8.15.12 Reviews

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Saga #6 (Image): So, here’s the deal: I still enjoy reading Saga, yet something still bugs me slightly about it too. I think it’s formulaic in very subtle and slick ways, but you can certainly see that there’s a process at work underneath the surface, and that totally obliterates the “Ars Est Celare Artem” rule. People keep trying new spins and clever pitches to describe this book, with the term “sci-fi” usually being included somehow. But, aside from taking place in space and including interplanetary travel, there honestly isn’t anything terribly sci-fi about this book. It’s more of an outlandish soap opera with an offbeat sense of humor. I think BKV’s time in Hollywood has permeated his writing style; Saga feels layered and cyclical like a TV serial, as one plot thread shuts down, another is introduced systematically. It’s the way that some old-school comic book writers used to work, like how Chuck Dixon cranked out 60-something issues of Nightwing. It’s a reliable method. I’m not saying it’s bad, just that it’s slightly mechanical, it’s there, and I see it. It’s the same reason I keep watching the new 90210 season after season. Yeah, I said that. What? Some of Vaughan’s dialogue poked out at me too. There’s the oddly worded “because of course” in that one panel, and I still don’t get what that means or what it was intended to convey, it’s just there sticking out as if another line of dialogue is missing before or after it. “I aim to murder you” also smacks of Malcolm Reynolds, but maybe that’s just me. I did enjoy the introduction of Special Agent Gale, as well as the organic value system and communication of the rocket. That’s clever and original. I also give BKV a lot of credit for continually upping the stakes of unpredictability. The story has balls. It has a letter column. It has that Baby Hazel narration in white free-floating text, even though it does remind me of Moonshadow. The bigger treat is probably Fiona Staples' lush art; she reveals a dope two-page spread, and then I was even more impressed with the shot of the rocket taking off as the duo finally reach escape velocity and get some sort of brief respite as “Volume 1” comes to a close. Fiona has been coloring her own work, no small feat month after month, and that panel has this immaculate sense of movement and energy I just adore. I guess overall for me, Saga isn’t high art or anything, but it sure is fun. Grade A-.

X-Men #34 (Marvel): Ouch. There’s a typo right in the “Previously” section, “Gray” and “Grey” both being used multiple times in the second paragraph. It’s not like I’m going to threaten to drop the book or anything silly over something so trivial, but you’d think with all of the Marvel Editorial Eyes on this, someone woulda’ caught that. Roland Boschi isn’t my favorite artist (his line is a little wobbly and wonky to me, lacking the clean precision and consistency of David Lopez), but I will say that there are actually few artists that can nail a 5 page sequence sans dialogue with so much clarity and location changing like he did. One of the elements I still like the most about this Wood run is that not only are the characters introspective, but how many cape books actually show these people having to deal with the direct consequences of their actions, considering what they did, if it was effective, etc., not just blindly punching bad guy until bad guy ceases doing bad stuff? Storm takes responsibility and continues to clean up her mess, with all kinds of other dynamics in play, like jabbing verbally at Colossus under the strain of leadership, Pixie still working out her powers, and so on. The team continues investigating the missing sample of the proto mutant DNA, putting Domino and Psylocke undercover. I still maintain that this is a more thoughtful X-Men than we traditionally see, evident in Wood’s research that lends that sense of “ripped from the headlines,” whether it’s the intelligence bots monitoring global information, or creepy cultish groups like Heavenly Path. Grade B+.

The Victories #1 (Dark Horse): Man, I wanted to like this new Michael Avon Oeming joint more than I did. It ended up being a mélange of positive and negatives, about a Batman clone (Faustus, from the superhero group The Victories) taking on a violent vigilante called The Jackal (when he says he’ll rip your head off and shit down hour neck, yeah, he's pretty serious about that). These guys are really just different shades of grey, one willing to maim and murder, the other not. Oeming’s art doesn’t appear to be as sharp or controlled, with some confusing panel to panel storytelling in a few spots that had me flipping back to rewind and try to figure out what exactly happened. Sometimes, the “new” style worked in a visceral abstract way, with primary colors dancing in the night. Sometimes it just felt lazy and rushed, with no background work to speak of, and offered only huge patches of black and dark blue blobs of ink to decipher. I kept feeling like this was derivative of half a dozen other things. Sometimes it felt like an old-timey Powers. Sometimes it felt like Faustus was a Batman clone combined with the put-on of wise-cracking Peter Parker. Sometimes it felt like busted up alcoholic Faustus was the protagonist from Parliament of Justice just circling the drain. Sometimes his journaling felt like an obvious callback to Rorschach. Sometimes it was straight Bendis from Powers, with expositional news reports and multiple panels of different people reacting to something. I think the core idea of one Batman who is principled and doesn’t kill and is barely holding it together vs. one Batman who isn’t afraid to “kill up these streets” and is actually having sick fun and embracing the chaos is a good one… but the execution just isn’t quite the stylish superhero deconstruction I hoped it would be. I’m intrigued, but not entirely sold, which means this is something I’ll probably revisit in discounted trade form. For now, Grade B.


At 11:26 PM, Blogger Ryan Claytor said...

Ooo. Now I see why the lack of response on your previous post. Ha-ha! Not so much on the Saga, huh? :)

I'm back on ish #3, and I'll admit, I wasn't sold on the first issue like the rest of the comics community seemed to be, but at this point I'm really enjoying the wacky fun, snappy teen dialogue, and world building that Vaughn and Staples have put together so far.

I'm looking forward to the next three issues, which for some reason I seem to have missed. <:) Have I just been out of the loop, or did you not review the last couple of issues?

Off to the LCS,
Ryan Claytor
Elephant Eater Comics

At 8:33 AM, Blogger Justin said...

Hey Ryan,

Welcome back from Honeymoon!

I like Saga for all of the reasons you cite. I guess my stance is that Saga is *really good!* but I don't think it's *OMG GREAT! BEST. BOOK. EV-AR.* like some people do. Haha!

I've reviewed them all, but they've really flown by. I think the team committed to a tight monthly schedule because they're now taking a 2 month hiatus (one month the first trade comes out, one month of full break) so that Staples can get a good start on the next arc, BKV said they specifically want to avoid fill-in artists.


At 6:03 AM, Blogger Keith Philip Silva said...

Damn you Giampaoli! Why do I have to agree with you so much, why can't I think for myself. Great minds, right? I hope? Saga is good, but not the greatest book EVAH (as we say on the east coast -- certain parts) I feel like for all its 'character moments' Saga has really been about 'world buildin' with the characters as part of the machine. They're important (not quite disposable), but there is a 'bigger story' that Vaughn is playing out here, the ideas are fantastic and, yes, absolutely, unpredictable, but a lot of this is rote. It's better than most, but not quite [holds thumb and index finger millimeters apart] and as for the sci-fi, you're spot on take 'em out(er) of space and put Marko and Alana medieval England (allow for magic) and viola the same story works. Saga wants to 'be' a lot of things and it 'is' in many cases, but I'm not sure exactly what it 'wants.'


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