11.17.10 Reviews

Northlanders #34 (DC/Vertigo): The cover is sort of a thing of beauty, with diammetrically opposed imagery creating balance. You see Ingrid seemingly unafraid and resigned to her fate, seeking shelter from the heavens and her belief system. Erik, on the other hand, appears more grounded and pragmatic, more full of panicked concern. Inside, Brian Wood displays a lot of confidence in his ability to trust collaborator Riccardo Burchielli. The artist creates a disorienting and beautiful set of introductory images with very modest dialogue. I think this issue is largely about power. It’s about physical power, the power of will, the power of love, the power of parenthood, and the power of identity (yeah, the term I just wrote 10 posts about) driving a character’s actions. The Mother Hulda and Ingrid conversation is absolutely chilling with a few pointed word choices, and Wood gives us some real “holy crap!” moments, as the power of clashing cultures and paradigms of the supernatural, magic, science, and religion come into full focus. Riccardo Burchielli makes you believe these things, not in the big grand shots filled with spectacle, but in the quiet moments of detail. It’s there in his depictions of the bitter cold, a stray wisp of hair, or the imperfect beauty of the slivers of hope found in a tumultuous time as Wood’s Viking Bonnie & Clyde essentially ride off into the snowy landscape that serves as their sunset. Grade A.

Osborn #1 (Marvel): No disrespect to Matt Fraction’s wife Kelly Sue DeConnick, but I primarily purchased this book for the Warren Ellis and Jamie McKelvie back-up story, and those instincts served me pretty well. The premise of DeConnick’s mini-series had some potential, sort of Oz (with Osborn no less) in the Marvel Universe, and things started off well with that uncomfortable close-up and great logo design on the cover, with the middle “o” in Osborn’s name being a stylized street art stencil of the Green Goblin. I remember seeing and liking some of Emma Rios’ anthology work in the past, but it was largely a distraction in the lead story here. Overall, she uses a slight manga influence to the figures, with vaguely Asian eyes. Most of the time, the figures possess very awkward poses and at times the gestures can be downright ugly and horrible, such as the shots of Norah’s cheeks as she chews her noodles. Peter Parker’s hair makes him look like some sort of Yakuza thug who was an extra in a movie I saw that one time. Initially, I couldn’t tell from the art alone if one of the Senators was male or female, but it was thankfully revealed a few pages later when someone called it “Mike.” Rios does have one very impressive shot, which is the two page spread that reveals the layout of the prison cells. Like I said, DeConnick’s script is pretty intriguing at a high level, and she even introduces some real world analogues, like if The Raft is basically Gitmo, and Norman is basically classified as an enemy combatant, then what rights does he have? How do we try him? How does the insanity defense play into things? And framing the series as an investigation of his disappearance has some appealing political charge, but the execution is really uneven in the details. Norah is a terribly unlikable character, who offers nothing but exposition about her own tenacious personality. The dialogue is clunky at times; for example, I couldn’t figure out who Sondra was calling “son,” or why? Is she just the hip urban black woman? She’d call a Senator “son?” Really? And why the hell would you name her two letters off of a delicious New Orleans sandwich? Muffoletto/Muffaletta. Weird. I’ll give this lead story a Grade B- for the sparkle of a good idea, but some inconsistent execution and really damaging art. The back-up story, with Dr. June Covington, is in an entirely different league. It’s basically a pretty typical Warren Ellis talking heads tirade, but is still very engaging and entertaining. It’s clever fun, has a strong sexual undercurrent, and shines the light on a very likable sociopathic criminal. McKelvie’s consistent lines are full of emotion, and maybe it’s the inking and coloring, but they have a richness to them that makes me want to say they’re even better than his work on Phonogram or any of the previous projects I’ve seen since. This one is a winner through and through and ranks a strong Grade A. It makes me want more back-up stories featuring Ellis interviews with the prisoners. It makes me want McKelvie to be the main artist. It makes me want to read an ongoing with his art. It’s a tough draw when the back-up is stronger than the lead, averaging out the entire package to a lackluster Grade B.


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