This past Wednesday was new comics day. It was also my birthday. It was also, as we all know, September 11. Much was made in the media, the American media in particular, of remembering the events of the same day last year. At the risk of sounding crass, I’d like my birthday back, thanks.Warren Ellis used to frequently use a quote from a man whose name escapes me at the moment that said something to the effect of “Comics are just words and pictures. You can do anything with words and pictures.” This past Wednesday, that was never more apparent to me. What exactly did “just words and pictures” do for me? Enable me, at the risk of sounding trite and despite the media’s best efforts to the contrary, to kick back, enjoy my birthday again and have a normal day. So, sequential art, my hat’s off to you. If I wore a hat, that is.
The reason I launch into my bevy of reviews with the latest installment of Morrison’s mainstream magnum opus is two-fold: 1) it was really rather good (though hopefully that admission this early doesn’t convince you to just skip to the next review in the sequence) and 2) it’s particularly relevant, and clearly intentionally so, to this past Wednesday.
Before I make any mention of the story itself and its excessive amounts of quality, let’s get a discussion of the artwork out of the way. Much has been made of Igor Kordey’s arguably poor performance on this book. I, for one, think Kordey’s work has a place in this industry, but an X-Men book is not that place. I’m not necessarily saying I want a Jim Lee-clone to take over. Just that Kordey was clearly, in my opinion, cranking out substandard work on the book. The man should be commended, I think, for keeping up with the frantic pace that Marvel and Morrison are colluding to attach to the book; that’s not in dispute. But, frankly, his art has really, from the get-go, left something to be desired. But worry no more, children; it appears his tenure on the title has mercifully drawn to a close. Phil Jimenez steps up this month for the first of several issues in a row and… Wow. Just… wow. Frank Quitely has done some really impressive things with the book and Ethan Van Sciver has turned in a competent, if unimpressive, series of issues as well. But Jimenez puts the book over so well this month that, combined with Morrison’s story, this has probably been the first truly standout issue of the run so far for me. I won’t say anything else, as the static nature of pure text cannot do justice to the scope and detail that he brings to bear here. Just check it out, it’s really rather impressive.
Morrison, for his part, turns in a script that is both a satisfying remembrance of 9/11 and a thoughtful closure (at least, I hope it’s closure) to the years of terror and drama that Magneto has brought to the X-books. The book was solicited with some sort of text that implied a parallel between the destruction of Genosha and the events of last September and, until the last half of the issue, I couldn’t really see it. Sure, there’s some really detailed shots of the devastation of the cityscape that were eerily familiar, but aside from that, nothing too close. However, the last half of the book is where Morrison really shines, in my opinion. This is one moment where I think he’s finally beginning to live up to the billing that Marvel gave him when he got on board, an issue that both die-hard X-Men fans and superhero cynics such as myself can both enjoy. Suffice it to say that this is definitely worth your $2.25. To say more would, I think, steal some of the story’s thunder.
However, one last comment: I found it oddly disturbing to hear Sabra, who makes an appearance in the issue as part of her new role in the X-Corporation, say that Magneto and Genosha brought the destruction upon themselves. It was sort of strange to see a character whose “gimmick,” if you will, was simply being Jewish, condone the wholesale slaughter of an entire nation. I mean, I think the parallels to the Holocaust in the destruction of Genosha are fairly overt. Maybe that’s just me reading too much into a passing comment.
Sabra’s comments aside, the book is an extremely entertaining read. Take a couple minutes in some place quiet and enjoy the book.
I made a big deal out of the original Hopeless Savages mini-series when it debuted last year. I preached my gospel to all and sundry that would listen to me and it is a testament to the book’s overall quality and naturally endearing characters that I reordered the entire series at least five or six times and never had an unsatisfied buyer. That having been said, this new mini just hadn’t been connecting with me for the past two issues and while this issue certainly was more enjoyable that those previous, it still isn’t clicking the way the first mini did.
And I finally figure out why: the art sucks. There, I said it. I should’ve prefaced all this by saying that, almost without exception, art means almost nothing to me so long as the story is good. So long as the art generally serves its purpose (that is, illustrating the events of the story in a reasonably clear manner), I can handle a wide variety of styles. But it wasn’t apparent to me how much I really dislike Bryan O’Malley’s work on the book until I turned a page and came face-to-proverbial-face with a flashback sequence illustrated by Christine Norrie, the artist from the original mini. And, let me tell you, I miss her.
I think the real charm of the first Hopeless Savages mini was the way in which the art and story just seemed so perfectly suited for one another. I cannot, in re-reading the original, have imagined more than a handful of other artists taking Norrie’s place (maybe Mike Allred, Darwyn Cooke, or J. Bone). In Ground Zero, it isn’t the story that’s really the problem at all. Certainly, the book loses some of its charm when the family dynamic is not fully realized (this mini, for those not familiar, focuses almost completely on Zero, the youngest Hopeless-Savage child), but it’s still a very touching and very true-to-life-feeling story as Zero struggles with the first twinges of teenage love and rejection. So I’m left with the inevitable conclusion that what’s bringing the book down is O’Malley’s pencils. It’s just, at the risk of sounding plebeian, ugly. And, to boot, it’s hard to follow. He’s just wholly unsuited for the task here.
If someone else were handling the pencils, I’d have probably given it at least four stars. But as it stands, I can’t give it any higher than .
This issue, from Image Comics, is sort of a disguise. Paradigm #1, as published under the Image logo, is actually a reprint of the first issue originally published by Two Irish Guys Press. It’s a book full of weirdness by two unknown (at least to me) creators, Matthew Cashel and Jeremy Haun. I picked it up when Two Irish Guys originally released and it was interesting enough to pick up #2. Why I picked up the reprint, I’m not really sure. The completist in me, I suppose. This issue is being hailed by Image as the debut work by the “new Brian Michael Bendis” and calling Paradigm “the new Powers.” Really all they mean by that is that they’re desperately searching for another break-out hit, something they haven’t had since Powers debuted (I recall Image’s press team saying the same things about a book released last year called Disciples; clearly it wasn’t true then either). Despite the hyperbole and some serious issues in the artistic department, Paradigm #1 is a solid debut and worth your money, even if it does have a bit of stiff price tag ($3.50).
The high concept of Paradigm is sort of hard to relate. Initially, it has some very slice-of-life overtones to it: Chris, our protagonist, silently suffers through a mundane existence of enduring sitcom after sitcom with a girlfriend that he hates, Emma. The book quickly does a 180 when the two are the victims of an attempted mugging. The mugging is only an attempt because Emma yanks a hand-cannon from its hiding place in her purse and summarily disintegrates the would-be thief’s head. This unsettling event is only the beginning of Chris’ bizarre day. Throughout the course of the issue, he will be verbally spoken to (in English, mind you) by his cat, discuss obscure poetry and theater outside a bar he’s never noticed with a man who looks frighteningly like Boy George, and finally attempt to break up with his apparently dangerously violent girlfriend. The issue culminates in a strange scene where Chris apparently alters the fabric of reality to stop a policeman from shooting him, a la The Matrix.
The story is really nothing more than a set-up for what appears to be a much great ongoing story, so it’s really rather hard to make any sort of judgment based on this issue. It’s an entertaining if sometimes confusing yarn. The story itself suffers from some poor word bubble placement that can occasionally make it hard to ascertain who exactly is saying what, though those instances are thankfully few.
The real problem with the book is the art, or more specifically, the inking. Paradigm is done entirely in black and white, a move that I applaud and wish more books would make use of. However, it’s almost unfair to call it “black and white,” as it seems the book’s inker went more than a little overboard on the black part of that equation. As it stands, the overuse of black makes it extremely difficult to follow the action of the story, much less tell what the hell it is you’re seeing. To boot, the two police officers are drawn too much alike, exacerbating one of the aforementioned instances of poor word-bubbling.
Overall, Paradigm shows promise. While I don’t think it’s quite up to par with Powers, as it is being attempted to be billed as, it makes for a nice change of pace from Image’s usual stable of poorly written licensed titles and T-and-A books. It’s worth a look, to be sure, if you’ve got an extra $3.50 this week.
Powers is a book that I honestly find quite enjoyable and well written, if a tad bit overrated at times. However, I think it suffers from what I shall from now on call “Brian Bendis Syndrome,” in that its story arcs tend to start strong, and then drag themselves out unnecessarily. This issue is no exception, furthering the overall story arc only minimally, but is filled with some powerful and disturbing imagery and a bit of an unexpected bit of character development.
Walker continues his mandatory retirement in this issue after having gone public at the close of the previous arc over the government’s involvement in the deaths of the media darling super-team, G3. Detective Pilgrim, on the other hand, hit a snag in her investigation of a string of cult-like killings of “powers” at the close of last issue: she has the person responsible in custody, but that self-same suspect will only reveal her cohorts if she can talk directly to Walker. When Pilgrim travels to Walker’s secluded retreat, the criminals make an attempt on the lives of Walker, Pilgrim and Pilgrim’s new partner. Walker and Pilgrim walk away, but Deena’s new partner is not so fortunate.
In apparently a running theme for the week, I found Deena’s actions in the holding cell after the attack to be rather disconcerting. Initially, it’s amusing, as there is a bit of back and forth between Walker and Pilgrim, who understand what is transpiring. The two “witness” their suspect “trying to escape.” The confusion of Harvey, the suspect, is certainly played here for comedic effect. However, the police brutality doled out by Pilgrim after that makes the contrast all the more disturbing as she not only pistol-whips the suspect, but also knocks out some teeth and closes her eyes. I appreciate Bendis’ attempt to show the righteous anger of Pilgrim over not only the attempts on her and Walker’s lives, but also the death of her new partner, but something about the scene just struck me as excessive, and I’m not one terribly bothered by graphic violence.
That scene aside though, the book displays the usual flair for dialogue that Bendis is known for, if it is a bit sparse due to the more action-oriented nature of the issue. Overall, it’s another solid issue of an enjoyable series.
I give it
Gotham Girls #2
Nice, light fun with a tone and artistic style intentionally similar to those found in DC’s “animated” books (Gotham / Superman Adventures). The character’s voices, while sometimes outdated for current DC continuity, are consistent with those displayed in the Batman animated series. Overall, an entertaining read for fans of the Bat-family and the Batman rogues’ gallery, if not terribly relevant to the industry as a whole.
Vertigo Pop: Tokyo #3
I couldn’t even finish the book; it’s that boring. I don’t think anything else needs to be said here.
Hunter: The Age of Magic #15
I’m afraid this story arc, due to its association with Death of The Endless, will fall into the trap of self-referential repetitiousness that many other Vertigo titles have when dealing with Gaiman’s creations. However, it’s a fairly enjoyable issue with competent, if sometimes self-indulgent, scripting by Dylan Horrocks and, as always, clean, easy-to-follow linework by Richard Case. I’m unsure how long-time fans of Books of Magic are reacting to the series (as I’m not one; I own the entire run, but have never read it), but I for one find it at least worth my five or ten minutes of reading time. If someone told me tomorrow that I could never read Hunter ever again, I doubt I’d lose any sleep, but for what it is, I’m fairly satisfied. Nothing special, and certainly one of the weak links of the Vertigo line, but fun fantasy that doesn’t tend to cover old ground very often.
It’s worth .
This book has been hit-and-miss for me. Last issue was, I think, too far into “weird for the sake of weirdness,” though thoroughly entertaining in its weirdness. This issue does much of the same, dealing with some sort of cosmic dump for corpses and used pornography, where gargantuan germs scour the landscape, but it’s still a wild read and worth the three bones it’ll cost you.
It’s not going to change your opinion of Morrison if you didn’t like him beforehand, but it’s a strangely fun read. I’d give it .
I bought but have not yet read Catwoman Secret Files & Origins #1 and Fables #5. However, given the books’ previous track records, I think it’s a safe bet to say that I’d have probably given them both somewhere between and . Also, I bought Transformers G1 #5 this week, but was so stunned by how…well, geeky…the subject matter was that I was actually too embarrassed to read it (I was at my other job at the time). Don’t expect a review of it any time soon, as what I read was fairly unremarkable.
All review ratings are out of a possible .