9.17.08 Reviews

Local HC (Oni Press): As I handed over the single issues of this series to a coworker (my standard practice when upgrading to a better format), I remember saying something to the effect of “this is one of my favorite recent series, from one of my favorite writers, from a hot artist, and in every issue there’s at least one scene, or one line of dialogue, or one moment that totally blows me away,” much like that “ex you can’t get out of your head” that Brian Wood describes in one of the essays. Sure, Local is about Megan, and the sweeping arc of her life. It’s about all of the various “Locals” that get showcased in each issue, and how the cities themselves become crucial characters and story elements. Most importantly thought, local is about us. Wood and Kelly have given us, in Megan, a character that we can view the world through and identify with. We are all Megan. At times, all of us have struggled with identity, family, connecting to a new environment, have used others, and have been used on our journey to adulthood. In the ways that Scorsese used to describe film, and Wood himself has posed questions here (what does your Local say about you?), this work challenges us to ask questions of ourselves, and better define us. Like any truly great work of art, we learn about ourselves when juxtaposed against another strong set of ideas. I can say that Local is my favorite Brian Wood series, or my favorite mini-series, or one of the best books from Oni Press, but all of those qualifiers sound too limiting for a work that truly needs to get out there and breathe. I can develop sound byte style tag phrases that I envision being used as alliterative pull quotes, such as “an ingenious slice of pop fiction perfection,” yet that still doesn’t capture what I want to say. Local is one of my favorite books, ever. Period. There, I said it. Grade A+.

All Star Superman #12 (DC): Morrison and Quitely’s swan song on the title hones in tightly on one of the only truly interesting things I've ever personally found about Superman – the fact that this really is The Last Son of Krypton. There are no more Kryptonians. He can’t produce offspring. When Superman perishes, not only does the line of the House of El die out, but so perishes the people of an entire planet. Aside from some interesting theories on the soul, the ability to master and guide soul as pure energy with the power of the star Rao, harnessing the “solar radio-consciousness” in a death dream, that inborn fatalism is the core idea here. What is the significance of the cultural, artistic, and technological loss that poses to the universe when Superman is gone? How does Kal-El deal with this? What is Superman’s legacy? Perhaps Superman’s demise will be sooner, we hope later, but here Morrison suggests the former. Yes, he can inspire a future organization like the Legion, the JLA will no doubt remember him, his reflection will always help define Batman, the Kryptonian tale of Flamebird and Nightwing will live on, in part, with Dick Grayson, but the most important aspect of his lasting presence on Earth is the ability to inspire hope. For that he is truly the Man of Tomorrow; he can challenge man to be his best, to survive without Superman. He has given humanity hope for the future, a true testament to his ideal, an aspiration for all men to be supermen, capable of the ingenuity that drives our race forward. What Morrison suggests is that his most compelling “power” is not the heat vision or the ability to leap tall buildings, it’s this idea. The idea that Superman never dies if we accept that challenge of bettering ourselves. Grade A+.

Scalped #21 (DC/Vertigo): Mr. Brass and Chief Red Crow trade Indian and Hmong insults in one of the most intense scenes ever captured on paper. This arc is already really living up to its name “The Gravel in Your Guts,” asking the engaging basic question “What are you made of?” It’s evident in the crime boss face off, the task that Red Crow is asked of, and Dino’s quest for somewhere to just… belong. DC/Vertigo gives us an amazing page long look into “19 Things That Fueled Scalped,” getting behind Jason Aaron and this title in a big, big way. Bravo on that; that’s just a really stand up thing to do. It was fun to see Springsteen, Cormac McCarthy, State of Grace, Johnny Cash, and Weird Western Tales, but even better to know that the DC powers-that-be are making a real effort to showcase one of their best books and most capable new writers in a generation full of breakout talent. If you’re not buying Scalped, you don’t like great comics. Reconcile. Grade A.

Greatest Hits #1 (DC/Vertigo): For some reason, I entered not wanting to like this book by David Tischman and Glenn Fabry (interior art too!). With a casual superficial glance, it felt, I don’t know, a little too kitschy? Too smart by half (as the Brits would say), with its overt Beatles references and dodgy brand of humor. For what purpose, I asked myself? But then, I really started grooving on it. What if Tischman, frequent collaborator of Chaykin, wasn’t stopping at the Beatles references, and was pushing a step further into industry commentary territory? What if he was commenting on another sort of “British Invasion?” When I began to re-read it in that context, it suddenly came alive. The descriptions used to introduce us to the characters seemed to fit. The Crusader is the stable one who captured our hearts and minds. Neil Gaiman. There’s the Vizier, the one obsessed with magic and the occult. Alan Moore. There’s the Solicitor, the one full of techno-craziness. Grant Morrison perhaps? There’s the one who jumps around, buzzes in your ear, the “new” kid dropping ideas. Warren Ellis as the Zipper? In addition to these character-to-creator correlations, there are some other interesting nods to comic culture and beyond. The Crusader himself is the product of a failed British super soldier experiment, (oddly coincidental that this week’s episode of Fringe was about the same thing, is this stuff in the zeitgeist or what?). I enjoyed Ethel as the talent handler, giving us a little insider tour through what packaging a project in Hollywood looks like these days. There’s the interesting formation of the original team and histo-documentary style. A subdued sexuality permeates the text; it also feels like a band, where one of the original members leaves right before they really hit it big (think of No Doubt, Maroon 5, etc.). I could be reading into this too much, but nevertheless, I’ll be reading. Grade B+.

Captain Britain & MI-13 #5 (Marvel): What I like about Paul Cornell’s take on these characters and this little corner of the Marvel U that he’s carved out for himself is that it fits the Roger Ebert rule – just substitute “comics” for “movie,” when you hear “a great movie is not about what it’s about, it’s about how it’s about what it’s about.” Now, if you told me that I’d be reading about a bunch of leftover British heroes and it was all about the supernatural and fighting evil and magical realms and that it spun out of the Skrull Invasion, I wouldn’t be that interested. But… when it’s suddenly handled like this, and told not from a plot-driven perspective, but from a very character driven place, it’s suddenly quite intriguing. In so little time, I find myself caring a great deal about these characters. I was already wondering how they’d handle the umm… tension between Blade the Vampire Hunter and the vampire-turned-hero Spitfire. We get to see a caring side of the Black Knight. We get to see real people navigating all of the paramilitary intelligence agency procedural bits of MI-13. We see all of the recruitment issues around Faiza joining up, the vetting process, the impact to her family, etc. We see Pete Wisdom literally creating an agency from the ether, out of sheer will, because of who he is. This is just smartly written. I can’t stress enough how it’s like the opposite of something event driven like Secret Invasion. It’s not about the plot or the event, it’s about the people, and that’s really made me care. Grade B+.

Uncanny X-Men #502 (Marvel): Note to Cyclops: I guess the new information classification and security protocol at Greymalkin Industries to protect the confidentiality of sensitive files is working wonderfully, because when you print your roster page in dark blue ink on black paper, it’s basically illegible. I’ve been a fan of the book, but there’s just no other way to say it – this issue felt a little off. The top row of names on the roster page is in all CAPS, while the bottom row isn't - why? Maserati is spelled like that (<-), not like this: Masarati, as it's spelled twice in the book. If you're going to bother to pick a song with an overt car reference, shouldn't it be the same kind of car as you're showing(?), which is a 60's Mustang. During the raid, Scott says "Peter and Emma guard the..." Only problem being, there is nobody named Peter on the strike force! What the hell? The quips during the fight scene seem a bit too jovial considering the gravitas of the overall book. If this is a last ditch effort to save homo superior with new tactics as the species is fading out, would you really be making jokes? Land’s art also feels too light and confectionary somehow; it’s out of place with the tone of the book. Maybe it needs to be inked darker, or include more night scenes or something. That tonal dissonance aside, there are still some redeeming qualities in the script that make this worth checking out. One, Scott is resorting to torture, with a scene that serves as an analog for the infamous water-boarding technique popularized at Gitmo. If the government says you possess information about a threat, then you do, and your rights fly out the window, governmental conduct accountable to no one. And this is such a departure from the days of Xavier’s Dream that I wish more people were talking about it. Two, Pixie is the new Kitty Pryde. We’ve been given a new young character to see the world through as she’s indoctrinated from her old life into the X-Men. Grade B.

I also did not pick up;

Echo #6 (Abstract Studio): I want to buy this book. Really, I do. There it is on Diamond’s New Releases List for the week. So, why didn’t three whole shops in the San Diego area get this book? At least one of them didn’t get it perhaps due to the title being “Terry Moore’s Echo,” located in the “T’s” and not the “E’s” as the owner assumed. The other two, psh, who knows? They wouldn’t know an independent comic if it slapped them on the ass and called them Susan. Is this further proof of the ironic lackluster LCS experience, in San Diego of all places, or just some sort of distribution error?


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