1.23.2014

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-.

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