3.06.2014

3.05.14 [Weekly Reviews]

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Moon Knight #1 (Marvel): Well, it’s not often you see a Marvel or DC book with top billing as #BookOfTheWeek around these creator-owned parts, but Warren Ellis has always been an exceptional creator. I’ll admit that when I first glanced at Moon Knight, I was a little weary of the growing “Hawkeye-ification” of the Marvel Universe, or Marvel 616,  or Marvel NOW! or whatever the hell they’re calling it these days. I’m talking about titles like Hawkeye, Black Widow, She-Hulk, et al, the intentional grounding of characters in street level day-to-day nuance vs. gonzo superheroics, but this ain’t exactly that. Some people used to say that Moon Knight was nothing more than a tired Batman clone, but Ellis essentially subverts and reclaims that pejorative via instant transformation as a modern pulp noir crime book with slight twinges of superhero sensibility. With Declan Shalvey’s refined art and the muted colors of Jordie Bellaire, which render Moon Knight’s costume sans color and make the environs look like a bleak place that only this tortured mind could possibly navigate. It’s a dream team, and the combination allows Ellis to matter-of-factly invest us in the world. With mentions of “the freak beat,” and a reporter casually recounting Moon Knight’s convoluted lineage as abridged as possible, everything just rolls off the tongue so effortlessly. Ellis makes us believe in the unbelievable. If we’re probably never going to get more Fell out of Ellis, then this is a fine substitute. You can almost see the spiritual connections as Ellis creates a Commissioner Gordon archetype out of thin air, quickly admonishing his officers about the difference between illegal vigilantism and a concerned citizen out to help (wink-wink), and quipping “Pay attention to Mr. Knight. He thinks in a very particular way.” With psychological drivers and mental planes, belief systems, and space-time all colliding, this is an example of what Warren Ellis is best at, and basically the best that tired old company-owned characters can get under the right creative pedigree. It’s what Ellis excels at, a clever story that can function as a satisfying done-in-one, but also works as part of a larger tapestry, telling a macro narrative over time. There’s also Underground Homeless BBQ Cat. Grade A+.

Secret #6 (Image Comics): After several issues of what has amounted to talking heads set-up by Jonathan Hickman, there’s a mesmerizing action sequence in this issue. I love the intricate confidence of Ryan Bodenheim’s art. There’s an assuredness to the line weights that really sell the proceedings. I especially enjoyed the accuracy of all the little details, whether it was the look of a Jeep or ‘Vette (cars are notoriously hard to pull off realistically even for the best artists), or the way that “Phut! Phut! Phut! Phut!” is matched visually with exactly 4 shell casings being ejected from a weapon. This could be a controversial statement considering a couple of the other books out this week, but it’s a contender for best art of the week. #Grenade Grade A.

Starlight #1 (Image Comics): Hey, I really enjoyed this as a sort of “Buck Rogers In Retirement” piece of commentary. I’ve never been a huge fan of Mark Millar’s writing, but the way he attacks this by examining what happens post-action is interesting. Basically, Buck, err, Duke gets pulled through a space anomaly and the Air Force Pilot is MIA for a number of years. He saves a distant galaxy and eventually returns to Earth, only to have public perception turn on his extraordinary claims, his beloved wife die of cancer, and kids who are disinterested at best, while he wastes away in retirement. He attempts to assimilate, but it’s hard to be content with trudging down to buy groceries at the market when you used to ride space dragons and bang queens from distant worlds. I’m not sure why someone would set their alarm for 6:59am, but that art glitch aside, Goran Parlov’s visuals are a nice blend of the muted and flat mundane nature of “normal” life, with the fanciful garish sci-fi of a lost era. Grade A-.

Tales of Honor #1 (Image Comics): I’m totally new to the Honor Harrington novels, but I really enjoyed this. I’m sort of a sucker for the procedural and military tactics bits (those were my favorite parts of other good sci-fi like Battlestar Galactica), and the fusion of those to alt future histories (which reminded of the old Christian Gossett work, The Red Star), so this was right up my alley. The art is a nice purposeful blend of cold-feeling CG effects in space, with some photo-realistic qualities thrown in for good measure. It feels like a deeply built world that’s being relayed to the comics page in an engaging fashion by Matt Hawkins. I’ll stick with this for a while. Grade B+.

Jupiter’s Legacy #4 (Image Comics): “The story of how they got their powers” is a nice depiction of the tension between man-made concepts and those which are granted by external forces. There’s some kind of religious correlation in here, ie: if God didn’t exist, man would have to invent him. There are parts of this that smack of The Incredibles (super-family in hiding, the son forced to “lose” in order to conceal his powers, etc.) and even recent Superman forays; I think Millar is trying to subvert some of these tropes, but they’re just a little too on-the-nose for my taste. That feeling was present elsewhere, for example, the idea of stating that Brandon and Uncle Walt have been in power for 9 years is smart in the script (indicating they’re 1 year past 2 legal terms), but when it’s repeated over and over in practice to ensure we get it, I can feel myself start to groan. It’s basically impossible to say anything negative about Frank Quitely’s anemically detailed art, so I’ll lay all the gripes at Millar’s feet. Namely, the delays between issues are absolutely killing any momentum this title had. Grade B+.

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