12.12.12 Reviews (Brian Wood Edition)

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The Massive #7 (Dark Horse): Brian Wood and Garry Brown's modern art blend (Sean Phillips, Jim Lee, even collaborator John Paul Leon, traces of all to be found) kick off the next 3-issue arc entitled "Subcontinental," which centers on the ostensible utopia of Moksha Station. The thing to remember about utopias is that they're usually disguised dystopias in pop fiction, and it's certainly looking like this is no exception. I'm excited to see the mileage and dramatic tension that the creative team is going to draw from that dichotomy. It's interesting to see how quickly it goes from Mary encouraging Cal (and the audience by extension) to accept Moksha Station at face value, to a complete authoritarian state during lockdown procedures, where you basically surrender all personal rights in the name of security. If you've been reading Thirteen Minutes a while, you probably know that one of my writing tics is to make weird analogies in an effort to make my points. Well, with Callum Israel and crew wandering the world in an attempt to survive, and encountering the seeming paradise with a hidden underbelly of Moksha Station, let's juxtapose that with The Walking Dead. One could say that Rick and his crew are to Woodbury as Callum and his crew are to Moksha Station. I did that deliberately because there's certainly no reason that The Massive shouldn't be selling The Walking Dead numbers on a regular basis. I'll go ahead and be an elitist prick and use my powers of reverse psychology and say that if The Massive doesn't succeed financially it will be because it's just too intelligent for most people. I guess for the masses it's just easier to grok people shooting zombies in the head amid the collapse of all humanity as a single central theme in a zombie apocalypse than it is to parse a more meaningful fight for survival amid the collapse of the entire fucking planet in a more realistic environmental apocalypse. I mean, heaven forbid you actually have to think in a non-linear fashion or Google an acronym like U.L.L.C. or F.P.S.O. in a diligently researched Brian Wood script. Easier to just passively watch somebody getting an axe through the skull, I suppose. Don't you want your entertainment to stretch your brain a little bit? Doesn't bother me. My dad never provided me age appropriate reading material. He let me read the books he was reading and just gave me a dictionary along with those challenging books and said if you come across a word you don't understand, then look it up. If that doesn't work, come ask me. Wow, I'm really going off on a tirade here, but I'm just so passionate about this book and I can't comprehend LCS orders decreasing every month. It's disappointing. Anyway. Something else I noticed in this issue around the time that Mary encourages Cal to "be better" is that you can almost draw lines between Cal's identity and the personalities of the crew and say that they comprise aspects of his being. For example, Ryan is the young naïve do-gooder with blind commitment in him. Mary is the optimist part of him that believes in people and wants to bring out the best in them, Mag is the pragmatic paranoid security guy, Georg may represent the last vestiges of pure merc in him. By the time we learn more about Lars or potentially other crew members, maybe this little theory will flesh out in the way you can make the same argument for, say, Malcolm Reynolds and the crew of Serenity. There's that analogy bug again. The only thing preventing this from getting the "+" is that I truly miss the innovative back-matter in print, but at least we now have a digital counterpart. Grade A.

Conan The Barbarian #11 (Dark Horse): The silent opening sequence is just masterfully put together, great teamwork by writer and artist all coming together to equal more than the sum of its parts. I did freak out a little when Conan kissed Belit on the mouth. The lay epidemiologist in me got the heebee jeebies. I enjoyed this issue because a place like Bakal is exactly where I like seeing a character like Conan. He's out of his element, desperate to find something when he's not even sure what he's looking for or where to look. He's outnumbered, but certainly not outmanned, carving his way through the unknown with a compelling mix of sword skills and pure cunning. Declan Shalvey's art, on rare occasion, pushes some angles and proportions around characters' faces that seem odd and inconsistent, but I do love the way he uses shadow and silhouette to emphasize mood. Brian Wood is delivering a fresh spin on Conan that still manages to stay loyal to the spirit of the source material. I like the younger, more introspective Conan, who actively considers how his actions reflect upon his loyalties and values. He's balancing risk and reward, survival and implied promises, in an engaging story that offers so much more complexity that mindless brawling. Grade A.

Ultimate Comics: X-Men #20 (Marvel): Carlo Barberi is on art duty this time out and I enjoy the look of his lean sinewy art, though it can get a little cheesecakey at times, like the focus on Storm's boobs or Kitty's ass-up morning stretch routine. Jimmy Hudson continues his land survey as the band of mutants settles into their Federal Land Grant (aka: Reservation) in a "deal that's getting worse all the time," as Lando Calrissian would quip (can't resist a Star Wars nod to the on-deck Star Wars writer!). When you get past the housekeeping bits of what Jimmy finds, the divisive actions of Psylocke and Nomi, and the mystery of the gift from Fury, and finally arrive at the modified seed stock plot thread, it's as if we're finally getting to the story Brian Wood wanted to tell all along. It's speculative sci-fi with environmental roots and social relevance. The repercussions of super seeds that grow and adapt to any conditions and the entry of Mr. Tony Stark make such slick thought-provoking use of these Marvel properties. Kitty is taking a long term gamble for her people, looking at the total world benefit vs. a short-sighted windfall purely out of reactionary monetary need and immediate survival. It's great to see them gearing up for a more ideological war after the literal war they just endured. I still have some issues with the art, but the script's sense of interest is on overdrive. Grade A-.


At 12:37 PM, Blogger Ryan Claytor said...

Oh, damn. Alright, I'll buy it I'll buy it!

Reading #5 and 6,
Ryan Claytor
Elephant Eater Comics

At 4:07 PM, Blogger Justin Giampaoli said...

HA! If only everyone was as easy to convince as you.


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