8.08.2013

8.07.13 [Weekly Reviews]

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Trillium #1 (DC/Vertigo): Jeff Lemire has created an interesting blend of classic sci-fi with old-school adventure, with a little existential angst thrown in for good measure, one which successfully conflates war with the violence of the penetrative act of discovery, if you subscribe to Dr. Ian Malcolm’s theory anyway. In the year 3797, man is running out of time and space, as the race is being systematically hunted across the galaxy by a sentient virus, while a black hole threatens to collapse existence at the same time. Now, Lemire states on more than once occasion that there are only 4,000 humans left in the cosmos. At that rate, we’ve already been functionally exterminated as I understand it. I thought I remember reading an article (wish I could cite it just to be THAT guy) by a cultural anthropologist or some sort of geneticist that stated you’d need a population of at least 10,000 to have enough genetic diversity to “restart” the human race. Anyway. With Incas in the Amazon potentially possessing a timeless key to defeat death, and the war imagery juxtaposed with these different time periods, and the whole race against time lending a sense of urgency, I also couldn’t avoid the feeling that this played like Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain (the comic and the movie I enjoyed, even though they both get quite a bad rap). I haven’t been as impressed with Lemire’s work as much as the comics community at large seems to have been in the past, but I enjoyed this just fine, especially the art. It feels much more refined (maybe the colors help) in a way that still manages to convey a rustic quality during the 1920’s scenes. It almost reminded me of Kevin O’Neill’s work on LOEG in the way it can manage both qualities, refined and rustic, which almost seem to be polar opposite aesthetics. I think critics will gush over the unique “flip” format of the book, but I’m not sure it was totally necessary or added much to the storytelling conceit of the book. If the two threads inevitably intersect, I don’t think more than one “flip” was really required, although the unexpected chapter breaks were a nice surprise. But, it does make me wonder how they’ll manage it during collected editions. At the end of the day, it’s nice to see Vertigo, along with Oni, Dark Horse, etc., stepping up their game to (re)capture some of the creator-owned market share currently being dominated by Image Comics. The healthy competition can only be good for the product it ultimately churns out, and good for the end consumer in terms of diversity, along with shifting the collective mindset to begin to value creator-ownership more than they currently do. Trillium may be a touch derivative or not offer anything truly “new” in terms of sci-fi storytelling, but there’s no denying it’s beautifully executed and the premise holds promise. I'll likely stick with it. Grade A-.

Suicide Risk #4 (Boom!): So, our protagonist has been quickly pulled into a world he doesn’t really understand. It’s a pantheon of super-powered deities suggesting he may have lived a former like (or upcoming one? I wasn’t entirely sure) as a person named “Requiem.” He’s being escorted by another deity to meet the basic female Godhead, and uhh, some other stuff happens. The basic conceit of this story was originally regular cops trying to survive in a world where the superheroes are losing/have lost against a cadre of villains, and that thread is basically unrecognizable at this point. Maybe you can make the argument that it rears its head toward the end, but I feel like it’s quickly strayed too far off course. On the art side of the equation, Elena Casagrande’s work ranges from sharp and crisp and beautiful, to mediocre inconsistency with melty faces that look like John Travolta was used as photo-reference. This is probably something I’ll revisit in trade, but for now, “okay” comics are getting the drop in terms of single issue support when there are so many other comics being offered that are truly “wow.” Grade B.

Catalyst Comix #2 (Dark Horse): Man, I really want to like this book more than I do. Joe Casey has become increasingly hit and miss for me, which I think actually might be a good thing in the grand scheme of things. It means he’s trying new things, continuing to be a prolific writer, and doesn’t rest easily on past successes. I love the idea of bringing in a subversive creator to tinker with company-owned properties, and I also love the idea of a mini house anthology of sorts that offers multiple strips in the same issue. That said, Frank Wells was a mixed bag for me. I thought it got very bogged down in New Age Mysticism Hoo-Ha, though the core idea of a conflicted superhero archetype contending with insecurity around his savior status suits me just fine. In some ways, both visually and thematically, I felt like this was some kind of Bizarro World Captain Marvel (Shazam!) allusion. The art is bold and iconic, with a slightly askew take on magical trappings, all wrapped in the balanced forces of naïve wonderment and growing disillusionment. It seems like something that works well in the idea stage as an experimental writing assignment, but hasn’t quite found it’s footing yet on the printed page. I remember enjoying the Amazing Grace strip in the first issue, but it pretty much struck out with me during the second. The art felt too “cartoony” in that Saturday morning TV sense, something something the character being positioned as a lightning rod between surviving the cosmic void and transcending it. That’s all I could really glean from the story. Agents of Change was probably my favorite strip in the first issue, and here I guess that’s still the case, but the margin for victory feels slim and lifeless. Once again, the idea of a superhero support group, where the attendees are more concerned with texting, their TV ratings, and the next S&M prostitution appointment(!) are all fun, but formally examining this team dynamic fell a little flat for me, both with the visuals and scripting. I think Casey is trying to do something really quirky and post-modern here, but it’s ability to connect, moving beyond basic experimental pitch to an actual cohesive story, seems to be wildly glitchy so far. Grade B-.

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