6.18.08 Reviews

Scalped #18 (DC/Vertigo): Davide Furno turns in some pencils here that have a nice Paul Pope-y quality to the art, with those thick and inky irregularities in the line weight. The spotlight on Officer Falls Down proves yet again that Jason Aaron is capable of delivering one of the great crime noir epics in Scalped. Aaron is always careful to develop a theme in his stories by touching on several observational notes. This time out, we get a lesson in what psychologists would call “normalized behavior.” If everyone around you is fucked up, you acting “normal” will stand out and suddenly feel abnormal because it deviates from the socially accepted norm in your environment. Thus, Falls Down is ostracized for being the one straight cop in what amounts to a band of crooked thugs. Aaron’s script also underscores the fact that there really is no such thing as “the good old days;” all memories of past times are on a relative scale and colored by the nostalgia goggles of altering perspectives. I do have one minor quibble – typically if someone discharges a firearm a few inches from your head, you wouldn’t be able to hear for quite some time, that jumped out at me as not being very realistic, but I’m admittedly really stretching for criticism here. It’s just getting repetitive continually yelling from the mountaintops about how great this title is! The beauty of Scalped is that it presents us with a discouraging reality, but simultaneously is hopeful that some small shred of good exists in the world. Grade A.

DMZ #32 (DC/Vertigo): It’s becoming increasingly apparent that I could quite possibly live on Brian Wood titles alone if I was ever forced to choose. I strolled into my LCS this week with a coworker and casually commented to her that “this guy Brian Wood is a really good writer, I like everything he does.” After further thought, I do believe that he is my favorite writer at the moment in terms of consistency. Sure, there are other writers who may peak occasionally and there are isolated works that I like better than some of Wood’s offerings, but when you take a look at the larger body of work as a whole, Wood produces the most consistently high quality material. In any case… Blood in the Game is shaping up to be my favorite arc of this title, the story of Parco Delgado is fascinating in the way that early episodes of Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing used to be, in that they reveal the inner workings of political posturing and the susceptibility of processes to personalities. Wood hits some great notes here centering around the disenfranchisement of voting blocks and sticks protagonist Matty Roth right in the middle of his parents as an uneasy alliance is forged with his mother. Grade A.

Ex Machina #37 (DC/Wildstorm): Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris really get back to the core of Mitchell Hundred’s dilemma with the Great Machine with lines like “For the last time, I’m not a villain, I’m a motherfucking good guy!” While this issue plays like all middle, we get a nice view into the politics of police work in a large metropolitan city and some enjoyable social commentary as usual. BKV seems to be hitting similar notes over and over; they’re good, but I’d like to see the super-story advance a little and get the feeling that the larger Ex Machina mythos is going somewhere beside continual allegorical offerings, which sometimes slip down into in-your-face analogies of current issues. Grade A-.

Rasl #2 (Cartoon Books): Sigh. Oh, I don’t know… I suppose I can get over the lack of subtlety of the reveal of the Maya tattoo, and I can forgive the very stock characterization of Annie, yet there is still something I don’t like about this book that I can’t quite put my finger on. Perhaps it’s that, so far, I feel the lead character is totally unsympathetic. We’re not given any reason to care about him. Why is he jumping to parallel universes? Why is he stealing art? The only reasons we can surmise are a) because he can, and b) to pay for prostitution. What a swell guy. This issue is largely steeped in that sex and prostitution, and it all feels a little gratuitous. I will say that I enjoyed the paranoia that creeps in from his many trips into the drift and that Rasl has the potential for originality that could make it stand out. I’ll give it one more shot, as this issues drifts in with a Grade B.

Anna Mercury #2 (Avatar Press): The placement of the call signs in the radio traffic is still all backwards, but the opening pages otherwise have a clarity of purpose that was largely lacking in the first issue. There’s definitely some Ellis charm to be had here in the dialogue: “One of your predecessors called me an outright fantasist and tried to have my entire staff arrested.” Our scribe then introduces one of his trademark wildly humongous sci-fi concepts in the “constellation project,” but it quickly derails due to the weight of the nonsensical techno-babble of “boomerangs, LOA, anchor fields, and the violet seven.” I have to agree with the Prime Minister and confess that “This is all very confusing.” There’s an odd, seemingly random, two page spread and overall, the entire endeavor makes for a pretty frustrating experience. I generally like Ellis’ writing and was beginning to warm to Percio’s art, but I find myself having to work a little too hard to grasp the basic mechanics of the story. Anna Mercury has one more issue to get square before I give up. Grade B-.

I also picked up;

Starman Omnibus: Volume 1 (DC): At long last, the James Robinson and Tony Harris epic is collected, this being the first of six hardcovers, collecting the first 17 issues of the wonderful series chronicling the Knight family.

Pocket Full of Rain (Fantagraphics): Looking forward to digesting this collection of Jason’s hard to find earlier work, some of which has never seen print in English.

Postage Stamp Funnies (Dark Horse): I’m not a huge fan of Shannon Wheeler, but I am a total sucker for cool packaging.


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