10.21.2010

10.20.10 Reviews (Part 1)

DV8: Gods & Monsters #7 (DC/Wildstorm): The phrase “It was the twilight of the Gods” is repeated in this issue three times and I loved every instance of it. I’ve already drawn lofty comparisons of this Brian Wood project to Watchmen, and that line scratches the itch that Alan Moore’s abandoned follow up project Twilight of the Superheroes created. This issue focuses on Jocelyn, and her celestial discovery is an interesting one. There’s just nothing like the end of the universe to clarify the meaning of one’s existence. The meta-hound in me wants to draw the line from Gem retelling the end of this world to Brian Wood’s role in the end of the Wildstorm Universe, though I know he probably wrote this script long before the announcement. I don’t think Wood intends this sort of industry commentary per se, I think he follows an intuitive internal writing process that just feels right for his characters, but I can’t help reading more into the meaning of the story. If you follow the arc of the DV8 cast in this series, you can almost track the corollary cycle of the real world superhero paradigm in parallel. They are birthed, dropped from the heavens (ala Superman’s origin), they endure a decadent heyday, there’s a recession of interest, a backlash, followed by an analysis of their meaning to the culture in which they reside… Anyway, yeah, the issue. Rebekah Isaacs is going to be a rising star to watch. That simple shot of the planet somehow conveys a beautiful, yet fragile existence as it floats in space. It’s interesting to see Jocelyn acting as sort of a selfless philanthropist; it reminds me that one way you could read this book is to infer that each character in the squad of eight is an aspect of self present in all of us. The characters are just physical manifestations of parts of our own psyche. If you follow that through, you begin to wonder not how post-humans would function as Gods when juxtaposed against a primitive society, but how we all function as Gods in the little worlds we create. Our personalities fuel conflict in the world around us, and each of us in our own way, seeks to impose our will onto that social construct. Man, I’m getting all philosophical and can’t seem to stay focused on talking about the book. Well fuck man, that’s a good piece of art that can illicit this degree of contemplation, isn’t it? Gem talks about “building a mythology” on the planet and it’s just another reflection of art imitating life imitating art. I’ve been pondering the demise of Wildstorm a lot lately and this incarnation of DV8 strikes me as such a shining example of how crafty creators can mine and evolve a property and do some world-building of their own. I don’t know that I’d want to see Brian Wood take on a more archetypal character like Superman or Batman, because they’re weighed down by so much internal and external baggage. But, he’s sure proven to have an effective grasp on a property like DV8, that these relatively recent creations can be more nimble, they can evolve, and be modernized under the direction of the right creator, and keep pace with the times, not losing their relevance the way a more aged property might. Ah, well. If “the king is dead, long live the king,” then I say if “Wildstorm and DV8 are dead, long live Brian Wood.” Grade A.

Sweets #3 (Image): [Not released this week, but my dopey LCS finally got it in.] Kody Chamberlain’s Sweets is the kind of book that’s going to have a magnificent life as a graphic novel once collected. It’s one of the few noir inspired police procedurals that’s has any ring of authenticity about it. From the very first grainy opening page, we understand that Chamberlain intuitively knows he doesn’t have to sensationalize violence for it to have an impact. He just lays it there on the page without visually editorializing and allows the audience to absorb it. The way that these cops begin to work what feels like a useless lead (the diabetic connection) is exactly the way that real cops work tirelessly boring angles and exhaust all remote avenues, no matter how far-fetched they initially seem. It’s through this thorough exploration that cases are made. There are precious few caption boxes in Sweets and it’s a reminder that Chamberlain doesn’t rely on tired exposition to thrust the story forward. None of his characters talk to the audience. They simply do what they would do naturally, speak in short clips and bursts, intertwine overlapping conversations, and talk realistically, showing off the creator’s masterful ear for dialogue. The move that’s pulled here (I won’t ruin it) with the phone is the type of narrative trick that reminded me of Guy Pierce’s interrogation scene juggling in LA Confidential, capped off with “you’re a fucking genius.” The thing I probably appreciate the most about this issue is that the action that takes place is a brief and unexpected burst of violence. When I was coming up in law enforcement, one of my old bosses would use that line, that the work was “90% boredom,” just routine planning and procedure, “followed by 10% sheer terror.” The only minor quibble I have is that one of the cops is shot in the hand, and it seems to take a while for him to start bleeding. In the interim, he’s using that same hand to hold his gun before switching off. Now, I’ve never been shot, but I have been stabbed in the hand, and I’ll tell you, even with adrenaline kicking in, you ain’t gonna’ be doing much with that hand. Thankfully, the wound is eventually addressed and we even begin to see shock setting in once the queasy adrenaline rush subsides. This book is one of the finds of the year, and I’m still amazed that it’s one guy responsible, doing what it takes 3-4 lesser creators to accomplish, and doing it with style and grace, the results eclipsing “those other” books. Grade A.

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