7.02.14 [Weekly Reviews]

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Lazarus #9 (Image): I feel like “Lift” is the arc that really sells the world of Lazarus, in the way it draws a hard line separating the “Haves” and the “Have Nots” and the incredibly low probability of stepping up from the latter to the former. That's why it resonates with audiences, to me at least, because it exponentially exaggerates our current socioeconomic fears. Michael Lark turns in his usual dark and elegant work (several early pages in succession carried in total silence, the iconic nature of the street art graffiti stencil for Free – notice the way that idea is sneakily worked into the cover too, hiding right there in plain sight like a sleeper cell!), but Greg Rucka brought his A-game dealing with economic inequality leading to an irreversible collapse of traditional social structures. Rucka also does a good job in trying to present matters from both sides of the equation, insight into the oppressors, and some of the hypocrisy of the oppressed and their would-be actions. One of the (many) reasons that Lazarus succeeds is because it avoids that obvious good-guy vs. bad-guy dichotomy that plagues so much of pop culture. The scene with Forever and Marisol is important because it establishes one of the primary bits of characterization for Forever. It shows that she can follow the technical letter of the law, while leaving herself personal wiggle room in the morality of the spirit it was intended. The arc doesn’t end the way you expect it to, but there’s still significant loss that feels like heartbreak. While the next arc looks very intriguing and suggests a fleshing out of more families in the East, I was a little disheartened to see that in exchange for upping the price point from $2.99 to $3.50 per issue, all you get is a 5-week publication schedule instead of a 4-week turn around. Booooo. Does this mean sales of the singles are slipping? Lazarus is essentially 100% critically lauded from what I see, so that’s a shame if the sales aren’t corresponding because all of the punters are still favoring crap like Forever Evil instead of Forever Carlyle. Grade A+.

Sheltered #10 (Image): I’ve always enjoyed Ed Brisson’s writing on Sheltered, but I have to say that I’ve been consistently captivated by the strength of the art, particularly the great pairing of Johnnie Christmas and Shari Chankhamma. They just have a way of bringing such a warm glow to the page, and it’s so pleasing to the eyes. Christmas’ art is full of natural poses that just make everything so believable. I notice small moments like Lucas splashing water on his face, the way it perfectly isolates a quick moment in time. The art is somehow leathery and sinewy and detailed, yet still manages to have this warm supple quality to it that is very engaging and never pushes you out with awkward angles or off-model shots. Anyway, there’s still lots going on in this arc. Justin and Curt are dead (umm, spoiler alert(?) but it happened in the last issue), the lone survivor of the crazy shootout is still on the run and could out all of Safe Haven, and Lucas’ leadership seems to be faltering. I always like how Brisson chooses to pair characters off for these conversations. Here, we have Lucas and Joey counterbalanced by Victoria and Nancy, both trying to make sense of what’s happening. Hey, if you thought killing dogs sucked, well, this issue builds toward one hell of a gut-punch. #TeamVictoria Grade A+.

Southern Bastards #3 (Image): “Now Earl has a stick” could basically be the motto for all of Image Comics in the last couple of years. They’ve found a weapon and they’re poised to unleash it. It’s called “Creator-Owned Comics” and I capitalized that on purpose, not to be pretentious, but to call your attention to the creative renaissance occurring in so many books, Southern Bastards among them. This issue opens with complete saturation in red, and it gets carried through in smart color fashion to the red of tablecloths and t-shirts in the following pages. The issue gets so much so right, and a lot of it is attributed to deliberate creative choices like that. I’m talking about something as simple as deliberately punctuating a sentence with “,boy.” and how that charges up the scene instantly. It’s how the racial undertones make themselves known in the way the sheriff is getting talked to. It’s how the goons talk football before business with Coach Boss, ‘cuz y’all need to get your priorities straight! Jason Aaron is smart to address the motivation of Earl. It’s not just mindless country violence, Earl needs a purpose, to live for something, whether it’s stepping out of daddy’s shadow, or not just going trough the motions of his life in Birmingham, and he’s even coming to terms with that: “You’re dead.” “Nah. For the first time in forever… I don’t think I am.” Well, cast my vote for Tad as my favorite new sidekick. If that all isn’t good enough, there’s even a Country Fried Lettercol and a Fried Apple Pie recipe courtesy of Mama Aaron! Grade A+.

East of West #13 (Image): Shit! I forgot how Jonathan Hickman left off with “this scene,” so this serves as a great refresher and builds toward an incredible action piece between the Ranger and Death. Nick Dragotta’s art is like liquid fiction, man. Not only is that cover just a disturbingly fun nightmare image, but that split panel page of the Ranger and Death racing towards each other in opposing triangle panels makes me feel like I’m riding Star Tours and someone is rocking the hydraulic platform I’m sitting on when reading this comic. It all leads to an old-school meet-fight team-up fomenting, and then a killer visual of a cliffhanger. East of West remains one of the most imaginative books on the stands, in that I never know where it’s going to go next, but it never fails to delight when it gets to its destination. Well, I’m either feeling very charitable, or this was an exceptionally strong week of comics. Four Grade A+ books in a row? In one week?! I don’t think that’s ever happened before. Grade A+.


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