7.11.07 Reviews

DMZ #21 (DC/Vertigo): This is a good example of showing your story, not simply telling it. We get the sense that these events are taking place somewhere and we're casually listening in, nobody is talking directly to the reader, which is such a refreshing return to the beauty possible in the medium, after many of the exposition laden endeavors this week. Matt continues the friendly fire investigation and we get a nice explanation of asymmetrical warfare, which makes for an interesting lesson on the strange juxtaposition of ethics in war. Burchielli's gritty realism in the detail of his line work perfectly complements the distressed tale that Wood is crafting. Check out the way that the military officer looks strangely like Abe Lincoln with shadowy references to the first American Civil War. Brian Wood & Riccardo Burchielli are one of the best creative teams working in comics today; this layered and complex work should be studied in college campus lecture halls across the country. Grade A.

Stephen Colbert's Tek Jansen #1 (Oni Press): I was really looking forward to the debut work of comedic guru Stephen Colbert, with his faux-right wing Republican diatribe that cuts to the heart of the incongruous irony in the political landscape. It suits my liberal left leanings just fine. The attention to detail starts off just right with the "Approved by The Colbert Nation" stamp homage to the Comics Code Authority. While the $10 alternate Cassaday cover stung a little (though that's really my lame retailer's fault more than Oni or Tek Ja- errr, Stephen Colbert's), this was a good read. The crossover potential with Comedy Central is amazing here; kudos to the gang at Oni Press for seeing this project to fruition - I still remember the raucous applause at least year's San Diego Con when it was announced and have been anxiously awaiting it ever since. You can really hear Colbert's voice dripping sarcasm with the delivery of the lines inside your head. "Alphalon Alpha Base ahead. Alpha Sector!" Haha! And a bit of the political innuendo stays: "In a world where everybody's cared for, how could you be treated better than the next guy?" The irony is in the delivery much like the tone of the show, but overall I found it to be... chucklesome, rather than laugh out loud guffaw-inducing. "I would have sex with you Doris, if I wasn't on such a tight schedule." Be sure to catch the 13 Minutes review snippet in the last page ad for the Wasteland trade! Grade B+.

New Avengers #32 (Marvel): Wolverine largely narrates this issue, with some expository, sure, but nevertheless, a killer summation of the roster and mysterious allegiances and appearances that could make any one of them a Skrull in hiding. Jessica Drew sorta' steals the show with her tactical mind (yes, take the body to Tony indeed and gauge his reaction!) and cunning skills (night-night, Wolvie!). This is really solid popcorn entertainment, perfect for the summer movie season mentality I'm in at the moment. Yu's art is back strong, making both a plane full of talking heads seem vibrant end energetic, and a chilling crash sequence come to life. This book nicely positions the Skrull motivations and conspiracy on Earth to be milked in the Marvel U for some good story mileage. Grade B+.

BPRD: Garden of Souls #5 (Dark Horse): Abe has a nice line in here that smacks of his friend Hellboy: "Haven't you geniuses discovered plexiglas?" But ultimately, my personal realization is this: I really like the BPRD agents, Captain Daimio, their uniforms, the organization, and the procedural bureau bits *so* much more than any of the mystical hoo-ha about Hellboy's origin, his quest, or any of the Abe Sapien folklore-y bits. I know that runs contrary to the crux of what the Hellboy & BPRD mythos is all about, but my tastes are changing it would seem. Guy Davis' art is still a joy, particularly the action scenes here, which flow so smoothly and are clearly told, no ambiguity to the character's actions at all. Deciding to forego single issues in the future and stick to trades. This is good comics, I'm just not personally enjoying it like I used to. Grade B+.

Martha Washington Dies (Dark Horse): Frank Miller & Dave Gibbons are a powerhouse creative duo and tonally this book feels weighty. It looks just right with "Come the hour of the wolf, you are alone. And death is never far away" on the back cover. And the story is a really fitting end, with the haunting images that complement the dialogue so well. Notice how the words of the protagonist ring so true, how the soldier extinguishes his cigarette silently after admonishment. And yes, we get all sorts of rumination on man's existential dilemma and place in the universe. But... this feels really thin for a $3.50 price tag. It's helped out by the original story outline as bonus material, but it could have really used a primer on what's come before, or simply waited for inclusion in the Complete Collection advertised for 2008. As it stands on its own, it basically feels like just an expensive teaser for that. Grade B.

Green Arrow: Year One #1 (DC): Andy Diggle relies way, WAY, WAY too heavily on exposition to let us know who Ollie Queen is, what he's been doing, and his psychological motivations. It all reads extremely like staged dialogue and does not flow naturally. On top of that, there's this weird sort of modernization attempt, where Ollie is supposedly young, but there are Kevin Costner Robin Hood references. It plays really awkward. Jock's art is actually really good, pleasant pencils with amazing yellow hues, but it can't compensate completely for such phoned in writing. The Robin Hood influences are shoved down our throat, like the auctioneer's monologue, or sad little lines like "Looks like I'm still a little, uh... green." Well, hardy-fucking-har. Ollie just comes off like an obnoxious kid, not sympathetic in any way, full of cliched rich boy criticism: "You don't value anything because you never had to earn it." Combine that with the lame end (really, wouldn't a Royal Marine have the balls to just pull the damn trigger? That loses all credibility with me.), it's quite a mess. Grade D+.

I also picked up;

Nextwave: Agents of HATE: Volume 2 Premiere Edition (Marvel): The conclusion to Warren Ellis' comedic commentary on the super-team, using a melange of b-string characters delighting in chaotic melees. Brilliant stuff. Grade A.

Flight: Volume 4 (Villard Books): Though there's been much critical praise both within the industry and in the mainstream media for the previous Flight anthologies, they've largely struck me as typical comic book anthologies. Meaning that they're largely uneven, with a few stories I think are excellent, a few that are awful, and a majority that I'm "passionately ambivalent!" about (another little nod to Stephen Colbert for you!). I'm anxious to see if this breaks the cycle or perpetuates it.

Heartbreak (1130 Studios): Don't know much about creators Jonathan Rivera and Nick DeStefano, but this won me over with an extremely attractive book design and it definitely passed the casual flip test with flying colors.

Spent (Drawn & Quarterly): I'm not a huge fan of Joe Matt, but this beautiful hardcover is chock full of entertaining material, and for under $20, that's hard to pass up.

Clubbing (DC/Minx): I've been a bit underwhelmed so far by the Minx offerings (though Re-Gifters was definitely better than Plain Janes), but I decided to give all the initial releases a go. Hopefully Andi Watson and Josh Howard will impress.


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