Man of the Moment

Sean William Scott

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Reviews Day! 

Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13, by Marc Guggenheim and Tony Daniel, published by DC Comics

I'm hard-pressed to think of what the point of this comic was. If we are expected to take DC creative types at their word, that the entire point of this Flash series was simply to kill off Bart Allen so that we'd be grateful that they brought back the "one, true Flash," it strikes me as nothing more than proof that there is a death fetishism running rampant through modern super-hero comics. That interpretation certainly seems borne out by the comic, in which it is emphasized over and over again that Bart Allen isn't "worthy" of being the Flash. A more likely explanation would be that, rather than ignoring the fans, as super-hero publishers are often accused of doing, DC looked at the steadily declining sales of the title, replaced the creative team (a better creative team, that was actually starting to do something interesting with the title, in my opinion), and went out of their way to give the vocal message boarding and blogging fans what they seemed to have wanted: Bart dead, Wally back. Which leads to a final issue that's frankly a creative train-wreck.

The Highwaymen #1, by Marc Bernardin, Adam Freeman and Lee Garbet, published by DC/Wildstorm

A near future crime-caper with snappy dialogue, slick art and action-movie ludicrousness that doesn't devolve into self-parody. In other words, a good, surprising little treat that appears to have snuck in under the radar. Two ex-, well, secret agents supposedly, but it's not quite clear, are activated when a (supposedly) rogue element in national security attempts to track down a decades old secret. There's just enough of a teasing and ambiguity in this introduction to make it plausible that we don't quite know who the good guys are supposed to be, but the tale is told so strongly and entertainingly that finding out more promises to be fun.
Garbet's art is new to me, and he has a very good sense of storytelling, with good action scenes, and unique and expressive characters. Visually, it reminds me slightly of a cross between Steve Dillon and Frank Quitely, without aping either of those styles, but occuping a kind of middle-ground between them.

Gintama volume 1, by Hideaki Sorachi, published by Viz

I was looking for something high concept, but not too serious, and I got it. Mostly. In an alternative Japan, aliens have invaded and corrupted the government. To secure their position, they've outlawed the samurai and confiscated all their swords. But, really, that's all just a pretense for allowing Sorachi to draw anachronistic technologies and funky aliens in his farcical samurai comedy. And farce it is, with broad characters and slapstick comedy, and an oddly literal approach to comedy and jokes that seems at odds with the surreality of the situation. Many of the characters are stock types to the point of stereotypes: ooh, the hard-bitten tough guy, the wacky nerd sidekick, the tough-girl side-kick, the crusty landlord with a heart of gold, the mysterious ally/enemy from the past, etc. It's hard to tell whether the characters are meant as parodies of the type, or simply the result of lack of experience as a writer. But there's the root of something there, and Gintama wouldn't be the first manga with a rough opening to improve in later volumes. The art, scrunchy and distorted, but with a careful detail, has some attraction, and between that and the potential in the work, I think I can give it the benefit of the doubt for a couple of books.

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