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Punk Rock Jesus #3 (DC/Vertigo): I’ll try to tangent my way into this review by saying how much I’ve been enjoying the reviews of DC’s long lamented SOLO series over at Comics Alliance. The boldness of that project under Mark Chiarello felt like some sort of life-affirming juju that is also present in this quirky series, why some people might still hold out hope for the ailing Vertigo line. The draw for most people here, I think, is probably Sean Murphy's crazy-good art chops. There’s real emotion in his art to make it feel realistic, yet it’s just stylized enough to push you into fantastical entertainment. It’s such a good balance. But, you know what? Dude can frickin’ write pretty well too! This issue opens with an amazing little action scene, as Thomas tries to get Gwen back into the J2 compound (if you’re just catching up, they’ve cloned Jesus, y’all, and it’s a reality TV spectacle ala The Truman Show, Gwen’s the inverted Mary figure, Thomas is the bodyguard, and, oh hell, just buy it already). We get to see holographic bible lessons that range from rated G to ludicrously age inappropriate. Of course, Dr. Epstein introduces good ol’ science, we’re talking evolution and global warming for all the Left Wingers in the house. I love the scene where Chris nearly drowns when he tries to walk on water. Even company man corporate handler Slate has some range in his personality, culminating with the whole you’re a prisoner “so get the fuck out of my office” scene. Desperate mom pulls a desperate deal, we go from Chris and Rebekah in public school, through a couple of vignettes that push the narrative ahead a few years, to being in the media spotlight himself, the second coming with low test scores but the genius IQ. It’s the classic nature vs. nurture debate in comic form. By the end, you can certainly see how the rebellious “punk” in Punk Rock Jesus starts to form. As if the stand-off at the gate wasn’t heart-wrenching enough, I loved the end epiphany. It’s one of the most dramatic scenes we’ve seen, like, all year, in comics, something you could never see coming. Though I think the black and white art is totally serviceable and great, I have a sneaking suspicion that the book would get the “+” if it was in color. Grade A.
Team 7 #0 (DC): This is the New DC. It doesn’t suck completely, but it’s not good either. It’s smack dab in the middle, selling tons of copies. It’s the most high profile celebration of mediocrity you could imagine. I really enjoyed The Strange Talent of Luther Strode, so I was curious to see what Justin Jordan could do with the remnants of my beloved old WildStorm Universe, but it just feels like the guy's hands are tied by an editorial checklist of what this issue is supposed to accomplish in DC Entertainment's Intellectual Property Catalogue. So, originally they called it Team 7 because it was, you know, a SEAL Team. See, there’s Naval Special Warfare Group One, basically the West Coast groups comprised of SEAL Teams 1, 3, 5, 7, and, oh, never mind, I guess that’s no more, it’s just like a cool sounding name or something, “Team 7.” Yeah. It says it on the side of their ship. Because a covert team trying to contain metahumans would TOTALLY want to brand their ship. Ahem. I like that an effort is made to use these WildStorm charged words like “Majestic,” and “Gen Factor” to the DCU “metagene,” but those are like single word drops without much more in the way of actual story. They’re also playing really fast and loose with DC-charged names like “Lance” and “Grayson.” Hey, they mentioned the National Park Service. Cool. Hey, there’s Lynch and Fairchild. Hey, there’s Grifter. I love Grifter. Hey, there’s Slade Wilson. Hey, there’s skinny Amanda Waller. Hey, there’s like half a dozen other dudes that I have no idea who they are. Hey, there’s some generic whatever villains with no motivations. Hey, there’s some generic art with no distinguishable aesthetic traits other than everyone looking like they have colitis and are straining from inflamed large intestines and scrunching up their foreheads. The frogs tell Cole Cash (aka: Grifter, if you’re just joining us) to “drop that man,” but uhh, he’s… not… holding… anyone? Ahem. So I guess I thought it was an interesting attempt to weave in some WildStorm junk, but it’s basically just a throw-away gathering the team issue with a flimsy expositional construct, no hook whatsoever, and mediocre art, building an utterly forgettable conglomeration of disparate elements in the grand scheme of things. Because I miss the WildStorm U, here’s a very charitable Grade B-.