Sunday, 16 March 2014

Comics Review, March 16 2014

I have an ulterior motive in writing this post: the first five of you to read it will push my views over 5000, which makes me rather happy. That's kind of a milestone for me, and I appreciate your readership. Cheers, to you.

(I also need something to do while I sit around waiting for Saga vol.3)

Now, to comics. Personal budget cuts have been hard on my pull list, and I've basically cut DC and Marvel out of my life altogether at this point. Which sucks, really, because Jeff Lemire is still doing a wonderful job with Green Arrow; I got pretty pumped when Tockman made an appearance in the comics and the show (Arrow), in the same issue that Diggle first appears in the comic. It was, I think, a sign that DC is beginning to do with Green Arrow what Marvel has done with S.H.I.E.L.D., create a storyline and characters with a foot in each world, print and screen.

At this point there are four print titles that get me all hot under the collar when they show up each month: FBP and Hinterkind, both from Vertigo; and Velvet and Pretty Deadly, both Image titles. I've reviewed most of these already, but it's been a while and I want to quickly touch on what I'm liking about each series. I think I'll start with Velvet.

Velvet #4 cover by Steve Epting

I've gushed a bit about the artwork in this title, and Brubaker's treatment of such a beloved but under-used spy trope, the "Girl Friday". That was after the first issue; #4 came out this month, and it's only been getting better. Our heroine, Velvet Templeton, has shown herself to be resourceful, elegant, determined, scared, angry, and most recently dumbfounded by the intriguing mess she has become embroiled in. Brubaker's writing is, as ever, superb, and Steve Epting's art is tantalizing blend of flair and grit. The punches fly thick and fast, and the shadows are deepening. I'm not sure that it's Noir, at least not to the level that Criminal or Fatale were. You don't develop such a deep loathing and pity for Velvet as you might for the Lawless boys, but she's got flaws nonetheless. Brubaker is still keeping his characters grounded in a sort of wounded reality, something I think his readers have really connected with over the years, maybe even the thing that his readership has become founded on. Feel free to prove me wrong on that count. Either way, Ed's sticking to the dark and secretive stories we've come to love him for, and this book is a treat to get my hands on every month.

Pretty Deadly #4 cover by Emma Rios

Pretty Deadly's been getting some wicked great reviews, and who can disagree? It's a phenomenal series. It got off to a rough start with that whole debacle about the issue that was torn up somewhere down south, but the number of issues #1s sold was astonishing. I don't really know that I can say anything about this series better than John Parker already has.
Pretty Deadly is an Eastern myth incubated in a Western Womb; a story within a story within a story; a dark fairytale about bad men, worse women, and Deadface Ginny, the reaper of vengeance, the daughter of Death. Commence head-banging now.
Everything about the series just clicks for me. Emma Rios's style of illustration is visceral, energetic, the kind of non-polished immediateness I've been trying to achieve in some of my own work. The colours are spectacular; if you've ever been to the Painted Desert in Arizona, you know what I'm talking about. The story...well, reading it as someone who cut his teeth on Louis L'Amour paperbacks and has developed an abiding interest in all things mythology, not to mention Eastern (Islamic, specifically Persian) forms of narrative, has been an absolute joy. The mythic landscape DeConnick and Rios are creating gets more layered and complex with each issue. The frame-narrative form solidifies. New characters are introduced, and new spiritual elements are made apparent, which adds a deeper consequence to the actions of the story. You become invested in their world, and that is a sign of a well-crafted tale.

Hinterkind #6 cover by Greg Tocchini

On the topic of mythology, Ian Edgington's Hinterkind has been an interesting ride. I don't often put it in the list of favourite comics that I rattle off when people ask me what I'm reading, and then I remember how pumped I am to find it in my box once a month. I must be enjoying it or something. For a couple issues near the beginning I wasn't quite sure where it was going. The premise seemed a little hodgepodge, a bunch of scraps of ideas that we were allowed to glimpse out of context one at a time, with no notion of how they might fit together. This last issue, though, #6, solidified in a big way. Some pretty massive hints were dropped about what's in store for us, in a way only attempted assassinations and airships can do. I will say no more. If you're looking for a unique blend of post-apocalypse survival and Hellboy-esque re-imagined faerie civilization, then this may be the book for you. The art's a little rough, and the start's a little slow, but I have a hunch that there's some big story in the next couple issues. I for one am looking forward to it.

FBP #5 cover by Nathan Fox

And finally, FBP, formerly Collider for those of you out of the loop (there's a physics joke in there somewhere...). This title is hands-down my monthly favourite, a colourful, sharp, unpredictable romp through the ins and outs of life in the Federal Bureau of Physics. It's so good that I keep thinking it's an Image title (I'm so unimpressed with DC these days that, when something good comes out, I assume they weren't responsible for it. I have to start cutting Vertigo some slack). I couldn't pick my favourite bit of this title if I wanted to. Oliver's writing is dry, smart, and funny; Rodriguez's art is the perfect pairing. Not to mention that I get a new Nathan Fox cover to drool over every month (a good reason to keep your comics in plastic, folks), though he did change up his style a bit on this last one. I'm still trying to figure out what I think of it. New story arc, though, starting in issue #8, so maybe it's just a matter of him creating a way of visually identifying a chapter. I'd be okay with that.

There's nothing I love reading right now more than this comic. They've done a great job of pacing the story, sprinkling each issue with hints of mysterious family tragedy and high-level corporate conspiracy. There's a lot that can go wrong when you privatize control over the fabric of reality. They dropped a Plato's Cave reference in this last issue, and I sort of shook my head and kept reading. The Cave was cool the first time I heard about it, but it gets a little worn out the more sci-fi you encounter. It looks like FBP might redeem itself in its use, primarily because at this point I have no idea where Oliver is taking us with it. This is the unpredictability I mentioned earlier; there are no rules in the world Oliver has created, or rather, what rules there were are fundamentally breaking down. Nothing is stable. Every issue is capable of pulling you in and showing you something you never saw coming, no matter how much you thought you had it figured out. It leaves you wanting more. It leaves me with the insatiable urge to go shoot pool...

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