6.23.10 Reviews

Joe The Barbarian #6 (DC/Vertigo): The intricate precision of Sean Murphy’s art is still very impressive. Not only is he able to add so much life to the talking heads scenes and the rousing kinetic action sequences, but the Easter egg hunts are always fun as well. In this issue, I was able to spot Mr. Freeze, Lobo, Green Arrow, Catwoman, Batman, He-Man, The Shadow, Snake Eyes, Riker, Worf, Troi, Wonder Woman, Transformers, Robin, John Constantine, and the DeLorean from Back to the Future! I really like the mythology that Grant Morrison is able to create. It has the entry point wonderment of something like Narnia, coupled with the broken mindscape of (obscure alert) the Tarsem film The Cell (and for anyone interested, despite starring Jennifer Lopez and Vince Vaughn, this is really a good movie). There’s gravitas to be found, but also a certain air of whimsy to the dialogue with lines like “Majesty, I’m a plain man… What your Celestial Highness calls scripture, I call the ravings of a toilet dwarf with mold fever.” Joe suddenly seems very determined (almost to the point of being out of character) to rally the troops and save Playtown, which runs contrary to Queen Bree’s philosophy of patience being the ultimate weapon. I like the balance between literal interpretations (“Hearth Castle”) and the mirrored corollaries to the real world from characters who see Joe as their belief system. This reflective property of the two worlds being shown is probably captured by the greatest one line quote in the entire saga: “My ordinary world is your mythology.” Grade A.

The Killer: Modus Vivendi #3 (Archaia): Luc Jacamon and Matz deliver a stunningly beautiful issue, particularly in the early shots of the aquamarine Cuban shore and the crimson skyline at dusk. It’s also a treat to see several close-up shots adding a lot of punch for emphasis on certain lines of dialogue. From a plot perspective, they take a hard detour and depart from the core story in order to deliver some heavy political observations. We really don’t get much plot advancement until the very end, but rather a history lesson about atrocities in Rwanda, Darfur, Turkey, Angola, and various South American affairs. We learn about the motivations behind Cuba’s portrayal in the media, the manipulation of history by the victors as arbiters of popular perception, and generally that things are never what they seem to be as judged by the surface propaganda, rigged votes, and puppet leaders installed contrary to democratic elections. It’s interesting on its own, but doesn’t really add much context to the story other than showing that the protagonist doesn’t wish to be manipulated by the US or the CIA. It’s certainly the long-way around the mountain so to speak, taking about 75% of the issue to do what could be accomplished in just a page or two. I enjoyed the conversations with Velasquez the most, highlighting two very intelligent, very dangerous and competent men from different sides of the aisle, yet bearing striking similarities. This enjoyment extends to The Killer’s government handler and the temptation she represents. This is a very divergent issue, but The Killer remains one of the best hidden gems available today. Grade A.

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #3 (DC): If you look closely at this cover, you can definitely see some very Kirby-esque marauders at the bottom of the page. They’re screaming out at you, threatening to burst free from the confines of the panel and that’s a pretty good indicator of the Silver Age glee that’s inspiring many of these adventures. Yanick Paquette’s pencils aren’t as great as say, his inspired turn on Uncanny X-Men #512, but they are good. His use of shadow, heavy blacks, and negative space lend a menacing Mignola feel, and that’s coupled with a more superhero influenced line that’s got the grace of someone like Jim Lee. Grant Morrison’s Blackbeard is visually a treat with the guns strapped to his chest, but does do a fair bit of monologuing. For the most part, this is just G’Mo having fun with the time jumping adventure, and it’s an interesting commentary about a shared universe. He’s managed to find a way to circuitously return to the Silver Age goofiness of a multiverse with no real rules for the outlandish stories he wants to tell. This is despite all modern attempts to streamline so many divergent timelines and realities and worlds. It’s really proof that continuity will evolve organically when it wants to, despite the writer’s hand or any editorial mandate. As for the story itself, the Jack Valor connection to the Black Pirate is telegraphed hard, but I really appreciated the conscious effort to make Bruce’s detective skills shine (in every issue), regardless of the temporal setting. There are also respectful nods to established Bat lore with the mention of things like Judge Solomon Wayne, and who doesn’t want a run-in with Jonah Hex?! The individual episodes here are still interesting and fun, though I still feel a lack of cohesion inter-episode for the larger story being told. The rough jump cut to the Justice Leaguers, away from the Superman, Green Lantern, Booster Gold, and Rip Hunter group, also felt oddly placed. Grade B+.

Avengers #2 (Marvel): I think that Bendis is really asking you to shuck off your suspension of disbelief and just have fun on this big adventure. If you do enter it with that mindset, you’ll be fine. You have to ignore the frenetic pace that moves so fast you don’t have time to pause and absorb the event, you don’t have time to consider what it all means and if it makes any sense. You have to ignore the plausibility of Marvel Boy whipping up a time machine in just two pages. You have to ignore the confusing placement of the speech balloons, attributable to no one. You have to ignore Maria Hill annoyingly calling the new Captain America “Bucky Cap.” You have to ignore the little glitches like Tony referring to the new Stark Resilient as the dated Stark Industries. You have to ignore the repetition of bad guys popping up at the end of each issue, first Kang, then a pissed off Wonder Man, and now Apocalypse. If you can do all that, you’ll be able to enjoy Romita’s blocky, angular, and iconic art. You’ll get to see a very cool “wall of futures” with some familiar and some not so familiar possible timelines. You’ll get to go on an adventure that seems to seek to emulate the Kurt Busiek and George Perez run, and be entertained by a rollicking adventure. The Oral History of the Avengers has some weird tics that make the spacing look off and the voices seem off as well, at times too self-aware for its own good, but mildly interesting as always. Grade B+.

I also picked up;

Black Blizzard (Drawn & Quarterly): This came out, what, three months ago? Sea Donkey finally got this Yoshihiro Tatsumi classic in, reprinted for the first time in English. A considerable chunk of A Drifting Life was spent describing this work as a turning point for the creator, nay – the burgeoning industry, so I’m looking forward to taking it in for the first time.


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