3.16.11 Reviews (Part 1)

DMZ #63 (DC/Vertigo): [DMZ Countdown Clock™: 9 Issues Remaining] Taking a look back at the last few issues of DMZ, several have opened with full page shots or scenes of carpet bombing and the relentless shelling of lower Manhattan. This issue is no different, but we also see a building toppling over to emphasize the dire point. We’re on the precipice of a huge change in the status quo and Brian Wood makes us feel it in our gut. We’re witnessing the beginning of the end of whatever Wood has envisioned for his modern masterpiece. It’s all calculated, and not by chance. Riccardo Burchielli depicts events with his usual finesse and power. We dive right in to a terse opening scene, as Matty tries to balance the information of the ubiquitous FSA Commander, his own principles, and the agenda of his military handlers. Wood has become a master at manipulating audience emotion; he cuts away to the news feed right at the precise moment we want more. One of the holy-crap-nice-touch moments was the shot of the “wanted” playing cards, just like those sets that US forces really use(d) in Iraq and Afghanistan. I don’t want to spoil the reveal too much, but there’s a conversation between two people we’ve been waiting on for some time. After so much tension and angst, it’s a huge emotional payoff for the patient audience that’s put in the time with the series. It feels like Wood is rewarding the fans and servicing his narrative seamlessly. This issue strikes a delicate and effective balance; it simultaneously resolves some emotion, but fuels a story cliffhanger, which is about as perfectly executed as a single serialized issue can get. Grade A+.

Northlanders #38 (DC/Vertigo): The Siege of Paris, Part 2, really shines with the art of Simon Gane. There’s some European flair to it, but also a blocky quality which reminds me of the Pander Brothers’ early work on Grendel. It’s able to convincingly depict hard men, a hard battle, and hard times. There are moments in the issue when Brian Wood seems to be channeling his inner Warren Ellis with the dialogue, impossible not to think of the Ellis one-shot Crecy when all of the battle tactics are being assessed. Dave McCaig also deserves a nod for helping to create such a believable environment. It’s a crimson soaked reality that helps Wood touch on one of his common themes; it’s about sweeping change, about the advent of technology and weapons supplanting more direct man-to-man conflict and impacting the culture. I enjoyed the secret chat with the Bishop of Paris, a prime battle of wits amid a story arc that examines the inherent cost of war, not only to the coffers of the king, but also to the human spirit, and the will of the men involved. Grade A.


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