6.25.2014

6.25.14 [Weekly Reviews]

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Deadly Class #6 (Image): Man, I think this might be my favorite book this week. Deadly Class started a little slow for me, but it’s built toward a very rewarding crescendo that’s equal parts intense violence and dramatic gravitas. The issue deals with the fallout from Marcus’ drug trip and the spot he’s gotten himself into, namely right between Chico and Maria. There’s a horrific confrontation sequence, with violence dipped in red thanks to Lee Loughridge. The “class” is basically ripping itself apart, and the emotionally charged, racially tinged word choices from Rick Remender are so raw, so uncomfortable, and just so good. Wes Craig might just be my new favorite artist, with interesting camera angles (the high overhead shots really do it for me) and crisp figure work that stays so sharply on model. It’d be easy to get lost in the satisfying action and violence, but those things are empty gestures without some emotional core to hold onto. We get that emotion in the final sequences of the issue, the narrative centering on five characters with a solemn bit of introspection that weaves in what I assume are autobiographical elements from the writer. This was a fantastic conclusion to the first arc, some real artistry on display, and I’m highly recommending it. Grade A+.

Dream Thief: Escape #1 (Dark Horse): Jai Nitz pulls us in with witty and effortless banter around 80’s popcorn movies and Spanish language banter, stuff that eases us right back into the world of Dream Thief as if no time has elapsed between the first mini-series and this follow-up. Truthfully, there’s a certain outlandishness to the premise of Dream Thief, the spiritual vigilante, and I was always afraid that it would decent into Jim Carrey’s The Mask territory and push me right out. Thankfully, that’s not the case. Nitz writes with a seriousness, with an authenticity, it’s there in the research and the detail about the locales and the crimes and the lavish sets, an effort that pays off to really sell the book and make the outlandish bits feel grounded in reality. He also puts a lot of heart into the book, with simple moves like returning a coin collection to its rightful inheritor. I enjoy how there’s several layers of story, the ostensible vigilante killing from the spirit inhabiting the protagonist, callbacks to the first series that still need to be resolved, and then new information about the mask’s origin and his father’s true nature. Greg Smallwood was recently announced as the artist on Brian Wood’s Moon Knight run, and I couldn’t be happier about that. He’s got one of the most distinct aesthetics on the stands at the moment, with full inky figures that inhabit gorgeous page layouts. Grade A.

Trees #2 (Image): This seems a lot meatier and less light-hearted than a lot of recent Warren Ellis scripts, and the work is much stronger for it. I enjoyed the investigative slant to the arctic poppies bits (and that whole set, that whole cast, by extension), but it’s important to note that’s just one of several continuing vignettes the series is offering. Taken holistically, all of the sequences are essentially representative of the effects the trees are having on global life, impacting social and political structures as much as they’re altering weather patterns and flora and fauna. Trees still sits in the classic sci-fi camp, kicking things off with an intriguing “what if?” premise, but there’s a greater focus on the impact that has on the lives of people. It’s rich and satisfying, and when paired with Jason Howard’s deliberately altered style, it’s fighting its way up to contend for a slot as one of the best books of the year. Howard’s style has a looser, more unkempt quality here, with slashing lines and jagged edges that lend the right sense of unpredictability to this weird new world. Grade A.

The Fuse #5 (Image): Well, Ralph went and got himself captured in the cables! This opening sequence is really fun, paving the way for the types of chances grizzled ol’ Klem is willing to take for her new partner, showing off a full page shot of the makeshift shanty town slums the cablers created for themselves, and even answering one of the little questions the series has offered, that "FGU" is basically The Fuse equivalent of "OG." Like a lot of writer Antony Johnston’s creator-owned work (Wasteland, Umbral), it’s clear that he’s in it for long-form storytelling, with self-referential bits that loop back around to the first couple of issues, as the pieces of the investigation continue to materialize and come together. He’s also careful to organically include social commentary, like the way people live up on Level 50. Imagine full-blown houses on a space station! The 1% indeed. As great as the writing is, a lot of the razzle dazzle in this issue comes from artist Justin Greenwood. Specifically, he’s killing it on panel layouts. Now, some of this might be scripted, but he really nails the static emulation of video feed in the Boo confessional. It sort of scrolls right off of a full bleed page. I also really enjoyed Klem’s memories flooding back to her when she’s holding a bottle of pills. It’s the kind of thing we’ve all experienced, something more easily done in film with voice over sound clips, but takes a special talent to pull off on a comic page. Grade A.

Sex #14 (Image): I’ve had sort of a cautious love-like relationship with Sex since it began. I’ve lauded Joe Casey’s willingness to experiment with craft and genre, substituting repressed sexuality for hidden superhero identities in a sort of post-shared-superhero universe world. Piotr Kowalski’s art has grown in assuredness as well, the colors have morphed from an almost monochromatic neon pallet to something more intricate. But. The thing that bothers me is something Casey essentially admits in the backmatter, that he might not necessarily have a master plan in mind, that his grand experiment is just seeing where the characters take him and wondering aloud if the payoff will ever be worth it. Sigh. I applaud the seat-of-the-pants experimentation, but if it’s at the expense of a narrative plan, you’ve got about a 50/50 shot at sticking the landing. In the mean time, this was one of the strongest issues to date! Dolph and Cha-Cha steal the show, manipulating Junior in such a devastating way. It’s a sequence guest-illustrated by Chris Peterson that’s smartly wedged into their grand gestures in the pits of a club. Junior does pull a bit of a Season 4 Tyrion, if you’ll pardon the expression, but overall it’s another solid issue that showcases Saturn City as a living breathing entity full of many moving parts and players. Grade A-.

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