Crossed + One Hundred 11 (October 2015)

crossed100-11reg-600x928‘Slims, churchface surprises, a refugee crisis with possible in-filled-traitors. Crossed +100 is the most satirically relevant dystopic sci-fi of modern times that no-one is reading because it’s a comic book. A lot more will read Frank Miller’s oncoming Dark Knight III: The Master Race (myself included) which will doubtlessly contain a lot of heavy handed, big-fisted references to the state of world affairs. Alan Moore’s funhouse mirror to our clash of civilizations leads the reader to reconsider recent events – chiefly the proliferation of barbarism and resulting struggle to defend ourselves without losing human decency – through the disarmingly pulpy prism of the Crossed franchise. The clever conceit of Garth Ennis’ original story was to make the zombie apocalypse subgenre more human and therefore scarier. This spinoff’s logical next step of evolving the Crossed as an organized force of religious terrorism is so uncannily relatable and disturbing as to not only render the old George Romero films kind of quaint by comparison (which Ennis’ original run did a pretty good job of anyways) but to also dissipate any suspense within the flagship series Crossed: Badlands. No wonder Kieron Gillen’s recent arc Homo Tortor was set set in the ancient past, essentially Crossed Minus Seventy-Five Thousand.

Actually talking about issue 11 now; life amongst the survivalers has hit the tipping point where Future’s warnings can’t be ignored any longer. There’s been a back and forth between installments in seeing her go out to learn more about the Salt-Crossed’s moves, then fruitlessly reporting back her findings to Murfreesboro. This is the chapter when the situation finds its way back with her, and it’s not the attackers but the wounded who are banging at the doors. Rafa Ortiz’s sketchy, thin-lined art is wholly suited to depicting the poor and tired huddled masses, while consternation grows amongst the settled. What’s slightly off is that sometimes his character’s faces will appear rushed or haphazardly constructed in some panels, and then become amazingly, painstakingly detailed on the very next page. Halfway through the comic Si Spurrier writes a terrific dialogue between Future and Mustaqba, wherein Ortiz gives Fewch kind of a goofy “angry” face at the start. By the scene’s climax she has one of the most startlingly withered looks of desperation in the entire series so far. Despite that occasional unevenness, Ortiz turns in great work throughout on a challenging variety of scenes: refugee crowds, flashbacks to battle, another heated argument between Future and Ima’am Fajr. There’s also a mysterious and imposing new character who may or may not be another Robbie Greer / Jokemercy.

If we’re still allowed to read comic books a hundred years from now we might be studying Crossed + One Hundred, not necessarily for storytelling technique but as a record of how contemporary fears are more honestly dramatized under the mainstream radar by less genteel entertainments – horror movies, sure, but now also horror comics.

CREDITS

Writer, Simon Spurrier; Series Outline, Alan Moore; artist, Rafa Ortiz; colorist, Digikore Studios; lettering, Jaymes Reed; publisher, Avatar Press.

The Wicked + The Divine 4 (September 2014)

The Wicked + The Divine #4

Well… let’s see… where to start–the issue is two and a half scenes. The first has our protagonist, the human girl detective investigating on Lucifer’s behalf, with her sidekick interviewing Baal. He’s evil but irresistible. Only it’s not really an interview scene, it’s to get the protagonist into see all the gods and ask them for help with Lucifer’s wrongful imprisonment.

McKelvie makes a very interesting choice with the gods’ hangout chamber. It looks like Tron. Not a little like Tron, exactly like it. Only the protagonist is too young to make the reference.

So then there is a lot of talking and a lot of banter from the various gods and none of it’s good. Gillen spends almost half the issue on exposition he could summarize in a paragraph.

The second scene is the protagonist and Lucifer. It’s even slighter.

It’s all about the gimmick, not the protagonist.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Jamie McKelvie; colorist, Matthew Wilson; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Chrissy Williams; publisher, Image Comics.

The Wicked + The Divine 3 (August 2014)

The Wicked + The Divine #3

Something is a little off this issue. Gillen has maybe run out of establishing stuff to do and he’s getting underway with the actual story. This young woman investigating the gods and just happening to see some amazing stuff like a god-fight.

The fight, which is full of banter between the gods, is just filler. Gillen’s strengths on the comic clearly aren’t going to be the investigative scenes and this issue doesn’t have much besides those. Except the protagonist and her sidekick recapping what they know at the end. It doesn’t go over well either.

A lot of the problem is McKelvie. Most of the issue feels like someone trying to carefully mimic his style and even when it does feel like him… it feels very rushed. And without solid art, Wicked + Divine’s problems start to show. You start looking behind the curtain for the Wizard.

It’s too bad.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Jamie McKelvie; colorist, Matthew Wilson; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Chrissy Williams; publisher, Image Comics.

The Wicked + The Divine 1 (June 2014)

The Wicked + The Divine #1

I read a few scenes in The Wicked + The Divine too fast and got confused about whether Jamie McKelvie was drawing boys who look like girls or girls who look like boys. It’s the latter but, dang, was it confusing for a page or so.

It’s a very high concept series, though old gods living among hipsters is the latest thing in comics. A teenage girl finds herself hanging out with these reincarnated gods and angels–writer Kieron Gillen is obviously enjoying having Lucifer as a character.

But lots of time is wasted in the issue revealing this situation to the reader. Gillen uses a lot of music references, including what might be an ABBA one (oh, I hope so), and that approach does give the comic an in-joke feeling. When the reader gets it, the scene’s better.

Slow start, excellent finish. Hopefully Gillen improves the formula going forward.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Jamie McKelvie; colorist, Matthew Wilson; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Chrissy Williams; publisher, Image Comics.

Three 1 (October 2013)

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So, in order to understand why Three has its title, I had to go read a press release. Nothing in the issue itself explains the title; having read the press release, I might be able to guess what comes next–if the soft cliffhanger is actually a hard one–but it’s a lot of hassle for a comic book.

While I do like Ryan Kelly’s art and Kieron Gillen definitely isn’t lazy as far as his research goes, I’m unsure why I should care about Three if I don’t like Greek history. Gillen’s not offering anything else; there’s no amazing character work here, it’s just a story about ancient Greece.

Is it different than other stories? Maybe the most mainstream ones, but there’s nothing new here.

Gillen seems to be trying to shock with how badly slaves were treated. Maybe he needs a wide-eyed audience.

Still, good Kelly art.

CREDITS

Writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Ryan Kelly; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Clayton Cowles; publisher, Image Comics.

The Mystic Hands of Dr. Strange 1 (May 2010)

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This issue is an homage to Marvel’s old black and white magazines, though at the regular, modern comic size. And, with the exception of including a text story (I don’t care who wrote it, why’s it there?), the issue is a complete success.

The feature story, from Kieron Gillen and Frazer Irving, is set in the late seventies and deals with contemporary social issues. It’s a “place in the world” superhero story for Dr. Strange, even though he’s not exactly a superhero. Gillen’s writing is strong and Irving draws a scary Mephisto. With it, the issue’s off to an excellent start.

The next story, from Peter Milligan and Frank Brunner, is also good. Brunner’s artwork lends itself, on a whole, better to the form than Irving’s does. Milligan writes fine dialogue.

Ted McKeever’s action story is really a moody introspective addiction piece.

It’s all great. But why the text story?

CREDITS

The Cure; writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Frazer Irving. Melancholia; writer, Peter Milligan; artist, Frank Brunner. So This Is How It Feels…; writer and artist, Ted McKeever. Duel In The Dark Dimension; writer, Mike Carey; artist, Marcos Martin. Letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, John Barber and Jody Leheup; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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