10.12.11 Reviews (Part 2)

The Unexpected #1 (DC/Vertigo): Rafael Grampa covers things just right with this piece of sleazy, sexy, gratuitous, violent, pop culture fun. Can he please do a monthly book? Please? THE GREAT CARLINI by Dave Gibbons sees the writer/artist using a restrained visual style, but very compelling prose, about what it takes to succeed in The New World. I love how clues in the art enhance the words. Ultimately, it takes an unexpected turn that lives up to the name of the book squarely. DOGS by G. Willow Wilson & Robbie Rodriguez is about a mysterious canine rebellion, with suitably dark art, considering all of the murder and regret. It almost feels like some old David Lapham Stray Bullets story, but cranked up with a creepier and more supernatural feel. Jose Villarubia’s coloring is terrific. LOOK ALIVE by Alex Grecian & Jill Thompson is a poignant reversal of the popular zombie apocalypse genre in a lush painterly style. THE LAND by Joshua Dysart & Farel Dalrymple sure makes me miss the work of this artist. Dalrymple is one of those reclusive New York artists that I wish was more productive. The Pop Gun War and Omega: The Unknown remain perennial favorites. In any case, this piece is full of crisp social commentary from Dysart, and whip smart lines, like how the the police being lazy makes them dangerous. It’s about a wrongly accused man and subsequent race relations in the border region. A MOST DELICATE MONSTER by Jeffrey Rotter & Lelio Bonaccorso works toward humbling our place of being in the universe, but is visually a little too comical for my taste. It’s probably the weakest (and when I say “weakest,” I mean, like, the only piece in the book that fails to rise above merely competent) of the entire lot. FAMILY FIRST by Mat Johnson & David Lapham shows us how extreme situations tend to bring out the worst qualities in people, with a Tales From The Crypt-style, classic horror twist. ALONE by Joshua Hale Fialkov & Rahsan Ekedal employs an interesting visual methodology for conveying a spirit in the afterlife visiting the still living. It’s ultimately bitter and sad commentary about relationships today. AMERICANA by Brian Wood & Emily Carroll is a tightly wound, lavishly illustrated piece that stands out as one of the most memorable contributions here aside from the cover by Grampa, and maybe the Dalrymple art. Carroll is a web sensation, and Brian seems to have a knack for bringing women into the mainstream fold who are deserving of wider recognition. Why is Wood so fascinated with the end of the world? I’m not sure, but I love reading about it, whether they’re natural or man-made disasters. This story chronicles one girl’s experiences from 2012, to 2050, to 2080, to 2100, in the flash of just a few short pages. Of course, we haven't read The Massive yet, but from what we know you can almost imagine this story taking place concurrently in that world. Carroll’s art has a sort of Carla Speed McNeil quality to it, with some general Y: The Last Man vibes thrown in for good measure. It’s about nomadic existence with no government and society breaking down, that teaches us sometimes you have to break things in order to fix them. BLINK: LE PRELUDE A LA MORT by Selwyn Hinds & Denys Cowan is, I believe, a teaser for an ongoing Voodoo Child series at DC. Cowan’s art has really come a long way, showcasing some Kevin O’Neill style crosshatching and rendering, combined with the Dark Horse “house style” of a typical BPRD book. It’s good stuff. Overall, The Unexpected feels less like an anthology, notorious for their uneven quality, and more like a collected edition of “best of” material. Grade A.

Uncanny X-Force #16 (Marvel): I admit that I’m running out of ways to explain how this is one of the best books being published at the moment, essentially a perfect X-Men title. Rick Remender can do scary gravitas: “I am not mired by low mythology such as love.” He can do the humor of a “stew of night train, potatoes, and depression.” Deadpool and Fantomex are the mutant Laurel and Hardy. His originality builds upon X-Men history rather than further convoluting it. There’s romance! There’s pulse-pounding action! Not mindless popcorn entertainment action, mind you, but action of consequence. It’s brutal and emotional, every scene with a sense of purpose behind it. Jerome Opena’s art is beautifully visceral and moody, the perfect match in tone. It’s an impressive visual cache that screams the desires and dangers of the taut scripting. It’s everything an X-Men book should be. Rick Remender, Jerome Opena, and let’s not forget colorist Dean White, are the dream team. Grade A.

CBLDF Liberty Annual 2011 (Image): The John Cassaday cover pulled me right into an issue that boasts some big names. The ones I’m particularly interested in include Bob Schreck, Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon, JH Williams III, Joelle Jones, Carla Speed McNeil, Craig Thompson, Jeromy Cox, Dave Stewart, Frank Quitely, and Chris Mitten! Schreck’s editorial opener lets us know that this year will not only include work dealing with just free speech, but additional rights including a “no bullying” campaign, which seems to be the issue in fashion today. Matt Wagner’s Grendel story uses language that is at times a little over the top, but it embraces the newfound theme, with an interesting weaving in of the titular character. JHWIII’s piece uses a stealthy and fluid sense of identity, hones in on equality, is a lavish 2 page spread, and is one of the best pieces in the lot. The Cowboy Ninja Viking story is a high spirited bit of monologuing that zeroes in on the hypocrisy of censorship, but most of the examples and anecdotes feel shoehorned in. Brandon Montclare and Joelle Jones deliver a beautifully illustrated, historically inspired piece about political dissent, examining the degree to which satire was allowable at a certain time in a certain society. Carla Speed McNeil’s piece on (don’t call it) Down’s Syndrome deals with the evolving nature of PC nomenclature, as the ludicrous reinvention of words in an effort to offend nobody proves impossible. It’s one of the best pieces in the book. Kazim Ali and Craig Thompson, along with Dave Stewart’s robust colors, deliver what is, for my money, the centerpiece of the issue. Hot off of Habibi, we learn that “pool is the Urdu word for flower,” in what is also one of the best pieces in the book. I prefer things like this because they function in a more abstract manner, which allows the audience to infer their own meaning, rather than having it all spelled out for them like so many of the lesser pieces do. There’s a careful distinction between change stemming from within vs. societal change at large. JMS offers up a great lesson about the separation of church and state. It’s always nice to see some Christopher Mitten work, especially in color, here it’s The Conversion with writer Dara Naraghi, about Islamic doctrine becoming law in Iran. Judd Winick provides a tongue in check take on great moments in history, with lush caricatures from Thiago Micalopulos. I enjoyed the funny (and naked) Elephantmen cutouts. The last really standout treat is Mark Waid and Jeff Lemire’s visually potent piece about escapism and belonging. It, too, is one of the best pieces in the book. The last page takes aim at a recent incident involving a Canadian border crossing that the CBLDF is currently involved in. Overall, there are 3-4 really standout contributions here, but as far as anthology style books go (and good causes aside), if I had to pick just one this week, it would be DC’s The Unexpected, which avoids some of the consistency issues and is 100% stories vs. the occasional random pin-up. Grade B+.


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