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Wasteland #45 (Oni Press): It’s always been interesting to me that these interlude issues between arcs a) feature a guest artist, and b) tend to play around with the timeline in this world. We’ve seen issues take place 10 and 50 years after The Big Wet, for example, and this one takes place 101 years after, when the entire series is set at 100 years after. That said, I think it’s the first time writer Antony Johnston has done a small “flash-forward” like this. It allows us to join Jakob back at Newbegin, who is wallowing in alcoholic self-loathing, perhaps some lingering guilt over Golden Voice’s death, and disappointment at his own ability to take out Marcus and shake-up the stranglehold he has over the town. If nothing else, after the internal politicking of this issue, the forthcoming arc looks like all that’s going to get resolved in typical startling, bloody, and creative fashion. Chris Mitten is probably doing the work of his career, in a relatively stealth fashion, not on interiors, but hiding in plain sight with this recent series of covers he’s turned in for this series. I’ve always liked his work, but it looks magnificent in full color. On the interior, Johnston is joined by Omar Olivera for this issue, whose style is just scratchy and realistic enough in the foregrounds and figure work to sell the world, even if it starts to lack a little bit of detail in the backgrounds, or need a second read through some of the fight choreography for clarity. If you’re keeping score, there’s only 15 issues left in this series and the closer we get, the more apt I am to get excited and move this to the top of the read pile. Grade A.
Mind MGMT #11 (Dark Horse): This issue focuses on Duncan, who the team recently picked up. There’s a joke in the lettercol about how you could probably make a mini-series out of page 10 alone, but it’s totally true. The lost Bamiyan Buddha is a rich throwaway line, but that page is also just marvelous to look at. It’s the kind of striking piece of original art I’d want to own, the kind that stands on its own as a work of art, and showcases Kindt’s unique talent. Likewise, his visual take on the ethereal memories of the woman known only as The Eraser is a beautiful bit of danger. The team finally finds Shangri-La in this issue, and along the way I kept staring at Henry Lyme. It’s funny, I’ve been bugging Brian Wood about having Matt Kindt do an alternate cover for The Massive, or even an entire issue, and this installment has me convinced; Henry Lyme totally looks like Callum Israel in spots. It’s great. This issue maybe feels a little lighter than some recent ones, with the back half dedicated to “getting there,” but it’s still a great read. If someone were to chronicle Kindt’s career, I think history will mark this series as the turning point where he went from talented up-and-comer to full-fledged star. Grade A.
Sex #3 (Image): When searching for adjectives to throw at Sex, “intriguing” is probably still the best word I can conjure to describe my feelings toward this book. I’m not sold on it yet. After three issues, I still don’t really know what it’s about or where it’s going from a plot standpoint. I still don’t know why some of the dialogue is color-coded. If you’re one of those people who buys into the whole tried and true three-act structure bit, then I don’t know a) what the protagonist wants, b) what the obstacle presented for dramatic tension is, and c) what he’s willing to do to resolve it. That said, it is a cool world being built where superheroing is in the past and that psychological draw has been redirected and sublimated by all things sex. The juxtaposition of those thematic devices is great. The art is great, popping between dark shadows and bright colors, but the whole doesn’t feel like it’s coming together yet. The character threads aren’t intersecting yet. By the end, there’s maybe a hint of a direction, but we’re already three issues in. This is the type of book I’ll probably give the benefit of the doubt to, and try the entire first arc before deciding if I’m committing to it long term or not. For now, it’s just more of the same exact thing it’s been for the preceding two issues, frustrated ex-hero with repressed sexuality mopes around, while other characters sort of revel in their stations. Grade B+.
Occupy Comics #1 (Black Mask): There’s an interesting cadre of talent assembled here, but the results are mixed, resulting in an overall middling effort, as is the case with so many anthologies. It’s also interesting that, in fine comic book fashion, the whole idea of an “Occupy Movement” comic is a day late and a dollar short. I mean, is anybody even really talking about this topical social issue anymore? Is anybody making “Occupy Twitter” jokes anymore when it crashes for an hour? Its moment has already passed in the collective consciousness. It’s been eclipsed by other meltdowns and tragedies, but of course that hasn’t stopped the DC cash-in juggernaut from trotting out it’s The Movement and The Green Team books either, but I digress. So, Occupy Comics. I enjoyed Molly Crabapples’s pinup, Douglas Rushkoff and Dean Haspiel’s historical strip, and Ales Kot, Tyler Crook, and Jeromy Cox turning in what is probably the strongest piece in the book. Theirs was “Grade A” and I could have used an entire feature length version of that project and been quite satisfied. Templesmith’s was biting, Ronald Wimberly’s was clever, Joshua Dysart’s was fact-filled. Matt Pizzolo and Ayhan Hayrula turn in a piece called “Channel 1%” (maybe a nod to Brian Wood’s Channel Zero?) that was very smart in how it framed the conflict of interest hypocrisy of protests by the 99% being filtered through the 1% distortion lens controlled by the media, back at the 99% for consumption. Alan Moore’s meandering essay was about twice as long as I could stomach and ultimately didn’t have a destination. Everything else in the book was just sort of there and felt flat. Grade B.
Half Past Danger #1 (IDW): Well, there’s certainly no arguing that the book looks absolutely beautiful. I really appreciated how the cover went against type, with a retro feel that captures the blend of genres, dancing between WWII comics and generic “monster” comics that generally preceded the inundation of the superhero genre in the Silver Age. Writer/Artist Stephen Mooney clearly has love for these types of stories and the overall aesthetic that fuels them. The downside to this labor of love is that, judging from this effort, he seems to be a stronger artist than a writer. I know he’s paying homage to a bygone style of storytelling, but that doesn’t escape the fact that many characters felt like stock clichés at times. The soldiers were straight outta’ Sgt. Fury’s Easy Company or Saving Private Ryan, the Nazi Pacific Island base looked like a set out of Raiders of the Lost Ark, a Japanese guy flies in all Kato style and uses karate, there’s an English femme fatale, a stoic Steve Rogers dude, a brooding anti-hero with a past. We’ve seen it all many many many times before, and in order to shake up expectations you have to do something very different and, so far, despite a T-Rex and some V’Raptors, it’s not happening. On top of that, I found some of the weaponry things problematic. The ranking officer has a Thompson, which makes sense, but at other times the sound effects don’t match the semi-auto weapons other members of the squad would have. Theirs wouldn’t really go “RATATATATATAT!!!” as indicated, it’d be more of a “BAP!-BAP!-BAP!,” and I also hate when law enforcement or military personnel refer to magazines as “clips,” but this is all admittedly being really nitpicky. You also have to buy that dudes can outrun a T-Rex and V’Raptors on foot, something Jurassic Park surely taught us just isn’t plausible. It’s not quite strong enough for me to support in singles, but this is something I might check it out in trade eventually. Grade B-.
The Bounce #1 (Image): Joe Casey and David Messina deliver what is an attempted modernization of the classic Spider-Man or Speedball archetype. The art is clean and serviceable most of the time (expect for that horrible Bizarro Nightwing look that the first villain had), with some visually interesting tech, so my lack of enthusiasm has more to do with the scripting. I guess I can buy the whole drug fueled aspect of the story and maaaaaybe even the dude’s goofy-ass bouncing ball powers, but I started to lose interest when corny stereotype drug dealers rolled up, or self-aware metrosexual Matrix reject characters with names like The Darling or The Fog show up and start monologuing and naming themselves in totes inorganic fashion. This is the type of book I pick up in trade for 50% off at Comic-Con. Grade B-.