Monday, June 30, 2014

Monthly Dose: June 2014

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

100 Bullets #20: After all the slow setup and constant misdirection up to now, 100 Bullets takes a minute to more openly and officially than ever declare that there is a larger narrative behind everything we're seeing. That had become fairly obvious, but it's nice to see this kind of acknowledgement and enhancement of it, even though there are probably more questions at the end of this issue than the beginning about what the hell is going on. Shepherd and a new character named Benito have a cryptic conversation about Agent Graves, beginning with the fact that he was supposed to be dead, moving onto speculation about his agenda, and ending on Shepherd steadfastly sticking to a wait-and-see strategy for now. Benito seems like he'd prefer to be more active about it, but he also is apparently there only as a representative of his father, whoever that may be (this is where the questions start to pile up). The details of Benito's life don't matter so much as the fact that he and Shepherd mention Chicago (where Dizzy's story took place back in the first arc), Cole Burns, Lono, and the Trust, all of which are things the audience has seen before. It's the biggest number of callbacks in the shortest space for this series so far by a long shot, which is what makes this issue such a clear announcement of the series' long-term plans. By which I guess i mean Brian Azzarello's long-term plans, since he is the architect behind this monstrous narrative. Eduardo Risso is the star of this issue, though, because he does such a great job balancing the Shepherd-Benito visuals with the activities in the rest of the park, especially local drug dealer Boppa and his friends as they get involved in a turf war with another group. Azzarello balances the two stories well himself, but Risso's work is more important and impressive in that regard. He brings the whole environment and everyone in it to life, and follows the movements of character major and minor with carefully so there is a cohesion to the timeline. He also does a lot of cutting away from Benito and Shepherd to show us something more exciting than two men sitting on a park bench barely looking at each other, because their dialogue takes up most of the issue, and needs to, but it's easy to follow without having to stare at them the whole time. So Risso uses that to his advantage and fills in their surroundings. It's maybe the fullest this book has ever felt, in the art and, now that things are coming together, the script as well.

Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn #2: The creative team changes as Keith Giffen comes in for plotting and breakdowns, Gerard Jones handles the script, and Romeo Tanghal does the finished inks. It's a pretty seamless transition from the first issue, picking up exactly where the story left off last time, with Hal Jordan face down on the ground after flying through a billboard. After a freaky dream, he wakes up distraught but also excited about his new abilities, hoping they will be able to make up for his past mistakes. He pretty quickly comes to terms with the fact that the ring, while amazing, is not all-powerful, and so, in maybe his first moment of true likability, Hal turns himself in for driving drunk and causing an accident that severely injured his friends. He resolves to serve his time and only then figure out how the ring works, but on his first day in jail, a giant yellow space robot who seems a little unstable and is definitely extremely violent breaks through the wall. We see this villain earlier in the issue, hunting Abin Sur, the dead alien who gave the ring to Hal in the first place. Discovering Abin's corpse pisses off the space robot, and it is determined to kill the new Green Lantern ASAP, hence it breaking into the jail. As far as first supervillains go, I can't imagine very many things that sound more fun than a short-fused psychopathic space bot, so I'm definitely on board with that and eager to see how the fight unfolds next time (if there even is a fight, since Hal seems pretty much already beat when the issue closes). And I was glad to see Hal own up to his screw-ups, not matter how hard it was to do and how tempting it must have been to just fly away from his problems in a glorious green blur. It makes me root for him as a hero more than I was before, and so does the pure, indulgent evil of the bad guy, so all told I'm much more committed to Hal's corner than last month. The good guy is getting better, the stakes are getting higher, and the superpowers are really kicking in now, so it's safe to say I'm feeling pretty stoked for the rest of this series.

X-Force (vol. 1) #20: I've got to say, I found this issue a tad disappointing. On its own, it is a pretty solid, standard piece of '90s Marvel superhero radness. But after last month's declaration of independence from the titular team, it seemed a shame for their next adventure to be all about them fighting for control over Cable's old space fortress, Graymalkin. He's dead (or so they believe) and they've officially struck out on their own, yet they insist on continuing to live in his shadow anyway. At first, we see them building their own home, so things are still headed in the right direction, but what with Bridge, Gideon, Domino, and Grizzly all making comeback appearances, this felt like a weird kind of throwback issue. It was more Liefeldian than anything the Nicieza-Capullo team has produced thus far, I guess is what I'm driving at, and it was some HIGH quality Liefeldian material, much better than the man himself would produce, just still not quite what I was hoping for. Capullo does great crowded action sequences, though, and both he and Nicieza manage to do several very quick, tight scenes of catching up on side characters so that the main story could have lots of room to develop. Sadly, it does not resolve as of yet, ending with X-Force staring down a pissed off Iron Man (James Rhodes variety). It is a banging final panel, though, just a full-page landscape shot of the War Machine suit in full ready-to-kick-ass mode, so I admit, it got me excited for the fight coming next issue, even if it's likely going to be pretty much more of the same thing I saw this time out. That's basically fine by me, because even though it feels like there's some wasted potential for more interesting or original stories, Nicieza and Capullo doing a fun spandex action piece is a more entertaining and better looking than loads of stuff in that genre from any era. So bring it on for now, until it can blossom into something more complicated.

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