12.29.10 Reviews

Scalped #44 (DC/Vertigo): Davide Furno helps Jason Aaron deliver what is superficially an end of the line story for Baylis Earl Nitz. Like nearly every issue of Scalped, it completely defies expectation and takes a hard left when the audience was leaning right. Nitz faces off with his handler, Chief Red Crow, and eventually some Jordanian terrorists, which drastically changes the direction of his FBI mandate on the Rez. Furno’s blocky and angular style is a good match for the rigid tone of the story, yet there are some nuanced background details I’ve not seen before from him, which seem to echo someone like Sean Murphy. This issue bristles with the same visceral sex, danger, and power that the entire series runs on. It’s a very small quibble, but Nitz makes a reference to his handler being out of Langley. Well, usually Langley is for the CIA, Quantico would actually be for the FBI. But, I’m just nitpicking. At the end of it all, Aaron reverses a very tried and true writing trick. The adage is to put your protagonist where they’d least like to be in order to illicit the most drama from them. Well, Nitz wants to die. So, what does Jason Aaron do? He makes him a hero instead. Grade A.

Echo #27 (Abstract Studio): I am seriously running out of ways to explain the strengths of Terry Moore and this title. Storywise, yeah, Julie is still growing and Ivy is still regressing mentally and physically. There are confessions along the way as Ivy puts into play one last hail mary pass with the denouement rapidly approaching as the series winds down to issue 30. There is a brutal and inventive killing staged in a body bag, which happens so professionally and discreetly, you can almost miss it. But the thing I noticed more than anything was the ability of Moore to depict these emotionally complex postures and facial expressions. He really is the best. He doesn’t just show first tier emotions like “happy” or “sad,” but more intricate and overlapping feelings like exasperation, panic, jealousy, and longing. Grade A.

SHIELD #5 (Marvel): There’s a tone to the writing here that has a certain gravitas to it I really enjoy. It’s there in the Hickman lines like the “razor’s edge between personal pragmatism and the dream of something better.” Weaver delivers the visual delight as usual, the big double page shot 600,000 years in the future, with a broken moon, an aging star, and pyramid ruins in a jungle lost to time is really impressive. There are fun elements to the story. One particularly ambitious sequence involves the transmutation of elements vis-à-vis SHIELD internal politics. It comments on the natural world progressing into binary opposed paradigms once humans get involved. It’s pretty cerebral stuff thematically, yet I still feel lost when it comes to any actual story taking place. We’re 5 issues in and I’m still not sure why anyone is doing any of the things they seem to be doing, or what the ultimate objective is. The set pieces along the way are fun, though. Nathaniel Richards and Howard Stark in their 1950’s, steampunk, MIB, Batmobile, Transformer thing? Yeah, that’s cool. Hickman even gets a nod in to Matt Fraction’s Nikola Tesla story The Five Fists of Science. At the end though, I can’t help but think narrative clarity is being sacrificed for highly engaging aesthetics. Grade B+.


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