Saturday, August 30, 2014

Monthly Dose: August 2014

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

100 Bullets #22: I'm not wild about this story, and I definitely don't think it needed to be a two-parter. As Jack's friend—who gets named Mikey in this issue—points out, the story is just Jack complaining about all the strained relationships in his life, wandering from one ruined love to another, but not getting anywhere. The entire last issue was devoted to that, so we pretty much got what a sad and self-destructive person Jack was already, yet for some reason there's an entire second issue that does it all over again. This time, it's mostly about Jack's estranged family, as opposed to his estranged ex-girlfriend, a distinction that does little to make the story any more interesting. There is a nice twist at the end when we learn Jack has been killing random other drug addicts, slowly going through the first ninety-nine of his hundred bullets before he uses the last one on himself. That's the plan, anyway, and as soon as we discover it, so does Mikey, who then, it's safe to assume, becomes Jack's next victim. That's effectively sad, and Mikey was our POV character, so there's something a little unsettling about having the protagonist of this arc kill the only character with whom the reader relates. But it's not enough to make up for how boring the rest of this narrative is, and it comes so late anyway; even if the ending was twice as shocking and five times as good, it would have been a helluva a long trip to get there. I don't know if Brian Azzarello just thought Jack's depression was more interesting than it was (even though, that then raises the questions of why Mikey brings up explicitly how dull it all is) or if this arc was just meant as an exercise in tense mundanity, but whatever inspired it, the whole thing falls flat. Eduardo Risso's art is dark and expressive, and he gets some really strong, nuanced acting out of Jack and Jack's mother during their interaction, but again...anything likable in this second half of the story has a too-little-too-lateness about it because the whole thing is just a retread of the themes and character details of the first half, which was itself slow and unfilling. Luckily, it's over now, and two months isn't an unreasonable amount of time to spend getting to know a character, even if he's immediately understandable but the creators choose to stretch out his introduction anyway.

Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn #4: A very weird pacing to this issue, in which Hal Jordan finally meets the Green Lantern Corps, goes to Oa, and begins proper training with his ring. Several new characters are brought in, but none of them are especially fleshed out. These each have one key characteristic, and that's it: Tomar-Re is dutiful, Salakk is gruff, Kilowog is a ballbuster. I don't expect them all to be deep, fully-developed people in this one issue, but I would rather have felt like I truly got to know one of them than to meet all three but have only a weak sense of what they're like. Meanwhile, everything happens so quickly that neither Jordan nor the reader ever have time to properly react. It only takes nine pages for Jordan to wake up on Earth, get whisked to a planet in Tomar-Re's sector by his ring, then go with Tomar-Re to Oa. That includes two splash pages, and one page worth of Legion ranting villainously. So the time between Tomar-Re's appearance and that of Oa is almost none, and then on page ten Salakk shows up already. It's a bit of a blur, is what I'm saying, though it's not at all difficult to follow. After his arrival on Oa, Jordan learns about the existence of the Corps and a little bit of Legion's origin, sends a projection down to Earth to tell his brother what's going on, and then meets Kilowog and has his first week of training (which occurs in a one-page montage). Then Legion shows up and attacks Oa, which is how the issue ends. Keith Giffen is credited with the plot and Gerard Jones with the script, so I'm not sure how much of the overly hurried tempo should be blamed on each of them. It's not terrible, but it's not great either, a bunch of neat ideas and new cast members that all come and go too quickly to enjoy. M.D. Bright and Romeo Tanghal's art is as good as ever, though, and the splash pages are especially nice. The two I mentioned above are the first and ninth pages, Jordan waking up after last issue's nuclear explosion and Jordan arriving on Oa with Tomar-Re, respectively. Both show large spaces backed by ominous pink clouds, but the first page is desolate, with the tiny, frail figure of Jordan the only sign of life. Oa, meanwhile, has a giant green power battery with a whole civilization behind it, extending farther than the eye can see. They're a strong contrast, and I suppose their proximity heightens that effect, so there's some benefit to the briskness of the narrative. At the end, there's another full-page splash of Legion on Oa, several already-defeated Green Lanterns strewn about him, his giant fists raised in smug victory. It's a great closing image, because it makes Legion intimidating all over again, even though his might has been well established in earlier issues. There was nothing I hated about this issue, but beyond a few huge, memorable images, there wasn't much to love about it, either.

X-Force (vol. 1) #22: Graymalkin is all blown up, the Professor computer system that ran it has shut itself down, and S.H.I.E.L.D. are finally done chasing X-Force. It feels like, after all this time, the looming shadow of Cable (and therefore of Rob Liefeld) might be withdrawing. There's still the weird side plot about Deadpool trying to kill one of a pair of twins and the other weird side plot about Domino, Grizzly, and Hammer trying to access files on Cable, neither of which I fully understand the importance of yet. They're both annoying, the Deadpool one most of all, but they never take up much space so I just roll with 'em for now. The other half of the A-plot of this issue is Gideon and his External friends capturing Boom-Boom, Warpath, and Siryn. In the end, they tell Cannonball to either surrender himself or lose his teammates, which is all stuff that's SUPER tied to the Liefeld era, and therefore sort of obnoxious, far Fabian Nicieza and Greg Capullo have thrown a Liefeld character out of a plane and literally blown up Graymalkin, so I'm rooting for them to do something equally definitive to cauterize this Externals business once and for all. I'm not sure if I mentioned this before, but by now I've entered into issues of X-Force I've never read before, so it's exciting to see what the plans are, to find out where this goes. There's a lot of potential in the Nicieza-Capullo team, and they've already done a lot to break free from what came before, but they also refuse to outright ignore it, which I respect. They appear to be working their way through everything little by little, which makes me hopeful for the long term. I did notice Capullo's art being a bit...boobier than before, most notably when Boom-Boom and Siryn were shown in tattered tops with their arms bound in such a way as to make their chests stick out. Then again, in those panels Warpath is also there, totally shirtless, and covered in a ridiculous number of bulging muscles, so...I'm not sure any gender is more or less sexualized than any other in those scenes. But there were also some pretty pronounced breasts in the introduction of the new Weapon: P.R.I.M.E., and Feral's chest seemed to me like it had grown. It's too bad, because Capullo had been up to now a nice middle ground between Liefeld's ridiculous body shapes and, say, normal human anatomy. As he gets more bananas with the builds of people, and as his focus in those changes gets more sexual, I naturally like him less. To be fair, though, not every woman is depicted this way. Domino and Lila may not be exactly realistic, but no attention is ever overtly directed toward their chests, and the twins Deadpool is after, Tina and Vanessa, are actually dressed modestly and built almost like actual people, as much more than any male character here. There's hope, is what I'm saying, that this is a one-time fluke case of extra objectification rather than the start of a trend. There's a lot of hope in general for the future of the series, even though this issue itself is only setting up that potential, rather than cashing in on any of it.

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