5.15.2014

5.14.15 [Weekly Reviews]

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Wasteland #54 (Oni Press): Abi and Michael venture down the shaft/silo/chute under the hatch they found in the last issue and it leads them to the lab with the mysterious symbol that’s been used for The Big Wet since the first issue. I was flipping these pages so hard with excitement! Chris Mitten laces the backgrounds with a half-sign, something the team’s done in the past for clues, pretty sure it says “Project Adam,” and it all gives way to an absolutely brilliant extended flashback sequence. We see NYC underwater, the ice caps melting so that most of Liberty Island is submerged, and I’ve just never seen Mitten’s black and white work look better. He pulls so much life out of the look, with gray variations, more confident figure work, smart inking, and dope light-sourcing. Without spoiling the specifics, Antony Johnston basically begins to let us understand the origins of The Big Wet Universe through congressional debates about climate change, cautionary tales of genetic engineering, and a last page reveal about a startling discovery under the ice. I’ve never been more excited about Wasteland, something crazy to say about any series at #54, because the anticipation building for years is all paying off in spectacular fashion. Grade A+.
Star Wars #17 (Dark Horse): Artist Stephane Crety and inker Julien Hugonnard-Bert continue their mission with writer Brian Wood and colorist Gabe Eltaeb, depicting Princess Leia Organa in an arranged marriage with the Prince of Arrochar to secure a suitable location for the Rebel Base. This issue mostly advances the plot machinations of the dubious dealings of some of the Arrochar factions, and leads right up to a very rousing cliffhanger promising loads of frantic action. There’s apparently only 3 issues of this run left, so I’m curious where the arc will end. Most have been 3-issue arcs, which would suggest it’ll end next issue at #18, and then leave two issues as something of an epilogue. Hang on… yes, a little Googling at Dark Horse reveals a new storyline in issue #19 potentially involving IG-88. Grade A.

Starlight #3 (Image): Goran Parlov’s visual style is a perfect balance of pulpy throwback and self-aware modernity for the continuing adventures of Captain n Duke McQueen. We’re introduced to a resistance movement, and it’s easy to detect Gould and Caniff in those lines, a sense of rustic raw retro imagination that runs past the panel borders. We get a great new villain in Kingfisher, world-building notes about Faeries being massacred and their sacred lands scorched, mining the planetary natural resources dry, and great street-level action that wins the spirit of the locals to McQueen’s side. There’s also some interesting political realities, as a population of refugees becomes a slave class. The introduction of Tilda as a female Han Solo-esque new character will surely delight fans. Grade A.
Astro City #12 (DC/Vertigo): It’s getting a little old hat to continually express how consistently enjoyable this title is. Although Brent Anderson is absent this issue, the inclusion of artist Graham Nolan is a nice aesthetic fit, and it doesn’t stop Kurt Busiek from doing what he does best, showcasing alt POV stories that push hard on world-building. The story of the Gentleman Bandit is just such a tale, one that fleshes out stray corners of the universe, while capturing a tone of regret, brushes with fame, and a compulsion to do what the heart wants, despite the brain knowing better. Grade A.

The United States of Murder Inc. #1 (Marvel/Icon): I’m not exactly sure why I picked this up. I guess I wanted to have another book to read, and there wasn’t much else in the creator owned milieu that piqued my interest this week. I enjoyed Powers way back in the day, the very first run, until about 3 to 4 arcs in when it just became repetitive. If you like Powers, I guess you’ll basically like this, since it’s essentially Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming doing their Powers thing to a modern mob universe. I did enjoy the basic premise of the United States ceding the entire East Coast to the mob as a sovereign nation, but past that it felt fairly rote and predictable, including the “twist” of the undercover Federal Agent. I know it was intended as a quick hook (ala the reveal of Dash Bad Horse at the end of Scalped #1), but this had enough other stuff going on, that it made me wonder why Bendis didn’t sit on this reveal for a whole arc or two. It would have been huge. Grade B.
Think Tank: Fun With PTSD #1 (Image/Top Cow): I’ve been a fan of Think Tank since the beginning, but this one-shot was certainly not the strongest issue. It has an unfocused feel that shoehorns in multiple story elements, including a “fake” Zero-G sequence, David volunteering to help kids for some reason(?), reveals Mirra is in counseling for domestic troubles and glosses right over it(!), introduces a new military liaison (ok), and finally gets to the heart of the issue (whew!) by addressing the sad fact that less than half of vets with PTSD actually seek treatment, and other staggering real-world statistics, like the fact that last year there were more military suicides (185) than soldiers killed in combat (176) in Afghanistan. Matt Hawkins has clearly done his research, everything from legal defenses around dissociative episodes, to the perception of PTSD as “weakness” in military culture, all embodied in the plight of Navy SEAL Morgan, the guy who helped save David a while back. This is a well-intentioned issue, a good cause, a decent issue that sees David trying to do something to help vs. just weaponizing all of this R&D technology. Hawkins is even donating 25 cents of every extra dollar for this 68 page thing, and that’s all admirable, but I still felt that as a single comic, it was a bit all over the place. In addition to all the narrative threads, there’s a preview of the new book Wildfire, which comes off as a very talky info dump, a throwaway insinuation that suggests psychology is not a hard science (which could piss some people off), and some ugly obvious typos like “case story” vs. the commonly accepted “case study,” then “JAG Advocate” instead of just JAG “attorney” or “lawyer,” since “JAG Advocate” is basically redundant considering what the acronym stands for – Judge Advocate General. Speaking of the JAG, call me nitpicky, but “JAG Core” vs. “JAG Corps” multiple times in a script is just inexcusable these days for a pro writer writing about the military. My services are available as a freelance editor. Call me. Grade B-.

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