4.11.2013

4.10.13 [Weekly Reviews]

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Sex #2 (Image): I’m still very intrigued by this series, though I do have a couple quibbles with it. I know, big surprise. First, I totally appreciate the level of experimentation Joe Casey has tried to bring to all of his work, but those highlighted words are totally distracting. They’re not color coded by speaker, there’s no theme to the words highlighted, when you string them all together there’s no hidden message, and I don’t think they’re meant as bolding to stress certain words or phrases. So, what’s the point then? Maybe I’m just not savvy enough to have cracked the code yet. I still don’t know why Simon refers to what appears to be a female coworker as “Larry.” Will it be revealed in this hyper-sexualized world that this is some kind of transgender character or something? Ok. In the interim, it keeps jumping out at me. It’s the kind of little thing that needs to get resolved in the next issue or two before I’m fully annoyed and think it’s stupid. Some of the action choreography is a little jerky in the chase sequence. Something about the tone of Casey’s egocentric backmatter still irks me, but the basic message of post-modern self-aware tinkering with the industry’s most prominent genre is totally acceptable. In the end, the positives outweigh the negatives though. I enjoy the idea of taking a has-been Astro City style set of characters and sublimating the overt use of superpowers with all things sex. It’s like Simon is the classic Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark archetype who no longer has the outlet of superheroing (or the self-expression of sex for that matter) to channel his energy, to explore needs, rights, wants. By juxtaposing one societal dynamic for another, we often deepen our understanding of how it works. The character intro page was nicely handled. The art seems to be finding its groove, I detect some Guy Davis influence in there at times, and the colors seemed more stable, except for those pesky action scenes when they appeared muddled. I’m drawn to this story, I want to understand the backstory, the mysteries, the world being established, and in this issue they begin to slowly fill in some of the secret identities. It seems like this is a big world to explore and information is being doled out at a decent pace, in a way that will engage and not frustrate. Let's hope the creative team can find that optimal balance and sustain it. Grade A-.  

Saga #12 (Image): The way that this issue opens up with a brutal flashback dream about the war between Landfall and Wreath is an interesting bit of characterization for Prince Robot IV, but also an example of how the creative team can instantly make you care about a character and then gut you emotionally for doing so. Saga still has all of the same rich world-building and clever writing it’s always had, and I found myself enjoying the politics of war going on as well, the pressure from handlers for Prince Robot IV to put an end to this whole Alanna Marko thing simply for PR purposes, for example. Robot IV is trying to track down the writer of the book Alanna and Marko are so fascinated with as a possible lead. The conversation between the writer and the robot visits the scribe’s motivations and the intersection between commerce and art in a way that’s a little too meta-winky-winky for me. This has largely been my chief complaint for most of this series (and maybe of BKV’s style in general), that the craft is a little too apparent in the work. “Ars Est Celare Artem.” The Art Is To Hide The Art. It’s one of those unofficial artistic rules that BKV occasionally tramples on, thus pushing out the reader. I always feel a little too aware of genre manipulation, the tools being used, meta-commentary, influences, and the actual mechanics of storytelling. That probably won’t bother most readers, and it’s easy to get distracted by Fiona Staples’ lush art too. Though there’s one page where the colors look really washed out, almost as if there was a printing error, it’s otherwise top notch visually. The best thing about Staples art for me is how emotive she renders everything, the emotional intent of the characters and the action is always crystal clear. So, there are some minor quibbles overall, but I’m mostly taken with the way this issue handles the danger of ideas, whether it’s PTSD with regard to combat vets or the efficacy of radical pacifism. By now, you know there was some online kerfuffle over some sex, whether Apple or Comixology intentionally censored the book, simply appeared to have refused to carry it by oversight, or some desk jock just accidentally didn’t click the right button and inadvertently created a shitstorm, honest mistake vs. outright negligence getting totally lost in the convoluted finger-pointing. There was at least one retailer that also didn’t wish to carry the title for fear of liability, which the CBLDF was quick to offer some free legal clarification on. Nothing seems that objectionable to me. We’ve already seen weird hetero sex in this book, giant alien testicles, and one of the main characters yelling for her man to “shoot it in her twat,” so a gay beej really shouldn’t rattle anyone. Love the twist and that last bit of voiceover, never saw it coming. Grade A-.

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