4.22.2010

4.21.10 Reviews

DV8: Gods & Monsters #1 (DC/Wildstorm): “The Day I Tried To Live” lets you know instantly the second you see The Carrier coming out of The Bleed that you’re smack dab in the middle of the Wildstorm Universe. Hopefully that’s a sign that there’s hope yet for this corner of the multiverse. Brian Wood achieves a nice level of intrigue by using an old writing mantra that is “get into scenes as late as possible.” Things are already in medias res here and we play catch up trying to figure it all out. While the themes at play might not be any new territory for Wood, they center on the notion of identity, how myth is formed, and the odd triumvirate of science/nature/faith, the high concept he employs to drive this particular story is a compelling one. He argues that superpowers in a Stone Age would indeed be perceived as magic, to the degree that these “magicians” would be accepted as functional Gods, particularly if they literally fell from the heavens. Rebekah Issacs on art chores is indeed a find. For me, her pencils were instantly reminiscent of Chris Sprouse, no stranger to the Wildstorm/America’s Best Comics neck of the woods. The bright figures stand in stark contrast to the relatively more subdued backgrounds. Her detailed rendition of The Carrier even manages to pull off a bit of Frank Quitely inspiration. I’m left with some questions: Why are there twin suns? Where are they? Who is interrogating Gem? What was up with The Carrier? Was some world being destroyed? And what are the numbers inside of the characters’ intro boxes (8, 25, 29, 39, 43, 77, 82, 99)? I’m not steeped enough in Wildstorm lore to know if these are connections I should be making or if this is all new territory. But, I trust all will be revealed. There might not be a plethora of stand out “razzle dazzle” moments in this issue, but it’s a solid start, from a writer I trust, with a talented new artistic cohort. There was a brief period at Wildstorm that certainly captured my brain, with high concept pieces, mostly from Joe Casey, things like Automatic Kafka and his various Wildcats runs. I remember those fondly and this could certainly be poised to usher in a return to that level of greatness. I’m in. Grade A-.

Joe The Barbarian #4 (DC/Vertigo): Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy bring us to the halfway point in their tale. They begin with style, the introductory maps on parchment are quickly becoming a favorite reminder that plops me into this world. Though I did catch one glitch in the art (Joe saying his arm hurt while holding his right arm, then showing in the next panel that his left arm was the injured one), Murphy and colorist Dave Stewart make a fantastic combination. There are scenes like the long steady sequence that pulls us out of Joe’s house and onto the street in a manner that’s almost reminiscent of a backwards cinematic steadycam shot of the infamous Martin Scorsese shot in Goodfellas. I enjoy Joe’s time in both worlds, both his reality and what we assume is the hallucinatory potpourri of pop fiction, and I enjoy his mental anxiety as the analogous worlds play off one another. What I do find gets a little tiresome is the legend and lore of the fantasy land and how it can get a little obtuse and difficult to decipher. It’s all about cryptic prophecies and warring factions, we're told a lot about it, yet it's never shown, and now that we’re at the halfway point in the series, I feel like meaning should be coalescing faster than it is. What we get instead is even more moving parts, with the addition of a new sect or two every single issue. Here it’s the cowardly inventor people who function a bit like hybrid exposition/deus ex machina devices. The art is strong enough to keep me coming back and I do like how one of the larger themes is about placing characters out of their comfort zones, shattering illusions, and challenging assumptions. That said, I have some concerns, but I’ll be sticking around. Grade A-.

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