3.04.2010

3.03.10 Reviews (Part 2)

Demo #2 (DC/Vertigo): Becky Cloonan’s haunting imagery of the gaunt cannibalistic figure is disturbing in the same way that Hannibal Lecter frying up Ray Liota’s brains with a little shallot and olive oil was. The big difference is that Brian Wood’s script manages to give their creation a little heart by focusing on this particular obsession informing the character’s identity. The notion of identity is perhaps the greatest unifying theme present in all of Brian Wood’s work and while it’s always interesting, here it is absolutely essential. Without it, the issue might play like the shock value parody of itself that the aforementioned scene in Hannibal was. Here, the focus on a struggling identity and the compulsion to change gives us an anchor with which to try and understand, even empathize with, this odd character. It’s a smart choice by smart creators that generally proves “creepers” can lurk anywhere. The social commentary suggests that you have no idea what people are capable of under the right set of psychological stressors, the same people you work with, go to school with, and see on the subway every day of your life. By the end, we see the protagonist rejecting the viability of changing himself to affect normalization. Instead, the psychological reaction is to try to forcibly normalize the world around him to his behavior style in order to justify his actions. This story is so deceptively simple on the surface, but if you study it a bit deeper it’s brimming with complex psychology and a very compelling character study. I’m not sure if Wood originally intended this level of complexity, but regardless it’s a magnificent by-product and proof of the Demo concept. Bravo to DC/Vertigo Editorial for re-uniting these creators and just getting out of their way in order to watch the magic that can serendipitously unfold. Grade A.

First Wave #1 (DC): Brian Azzarello and Rags Morales deliver a highly publicized “new universe” of mashed up pulp properties. The tongue-in-cheek art of the tombstone cover was clever and the death of Clark Savage Sr. which sets events into motion is well set up, but there really isn’t any type of strong hook that makes me want to continue here. I always think that the newspaper headlines/story/covers that are used to relay information are a cheat from a lazy writer. I know Azzarello isn’t lazy, but he seems to take the easy way out with that device in an effort to exposit a mass of information. I don’t really have much else to say about this book and that’s probably indicative of not feeling terribly engaged, either way. There’s nothing to hate here, but nothing to love either. It’s really middling and mediocre. It’s full of pulp tropes about cops and the city, the jungle, sci-fi, ethnic crime, etc. Right now they play like disparate parts that don’t coalesce, perhaps they will in a collected edition, but in a single issue installment they play boring and disjointed. Yeah, it’s kind of boring. That's my big conclusion. I guess the appearance of the Blackhawks is fun, but a book that promotes itself with a pulp gun-toting Batman on the cover and then doesn’t deliver him in the slightest just doesn’t work. I want to be buying Grade A books, and this one musters up a plain and unenthusiastic Grade B.

I also picked up;

Planetary HC: Volume 4 (DC/Wildstorm): I ended up reading this straight through while I was sitting in a deli waiting for a wireless connection that never stabilized. Man, I really enjoyed it. I was blown away by it all over again. It’s intelligent, highly imaginative, a treatise on the last 60 years of the medium, full of compelling and focused Warren Ellis sci-fi, while staying fun and engaging in the process. And of course, it has drop dead gorgeous art from John Cassaday that’s full of emotive expressions, a highly controlled line, artistic homage to Kirby, Steranko, Kaluta, and a whole stable of venerable creators. I actually derived more value from the depictions of Ellis’ homage pulp heroes like Lord Blackstock, William Leather, and Axel Brass, than I did in the lackluster First Wave book. Damn, this book is good. They just don’t make books like this anymore. This is highly recommended and I'm full of excitement about the forthcoming second Absolute Edition that will officially put this series to bed, one of the best, perhaps the best, in the last decade.

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