7.13.11 Reviews (Part 1)

Northlanders #42 (DC/Vertigo): The Icelandic Trilogy kicks off the last 9 issues of the series, with Paul Azaceta on art duty. While I was paying attention to the new/different artist this issue, I noticed that the letters and colors have been a nice unifying constant through the arcs. Azaceta’s art itself carries a more representational quality to it, with thicker ink lines. I like that visually because tonally it tends to provide added weight to the story, which anchors it and feels appropriate since it is the last arc and all. “Settlement 871,” like so many of the stories in Northlanders, sees the protagonists seeking to reconcile their place in life. It’s a tale of interesting people in hard times, and I wonder if there’s some subconscious commentary sneaking in about making a place for yourself in today’s modern world of difficult times. Analogy is prescriptive, but allegory is subscriptive, and Brian Wood has become a king of allegory during his Vertigo tenure. I believe that allegorical writing is enduring. Story-wise, we see a small family settling a new frontier. It moves from difficult to gut-wrenching, and has absolutely unflinching use of language and emotion. Dave McCaig’s colors deserve another quick shout for that single panel of RED color with the KRAK sound effect. Ugh. Amid all the sorrow, who else but Brian Wood could make us believe that violence might be a caring act? Identity, emotional depth, clan warfare, visceral art, and a stunning cliffhanger. It’s like someone took the best parts of Northlanders and distilled them down into a potent stein full of high alcohol content ale for the last big hurrah. Grade A.

X-Men: Schism #1 (Marvel): Jason Aaron and Carlos Pacheco bring us what is supposedly the next big X-event, which will apparently shape the direction of the franchise for years to come. Ok. There’s some good and some bad to it, but overall, I gotta’ say up front that I’m a little disappointed. Carlos Pacheco is typically a really good artist, but here his work looks a little flat and two dimensional in spots. The coloring doesn’t help either. On most pages, it looks really washed out. I think it’s an attempt to lend a somber tone or something(?), like in the flashback, but it really makes the entire effort look weak. And the whole thing is $4.99. Ugh. I enjoy watching the jocular tension between Scott and Logan slowly slip into something of more dangerous proportions. I still like Utopia as a sovereign nation (like Israel), with the X-Men as a militaristic unit (like the IDF or the Mossad), and Aaron even takes the analogy a step further by introducing what is surely meant to be Iran’s Ahmadinejad. In the same way that ol’ “Ahmmy” runs around saying the Holocaust never happened for the Jewish people, Marvel Ahmadenijad is speaking out and denying that Sentinels were ever created to exterminate mutants. I just like the boldness of this. First, Jason Aaron takes on Alan Moore, now he takes on Iran’s repressive dictator. You go, boy! Along the way, he slips in some references to cheating politicians with dying wives, and even some Johnny Cash nods. Some kid (Kade Kilgore) who I know nothing about starts monologuing his way through things, and some dopey other kid (who I also know nothing about) named Quentin Quire does some stuff too. For a story that is supposed to carry so much weight and magnitude, it seems like there should have been someone of consequence in these roles, not the d-listers we actually got. On the plus side, you can see Wolverine’s wheels turning about the path he’s on, and the second ish with Frank Cho art looks great. I would have liked him on the entire run rather than this “one issue, one artist” deal for the 5-issue run, but oh well, I’ll probably give this one more issue to wow me. Grade B.


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