8.20.08 Reviews

Scalped #20 (DC/Vertigo): Jason Aaron and Davide Furno turn in a masterful performance here that illuminates the emotional scars and drivers of one of my favorite characters in the series, Dash’s lover Carol. We learn a ton more about the catalyzing events and stressors buried in her psyche that compel her to act out in the way she does, whether it’s drug use, promiscuity, or the sheer recklessness that permeates her existence. It all culminates with a sorrowful look in the eyes of two broken people who come together, not out of hope or caring, not even to seek solace, but from despair. It’s a downward spiral to a last page that causes the reader to scream “no!” as it gets worse and worse. The dismissive smirk with which Diesel delivers the line “…she liked getting choked, okay?” tells you all you need to know about the underpinnings of the title. Scalped continues to be more than a crime tale, more than violence, sex, and thrills, but an intelligent analysis of a crumbling social ecosystem that transcends its Native American roots to comment on the entire human condition. Grade A+.

The Killer #8 (Archaia Studios Press): ASP’s best title continues to merge bright bursts of violence, embedding feeling into the violence to create personal revenge, the unlikeliest of friends, the rule of survival, and the hard world of “some questions are better not asked.” This is the perfect noir thriller. Grade A.

Uncanny X-Men #501 (Marvel): The mutant attacks depicted in this issue can function as stand-ins for any group that’s discriminated against. Whether it’s black lynching, gay bashing, or mutant hysteria, the creative team taps into this type of embedded allegory that’s made the X-Men inherently appealing for so long. Perhaps it’s because I’m from the Bay Area, but shots of the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin County, or downtown Oakland seem to lend a richness and authenticity that’s much appreciated. There’s some subtlety in Brubaker and Fraction’s scripting here. What might otherwise look like a regular ol’ X-Men story really rewards the careful reader. We seen an interesting evolutionary paradigm shift with references to “cavemen” casually juxtaposed with the term “futuremen.” There’s the visceral beauty that accompanies the violence, such as the tension on Pixie’s face before she engages in a fight, or Scott describing the image of her damaged wings. I also really liked the way that the creators play with the X-Men conventions and defy our expectations. The line “Hope you survived the experience” is meant to be a playful welcome to new members of the team, harkening back to the 1980’s covers with Rogue or Havok joining the team – but here takes on a darker and more sinister tone due to its context. Notice the sly way that “Frubaker” describes the personalities of the team in their intro blurbs with sparse words. Pixie is the “nascent teenage superstar,” Scott the “fearless leader,” Emma the “supervixen,” and Logan simply “ubiquitous.” They come off as a self-aware tongue-in-cheek nod to the audience, but also genuinely tell us everything we really need to know about the psyche of each character. The appearance of The Red Queen is visually very cheesecake, but let’s hope that’s also a self-aware move in which the audience’s expectations will be toyed with, parallel to the dom/sub mind games that are sure to follow from the character. Writing an X-Men comic is really a binary win or lose scenario; so far, this creative team is pulling off the high wire act, able to balance everything just fine. Grade B+.

Anna Mercury #3 (Avatar Press): Remember when I said that I would cut a mini-series off mid-swing if it wasn’t delivering? This will be my last issue of Anna Mercury. Ellis takes a small sci-fi idea and stretches it much too thin. The throughline that should explain this tale is not entirely clear; it’s neither intuitive, nor explained. And chalking it up to the techno-babble of things like the “electromagnetic oversplash” of the “lifter body” doesn’t quite get it for me. There’s a full page crash scene that’s meant to play dramatically, but doesn’t since I have no idea what’s happening other than something is crashing into something else. The radio traffic is still all wrong. And why is there a silver metal dildo hanging from her belt?! Percio’s art hops around in an inconsistent and uneven way, with odd grimaces, mis-shaped noses, and is just downright ugly in spots. Grade C-.


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