7.09.2010

7.08.10 Reviews (Part 2)

Demo Volume 2 #6 (DC/Vertigo): The couple in this issue are like the analogous magnets that Brian Wood compares them to, attracting and repelling each other incessantly, their fates forever intertwined. They’re physically dependent on the enjoyable dysfunction, finding joy despite the pain. It’s amazing how much Becky Cloonan’s artistic skills have grown from the first volume of Demo until now. In particular, her emotive facial expressions and general posing of the characters relays volumes of information. It takes a brave writer to trust the artist to inform so much of the narrative visually. Conversely, it takes a very talented artist to be able to respond so well. It’s all proof that this pairing is one of the great modern creative collaborations. I like the way that Wood inverts the notion of “superpowers” in this series. For the most part, they’re never a boon, always a bane, always more of a curse than a blessing. Here, they create a life and death autonomic co-dependency, displaying love and hate as mirror images of each other, such similar emotions connected by the same intense passion. What, am I the only one who’s ever playfully told a woman that I hated her right before I slept with her? Oh, did I say that out loud? Err... I was thinking about how this book is an interesting culmination of earlier Brian Wood works. Demo Volume 1 toyed more directly with the notion of “powers,” that was the throughline that connected all of the stories loosely. It was Wood’s entry into the “teens with powers” sub-genre, probably still percolating from some of his early Marvel mutant work. With Local, he focused more on a bildungsroman coming-of-age, discovery of humanity and self approach, where the heart of the character came first and drove the story. When you combine the two projects, it’s almost as if the sum of the equation is Demo Volume 2. I really loved the end text pieces, particularly Wood’s “medium first” approach to comics stemming from his fine arts background. It’s interesting to see his general philosophy and ethic as a creator possessing no allegiance to character, company, creator, or property. It’s about the inherent right of the creator and using the medium to its full potential. Ultimately, this issue is about the most critical observation of the human experience. It’s impossible for anyone to exist as an island and be happy, despite the challenges, risks, and maintenance that all relationships possess, we require them to survive. Perhaps it’s fitting that this book shipped on July 4th week. It’s like a fireworks show itself, which was enjoyable for the duration, but ends with a big crescendo that’s by far the best of the series. Grade A+.

Scarlet #1 (Marvel/Icon): Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev get together for a creator owned journey that probably defies most expectations. For Bendis, this is a return to his roots, which were always more interesting than his work-for-hire projects. Fans of early Jinx and Goldfish tales, even Alias, will be right at home here. While it would be easy to get lovingly distracted by the hard breaking of the 4th wall, Bendis essentially asks you to consider “What if a female Punisher directly recruited you into a larger movement?” We see the protagonist slip further down the rabbit hole, quickly indoctrinated into the visceral reality of her own moral code and vigilantism. What separates her from most people is that instead of merely considering what makes something broken, she takes action to correct it, at least the correct action in her mind. Maleev captures the gritty emotion, using a muted color palette except for the scarlet hair of the main character. Compared to earlier Maleev work, it feels more experimental, more poured over, more thoughtful, more… David Mack-ish, for lack of a better term. It all allows him to portray a dystopian place where the “world is broken.” I wondered right off if this narrator who we rely on so much is actually trustworthy? Will she pull a Keyser Soze and trick us all because we’re accustomed to truthful guides? In any case, she works with a despicable honest charm, brought to life the best by the “first” sequence in the book. You’ll know it when you see it. As with a lot of Bendis books, there are typos galore. “Lets” instead of “let’s,” missing commas, missing periods, extra spaces between words, and the dreaded then/than confusion. Overall though, this is an interesting experiment and I’ll be continuing on. You should be reading this instead of Kick-Ass. Grade A.

Scalped #39 (DC/Vertigo): The intricate cluttered detail of R.M. Guera’s title page didn’t appear as bleak as usual, and I think that was attributable to (new?) colorist Giulia Brusco. There’s a lot to like here, Shunka always steals the scene for me, and the inclusion of the wise and direct Granny Poor Bear is always a treat. Everyone edges closer to their breaking point here, Carol’s pregnancy is one more torment on an already tormented mind, and Dash’s paranoid ramblings are even closer to fracturing his personality. As usual, the larger comment about life on the reservation is about the repetition of dangerous patterns and cycles and how inescapable and ingrained those are to this society. I said a long time ago that if any “hero” were to ever emerge from this book, it would be the one person who could figure out how to break that cycle of crime, violence, poverty, drub abuse, and self-loathing. Who would have ever though it might be Carol? Grade A.

Batman & Robin #13 (DC): If we can’t have Frank Quitely on this book, can we at least have Frazer Irving? There’s a Gothic edge to his art that tonally supports the history of Gotham and lineage of the Wayne Family. His Joker is full of the eerie playful glee that Romero brought to the character, and the wide eyed maniacal grin of Ledger. This Joker is disturbing because the garish white make-up pops against the stark contrast of his all black clothes from the Oberon Sexton guise. I don’t have a ton to say about this issue, other than I really enjoyed it, and every single one of the character pairings is filled with taut tension. Dick’s relationship with the Joker, Dick’s relationship to Bruce and his right to fill the role, the conversations between Dick and Commissioner Gordon “Sir,” Dick’s relationship to the Gotham City PD vis-à-vis Bruce’s, Damian and the Joker, etc. It’s smart, fun, all of the disparate Morrisonian pieces begin to coalesce, and we’re treated to a great unexpected cliffhanger. This is nearly everything I want from a book called “Batman & Robin.” Grade A.

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