10.05.11 Reviews

Casanova: Avaritia #2 (Marvel/Icon): My thoughts are pretty scattered on this issue, but the most important thing is that I really enjoyed it. Not only the main contents, but also the back matter. I love that first run of Immortal Iron First and Five Fists of Science too, but this is still tops in the Matt Fraction library, because it feels the purest. Gabriel Ba is on point. What more do you really need to say about the art? Warren Ellis recently put this term “super” in my head, and it’s all I can really think of now. Super, as in short for “superimposition,” where text is laid over images, and the juxtaposition creates different meaning, particularly when the background image repeats in different iterations. There’s a ton of that going on in Casanova, as Cass hunts Luther Desmond Diamond, who will become Newman Xeno. It sort of begs that question, if you could kill Hitler as a baby, would you go back and do it? Another option is: what if you tried to make him “good” instead? I think that becomes the Newman Xeno option here. Everyone keeps asking Cass if he’s ok, and that’s actually wearing on him as much as that fact that he’s losing his mind. Will all of the time-jumping, he’s forgetting when he is, what his real home timeline is, and his psyche is fractured, but for brief moments of clarity. Fraction continues to parallel his thoughts as a writer, with his characters' thoughts. His own influences are as fractured as Cass’ mind. There are so many meta-textual references to take in, Michelangelo, and Pilgrims (Mayflower variety), and Pilgrims (Oni Press variety), and Kubrick, and Tarantino, and fan culture on the con circuit (complete with Slave Leia and apple bottom Wonder Woman). There’s so much happening and a frenetic pace to it all, as we see the writer projecting his own thoughts into the work. Diamond talks about song writing, but we know it’s really Fraction talking about comic writing, that it’s like dipping a stick in honey and catching butterflies with it. I love the bit when Fraction, err… Diamond, says that he has to “produce what they pay me for” and hope that “the art will come later.” It pushes the boundary of what comics can do and the methods they can use to do it. For example, the clever writer’s shorthand we see, where “insert homophobic quip here” and “insert Soderbergh reference here” is used in lieu of typical dialogue. The issue attacks the perceived weaknesses of the medium as is revels in them. The back matter is the best part, somehow eclipsing even the sheer maniacal magic of the front matter. Fraction often bares his soul, letting us co-examine his own insecurities. At the end of the day, this is the comic he wanted to do when he thought they’d never let him make comics again. The abandonment of caution shows. Everyone should be reading this. Grade A.

Avengers: 1959 #1 (Marvel): Howard Chaykin IS doing the interior art. That’s nice, but it seems like the solicits weren’t exactly clear about that. In any case, I like the premise for these temporally displaced “Avengers.” We’ve got a fun eclectic cast, with Nick Fury, Ulysses Bloodstone, Kraven, Namora, Sabretooth, a Silver Sable, and Dominic Fortune. Nobody really draws stylized sexy women and men’s men in a period aesthetic better than Chaykin. In terms of settings, he pulls of New York City, Wakanda, and Latveria in a way that makes this a visual treat. The dialogue is a little over the top, so that it becomes hoary in spots, what with the “mooks” and the “tete-a-tete” and the “oh, do go on” and the “doll face” lingo. But, overall, there’s the establishment of a mysterious foe, some early action, and lots of moving parts that will hopefully converge into a story as rich and rewarding as the art already is. Grade B+.

Justice League International #2 (DC): Dan Jurgens. Aaron Lopresti. I’m a fan of neither, but I like the characters, in theory. It was a small-ish week, so I decided to give this another shot. I like Godiva, and it’s nice to see the team dynamics settling in a bit, with most of the characters getting a chance to show their personalities. The continuity is still very sloppy, clearly there’s history of Batman in a Justice League of the past, Ice and Guy have a pre-existing relationship, Batman has knowledge of Skeets, etc. The art is nice and affable, and there’s actually some small bits of, like, Terry Dodson – and someone else I can’t quite put my finger on – sneaking in. Between the ultimate villain, Rocket Red as Iron Man, and the whole X-Factor vibe (government sponsored team designed to address public fears over powers), this has a very Marvel flair to it, I thought. Is this like a Busiek/Perez era Avengers thing? I dig the way that Batman and Booster Gold have each other’s backs with the UN handler. The robotic baddies are still pretty generic, as is the entire adventure, but if the title continues to improve at this pace, I could be sold. I’ll consider this title still on probation, but it gets at least another issue to convince me one way or the other. Grade B.

Supernatural #1 (DC): The Dustin Nguyen cover is nice and moody, but Grant Bond’s interior art is a little cartoony for my taste, lacking much emotional depth or complexity. For example, I don’t think the art really sells the magical element of the big kiss. The style is flat and blocky, almost like something you’d see on CN instead of CW. I like bits of Brian Wood’s script; some of the early voice-over narration rings with the writer’s familiar fascination with the authenticity of place, and there’s a nice little DV8 nod thrown in for us Wood fans. Emma is an instantly likeable Scottish “breaker,” to Sam’s American “hunter” I guess, as they seem to investigate the monsters we are assumed to “share the Earth with.” I think I have a vague recollection of trying the first ep of this show when it came out a few years ago, but I have no specific memory of it (something about brothers and the dad died or something?), so I can’t tell you if it captures the right tone overall. I’d be curious to hear from a fan of the show, or someone at least a little more familiar with it, to see how it compares. There’s nothing really wrong here aside from the art glitch, it’s just probably not for me. Grade B.

Stormwatch #2 (DC): Is this really the same Paul Cornell who entertained me with the Pete Wisdom mini-series and Captain Britain & MI-13? Sheesh, you’d never know it. Blah, blah, something about an alien horn and a war with the moon and everyone is fighting. Characters appear and are never identified or introduced. The plot is a mess, jumping around erratically, with plenty of exposition. There is actually someone who says something like “you wanted to do THIS, because THAT” in an extremely expositional monologue that stuck out like a sore thumb. All talk and no show. Someone mentions the Justice League, then we get one panel, ONE PANEL, of a random Booster Gold just so we can be reminded that this is in the DCU, I guess? Something happens at the “Tenk Farm,” hardy har! Get it? If you rearrange the letters on “Tenk” it spells… oh, never mind. And why does “everything” have “quotes” around “it?” Why is this the second issue and we already have two artists? Why are the panels cropped in weird places? Why is the camera placed at weird angles? This is a mess. I’m out. Grade C.


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