Tag Archives: Vertigo

Review of The Wake #7

JAN140387The Wake #7  by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy

I have been saying that Sean Murphy’s art on this book gets better and better with every issue.  I am at the point where I must be forgetting what the previous issue looks like or Sean Murphy has become head of the class because I’m going to say again that Sean Murphy’s art has never looked better.  He does not hook me with this art, he ties rocks to my ankles and drowns me in this art.  I am at the bottom of the ocean completely engulfed by the story and I don’t even remember what it is like to be back on the surface.  Okay perhaps that was an over exaggeration and I am a little two excited about this book. Or perhaps it is just that good. Either way you look at it when I get into the pages of The Wake nothing else matters. When I am in the pages there are no other comics, there is only Snyder, there is only Murphy and there is only The Wake.

First thing I noticed when opening up this book was the colors.  The purples and blues of this issue are beautiful.  My favorite panel of the book is the very second panel.  It is a shot of Leeward as a child.  She is wearing a purple hat with her blue hair sticking out and her blue eyes popping.  Her tanned complexion against the purple background really make the hair and the eyes pop off the page. I caught myself just staring her right back in the eyes before moving on.  These are the moments that make comics superior to novels.  You do not get this type of moment while reading a novel.  Don’t get me wrong you still get emotional reactions but in a novel a description of Leeward’s eyes would be given in great detail and you may be able to picture it but you will never be able to stare into those eyes and feel those eyes staring back at you.  This is why I read comics, magic is created when combining my favorite writer and art that speaks without words.

What was the issue about you might be asking? Well I will say this, the big mother fucker is back and he does some serious damage.  All of those doubters out there who just can’t comprehend the enormity of this monster should not drop off just because of it.  I am not sure if Synder provides an explanation or not of the big guy, but he does at least create a “What the fuck?” reaction in the final pages that will get your mind spinning about it.

I consider this series not a sci-fi horror but a horror sci-fi.  The first half of this series was horror heavy with a touch of sci-fi and the second half so far is more sci-fi heavy with a touch of horror.  Hence the horror sci-fi declaration. Every time I think I know where this book is going Snyder throws in a crazy final page.  I honestly have absolutely no idea where the next issue will take me and that is not only exciting but also refreshing. I can’t wait for the next issue.

Just so you know, if we are making a Murphy and Snyder power couple name it would be Murder.  That is both as equally terrifying as it is awesome.

– Dean

Review of Sandman: Overture #2

Sandman Overture #2 McKean regularSandman: Overture #2 by Neil Gaiman & J.H. Williams III

After a slight delay (which hopefully will be the last), Gaiman resumed his return trip to The Dreaming this week. While the first issue took place in the year 1915, the second opens with a flash-forward to now. In the present, Dream announces to Lucien that the time has come for him to fulfill an obligation which he cannot ignore. So, leaving Lucien to entertain visiting dignitaries, Dream travels to chat with a certain Henriette. Henriette, better known as Mad Hattie, has long been a fixture of the magical corner of the DCU. She previously played a role in the life of both Dream and his sister Death. On this occasion, Dream and Hattie take a walk through a deeply haunted house in search of an item that she once hid there. Retrieving what appears to be a pocket watch, Dream bids Hattie farewell, and returns to the current duties of his realm. I trust that this expedition amounts to more than a visit with familiar faces and that Gaiman is laying the groundwork for something that will be important later in Overture.

The issue then picks up where the previous left off in 1915. Dream had been called away (more like forcefully seized by mystical powers) to an unfamiliar place. Even more disorienting is the fact that he is surrounded by creatures who appear to be strange variations on himself. It soon becomes clear that each of these figures represents an aspect of Dream’s essence. They are all one, yet also separate. While not expressed in quite this manner before, this theme has always played a part in the Sandman mythos. Dream appears in the form the viewer would best comprehend. Thus, when visited by a cat in “Dream of a Thousand Cats,” the Dream Lord appears as a feline. Throughout the series, artists portrayed Dream in a variety of ways, depending on their personal style. Williams pays homage to this tradition by dressing one of the Dream aspects in a flame-patterned robe which bears a strong resemblance to a garment worn by Marc Hempel’s Dream in The Kindly Ones.

Gaiman also uses this conclave of Dreams to hint at future events. As the conversation meanders through philosophical discussions & digressions, Dream asks if he is always like this: “Self-satisfied. Irritating . . . unwilling to concede center stage to anyone but myself?” Yes, is the answer he receives. “Ah, fascinating,” Dream muses. How Dream just described himself fits perfectly how his personality has been for millennia. The core of his character arc in Sandman is how he gradually learns to relax and allow himself to be more open to others. In the past, readers have concluded that it was Dream’s time in captivity which first sparked this reassessment. Here, however, Gaiman seems to be suggesting that it started a little earlier. Was it this experience with the aspects of himself which first forced Dream to confront who he was in all his ugliness? If so, will we see more hints of this shift before the conclusion of Overture?

Towards the end of the issue, Gaiman reintroduces a threat familiar to fans (hint: Doll’s House). Then on the final page he leaves the reader with a bit of a shocker. Less surprising is the fact that Gaiman continues to be a cat person.

As for the art, Williams simply amazes with every page. Somehow he has found a way to outdo his own stellar work on Batwoman. Each page is imaginatively constructed and beautifully rendered. From the shifting fantasy background ofdec130330d The Dreaming to the horror house tour with Mad Hattie to the cosmic setting for the gathering of Dreams, Williams shines. Credit should also be given to Dave Stewart’s outstanding colors, especially the bright reds of the ruby pages; also, Todd Klein deserves notice for keeping clear a wide assortment of fonts in the conclave section. And of course, no Sandman comic would be complete without a Dave McKean cover . . .

Overall, this issue seemed to be a bridge getting us through some exposition on the way to the primary conflict. Regardless, it is a very lovely bridge, which is a pleasure to stroll along. Having done so now, I am eager to see where the third segment of our journey will take us.

Cheers

Review of Astro City #10

Astro City #10Astro City #10 by Kurt Busiek & Brent Eric Anderson

For the past three issues, readers have watched as Winged Victory’s life has crumbled apart around her. She had always prided herself on being more than simply a super-powered heroine, but also a role-model. She saw herself as a shining example to other women that they never had to accept being beaten down in any sense. To this end she opened women’s centers which were more than shelters for troubled women. These centers gave women a place to heal and learn. Most importantly, it gave them the space to find not merely a purpose for their lives, but the strength to realize it. In many ways, it is the good works of these centers that Winged Victory considers her greatest legacy.

So, when the villain Karnazon, sets about destroying Winged Victory’s life, he begins with sabotaging her work with women. He replaces former residents with doubles who smear Victory’s good name. These imposters claim she was always in league with the criminals she battled, their fights as faked as any film brawl. Her real motive was to lure unsuspecting women to her centers where she would turn them into cogs for her malicious enterprises. Winged Victory challenges these accusations as strongly as possible, while the falsified evidence continues to accumulate. Yet even if she does clear her name in a court of law, what of public opinion? Could it ever be possible for to recover her good will with the people?

Throughout this arc, Busiek has revisited the conflict which Winged Victory feels within herself. She is grateful for the support and assistance from fellow heroes The Confessor and Samaritan (the latter also being her lover), yet cannot shake the sensation that she should be working alone. How can she be a role model of independence for women, when she requires help from men herself? Shouldn’t she be able to do it all on her own? Busiek elaborates this theme when Winged Victory is summoned before The Council of Nike. The Council is a gathering of women who bestowed on Winged Victory her powers for the sole purposes of being a role model to women. The Council begins by berating Winged Victory for the bad publicity, yet, quickly moves to what they consider to be her worst offense: publically allying herself with Samaritan and other male heroes. The Council seems to imply that the second charge has tarnished her more in their eyes than the first.

The answer that Winged Victory ultimately gives The Council is one which accepts both potential and limitation. There are times when it is good to stand alone, while there are others when comrades are necessary. She is not a trophy for Samaritan to brag about, or an ornament amidst the male members of The Honor Guard. No, she is their equal who has earned her place in their ranks. Does she rely on them? At times, sure, just as at others her aid is required by them. She knows that she is not perfect, yet what use would she be if she were a perfect role model? Her imperfections make her human, something to which we can all relate. During the course of this issue, a role is played by an ordinary young man, who had come to Winged Victory seeking shelter, something never granted to a male applicant. Winged Victory sees a great potential in this young man, musing if maybe he could grow into a great hero himself someday, even if his heroism consists of nothing more than being “a good man who’ll leave the world a better place than he found it.”

Time and again, Busiek returns to stories of everyday people swept into the sphere of heroes. He uses this perspective not only to maintain a sense of wonder, but also that of example. As readers, it’s easy to look at Captain America or Superman or Winged Victory and say “of course they have the ability to do the right thing—for them it’s simple.” Busiek reminds us of the power of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. (For an early example, think back to the chapter of Marvels where Phil Sheldon wrestles with mutant prejudice). None of us live in isolation from others. We have our support systems, our friends and family who lend us strength in the tough times. In return, we lend a hand or provide a shoulder when it is their turn. Even if all we do is help a friend through a troubling time in life, we have made a difference. Within our own tiny corner of the world, we have left things better than we found it.

Busiek is working at the height of his powers in this issue and the results are truly lovely.

Cheers

Review of The Wake #6

Wake #6 (of 10)

The Wake #6 by Scott Snyder & Sean Murphy

Snyder and Murphy’s Vertigo series has been strong since the start, but issue five really upped the ante. Readers, myself included, had assumed the focus would remain on Dr Lee Archer as she and her fellow researchers attempted to out-wit monstrous sea creatures. Only, that plot point turned out to be a feint. The creatures (aka mers) were not mindlessly hunting food or protecting their territory—in fact, they wished to expand upon it. As Lee listened helpless over a splintering radio connection, the creatures churned the waters, flooded than lands and took back dominion of the Earth for themselves. In addition, we discovered that going forward the series would not deal with the immediate aftermath of this catastrophe but jump ahead 200 years. It was a brilliant twist, which left the narrative open to continue in any number of directions. Picking up this book yesterday, I did not know what to expect next, except that it would be good.

Snyder starts the reader off in familiar surroundings. A young woman is thrashing around in the water, as mers rush towards her. As they near though, the woman (Leeward, our heroine) cripples them with a sonic pulse. It would seem that she is the confident hunter, they are the prey. Then the reader turns the page to an image of Leeward soaring through the sky, her air glider held aloft by the propulsion of her dolphin. Behind her towers evidence of both wreckage and survival. It is a new world.

Murphy’s art continues to shine throughout this issue, however, it is worth noting the change of palate. The first five issues were dominated by shadows and dark hues, exactly what you would expect from a horror tale. However, despite humanity’s altered circumstances, the colors are brighter now. In the place of gloom, the sun shines brightly. Most remarkably, a sense of playfulness has snuck into the pages. For example, when Leeward lands her glider, not only does Murphy trace out her flight path, but he (or letterer Jared K Fletcher) adds a “WOOSH!” sound effect. This isn’t to say that everything’s fine now, far from it in fact. Over all, the story feels more sci-fi, less horror. It is a testament to the creators that they pull off this shift without any sense of disorientation.  

Snyder and Murphy have clearly taken care in working through how humanity could rebuild society on a flooded planet. Their depiction of the settlement is full of windmills and pulleys, long lines of rice paddies. They have imagined how people would feed themselves, govern their communities and enforce order. Leeward’s tinkering with radio frequencies sends her into direct conflict with the authorities, yet at the same time provides a hope for defeating the mers. Finally, there is the suggestion of a link tying the two halves of this series even tighter together. One issue into this second phase of the narrative, I remain unsure of where Snyder is sailing his story, and I could not be happier about it.

Cheers.      

Staff Review: The Unwritten Apocalypse #2

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The Unwritten Apocalypse #2 by Mike Carey & Peter Gross

And it’s back.

The last several months have been a mixed experience for this Vertigo series. The Great Fables Crossover turned out to be more Good-Pretty Good than Great. Not bad mind you, but probably the least interesting arc so far. On the upside, Vertigo released an excellent original graphic novel delving into the origins of Tom/Tommy Taylor. Then, Vertigo announced that the series would take a couple months off before beginning a final 12-issue arc. Last month’s kickoff for Apocalypse, while interesting, served mostly as a bridge getting us from Fables back to Unwritten. Still, I maintained my faith in what Carey and Gross are doing.

And this week, I was rewarded abundantly.

The world which Tom Taylor returned to at the end of #1 is rapidly coming apart at the seams. The beast Leviathan, which feeds on human stories, has been gravely wounded. The barriers between fictional worlds are dissolving, reshaping our reality into a surreal landscape. In the middle of a bleak 21st Century London, a band of men in period garb take our heroes hostage, almost hanging one of them. Their lives are only spared due to the quick thinking of Liz Hexam.

It has been too long since Lizzy played a prominent part in this series. She has always been one of my favorite Unwritten characters, on account of her intelligence, determinedness and charm. Faced with dire straits, Liz rapidly deduces from their appearance that the sword-wielding men in large wigs are from the 17th Century; by way of their speech, she concludes that they are rakes out of Restoration comedies. Since she knows the standard arc of these comedies, she can instantly slip into the character type necessary to soften their adversaries’ hearts. The exchange she shares, noose slipped around her neck, is one of my favorite scenes of the week.

Yet, there is more at stake here than simply avoiding the ire of a pack of libertines and a fop. Carey reminds us that as our ability to tell stories breaks down, so do so many of the basic functions we take for granted. How could we brag if we lack the talent for embellishing the truth; how could we seduce without second-guessing what our object of desire wishes to hear, or feel, next? Would we even be able to remember our past without imagining a framework for it, fitting random memories into a logical sequence we call a life? How could any of us get out of bed in the morning, if we could not imagine how our day might go?

All in all, an outstanding issue from what remains one of my favorite current series.

Cheers.

Review of Trillium #6

Trillium #6 (of 8)Trillium #6 By Jeff Lemire

Trillium used to be on my top 5 list.  I am not sure exactly what happened whether it was a few weak issues or a long wait in between but I forgot this was even a book.  Needless to say I love Jeff Lemire so I was very excited to see Trillium back on my stack.  The first five pages of this book hooked me and hooked me hard.  We were able to see the scene where Nika loses her mother. I was disappointed when we moved away from this story but it made the rest of the issue hit a lot harder.  I have a hard time remembering why Nika and William care about each other so much.  This book is suppose to be the love story to end all love stories and I sometimes forget when these two started to click.  This issue provided more insight into Nika and her emotions.  I understand why she is so torn when her and William are separated.  Nika’s loss of her mother at a young age will enhance the love at first sight feeling she has with William.  It makes perfect sense why the sudden loss of William will trigger that childhood emotion of being alone.  When this series is completed I will definitely be reading it over just to get the full effect of the connection between Nika and William. This issue continues with the interesting “reality switching” story, as both Nika and William make strides towards finding each other across space and time.  I am admiring Lemire’s drive and dedication to make this book a journey you have never experienced before.  However I am getting a little tired of flipping the book.  Overall this was a very strong issue that hooked me back into Trillium.  With two issues remaining I am optimistic that Lemire will deliver a powerful ending.  I hope I don’t have to wait too long for the next issue.

The highlight of the issue is a quote from Nika’s mom,

There’s nothing wrong with being scared…just as long as you never let it stop you from doing what needs to be done

Review of Astro City #8

Astro City #8Astro City #8 by Kurt Busiek & Brent Eric Anderson (cover by Alex Ross)

Things are not going well for heroine Winged Victory. Someone has concocted an elaborate plan to taint her name in the minds of the public. Winged Victory’s records have been falsified to reveal criminal activity. Meanwhile, adversaries are claiming that they were trained by her and that their public battles were nothing but choreographed spectacles designed to lure more young women under her influence. If these attacks were simply personal it would be one thing, but, they go straight to the heart of her primary mission. Winged Victory has dedicated herself to assisting women in need, giving those with no other options a place where they can safely learn the necessary skills to start a better life. Now the government is shutting down her shelters under anti-racketeering laws and even if her name is cleared, she fears never being trusted again.

I shall admit that when this four-part story started last month, I was a little nervous. I had never read Astro City prior to last year’s new series, and am unfamiliar with its vast cast of heroes and villains. I really enjoyed the first six issues, which centered on everyday people acting or reacting to the fantastic circumstances around them. Would I grow lost when tossed more directly into a world of heroes with whom I had scant previous experience? Well, turns out there was no need to fear. Ever the master, Busiek naturally weaves into the dialogue whatever background is required for a new reader. More importantly, as in the previous issues, he keeps the focus on character moments, sketching in their personalities so well that you feel familiar with them by the end of an issue. And yes, there’s still action (it seems even in Astro City heroes, upon meeting, are required to misunderstand each other and slug it out for a few pages until it occurs to someone to state the obvious).   

Anderson’s art continues to fit well with Busiek’s story, capturing equally well the awe-inspiring and the everyday. I’ve enjoyed getting to know Winged Victory, and look forward to seeing where her story goes next . . . Cheers

Rating: Poor, Fair, Good, Great, Excellent