Man of the Moment

Sean William Scott

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Quick Reviews 

American Splendor #s 2 & 3, by Harvey Pekar and others, published by DC/Vertigo
I am not the right audience for autobiographical comics. The memoir genre, as a whole, holds little interest for me. There's a fine line between self-examination and navel-gazing, and most works fall on the wrong side of it. Pekar's work is probably the best example of the genre you can find, and I can't deny the quality of the writing in these comics. It's interesting and compelling work, and the art is, on the whole, excellent, though occasionally somewhat of a odd fit for the kind of story being told. The best pairings, art-wise, are the pieces illustrated by Dean Haspiel, who has the strongest sense of what makes Pekar's writing work and an ability to translate that to the page.

Elephantmen # 4, by Richard Starkings and Moritat, published by Image
This is a very quiet issue for this series, mostly consisting of flashbacks to the early days of the Elephantmen, revealing some of the experimentation conducted on them, and a conversation between Ebony and the cab-driver from last issue, Miki, in which the place of the genetically modified former soldiers in a world at peace is explained. As usual, the art is exquisite, and the story, despite being a tad heavy on the exposition side, does a good job of filling in details on the world it takes place in, while very deftly injecting some pathos into the tale so far. A very strong sense of the tragedy of the Elephantmen is portrayed here, which is a strong credit towards the writing on this series.

Jonah Hex # 13, by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti and Jordi Bernet, published by DC/Vertigo
This issue marks the beginning of a multi-part tale depicting the origin of the titular bounty hunter. It's a tricky proposition, as the mystery of the character's past has always worked better when it trickles out in dark hints and suggestions. As a consequence, the story somewhat fails to live up to reader expectations, which is a shame, as in general I quite enjoy Gray and Palmiotti's take on the character and this series so far. To be precise, the story isn't as spectacular as it's import would suggest. Bernet's art, as usual, is excellent. His normal style appears somewhat modified, taking on a slight resemblance to period woodcuts; rougher and blockier than is typical of what I've seen of his work.

Planetary Brigade: Origins #1 by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Julia Bax, published by Boom! Studios
Giffen and DeMatteis pull off a neat trick in their latest spin-off from Hero Squared; producing a comic that is at once a faithful recreation of classic "Marvel style" comics, and a parody of the same. The mocking tone never quite manages to overpower the superheroics, but it's a strong enough thread of metatextual commentary through the story as to form the backbone of the comic. Or, to put it another way, it's a far more subtle take on the "funny superhero book" than has been the standard of late. Or, to put it another way again, it's chattier than a Chris Claremont comic, while being funny on purpose.

Tony Loco #1 by Mark Teague and Derek McCaw, published by Illusive Arts
This new series from the publishers of Dorothy focuses on the mute inmate of a mental hospital. The staff is uncaring, save for one social worker recently assigned, and Tony's vision of the world around him is tinged by surreal symbolism. Teague's art is wonderfully expressive in a caricature style, with a sharp eye for portraying personality and characterization. There's a strong sense of mood and foreboding to the story as well, but unfortunately this first issue does little beyond establishing a sense of place. It does this very well, in fact, but too little story actually occurs in this first issue to really give any sense of what the series is about. Based on this first issue I'm expecting a psychological horror story, but promotional artwork leads me to expect a super-hero tale. It's a very notable flaw in an issue which is intended to introduce a reader to the series, and an especially frustrating one because otherwise the comic is very good.
Some preview materials are available on the publisher's web-site.
(Edited to correct artist misidentification.)


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