11.03.2010

11.03.10 Reviews (Part 1)

DV8: Gods & Monsters #8 (DC/Wildstorm): It’s a sad little realization that this might be the last Wildstorm book I ever purchase. From the top, damn, that is a mighty attractive Fiona Staples cover. I think I actually like her rendition of The Carrier better than Frank Quitely’s. It’s also probably not lost on anyone that there is a member of the team conspicuously missing from that lineup. Rebekah Issacs' pencils also deliver phenomenally, pouring out so much raw gut-wrenching emotion in Jocelyn or Gem’s eyes. It’s fills me with so much enthusiasm to see Brian Wood firing on all cylinders here. He’s telling an engaging story with cool characters, but also delivering some crisp and direct messaging about the toys he’s been tinkering with. It’s down to even the small details, like the title of the issue, “Up in the Sky,” which is a nice play on a familiar Superman line. It all functions as I’ve detected from the start, as a piece of commentary about heroes in a modern, more realistic age. Wood roots this final issue squarely in the Wildstorm Universe, tossing in nods to Wildcats, The Authority, and even a surprise appearance by Jackson King of Stormwatch, which shit, I haven’t seen since that Chris Sprouse penciled crossover issue where they all fought some Aliens. Wood takes aim at the flawed superhero paradigm and hammers away relentlessly from all sides. Their powers leave the group “more screwed up than ever.” Gem says “I’m not even sure what this costume is supposed to mean anymore.” She doesn’t say suit, or disguise, or even uniform. She says “costume,” like they’ve all been masquerading around unsustainably as something they’re inherently not. I keep making these comparisons to Watchmen and it hit me here how similar that two key deaths are thematically. The death in this issue isn’t the type of empty hollow death that is so common in modern superhero fare. It’s actually more like Rorschach’s death in Watchmen. It’s the death of the one character who actually tried to do the right thing when all others failed to, and the reward is unfair elimination from an implausible construct – the superhero world. In the typical superhero comic, it’s all a game where, as Wood puts it, “blind idealism” is common. In the atypical superhero world that Wood constructs out of DV8, there is a more realistic affectation. In this more realistic environment that mirrors our own, where “morality and ethics are permanently gray,” you get these types of real world consequences. Death with high probability, significance, and permanence. Jackson King’s open-ended monologue could have, would have, should have… paved the way for more brilliant stories utilizing these characters and this universe, which we’ll now likely never see. So let’s all lament the additional potential that existed, but be thankful for the storytelling gift we did receive. We got to witness the most realistic application of superhero theory that readers are likely to find in the medium. Grade A+.

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