08th May2013

Panel Discussion #004 with Jack and Mark

by Mark Allen

JandM-Comics

I don’t know about you, but I thoroughly enjoyed last week’s crossover team up with Mark. Hey Mark, that’s ill skills you got there! As a result, I picked up Jupiter’s Legacy. I’ve not read it yet, but I am looking forward to it.

(That bit might seem like I’ve written it about myself, but that’s just because I was able to post the article before Jack. I’m not that egotistical. Promise. – Marvelous Mark)

1st May 2012

The Movement #1, Gail Simone, Freddie Williams II, DC Comics

I’ve dabbled with Simone’s work on Batgirl, which despite her being on, off and on again during its New 52 run over what seems like office politics, has been consistently strong. Barbara Gordon is arguably one of the more complex characters of the Bat Family and in Simone’s hands she’s been both likable and relatable. The plots have been decent too, striking a good balance between fitting into the world of Batman and setting Batgirl’s own path.

As such, my curiosity was suitably piqued enough to pick up Simone’s new DC title, The Movement, which is ostensibly DC’s kind of after the fact response to the Occupy movement. In this issue, we’re introduced to a bunch of variously super-powered yoots, who are spearheading a movement of resistance against Coral City’s corrupt police force (for starters). The Dark Knight Rises proved that if you’re going to make comparisons between political movements in fiction and in real life, it’s possible to be very ham-fisted about it. How much The Movement is intended to reflect the real life Occupy movement is debatable and it should be judged on how well it portrays the complexities of political protest on its own terms rather than how similar it is to real life movements. It could go either way at the moment, from intellectually stimulating to ho-hum superheroics with some tokenistic political posturing thrown in.

However, there’s potentially a decent base to build on here. I’m not going to read this every month, but I will be interested in reading a trade. The characters – the ‘possessed’ and depressed Burden in particular – seem interesting and there was a soupçon of Runaways about the book that I liked. Apparently we can expect familiar DC faces to crop up sooner or later; personally, I’d be more interested in reading something new and interesting than having Superman popping up or similar so here’s hoping Simone implements her cameos with taste and restraint.

Super Dinosaur #1, Robert Kirkman, Jason Howard, Image Comics

Image rereleased a bunch of number one issues this week, prior to Free Comic Book Day, priced at $1 in a canny move to grab some floating voters. Amongst them were Morning Glories (did I mention I liked Morning Glories…?) and the attention-grabbing Super Dinosaur. I’m a big fan of dinosaurs and have a vested interest in all ages comics, so I picked it up.

It’s written by Robert Kirkman, known for writing some obscure title called The Walking Dead and is about a genius kid, his scientist dad and their talking T Rex friend. They fight bad dinosaurs in order to save the world from some plot device or other. A wisecracking dinosaur with robotic arms and rocket launchers is amusing but our protagonist Derek Dynamo is a bit too annoying for his own good – Kirkman may joke about it, but I wouldn’t want the amount of times Derek says ‘awesome’ rubbing off on any kid of mine. (I could write a long-winded article on how overused the word ‘awesome’ is in twenty-first century pop culture, but I’m not going to. See also: epic).

Still, it’s dopey fun but also unafraid to touch on slightly more sombre themes, as demonstrated by Derek’s dad, Doctor Dynamo’s declining abilities.  The style and tone lend themselves to cheap and cheerful Saturday morning cartoons and if you’re looking for a book that delivers silliness and levity, then look no further.

Ten Grand #1, J. Michael Straczynski, Ben Templesmith, Image/Joe’s Comics (Mark)

I’ve been a big fan of Ben Templesmith’s sinister, evocative art ever since reading Fell, the profoundly dark and comic homicide detective book he did with Warren Ellis once upon a time and, as with Frank Quitely (see last issue), will pretty much pick up anything with his name on it. Ten Grand feels very much like it takes place in the next town over from the Snowtown of Fell in that the cityscape is grim and claustrophobic and the characters a hair’s breadth away from bottling little old ladies for crack money, though it has more of a supernatural bent in that our hero Joe is a heaven-sanctioned enforcer who, after dying a righteous death, gets to be reunited with his dead wife in the afterlife for five minutes before being resurrected to carry on his good work.

So not exactly a feel-good story, but certainly an original premise. I’ve never been overly impressed by Straczynski – though I did get a kick out of his reinvention of Thor and admittedly I’ve only ever seen one episode of Babylon 5 – but the story kept my attention and fresh spins on noir tropes like getting information in strip clubs (the girl servicing Joe gets possessed by his angelic minder) make for intriguing reading, even if a scene in which a demon hacks Joe’s laptop in an internet café did remind me a little too much of that Buffy episode with a demon in the ‘net.

I liked that we were dropped straight into the action and the backstory was dealt with in snippets of dialogue and flashbacks, allowing us to really feel what the tone of the book’s going to be like from the off. I did have one slightly major concern going in – that the main conceit of Ten Grand rests on the overdone thriller trope of the dead girlfriend/wife (see the films of Christopher Nolan, every serial killer story ever etc.) – and while in this instance it’s dealt with in a novel fashion (and may well be a statement about such stories) the preview page showing Joe’s wife in a flowing, ethereal dress does make me feel a bit weird about the whole thing. That said, the premise would certainly have me hooked even if Templesmith’s deliciously twisted art didn’t so I’ll be picking up issue #2 for sure.

BlackAcre #6, Duffy Boudreau, Wendell Cavalcanti, Image Comics (Mark)

This one-shot issue comes straight after BlackAcre’s first story arc, which introduced us to the book’s dystopian future, the titular, insular city-state and the harsh world beyond its walls, not to mention leads Hull, Lee and the conniving Sinclair. Issue #6 focuses on a member of our supporting cast, former BlackAcre security member Greene, and details his gradual rise to power in the strange religious fundamentalist community that spans the forests and countryside of America.

I wasn’t immediately taken by BlackAcre initially as the plotting seemed a little spotty and the pace was incredibly inconsistent, but I can never say no to dystopia and there’s just enough depth to the world that I’m interested to see how it’s fleshed out later on down the line.

All that said, issue #6 is probably Boudreau and Cavalcanti’s strongest as it tells Greene’s story (the parts relevant for now, anyway) in one go, making for an economical, informative bit of character building. Boudreau’s dialogue still errs on the side of overwritten – the pace problems tend to be with drawn-out action sequences and not letting panels breathe when they really ought to be silent – but the characters all sound like real people and his southern accents stay quaint without straying into irritating (something I like to call the Rogue Syndrome) and the art is without a doubt Cavalcanti’s cleanest and best yet.

Hawkeye #10, Matt Fraction, Francesco Francavilla, Marvel (Mark)

SPOILER ALERT! is not something you’re likely to read in a review of Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye book, but it’s definitely appropriate now and, as Fraction has said, it’s “a continuing experiment”. Oh, and David Aja’s not actually around this issue, but he’s ably replaced by Francesco Francavilla who brings a fresh approach to proceedings rather than attempting to ape the Spaniard’s inimitable style.

Where was I? Oh yeah, that spoiler: Grills is dead. If you’re not reading this comic, you won’t understand. If you are? You’ll know my pain. A tertiary character at best, Grills lived in the same apartment block as Clint Barton, worked a mean rooftop BBQ and consistently mispronounced Barton’s superhero name as “Hawkguy”, thus earning him a special place in the hearts of goofy nerds the world over. Hawkguy also helped him move his dad’s stuff out of his New Jersey basement in issue #7, proving once again that Clint is pretty much a real nice guy, even if he does get himself into the occasional scrape.

And then someone went and killed him at the end of Hawkeye #9. A mystery man at that, and one who is unveiled to us both as he piques the interest of Kate Bishop – the other Hawkeye – at an upper-crust Manhattan soiree and in increasingly violent flashbacks to his childhood growing up in an unnamed, war-torn country, losing his family and subsequently becoming a cold-blooded, greasepaint-faced killer for hire. Every issue ups the game in some way and #10 is no different (because it is so different, kind of like how you’re unique just like everybody else), the intercutting flashback structure of the issue allowing Fraction to give us a slice of gorgeously-worded NYC history from the lips of Kate and an equally eloquent rebuttal on the mutability of the past from our mystery killer. Francavilla’s jagged panel borders and rich blues and reds give a starkly different feeling to the book; one that’s entirely appropriate for an issue that focuses on someone other than Clint.

Also interesting: Clint only shows up for the last three-ish pages, so if there was ever an issue of Hawkeye for people who can’t stand Hawkeye, this is it!

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