Monday, December 1, 2014

Monthly Dose: November 2014 [Belated]

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

100 Bullets #25: There is an awful lot of talk about the Trust and the Minutemen in this issue, way more conversation on those topics (and somewhat less cryptic), than we've seen in this series thus far. Brian Azzarello isn't providing many concrete answers, but we get a considerable amount of insight into how the Trust operates, and what their relationship was and is to the Minutemen. Exactly why and how those two groups parted ways remains unclear, and what either side wants now is hard to suss out, too, mostly because it doesn't seem like the Trust even knows what Graves wants, and Graves is the Minutemen, for all intents and purposes. The air of mystery surrounding these characters is enticing, but at the same time, a good chunk of the dialogue in this issue felt empty because of its ambiguity. The members of the Trust took various shots at one another and at Graves, but it didn't amount to much, and most of it was too vague to carry any real weight. The most enjoyable part of seeing the Trust all together was the variety Eduardo Risso brought to their designs. Physically, they're quite the unusual bunch, but they all share the smugness and self-importance that comes with being insanely wealthy and powerful, and all of their body language speaks to that, even if they all have different body dialects. The Trust felt like the center of this issue, but the real thrust of the arc has always been Benito's plotline, and it concludes here in a fairly spectacular fashion. Benito offers his would-be killer a choice: either take the cash he thinks he's owed, or risk everything by taking a bet on a basketball game for significantly more money. It's an intelligent play by Benito, presenting him as much smarter, more aware, and more concerned for others than he's been up to this point, yet it still fits with what else we've seen of his character. He's a more layered figure than he appeared initially, and this arc did a lot to build him up, as well as adding depth and intrigue to the overarching Trust-Minutemen story that we'd gotten only glimpses of before.

Automatic Kafka #1: Right away, Automatic Kafka is a trip, yet Joe Casey and Ashley Wood take pains to make it comprehensible, too. You get a full hook: android and former professional superhero/celebrity Automatic Kafka has spent his whole life trying to find some kind of humanity for himself, and finally touches it when he tries nanotecheroin, a drug/nanobot hybrid designed specifically to get androids high. Most of the issue is us watching Kafka experience that high, revisiting parts of his past, both specific and symbolic, guided by a nude woman who claims to be death but is probably really just a powerful, perhaps even supernatural hallucination. It gives Wood ample opportunities to draw some crazy, near-abstract stuff, since it's all essentially Kafka's dream, so it doesn't need to abide by any rules. Casey can go a little nuts, too, and that's the whole spirit of this book from the cover to the backmatter—free-flowing creativity. It makes for an incredibly fun read, and a bit of a challenge in places, more a comment on or exploration of the comicbook medium than the superhero genre. Kafka being a hero is, for the debut at least, largely incidental. It helps explain his existence and gives him some rich material for his high, but his being a robot is more important, and so is the mere fact that he's on drugs. This issue does what a first issue ought to do, introducing the story's protagonist and inserting him into an interesting situation, and it does so with style. Casey's writing is verbose without being dense; Wood's art is chaotic without being unclear. It's a damn impressive opening move.

X-Force (vol. 1) #25: The big 25th-issue extravaganza sees Cable return to X-Force, and it's a pretty big disappointment from my point of view. I've been loving this series since it switched gears and became all about a group of young, angry mutants trying to forge their own path, but with poppa Cable back in the mix, I'm not super optimistic about where this comic is going anymore. It took such a long time for the old, Liefeld-era crap to be disposed of, and just when it seemed like we were done with that for good, here comes perhaps the most classically Liefeldian character of all time. The story's fairly weak, too, all about the team trying to reclaim Graymalkin (or at least its programming) from Magneto, which,'s just all Cable shit, the comic's past showing up and taking the reins again. I was also sort of confused by everyone's behavior...Exodus arrives suddenly with a weird offer to take a specific set of X-Force's members to someplace called Heaven (it's Graymalkin), and the reactions from the heroes seem off to me. Cannonball, rather than being all "Fuck you" like usual, agrees to go with Exodus, but only if certain extra people from X-Force can come along. Then that the whole thing turns out to be sort of a scam, because Cannonball gives Cable the means to track him when he leaves with Exodus, which feels like it defeats the purpose of his going in the first place. If Cannonball is legitimately interested in what Exodus has to say, then why have Cable and the rest of the team do a track and rescue thing? If Cannonball's not interested, why not tell Exodus to shove it? I have a hard time understanding the motivations, and it's all immaterial, anyway, since the real point of all that is just to get Cable to Graymalkin so he can be pissed off at Magneto for stealing it. Oh, and the reveal of Magento, as well as the much earlier reveal of Cable, are both about as unsurprising as possible. I'm sure there's more I could say, but I'm finding I don't have the energy to keep going, because this issue was more deflating than anything else. I disliked it passionlessly.

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