10.09.13 [Weekly Reviews]

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Three #1 (Image): Kieron Gillen launches his effort to separate fact from myth regarding the Battle of Thermopylae, and Spartan life in general, not to praise or condemn it, or previous iterations, but merely to present as accurate a portrait as possible, while still telling an engaging story. There were two glaring typos in the end text piece, but the stunning art and colors from Ryan Kelly and Jordie Bellaire certainly make up for it. I enjoyed the riffs on class systems in now-failed states, something we may be able to mine and learn from for modern times, so I’ll definitely be sticking with this until the end to see what it has to say. Grade A.

Deathmatch #10 (Boom!): Paul Jenkins and Carlos Magno get within millimeters of fully revealing Manchurian’s end game (twice even) and the true nature of the death matches. It starts to become clear why what’s happened so far has happened, and where it might be going, leaving the fate of this universe in the hands of Sable’s detective skills. The visuals of this series have been utterly memorable and while Jenkins seemed to set out to deconstruct common superhero archetypes, he’s now picking apart their very universe and their very genre in the process. If Manchurian is a double agent, well, he’s been consumed by some sort of genius level science delirium, but if he’s a triple agent, shoot, that changes everything. With only two issues left, it’s one of the titles I’m most excited about to see where it goes. Grade A.

Astro City #5 (DC/Vertigo): Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson continue to flesh out the Astro City Universe with side stories from the ephemeral periphery. The creators have a way of taking otherwise throwaway world-building elements and getting full stories out of them. I enjoyed the return of the crazy Psycho-Pirate dude, the visuals of the Blasphemy Boys, and the panache of Dame Progress and her villain. The only thing that didn’t feel right at all was the Serpentor bit, visually bearing much too strong a resemblance to the GI Joe villain, unless that was, uhh, the point, which I kinda' missed. It’s still surprising to me that I’m enjoying a book that I used to think of as retro vanilla superheroics, but it actually has a lot to say about the impact to the common man and the genre in the process. Grade A.

Think Tank #10 (Image): Yes, it’s just a hasty cover story for a complex DNA weapon, but if there’s a missing nuclear device with a wanted terrorist labeled “the most dangerous man in the world” on the loose in Taiwan who has killed an entire SEAL team and is now threatening to nuke mainland China, it is highly doubtful that we’d send POTUS and two high-level cabinet secretaries to Beijing with that extant threat level. That strained credibility for me, but this was otherwise enjoyable as David is coerced to keep the U.S. dominant at all costs, even engineered warfare. Matt Hawkins weaves together the real world concern about China’s military escalation with an engaging fictional narrative. It’s a smart blend, sharply rendered by Rahsan Ekedal. This is the best black and white art I’ve seen in some time. He gets so much effective use of gray tones that you’re not really cognizant it isn’t in color. It’s got all the mood swings and tonal shifts you’d expect to find in full color. With things like passive “white torture” and the modern “instant access” reporting shown as viewer hits going up by the thousands in the course of just one page, it’s a small reminder of the extra detail and research the creators are pouring into this thought-provoking work. Grade A-.

Shaolin Cowboy #1 (Dark Horse): Geoff Darrow fully commits to two pages of farcical faux “story so far,” which is exhaustive, if not hilarious. I guess Darrow reasoned this was a better option than a straight-faced recap of the previous 7 glorious issues from Burlyman Entertainment. An understandable decision since all you really need to know about this book is in the title, and apparent with one glance at the detail porn of the pencils. It’s sort of an art for art’s sake proposition you’re getting with this book. I guess I enjoyed Shaolin Cowboy fighting off the zombie horde with his trademark double-headed chainsaw staff, and seeing King Crab’s agents monitoring him was terrific, but it still feels a little short on actual story content. Grade A-.


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