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Thursday, August 11, 2005
First Issue Reviews
While I was busy moving, a small back-log of material that I'd been asked to look at piled up. Here's my take on it.
Hero Squared #1 by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Joe Abraham
I reviewed the prologue issue some time ago and enjoyed it. This new mini picks up the story of a super-hero forced to live with a slacker version of himself from an alternate dimension. Or is that the other way around? To be honest, I'm finding this series much more enjoyable, and yes, funnier, than Giffen and DeMatteis' more recent DC and Marvel collaborations. The fact that the series stands on it's own, and the world-building that has gone into it, make it a more satisfying read. And Joe Abraham's art still retains that expressive quality that makes it appealing, but without the soft, unfocused look which distracted me in the special. In short, a good, funny take on the trappings of the super-hero genre.
Godland #1 by Joe Casey and Tom Scioli
I'll be bluntly direct from the beginning: I've never much cared, aesthetically, for Jack Kirby's art, or for the various pastiches of his style that other artists have adopted over the years. Nor have I ever been much for "cosmic" storytelling. So this is not the kind of book I'd have ever picked up for myself, despite Joe Casey earning enough good-will from me as a writer to warrant me at least looking at most of his new projects. Now, that being said, this is certainly the type of comic that should appeal to lots of comic readers. Scioli's art is a good match for the over-the-top, cosmic tone of the series. It straddles a fine line between parody and homage, as does Casey's story. It's a very dry parody, played completely straight-faced, of some of the stylistic beats and excesses of Silver Age Marvel comics, mixed in with a healthy dose of Ditko-era Charlton weirdness and self-importance, particularly in its Captain Atom-esque protagonist. And it's not the sort of approach that could have worked unless Casey and Scioli were found of this era of comics story-telling. It's fast-paced, high-energy, high concept work that should strongly appeal to Kirby fans and fans of cosmic-style story-telling. And the last-page villain reveal alone is priceless.
G.I. Spy #1 by Andrew Cosby and Matt Haley
In this quirky premiere issue we're introduced to Jack Shepard, American spy, on his first assignment to South America during the second World War. It's a very dryly humorous story, as Shepard's attempts to meet up with his partner turns into a comedy of errors. Cosby's able to maintain that tone throughout, giving us appealing leads in both Shepard and his far more competent British partner Kaitlin Hunter. If there's a flaw in this first issue, it's that the objectives of the villains are left rather vague, with only brief, enigmatic cameos by the figures promising to be the central villains. Matt Haley's art is also worth mentioning. He has a very fine, smooth line, with a realistic style. The "acting" of the figures is also quite good, and Shepard has one of the best smug smirks I've ever seen in a comic book. Haley brings an excellent blend of character-based drawing and action to the series that complements Cosby's script immensely. G.I. Spy should be in comics shops next week, and if you're in the mood for tongue-in-cheek spy adventures, you should check it out.
I also wanted to draw some attention to two of the best stapled-comics I've bought recently. Both Desolation Jones #2 by Warren Ellis and J.H. Williams III and JLA: Classified #10 by Ellis and Butch Guice, were truly excellent works. In Jones Ellis writes one of the most emotionally effective scenes I've come across in a comic in years, in the interaction between Jones and Emily Crowe. It's a touching portrait of the devastation of emotional isolation and the power of simple human care and concern. As much ire is directed at Ellis for his "gruff bastard" characterizations, he still has a far stronger sense of emotion and how to portray it than most other comics writers.
Similarly, his portrayals of Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, and especially Lois Lane in the first chapter of "New Maps of Hell" is some of the deftest, most appealing looks at the characters I've seen in some time. Kent and Lane actually feel not only like real journalists, but a loving couple, aware of each other's strengths and weaknesses and confident in each other's abilities to do their respective jobs well. It was also quite satisfying to see a Batman portrayal that emphasized the detective and mystery-man angle of the character. Ellis says quite a bit about the character of Bruce Wayne in several short scenes that are well worth remembering as a reference point for future portrayals.