Monday, April 28, 2008

Breif reviews of recently-read comic-type things

BUT FIRST, if anyone went to Stumptown this weekend would kindly leave a comment or send an email informing me of your thoughts and feelings re: the show, I would greatly appreciate it. I wasn't there, but my impending relocation to the Pacific Northwest means that I almost probably certainly will be present at future shows. If only the convention organizers had the foresight to plan around my schedule (and the prescience to know I was moving months before I knew) by staging the thing in late summer or later, I'd have been there for this festival. But hey! My brother, under circumstances eerily similar to my own, will be moving to northern California this summer. So maybe I'll be able to check out APE this year.

And now, the REVIEWS~

CRIMINAL v. 2, #1-2
Okay, yes, this is a major leap forward for a series I already liked quite a bit in the first place. I had previously thought of Criminal as a very enjoyable series for me in particular: I like Sean Phillips' art quite a bit, especially with Val Staples' nice, atmospheric coloring. I like reading comics. I like crime fiction (though I don't really read as much as I probably could). So yes, Criminal was a good series for someone with my interests. Now, however, it's moving beyond that, to the realm of active recommendation for people without all those aforementioned interests. Like, I told my wife she would probably like it. I don't say that about too many comics (though I have been trying to get her to read The Chuckling Whatsit for years, like even before we were dating).

I'd like to again specifically mention how much I appreciate the subtlety of Ed Brubaker's writing. I'm specifically thinking about the way he depicts the death of a character in the second issue. The character drives much of the events of the first issue as a victim, but, at least from the perspective of the POV character, is the antagonist in the second issue. It makes for some chilling moments. Other writers might have overly signposted this tension, thus robbing it of its resonance, but Brubaker trusts the reader to note this sort of thing on their own. I like that a lot.

PAUL MOVES OUT
After reading and greatly enjoying Paul Goes Fishing, I decided it was time to check out some of Michael Rabagliati's earlier work in the series. I found Paul Moves Out to be a little closer to what I had assumed Rabagliati's work was like: "winsome and engaging, but not especially deep," to quote myself. Rabagliati is a wonderful artist, and his characters are all very likable. The tone is similar to Monsieur Jean, though much less melancholy (and, as much as I like Rabagliati's elegant linework, Dupuy and Berberian's rich colors make them much more visually stimulating, at least for me).

Really, reading this makes Paul Goes Fishing seem that much greater. Rabagliati maintains the look and tone of his earlier work, but adds in a great deal of thematic depth. I'm still impressed how he weaves the macro (modern hunting/fishing, changes in industry) in with the micro (Paul and Lucie's attempt to conceive a child, Clement's alienation from his daily life). In contrast, Paul Moves Out lacked this emotional heft and the thematic unity. It's a good book, but its successor is in a completely different league.

KICK-ASS #2
My fellow internet pundits: you are wrong about this book. You're all focusing on Mark Millar, whose writing is mostly incidental. The real reason you should read (or perhaps just look at) this book is the gorgeous art: John Romita Jr. as inked by Tom Palmer! This is much, much nicer looking than World War Hulk, partly because the excellent work by colorist Dean White. Ideally, this would be colored in watercolors with an actual brush, but White is a pretty accomplished computer colorist. There are a few clumsy looking brushstrokes, but White's digital colors come closer than most to duplicating the delicate washes one might associate with, say, Moebius. Or even Lewis Trondheim's Les Petit Riens/Little Nothings series. It's not quite there, of course, but it's still very pretty.

Oh, the story? I don't know--some kid beating people up and getting beaten up. I thought it was less annoying than the first issue, partly because Millar doesn't write as many false-ringing slice-of-life scenes. It's mostly exposition, then a big fight. Which is fine--Millar, as I've said many times, writes action as well as anyone at Marvel or DC these days, and Romita certainly draws a good brawl. One might argue that the fight scene in this issue undermines the realism which Millar allegedly wants to convey; there's no way that a small teenager can beat up three large men, even if equipped with night sticks. But anyone who's read enough Millar knows there's a substantial difference between realism and Millarian realism. And why are you paying so much attention to the writing when you could be looking at the pictures? I swear, Image really screwed all of you up.

KING CITY v. 1
Ah, finally and unexpectedly found a copy of this. As was the case for his easier-to-find Multiple Warheads, I like Graham's work best when he's working in that Moscoso vein, like that train from the page Jog excerpted in his review. I appreciate the combination of mainstream western comics and manga which Graham brings to the table, but it's really those underground touches which set him apart from (and above) contemporaries who also straddle the east-west fence. On the whole, King City's digest format gives Graham a much smaller canvas to work with, somewhat blunting the visual appeal. At least for me.

On the other hand, Graham shows greater storytelling acumen than I remember seeing in Multiple Warheads. I like how Graham sets up visual gags, like the handoff of the key in a bar, or the flashback to his first kiss with ex-girlfriend Anna. And Graham does a better job of what you might call world-building. Multiple Warheads seemed more Graham showing off neat ideas (mostly visual). King City seems more like the beginning of a longer narrative, a world which might sustain many more volumes if Graham chooses to go that direction. I'm not sure that it makes it a better comic than the more visually impressive Multiple Warheads, though. I'd like to see Graham combine the strengths of the two formats: a long work in a larger format. Hopefully we'll see that in the future at some point.

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