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The Legend of Luther Strode #1 (Image): First off, I owe Keith Silva an enormous debt, who recommended I check out this title in TPB when I missed the singles after sort of dismissing the first issue when I flipped through and thought the art was merely “interesting.” Hey, I’m right 99% of the time! I’ve always liked Tradd Moore’s art. It’s this sort of mix of the refined erudition of Kevin O’Neill, with the hard street energy of someone like Tan Eng Huat. The straight lines and chiseled details create this lean and sinewy sense of kinetic energy that’s right at home for a protagonist hunting down the local organized crime franchise. Me being me, I also just enjoy the authenticity of little details in the art, like the firearms looking like Kahr 9mm’s, and not some bogus made up things. Early on, around the time the young thug bumps into Luther Strode’s menacing frame, it became clear to me that Justin Jordan was just gonna’ swing for the damn fence and do what it says right there in the title – build a legend. In the diner scene, I realized that I loved the refreshing flow of the dialogue for not feeling staged or expositional. I never thought I was reading a comic, I just got swept away by this thing, a feeling becoming increasingly rare the more comics I spend time with. Jordan is moving things forward from volume one’s origin; I don’t think he believes in that illusion of change proposition they’ll try to spoon feed you over at Marvel and DC. This is the real deal. I remember something he said about blending the superhero and horror genres and it’s seamlessly evident here. Luther Strode bears the unpredictability of those now cult classic Voorhees and Krueger and Myers flicks (the first time you watched them anyway) and sticks it in a genre blender with the Ubermensch escapist power fantasy that first led Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two Jewish kids from Cleveland, to create Superman probably as some kind of subconscious reaction to the rise of Nazi Fascism in Germany. It’s powerful stuff, made more intimate by the surprise reveal at the end of this issue. Don’t miss it, Justin Jordan and Tradd Moore have pulled off a little miracle here and created the new vigilante anti-hero for the 21st Century, leaving behind the stodgy billionaire playboy trappings of the former century in favor of buckling down with modern street-level sensibility for a new generation. Yeah, I said it. Luther Strode is the new Bruce Wayne. The Legend has supplanted The Batman. Is it too soon to start staking claims on best books of 2013? Grade A+.
Avengers #1 (Marvel): Dear Santa, would it be possible for Jerome Opena and Dean White to just go ahead and handle ALL the superhero comics please? Pretty please? Ok, how about if they just handled the art for all the Marvel books? The quickest way to financially bankrupt me would be for Jerome Opena and Dean White to do all the Marvel books, and then JH Williams III could do all the DC books. Then, I’d be buying everything they published. So, yeah, Jonathan Hickman adds some very subtle use of his trademark infographics and begins to develop a new set of villains that seem to function like The Four Horsemen of Apocalypse did for Remender over in Uncanny X-Force. I only have two minor quibbles with the issue. First, it sure seemed like there were a couple of commas out of place on Clint’s first line of dialogue. I also don’t feel like the end was as rousing as it was intended to be. Maybe I was distracted; for a minute, my LCS guy and I (hey Michael) were thinking that Cap, that ol’ softie, was shedding a tear on the last page, but after repeat reading, it seemed that was maybe intended to just be a suture style bandage, so my mind could have been elsewhere. Ha! I liked the nice fast pace of the issue. The idea of taking out the principal (movie) team in some doomsday scenario as Cap waits for the reserve cavalry to arrive is a pretty high-octane way to jumpstart things. I’ve been telling people that Thor: God of Thunder from Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic has been the best of the Marvel NOW! so far, but I could see Avengers giving it a run. Grade A.
Stumptown Volume 2 #4 (Oni Press): Stumptown continues to be a book that I want to like more than I can if I’m operating with total intellectual honesty. It’s good, for sure, but a few little glitches prevent it from being great. The art or the color or something is a little foggy and blurred at the edges at times. When Dex vaults down the stairs, it’s an example of how the basic perspectives in some of the shots can sometimes just feel a little off. Yet, there’s this latent energy in the art I really enjoy. The sense that it’s all been building to this frenetic moment and action can pop off at any given second. I think the transition from traditional portrait to landscape page orientation also felt a little awkward. I appreciate the idea of trying to naturally transition as a result of the action, but I just don’t feel like craning my neck around to follow things. Maybe I’m lazy. During these sideways scenes, when the Mustang is chasing the truck and the train is in the background, I know that the art is rendered in a way that’s supposed emphasize the speed of the chase, but it just looks weird and elongated. I thought this was all a really fun experiment conceptually, but found myself getting annoyed at the gimmick of flipping back and forth. On the flip side, yeah, I’m a dick, so I went back and counted the shots coming out of that 6-shot revolver, and sure enough, it does only fire 6 shots, which is terrific attention to detail. Ditto the look of the sweeping speedometer on the Mustang, that’s exactly how they look, I owned a ’67. I loved the dire nature of some of Rucka's lines like “They shot a cop, Mim. They don't have anything left to lose." I also really liked the close-up shots of Dex. Like when she says “You know you want to...” there’s a beautiful smoky quality to her eyes, and I just wish the art looked like that all the time, sometimes when Southworth pulls the camera out, the eyes get beady and become little black dots, and I think he’s really selling himself short because he’s obviously capable of turning out some stunning material. I was a little confused by how they did whatever they did and whatever worked about it at the end, but it’s an abrupt end that punctuated a story people probably won't soon forget. Grade B+.