5.28.2014

5.28.14 [Weekly Reviews]

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Trees #1 (Image): There’s really nothing Warren Ellis does better than classic sci-fi, and Trees catapults the reader into that world by asking one of his compelling “what if?” questions. What if there was an alien “invasion” in the form of gigantic tree-like structures that abruptly planted themselves all over the world, oozed sludge from strange glyphs in their massive columns that reached to the heavens, inactivated nukes and biochemical weapons within their proximity, and otherwise totally disregarded the presence of humans altogether? Cultures around the world react differently to their arrival and lingering state, from Rio to NYC to China, and Ellis sets it all against a mayoral race in New York to ground it in social policy at the interpersonal level. It’s rife with post-9/11 paranoia (is there any another kind in pop fiction these days?) where “the other” is among us. Jason Howard is a great artistic match, working here in a loose style reminiscent of sci-fi contemporaries like Simon Roy or Giannis Milonogiannis that suits the rough and tumble environs Earth has descended into. This’ll become one of the buzz books of 2014. Grade A.

Sheltered #9 (Image): Man, that is a killer cover! I was a little saddened to hear Ed Brisson explain that Sheltered would be coming to a planned end at issue 15 after three arcs of five issues each, yet there’s something to be said for crisp storytelling with a finite beginning, middle, and end. Nancy’s plight in this issue is really emblematic of the entire community of Safe Haven, and you can extrapolate its meaning to things out here in the real world. If she failed because she wasn’t prepared, she can’t leave and admit she was wrong, because then it means all of the wrongdoing the group undertook was for nothing. It’s a chilling psychological catch-22 that questions if the end always justifies the means by default. There’s a ton of moving parts in this issue, all of them totally exciting, from Curt and Justin’s side mission coming to a head, to Victoria saving Lucas out of a sense of personal integrity, to the point-counterpoint of ice and fire brought on by the visuals of Johnnie Christmas and Shari Chankhamma, to the fate of the lone man who escaped the shootout. The denouement in the random guy’s house is a tutorial on how to choreograph an intense action sequence. Christmas depicts the random scatter of gunfire with wild pops of sound effect placement. It’s a really good visual track that shows how manic and crazy and imprecise real shootouts are. At the end, Lucas tries to recapture some of the moral high ground, and with only 6 issues remaining, I’ve never been more excited to see how it’ll all unfold. #TEOTWAWKI Grade A.

Deadly Class #5 (Image): With 80’s pop culture drops abounding, it’s clear that Rick Remender is composing an examination of identity for himself and the rest of us Gen X’ers. Ostensibly the issue is about Marcus’ role in Billy’s dad’s demise, but the larger thematic concern is kids who don’t want to be defined by their parents, something all generations seem to struggle with. Wes Craig does quite a number with the acid trip droplets, skewing the visual perspective for an altered casino-wandering reality. As if Marcus didn’t have enough going on, he gets in the middle of Chico and Maria, creating a literal threat to his life, and a more figurative threat to his developing feelings about another character. With some bonus process backmatter, this is the best issue of the series to date. It has action galore and finally bears a strong thematic constant. It’s existential meaning amid an adrenaline-fueled fight or flight episode. #SorryT Grade A.

Southern Bastards #2 (Image): Like Scalped before it, Southern Bastards is quickly becoming a portrait of a little understood slice of American Culture, which stands-in as a microcosm for society at large. The South is but one thread in the American Tapestry, but you can see all of the ills of the greater nation played out in this small fishbowl. I enjoy the way that Jason Aaron has infused his love of football (“Roll. Damn. Tide.” should not be foreign to you if you follow him on Twitter) into this mess. “Coach Boss” is the local Hutt and Friday nights in the South can mean only one thing – football. Earl Tubb is packed and ready to go, but there’s something stuck in his craw here in Craw County, something he just can’t let go. Jason Latour’s football game is all kinetic beauty, the characters staged in such a way, flowing from one panel to the next, that you can almost see the figures moving on the page. Earl stumbles into the middle of a botched hit in a town where everything is a scam, from corrupt cops to rampant big-fish-in-a-little-pond syndrome, and trouble has a way of just finding you. Earl is fighting his past demons and trying to step out of a big man’s shadow, trying to find his true place in the world, and at times I fear this might have a little too much in common with Scalped structurally and thematically, a little too on-the-nose, but it’s still charmingly dirty. I enjoy the neighbor kid as some sort of devil-on-the-shoulder Redneck Yoda. There’s a slightly, let’s call it “not-quite-supernatural” turn that the story takes, but I’m still in. One can only hope that the hordes of fans who dug Aaron’s Marvel work and followed him to Southern Bastards will go back and read Scalped, which was his breakout creator owned book before creator owned books became all the rage. Grade A-.

The Fuse #4 (Image): Ralph and Klem are still doing what they do, chasing leads all over the orbital station to explain why the mayor’s man Birch would kill the mayor’s long-lost brother and then apparently go all self-inflicted gunshot wound. Something doesn’t quite add up, and by the end of the issue, there’s forensic evidence from the autopsy that suggests otherwise. It’s a bit of a talky issue, but we get to meet Klem’s son and the complications that brings, more of the FLF is explained, and there’s even some notes in the letters about gender politics in pop fiction. Justin Greenwood’s art seems to grow and evolve with every project, here it’s the backdrops in Central Park, with a sense of depth and layers that were perhaps missing from some of his very early work, visually extending Antony Johnston’s already strong world-build. Ralph wanted to further indoctrinate himself in the intricacies of Midway culture, and uhh, be careful what you wish for! #SpringRolls Grade A-.

Sex #13 (Image): Annabelle Lagravenese finds herself in the middle of a weird domestic sitch, where her work concerns have bled over into the personal life of one of the girls in her employ. It’s a total aside, but this is the third Semisonic lyric I’ve caught in a comic within about two months, so there’s something in the zeitgeist, I guess? As if Joe Casey and Piotr Kowalski’s comic wasn’t odd enough, let’s just cut to the “Dance Meeting” between Dolph and Cha-Cha. I’ll just leave that right there for a second. Good? Kowalski always seems to sell the over-the-top elements with the emotion of brilliant facial expressions, but Casey makes him earn his keep here. The issue is all over the place, between oral on the dance floor, to The Prank Addict on the loose, to Tanaka’s death, to callbacks to The Armored Saint’s days, to the uhh, whereabouts of Warren. It doesn’t always feel cohesive, but there’s something still oddly compelling about Casey’s willingness to substitute repressed sexuality for superheroics in a post-action treatise on “what happens after the shared universe concept?” Grade B+.

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