12.11.13 [Weekly Reviews]

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Manifest Destiny #2 (Image): While there’s another book called Umbral giving it a run, Manifest Destiny has quickly become my favorite new title of 2013. It appeals to so many different parts of my brain. It gets me as a history nerd, it gets me as a speculative fiction nerd, and as a self-proclaimed color nerd ever since I got the chance to interview Dean White and truly understand the coloring process, Owen Gieni’s colors totally get me too. There’s startling action with the right visual flourishes. Chris Dingess and Matthew Roberts are crafting a tale that’s equal parts rousing adventure, leadership primer, and a genre blend of paranormally mythic and historical that mines the best elements from truth and fiction. I love it so much. Grade A+.

Deathmatch #12 (Boom!): Deathmatch, too, has been one of the best series of the year. At the end of all the machinations by The Manchurian, we see Sable and Dragonfly as the last two combatants standing. With a resigned sense of fate, and the illusion of choice collapsing down into a single inevitable moment, we understand through brilliant genre deconstruction that “There are no heroes anymore.” While some of the paradoxical pseudo-science gets a little thick toward the end, the somber tone of this is right up my alley, and short of his old Inhumans run with Jae Lee, I’m hard pressed to recall a Paul Jenkins book that I’ve loved more. With Carlos Magno working an aesthetic that’s half George Perez and half Juan Jose Ryp, this was can’t miss and, for my money, the best book Boom! Studios has ever published. Grade A.

Astro City #7 (DC/Vertigo): It was so cool to see the origin story of Winged Victory, especially the real world tie to Samothrace. All the while in this run, Kurt Busiek proves why he’s a master, bending the narrative shifts in each issue so that the periphery players and events become the core focus of the stories, and illuminate the genre like few other works have. It’s a method that could easily fall flat under a less skilled writer, but Busiek makes it sing. Brent Anderson reminds me of a really good movie soundtrack, the kind that enhances the proceedings without you ever really noticing it, as backhanded as that might sound. It’s totally seamless, and allows this issue to focus on public perception and the conflicted price of fame in the face of scandal. Grade A.

Death Sentence #3 (Titan): I continue to be so impressed by the total package that Death Sentence offers. There may be some rare occasions when Monty Nero’s dialogue feels a tad affected and I mutter “real people would never talk like that,” but for the most part, the three primary characters are a convincing rendition of id, ego, and superego, and the writing takes us to natural conclusions given these personalities and these events. The premise of the whole enterprise is just so precise and crisp, while the smart visuals from Mike Dowling are so subtle you might miss some of the special moments. For example, notice how the character of Monty sits bored out of his skull as a kid, and then a few pages later Dowling mirrors that image as a hedonistic adult. Those visual callbacks are the stuff of legendary comic runs, and Death Sentence has the potential to stand as one of the greats. The writing process backmatter that pulls the curtain back is just the icing on an already sweet cake. Grade A.

Satellite Sam #5 (Image): Oh, Satellite Sam, what am I gonna' do with you? This title is on the fence for sure, and I can’t quite articulate why that is. My gut tells me to just catch it in trade at this point. I enjoy the clever bios of the characters that introduce every issue, but then the story just seems to descend into confusion and/or treading water. The core raison d’etre of discovering the killer seems to come back into focus as this first arc(?) comes to a close, but if you measure the distance covered from first issue to fifth issue, things haven’t really progressed much. In every issue, we see conniving studio flunkies and washed up has-beens jockeying for position, and here we get three very different beej scenes to satisfy the sexual quota, but at the end of the day, I’m not feeling as if there’s much there there. Chaykin’s art has always been hit and miss for me, and beyond an aesthetic that’s well-suited and in tone with the era, I’m not seeing anything special beyond that worth championing. Image Comics has a weird trifecta going of sexualized books, with Sex (the best of the bunch IMO), Sex Criminals (the hyped critical darling), and Satellite Sam’s Sexcapades, but if I had to choose just one, it wouldn’t be this one. Grade B.


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