19 February 2005

ménage à trois: 2/16/05

[One Marvel, one DC, both published the previous Wednesday, plus a random indie from whenever I feel like it, each reviewed quickie-style: 1 Minute=bad, 10 Minutes=good. Connections, if any at all, may be forced purely for the experience.]

It was all about the Distinguished Competition this week as Marvel's output was overshadowed by the terribly lame, terribly short-sighted conclusion to Mark Millar's "Enemy of the State" story arc in Wolverine. I'm officially boycotting anything he's involved with! Their one saving grace came thanks to Brian K. Vaughan and the first issue of Volume 2 of Runaways. On the flip side, a solid week from DC was marred by an eyesore of an issue in Robin #135, while on the indie side, Dark Horse represents with the intriguing debut of damn nation. All in all, it's a roller coaster ride for the week.

Ex Machina. Ultimate X-Men. Y: The Last Man (which I'm following slowly in the trades). I'm starting to think Brian K. Vaughan is a freak of nature because it seems unreasonable that he should be able to consistently turn out such quality work across such a diverse range of titles. I missed the first go-round of Runaways because I resisted the hype, wary about Marvel's attempts at anything close to an original idea. My loss, apparently, as Vaughan's concept of a group of kids who find out their parents are a team of super-villians actually works, largely thanks to his skillful scripting and characterization, and Adrian Alphona and Craig Yeung's clean, crisp artwork. Vaughan does a great job of reintroducing the team, recapping just enough of what's happened previously without any annoying, unrealistic exposition, that new readers can easily jump in without ever having read the first volume. He does such a good job, though, that you'll want to go back. No plot summary here, suffice to say Vaughan and company pull off such a feat that they manage to make the Wrecking Crew, Darkhawk and Richochet all look cool. Ricochet, attending an AA-style group for former teenaged superheroes, gets the best line in the book: "I wasn't a super-hero...I was superfluous." Vaughan's taking even more money out of my wallet: 9 Minutes

While Marvel giveth, DC taketh away, as Robin #135 edges the book closer to the guilliotine. I'm a fan of good writing first and a bit more forgiving on the art side of the equation as long as it doesn't distract from the story. I added Robin to my pull list back when Spoiler took over as the Girl Wonder in #126, and stuck with it through the uneven War Games and its gratuitous two-issue crossover with Batgirl, enjoying Willingham's spin on Tim Drake more than anything else, while excusing Damion Scott's art as an acquired taste that was slowly growing on me. Unfortunately, he pulls a 180 this issue, delivering a partially self-inked, muddled mess of crowded layouts and convoluted visual story-telling that completely ruins the annoyingly decompressed story that's essentially one long fight scene with a few interludes that pick up on some threads introduced last issue without moving any of them forward. Perhaps the announcement of Scott McDaniel taking over the art chores with #139 caused him to phone this one, because it is truly one of the ugliest comics I've ever seen that I didn't draw myself. And I, dear reader, am no artist: 3 Minutes

I am rarely influenced by covers, knowing better than to judge a book by one, but I stood around Midtown Comics this Wednesday for an extra 45 minutes, waiting for them to unpack every single box to make sure I got a copy of damn nation #1, purely on the basis of its creepy cover. Of course, it was in the last box, so the pressure for it to not suck was intense! No pun intended, as damn nation is a vampire book that posits a world where a plague has swept across the United States, forcing the living to flee as it seals its borders to keep the enemy in. None of this comes clear in the first issue, though, as writer Andrew Cosby takes an oblique approach to introducing the story, starting five years in the past and showing what happened without actually spelling it out, then jumping forward to the present, and still not explicitly defining the situation. Tellingly, Cosby's background is in TV and film, and his approach here takes its cue from those forms, assuming the reader has been "teased" already and allowing his story to unfold cinematically, building tension every step of the way. Surprisingly effective is J. Alexander's muddy artwork, which I hated during his fill-in stint on Gotham Central recently. Here, his layouts capture the dark, claustrophobic atmosphere of the story perfectly, and his use of color, while at times a bit too dark, adds to the foreboding feel of Cosby's story. The only negative is that it's apparently only a three issue mini-series, so I can't see Cosby having enough room to tell a complete story. Nevertheless, I'm onboard to see if he pulls it off: 9 Minutes

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