truism to it. This piece is bristling with energy, an “alternate history of the US,” which is exactly how we feel about DMZ as a series. Could this really be happening? KELLY by Philip Bond makes me miss her presence. She’s sort of a flip side version of Matty Roth. It’s always been interesting to see same world through her lense. WILSON’S KITCHEN by John Paul Leon is an amazing piece of insight into his local fiefdom. The former restaurateur in me revels in the thought of this piece. Along the way, we even get an “On The Ledge” editorial piece from Wood, and it’s just fantastic to see DC get behind this creator and celebrate the voice of one our generation’s best this month. WILSON by Eduardo Risso is surely my favorite of these single pin-up pages. If you don’t just love the way Risso uses shadow or draws women, well, there’s just something wrong with you. He always, obviously at times – subtly other times, juxtaposes sex and violence along with the swagger of personality in such a seamless and compelling manner. DECADE LATER by Dave Gibbons was a welcome inclusion that sort of reminded me of Gibbon’s original graphic novel The Originals, with its blend of mod/punk/future. I always liked the tale of Decade Later, in the way it celebrated the new evolving form of artistic expression in the streets, with the guy who is like the Shepard Fairey of his time. All of the one-page character pieces were fun, functioning like an ultra-hip Vertigo version of the old sourcebook/encyclopedia series Who’s Who? Taken as a whole, there’s a plethora of smaller stories here about a new culture that formed all on its own in the wake of a war. Detractors would claim that there’s no cohesive narrative being told here, but they’d be dead wrong. The whole point is that these disparate elements do tell a story of survival, culture, and a tapestry of individual people who endure conflict with a lifestyle that envisions a future beyond current events. Grade A+.

Daytripper #3 (DC/Vertigo): The third issue of Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba’s little opus about ruminating on life’s possibilities dives right in with an attention-grabbing opening. It moves quickly forward to touch on Bras’ father delivering a speech, which was teased in a previous issue. Aside from the nice internal reference, the big take away from that interaction is the idea that life is based on a series of small defining moments. That heated argument between lovers reminded me of the Mike Nichol’s film Closer, with Natalie Portman, Clive Owen, Jude Law, and Julia Roberts. It reverberates with a realism and pointed personal barbs that make it simultaneously so believable and yet so uncomfortable, with simple destructive lines like “I don’t want to be mediocre like you.” I enjoyed the situational meaning he derives from the art exhibit and the interaction as his eyes catch a new person on the horizon. “She was the most beautiful creature on earth - - her hair said that in that language only hair can speak.” Now that’s the type of line that makes perfect sense and immediately rings true for anyone whose ever felt that heart piercing pang. It’s lyrical, beautiful, and quietly reveals a simple truth in a way that's so unpretentiously written. As fantastic as the writing and art are, the real star here for my money is Dave Stewart and his amazing color palette. Notice how the woman begins to fade away immediately from Bras' life, you can see the balcony railing through her and her dress. Notice the panel with the black background as she says “a nightmare…” That panel is like a punch in the gut, and it wouldn’t play nearly as effectively without that precise coloring. The structure of the book still leaves me questioning what’s going on, it doesn’t feel like it’s clicking in place very cleanly. Maybe I’m just not getting it or maybe the point is for it to be more obtuse so that readers can imbue it with their own meaning, but it’s left me feeling a little unresolved. Are the many death of Bras we’ve been witness to simply figurative deaths symbolic of the ups and downs at various stages in life? Are they just a smattering of selections from many alternate timelines available for each of us, with divergent paths spinning out of every fork in the road? Will we ever be told? I’m definitely on board for the book and open to a different interpretation or an inconclusive end that mirror’s life’s uncertainty, but I’ll admit I’m left feeling like I want the answers to be a little more tidy than they have been to date in order to have more of an anchor and be able to answer the basic question of what is happening to the main character here? Grade A.

2 Comments:

At 7:01 AM, Blogger Ryan Claytor said...

Trying really hard not to read your Daytripper analysis until after I pick it up next Saturday. LCS SOLD-OUT before I could get a copy. <:)

Ryan Claytor
Elephant Eater Comics
www.ElephantEater.com

 
At 8:09 AM, Blogger Justin said...

Aww man, too bad. Curious to hear your thoughts! SPOILER FREE ZONE then... umm, I think it's getting better, and it looks beautiful!

 

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