Saturday, November 19, 2011

DC 52: On the 1s & 2s: Frankenstein

About, oh, two weeks ago, I asked folks for examples of DC 52 books they might be interested in seeing reviews for. I had the idea for reviewing two issues of a series at once, largely because I wanted to use the "on the 1s and 2s" phrase, but, also, because it has felt like there isn't always enough meat to the single issues of this relaunch to fairly judge just one. The first up is Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E.

The first thing I noticed when going over this selection was how at odds the cover art seems to be with the interior. Employing JG Jones on covers doesn't just give you art that is at conflict with the interior pencils, but suggests practically a brand difference.

But then breaking past that initial concern, I'm faced with yet another apparent contradiction. The story elements, on the surface, seem to suggest more action movie than indie drama. But the muddied, moody art (including the way coloring is employed) suggests the type of story you'd see in Vertigo books, where the action is rarely THE THING, but mostly there to service the story. The coloring, in particular, really seems to fit what I more often have seen on Vertigo product than DC Universe: larger sections of one solid color, rather than more intricate detail. Which, separate from a review, makes me wonder if there's some manner of cost savings in such a move, rather than simply being an artistic decision.

This is not to say I don't enjoy Alberto Ponticelli's art at all. I do, despite some of the inconsistencies (namely Frankenstein's monster looking like several different characters throughout the book). His art is always effective, tells the story ably and can handle the blend of action, humor and drama well. One of the strongest stretches for the art appears with a flashback in the second issue. In relating a supporting character's history (and, also, informing us on some of S.H.A.D.E.'s history), the art team perfectly evokes the feeling of old, grainy home movie footage.

The book uses classic horror movie characters, which would seem to suggest the style of art is fitting, as moody/muddied is often found in horror comics. But the cast is really a swerve, as it is much more of a sci-fi book with huge, bloodied battlefields through the first two issues; a sort of "sword and raygun" fantasy that might be better served by cleaner pencils.

The writing is very strong. I'll be honest: despite my warning above regarding single issues being hard to judge a property by in DC's 52, I had decided to stray away after the first issue, until this book was suggested for review. I'm very glad for the opportunity, as the additional installment casts the whole in a different light. It's difficult to pinpoint where and why there was a change, but suddenly everything clicked much more nicely once I was several pages into #2. Ideas seem less thrown out there, but are, instead, part of well-executed world building and character depth. Not every note is perfect (the gag about no one telling the doctor that Frankenstein's monster was such a gentleman comes to mind), but, somehow, the accumulation of bits between the issues starts to gel, without there being anything to put my finger on as being done differently from one issue to the next.

Lemire deftly weaves horror concepts into sci-fi properties and makes some of his sci-fi concepts feel all too real. Whether we're talking their base of operations, the prison within it, the communications system or the nature of the external threat in this first arc, all of the ideas just work.

Except when it comes to lettering. Of all the things to still have difficulty adjusting to, it was the method of delivery for communications. The lettering was an x-on-black style (where x could be white or, more commonly, some other color that was used in large amounts elsewhere on the page) that was a bit of an irritant to my eyes. Why the purpose was clear (setting itself apart from other captions/bubbles), the combination of using it in such dark areas of art and often using non-white colors (making it stand out slightly less well on the black) was a source of frustration. Hopefully, it is something they can adjust and I can adjust to going forward.

Overall, this is an enjoyable series with a talented creative team. I think I'll be adding this to my regular purchases going forward.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

A Request

I'm looking to review a swath of New 52 books from DC. I've read practically all of them, but I'm not such a masochist that I'm eager to go through them all. Ideally, I'd like to go over the first two issues of at least ten of the titles. But, since I'm being selective, I'd like to get a little direction from those who are reading the blog.

Please take the time to note five of the New 52 that you'd like me to review the first two issues of. With the limited replies I generally get, you just might see me review all five of your requests. ;)

Friday, November 04, 2011

Victor Von Dammit!

I think someone pulled a Brevoort here.

To the right, you see a story, as it ran on before Rich Johnston was swamped with complaints about questionable reporting on it (Rich committed the error of putting too much faith in his original sources, it seems).

The story he was fed? The real story behind cancellation of the Victor Von Doom mini wasn't lack of orders, a shift in Marvel strategy or because the original editor (the witty & well-liked Alejandro Arbona) was shit-canned, but that the artist (Becky Cloonan) had personal emergencies that led her to not have finished ANY of the artwork for the mini. Marvel claimed to not have received a single, solitary page.

Sources came to Rich almost immediately upon publication of the article, telling him Marvel's story was patently false and that they had seen the completed pages for the entire first issue.

Which brings me to "The Brevoort"...

Most folks probably don't remember this to the point of obsession like I do, but when Civil War delays led to delaying a bunch of titles that tied into it, Tom Brevoort tried to cover for the fact that Marvel only owned up to it the afternoon before it was supposed to be on shelves because, FOR THE SAKE OF RETAILERS, they needed to hold off on announcing it until they had a plan in place for "fixing" it. I'm in good company thinking that the whole move screwed over retailers, seeing as how that was Tom Spurgeon's opinion at the time. Going toe to toe with Brevoort over how asinine his claim was wound up being the first time I recall Marvel complaining to Newsarama about me (expecting an unpaid reviewer to have his opinion kept in check by the site).

Fast forward to today, with the product being much lower profile, but the overall issue of cancelled Marvel product being a little more embarrassing and the delay in announcing it being, once again, unprofessional. So they leak that it is because a freelancer had personal life get in the way of their professional commitments and, though they still love her and no one is mad at her, it caused the series to currently be cancelled...even if that might not be the real explanation.

While everyone is mad at Rich Johnston for having reported this, the real focus of the ire should be his source. Really...even if true...they wanted so badly to take the heat off of Marvel's decision to cancel by taking a swing at the professionalism of a freelancer that, by their own explanation, seemed to be going through some trying times?

Johnston's reporting here speaks to the larger problem with the state of comics journalism. Due to so few sites being willing to potentially frustrate their meal ticket, the publishers, there aren't many outlets for news stories that might cast anyone in a negative light. Yet a significant number of the audience eats up those stories, making the race to be the one who puts out the few bits of real news that ever trickle out a cutthroat one.

So, Johnston trusts his source. His source places the blame as politely as possible on a freelancer. He makes at least a token effort to reach out to the freelancer, but doesn't hear back soon enough for his comfort. Why the discomfort? It's Friday afternoon and he's losing his most valued readership time. Weekends are generally more dead than weekdays on comic book sites. If he doesn't get this up before the end of the business day, he will have to debate saving it for Monday.

Meanwhile, every moment he holds on to it, there's a chance the story will leak out to someone else who will run it without further confirmation without having nearly the same relationship with the source that he might have. And then what happens next time? Will the source bypass Johnston for the person willing to run the story immediately on their word next time? Maybe he crassly does the math that the source who gave him this story will be in a better position to give him future stories than the freelancer he'd be respecting by waiting for their response or eating the story altogether.

But here we stand: at last check, there were a lot of people who screamed "FUCK RICH JOHNSTON", but I didn't notice anyone adding "...AND FUCK WHOEVER GAVE HIM THIS 'STORY', TOO!"

Of Spoilers & Setups

Ed Brubaker (gentleman on the left in the picture to the right) put forth a Twitter tirade about his Fear Itself 7.1 story getting spoiled on comic book news websites (mostly directed at, I believe).

But he misdirects his anger...and I think even he might admit by now that he overreacted a bit.

No way to discuss this without acknowledging the spoiler, so, out of respect for his frustration, I'm putting the rest of the talk on a click-through after showing a few of Brubaker's initial tweets on this subject:


Out Of Context Theater

I guess we all have our price.
Uncanny X-Men #1