6.27.12 Reviews (Part 2/2)

Sponsor Plug: Special thanks to Michael Cholak, Owner of Yesteryear Comics, for sponsoring this week’s review books. Make Yesteryear Comics your first destination in San Diego for great customer service on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles at the best discounts possible. For a limited time, new customers can enjoy a promotional 25% discount on new releases, valid until September 30. After September, customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new books during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. in Kearny Mesa, or find them online at www.yesteryear-comics.com

Scalped #59 (DC/Vertigo): Thank God for Jason Aaron getting the small details right. As someone who sat in countless hours of college lecture analyzing grisly crime scene photos, it still unnerves me to this day when writers use the incorrect blood “splatter” instead of the correct blood “spatter,” that Aaron employs here. That’s one tiny little example, but it’s indicative of the authenticity that the writer brings to every aspect of Scalped, from the language patterns and histrionics of the swearing, to the more complex criminal elements, general decay of society on the rez, and basic complexity of human nature in a larger sense. Hey, I actually have one piece of criticism for this book! That’s something you don’t usually hear me say. In the early passages, the inking is so dark and murky that I think it can be a little difficult to parse what’s occurring. I know the scene is supposed to be dark and ominous, but it veers a little too close to confusing for me. In a couple panels, I really couldn’t tell who was doing what, where Dino Poor Bear was, or the positions of Catcher and Dash. After 5 or 6 pages, it all worked out, but still. There’s a 4-panel page which I just adore; it has Lincoln Red Crow, Catcher, Dash Bad Horse, and Dino Poor Bear narrating each panel with their own motivations simultaneously, and this intersection is one of the most crafty things that Aaron and artist RM Guera have ever pulled off. It’s a good lesson in the fact that reality, and realistic fiction, don’t actually typically possess rote “good guys” and “bad guys.” There are just different people, with different goals, and different motivations, and different psychological or physical stressors, which will cause them to act in different ways, often times in direction opposition to the next bloke. This issue is another extended fight scene, and a brutal one at that. It sees severed hands, broken jaws, gunshot wounds… hounds, gangsters, and Feds. As I blurted out on Twitter, it all culminates with a BLOODY MEXICAN STAND-OFF CLIFFHANGER IN FLAMES!!! teeing up the final issue of not just one of Vertigo’s best comics ever, one of the best comics EVER. Period. Grade A.

Prophet #26 (Image): It’s the all Brandon Graham issue, and you know the creator(s) has done some immaculate world-building when an entire issue doesn’t even need to feature the titular character and it can still be compelling. “The towers still stand. The Empire’s signal repeats. Maybe all the way from Old Earth.” It’s sentences like these that made me say Graham is the Hemingway of comics, using these short, crisp, declarative sentences without a lot of adjectivey flourish that are so powerful. While they’re superficially simple, they’re actually quite complex because they allow an interactive experience with the audience where we perceive, and interpret, and imbue them with further meaning. And that’s just the guy’s writing! This issue sees a long travel by one of John Prophet’s bio-mech robot suit things, and a recent revelation Graham gave in an interview (Newsarama, I believe it was) was that each issue/arc by a different artist takes the approach of the perspective of one of John’s different bio-mech tool apparatus things. Given that explanation, this issue makes perfect sense. This story is quirky and informative, further fleshing out an already pretty fleshy world, but grand and dirty sci-fi concepts like the Cyclops Rail and Armscye Ring totally make me squee in entertained delight. The idea of this global engineering ring used to shift the planet's orbit is cool enough, but then you throw on some parasitic worm leech things and it just goes right over the top. Artistically, one of Graham’s greatest attributes is that he can shift his figure scale at will, providing supreme close-ups full of detail, and then race the camera out to these big two-page immersive expanses that have you rapidly searching for the protagonist in the abandoned wasteland. It’s just so much fun. By the time we get to the Red Dwarf Star and a person curled up in the shape of a planet, I found myself thinking, “oh shit, that visual kinda’ reminds me of Planetary for some reason.” But, then I reminded myself that this book has been compared to so many things. It’s Conan! Yeah, it’s like sci-fi Conan. No, wait, it’s like sci-fi Conan in a European Comics style. No, wait, it’s sci-fi Conan in a Euro Comics style, but with the world-building of Tolkien, Herbert, Martin, etc. No wait, it’s also like some of the discovery elements of the hidden history of the world in Planetary. The easier explanation? It’s actually like nothing you’ve ever seen before. It’s the most original comic to debut in several years. The claustrophobic, expertly colored back-up by Emma Rios is just the icing on the cake. Grade A.


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