Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Week in Review

DMZ #3
Writer: Brian Wood

Artists: Brian Wood & Riccardo Burchielli
Oh the horrors of being a hipster in the midst of an ambiguous civil war, and no coffee shops in The Village left in operation? It truly is hell on earth.

This issue begins with the United States beginning an invasion of Manhattan, reclaiming it into a world in which there are people over 26 years old (totally lame, old people, they’re such fascists with their suburbs and carwashes and responsibility to their families). Matty, our hero, finds himself plunged into the role of an actual reporter and in the middle of a shootout between American and rebel forces. It plays out in the same way Vin Diesel’s final scene in Saving Private Ryan does, trapped by sniper fire, except the American soldiers swear a lot and act hardboiled because they’re bad and stuff.

Anyways, since Matty has apparently becomes loosely affiliated with the fascist American bastards when he’s forced at knifepoint to help one of their numbers out of a jam. Zee, his tour guide/love interest/white-girl-with-dreadlocks decides she’s had enough of him and takes off. She does so despite her volunteering to help the American soldier herself, arty chicks are a fickle breed.

By the end of the story Matty is alone, wandering the city and covering the war unaccredited for this worlds equivalent of FOX NEWS. You may have noticed I’ve recapped most everything in the comic, I’d feel like I was spoiling a story if I thought there was one.

Now we’re three issues deep and I have no clue what writer Brian Wood is trying to accomplish with this book. If it’s some sort of political allegory it’s terribly broad and un-focused. We still don’t know what the conflict between Manhattan and America is about and frankly the post-apocalyptic world he’s constructed doesn’t ring true in any way. It seems to be filled only with apolitical twenty-something peaceniks that use the opportunity to live out some Mad Max fantasies, well maybe more like The Postman fantasies.

Now that the first story arc has concluded I think I’ll be dropping this book. Despite solid artwork by Riccardo Burchelli and the few fantastic pages illustrated by Wood in every issue the series feels too aimless. And let’s not forget the concerns of the books main character. Granted it’s a book featuring a guy in his early twenties, but in the middle of such a bizarre and tragic conflict your primary concern should not be trying to turn it into a career opportunity. That’s not something I give a damn about reading. I’m not saying that this story can’t be used to communicate anxieties about finding a place for yourself in the world but it’s all we hear about from Matty and he comes off as self involved to an irredeemable fault. Too much emo in a time of war.
**/****

Desolation Jones #5
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: J.H. Williams III
Now here’s a book that knows how to maintain a sense of mystery. We finally get a glimpse at the procedure that transformed our hero into the emaciated, sun fearing, super (?) agent (?) Desolation Jones.

Why the question marks you ask, well he certainly comes off as more of a lab rat than anything else in this flashback. The scientists treat him as a worthless guinea pig and Jones seems to have no clue what he’s in for. It’s all fantastically creepy.

The only problem with the book is that it’s almost completely impossible to follow without reviewing the previous issues first. Entire pages are filled to the brim with plot information containing more names than your local phonebook. But, with J.H. Williams III’s absolutely breathtaking artwork and Ellis’s hardboiled style it avoids becoming a chore to get through, but just barely. It helps that it begins with the flashback to the experiments and ends with some uber-stylish violence.

Seriously, the artwork in this book is absolutely amazing. Williams is capable of switching up styles like almost nobody else. This book is a masterpiece of visual storytelling.
****/****

Daughters of The Dragon #1
Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray
Artist: Khari Evans
This is a fun one: Dual female bail-bondsmen with a very open aversion to bras.

There are big action scenes, lots of jokes at the expense of C-list super villains and loads and loads of well-drawn T&A. What else can I say? Nothing much, I really have no familiarity with the two leads, Misty Knight and Colleen Wing, but it’s a kick to look at them.
***/****

Ultimate Extinction #1
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Brandon Peterson
Finally, the climactic series of Ellis’s Ultimate Galactus storyline begins.

This is one hell of a set-up issue, first we get a glimpse of what Gah Lak Tus is capable of (via hologram) and we’re introduced to a couple of new characters: Misty Knight (hey, she’s from the last book!) and the Ultimate Silver Surfer.

Ellis once again proves himself to be greatest sci-fi writers in comics. Turns out that massive figure on the cover isn’t the big guy at all, it’s a “Gah Lak Tus bullet”. A gigantic machine that drains the energy stored within the earths core while Gah Lak Tus drives the world insane with psychic frequencies and throws off our gravitational pull, he’s “some one hundred miles across” you see. Vanilla Galactus is such a pussy.

Misty Knight, meanwhile, has been hired to track down the errant wife of a mysterious Edward Schaffer who has run off and joined a cult, a cult that worships one Ultimate Silver Surfer (sans surfboard but he rocks some modernist wings that resemble details seen on cars of the fifties, they work well).

Now that’s how you kick off a story arc.

It’s also nice to see the series being graced by a solid artist, Brandon Peterson. His work is nothing flashy but it nicely fits the grittier, realist Ultimate universe. It beats Trevor Hairsine's weak and murky work on Ultimate Nightmare and I'm betting Peterson will be more reliable than the great Steve McNiven was on Ultimate Secret.
***1/2/****

12 comments:

buckshot said...

Well, well. Look who finally decides to chime in.

Great stuff, man. And I'm not just saying that because I pretty much agree with you 100%.

DMZ sort of stumbled a bit with this issue, and even though the art is pretty stellar, I think I may have to drop this one as well. I admire Wood's ambition, I just don't think he's quite *there* yet. This sorta just feels like the comic book equivalent of playing Rage Against the Machine really loud, or posting a picture of George W Bush with a Photoshopped Hitler mustache on your blog.

Desolation Jones might not be anything groundbreaking as far as Ellis is concerned, but it's still a hell of a read. And right on about the art, man. Right fucking on.

Ultimate Extinction was pretty good. I wasn't crazy about the artwork, but it got you from Point A to Point B, at least. Loving these new spins on Galactus and Surfer. The overall narrative here has suffered greatly at the hands of decompressed storytelling, but this last hurrah might be able to drum up a bit of excitement from me, if things can stay at this level.

JRennoldz said...

The good Doctor is finally up in the joint!!! 999 gun salute!

Great reviews, fun format and hey, most of them are books I copped.

Good job man and thanks for rolling through. Go weekly No.

DrNO said...

Thanks folks. I at least got my foot in the door before AFKAP (c'mon man' hurry up' we need a "comic geeks fuckin' kill me" post).
And damnit Buckshot with comments like this: "This sorta just feels like the comic book equivalent of playing Rage Against the Machine really loud, or posting a picture of George W Bush with a Photoshopped Hitler mustache on your blog" you oughta be doing reviews instead of me. You could be the comic book equivilant of Rex Reed.
And i will be trying to make this weekly. As weekly as my schedule allows at least, getting to the comic shop can be quite a trek at times (like when you rely on a bus in this city: http://www.its.caltech.edu/~jeffb/images/winnipeg2.jpg)
.

Brian Wood said...

""This sorta just feels like the comic book equivalent of playing Rage Against the Machine really loud, or posting a picture of George W Bush with a Photoshopped Hitler mustache on your blog""

the assumption that this is a left-wing book railing against the right is interesting. i guess if people know me and know I voted for Kerry, they can make that leap, but otherwise...?

we haven't even met the Free Armies, yet, so why assume that the US is the right-wing, Bush-led baddies? Maybe they are the saner ones, and the crazy militia-types that actually chose to overthrow the government are the kooks? But Matty hasn't met them yet, and so we haven't either, so its hard to say. what we have seen is that both sides are indiscriminate, war-mongering bastards, at an equal level. some of the civilians caught in the middle aren't such angels either.

Matty, not a hipster. He's a dopey white kid from Long Island with money, was probably a jock in high school. Zee - not white. She's a medic, and as such is compelled to help the wounded soldier. Also not fickle. Matty does start off self-involved.. what else do you expect from a 22-yo who's lived pretty well his whole life?

It's cool if this book is not everyone's cup of tea - I'd be insane to think that everyone should like it. I just feel compelled to pipe up when I see miconceptions being spread around.

Thanks for picking up the issues you did buy. If you felt compelled to check out one of the future issues, I'd recommend the stand-alone #4, or the start of the next longer arc, #6 (called "Body Of A Journalist), where the Free Army becomes an active element in Matty's life.

-bri

DrNO said...

Thanks for dropping by man. Too bad it's on slightly bad terms.
But I have to say I don't feel much of this has been effectively communicated in the book:
"Matty, not a hipster. He's a dopey white kid from Long Island with money, was probably a jock in high school. Zee - not white. She's a medic, and as such is compelled to help the wounded soldier. Also not fickle. Matty does start off self-involved.. what else do you expect from a 22-yo who's lived pretty well his whole life?"

Anyways, just to let up on criticizing your work, I don't have it out for your stuff or anything, I'd just like to mention that I'm a big fan of Local.

Brian Wood said...

well, its all personal opinions anyway. no bad terms, no worries. like i said, no book is going to satisfy everyone.

-bri

Brian Wood said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
JRennoldz said...

Mr. Wood,

I am a huge supporter of your work and I can't thank you enough for dropping by our blog. Thanks for being so "dedicated" to your art and fans; that is real cool.

I am also wondering when (or if) we'd have have the priviledge to have an interview with you for our blog. Please email me you'd be down for a short piece or if you ever want to sign up as a contributor....

I'll be sending "My Local" research to you in the next couple of days. I'm waiting for the photos to get developed.

Thanks again man.

Peace,

J. Rennolds
denver_killinghumans@yahoo.com

Brian Wood said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Brian Wood said...

(sorry for all the multiple posts, everyone)

justinshock said...

i'm actually quite enjoying DMZ, to be honest

(i have nothing deeper to offer at this time)

PlatonJK said...

desolation jones #5 is the coolest looking comic i've seen in a long time.

the art work is super nice. u heard me, super. nice.

thank you afkap