Thursday, April 22, 2010

Wednesday Is Any Day For All I Care #62

The Brave and the Bold #32 (2010)
Dead@17: The Witch Queen #1
The Guild #1 (2010)
R.E.B.E.L.S. #14

The Brave and the Bold #32 (DC, 2010, $2.99)
Ten years into the millennium, and I’m reviewing two comics this week that borrow from Lovecraft. I chalk all the dread up to Mayan anxiety. Setting aside the yawn that comes from aping a horror movement older than your great grandma, this was a pretty alright one-off team-up story. Jesus Saiz manages to balance the need for Aquaman to be a clean cut, garishly attired hero and the necessary foreboding tone of a trip into the world of the Demon Etrigan. Colorist Trisha Mulvihill is of great assistance in that department, casting everything in muted, aquatic tones without muddying things up. This was all J. Michael Straczynski’s idea though, and he’s the one who can’t quite get his Sea King story into truly ominous waters. The images have to carry the uninvolving Aquaman adventure, complete with the writer essentially cutting and pasting off a message board somewhere the same tired points about the hero commanding three-quarters of the Earth’s surface/billions of badass fishies/etc. Someday, folks will have to learn the only way to make Aquaman cool is to write him that way, not to use characters as proxies to tell readers why they should think he’s so. Also, it doesn’t help when the whole story is told from the perspective of a guy whose memory the hero was supposed to have wiped. Ineffectual telepathy FTL.

Dead@17: The Witch Queen #1 (Image, 2010, $2.99)
In horror movies since about the 1970s, there’s been this deal called a “final girl.” That’s the intended victim of some bogeyman who turns the tables and is instead instrumental in the killer’s defeat. In recent years, a pair of comic series started not too far apart from one another, playing off the final girl formula. Hack/Slash comes the closest, not only in concept, but in its accessibly episodic scripts. Like a Bronze Age Marvel monster title, the premise really grabs you, but the actual stories are middling. The other series, Dead@17, mixes in Lovecratian terrors from beyond kind of shit. It reads more like one of those crappy Marvel horror hero revivals of the 1990s, adulterated by that bane of modern scriptwriting, the post-Claremont influence. This is the tendency to try to write something with the complexity of a Russian novel at a 5th grade reading level, mired in genre tropes-- your basic impenetrable geek quagmire of aggressive anti-storytelling.

For instance, I bought this comic with a “#1” on the cover. The whole comic was spent obliquely referencing events in a previous mini-series. All I know about the heroine is that she was dead, came back to life, was all busted up over killing her best friend, and was now in some barbaric purgatory world. The whole of her characterization seemed to be “I’m hitting everyone in sight because I can’t hit myself, and running out of things to hit makes me sad.” The art might have been adequate if this were a dark comedy or crumby animated series adaptation, but it’s entirely inappropriate for action/horror. There’s no mood, the storytelling is basic, there’s no sense of depth, and the figures look to belong on the walls of a tattoo parlor. Being neither sweet nor sexy, I judge the artist’s style as just plain weak. I’ve read several Jeph Loeb comics in recent months, a writer once described as providing such breezy scripts that they could be completely read during urination. This thing blew past before I could even get my fly down. Taken as a single serving, it is wholly without redemption on any level.

The Guild #1 (Dark Horse, 2010, $3.50)
The closest I’ve ever come to a Felicia Day production was watching the actress’ supporting role in the Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog web series. Apparently, she also created and writes for another such endeavor, The Guild, regarding which I am entirely virgin. That means I approached this comic book prequel with complete objectivity and sincere surprise that it works far better than most such endeavors. The first issue does a fine job of establishing the lead character’s personality and motivations, plus effectively evolving them in an organic fashion over a couple dozen pages. While only one member of the Guild is given the spotlight here, she’s supplied her own distinct and entertaining supporting cast before her presumed co-stars are even introduced. Ms. Day hasn’t just done justice in adapting her live action series, but written a good and proper comic book that can stand entirely on its own. Jim Rugg’s art does her no disservice, pulling off a reasonable likeness integrated fully into a wholly fictional world which fantastically differentiates the lead’s “real world” biographical story with the romantically washed out look of her fantasy life of online gaming. Colorist Dan Jackson earns kudos for his contribution in that department. In fact, there’s no weak links anywhere in this debut, down to Cary Nord’s swell cover and a nifty pin-up by Paul Lee.

R.E.B.E.L.S. #14 (DC, 2010, $2.99)
After taking its sweet time in the early going, and over a year into its overarching story, someone must have told writer Tony Bedard to hurry up and wrap this shit up so it can be turned into DC’s answer to Guardians of the Galaxy before inevitable cancellation. Vril Dox was supposedly the star of this series, but working from a team conceived by his 30th Century descendant, a plan initiated by his son, and played out by relatively recent self-motivated additions to the cast, Dox’s main contribution is to see his portion of the operation peter out from the sidelines. In fact, the Omega Men, who’ve been running a b-plot for most of the series, are the only ones who make a real impact in this ultimate chapter. Star Conquerer remained a silly, unimpressive adversary throughout, so this is perhaps for the best, but I still feel like I wasted my time and money for much of the last year on this title. Hopefully, the better aspects of the series to date will rise like cream, or else it’ll go back to my personal pull list chopping block.

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