8.18.10 Reviews

DV8: Gods & Monsters #5 (DC/Wildstorm): It’s remarkable what a brilliant framing device the debriefing with Gem aboard The Carrier is. If you can imagine this tale being told without it, it would play almost painfully straightforward. Gem’s narration provides an anchor for the audience, a POV character to recount what happened. I keep thinking of Keyser Soze sitting in Agent Kujan’s office in The Usual Suspects. Before I go off talking more about the writing, Rebekah Isaacs deserves some praise. I’m impressed by how versatile her art can be. It runs the gamut from tender to fierce, full of heart when it needs to be and full of raw intensity when the tension needs ratcheting, but always clean and clear, so many effortless panels without any text whatsoever. While Wood focuses this issue on Rachel as a princess and Michael as an animal, he keeps begging this question: is the world better off with or without super-powered beings? Does the mere existence of powers make the crazies come out? Does, say, Batman’s existence, actually create someone like The Joker? The powered beings not only impact society at large, but also each other. Gem makes the observation that their recognition as “post-humans” is a bit misleading. That implies human perfection, plus. But, in reality it is simply human, plus power. They’re not advanced humans, they’re simply fallible humans with powers laid on top of that. And the cruel joke is that the powers don’t always ensure positive quality, as Evo actually devolves. Fallible humans with powers is a dangerous paradigm. Gem says “we all smell like death.” Out here in the real world, it’s easy to follow the tendency to select from the existing noble role models and say wouldn’t it be great if someone like Superman was President? But, that’s not how it works. In reality, you have to flip-flop the argument and ask, what if someone like Dubya had superpowers? In the comics, Rachel can dish out Divine Punishment as a God; out here in the real world, you’d simply risk The Divine Right of The Irrational. Wood is sublimating this genre and in the process entering a pantheon of revered writers like Alan Moore and Warren Ellis, joining his voice to the chorus and proving what a flawed paradigm the superhero ideal is. Grade A.

Sweets #2 (Image): Hey, I’ve got a degree from the #2 ranked Criminal Justice school in the country, I worked in federal law enforcement, and I’m telling you, Kody Chamberlain has the power to surprise me with the creative crime shit he comes up with. Printing the coins in the meter? Heck, I’ve never ever seen that before, and it’s just this throwaway little line, but it’s brilliant. The realism once again drips off the page here and it’s evident in the world-weary truth of lines like “I got a shitload of grandkids and a nice camera. I stay busy.” Palmer is always a joy when he’s on the page, his curmudgeonly demeanor endlessly entertaining. The flashbacks continue to be interesting diversions and it’s becoming clear that, like Jason Aaron on Scalped, the seemingly unrelated scenes will all begin to intertwine as time goes on. I did catch one typo, “prostutution,” (the easiest way to remember the proper spelling is that there’s always a “tit” in prostitution), but that’s easy to overlook when a book has this much thought and precision poured into every aspect of it. That cliffhanger about spotting the camera is pretty juicy and I’m definitely on board for more. If you could combine the procedural writing of Greg Rucka with the moody art of Sean Phillips, throw in a dash of the Jonathan Hickman aesthetic, oh, and some Pecan Pralines(!), then you’d have the creative mindset of Kody Chamberlain. Grade A.

The Lone Ranger #23 (Dynamite Entertainment): Jesus, how long is this arc? This is, what, the seventh issue? And it’s taken like a year to come out. Damn, I’m ready to trade-wait this already. Anyway, the Cavendish/Loring scene reminded me a bit of the Hopkins/Liota scene (you know the one), but that’s neither here nor there. John reaches a crossroads here where it seems he’ll have to choose between his mission and his family, because they simply cannot co-exist. There’s a bit of nicely played misdirection here, since the audience anticipates a Cavendish/Lone Ranger face-off, but that turns into The Lone Ranger finding Sheriff Loring. The scene is just heartbreaking on so many levels. The compassion John shows Loring, the reveal (I don’t want to spoil it), their past connection, and that small resigned line “won’t take but a minute.” I like how Brett Matthews and Sergio Cariello play the denouement very subtly here. Lesser creators would have ended the final panel of that sequence with a “bang!” emanating from the house. These guys avoid the cliché because they know that we know what happens in that building. It’s proof why this title is such a class act, creators not afraid to put in the work and execute flawlessly. It’s gritty, it’s got a heart, and it doesn’t insult the audience’s intelligence. Grade A.

Uncanny X-Men #527 (Marvel): If this keeps up, yeah, I’m about done with the book. In short, Matt Fraction’s authorial voice is largely lost in this issue and the book has never met a mediocre artist it didn’t like. Does Marvel just figure, “well, it’s Uncanny X-Men, people will buy it regardless of what artist we put on there!?” Hey, it’s The French Laundry in Napa! That’s about as far as the cool little Fraction elements go. Whilce Portacio’s art is still full of stilted figures and his portrayal of Emma Frost is downright fugly, though I will say there are fewer overt gaffes and he did try a little harder with the backgrounds this issue. This issue is all about Hope pulling Gabriel out of The Speed Force or something, cut to a verbose Logan talking to Scott, cut to a pappy dogshit scene between Peter and Kitty (yeah, like Kitty would ever allow Emma inside her mind again), cut to Emma saying “darling” way too much, annnnnd, The End. On paper, the idea of Hope recruiting this new squad is ok enough, but the execution is bogged down by tons of disjointed elements that we’ve seen before. The dust is still settling, ok let’s move on. There’s no real story here, just a lot of slowly paced rehash. The script has lost all of the kitsch and swagger that’d make you recognize it as a Matt Fraction joint, the art is sketchy and rushed, with someone named Leonard Kirk drawing an Emma that looks absolutely nothing like Whilce Portacio’s Emma just a few pages prior. It’s just not that good. This book should be so much better. It’s such a disappointment. Grade C+.


At 2:42 AM, Anonymous JG said...

Didn't Emma and Kitty "make up" in Whedon's last Astonishing issue. them being pals should not be a large problem.

Agree on the art issues though.


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