3.17.10 Reviews

Joe The Barbarian #3 (DC/Vertigo): The cover of Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy’s latest issue is a good indicator of what the audience is in store for. It’s an odd mélange of strange crystals powering an arcane submarine vessel with a steampunk aesthetic, with midget pirates steering and navigating, aided by maps and lanterns, while a young boy and his rat warrior companion are given refuge. Morrison offers up a fun brain teaser, as your mind seeks to make the correlation between the fantasy elements and the reality we’ve been shown. The story bounces back and forth between the two, cleverly playing with our perception of reality in the tradition of offbeat movies like Vanilla Sky, Jacob’s Ladder, What Dreams May Come, The Cell, or 12 Monkeys. I really enjoy Morrison’s ability to operate on multiple planes of meaning. One small basic example is the pirate captain character named “Hammerhand,” who literally has a hammer for a hand, but also conjured up images of “Helm Hammerhand,” one of the founding fathers of The Kingdom of Rohan, who the fortress of Helm’s Deep was named for (shit, I guess I have to surrender my cool card for being able to rattle of that much LOTR trivia). There are additional lines of dialogue that Morrison takes a literal interpretation with, such as “Devil’s Doubloons” or “The pipes! The pipes are calling!” These sayings manifest as real plot devices, and I love that sort of word trickery. Murphy’s penciling during the underwater sequence is particularly amazing. He conveys a beautifully eerie and moody setting; you can almost hear the projectiles plunking down beneath the surface. Colorist Dave Stewart again deserves a nod, just ripping it up on Vertigo books lately, with a crisp palette, appropriate tone, and identifiable style. The team has quickly created a book that is imaginative, consistent, and compelling. It’s a unique blender of fantasy tropes coupled with the mental machinations of drug infused deficiency. There are just enough real world elements laced in to make it all seem plausible, to make us believe in the viability of something so fantastical. Some analysts say that when you dream, every character in your dream is actually a different aspect of self, of your own persona. If you apply that to the kid’s experience, then he is all things present that we see, a warrior, and a dolt, and a rebellious pirate, every facet of personality that we see presented in each character. It’s a testament to the complexity, layered meaning, and multiple interpretations that a robust bit of storytelling is capable of delivering. Grade A.

Echo #20 (Abstract Studio): It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find ways to explain how amazing Echo continues to be. That first page is full of beautiful prose, it hums with heart and has the cinematic feel of a person describing the precise moment they started to fall in love. It’s a great example of how Terry Moore can instantly entice his audience and draw them in emotionally to his work. The following scene plays a little catch-up, but is pretty seamless with the exposition. It’s a great example of how Terry Moore can give his faithful readers a quick refresh, while offering a first time reader a fast primer on what’s occurring. I really enjoyed the dry humor of the line “That’s a good point, Julie. You should write that down.” It’s a great reminder that Moore doesn’t just offer up great pencils, rousing action, or quiet character moments, but can also deliver the funny, able to play all sides of the ball. The best part of the book, for me, is the display of the tactics and disposition of two very different, but very capable, women. They’re realistic women, not superheroes. They have realistic looks, attributes, concerns, actions, and reactions. It’s the perfect example to show one of the finest bits of storytelling and character arcing that I’ve seen in quite some time. This issue winds down with a “holy shit!” moment concerning Ethan, and also takes a strange ass turn at the very end. These moments prove that Moore is capable of still surprising his audience. Now, go back and reread all of the compliments I just paid the creator. Terry Moore can grab our attention, inform us, thrill us, connect emotionally with us, ground us in realism, make us laugh, surprise us, and render it all in a jaw-dropping resonant style. What more do you want? Grade A.

I also picked up;

The Killer: Volume 2 HC (Archaia)


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