Thursday, March 15, 2012

Chronic Reviews!

Oh, MAN do I love Saucer Country!

Let's do a series of rapid-fire reviews, shall we?  If I start running long, somebody do swat me.

Today was "Saga Day" in my head and in a lot of other comic fans' heads.  And for good reason.  Like Ron Burgundy, he's kind of a big deal in a niche market that could really use some big deals.  (Is it scary that I still think that way just six months after the New 52 launch?  I think it is, but I'm not going to revert back into Chicken Little mode just yet)  Matter of fact, I should just skip to it...

Saga # 1
Image comics
Bryan K Vauhan/Fiona Staples
44 pages for $2.99

Firstly, welcome back to Mr. Vaughan, you were greatly missed and we're glad to have you.  Thank you also for PACKING this book with content and selling it for $2.99, because bargains are hard to find in this industry presently.  This book is without question great value.

I was worried about the horn head/wing back/racism bit coming off preachy and tiresome.  It's not.  I was not worried about Vaughan scoring hits with the narrative.  And now I am.

Something is....not quite right with the blend.  Alana is bawdy and gets the Chronic stamp of approval.  She's fun.  As we meet her, she's equating her ongoing childbirth with taking a massive dump.  I should be in love, yes?

Marko is a little more centered, and likeable, and the "couple" aspect of the book is more of a focal point then in any comic I can think of.  I kinda like that, actually.  Vaughan implies a world with depth, and it's loaded with unexpected little charicatures, and I'm wondering if that's where it's losing me.

I'm thinking of the robots especially and the little alligator guy....taking in Saga is a little like mixing chocolate milk and Jameson.  That's a little unfair, because that concoction would be hideously terrible.  Saga is not hideously terrible.

It didn't land for me, though.  The mix is a little off.  Honestly, if this were a different writer, I'm not sure I'd give it much time.  Because it's BKV, I think he's got six issues minimum.  Is that wrong?

PS:  The book is currently sold out at Lone Star, which is insane.  It's already trading for $10+ on Ebay, which is equally insane.  All good things, incidentally.  Go, Saga!  We need a buzz book.  I just happen to think it should be Saucer Country more than this one.

Green Lantern # 7
DC Comics
Geoff Johns/Dough Mahnke
20 pages for $2.99

Every time I think I might be done with this book, I get all Godfather 3'd and it pulls me back in.  Or maybe I'm getting Brokebacked, and I just can't quit it.

Point being, Johns always seems able to spur a little life in the ol' girl with his characters, and putting his characters in forward motion.  On the one hand, yes, it does seem a little silly that Sinestro is back 12 seconds later for more Odd Couple hijinx.  On the other hand, I adore the Old Couple hijinx.

Do I really care about The Guardians new plan and the reverberations of great feigned import on the history of The Corps?  Certainly not.  But I liked watching Carol throw that ring on and hit the fray, I think the Indigo folks are a curious catalyst and curious about how/why they were chosen, and there will be plenty of ripe scenarios coming down the pipe for these characters to strut their Johnsian stuff around in.

I like it.  So sue me.

Batgirl # 7
DC Comics
Gail Simone/Ardian Syaf
20 pages for $2.99

I bought this because I was curious about the solicitation, which inferred that there might be some fleshing out on the whole "Barbara gets shot in the Killing Joke" thing.  I can't pretend to know how this issue will work for you if you care about that sort of thing.

I can tell you that it's in there - they didn't dodge, shirk, or wuss out.  I found myself caring not so much about all that, and began pining in earnest for Secret Six, a book that I desperately miss, because there was a little of it in Batgirl in the form of Grotesque, the Big Bad.

Obviously Gail can't do Secret Six in Batgirl.  She's within sattelite range of a major lunchbox property, so there's naturally a governer attached to the motor.  And Barbara Gordon is not damned, so it can't be The Six.  But there's just a taste of it in most everything Gail writes, and I can't decide if that taste hurts more than it pleases.

I think if I was down on books and looking to add, I could see myself reading Batgirl.  I tend to have the exact opposite problem, however.

Crossed: Badlands # 1
Avatar Comics
Garth Ennis/Jacen Burrows
22 pages for $3.99

I have adored this series, but approach Badlands with some wariness.  You can only "push the envelope" so far before your story ends up about pushing envelopes in the most predictable and boring manner possible.  Also not a fan of double shipping, and that's the plan for Crossed: Badlands.  You're getting two per month, and if you want to keep up?  That'll be $8, please.

The original crew gets the first arc before Ennis hands off the writing reins to Hellblazer legend Jamie Delano with # 4, and I'm semi-pleased to report that this is the most reserved/refined issue of the series to date.  There is an infant tossing incident in the middle thrown in for obligatory reasons, but I honestly think it's in there just to pacify the mindless portion of the mob.  I don't think his heart is in the shock shit any more, and frankly, that's a good thing.

No, this is a subtler Crossed, with a better set of characters than the original arc, truth be told.  Harry is a trip, you want my opinion.  I was almost hoping this fell flat, because it would make my decision to cut a double-shipper very easy.  No such luck.  I like this story, and I'm on for the rest of the Ennis stuff at the bare minimum.

The Strange Talent of Luther Strode # 6
Image Comics
Justin Jordan/Trad Moore
25 pages + some pinups for $2.99

What a revelation this series has been, and I think it paid off handsomely.  Oh, I can hear the critics spouting nonsense in the background about how Jordan took the "lazy" road with Pete, and that there was too much fighting in the resolution, and that the fighting was too gory and sensationalistic, and that the ending was too cliched.

Fuck all that rot.  The juice is in the execution, and everything about Luther Strode has been pitch perfect from "go" to the end.  The story as presented answers enough questions to be satisfying, but didn't over-explain in the third act and kill future arcs.  This is the kind of pacing, dialogue, structure, and craft I would expect from talented veterans in their primes.    Where did these guys come from?

The final issue is a kinetic emotional bomb, and I will be intentionally seeking out work from both Jordan and Moore in the future.  Rabid dogs will not keep me from the next Strode series.

Thief of Thieves # 2
Image Comics
Robert Kirkman/Nick Spencer/Shawn Martinbrough
20 pages for $2.99

This was of course created by Robert Kirkman as kind of a television "writer room" collaborative experiment, and it plays as what I expect would be a fantastic television series and a nearly fantastic comic.

The problem, of course, is that Nick Spencer is already geared toward directing pages full of three panels worth of facial expressions and splash pages of characters looking very earnestly at old photos.  You push him toward a television script?  You get nothing but.

To be fair, in the hands of Shawn Martinbrough is looks so good it hurts at times.  Some of those panels, particularly some of the Audrey panels,they look less detailed and a little uneven.  But when Martinbrough is on....look out, brother.  That is some wicked good shit.

As per usual, Spencer is absolutely terrific at creating moments and absolutely dreadful at creating comic book value.  You'll be done with this thing inside of three minutes, even if you do linger on the Martinbrough goodness.  I recommend you do.  

Saucer Country # 1
DC/Vertigo Comics
Paul Cornell/Ryan Kelly

 Oh, MAN, do I love this issue.  I like layers, and mysteries, and deep worlds, and established themes, and Saucer Country is serving them all up, my friend.  I like unreliable narrators, too.  They abound in this book.

I hesitate to say overmuch and ruin anything for the uninitiated.  Here's the gist - Arizona governor Arcadia Alvarado is thinking about running for president.  She's got ex-husband trouble, and she's got alien trouble.  Is she even fit for office?  Could be she's a total nutjob.  But if she's right, can the nation, hell, the planet survive without her?  If she is right, is she actually fighting the extraterrestrials, or are they controlling her?  Who the hell knows?  It's BRILLIANT!

Super strong hook, and I was surprisingly taken with Arcadia and her supporting cast.  The implied depth is off the charts, and I think Paul Cornell is good for it.  It works as a creepy sci-fi drama, it works as a character study, and I think it might be one of the few comics that can tie into the zeitgeist of its political day without distracting from the narrative flow or sacrificing its replay value.

I've been this excited by first issues before only to be woefully disappointed later,  (see:  Scarlet, Bendis) but I was exceptionally impressed with Saucer Country.  PS:  Ryan Kelly's work is phenomenal.  Just phenomenal.  I'm in love!

This was supposed to be Image's big day to pound us in the face with Saga.  I think I'm going to remember this as the day that Saucer Country hit, instead.

-  Ryan

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