5.05.10 Reviews (Part 1)

Demo #4 (DC/Vertigo): “Waterbreather,” Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan’s latest, superficially reads like a disturbing primer on childhood torment. However, it’s more like the first volume of Demo than perhaps any of the other issues in the second volume to date, in that it focuses on the weird manifestation of latent adolescent powers under duress. It’s almost like Wood’s indie mutant riff, probably informed by residual lines of thought from his time on Generation X. I think if you put this tale in context with his larger body of work, you see the familiar motif of disenfranchised youth trying to find their place in the world. It’s another strong example of the writer’s core competency, shared thematically among the majority of his stories. His characters might be power usurped Vikings, or half Japanese/half Swedish mobsters, or embedded war correspondents, but they all share his fascination with identity. It makes me want to write a book about Brian Wood, the way that Timothy Callahan wrote Grant Morrison: The Early Years. I think I’d call mine Brian Wood: Master of Identity, or Brian Wood: Identity Revealed, yeah that’s better. Heh. Anyway, I found the back matter interesting, particularly the gap between a true full script and plot-style scripting. It really shows the true collaboration between writer and artist here. It’s deceptive to see how easily Cloonan shines; whether it’s the inky water, birds flying through the tree line, stray wisps of hair, or facial expressions, she makes translating words on the page really look effortless. I guess my only real complaint is that the story feels like it ends a bit abruptly. I’ve realized that, at times, Wood’s writing can be a lot like Warren Ellis’, and I mean this as compliment, that it’s not so much about the satisfaction around the story’s ultimate destination, but about the style and subtlety, the glorious points of digression, along the journey. If you’re waiting for the big blockbuster payoff to blow your ears back, you have to consciously adjust your mindset to get maximum appreciation. His work is more cerebral, and in an age of spandex spectacle, that's a welcome shift, even if it does require some additional effort on the part of the audience. Grade A-.

Batman & Robin #12 (DC): I enjoyed the idea of Deathstroke’s involvement revolving around retaliation for his daughter and old grudges since Dick’s time in Bludhaven, Damian showing ever-increasing loyalty to Dick, the duo confronting Talia, the temporal Bat-signal, and Dick’s detective skills leading him to the true identity of Oberon Sexton, probably the one person besides Dick and Alfred who would probably most desperately want Bruce back for a sense of… completion. Clarke’s art is an odd beast though, sometimes emulating the razor sharp detail of Frank Quitely or Gary Frank, sometimes bearing a little too cold and sterile general aesthetic. There are also some moments of awkward character positioning and several rough jump cuts, the most glaring being the transition to the page with the bat-attack and Dick being treated by Alfred. Surprisingly, sometimes Morrison’s dialogue is a little too saccharine and after school special-y as well, “can’t you just love me for who I am?” *Sniff* Still, it’s more fun than not, with the denouement of Damian being labeled an “enemy of the House of Al Ghul.” Is everyone thinking El Penitente is The Riddler, or is that a red herring? Grade B.


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