Man of the Moment

Sean William Scott

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Rock 'N' Roll, by Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba, Bruno D'Angelo and Kako

This book is a bit of an odd beast. There's the semblance of a narrative, but it's more a series of loosely-connected vignettes that add up to a story. I hate to use the dreaded term "pop comics" but I'm at a loss to find another adjective. The impression I get from the book is that it was made in a burst of creative energy, assembling the components necessary to make the book fast and cool and of the moment. Or a "rock and roll" comic, as it were. It's not meant to provoke any deeper thoughts or reflections in the reader other than simple enjoyment. On that score it succeeds admirably. It's brief and to the point, with spectacular, sharp contrast black and white artwork that strongly conveys the personality the characters spotlighted in each chapter, but are excellent matches for the strengths of the artists illustrating those chapters.

DMZ #s 1 & 2, by Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchelli
Testament #1, by Douglas Rushkoff and Liam Sharp

I want to talk about these two comics together because I can't escape from the conclusion that they're largely the same comic, just dressed up in different clothes. They share a very similar theme: both are set in a near future America that is explicitly being used as a commentary on contemporary American politics. But it's the way in which they approach their subject matter I find most interesting. In terms of subtlety of message, Rushkoff relies on allegory, drawing a comparison between Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac to compulsory military draft programs. Wood, meanwhile, wields the big stick of meaning to beat the reader repeatedly over the head with the point he's trying to drive home. They sharply differ in artistic approach as well, with Sharp using an elegant, detailed line to create a thoroughly realistic world, while Burchelli's art is much rougher and stylistic, going for a more visceral, emotional reaction to the art, with the even more evocatively stylistic Wood contributing covers and a few pages here and there in his high-contrast, almost wood-block like style.

They're both very good comics, but the differences between them make for an engaging study of intended audience. Wood and Burchelli are going for a raw, visceral reaction, while Rushkoff and Sharp are aiming for a more nuanced, sophisticated look at the issues being discussed. DMZ, with it's raw energy and barely focused outrage seems tailor made for an intelligent, politically curious teen. The type of person, in other words, who is still young enough to think that "war hurts children" is a deep observation. The book acts as a guiding hand, and a focus for all that youthful energy to compare the fictional war and political situations of the comic to those of today. Testament is going for an older and better educated audience. The kind of audience that neither needs nor wants to have their hand held and is perfectly capable of understanding symbolism and allegory in their reading without having to have it explained to them step by step.

The end result is that Testament is exactly the sort of smart, sophisticated comic I wish there were more of, while DMZ, as good as it is, makes me feel like I'm about ten years too old to be reading it.

Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk #1, by Damon Lindelof, Leinil Francis Yu and Dave McCaig

This is shit. No, really, this is a terrible, terrible comic. This is Quadro Gang level bad. The only reason I don't flat out say that this is the worst comic I have ever seen in my life is because I saw that What If comic that came out a week or so ago, in which every single picture of Wolverine was swiped from another comic. People who aren't blind apparently like Yu's work, but I can't see why. Apart from the over-rendered faces, it's simply ugly, amateurish work. And the writing is no better. From a preposterous in media res beginning, the story devolves through layers of flash-backs to tell a story designed to gouge readers of the Ultimate line out of whatever money they have. Either that, or both Ultimates and Ultimate X-Men are running so late that a story that really should be told in one of those books got spun off into its own title. To be honest, it's probably not even a story that needed to be told.
This is the kind of crap that makes me really, really hate comics.


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