6.11.08 Reviews

Local #12 (Oni Press): When people undergo a life change or reach a point in their life when they feel they’re ending one chapter of existence and possibly beginning another distinct era, I think it’s human nature that they tend to take stock. There’s an inescapable human urge to survey all of the experiences that have come before and ask the fundamental question “who am I?” Using this narrative conceit, Brian Wood offers up Megan subtly contemplating her own existentiality by taking us through previous bits and players of the series. She’s asking the questions “who am I?” and “do I actually like the person I’ve become?” Ryan Kelly’s lines are softer here, visually mimicking the control and wisdom that can come with age, an example of a writer and artist being in perfect tonal sync. Something else I derived thematically was the sense that “home” is not necessarily just where you hang your hat, it’s a place that you have some form of emotional or physical connection to. It’s hard not to compare Wood’s Local work with his previous work on Demo. I liked the last issue of Demo because it wasn’t tidy and didn’t answer any of the questions that had come before, it was an open-ended, expectation defying exercise that was bold. However, I also liked the last issue of Local, though it was the opposite. Here, we do get a somewhat tidy resolution of Megan’s character arc. We see how the various locals have, in part, defined who she’s become as a person. Perhaps this is evidence that Wood himself has matured as a storyteller. He’s not just confident enough to pose challenging intellectual questions, but brave and confident enough to also attempt answering some of life’s questions. Can’t wait for that oversized hardcover collection, which will undoubtedly also receive… Grade A+.

Captain Britain & MI-13 #2 (Marvel): Paul Cornell takes some fun jabs at Americans not having any soul, like their British counterparts do when they experience the loss of a superhero, and this really signifies something important – the return of the attitude that I liked in the lamented Wisdom series. It’s great to see Pete Wisdom in charge again as the man with a plan, spouting the MAX-worthy quips that I love, like “Don’t call me sir. It’s… weirdly horny.” There’s plenty of action to be had, with an overwhelming Skrull assault on the Magical Realm, which is a brilliant strategic move, the return of Tink, and so much more. Leonard Kirk’s art doesn’t feel as refined as it needs to be here, with some stiff and awkward poses that tend to distract, but overall this is a clear case of the creators having so much fun, that it inspires the audience to do the same. Grade B+.

Red Mass for Mars #1 (Image): While Pax Romana and Transhuman continue to trickle out at a sluggish pace, Jonathan Hickman begins another in his string of four issue mini-series. On the cover and in the indicia the title is “Red Mass for Mars,” while on the inside front cover and in an early double page splash the title seems to be “A Red Mass for Mars.” Not to be nitpicky, but it’s this attention to detail (or lack thereof) that really plagued Hickman’s first work “The Nightly News” with it’s many misspellings, typos, and incorrect word choices. I say this as a fan, but c’mon, can we at least get the title of the book consistent? I like many things about Red Mass for Mars. As with Transhuman, the art is much more accessible than Hickman’s own graphic design influenced style of art and page layouts. And while I do enjoy Hickman’s experimentation, I think the story is best served with this higher level of accessibility. We see inventive costume designs and an energy to the lines that meshes well with the story at play. We literally get the apocalypse, as radical planetary climate change, a global bio-plague, pockets of nuclear winter brought on by (insinuated) extremists, and sentient AI attempting to eradicate humanity have all come to pass. Hickman’s depiction of the last days of Earth asks the brilliant fundamental question “is mankind worth saving?” If the irony of the “English Language Reclamation Project (ELRP) will consume all of Britain and continue outward until that day when we all can order our favorite ethnic food in English anywhere in the world” is truly the most pressing concern, then that fundamental question is particularly poignant. As usual, Hickman’s project suffers a tad in execution, but is very promising and worthy of greater attention for the core concepts it puts forth. Grade B+.

Fear Agent #21 (Dark Horse): AKA: Hatchet Job #5 of 5… The brutal attack on the Fear Agent base and panels with Heath adrift in space were refreshingly reminiscent of Frank Quitely’s fine detailed lines. While it’s been a while between issues and I feel like some of the overarching momentum (read: enjoyment) has been lost, it does feel like a much needed return to the roots of what made this title sing, as Heath loses both Mara and Char, and can only look to the bottle and apropos Samuel Clemens quotes for solace. I still like it, but Fear Agent needs to do something a bit different soon or this will start to become routine and repetitive. Grade B.

Charlatan Ball #1 (Image): The question I keep asking myself is “what are we going for here?” Joe Casey and Andy Suriano deliver some cosmic irreverence ala a Kirby-esque Godland escapade, a little seedy crime with a Red Hood/Mister Miracle doof, something about a rabbit and a magic battle tournament, “bodily function evacuation” jokes that fall oh-so flat, and heaps of… *ahem* borrowed pop culture lines from TMNT, Gilligan’s Island, and DC’s Lobo that… just aren’t that great to begin with. There’s some mildly interesting bits about the mental divide between sanity and reason, but they’re largely pushed to the side to make room for that disjointed mess of parts I just rattled off. I just don’t know what the point is and can’t seem to focus on a conceptual throughline. Grade C-.

I also picked up;

Freddie & Me: A Coming of Age (Bohemian) Rhapsody (Bloomsbury USA): Mike Dawson’s lifelong interest in Queen & Freddie Mercury is brought to life with an artistic style that looks like a luscious blend of Joe Sacco and Alex Robinson.

Top Shelf: 2008 Season Sampler (Top Shelf): There’s simply no excuse for not picking this up and digesting it slowly to see what piques your interest from this publisher. It’s 250 pages for FREE.


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