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Thursday, June 14, 2007
Black Diamond #1, by Larry Young and John Proctor, published by AiT/Planet Lar
The Black Diamond is the kind of high-concept, patently ludicrous idea you might have expected to see in a movie from one the less reputable production companies in the late 70s or early 80s. And I say that with love. I was a kid who grew up on Hawk the Slayer and Cannonball Run and Radioactive Dreams, and it probably warped me into the kind of person who, frequently, will value entertainment value over "logic." And so, this book, which suggests that American conservative movement would build a transcontinental highway and abandon it to gear-heads, criminals and filthy hippies in order to keep normal surface roads safe for family values voters. It's the next logical step to every car chase movie ever made. And while Young puts together a plot, something about a wife being kidnapped by terrorists, thus neccessitating the mild mannered dentist hero to embark on a cross-country drive, it's really just a pretext to set up the potential for mayhem. If there's a significant flaw in that, it is that this issue serves only as prologue: we don't get to see the mayhem. Though a short back-up strip by Dennis Culver provides a humorous insight into daily life on the Black Diamond. Jon Proctor's art on the main story is highly stylized and expressionistic. I suspect it's probably going to be too stylized for many readers, those accustomed to a slicker, more commercial style, but for me it works on this book.
Elephantmen #9, by Starkings and Moritat, published by Image
The outstanding sci-fi comic does a quiet, "day in the life" story about Hip Flask trying to get home with some groceries. It's a short seeming story, but it still is typical of the deft characterization and humanity that informs the Elephantmen series as a whole. In just a few pages we get a telling character sketch about Hip, a truck driver, some peril and an action sequence. It could almost act as a model for comics shorts.
MPD Psycho vol. 1, by Sho-U Tajima and Eiji Otsuka, published by Dark Horse
I'll admit I have something of a preference for the dark in my manga. I've been waiting eagerly for this series, particularly after the spectaculr Kurosagi Corpse Deliverey Service, also by Otsuka. This is a bit of a different beast from that series, though. While Kurosagi is ultimately optimistic, this is a much more pessimistic book, viewing humanity through a far more jaundiced view. It mixes the horror, sci-fi and thriller genres, with heavy elements of paranoia through a conspiracy sub-plot. Oh, and the protagonist is a detective with multiple personalites. One of which is a killer. The brutality of the book probably deserves some special mention. It's shocking and graphic, but it never comes off as lurid or titilating or pandering. Thanks to Tajima's clear, smooth-line art style and carefully detailed work, the horrible nature of the crimes are presented almost dispasionately and analytically. It's that coldness that communicates the horror.