5.27.2010

5.26.10 Reviews (Part 2)

Scalped #38 (DC/Vertigo): Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera deliver a tale that begins with a family legacy of service to a country that has marginalized their entire race. That story alone is a gut-wrenching examination of the blessing/curse one soldier finds amid the Vietnam War. It allows Aaron to show off his ear for Vietnamese people speaking broken English, and his unique way with prose, with lines like “I remember it raining cold mud and hot gore.” Along the way, this tale of Wade the Indian amid the Fall of Saigon is rendered bleak and gritty by Guera, while still retaining the beauty of emotion. Even when Wade attempts to do the right thing, he realizes he’s still part of an oppressive system of enslavement that hits a little too close to home. Keep in mind, this is really just the “main” story – and it’s terrific. But then, fucking Jason Aaron, he gives you an added little twist that takes a great book and makes it absolutely go ballistic. I don’t want to spoil it too much, but let’s just say that FBI entanglement runs in Dash Bad Horse’s family. There’s an odd logic trap the characters are presented with that means either being traitorous to their own people or risking not being part of the solution. When we get to the end of Scalped, as a series, one sad day in the future, I think it will become increasingly apparent that the only “hero” in this book is going to be the one person who is able to figure out how to break this inescapable cycle of violence on the Rez. If you’re not reading Scalped, you’re missing out on not only one of the best comics being published today, but also a cultural treasure that highlights a seldom seen part of the holistic American experience. As ugly and violent and uncomfortable as it may be, it is a beautiful piece of art, with real world social relevance. Grade A+.

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #2 (DC): This time-jumping rebirth of Bruce Wayne is just quirky enough to really enjoy. As usual, Grant Morrison explains some things as he introduces new questions, aided this time by the inimitable Frazer Irving. The “WW” and “S” logos were fun plants, but how’d they get there? Irving’s art is absolutely delicious, calling to mind some of John Van Fleet’s earlier work, like on Batman: The Chalice, with the shots of the forest beautifully illuminated with a warm glow. The little ideas are fun, the eclipses possibly signaling the time jumps, the witch’s curse on the Wayne Family, the primal Miagani inhabiting a special place, some form of “Batman” protecting Gotham even hundreds of years ago, and the reveal of the archivist to the group of Superman, Booster Gold, Green Lantern, and Rip Hunter, as they chase their friend through time. However, the larger ideas are what makes this book work for me. Only from the mind of Grant Morrison could you get a pilgrim “Batman” investigating crime, while time’s multiversal intersection is explained with a loom analogy of parallel and intersecting timelines. Throw in absolutely gorgeous art, and I’ll be signed up for this very fun ride that recaptures some of the limitless imagination that made comics successful in the first place. Grade A.

Secret Avengers #1 (Marvel): If regular Avengers is Checkmate White, then Secret Avengers is Checkmate Black, running shadow ops. Heh. Sorry, but I grew up a DC kid, so I have to make the comparison to have it click and make sense in my brain. Mike Deodato’s art is very shadowy, to the point that it sometimes obscures details, but it mostly captures the right feel, and I really liked the little S.H.I.E.L.D. jump jet that Sharon was piloting. I thought it was odd that the art was so generic in the opening sequence, that without their costumes, we don’t even know that the two women are supposed to be Black Widow and Valkyrie until we’re told. Natasha jokes about where Valkyrie hid her sword, but that just distracts you away from the fact that it’s unexplained where Widow was hiding her wrist gauntlets. I really think that someone needs to invent a new codename for Steve, so that he’s not introduced as merely Steve Rogers or “the first Captain America.” I also thought it was interesting that he has a different uniform here than he did in Avengers last week. Is that deliberate? One is his “above board” uniform and the other is his Non Official Cover (NOC) “secret spy” get-up? I’m not sure. Sometimes things fully derail here. Steve looks inside the box specifically to confirm that’s definitely the package they’re after, then two pages later when Beast says it isn’t the Serpent Crown, Steve says that he noticed that already. Huh? Then a few pages later, we have Rhodey and Steve’s speech balloons reversed. The figures are so small and non-descript that you almost miss it, but it’s definitely there. I know that S.W.O.R.D., the book, got cancelled, but assumably the organization is alive and well in the Marvel U, so Beast is pulling double duty for S.W.O.R.D. and the Secret Avengers/S.H.I.E.L.D.? Does that create a conflict? I’m not sure. Those things aside, this seems like an eclectic cast with a fun dynamic, the recruitment scenes were a nice touch, and it was fun to see Steve let loose a little and mix business with pleasure. This book is certainly not without its flaws, but it’s mostly enjoyable and seems like it could be a fun way to keep tabs on the “new” Marvel U. Grade B+.

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