5.06.2010

5.05.10 Reviews (Part 2)

The Killer: Modus Vivendi #1 (Archaia): Luc Jacamon and Matz bring us another tale about the eponymous Killer returning to the only occupation he knows after a period of inactivity. The book hits all the right thematic notes, monotony leading to boredom, and boredom leading to depression. This time out, he’s got more to lose personally, which adds a heightened sense of tension as he comes out of pseudo-retirement. The jobs are suddenly more brazen, closer to home, and the Venezuelan oil connections provide an offbeat mystery that begins to unfold. Even moreso than the first volume in my recollection, the book is full of thought provoking ideas worthy of further contemplation, inducing that brand of self-reflection that qualifies it as "art" in my subjective definition. There’s an interesting page of digression which reads as a primer on the inherent hypocrisy of organized religion. The Killer himself, and by extension – the audience, attempts to find his place in the world, to navigate his existence and how he interacts with the world around him. Surprisingly, he finds himself with an ethical objection that runs contrary to his chosen profession. There’s smart placement of other literary references, like the Gabriel Garcia Marquez selection, which is a particularly interesting choice for anyone who’s read that specific Marquez classic. Amid the pleasant variety of earth tones and stunning use of color and shadow, there are disturbing philosophies about culture, about people who “have to hang on to their shitty lives because they know it could all get shittier any moment.” Like it’s phenomenal precursor, Modus Vivendi continues the rich tradition of being a fascinating character study, a deep look inside the complex psyche, and the conundrum of moral flexibility. Grade A.

Echo #21 (Abstract Studio): I’m having a really hard time with this book, because I’m running out of ways to explain how great it is. Maybe I’ll just start limiting my text to 140 characters, Twitter-style, in an effort to challenge myself or something. Everything about it just hums with perfection. Look at the level of detail on the outdoor landscape in the opening sequence. The sheer amount of attention and effort that went into what would otherwise be a bunch of throwaway panels for a lesser artist becomes staggeringly beautiful in the hands of Terry Moore. He doesn’t believe in throwaway panels or superfluous lines of dialogue. Every pencil line or word choice has a purpose, like the squinty eyes on Dillon’s father; they relay a precise emotion that lets you know instantly what their past relationship has been like, without the aid of any dialogue. That level of masterful control comes across in the penciling, in the dialogue, in the story and character development, it’s their in every scene, between Dillon and his dad, Will and Annie’s former coworkers, and Hong and Ivy discussing alloy 618. It’ll sound like marketing hyperbole, but it’s fact even for a chapter which feels like “all middle,” this book is perfectly executed. Grade A.

Uncanny X-Men #524 (Marvel): So, Matt Fraction and Terry Dodson are first to cover the fallout from the last issue of this multi-series crossover. I didn’t read the actual previous installment since it’s in a title I no longer buy, but I hear that Kurt Wagner, Nightcrawler, is dead. He gave his life to save Hope and ensure she arrived at the Utopia compound. While I heard that was handled in a lame, needless, and illogical fashion, I did find some things to like here as his death gets addressed. I enjoyed the awkward charm with which Nathan introduced hope to Scott – as his father. I always like seeing Scott’s more contemporary portrayal as less of a whiny whelp, and more of an incident commander handling a crisis he’s been trained for his entire life. There’s trouble afoot as Donald Pierce is MIA and has managed to fool Danger, while Utopia is under silent siege. I liked the tension between Hank and Scott, and even seeing Wolverine in a rare vulnerable and emotionally affected state. Finally we get a tight script, one that has everything you’d really want in it to achieve the gravitas necessary to avoid Kurt’s death being cheap and in vain. But, unfortunately, it’s a shame, because the art isn’t up to the task at hand. Sure, you can’t tell who some of the generic characters are in the background, but most importantly the pencils don’t fit the same serious tone. There’s no edge to the art, it’s alternately too soft, too cartoony, too simplistic, too awkward and stiff, or too melodramatic. It’s always slightly off, just enough to distract you from the emotional journey of the writing and make you consider the technical failures of the panel on the page instead. One of the more interesting macro-observations is that Fraction lays on the Jewish analogy pretty hard here, complete with biblical passages at Kurt’s funeral that reference rising armies, Hope, and Israel. If the remaining mutants in the world are the Jews, and Utopia is Israel, I guess that makes the X-Men like the IDF, or maybe the Mossad. In spite of a few technical flaws, that’s a bold storytelling choice and it’ll be interesting to watch how it plays out. Grade B.

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