Currently Reading: Aliens: Defiance, The Autumnlands, The Black Monday Murders, Black Road, Black Science, Briggs Land, Britannia, Deadly Class, Descender, East of West, The Fuse, God Country, The Goddamned, Injection, James Bond, Kill Or Be Killed, Lazarus, Low, Manifest Destiny, Moon Knight, No Mercy, The Old Guard, Paper Girls, Rebels, Reborn, Saga, Seven to Eternity, Sheriff of Babylon, Shipwreck, Southern Bastards, Stumptown, They're Not Like Us, The Wild Storm
1.22.14 [Weekly Reviews]
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Deadly Class #1 (Image): By the time the end of this book makes
its intentions known with recruitment into the school, it comes off as an indie
anti-hero X-Men pitch, stemming from the 80’s instead of the 60’s. But, there's
just so much great back story and world building and characterization and
action and style leading up to that point that it’s a forgivable writing
transgression from Rick Remender that’s quickly reframed. Wes Craig’s art is
grand. There’s a real Paul Pope/Emma Rios/Rafael Grampa thing going on here.
The layouts are especially noteworthy, compact but effortless, dense but
flowing, full of complementary palette choices on the old color wheel. Take a
look at that motorcycle fleeing a cop car in cracked mosaic panels and you get
a real sense for how this all comes together to create a sense of motion that
pulls the reader’s eye around the page. I like to be contrary sometimes, people
bandwagoning onto critical darling books that bear saccharine preciousness
(hello Saga, I'm looking at you!) sickens me, but I admit here that all the hype is
deserved. This is going to be the next hit from Image Comics. Grade A+.
Conan The Barbarian #24 (Dark Horse): The climax of the
entire series really came with issue #23 and Belit’s death, but the aftermath
occurring here is just as rich. The emotional weight behind Conan's sorrow, fury, and contemplation is written incredibly well. It’s in-voice and utterly in-character as Conan
battles primal forces depicted under the lines of DMZ alum Riccardo Burchielli. “The air
filled with feathered destruction” and "the oldest race in the world went
extinct” are just so crisp. The last vestiges of Conan’s youth are now gone as he sails
single-handedly into his future. He’ll just never be whole again, a part of him
dies here without the happiness that Belit and their adventures on the Black
Coast offered. Well, there’s only one issue of this incarnation of the title
left. The only good thing about Brian Wood’s run on Conan coming to a close is
that I won’t have to hear homophobic douchebag purist bro dudes whinging about
emo barista “fag” Conan anymore. Grade A.
Hacktivist #1 (Archaia): It’d be easy to dismiss Hacktivist
as a Hollywood Vanity Project with Alyssa Milano’s name attached, but that’d be
too easy, giving short shrift to what the book is trying to accomplish and her
pedigree as an actual social activist. With all of the initial references to
the Occupy Movement and Arab Spring style uprisings in North Africa, it does
feel a tad behind the cultural zeitgeist on that front, which I’m sure we can just blame on
development time. However, the latter half threads about the next generation of
social media tools and big tech corporations being in cahoots with the federal government
and military industrial complex is absolutely spot-on. Ian Herring and Marcus
To, whose art first caught my attention on Cyborg 009 (a little lackluster in
the writing department) strikes the right tone here. Their work is grounded and
realistic enough to make the events plausible, but stylish enough to give the
action some pop. I’ll gladly stick with this. Grade A.
Pretty Deadly #4 (Image): There are times when I feel like
the audience has to work just a little too hard to grasp all the plot mechanics
and character motivations, like there are just 20% too many people and
narrative threads in motion to comfortably grasp via span of mental control,
but… I still really like Pretty Deadly. It’s wildly different in the way it
merges poetic fairy tale-ism with modern genre tropes. The art is ridiculously
enjoyable, and Jordie Bellaire has become the colorist du jour, the “get” to
give your creator owned book some instant indie cred. Grade A.
Dead Body Road #2 (Image): I was talking to my
brother-in-law about the magic a colorist can bring to a book and how their
distinct styles can influence an artist’s work. To wit, if you look at Dean
White coloring Matteo Scalera on Black Science, the end result looks like
artist Jerome Opena. But, if you take Moreno Dinisio coloring Matteo Scalera on
this title, the end result looks more like Tradd Moore on Luther Strode (also
with writer Justin Jordan). None of this is meant to denigrate anybody’s work
with the comparisons, mind you, only to point out the different effects strong
colorists can have on strong artists. I love them all. There’s a weird typo
maybe with “lane” of fire vs. “line” of fire, but there’s enough style in here
to make the noir just different enough. It’s well orchestrated noir carnage with a
heart. Grade A.
Wasteland #51 (Oni Press): This book wasn’t released this
week, but I finally got it weeks late thanks to some Diamond Shipping Debacle.
It’s the final issue of the final arc concerning Marcus and Newbegin, and it’s
an emotionally satisfying conclusion to all of the religious and class strife
that’s occurred in the city. With Jakob, Skot, and a new female Ruin Runner
surviving the end of all things, freedom is the rallying cry, as some head west
to an open-ended future. There are only 9 issues left to one of the great
modern epics, and Sam Keith is up next for the final interlude issue. If I
recall correctly, that’ll be followed by a 7 issue final arc, and then a
final-final epilogue issue. Grade A.
Sex #10 (Image): I had a short Twitter conversation with fellow
critic Aaron Meyers, and ultimately we came to the same sort of take on Sex as
a series. I’m behind Joe Casey with the general approach he reveals in the
backmatter, the “post-experience” concept, which examines what happens to these
people after the drama. I also think that thematically supplanting superpowers
with sexuality is a very enticing premise. I like the slow-burn world-build. I
like the quirky characters. I like the art. All of that said, I feel a little
on the fence. It’s taken nearly a year to get anywhere on the book, it’s like
foreplay writing that’s a teasing delayed gratification scenario. I’ll be
looking at the year mark, #12, for this title to come correct. Grade A-.
X-Men #9 (Marvel): I typically give the Dodsons some crap
about their art, but this issue isn’t totally one-sided. There are nice parts
of the art and some off parts as well. Generally, the cheesecake factor has
been reduced, but the consistency was all over the place. Let’s take Typhoid
Mary for example, sometimes her hair is brown, sometimes it’s red, sometimes
her silver faceplate thingy is on her left side, sometimes it’s on the right,
sometimes it’s missing, sometimes you can see her sword strapped to her back,
sometimes you can’t, sometimes she’s seen with one sword, and sometimes she’s
seen with two, and so on and so forth. I think there might be a typo with the
extra “e” in “undesireable,” but overall Brian Wood writes a fun taut script.
The female characterization and group dynamics are so good, I really enjoyed Rachel
and Sublime’s interrogation, the reemergence of Sabra, and of course, I adore Monet St.
Croix. Grade A-.