Thursday, May 30, 2013

Monthly Dose: May 2013

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

100 Bullets #7: Basically this is just the latter half of one man's very rapid spiral toward rock bottom, and since last issue didn't grab me, this conclusion to the same story doesn't, either. Chucky and Pony kill each other at the end, which sounds about right to me. Not that they deserved to die, just that it's no great shocker that they take one another out in the end, the inevitable conclusion for two men who have been playing at friendship while truly being arch-rivals since childhood. And that inevitability is why this story doesn't do much for me. Both of these characters are such absolute scumbags that I don't give a shit if they live or die, and I'm not the least bit surprised when the answer is, "they both die." I will give Brian Azzarello credit insofar as I think it was his intention to have both Chucky and Pony be wholly unlikable asses, and he pulls it off with pages to spare. It's just that, personally, I was bothered by these characters to the point of being entirely disinterested in their story, which is a shame. Anyway, I won't harp on this any longer, because it is essentially the same as what I said last month, but more. Eduardo Risso and colorist Grant Goleash are still steadily killing it, but all told this issue did the least in terms of visual showmanship. It told the story well, building tension and helping to underline how completely lost Chucky has become by the end. There just aren't a lot of specific panels or pages I'd point to here as examples of how incredibly talented Risso and Goleash truly are. The job gets done, and it's better than average by a lot, but compared to the previous issues, it's the least artistically enchanting. Definitely my least favorite 100 Bullets read so far, but still not a failure, just not for me.

The Intimates #7: So I did what I said I'd do this month and read the entire issue first, then when back to the beginning and read through all the info scrolls. And I must say, it's better that way. I thought reading the scrolls one after the other would become tedious, but it actually moves more quickly when you're not inserting them into the middle of a largely-unrelated story. The real bonus was that the reading of the issue itself wasn't interrupted, so the narrative flow never broke, which was especially nice this month when the story was told out of order, jumping in time from page to page or even panel to panel. Also, the info scrolls became self-referential and even a bit self-deprecating a few times toward the end, which I appreciated more when I was reading them all at once than I think I would have if I'd taken them in one at a time. Anyway, there's the result of that experiment. The issue itself was not astoundingly good or bad, basically a straightforward end-of-the-school-year story, pushing all the pieces forward a half-step so they're ready for their next big moves. The best part was Vee hanging out with cool hunter Della, particularly the ending when Della tries to get Vee to try out and/or support Vibe cola only to discover that it's already considered disgusting and undrinkable by pretty much everyone. Just a nice, simple, new way of saying something The Intimates has been saying all along: adults don't get teenagers (and vice versa). I'm also a big fan of Duke being hired by the government for secret work over the summer, because it's the perfect kind of inescapable responsibility for his character. Duke is the one kid who wouldn't push back against an offer like that, and it's likely why he was selected as the ideal candidate. Finally, we see Destra acting more like Punchy than ever before, determined to uncover The Seminary's secrets even if it means alienating everyone else. The Punchy-Destra dynamic, where they basically want the same things out of life but she won't give him the time of day, has always been key to this book, and gets a boost here when he sees her trying to recruit Duke (by all accounts his best friend) for a mission Punchy himself would die to be part of. Joe Casey has done such a solid job of establishing and developing these kids, he can take an issue like this to just expand on who they each are and set them up for a summer vacation without it ever feeling boring or slow. Not a lot actually happens this month, but it's still a funny and entertaining issue front to back. Giuseppe Camuncoli (whose name I can finally spell without looking it up!) continues to deliver solid art, just as comfortable in this world as Casey is by now. It's a strong, right-down-the-middle issue overall, and certainly leaves me excited to see what a summer away from The Seminary will look like for this cast.

X-Force (vol. 1) #7: Despite the ending being spoiled by the cover, this was possibly the best issue to date. Having X-Force actually fight against villains instead of each other allowed the action to open up a bit, which in turn gave Rob Liefeld license to draw the kinds of things his style's actually suited for. Shatterstar battling Sauron in the sky, Cable unloading two guns at Phantazia, Feral and Thornn trying to tear each other to shreds, Shatterstar reappearing covered in armor and big ass weapons, half the team posing intimidatingly when they discover intruders....Liefeld really brings his A game to all of these moments and more, and instead of the issue feeling like it's too full of shoulder pads and muscle to fit any story, the story this month is the shoulder pads and muscle. That means Fabian Nicieza has a bit less to do here, but he handles it well, writing pretty decent battle banter for everyone. Feral and Thornn's conversation isn't always the most natural-sounding, but it works more often than not. Shatterstar, Siryn, and Warpath I thought worked well together and each sounded distinct. The best character in terms of the writing, though (and maybe the weakest visually) was Toad. I've always been a Toad fan; I like how he has all the making of a dismissible, low-level villain but has managed to stick around and do some high-level wickedness anyway. Here, he addresses that very thing, showing up Siryn with some new tricks and his same old ruthlessness. As a leader, he is sinister and smart, but not hyper-intelligent or evil on too wide a scale. It's a nice balance for the character, and Nicieza displays it well in his dialogue. But the strongest aspect of X-Force #7, when you get right down to it, is the scenes of fighting in the dark. Not only is Liefeld better than usual in those moments, but colorist Steve Buccellato brings a great deal to the table, too, blacking out the characters' skin so their other features can be highlighted. It's a very stylized approach, and heightens the drama and excitement of the action in those scenes tremendously. In the end, the only thing that really bothered me this issue was that Warpath says Blob tumbled down a ravine, but we never get to see it. Damn Marvel Method means Nicieza can think of something as obvious yet hilarious as that and be forced to lose the idea to a throwaway line. Not a huge detraction, though, just a wee bummer.

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