2.26.2014

2.26.14 [Weekly Reviews]

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Black Science #4 (Image Comics): The cover of this issue is drop dead ridiculous perfection, capturing the attitude, allure, and reclamation of old-school sci-fi. For me, Black Science plays like Fantastic Four x Lost In Space, but done right, in a way that modern incarnations of both properties never seem to get quite right. The front 2/3 or so of this installment is essentially the remnants of the team under siege, making a mad dash back to the pillar in an effort to give Grant a shamanic-save, with high tech Native Americans chasing our banged up protagonists in an old Jeep. For some reason, I kept thinking of George Lucas and his high-adventurization of the old pulp serials he grew up on. It’s a well-balanced issue that offers action, a pause that allows us to catch our breath, and leaves us with an intriguing figure clad in blue, almost a cryptic secret visual language from Matteo Scalera that harkens back to an amalgamation of Star Wars bounty hunters and futuristic Robotech gear. And how about that all-white page with yellow splotches as a demarcation point for the jump!? That’s good stuff. It’s all evidence that this is a rock star creative team. There are a handful of really great colorists working today, but I’ll go on record as saying that Dean White is the best. Period. Remender uses language to great effect, Hemingway-esque brevity like “The world tumbles--” doing in three words what lesser writers would struggle to capture in three full sentences. With Ward’s sense of duty giving way to a resigned sense of fate, Black Science is shaping up to be one of the year’s best books. #WatchOutForBarbedWire Grade A.

Hacktivist #2 (Archaia): Speaking as a 13-year veteran of Silicon Valley here, this is one of the smartest takes I’ve seen on the power of technology in the modern age. It’s about a philosophical debate between Nate and Ed over the interplay between government, the free market, and engineering revolution. I’m not familiar with any previous work from writers Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing, but there’s a sharp intellect to the dialogue with quips like “I’m paused” or spinning the tortoise and the hare concept back on itself, or the cultural shorthand of “Fatality.” The way the writers handle the corporate evacuation, accountability, and forensic CCTV investigation (all part of my day job) makes me think these guys have spent some time working at some of these big companies or otherwise have some familiarity with it since it plays fairly authentic. Marcus To and Ian Herring were familiar to me from Archaia’s Cyborg 009 graphic novel, and their work is even more crisp here, depicting friends growing apart due to different ideological worldviews, grounding the proceedings in a believable real-world style. I really enjoyed the wry commentary about things the US has done for years abroad, engineering instability in a region and then arming the oppressors to the opposition, playing both sides against the middle, functionally creating demand and then offering supply. Hacktivist is a book that I fear some might dismiss as a Hollywood vanity project with Alyssa Milano’s name attached, without understanding her own activist/humanitarian/social justice pedigree. It’s a rich book about many things, from technology as a tool of social influence, to the gripping sense of futurism, to being an enjoyable corporate espionage and heist book all at once. I’m highly recommending this! Grade A.

 
Deadly Class #2 (Image Comics): I liked this issue even more than the first because we’re quickly past the origin/set-up and settling on what the book is going to be about. Rick Remender and Wes Craig offer a solid indoctrination issue as Marcus tries to assimilate into his new school, amid gang subcultures, universal youth struggles, and the precarious social balance between class and power. I really enjoyed the way Lee Loughridge’s colors felt over Craig’s art, the flatness of the effects kind of reminded me of the way the JH3 flashbacks looked in Batwoman. The kids are given their first assignment that us readers see, and along with the fun cast, and an anti-mundane-middle-class sensibility, it all makes for a killer world-build. Pun Intended. Grade A.

The Wake #6 (DC/Vertigo): Part 2 jumps us 200 years into the future, focusing on Leeward, in a visually engrossing civilization. Sean Murphy creates magnificent vistas to sell the ideas, from distorted maps and ship-treehouses, to new cultures and commerce and ways of governing, never forgetting to plant little seeds of humor into the art like he did in Joe The Barbarian. See if you can spot the word “flair” cleverly placed. Scott Snyder is a writer who gets plenty of acclaim, but I’m still convinced that his best ideas aren’t taking place in Gotham City or Metropolis, but in the pages of his creator owned works. He takes what was once a sci-fi summer blockbuster begging to be directed by James Cameron and turns it into a post-apocalyptic treatise about man’s relationship to the natural world that’s more in tune with the direction of Alfonso Cuaron. There's just a palpable sense of, passion or glee I guess, evident in the creator owned work that's woefully missing from the dutiful slog of work-for-hire assignments. Grade A.
 
Sex #11 (Image Comics): For some reason, I really enjoyed that glossy two-page title sequence, because I think it kind of signaled how Joe Casey is trying to do something different with this title. It’s been frustrating at times, but I keep on enjoying the universe and psychological drama of the characters, despite the slow pace. I mean, it’s taken 11 issues to get to the history of the relationship between lead character Simon and his former sidekick Keenan, for example, despite following Simon in every issue, and Keenan in at least a few of those. Piotr Kowalski is a bit uneven in this issue, sometimes nailing the mood with dull gray rain muting all life and enjoyment from the characters, but sometimes it’s a total misfire. For example, a gray suit and black skirt suddenly becomes all weird and brown in a certain light(?). Overall, this is a rare example of me wanting to stick with a title despite not being 100% sold on it this deep in the run. Grade A-.

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