5.21.2010

5.19.10 Reviews (Part 1)

DV8: Gods & Monsters #2 (DC/Wildstorm): Brian Wood and Rebekah Isaacs' re-visitation of this property hums with a quirky and offbeat sensibility that’s full of smart wordsmithing. If you really study the subtle distinctions over Gem’s statement about being perceived as a god, or the description of Bliss’ power effect as “riding that wave of pleasure,” it’s clear that Wood is having fun with the language and the semantics of it all. Even from the first issue until now, it seems that Isaacs prowess as a sequential artist has grown too. Her female figures are really attractive, while still being natural looking. Some of the males are a tad bit stiff, like the awkward proportions of the width of Frostbite’s wrist, but that’s a nitpick. Overall, she employs a good variety of shots, varying the camera placement to reveal medium shots, small inset panels, and aerial establishing shots that all flow together really nicely. The night time sequence with Nikki is a favorite. It evokes a mood that’s obviously been intelligently planned and command’s attention. Issacs’ art is capable of achieving a soft line when it needs to, and alternately a hard edge when that’s what’s called for. It doesn’t matter if it’s a silhouetted love scene or any of the brief bouts of violence found in the book, they all reverberate with the correct tone, aided by the gorgeous colors of Carrie Strachan. Wood really captures distinct voices for Nikki, Leon, and Gem. If you tried to read their lines aloud without the actual visuals for reference, I think it’d be easy to ascertain who’s who. There’s a panel or two of tease for the debrief occurring on The Carrier, and I really want to see more of that! Down on the surface, it’s interesting to see the characters try to solve the mystery right along with us. They attempt to match powers to motives and sync that up to a certain tribe for a certain purpose, in an entertaining trail of logic. It’s an intellectual challenge not often associated with these particular characters, at least in their earlier incarnations. Wood puts a clever turn on his hallmark theme of identity, postulating that if superpowers would be interpreted as godlike by primitive eyes, then the terms become interchangeable in the right context. This book really seems to be about exploring how that idea would play out. I still don’t quite feel like I have all of the pieces here, but it’s due to Wood’s absolute restraint with any sort of exposition. There are very subtle clues along the way, like the sophisticated translation devices suggesting someone higher up is pulling the strings. In spite of the frustration at being out of control as a reader and having to wait for the next installment for further explanation, it’s a fun ride. DV8 operates with an intellectual swagger and visual appeal that’s instantly compelling. Grade A.

DC Universe: Legacies #1 (DC): This issue is really slow to get going, sluggishly steeped in period parlance which gets a little thick at times, stuff like “Say, I ain’t payin’ youse punks t’ stand around jawin’!” A little of that goes a long way, but unfortunately there is tons of it offered while establishing the time period, the rise of street level crime, and the response from the so-called Mystery Men of the era. If the scripting isn’t stellar, it’s balanced nicely by the artistic effort. There’s no denying that Andy Kubert’s pencils are terrific, with an interesting collaboration here as his father Joe Kubert provides the syrupy inks. The results are great; shots like the newspaper clippings pinned to the wall would come off as generic shots by lesser artists, but rendered by this duo they make you slow down and take all the headlines in and want to know more about the mysterious happenings afoot. The main feature presents a painfully straightforward moral lesson about youth on the periphery of crime making life choices. It’s overly simplistic, but again, has gorgeous art accompanying it, which makes it seem like more than the sum of its parts. The backup story, also written by Len Wein, is penciled by J.G. Jones, and the results seem to feel the same. It’s a lackluster story, accompanied by really good art. “Scoop” Scanlon is in high exposition mode, but the luscious art by J.G. Jones distracts you away from the plodding plotline. Jones’ covers don’t do much for me in general, but I really enjoy his sequential work. Overall, this project plays randomly episodic. It’s tough to see some sort of theme emerging that connects the disparate elements presented. I’m not seeing how selected parts like these are ever going to congeal and form an abbreviated history of the DCU. I *think* the lack of superheroics is an attempt to pull a “Marvels” and show the emergence of the powers from the POV of the everyman, but hey, that’s obviously been done before, and this rendition is a total snoozer. Perhaps it’s too soon to tell, but if the same creative team was on the whole project, I’d probably drop out now, but I might hold out another issue or two for some of the other artists coming down the line, like JH Williams III and Dave Gibbons. Grade B.

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