The New York Five #1 (DC/Vertigo):
Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly have turned in some great performances together on a wide range of titles over the years (Local, The New York Four, DMZ, Northlanders), but this just might be their most effective collaboration yet. It’s an impressive first issue that does everything a great first issue needs to. Right from go, the first page primer captures these realistic characters that aren’t just sketches or archetypes, but seem to be imbued with real substance. They seem so complete with both positive attributes and imperfection that they seem familiar. Haven’t we all lusted after a Merissa, been annoyed by a Lona, had a friend who dated a Ren, and ended up with a Riley ourselves? Wood seems to be getting better with age, honing his ear for dialogue and alternate modes of communication. There’s a modern sensibility on display here regarding the way young people process information; it almost reminds me of what Joe Casey tried to do with The Intimates at WildStorm a few years back. Wood seems to be pushing hard here in a lot of different little ways. He throws in my favorite line from the first volume: “It awes me into silence sometimes.”
He throws in a blatant fourth wall breaker just for fun with “…in the author’s opinion.”
And overall, he makes this emotionally tumultuous time in every person’s life hum with the feeling that every small decision weighs heavier than the world. Ryan Kelly has really poured a lot into this thing visually too. The opening establishing shot of New York is one of the most impressive full pages I’ve seen in a while, probably the best he’s ever done. There’s an immaculate level of detail and sense of depth that instantly plunges you into the energy of the city. Those types of rich backgrounds seem to run throughout the issue, forcing you to search for the Easter Eggs, like the "Local” TV show ad slyly above a subway station. On one hand, this is an odd book for Vertigo, black and white with no ads, but I don’t really care because it puts all the right threads in motion with style and grace. Grade A+.
Uncanny X-Force #4 (Marvel): It’s everything an X-book should be, particularly as compared to Uncanny X-Men. I really like Matt Fraction and have enjoyed watching the arc of his career, but his Uncanny X-Men run has really been a noble failure. It had high aspirations that never quite connected. The ideological structure was lofty, analogizing Utopia as a Mutant State of Israel, which in turn positioned the X-Men as The Mossad. In spite of the aspirational vision, the art was always sub-par, ranging from just mediocre to downright awful. It has so many would-be interesting threads flailing around that it began to unravel, some of the threads ignored for long durations, with the threads present playing quite choppy. At times, it had gravitas and action, but at times it was also cheesy and nonsensical. As you might be able to tell, I’m invoking the comparison here because after months of threatening, I finally weaned myself off of Uncanny X-Men for the far superior Uncanny X-Force. The short version is that Rick Remender’s scripts are brisk and engaging, Jerome Opena’s art (with Dean White’s coloring) is detailed, lean, dark, and kinetic. This incarnation of X-Force honestly has it all. It’s got rousing action, compelling ideas, a visceral aesthetic, smart banter, eclectic cast, cool factor, iconic villain, straightforward plot, and is aided by, rather than bogged down by, continuity. It’s bold and irreverent, such as the scene where Deadpool is… umm… “nourishing” Archangel. Fantomex and Wolverine create their own version of the “Fastball Special,” there’s a tremendous moral dilemma, rich tension, and emotional fallout to come. Every character gets their own little journey, Psylocke shines as more than window dressing, Wolverine tests his leadership, the continuation of Archangel’s split personality, etc. If you’d told me a few years ago that Uncanny X-Force would be getting this grade, I’d have said you were as loony as Deadpool. But, it’s true, the book is basically flawless, with style. Grade A+.
This was definitely a great week for comics considering I awarded not one, but two, Grade A+ efforts, but somehow Sea Donkey
managed to eff it up in his own special way. He did not get Scalped #45, which I’d also planned on buying.