Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Existence 2.0/3.0 (2010)

I bought this trade based on the high concept, fast paced and seriously attitudinal first issue, and I'm happy to say that vibe carried through the rest of Existence 2.0. The first three issue mini-series is basically a great unfilmed Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi script from his heyday, balancing the droll observations of Sylvester Baladine in his new life as a big dick brickhouse with bloody shoot-ups and a compelling plot.

An amoral scientist invents a means to instantaneously overwrite his mind onto others just in time to switch bodies with the ninja stealth assassin who "killed" him. The Tarantinoesque swagger and jumping through time plays very well, as clues are followed up regarding who ordered the murder. The only typical turn sees the seeker's heart softened by a loved one in peril, but I guess more lily-hearted readers needed some hook to root for the guy. The story is a hell of a lot of fun, complete unto itself, with no shortage of twists along the way.

Existence 3.0 then is the unnecessary sequel that Arnie wouldn't come back for, so it was left to Danny Glover or Robert Patrick to try carrying the lead. Peripheral characters from the first movie have an elevated presence, and hoops are jumped through to explain their illogical reappearance, but you know the producers are just trying to stoke your fire for the original with available materials. Worse, the new director wants to make their "own" film, so instead of being driven by an omnipresent humorous monologue, there are now great swaths of silent action and an attempt at heavier drama that doesn't play. Trading Dennis hopper for Willem Dafoe isn't so bad, but Sandra Bullock on a boat with Jason Patric just isn't her on a booby trapped city bus with Keanu Reeves.

That leaves Existence 2.0/3.0 as the Wall*Mart DVD 2-pack where you get both films for just a few dollars more. Yeah, the sequel was inessential, but those two scientists they brought in reminded you of the first film, it is a continuation of the story, and it was decent enough not to put you off. There's enough good in both scripts to see why writer Nick Spencer is on everybody's radar these days, and the art by Ron Salas is consistently impressive throughout. Early on, the art is more polished, recalling Gaijin Studios artists like Dave Johnson, Jason Pearson, and Cully Hamner. As the book progresses, the art gets rougher with less clear influences, but is still solid. Salas produced seven lovely covers for the series recalling Leonard Kirk and Lee Bermejo which are reprinted inside, but it looks like somebody slapped together the shitty cover of the trade in Photoshop from some interior panels. Still, fifteen bucks for seven issues is a steal in today's market, and the sum of its parts is great enough to buy the whole thing.

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