Thursday, October 30, 2014

Monthly Dose: October 2014

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

100 Bullets #24: This "Red Prince Blues" storyline is moving awful slowly, but at least it's always moving. It creeps along but never stands still, and never lets go out the reader's attention, either. Most of it I liked, some of it I didn't care about, and there was one scene I feel sort of conflicted over, which I will now proceed to discuss at length in a probably pointless effort to make up my mind. It's four pages of Augustus Medici and an unnamed prostitute talking in his hotel room. They're both nude, so it's clearly post-coital, and...I'm not sure where I land on the treatment of the woman. Not by Augustus, because he treats her exactly as expected, like a prop he has no attachment to but still enjoys engaging with. And that's the point of the scene, that Augustus uses people, that he sees everyone as inferior to him and as his property, but still maintains a certain joy and zest for life. It's in everything he says, most of all his final line, "I am the power company." What troubles me is how Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso handle her, because I can't make up my mind on whether her presence is pornographic/disrespectful/sexist or tasteful/respectful/realistic. It might be all of those things. She's naked, and you see a lot of her ass and breasts, but you see Augustus' ass, too, probably more than hers, while both of their genitals stay hidden. And her nudity isn't the focus, nor is his, it's just a fact of the moment. Then again, she does have a borderline unbelievable hourglass figure, and her nipples stick way out, and there's a panel of her licking her lips with her tongue way out, so...maybe her nudity kind of is the focus, or at least her sexuality. But she's a prostitute, so having her be aggressive and attention-grabbing with her sexuality also makes sense. But also, couldn't Azzarello and Risso have shown us what kind of man Augustus is in some other way than having him pay for sex? Isn't that kind of an easy, almost gross narrative move? I could go on and on like this, ping-ponging around in my head, finding details to support every shade of both sides of the argument. I guess if it's this hard to decide how badly a character was treated, then it's safe to assume she wasn't treated as well as she could/should have been. Maybe it's not an overtly misogynistic scene, but its gender politics are questionable or worse. On a fully positive note, the issue's last panel is a knock-out punch from Risso. The size of the gun in Hank's hand, the terrified but determined look on his face, the moody shadows, the scary grin of the pawn shop owner...everything about it is just top notch work. Does it make up for the problems of the Augustus scene? Probably not, but it is a seriously superb closing beat for what was otherwise a solid issue.

Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn #6: This was a fantastic conclusion, followed by less-than-fantastic conclusion. Let me explain. The first 2/3 of this issue were all about Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps fighting against the giant, amorphous, expanding blob of silvery goo that used to be Legion. They struggle against it futilely, try a few different strategies unsuccessfully, and find themselves seconds away from being totally overrun. The Guardians then order the Corps to retreat, deciding that sacrificing Oa is ok so long as they and their army of Lanterns can live on. Hal refuses to accept that, though, and instead of falling back with the rest of the group, he challenges the Guardians' decision. They try to convince him that he cannot defeat Legion alone, saying that while, yes, the Green Lanterns have access to immense power, it all comes from the central power battery, so each Lantern wields only a fraction of it. Hal hears this information and figures fine, if he needs more power, he can just go to the source. So he flies straight into the central battery, and emerges (in what is probably the best page of the whole series) bathed in green light he can barely contain, before unleashing it all on the Legion blob and winning the day singlehandedly. The Guardians are impressed but also nervous, disapproving of Hal's loose cannon attitude and afraid he'll influence the rest of the Corps, and that's pretty much where that part of the story ends. It's an awesome finish, filled with detailed action from M.D. Bright, who captures the fear and confusion of all the combatants as well as all the spectacle of the fight itself. Had Emerald Dawn stopped there, I think it might've made for a stronger finale, even though, admittedly, Hal's life on Earth still had some unfinished business. So Keith Giffen and Gerard Jones dutifully include a wrap-up for Hal's problems at home, and while it's not a bad ending in terms of what actually happens, it's considerably less exciting or interesting than the rest of this issue. Hal turns himself in, pleads guilty, and serves his time, only to be offered his old job back at Ferris Air when he gets out and, ultimately, getting to be a pilot again. It's nice to see, and facing up to his mistakes makes Hal into the fully heroic character he's never quite been up to now, which is important. Yet it still feels like the comic is petering out, the last few pages especially, which circle back and reference the beginning of the series where Hal's dad died while flying a plane. Hal goes through something similar but, this time, there's a better result. There's nothing wrong with the end of the issue per se, but compared to what precedes it, I'd call it dull at best. Even so, it's a satisfying last chapter, and it definitely accomplishes its primary goal of making me want more Green Lantern, since this mini led directly into what was at the time the new Green Lantern ongoing series. It took Emerald Dawn some time to find its footing, including a few shake-ups in the creative time and a generally slow-moving start, but in the back half of the series, and most of all in the final battle between Legion and the Corps that spanned last issue and this one, it grew into itself and became an excellent comicbook.

X-Force (vo1. 1) #24: Two weeks ago, if you'd asked me who Rusty and Skids were in the context of the Marvel Universe, I would've had absolutely nothing for you. Have I maybe ever seen them before? Sure, it's possible—I've met a lot of mutants in my time. But I definitely have zero recollection of any previous exposure to either character, and didn't know they existed until I read twelve issues of X-Factor for my CSBG column earlier this month. Both Skids and Rusty originated in that title (though not in the issues I read) and were major players in it, so I got to see a lot of them, and I liked them quite a bit. Skids especially has a weird and interesting mutant power. It made me wonder several times why I'd never hear of them, and why they weren't more popular characters. Fast forward to yesterday when I was doing my reading for this column, and the opening scene of this issue of X-Force involves a group of humans capturing two mutants I didn't recognize, named Russell Collins and Sally Blevins. I wondered if I was supposed to know those names, and then just two pages later, Cannonball identified them as Rusty and Skids. And I was like, "That's crazy," to myself. There they were, the same month I happened to have learned about them because I randomly decided now was the time to go ahead and review the X-Factor issues I've had on hand for like a year but kept not using because I did another Louise-Simonson-written series, Power Pack, for an earlier "1987 And All That" piece at the Chemical Box. It was a pretty convenient coincidence, because if I hadn't read those X-Factor issues, I would've had to Wikipedia Skids and Rusty just to know who they were when they showed up in X-Force. Why am I carrying on for SO LONG about this minor connection between two things I read around the same time? Because I loved it when it happened, and it's kind of the most notable thing I can say about X-Force #24. Fabian Nicieza and Greg Capullo are in such a groove now, and this felt like just one more in a string of very similar issues. The whole thing is a rescue mission, X-Force freeing Skids and Rusty from their captors with little difficulty or tension. It's an intensely simple story stretched almost awkwardly over the length of the issue, punctuated by minimal progress being made in the Domino subplot (per usual) plus a few gorgeous, cryptic pages of someone (Cable? Magento?) doing something in space with the wreckage of Graymalkin. None of it sucks, none of it rules, and none of it leaves a very powerful impression. I had forgotten all about the Graymalkin thing until I flipped back through the issue just now, for example. So yeah, Rusty and Skids were the focus of the issue's main storyline, and their inclusion was easily the detail that stuck out most for me, so that's why I mostly just wrote about them.

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