Echo #23 (Abstract Studio): The crème de la crème this week is Terry Moore’s brilliant pairing of compelling characters with an emotional core and Silver Age atomic paranoia, all penciled and rendered devastatingly pitch perfect. I’ll bust his chops a little and proclaim that I found an extremely rare typo, “rendevous” instead of “rendezvous,” (and it's still nearly impossible to find any current cover image - even on his own site!), but that’ll hardly stop this book from testing out the upper limits of the 13 Minutes grading scale. Dillon’s phone conversation catches us up, but it’s a seamless and natural bit of dialogue that never once feels expository. As a writer/artist double threat, Moore’s artistry is unparalleled. The emotional content of the facial expressions provide heart, while the fine detail in the surroundings appeal to the mind. It’s the complete package. It’s all coming to a head, physical changes abounding, Ivy looking younger, Julie looking taller, Vijay realizing he just got threatened in a literally heart pounding sequence, as they begin to figure out more properties of the alloy. Echo has it all, sexual tension between Julie and Ivy, humor, action, intensity, drama, sci-fi, all not-so-subtle reminders that whatever you’re reading probably isn’t as good as this book. Seriously. This is the book that should be garnering Eisner nominations, this is the book that should be getting optioned by Hollywood, this is the book that should be considered “hot” by whatever inane standards Wizard Magazine employs, this is the book that should be selling out at Barnes & Noble, this is the book that more web-sites should be reviewing and evangelizing, this is the book you should be buying at San Diego Comic Con next week. Terry Moore is always there, right on that corner booth, and he’s always got the trades. I believe the first 4 trades are out for this series, all reasonably priced, and I’m sure Terry will do you up a little sketch when you buy them. So, go buy them. Seriously. Do it. Grade A+.
Invincible Iron Man #28 (Marvel): As Maria Hill attempts to coordinate a cohesive Iron Man/Avengers/S.H.I.E.L.D. response with misdirected emotional baggage, Matt Fraction’s writing takes an almost “Greg Ruckian” turn. He’s getting deeper into the technical jargon, with ops centers, capekiller armor, and Secret Service style code names in the field like “Martini.” Bambi Arbogast continues to delight as Tony stumbles into a PR disaster and gets upstaged hard. Larroca’s art continues to phase out the overt and distracting photo-referencing, but the remnant photorealistic qualities do a nice job of mirroring the real world. True, the idea of the paradigm shifting repulsor tech is little different than Joe Casey already did in Wildcats Version 2.0 and 3.0 years prior with the Spartan CEO and the HALO Corporation endless life batteries, but Marvel Comics haven’t sounded this intelligent or relevant in quite some time. The writing bristles with smart and inventive ideas like the “underground economy” and swaggers around like a hip sociopolitical drama merely masquerading as a superhero book. I’m starting to understand how Fraction has created such a sustainable model here, it’s by positioning the book as a heady drama first, with superhero action only a secondary mandate. This is mainstream Marvel at its finest. Grade A.
The Killer: Modus Vivendi #4 (Archaia): It takes a skillful hand to rev up the antics of a simple hitman on the power scale and make us believe that he could affect global geopolitics, but Luc Jacamon and Matz are doing it. This issue seems to achieve a better balance of Venezuelan and Cuban history lessons rife with a complicit CIA, and actual plot advancement for the characters. There’s a lot happening, the subtle distinctions that occur in conversation between Mariano’s idealism and The Killer’s realist worldview, a complex web of motivations, with new players and old players seemingly operating at a more sophisticated level than previously thought. The penciling and coloring mix for an effervescent style that makes explicit sex and violence go down with ease, like “two fingers and a rock” of aged Scotch. Grade A.
Daytripper #8 (DC/Vertigo): This issue of Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon’s ethereal life-affirming opus is a little different than all previous issues to date. Mysteriously absent is the title and credit page which identifies the age that this potential story thread takes place, though we later learn it’s Bras at age 47. Bras, born in a blackout, is also largely absent from this story. It’s a different approach the creators use, which effectively establishes a familial pattern for him to be absent from, highlighting the vacuum that his absence creates. At times, I think Daytripper brushes dangerously close to being so sweet and endearing that it’s saccharine, with over-the-top lines about the couple being “mirrors of happiness” as just one example. If the writing flirts with negative excess, the art responds positively so. The coloring is always amazing, but this time out I noticed the small details in the penciling. The rumpled look of a piece of clothing or a stray pillow, an open cereal box on the counter, or the open collar of Ana’s shirt, they all possess a lived-in look that makes the tale of possible realities and infinite alternate timelines that much more believable. Grade A-.
DMZ #55 (DC/Vertigo): The care and attention that Brian Wood infects his scripts with is evident down to single, small word choices. Notice how the line reads “God bless ‘a’ United States of America,” not “the” United States of America. It’s a subtle distinction. It’s a desire, not a reality. Andrea Mutti helps Wood craft a tale about what appears to be a contract operative, some sort of non-official cover agent engineering desired outcomes in the DMZ. It’s an interesting issue because more than usual, it’s not so much about what’s happening to the characters on the page as it is the message its sending to the audience. Collectively, we’ve lost our identity as a nation, it’s simply become a land of self-entitlement uber alles. The most chilling realization isn’t shown in the comic, it’s the message to readers that this is what could happen if we don’t change our ways. Mutti handles the gray/red flashbacks very well, with a grit and shadow that is yet another good artistic match for depicting this war torn cityscape. This new breed of war strips away identity and meaning, Civil War, by definition, is a matter of fighting ourselves. The loss of identity is unstoppable, war is dehumanizing, and Wood is depicting one of the greatest cases against it in the 21st Century. As Denzel noted in Crimson Tide, in the modern world, “the true enemy is war itself.” Grade A-.
I also picked up;
Absolute Planetary HC: Book 02 (DC/Wildstorm): I flipped through this sucker leisurely while my daughter watched Toy Story 2 last night on DVR and I just kept smiling, shaking my head, and muttering “God, this is so fucking good. Mumble mumble. Nobody will ever top this. Mumble mumble. Why can’t more books be this special? Mumble mumble. Look at Warren Ellis go here. Mumble mumble. Look at the way John Cassaday did that.” Eventually my daughter asked in her 3 year old brogue, “Daddy, what you said?” I didn’t tell her this, but I’ll tell you. Planetary is probably my favorite comic. Maybe ever. Honestly. The perfect collaboration now collected in the most beautiful format. It’s everything comics should be. It respectfully mines the past while embracing a limitless future. It is a pivotal and transcendent work. Certainly the best work that Ellis or Cassaday have ever produced. I’ll paraphrase a part of Alan Moore’s introduction and say that at once, it is concerned with all that comics were and all that they could be. It pulls at your heart, it stretches your mind. It's impossibly beautiful. It's mirror images through time. It's about the past and the future, regret and hope, decayed desire and daring to dream. I love it. I could give it an A+, but this book renders my grading scale meaningless. It is light years ahead of other works that have deservedly achieved the A+ grade. It’s the 15 on the scale of 1-10. If you haven’t read Planetary and somehow you’re reading this blog, if somehow you like comics as a medium, do yourself a favor and buy Planetary. The singles are getting difficult to find, the Absolute Editions are $75, but the softcover and hardcover trades are easy to locate, are a good value, and there’s only 4 of them. You owe it to yourself as a fan to have this one under your belt.