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Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Mystery in Space #1 by Jim Starlin, Shane Davis, Matt Banning and Al Milgrom
I'm genuinely surprised that Captain Comet and The Weird would be the stars of a good space opera comic. It's not even as if either character really has much of a cult following, with The Weird having only appeared in a four-issue mini prior to this while Captain Comet has been relegated to guest and supporting roles in other people's titles for years now.
It's a very, for lack of a more precise term, "comic booky" comic. It's got a media res opening that serves primarily to give Captain Comet an excuse to talk to himself about his past and how he ended up in this situation, before starting in on a series of flashbacks allowing other characters the opportunity to explain who Comet is. In fact, this entire first issue is very heavily geared towards the expository. There's a "mystery" here, to be sure, but it's barely touched upon in this issue, just glimpsed in quick flashes of a capitalist church and Comet's death and resurrection. So it helps that all the exposition is entertaining. The book highlights one of the things that has been a strength at DC lately; taking the disparate bits of their long history and putting them together in new and interesting combinations, but while keeping the characters grounded in a recognizable and familiar state. This is especially on display in the reintroduction of The Weird and his new relationship to Captain Comet. There's something really quite charming in Weird's nearly meta-textual talking to himself as he recounts, to himself, aloud, his own history, and description of ritualized super-hero combat at first meeting.
Shane Davis's art has a slick, fan-appealing quality to it that serves the book well. Where it pales is in comparison to the Starlin penciled back-up. Starlin's elegant art looks a tad old-fashioned in comparison to Davis's, but it's simplicity is more engaging.
Rex Mundi: The Lost Kings by Arvid Nelson, Eric J, Jeromy Cox, Jim DiBartolo and Juan Ferreyra
I've only been reading this compelling alternate-history mystery series in trade forms, which makes the advent of a new volume somewhat frustrating as, after two movies, I'm no longer sure in which box the first two volumes may be. I've forgotten both small and significant details, and the series is so densely plotted that I'm no longer certain if things I don't quite recall are significant or not. Nelson does a fairly good job of covering the basics and reminding the reader of important details when they come up again, so in the end I didn't have too much difficulty in catching myself back up. Which is good, as I do strongly enjoy and recommend this series. I'm usually skittish about alternate history tales, but Nelson and his artists have crafted an interesting world in which occult secret societies flourish and conspire against each other in a world in which the Protestant Reformation never succeeded. A great many of the conspiracy elements that Nelson draws from have been popular in other recent fictions, notably in The DaVinci Code, but whereas those other authors insistence on "this is all TRUE!!!" renders me incapable of taking their work seriously, the deliberately and ostentatiously fictional nature of Nelson's story allows those elements to work. We can believe in a vast Templar conspiracy tied to the true lineage of the Merovingian kings, because once we accept that people use magic to light cigarettes it doesn't strain credibility.
The shifting artists on display in this volume is somewhat distracting, and some artists are certainly inferior to others. But they all retain enough of a consistency in their page layouts and character design that those distractions aren't insurmountable.