9.21.11 Reviews (Regular Edition)
DMZ #69 (DC/Vertigo): [DMZ Countdown Clock™: 3 Issues Remaining] It really gets you to see the reverent memorial for Wilson happening in Chinatown. It got Matty even worse to realize that Wilson considered him a true friend, despite the ways that they used each other to further their own personal agendas. After years of destroying Manhattan, I enjoyed the cautious optimism of the Jamal sequence, as he tries to rebuild “Parktown,” nee: Central Park. It’ll be interesting to see what the other Five Nations of New York end up including. Seeing Soames as an insane casualty of war is heart-wrenching. At first I thought maybe it was ok because despite his crumbled psyche, he achieved his goal of saving Central Park. Or did he? The more I thought on it, the more I thought, nah, he actually didn’t. That’s a shame. Wood leaves us with a gripping informational cliffhanger and I can’t wait to see what happens next. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to “review” this book since a) not a whole lot really happens this issue, b) the series ending is bittersweet so I’m savoring every last drop of it, and c) I have so much invested in the series that I’ve probably lost some objectivity. But, so be it. That’s the way favorites always are, aren’t they? Grade A.
As always, don’t forget to join us at LIVE FROM THE DMZ. The Jeromy Cox interview was recently posted, and Volume 05: The Hidden War should be up some time this month.
Northlanders #44 (DC/Vertigo): Brian Wood and Paul Azaceta wrap up the first part of the 9-issue Icelandic Trilogy with “Part 3: Slavery 886,” which continues to pit the Belgarssons against the Haukssons. This story centers on Ulf and Una and settles into a generational crime riff that, for some reason, keeps reminding me of Gangs of New York. It does a good job capturing clashing cultures amid a burgeoning new environment. It’s easy to see parallels between the Norway to Iceland immigration and the Western Europe to America (New York really) immigration, with the added melting pot effect of Una as the Irish wife. It’s a New World with hard opportunities. One of the greatest things about Brian Wood’s writing is that the emotion and the themes he plays with tend to be apropos regardless of time, place, or setting. Grade A.
The Red Wing #3 (Image): This issue definitely struggled with “all middle” syndrome, coming across not as strong as the first two issues. I was having a hard time remembering who was who and why they were doing whatever they were doing. Nick Pitarra’s Quitely-esque fine lines suddenly felt devoid of detail, rushed as if he was trying to hit the deadline, skimping on figure work and backgrounds, and overall the action was a little difficult to follow in spots. Not sure if Jonathan Hickman’s script or the art is to blame, but I’m still not clear on what happened to the ship (or why really) on that last page. The typical time travel paradox stuff seems problematic, but hopefully it will read better once collected. Grade B.
The Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror #17 (Bongo): This will sound blasphemous, but despite some very talented contributors, this felt like a miss. First of all, there are only 3 pieces in the book. In an anthology style annual with a $4.99 price tag, so I just need more than that. It usually is more than that. Zander Cannon and Gene Ha’s piece looks amazing. It’s visually stunning, but the premise just plods along laboriously and never really gets that funny. It comes close with the standard “mmm… beer!” line from Homer, and Mr. Burns’ “photo-daguerreotype” quip, but that’s really it. Not only does it fail to land the laughs, but it takes up nearly half the book, so the total effect is pretty damaging to the comedic potency of the overall package. Jane Wiedlin relies heavily on well-tread Star Wars humor that never quite connects. There’s a decent Homer/Jabba visual, and some background sight gags, but by the end it seems to have lost its way and moved on to Ray Liota fried brains. It feels tired and like a decade too late. The best piece is the last one by Jim Woodring, which mines an EC riff that is self-aware and self-referential, building in clever “7734 upside down” jokes, along with several jabs at WonderCon, The Inhumans, Steve Ditko, and comics collecting in general, complete with a trip to the infamous Android’s Dungeon. But, that’s it! Then it’s over. One strong piece and two fairly lackluster feels like a Grade B-.
Spontaneous #4 (Oni Press): I’m quickly not liking this title as much as I initially did. The premise of Joe Harris and Brett Weldele’s mini-series went from being something unique to what feels like a recycled episode of The X-Files. It was all over the place. I don’t get the Oldsmobile as security vehicle. The “witch’s tit” conversation is so contrived and has a distinct whiff of Tarantino to it, feeling like Mr. White and Mr. Orange in the “let’s get a taco” scene. The Prometheus Speech is staged, and the characters just seem to be talking at each other in order to give the audience information. It doesn’t feel organic at all. Weldele’s backgrounds are minimal. There’s a typo: “What’s this all this about, deputy?” Lorne going from security guard to cop doesn’t make a whole lot of sense; someone at that age typically goes the other way, from cop to security guard. And Emily, which was the saving grace for me in previous issues, went from quirky and spunky, ala Chloe Sullivan, to just annoyingly over-the-top. It’s kind of sad to realize I might not buy the 5th issue of a 5 issue mini-series. Grade B-.
Game of Thrones #1 (Dynamite Entertainment): My chief complaint with this adaptation is the art. It simply lacks the emotional gravitas required. Instead of dark low fantasy, it looks more like what you’d see on a Saturday Morning Cartoon in the 1980’s. The thing to understand about the world that George R. R. Martin created is that Westeros and the land across the Narrow Sea are dangerous places, with serious people, doing dire things. That tone cannot be successfully conveyed when everyone looks like they just stepped out of Thundarr The Barbarian or Jemm & The Holograms. The emotional depth doesn’t come across when the art is so (and I hate to use this term) “cartoony.” Patterson’s art just looks too fun, when the right aesthetic to strike would be more akin to the Alex Ross cover art. Now, aesthetics aside, the adaptation itself is ok. Right from the first page when someone says “ in your cups,” it shows that there’s effort being made to capture the distinct parlance of Martin’s books. I watched the HBO series when it premiered, hyped it to my friends, and just got done with the 3rd (of 5 published, of 7 planned) book, so all I could do was spot differences. It seemed to me they dwelled too much on the prologue beyond The Wall. The Others looks too ethereal compared to how I imagined them and how they appeared in the show, but I suppose that interpretation is the prerogative of the writer. It was so decompressed though, that at this rate it would take decades to catch up to where the books are at. The Stark boys all apear to have reddish hair, like their Tully lineage I guess. The figures are very generic. It was hard to tell the differences between, say, Jon Snow, Will, and even Theon Greyjoy (spotted him only because of his bow). Catelyn seems way younger. The Godswood was ugly, too exaggerated. Instead of Viserys coming across as an insecure whelp, he just seemed comically cruel, overwrought and melodramatic. There’s TONS of omniscient narration, which really goes against the spirit of the POV chapter methodology in the original material, but sheesh, how else are you supposed to adapt a 1,000 page book? It seems like a no-win proposition. There was one small tiny thing I thought the adaptation did well, maybe even better than the original or the HBO adaptation, and that was how they introduced the Stark words “Winter is Coming.” They make a good distinction between the noble self-describing words of all the other houses and the resigned sense of inborn fatalism of House Stark. “Winter is Coming” is such a bleakly different “motto” than the other houses of The Seven Kingdoms, and as much as I’d heard them said, and read the words myself, I don’t think I ever really “got” that distinction so crisply before. So, there’s that. Artistically though, everything just appears too clean, not dirty enough, not the right tone. Overall, this feels like a somewhat competent adaptation severely hampered by mis-matched sub-par art. It seems like what it probably is – a quick cash-in on a successful property, rather than a faithful and diligent adaptation by people who revere the original material. Grade C+.
I also picked up;
The New York Five TPB (DC/Vertigo)
New Teen Titans: Games HC (DC)