12.04.13 [Weekly Reviews]

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Think Tank #11 (Image/Top Cow): Matt Hawkins and Rahsan Ekedal really amp up their bold approach to speculative fiction in this issue. While it’s all based on real-world tech R&D and authentic tradecraft, it leaps from those origins toward a startling showdown with China. Political pundits and intelligence analysts in-the-know are betting that the “next” next global hotspot will not be the Middle East, but probably some dispute (Taiwan, North Korea) involving China and the general South China Sea Region. Hawkins peppers the story with factoids and details that ring true (not just about the cool tech on display, but about how money talks, or our modern surveillance state, or how to navigate internationally) because, well, they are. The transparency of the research makes for a very satisfying read. The final shot is a nice callback to a historical event, like the BSG homage that preceded it. Now, I was perfectly happy with the black and white art, but I’ll admit it will be a fun treat to see Ekedal’s work in full color when Season 2 hits. As a side note, it’s interesting to see the creators openly address sales, jumping on points, and roadblocks around consumer perception. I wonder if some of these bold storytelling choices are also meant to address that. They’re stripping away the excuses, so if you’re not buying this now, you’d better start soon! Grade A.

Trillium #5 (DC/Vertigo): The individual pages in this book are absolutely beautiful. I think it’s the best pure art of Jeff Lemire’s career to date. There’s some sort of Kevin O’Neill LOEG-style stuff going on in the Brittania sequences as well, and the prose is lyrical and very effective emotionally. My only real problem with Trillium is a structural one, this shoehorned-in underpinning the series seems to want to build itself on. I’m just not very enamored of the layout choices. I don’t think they’re necessary. Not only do the individual issues not feel very connected, but all of the flip-formatting, and dual strips, and turning shit upside down and backwards doesn’t really add much beyond the gimmick that exists for the sake of itself. They’re mirror images! I get it! Watchmen did the symmetrical panel composition bit 20 years ago and I didn’t need an arrow telling me to turn the book upside down to figure it out. I feel like this will actually distract from the strengths of the writing and the very good story would just be better served with crisply edited traditional layouts. I can also foresee a problem with the eventual collected edition. Floppies are one thing, but who the heck wants to have to manhandle some hardcover back and forth, twisting and turning the thing a different way for each issue it contains, leafing forward, and leafing back, and whatever the hell else it will ask of us? I’m giving a full letter ding for this needless format experimentation, because form isn’t really following function. Grade B.


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