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Comics…Deconstructed

Robert Kirkman’s Dixie Dreggs

I realize that most of the comic book-reading world is WAY ahead of me on this one, but I’ve only recently begun to read Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead opus. At this point I’ve only read to issue five, but (being from Georgia myself) the references to my home state (most Atlanta, but Macon and Gainesville were both mentioned in issue 5) caught my attention and started me wondering if Kirkman had some specific connection with the area. While searching for more information about this, I happened upon a great commentary about Walking Dead‘s Georgia connection at the Suspension of Disbelief comics blog. Read the full article here:

http://comicfacts.blogspot.com/2005/05/walking-dead-of-dixie.html

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February 27, 2007 Posted by | Comics | 1 Comment

revenge is a dish that is best served quickly

gyakushucover.jpg

Gyakushu! (mustn’t forget the exclamation mark) … If you use the traditional Japanese pronunciation, it probably comes out sounding like a sneeze. The book reads a little like that too. When you’re done you wonder what all the buildup was about, and you’re not sure if it felt good or not.

The concept is a sound one – revenge in the guise of a bandaged ex-thief whose peaceful family life has been stolen from him by a sadist and his master – but it plays out in fits and starts and never really gains the momentum such a story so desperately needs. We’ve all seen it before, so the subtle differences of tone, design, and energy are what can set a book (or movie, or TV show) like this apart.

The overall look of the art is sorta, well… okay. It’s anime meets Genndy Tartakovsky meets Adobe Illustrator. Nothing wrong with it, it just seems to be looking for it’s own style in a melange of reference points. Dan Hipp shows great potential in some of his framing and perspective choices (the overhead views of scenes are particularly memorable), but it doesn’t cover up the overall lack of solid basics like character design. The thief looks really cool, as do the bad guys, but some of the supporting characters’ look so similar, I found myself questioning their identities and confusing them. While this may turn out to simply be an annoying plot device, it is just that…annoying.

Speaking of annoying, an omniscient narrator whose identity will likely be revealed near the end of the series speaks to the reader in a superior tone right out of storyteller college. The conceit works for a bit, but soon becomes tiresome. I’d much rather close the gap between myself and the thief. The narrator puts a big fourth wall between us every time, and tries to tell us things we ought to be shown. Like I mentioned before, I believe a story like this requires momentum to be successful, and the narrator is a momentum stopper every time.

There are other stylistic bungles too. I’d guess about a third of the book occurs in flashback, and those pages are printed in much lighter tones than the boldly B&W present day portions of the book. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is. I found myself questioning whether or not I’d gotten a defective copy with bad printing on some pages. It wasn’t hard to figure out, but the bold pages made the faded pages look bad in contrast.

I’d guess this series will get better as it goes along. I really wanted to like it (I bought it didn’t I?). I like the thief, and revenge stories are always welcome at my house, but this one falls a little short.

Gyakushu! Volume One
by Dan Hipp
A Tokyopop Manga
first printing February 2007

February 23, 2007 Posted by | Comics | Leave a comment

A Tornadic Request

 

 

To: Brad Meltzer

From: The Pete

We beg you, Brad. Really, we do. Stop having characters call Red Tornado “Reddy”. It’s annoying. Thanks!

February 22, 2007 Posted by | Comics | Leave a comment

Insert Oreo Joke Here

 

You know, I like the Martian Manhunter. I really do. But is there a character that has proven more difficult to handle in the DC universe? J’onn J’onzz has been around a long, long time and has been subjected to an amazing array of interpretations by a cadre of writers and artists: Gene Colan, John Ostrander, Tom Mandrake, J.M. Dematteis, Keith Giffen, etc. Some have tried approaches that are deadly earnest; some have made him the “do-boy” of the JLA/JLI/JLE/JL-whatever, while others have made J’onn a figure of fun. Still, the character languishes just on the periphery of icon status; it seems few know what to do with him, and this includes (unfortunately) the latest incarnation of everyone’s favorite Martian Manhunter, written by A.J. Lieberman with art by Al Barrionuevo. The creative team earns kudos for their redesign of the Manhunter. Though some fanboys may be upset by some or all of the changes, I am eternally grateful that they ditched the “short pants” and bare-chested costume of days gone by and replaced it with something darker and sleeker. Even at his most lighthearted moments (think 1980s-era JLA), J’onn was always a quiet, introspective character. Now his costume and character design matches his persona. Barrionuevo gets no gripes from me. I’m even in favor of the further “alienization” of J’onn’s facial/cranial appearance, as it further accentuates how much of an outsider he truly is.

While the graphic design element of this new Martian Manhunter series seems dead-on, I’m less sure about the story. The first issue, and the part of it that first appeared in the Brave New World special, was definitely enticing. J’onn’s quest for other Martians on the planet Earth was filled with conspiracy and a much more violent (yet motivated) version of the character. However, as the series has continued, much of the forward momentum it gained in the first few issues has ebbed. I’m unsure of where the story is going, and what’s more, I’m not sure I care. It often seems to focus more on peripheral characters than on J’onzz himself, and some of the new Martians included in the series just look and act plain silly.

I haven’t given up on you yet J’onny! I promise. I’ll keep reading for the time being, and update this entry as time passes. Just don’t bring back the short pants guys!

February 21, 2007 Posted by | Comics | Leave a comment

How Flannel Killed a Comic Book

 

I can’t get over it. I’ve tried. Believe me, I’ve tried. The writers of IGN’s weekly comics wrapup continue to rate Avengers Next as one of their Must Read books. So, figuring I must be missing out on a good thing, I picked up a few of the most recent issues and sat down to soak in the greatness. That’s just it though….it WASN’T great. In fact, I never really got past the first few pages. Why? Because one of the characters wears a flannel shirt around his waist. I mean, this is supposed to be the next generation of Avengers (or something like that…what does that make the Young Avengers then?), not a team that graphically hearkens back to the days of Eddie Vedder and Rob Liefeld. So call me judgmental….call me unfairly biased against the leftovers from the early 90s flannel-wearin’ generation….but I can’t read this book. Sorry IGN.

February 20, 2007 Posted by | Comics, Commentary | Leave a comment

Spider-Man: Reign (Continued)

 

Strip away all comparisons to Frank Miller and what is left of Kaare Andrews’ Spider-Man: Reign? Surprisingly, more than most might at first think, and certainly more than is typical of a “What If…?” style book. At its core, Reign is, as all good Spider-Man properties should be, about Peter Parker. In all the years I’ve read the various writer’s incarnations of Spider-Man, it’s interesting that I have never given much thought to what Peter would look/sound/act like as an old man. Interesting, because it could be argued that, since his Uncle Ben’s death at least, Peter has ALWAYS acted like an old man – living out the life lesson (“With great power comes great responsibility.”) bestowed on him by his aging uncle. Andrews explores this notion further than many writers by giving us a Peter Parker who is both familiar (the obsessive guilt, the unending unhappiness shrouded by one-liners) and alien (in appearance, if nothing else). This, then, is virgin ground, and Andrews treads carefully in his future treatment of this icon. Front and center, as always, is Peter’s guilt, which is used as a motivating factor behind his refusal to be Spider-Man any more.

If I have a quibble with the series, it’s with its depiction of J. Jonah Jameson. First off, how OLD is this geezer? Peter looks to be at least in his seventies…wouldn’t that make Jameson well over 100? It is the future, I guess, so advanced medical technology might be used as reasoning behind Jonah’s unusual health at such an old age. Second, Jameson’s “born again” views of Spider-Man stretch credibility. While it makes for an interesting read, and I certainly won’t deny that, it’s a bit difficult to see J.J.J. having some sort of Saul/Paul conversion on whatever road in New York is equivalent to the one to Damascus.

The most intriguing story elements are also the ones that involve spoilers, so I will refrain from all but the most obtuse statements:

  1. The villain behind all of the mayhem? There’s only one it COULD be.
  2. The cause of Peter’s extraordinary guilt? This one goes WAY beyond Uncle Ben, and it makes sense, to boot!

Read the books (issues 1 through 3 are out now) and leave comments here.

February 19, 2007 Posted by | Comics | Leave a comment

Reign – Kaare Andrews – Issues 1, 2 and 3

I suppose I don’t hold to the popular opinion on Kaare Andrew’s Reign. Most of the comments I have seen or read seem to dismiss the work entirely based on the fact that it is a blatant homage to Frank Miller’s seminal Dark Knight series. But…the problem with these criticisms is that Reign IS a BLATANT homage. Andrews goes to great lengths to wear his inspiration on his sleeve. That the main newscaster’s name is “Miller Varley” is only the beginning – the muted, shadow-filled color palette, the dystopian future, and the use of children as a source of hope are all in one way or another connected to Miller’s masterwork. So, why is this such a problem for critics? True, in a general sense there is a lack of originality, but this is only a fair evaluation to a point. There is a substantive difference between the heft and import of a work like Dark Knight and Reign. The Dark Knight Returns represents more than just a good/great comic book story; it was and is a watershed event. It represents a turning point for the comic book form, and can’t/shouldn’t be compared to other works that it inspires. I won’t pretend that Reign even approaches Dark Knight. I would be a fool to do so – and so would those who unfairly attempt to make it more than a decent read that tips its hat now and again to Miller’s legacy.

Enough about that for now…. Next time, some comments about the comic itself.

February 18, 2007 Posted by | Comics | Leave a comment