Sunday, June 10, 2012

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 06/06/12

A little delayed, but the Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews are finally here!  There were an awful lot of interesting books to look at this week, but I've decided to take a magnifying glass to Creator-Owned Heroes #1, Dial H #2, and Swamp Thing #10.  So if you'd like to join me on the other side, I'd be more than happy to share my thoughts on these titles.  I'll see you there!

Written by Steve Niles, Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray
Art by Phil Noto & Kevin Mellon

Creator-Owned Heroes is a very different kind of comic book.  As I've said, I didn't really know what I was getting into when I picked this up, grabbing it as I did solely because of Kevin Mellon's name being attached.  It turns out that it's far more than two interesting eleven-page stories by some talented creators.  I mean, it still is that, but there's a lot more in this package than meets the eye.  There's an interview with Neil Gaiman (conducted by Jimmy Palmiotti), thoughts from the creators, a spotlight on some earlier cosplay of Trigger Girl 6, and more!  Creator-Owned Heroes is comics, but it's also a comics magazine.  And it's fun.

The opening story, American Muscle, by Steve Niles and Kevin Mellon stars a group of seven drifters  in a post-apocalyptic world who have left the last remaining human stronghold, driving across the remaining wasteland of the USA in search of something more.  Admittedly, it's plot isn't the most original, but the short introduction we get to the characters and their motivations shows that a story can be greater than the sum of its parts.  Niles does an excellent job making us care about this ragtag group, and Mellon's art is everything I could have wanted and more.  I really enjoy his loose, unpolished style that first encountered in Blair Butler's Heart, and the addition of colour here only makes it better.  I'd also like to emphasize how cool his two page splash is this issue.  It's nothing fancy, but the use of widescreen borders makes the whole moment feel more powerful.

Next up, we get the aforementioned Trigger Girl 6, which as far as I can tell, is about a series of clones who happen to be excellent assassins?  Our initial introduction to our lead is a bit light on the details, but it's clear that she's a mean mother who can chew gum and kickass with the best of 'em.  And based on the dialogue of other characters, it sounds like her and her ilk are well known among certain circles.  Anyways, Phil Noto does an excellent job bringing Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray's story to life.  I'm still not sure what the heck is going on, but I'm interested in seeing more.

And the extras I mentioned are an excellent addition to the comic.  It's neat to be able to read some creator perspectives on the work they do.  I was especially fond of the interview between Palmiotti and Gaiman.  It  was perhaps closer to conversational in tone than some interviews, but that was precisely what I liked about it.  Hearing two creators talk about what they do and what they love about it is something I can always have more of, so I was happy to get some of that there.  These extras were completely unexpected and I'm eager to see what might come in future issues.

Verdict - Buy It.  Creator-Owned Heroes isn't quite like anything that's on stands right now.  The two comics it contains are intriguing introductions to stories to come, and all the little additions make it something special.  If you're looking for a change of pace from your comic books, might I suggest you give Creator-Owned a chance?

Written by China Mieville
Art by Mateus Santolouco

I really liked issue #1, and picked up Dial H #2 based on how surprising and refreshing China Mieville's entry into mainstream comics was.  While a lot of those ideas are still there, they feel kind of muddled this time around.  We continue to follow Nelson as he tires to figure out who the bad guys that messed up his friend Darren are, but the clarity of direction we had the first time around seems to be sorely absent.

Maybe it's the month between issues, but I found myself struggling at times to keep up with what the heck was going on in Dial H #2.  The characters throw names around at a quick pace, taking nary a moment to explain who or they are why they're important.  I get playing with cards a little close to the chest to maintain interest and some mystery, but when I have to flip back to an earlier issue to figure out if I've seen someone before or why they're important, that's not terribly effective storytelling.

At the same time, I don't think anyone can argue that things aren't happening in Dial H.  Nelson is all over the place this issue, trying to put clues together and protect those he cares for, and while I appreciate that Mieville refuses to drag things out over countless issues the way other comics might, I think he could benefit
from slowing down a little bit.  It's clear that he has a lot of big ideas that he wants to explore (both from this issue and the one before), but I feel as if they could use some room to breath and develop.  Some of the events of this issue could have had a bit more impact if they'd be delayed or at least had a bit more pages to play out.  But maybe that's just me.

I will say that Mateus Santolouco continues to impress.  While I had some trouble keeping up with where Mieville was taking the story, the same cannot be said for Santolouco's work.  He maintains the same dark and grimy atmosphere that worked so well in the first issue, and does a great job of realizing many different types of scenes, whether fast or slow.  My only complaint is that I found some of his character designs to be a little too similar (being that of Ex Nihilo and The Squid).  When those two had their scene together, I had to look twice to tell them apart at times, which isn't the ideal.  However, beyond that, I had no problems.

Verdict - Check It.  Dial H had a bit of a stumble in its sophomore issue, but it's clear there's a lot to come in this series.  It might be a bit too much too soon at times, but I'm interested enough to give it a few more tries to see if it all comes together.  Here's hoping.

Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Francesco Francavilla

When the solicitation said this was a great jumping on point, I'm pretty sure it was lying.  Before picking up this issue, I've read a grand total of one Swamp Thing comics: Scott Snyder's own Swamp Thing #1 last September.  Having gone through Swamp Thing #10, I can tell you that this is about as far from a jumping on point as I can imagine.  That's not to say it's not a good comic, because it definitely is.  The issue is that without any context (as is my situation), things are a little hard to follow.

Fortunately, the ever talented Francesco Francavilla takes a lot of the edge off that shortfall.  I'm not telling you anything you don't already know when I say that Francavilla is a virtuoso, but it's still worth saying.  His pencils, inks, and colours are indescribably good.  Beyond Swampy, Francavilla uses reds, oranges, and yellows almost exclusively, and the impact is stunning.  This is a tense, chilling story, and it's in large part due to Francavilla's colour-work throughout the issue.  His work from start to end is absolutely stunning and deserves to be seen firsthand.

When it comes to the actual story, I can get the gist of it, being that Swamp Thing was hurt, some lady named Abigail who is important to Swampy is helping him get back to recharge, and a big bad guy named Anton Arcane may have something to say about all that.  I imagine it's all pretty thrilling stuff if you've been following things since issue #1, but if like myself, you haven't, it's somewhat on the impenetrable side.  I don't really hold that against Snyder, but again, when the solicitation claims that it's "a perfect time to start reading", it builds some expectations.  Expectations that were not met.

That being said, I am really interested in all that's going on, and considering how strong Francavilla's work is, I'm tempted to work my way back to pick up the earlier issues to see what the heck is going on.  Considering my position, I do selfishly wish that they'd done a bit more to make this accessible to new readers, but I feel that a medium like comics should try to do that in general.  But I digress.

My final comment on the issue is that I hate its cover.  That has nothing to do with the actual image by Yanick Paquette, but the fact that it promises the return of the aforementioned Anton Arcane.  That in itself isn't such a bad thing, except that Anton's return also happens to be the cliffhanger of the issue.  I use the term loosely, of course, because it's hard to be terribly surprised by something that was advertised on the cover of the book itself.  Seriously, I don't understand why that's such a common thing in comics.  It doesn't make any sense and robs the reading experience of some of its excitement.  Not to mention the fact that the return of Anton Arcane would only be meaningful to people who are already familiar with Swamp Thing, who are already probably reading the title.  But again, I was digressing.

Verdict - Check It.  From what I could pick up, things look pretty interesting from a writing perspective, but if you haven't been following the series, it will probably take a while to figure out what's been happening.  As great as Scott Snyder is, the real reason to be reading this title is for Francesco Francavilla's amazing art.  As  per his norm, it's some stunning stuff that really carries the book.

So it's apparently a week of me being unable to completely follow or grasp the comics I read.  This isn't usually an issue I have, but here we are.  Did you go through any of these books this week?  Were they are incomprehensible as I make them out to be, or is it just me?

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Anonymous said...

The cover to Swamp Thing is a homage to Berni Wrightson's cover of issue 10 in the original series (1973). I'm all for DC trying to get Wrightson to do a few covers for the latest Swamp Thing series.

Anonymous said...

Calling it a jumping on point is kinda dumb. It is kinda a new story arc tho. I do love a good yannik paquette cover tho.

-different anonymous

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