Thursday, July 16, 2009

Reviews: Do androids dream in the blackest night?

Sorry about the recent silence, kids (yeah, I know, "what silence?"), but things have been especially busy at the day job, my allergies are killing me and wah-wah-wah I need a big ol' towel so I'll have something to cry in. Let's talk comics!

Agents of Atlas #8: Is it me, or is this comic coming out like every two weeks or something? Granted, I'm not complaining. Writer Jeff Parker continues to just nail it with every issue, giving readers what sounds on paper like a ragtag team of misfits but in execution is a tight gang of bad-asses who manage to be happy-go-lucky about the whole "good guys pretending to be bad guys and screwing with Norman Osborn" thing.

Parker is particularly adept at telling stories that feel like done-in-ones but hold onto a thread of story continuity tying each successive issue together. Issue #8 pays off by giving the reader naturally developing team dynamics, quiet references to earlier issues, and of course, the FREAKIN' HULK. And it's nice to see the Agents going into the field without the help of their leader or the seemingly unstoppable M-11, while at the same time Jimmy Woo finally catches up to his past. Oh, and at one point everyone shares a soak in the High Council Hot Tub. It's all good stuff, especially if you've been wondering where the ol' fashioned "SMASH!" version of the Hulk has been hiding. (And can Atlas artist Carlo Pagulayan draw every instance of the Green Goliath from now on? Please?)

Blackest Night #1: I've noticed some squawking around the 'tubes about how violent and gory this first issue of the long-awaited Green Lantern crossover event is and my first reaction to that is — well, you gotta sac up.

Now look, I've complained about writer Geoff Johns' tendency to go overboard with unneccessary bloodshed. Seriously, sometimes that shit's just ridiculous. But in the case of Blackest Night, which for quite a while now has been built up to be a universe-spanning war between the embodiments of all that's best and worst about living beings, it really shouldn't come as any surprise. Plus, it's been well-known that the rise of the Black Lanterns was essentially going to be DC's foray into zombie territory, and guess what? Zombies aren't nice. And they tend to do things like rip people's hearts out.

That said, I was pleasantly surpised by Blackest Night #1. It wasn't as good as last week's Green Lantern #43, but it put all the necessary pieces in place, hit the ground running, and even put an interesting spin on the tired zombie trope. For that matter, it puts an interesting spin on the concept of charging a power ring.

After waiting sooooo long for this story to actually get started, I appreciated that the Black Lantern appearances — while mostly unsurprising — weren't drawn out and weighted down with a lot of overbearing portentousness. It felt like it should have; the sudden and panic-inducing sense that Things Aren't Right and are only going to get worse, and fast.

Artist Ivan Reis, while lacking the sheer, chilling ickiness of Doug Mahnke, ups the creep-factor with some key scenes and brings home some fantastic character redesigns and believable staging. All in all Blackest Night is delivering on some of it's hyped-up promise with this first issue, so it's really up to Johns to make sure it doesn't slip in later chapters.

And for the record? The return of a certain beloved couple and the subsequent beat-down of another (nice mirroring, by the way) that has twisted some knickers here and there? Probably my favorite scenes in the book, precisely because it WAS icky. It's SUPPOSED to be.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? #1: I'll need to write something more in depth soon, but for now just let me say that reading this made me feel as if I was experiencing something new for the medium.

Transferring Philip K. Dick's novel word-for-word to comics works better than one might think (even if the art by Tony Parker sometimes seems to have trouble keeping up), and really is a prime example of the old saw about something being more than the sum of its parts. More than an illustrated story, Electric Sheep is an impressive alchemy of art and literature I'm not sure I've ever really seen before: what I do know is I want to see more. Highly recommended.


rob! said...

I've noticed some squawking around the 'tubes about how violent and gory this first issue of the long-awaited Green Lantern crossover event is and my first reaction to that is — well, you gotta sac up.

Um...don't read tomorrow's post on the Aquaman Shrine, then. :)

Maxo said...

Ha ha! Hey, there's room for everyone's opinion, as far as I'm concerned.

Besides, I think you and I are usually pretty close on this. Generally I think the gore in mainstream comics is way overdone, and is actually a distraction. It's like bad CGI in a movie — it takes me right out of the story, my disbelief is no longer suspended, and I'm suddenly too aware of the wires holding everything up.

That said, I don't have a problem with gore or violence, as long as it's in context to the story being told. In this case, I think it fits.

Of course, if Johns decides to crank it up even more, I think that would be a mistake — one I feel he makes more and more frequently.