Casanova: Avaritia #3 (Marvel):
I think I said something on Twitter like this was a no holds barred effort to instantly distill the manic pure beautiful imperfections of Fraction’s brain directly onto the page. There’s so much ape shit crank the volume to 11 energy to like here that it rarely gives you a moment to breathe. As you still try to parse what’s on the last page, Fraction is already 5 steps ahead of you waiting for your human brain to catch up to his idea machine. To some degree, the plot is almost irrelevant. It’s the themes that I like. At the end of the day, Cass is really ultimately struggling with the quintessential existential dilemma that defines our existence. What is our purpose? How do we best serve the world? It’s a challenging read, one that infuses the lost art of textual superimposition into the narrative, stops to discuss the perception limitation of lacuna, and just keeps charging fearlessly ahead at 100mph. Gabriel Ba’s art is a perfect match. Stylistically, it’s manic and kinetic enough to keep up with Fraction’s script, while being just slightly realistic enough to anchor the reader in the proceedings. I really only have two gripes about this thing. One, I didn’t even realize it was $4.99 until I started wondering where my $20 bill went. That feels expensive, especially when a portion of that price point assumably went toward 8 pages of rambly fan letters discussing illegal downloading or something. Honestly, it’s the first time I haven’t read the backmatter because it wasn’t backmatter in the traditional sense, not the kind that Fraction has treated us to in the past. Two, the long delay between issues here is absolutely hurting the flow and resonance of the book. You’re dealing with a non-linear narrative involving time jumps, space jumps, multiple realities and timelines that repeatedly fold in on themselves, and intersect with causality loops, all of which absolutely cannot be read in single installments with long gaps between issues. They read better when back to back monthly, and best in collected edition. Grade A.
Avengers Vs. X-Men #1 (Marvel): I’m one of those guys who sometimes bashes Bendis and turns up my nose at the majority of his superhero work (Alias notwithstanding) and says “I only like his old stuff.” But, I will give him some credit here. While there is some infantile dialogue up front, and some flat and misplaced humor, he does a really good job at diving right into the action and getting into these scenes late. We’re just a couple pages in by the time there is emergency action with the Phoenix Force hitting, and Nova basically crash landing on Planet Earth to warn of the impending arrival of said cosmic entity. On the whole, this is *so* much better than that sickly meager uneven #0 issue that came out recently. A large part of the success is the aesthetic; this is a visually stunning issue. John Romita, Jr. is totally on point, using more fluidity than his sometimes blocky lines can demonstrate, and Laura Martin’s coloring is superb, particularly her light-sourcing. The only real bit that rubbed me the wrong way was the cheap shock value of the plane crash. I mean, is a commercial airplane crashing into the Empire State Building really the scariest, best thing we can conjure up in an 11 year post-9/11 world!? That’s it? There’s nothing more terrifying in our collective consciousness, in a world with superheroes in it no less? If you dismiss that, the issue is actually full of positively memorable moments. There’s Nova with the simple utterance of “It’s coming.” There’s Scott getting cooked by Hope, the gravitas of The White House scene, Scott’s willingness to do anything for the survival of his endangered mutant species, at any and all costs. Scott has essentially become the militant aggressive Magneto archetype, while guys like Magneto himself and Cap are taking a more passive protection stance, serving as voices of cautious reason. Protect Hope vs. empower her? The Namor vs. Cap insinuation is interesting, and the crescendo of “You do understand I wasn’t asking?” with “I understand that completely” is the kind of hair-raising moment that makes you think there might actually be hope for summer crossover events like this. Side note, but at first I was asking myself WTF are those little “AR” notes along the bottoms of some of the pages. Thankfully, the house ad answered that with an “Augmented Reality” option. However. Ahem. I sort of feel like those silly attempts at “new media” are going to be tomorrow’s AOL start-up discs you used to get in the mail, the countless millions that are now clogging up our landfill. So, Art vs. Story wins, Action vs. Dialogue wins, making Avengers vs. X-Men #1 a pretty light but entertaining summer popcorn event, like I guess it’s supposed to be, clocking in with a Grade A-.
Danger Club #1 (Image): Landry Walker and Eric Jones basically take an indie Teen Titans paradigm and presuppose that their JLA mentors are lost. Right away, I respected the scripting because it offered limited exposition, and just expected you to figure things out and keep up. That’s smart scripting. Jones’ art was also instantly appealing, using lean slick figures and strong coloring to create a moody atmospheric style that was fun and energetic. In the wake of the heroes being lost/dead/we don’t know yet, the rest of the younger heroes become fractured. Some step up to lead in an effort to fill the vacuum with less than altruistic motives, some simply fall in with that, while our small protagonist group rebels against that sweeping tide. Danger Club plays with the familiar Strongman and Vigilante archetypes in interesting and satisfying ways. Readers in my age group will probably instantly recognize the “Dark Knight Returns” sequence where the (I guess) Dick Grayson/Bruce Wayne character defeats the Ubermensch god-like entity with the equivalent of Kryptonite Brass Knuckles. That said, the premise of the series is not entirely original. Several creators, at Image Comics no less, have come along and tried to attack the genre from this post-superhero angle, but few have been this well executed. It’s a dystopian slant, and you all know I like that, so I’ll definitely give this a couple issues to see where it goes. Grade B+.