Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Monthly Dose: April 2013

Monthly Dose is a semi-regular column where I reread one issue each month of long-completed series.

100 Bullets #6: As much as Lee was a less compelling protagonist than Dizzy, Chucky is exponentially worse. I just don't care if he wins or loses, lives or dies, or really to see another minute of his miserable life. Obviously he did not deserve to have his best friend betray him or to get sent to jail over something that wasn't his fault, but that's also not really an excuse to be a bottomless well of scumbaggery and selfishness. He mistreats Shantay, refuses helpful advice and prudent warnings from her and all of his friends (or whatever they are...associates), actively looks for trouble and danger, and cheats and lies as compulsively as he gambles. There's no redemption in there that I can see, and I'm not even sure if Brian Azzarello is aiming for that. I think he knows full well that he has written a blackhearted son of a bitch in Chucky, and if so it's a total success. And he's a believable character, to be sure, but being believably insufferable doesn't make someone interesting to me. I don't think, technically or structurally, there's anything wrong with the story here, but I personally find it hard to stick with because no matter what happens from here, I won't care. I'm not attached to anyone or anything. Eduardo Risso is till doing his incredible thing, but this issue what really pops about the artwork is Grant Goleash's colors. The textured hues of the desert sky make up the background and/or lighting of most of these pages, and they're always spot on. I also dig the deep purples and deeper black of Pony's back room, establishing in color the undertones of wickedness and deception that are key to that character. It's very strong and understated work all over, which has always been true of this book's coloring, but for whatever reason this issue it impresses me more than usual. Perhaps it's my lack of connection to the story, but I don't think it's as simple as that. Goleash captures the feel of these locations more firmly and completely than before, and it definitely helps what is my least favorite narrative so far.

The Intimates #6: Sykes definitely deserved to have an issue devoted to him, if only because he's been a silent enigma since the very beginning, and that can become distracting if it lasts too long. This issue doesn't necessarily explain all the ins and outs of who Sykes is or what he can do, but it provides some definite insight into his past and at least reveals enough of his world that he can now be set aside as a passive figure once again without fucking with the reader's curiosity. Joe Casey attempts to tell a story set inside Sykes' broken and powerful mind, with every scene seeming to take place in a memory from his past. The narrative moves the way that memories do, with pieces missing and focus jumping around and no real resolution to any of the action. There is a definite, solid conclusion to the larger story of the rest of the students journeying into Sykes' mind, but each of them has experiences while there that get abruptly cut off when Kefong rescues them. As the only member of the cast with the mental powers and training to do so, Kefong avoids getting sucked into the madness, and stays firmly in the "real" world (quotes added by Casey) so he can reactivate the null field that, evidently, keeps Sykes from trapping everyone around him in his bizarre and jumbled thoughts. It's a simple but logical solution, and Gisueppe Camuncoli's rendering of Kefong marching slowly through the "real" world under Sykes' influence is some of the best imagery this series has seen yet. The same is true of the page after Empty Vee turns Sykes' null field off and the world becomes a rainbow-colored spiral as his powers are unleashed, even shattering the info scrolls into tiny fragments, not to be reassembled until the end of the issue when Kefong saves the day. It's not the first time the info scrolls have gone away, but it is the first time they've been absent for most of a whole issue, and it cements for me that they are an ambitious failure. Casey doesn't really try to work them rhythmically into the scripts---they are very much their own, separate thing, even when their content relates to what's happening on the rest of the page. The consequence is that if you read them as you hit the bottom of every page, it breaks up the narrative flow, something that becomes obvious in this issue, which feels much more fluid than any of the previous ones. And I suppose one could read all the actual panels first and then go back through the info scrolls, but that sounds pretty arduous, and not at all worth the knowledge you'd gain after the fact. I think I'll try that approach for next month, because I never have, and see if it helps things. Conceptually I want the info scrolls to work, but having so many pages without them this month makes me thinks that they just never quite will. That was quite a digression, I guess. Anyway, Casey and Camuncoli both get to have a bit more fun and be a little more freeform in this issue. There are times where the dialogue gets too cryptic and pretentious in its language for me, but it's made up for by Camuncoli's excellent designs for all of the characters as tiny children, still in costume. An extra bizarre and daring chapter of a book that's reliably bizarre and daring.

X-Force (vol. 1) #6: As is becoming standard for this book, not much happens. Stryfe talks to Zero about some mustache-twirling business, Toad's Brotherhood manages to bang out an alliance with the Morlocks essentially on the basis that they're both angry, Cable has a redundant chat with Domino about how he needs to be honest with his team, and Boom Boom and Feral get into a spat that leads nowhere. By now we're like 2/3 of the way through, leaving just enough time for yet another scene of members of X-Force doing some training, this time a sparring match between Warpath and Shatterstar. In the end, the Brotherhood interrupts and Siryn gets involved (not in that order) but the fight doesn't really get cooking in this issue. Got to save the good stuff for yet another month, I guess. Rob Liefled's plots are just lazy and messy, and I don't envy Fabian Nicieza having to be the one who tried to turn them into a forward-moving narrative. Because they just aren't that. This is a pretty static book, most of the time, ostensibly trying to introduce its team in these opening issues but never pulling that off all the way, either. Liefeld's art is Liefled's art: muscles, tits, and teeth. I have very little new to say about this particular issue that I haven't said about preceding ones, but I do find it pretty amusing that there's a bit on the cover that boasts about the "Cable Guides" in the back of the issue. These are tersely-written summaries of Cable's relationship with other members of the cast, and they are some of the least interesting backmatter of all time. Not terribly written or anything, but not well-written either, and providing only the most superficial information, much of which can be learned or at least gleaned from reading the actual series. Was this really a selling point back in the day? Probably for someone, but now it just seems like an especially fluffy bit of material to advertise right on the cover. This whole issue is a marshmallow, no calories and only the faintest flavor.

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