10.13.2011

10.12.11 Reviews (Part 1)

Batwoman #2 (DC): JH Williams III seems to be continuing his structured visual experimentation, and I think it’s a result of his natural inclinations, coupled with experiences working with Alan Moore (Promethea), Warren Ellis (Desolation Jones), and Greg Rucka previously on this title. He opens this issue with some brilliant little inset panels that show strike points during a fight scene. They’re a bit reminiscent of what David Aja was doing with Matt Fraction on very early issues of Immortal Iron Fist, but Williams takes it a step further by not only drawing our focus to the strike points, but then giving them an x-ray image effect so that we can see all the way down to the crunching bone. It’s a cool effect visually, but also works functionally to inform the direction of the action. Yes, it’s style AND substance. The plot has a lot of threads, all enjoyable. Kate is considering Batman’s offer to join Batman Incorporated, DEO Agent Cameron Chase is poking around, there’s a grisly set of child abductions and were-people murders to investigate, there’s romance with Det. Sawyer, she’s still mentoring her cousin Bette Kane, aka: Flamebird, and Williams manages to have fun in this intricate process, by throwing Desolation Jones (from his seemingly abandoned collaboration with Warren Ellis) into the background of a club scene. So, let’s talk about nipples! That’s a smooth segue! I’ve been noticing how Jim draws Kate’s nipples when she’s geared up as Batwoman, the way the fabric of her uniform hangs against her chest. It’s not a simplistic mound, nor is it some comically protruding erect nipple. It’s somewhere realistically in the middle, where you can make out the vague contour of the slightly puffy areola. I’m not saying this to sound salacious, but only because I think the attention to detail is grand, and this man surely appreciates it. I was all prepared to give this issue a Grade A, right up until that amazing two page spread where Sawyer and Chase visually recreate the actions that led to the crime scene they’re at. It’s imaginative, functional, and just so unlike anything you typically see in comics. It’s a bold risk, but it works flawlessly. That makes this issue a Grade A+.

Northlanders #45 (DC/Vertigo): This is part 4 of a 9 issue final run comprised of a trifecta of 3-issue arcs. Declan Shalvey, this guy is good! You can see bits of David Lapham or Cliff Chiang in those pencils, with some amazing detail in the backgrounds. That full page intro is full of movement and intricacy. Inside, we find another generation of Hauksson and Belgarsson at war, this time led by women. At the same time, there’s an influx of Christianity so that we get multiple layers of culture clash. Shalvey shows good range, able to capture fields of beautiful herbs or the muddy depression of the villages. I like the way Wood strings words together, like when he describes a society based on division of labor: men fight, women administrate, and together they dominate. Anyway, this is a set-up issue, so I don’t have a lot to say other than I’m anxiously awaiting to see how this plays out. I was thinking about the transition that’s about to come in Wood’s career. DMZ and Northlanders will soon be replaced by The Massive and, if you can believe anything Rich Johnston says, Conan at Dark Horse. Grade A.

Orchid #1 (Dark Horse): Unfortunately, the best thing I can say about this was that it was only $1. Man, you can kind of see what the creative team was going for, sort of a post-apocalyptic, spiritual successor hybrid of Antony Johnston’s Wasteland and Brian Wood’s The Massive, with some of Nathan Fox’s Fluorescent Black thrown in for good measure. The Massimo Carnevale cover is great, and Tom Morello and Scott Hepburn begin with a really promising iconic shot of Mt. Rushmore nearly underwater. It reminded me of the crumbled Statue of Liberty you see in Planet of the Apes. Small concentrations of surviving humans live atop high cities, while the rest of humanity struggles to exist in The Wild, some sort of evolving swampland, with bands of rebels trying to overthrow an authoritative regime with a... magic mask... or something? There’s tons of names and places being slung at the audience, with some very high and repetitive exposition. The art ranges from passable to very clunky at times, with some unclear panel transitions. The high concept of the script is nice, but the actual dialogue is very unnatural and doesn’t flow well at all. It’s also got some very clichéd archetypes, like the “hooker with a heart of gold.” I won’t be coming back, but I’d sure like to see that Shepard Fairey variant cover! Kudos to Dark Horse for landing that. Grade B-.

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