6.17.2010

6.16.10 Reviews (Part 2)

DMZ #54 (DC/Vertigo): Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli deliver the end of the four part M.I.A. arc and it’s really an unexpected twist that resets the DMZ world in an even more complicated way. I really enjoyed the palpable disillusionment some of the characters are feeling, probably best evidenced by Soames’ defeated line “you get a dream in your head and then you do a bunch of stupid shit to get there.” Matthew Roth still seems to be lost and adrift without an identifiable sense of self to hold on to. The centerpiece is the conversation between father and son, which is surprisingly honest as Matty seeks some sort of absolution of guilt regarding the execution of his “sloppy order” before he can mentally move on. As he skeptically enters his new role, which I won’t spoil, he finds a way to hold himself accountable, re-establish cover and credibility in the DMZ, and somehow answer to the conflicted interests of his new masters. This issue was dense but thoroughly engaging and it reminded me of the way President Obama used to speak during the debates back when he was still running for office. Sometimes there aren’t trite and crisp sound-byte style answers, complex problems may require complex responses and discussions, not simple taglines that can be quoted on the front page of the newspaper. As Wood shows, there’s no clear sense of black and white consequence when complex politics and managed perceptions are involved, and every player with a stake in the big game has an angle to play. I sometimes wonder how much of this story comes about organically and how much is a conscious exercise from Wood. Particularly in this arc, it almost feels as if Wood is testing himself, adhering to the writer’s adage of putting your characters where they’d least like to be for the most storytelling tension, and deliberately backing Matty so far into a corner in order to see if he can possibly get him out of it. Whether it’s a natural gift or a deliberate structure being imposed, the results are impressive and this is the type of text that should be required reading in the more progressive poli-sci college classrooms across the nation. Grade A.

The Lone Ranger #22 (Dynamite Entertainment): It’s a tough decision, but I still think I’m going to tradewait this series after the conclusion of this arc. The shipping schedule seems wildly unpredictable and as good as it is, the content does go down much smoother when collected. I also tend to doubt the veracity of the claim that the Definitive Edition Volume 1 is “in stores now.” I’ve not seen it yet, it was severely delayed from the original solicit (more than a year), I’m not sure if the publisher is to blame or Sea Donkey’s ordering practices, if I’ll be able to find it at SDCC, etc. Frustrating. In any case, there’s a terrific Ozymandias reference in here, particularly when you realize it’s taken from the villain’s POV. There’s so much to be enjoyed in the quiet moments in this issue, from the knowing glance between the titular hero and Tonto regarding the existence of family, to the tension created by Linda going for the gun, Sheriff Loring playing the Commissioner Gordon role, Dan and the hornets, or the taught lines of the outside investigator. These intertwined plotlines all rush forward toward what is guaranteed to be a promising crescendo from writer Brett Matthews. With John Cassaday’s slick covers and the impressive line work of Sergio Cariello, this title remains a winner, still the best reimaging of an old property in quite some time. Cariello provides gritty lines for gritty deeds, Matthews offers sparse language for spare times, and the marriage of the two is a near perfect creative collaboration, equaling more than the sum of its parts. Grade A.

New Avengers #1 (Marvel): Of the three core re-emergent Avengers titles (Avengers, Secret Avengers, New Avengers), this one is probably the best. It manages to achieve the right balance of so many elements. It’s not really explored in the script, but having Warbird and Luke Cage on a team, players who were very much on opposing sides of the Civil War, is a nice touch that should embed a check and balance system into the team, and I wonder if Bendis will reveal that’s what Steve Rogers was intending. There are a couple of pet peevey glitches I’ll get out of the way. I’m not sure who one of the members of the new team is. Is that Songbird? One of the Young Avengers? I thought that I read Luke was going to sneak one of the Thunderbolts onto the team(?). I assumed it would be Daken posing as Wolverine, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I think the woman looks like that one chic from Young Avengers, but wouldn’t Songbird make more sense to satisfy the T’bolts “requirement?” Anyway, typically in a gathering the team issue, the players are noticeably called out, and that didn’t really happen consistently here. My next grudge is that I’m pretty sure Clint Barton decided to assume the Hawkeye mantle once again and forego his Ronin persona. Yet, if you look in the backgrounds of the panels, you can alternately see both Ronin and Hawkeye appearing. It’s almost as if there was a breakdown between writer and artist and Stuart Immonen was told “just draw a bunch of Avengers types in the background.” Not to mention the fact that Hawkeye is clearly on the regular Avengers roster, and now he appears in New Avengers as well. Wolverine does joke about being in the X-Men and appearing on two Avengers teams (as if he’s the only one) and Clint is mysteriously silent during this exchange. It just doesn’t feel tidy. And speaking of tidy, I know it’s a losing battle, but I guess you have to ignore continuity in the larger Marvel U completely since Wolverine is actually on X-Force and in some alternate reality timeline at the moment dealing with the Nimrod assault and trying to protect Hope. Anyway… I also caught a typo, “…invasion into our word,” when I’m pretty sure the character was supposed to say “world.” In all, it’s a fun reconciliation with Luke Cage, who was probably the most outspoken of the liberal Avengers on the run, and I like how it was clearly and non-chalantly explained that there would simply be two legit teams running, Luke’s based in Avengers Mansion, and the Cap/Tony/Thor team based in Avengers Tower. Not only did it add tension, but I thought it was a nice touch to give Victoria Hand a second chance and place her in the “Valerie Cooper” role as government liaison. It helps position Steve Rogers in the Nick Fury role, while leaving Bucky Cap in the Captain America role, which is what I personally would like to see endure. The back-up feature is a little too tongue-in-cheek for me, with some characters sounding out of character, but is still an interesting experiment that seems influenced by Jonathan Hickman. Immonen’s art is amazing and it feels like exactly the right vibe for an Avengers title. Romita Jr. on regular Avengers is breathtaking, but almost a little too sterile and clean. While the look of Secret Avengers is a little too dark and muddy in its effort to tonally sync up. That places Stuart Immonen’s contribution right in the sweet spot for this sunnier, but not without gravitas, new beginning that is the Heroic Age. Again, I’ve enjoyed the revamped Avengers line for the most part, but the eclectic nature of this cast and right aesthetic feel make New Avengers my early favorite of the lot. Grade A-.

I also picked up;

Billy Hazelnuts & The Crazy Bird (Fantagraphics): Your new Tony Millionaire HC!

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