8.01.2013

7.31.13 [Weekly Reviews]

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Wasteland #46 (Oni Press): So, you guys realize that there are only 14 issues of this long running series left, right? Here’s how it’s going to be. This arc will run from issue 46 to 51, then 52 will be one of the special interlude issues, the final arc will run from 53 to 59, and issue 60 will be an epilogue issue, according to writer Antony Johnston. If you happened to be at the SDCC panel where I asked Editor-in-Chief James Lucas Jones what he could share about the series, you also know that a certain artist will be on the final arc. Now, I don’t want to steal the guys’ thunder, so I’ll let them make the formal announcement about that. Anyway. In this issue, we return to Newbegin as Marcus prepares for a war of sorts. The city is basically coming unglued with assassination attempts running rampant, political allegiances starting and stalling, and intra-family strife finally coming to a head. Johnston sort of lays it out Game of Thrones style in the “Somewhere in America…” summary blurb that things aren’t gonna’ end frickin’ well for anybody involved. The tension is mounting fiercely, there’s a surprise twist at the end concerning a place we’ve only heard of obliquely, and in the Ankya Ofsteen backmatter journal entries, that has so much potential. Justin Greenwood (shout out to the SF Bay Area!) is back for this arc and his style is just right for what I feel is about to happen. There’s a raw rugged power to his characters’ features. If you’re really paying attention to those bottom panels, you also notice that two parties appear to be converging on the city, by the end only one of them reaches their destination. I’m excited for how this is going to resolve, but I’m also very nervous about it, perhaps a testament to the emotional investment I have tied up in the series, thanks to some expert storytelling from all involved. Grade A.
Sex #5 (Image): Sure, sure, there might be some gratuitous sex in this book, but shit, it’s called Sex, what did you expect? What I appreciate the most about how Joe Casey is handling the writing of this series, which he gets into a bit in the letters, is how he’s really taking his time, and letting things play out. It’s almost like foreplay. He’s not in a rush to get things done. He’s giving it out in little doses, nibbling on the neck, kissing his way down your stomach, pushing boundaries, letting you really absorb what’s happening. He’s playing a long form game here, a literary long con of sorts. Not everything is explicit in the first issue, or even in the first few issues. The audience has to participate, has to figure things out, has to piece clues together. It’s basically devoid of exposition, which is a rare thing for any book. I still maintain there’s a conscious act of transference here, maybe more than Casey is publicly letting on, in the way that the superheroics have been stripped out of this world, and have been supplanted by the sexual. Sex here is a stand-in for more traditional superpowers.  At this point, it’s like a world where Dan Dreiberg never actually put the Nite Owl suit back on again, if you wanted to force me into some post-modern Watchmen comparison. Artist Piotr Kowalski is carrying a lot of the story. If you examine the book panel by panel, it’s clear that he’s got to draw a lot of characters doing (most of the time) ostensibly boring things, like walking down hallways, lots of talking heads shots, but he’s careful to make the faces emote, to make the bodies vogue in a certain postured way that reveals their intentions, their thoughts, and their feelings. Brad Simpson’s colors work in a way that they probably shouldn’t. They’re bold and loud and garish and none of them are very complementary if I were to break out the college color wheel, but they all seem to coalesce somehow to form the layered socio-economic world of Saturn City. Even the color-coded emphasis on the lettering, I’m starting to warm to and intuit better. At some point, the foreplay will be over and it’ll be time to fuck, but for now, I’m content to just enjoy the ride and let Casey tease it out a little longer to build some anticipation, the brinksmanship of delayed gratification. Heck, this is the guy who wrote Automatic Kafka, a long-time favorite, so he’s banked some credibility with me. Grade A.

Tom Strong & The Planet of Peril #1 (DC/Vertigo): I guess people aren’t going to balk as much at a project like this as they would at, say, Before Watchmen, because it seems like Alan Moore sort of gave his tacit approval or magic snake totem blessing or whatever with the use of his hand-chosen writing successor Peter Hogan. I was also very pleased to see the original co-creator and artist Chris Sprouse, along with (I think) original inker Karl Story. Let me just say, Chris Sprouse is a guy who should certainly be working more. He’s one of those rare artists who I’d just buy automatically regardless of what book he’s on. Shit, I still remember the 1998 WildCats/Aliens one-shot he did where like half of frickin’ Stormwatch got taken out. The bloody WildStorm Universe got redefined in a one-shot crossover that, like, nobody bought, but enough of memory lane. If nothing else, you can say Tom Strong & The Planet of Peril is an utterly fun book. There’s just something charming about the return to the world of Science Heroes, catching up with pregnant Tesla and her man, the mirror world of Terra Obscura, and all the callbacks to the awesome Americas Best Comics (ABC) line. When you add in the in-your-face meta-commentary about the imprint’s roller-coaster publishing history and acquisition lineage, it’s all the more entertaining. I was also pleased to see rising star Jordie Bellaire on color duties, her style is instantly right at home with this property. At the end of the day, I even feel like this incarnation of Tom Strong is a book I could let my son look at, which is saying something. Grade A.
The Wake #3 (DC/Vertigo): I don’t know that I have a lot left to say regarding this issue beyond what I tweeted, which was essentially twofold. One, after two issues that were largely set-up, there is a huge action payoff that transpires over the course of this entire issue, which only escalates to a cliffhanger promising even more action. Scott Snyder is able to sneak some additional exposition in about the whale call business by pulling a smart move, basically an Aaron Sorkin style verbal run-and-gun, wherein the characters talk a whole bunch, words whizzing by you, while they’re on their way to do something else, which is what you’re more focused on, so you don’t even necessarily notice, or mind, the exposition. Can I just say that Sean Murphy’s art is dope? I’ve eaten up everything he’s done, and I never get tired of that fine-line detail, that sinewy, almost anemic Kevin O’Neill meets Frank Quitely meets Tan Eng Huat meets Frank Miller THING happening. It’s so great, from a Martian disaster 3.8 million years ago, to weapons and fight choreography, and undersea adventure of all manner. His style is so detailed than it makes you slow down and pour over every line of every panel, trying to take it all in, so you don’t miss some little Easter egg or nuance in the background. I’ve been saying to lots of people in the LCS and online that when you consider the structure of the series, the way it plays very cinematically (I’ve heard James Cameron, The Abyss, all sorts of it’s-this-meets-that mash-ups flying around), the fact that it’s a finite 10 issues, and the fact that with the Warner Brothers relationship DC has sort of a built-in film option, uhh, option, I’ll be very surprised if the PTB aren’t already talking movie adaptation for this. Grade A.

Collider #1 (DC/Vertigo): I wasn’t too aware of Simon Oliver’s writing pedigree, but was a fan of Robbi Rodriguez’s fill-in issues on Uncanny X-Force, and have always loved Nathan Fox, so I was quite curious about this “blue collar sci-fi” that posits a Federal Bureau of Physics (FBP) in a world where the basic fabric of space begins to unravel, right along with some basic laws of physics, which we all take immutably for granted. I think Oliver and Rodriguez have created a very bold new world to play in. It should be fun. The visuals are very pretty and very imaginative, while the characterization is clear, if a bit stock (womanizer, dick boss, loyal sidekick, father/son relationship as prime psych driver, etc.). My only real gripes are that I don’t think they made a strong enough effort to explain-away the techno-babble science stuff. I don’t really have any idea what they’re doing to the uhh, failing gravity well thingies, or how it’s supposed to work, even according to the internal pseudo-science logic within the book. On top of that, while the art is very lush and nice, I felt like the two main guys were depicted maybe a little too young, since they were supposed to be the first generation of young hotshots who did this kind of work, now being bossed around by the young bookish college guy. I don’t know, they all looked the same age to me, or maybe even younger than the guy who was supposed to be their junior. By the end, there’s an interesting complication or two, one personal, one job-related, so I’ll probably give this another issue or two before making my final in/out judgment. Grade A-.

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