Barrier #5 (July 2017 / May 2018)

Barrier #5

Barrier #5 finally translates Oscar’s dialogue. He and Liddy are both plugged into the aliens’ heads and, after Liddy’s flashback–revealing what had happened to her husband, though without dialogue–the aliens talk for a bit in Spanish then it’s Oscar’s flashback. With English dialogue.

Given how important not translating Oscar’s dialogue has been the entire series, it’s a little weird to see his tragedy unfold in English. Especially when it turns out Vaughan and Martin only hinted at the actual tragedy. Well, didn’t really hint. Lied. They lied about the tragedy. Unless you read the Spanish? It’s unclear.

There’s some good art. It’s not exactly good comic art. It’s good art though. I can’t even remember how the book read when the visual pacing was so good. None of its here, even though there’s a lot of art. There’s no opportunity for that kind of pacing anymore, not with the narrative.

Then comes the twist ending.

It’s an eye-roller. And makes the English translation even more of a cop-out.

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate (2017) / Image Comics (2018).

Barrier #4 (March 2017 / May 2018)

Barrier #4

They get to talk again. The aliens dump them in a different area of the ship where there are other aliens and those aliens are mean.

Barrier doesn’t refer to language barrier, does it?

The issue delves into Oscar’s back story, undoubtedly much more if you can read Spanish, but there’s still some discernible information if you don’t. His family’s in Los Angeles, so he’s going to Los Angeles. The people in his hometown make fun of him since he doesn’t speak any English.

Barrier indeed.

The Texas comes out in Liddy at just the right time–though she’s barefoot in this alien forest, I find it hard to believe the grass is all nice and soft and not tearing up her feet considering there are starfish monsters around.

It’s okay. It reads in about three minutes, which is fine when you’re a “pay what you want” e-comic and not a four dollar floppy.

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate (2016) / Image Comics (2018).

Barrier #3 (December 2016 / May 2018)

Barrier #3

The aliens speaking makes human ears bleed to the point of deafness. Blows the ear drums? So now Liddy and Oscar can’t talk to each other. They just have to communicate with body language and expression. Or Liddy just takes Oscar’s stuff because… she can?

There’s some “character development” like the revelation Liddy’s husband was (maybe) murdered. And we find out why Oscar wants his red notebook so bad. And the aliens don’t like fire. Maybe not personally, but their ship’s sprinkler system is all kinds of crazy.

So there’s no talking in the book, just visuals. There’s a little bit more of a visual tempo than last issue but nothing compared to the first. Martin’s alien ship designs aren’t very interesting. The ship’s empty. Martin does well with little details. The ship doesn’t have any.

Clearly the creators are invested–at least Martin anyway (he’s drawing a lot), it’s hard to imagine the script was longer than a couple pages unless Vaughan writes Moore style–but the result is fairly underwhelming. There have been far better “silent” comic books; it isn’t even ambitious.

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate (2016) / Image Comics (2018).

Barrier #2 (September 2016 / May 2018)

Barrier #2

So pretty much everything I liked in Barrier #1 is gone in Barrier #2. The issue opens at NORAD, with a couple officers talking in acronyms about how they’re not going to report a UFO even though they saw a UFO.

Close Encounters it ain’t.

Independence Day it ain’t even.

Vaughan thinks the acronym-heavy banter is enough to get through the scene. Can’t understand them, just like English readers can’t understand Oscar’s Spanish dialogue. The difference is Spanish is a real language and one assumes Vaughan is making up UFO acronym speak.

Then it’s back to the leads, who are now in space (or at least on an alien spaceship). They find each other, they fight, they bond, the aliens separate them. Yawn.

All of Martin’s visual pacing from the first issue is gone. There are War of the Worlds nods, Alien nods, probably other things, but it doesn’t make up for flow.

Oh, and it’s not Liddy’s daddy whose ranch she ranches, it’s her dead husband’s. Martin’s shockingly bad at drawing her face, by the way. He doesn’t have any depth to her features (most of the time). Same thing last issue but the visual pace made up for it.

No glorious visual pace here; nothing to make up for it.

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate (2016) / Image Comics (2018).

Barrier #1 (November 2015 / May 2018)

MARCOS MARTIN Cover01 col

As a visual piece, Barrier #1 is all kinds of awesome. Marcos Martin’s pacing is sublime; the comic is “widescreen”–or landscape–with Martin sometimes using the whole page, sometimes filling it with as many panels as possible, sometimes splitting a single “shot” into panels. The visual reading experience is sublime.

The script? Eh.

Barrier is from late 2015. It’s creator-owned, originally digital. So far, politically-speaking, it dates poorly. Though, frankly, some of those questionable characterizations were always going to be questionable.

The first issue is an introduction to the main characters, Liddy and Oscar. Liddy is a Texan rancher, ranching her daddy’s place no doubt because tropes, and she’s having problems with a drug gang. She thinks. It’s unclear.

Oscar is from Honduras. He’s sneaking into the States, onto Liddy’s land eventually, and his entire story is in Spanish. No translation. Its success is–like the comic–a showcase for Martin’s art.

The stuff with Liddy getting drunk and maybe hiring an ex-military type to “deal with” her problem? Not so successful.

Of course, given how the issue ends, it’s entirely possible nothing this issue is going to matter.

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate (2015) / Image Comics (2018).

We Stand On Guard 1 (July 2015)

wsogWe Stand On Guard is what Future Taylor of Crossed +100 might call “Really, REALLY Wishful Fiction.”

Similar to that series, Brian K. Vaughan has imagined a future one hundred years and change from now, but his speculations aren’t nearly as realistic. Imagine a future where not only has Canada NOT been assumed into the United States, they’re also a multicultural utopia. Oh, wait, that’s what Canada is supposed to be today, right? What if I told you it’s also full of brave men and women ready to stand up and take arms – you know, if they had to – against American Imperialism, after we’ve invaded them for their water? This book is such a perfect illustration of uniquely Canadian delusions it should be taught in Canadian Studies classes a hundred years from now.

Vaughan incorporates Canadiana, of course – Tim Hortons, French Bilingualism, Canadian Tire – but the two biggest cultural touchstones of the issue are an early conversation between parent and child about the War of 1812, and later, one between freedom fighters about the nationality of Superman. In the former, Vaughan momentarily tries to trick readers into thinking his story is anything but a hacky Anti-American screed by having a child informed that Canada’s burning of Washington was really by the British, because Canada “wasn’t even a country back then.” Why? “For trying to steal this land.” As if unlike the rest of North America, the British had a moral and legal right of ownership to what would one day become Canada because there weren’t any Native Americans above the 49th Parallel to kill or subjugate. Sorry, “First Nations Peoples.”

This happens mere seconds before Ottawa 2112 is bombed by the US, mere minutes after the White House is attacked. It’s either ludicrously lazy writing, or, more likely, setup for some end-of-the-first-trade reveal about the attack being faked as a pretext of military invasion – you know, like 9/11. Given that the villains of Vaughan’s incredibly overrated Saga are thinly veiled caricatures of Bush and the Saudis, it wouldn’t be a surprise.

The dialogue about Superman is a little more layered. This one smug Anglican defends his ’S’ tattoo as a mark of Canadian pride because although the city of Cleveland is, like Vaughan himself, “just where the writer was from,” the guy “who did all the real work” was “born and raised in Toronto” and that’s “actually what the entire comic is about!” So not only do you have Vaughan disparaging his own half of the craft AND Cleveland just to let this twerp make his flimsy stretch of a point, he goes on to say that America is like Metropolis – “this huge wonderland that’s mostly run by greedy bastards like Lex Luthor” while Canada is “like the planet Krypton, this peaceful place that sends our most amazing people out into the universe.” Desperate bluster like this reminds of the times I’ve been told by Canadians that guys like Jim Carrey were “stolen” by the US; any rationalization is preferable to the idea that someone born there might have good reason not to stay. Oh and by the way, Joe Shuster left Toronto around age 10 and moved to – yeah, you got it – Cleveland, where he later met Jerry Siegel in high school. No doubt the subtext of Canadian values and virtue was a frequent discussion between them during the creation of Kal-El.

Post-Trudeau Canadian pride isn’t a real belief; it’s the post-colonial self-hatred of an incredibly lucky colonial inheritance with nothing to replace it but jealous contempt for the older brother who moved out of their parents’ house instead of waiting for them to die of old age. The surest defense against existential uncertainty is to define oneself in opposition to others. We Stand On Guard will no doubt be an unwittingly thorough treatise on how Canadians can only define themselves in comparison to the big, mean USA, replete with Vaughan’s TV sitcom beats and Joss Whedon quality characterizations.

Steve Skroce’s art is really good. Awesome mechs. Matt Hollingsworth’s colors are almost as boring as Canada so good job there too, eh?

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Steve Skroce; colorist, Matt Hollingsworth; letterer, Fonografiks; Coordinator, Eric Stephenson; publisher, Image Comics.

The Private Eye 7 (19 June 2014)

The Private Eye #7

It’s a bridging issue. It’s got beautiful art, but it’s a bridging issue. Having a bridging issue on The Private Eye seems very strange because it’s self-published and digital and I’ve always assumed bridging issues were to meet some kind of publishing requirement or editorial mandate. Yet Vaughan does one here; maybe once you start doing them, you can’t stop.

A few things happen, I suppose. The kidnapped girl is still kidnapped. The P.I. fires a gun for the first time. There’s a nonsensical pop culture reference. And then the chase sequence, action set piece.

Like I said before, it’s beautiful. Martin does a great job with the chase scene in particular, just because he finally gets to let loose with something besides future design.

But Vaughan has run out of cool things to do with the story. It’s a really light issue and the series can’t support it.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate.

The Private Eye 6 (27 March 2014)

The Private Eye #6

It’s an odd issue. There’s a lot at the hospital with the P.I.’s assistant recovering, then becoming the target of both the investigators and the bad guys. It’s all very dramatic and Martin does a good job laying on the thrills. Vaughan actually ends up using some of it for comic relief, which is a little odd.

Otherwise, the issue’s spent with P.I. and his client as they discover things the bad guys are doing and talking about. Vaughan cuts back and forth, which is an adequate device though it’s a lot of treading water. Unless something major happens with the injured kid, this issue’s of the pointless, bridging variety. Vaughan’s not introducing any pertinent information. The future expository stuff isn’t pertinent.

Even though there’s a lot of excellent art from Martin throughout, there isn’t really a great set piece.

Vaughan is starting to feel disinterested on the comic.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate.

The Private Eye 5 (20 December 2013)

291760 20131220152117 large

After the protracted cliffhanger resolution, this issue starts getting really good and never stops. A lot of it is Martin. He’s got some breathtaking pages in this issue; it’s like he was waiting to impress.

As for Vaughan, he goes for some good humor and some cheap surprises. There are a few predictable moments as well. The villain is the problem so far–since the evil plan is already revealed, there’s not much to him without giving him active antagonists. Again, predictable.

Some of the smaller details eventually get revealed as more important than Vaughan implied. He contained his enthusiasm enough for a surprise. Very nice.

The character relationship between the private eye and his client is a little dull this issue, however. Vaughan never makes the girl particularly compelling and the P.I. is only interesting because Vaughan makes him so mysterious.

But those drawbacks can’t stop the issue’s success.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate.

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