Kabuki: The Alchemy #7 (Marvel/ICON): This issue, aptly titled "The War of Art," continues to build this arc toward an impressive crescendo. David Mack is firing on all cylinders here, the Jae Lee cover is beautiful in its deceptively simple, aesthetically symmetrical design. Notice how Kabuki's hair flows down on the right, then sweeps up dramatically on the left creating yin/yang duality and balance. The inside front cover graphically depicts her progression and evolution from one "character" to the next, as she navigates phases of her own life. This issue exhibits the typical introspective nature it usually does, focuses on her settling into her new life, being able to identify and confront her true self, and even teases the long-awaited arrival of Akemi. I like how he poses the challenging dilemma of being able to identify your own identity. As if that wasn't delightful enough, in the middle of the issue Mack offers up a writing seminar. He frames it by citing Pressfield's "The War of Art," (you heard right, *not* Sun Tzu's "The Art of War") that deals with the age old dilemma confronting artists in any medium - inspiration vs. creativity. Most fledgling artisans feel that they must wait for inspiration prior to the creative process commencing. Veterans in any artistic medium know that you must first attempt to be creative and through that process your muse will find you and spark inspiration. Pressfield & Mack deliver it this way: "If you do the work, the muse will show up. You don't wait for the muse to show up first... It's not the writing that's hard. What's hard is sitting down to write." And that daily struggle, that itself, is "The War of Art." There are numerous iterations of this from Mack himself embedded in the narrative, as well as related thoughts from Ghandi and others. Long-time readers, especially those that followed me from Wacky Hijinx online reviews, know that I've been a fan of David Mack's from about halfway through his first Kabuki arc, Circle of Blood. I'll say it again though, David Mack is brilliant. Kabuki: Volume 5: Metamorphosis remains one of my favorite books of all time. They should be studying him in college campuses across the country, seeking to understand how his offerings will influence the future, having altered the traditional comic book paradigm for years to come. There isn't one artistic medium that he hasn't perfected and adapted to graphic storytelling. His blend of photography, collage, traditional pencils, infusions of culture, and imaginative layouts shatter the conventions, boundaries, and confines of the medium. His work has transcended comics and become something unique, he's created a totally original art form. Grade A+.
Note: David was also kind enough to run my review of Kabuki: The Alchemy #6 in the letter column of this issue, so be sure to check it out! You'll be supporting one of the best comics currently on the shelves and see the Marvel Comics debut of 13 Minutes! ;-)
52: Week Seventeen (DC): Problem #1: Tyops. Oops, I mean typos. There seems to be at least one every issue. Right on the second page, the word "from" should read "form." It's little things like this that fuel my suspicious mind and make me think Editors are not doing "true" editing, but merely running docs through spell check software. I suppose that items like this are realistic enough problems when you're trying to keep a weekly book on schedule, if anything a lot of "lessons learned" on this experiment. Problem #2: Ridiculously unrealistic dialogue. Animal Man blurts out "A week can be a lifetime in a confined space when you guys keep bickering like we're doing some post-modern sitcom in hell!" Now I now that Buddy Baker is a pretty casual and eccentric guy, but really, nobody fucking talks like that. Problem #3: Horrible mis-characterization. Starfire gives the grand soliloquy "that sounds incredibly fatalistic and presupposes a fundamentally benign underlying order, which I fail to see anywhere in the chaos of existence," and later touches on "existential isolation trauma " where the "immensity of scale can overwhelm your mind." Are you kidding me? Yeah, Kory is a Tamaranian Princess and all, but since when did she become Friedrich Nietschze and start contemplating man's existential dilemma vis-a-vis the vast void of open space? The Morrison helmed dialogue is really jumping out here - and not in a good way. Problem #4: Too much techno-babble. Adam Strange word vomits that "even with Devilance's blade as a power source, the warbird's running a short-space sub-light engine. In theory we might make it home after a few decades only to find a couple million years would have passed thanks to time dilation effects. We could do it with a hyperlux multidrive, but we don't have one!" Oh. Is *that* what's happening? This also smacks negatively of Morrison. Is he just stretched too thin? Has he started phoning this stuff in? I mean, he's just coming off of Seven Soldiers, has the Wildcats/Authority relaunch to gear up for, is pushing out Batman and All-Star Superman, and on top of that is one of the principal architects of 52! That's a lot to juggle. Problem #5: Contradictory tone. I'm referring to Lobo here. Doesn't the inclusion of this played-for-laughs character devalue and diminish the supposed gravitas that these space-faring scenes are purporting to have? This defeats its own purpose. Problem #6: Basic science. Last time I checked with Mr. Swartwood (my 6th grade science teacher), it was impossible to smoke a cigar in the vacuum of space. Fire sorta' needs oxygen. Grade F.
Solo #12 (DC): And the noble failure that was Solo comes to a close with an issue highlighting Brendan McCarthy. An extremely robust sampling of his manic work punctuated by a Batman piece about lost commissioned work from artist Lionel Percival. The quote that really sums up his 1960's counterculture ethic reads: "I was a safe hipster, lost in iPoddery, designer books, and green tea... one day I noticed the country waking up again. Something decent had slipped past the sniper's gun. Quickly, we took power and turned bad things around. Why didn't we do this sooner?" If that isn't a bold call for revolution in this country, then I don't know what is. Sadly, issues of Solo toward the end of the run were not as strong as earlier ones, and the project seemed to fizzle out with low sales, lack of any critical buzz - good or bad, and quietly exits stage left, a brilliant concept with flawed execution. The thing that makes it special and unique (rotating creators) is also the very thing that made it difficult for the retailers I spoke with to sell - variety that uncontrollably peaks and valleys with quality and consumer interest. There was also zero marketing push on the title from DC. The idea for the series itself will always remain Grade A+ in my heart. As the series whimpers to a close, this issue checks in with Grade B.
X-Factor #10 (Marvel): Nothing that new to say about this title, I'm even tired of hearing myself say these things. I love Peter David's writing. He gives the characters attitude, an edgy sort of grace, has fun, and knows when to hit a serious or surprise beat in the script. The art however, is killing this title. Here we go again, with not one, but *two* new artists this issue who I've never heard of and we'll probably never see again. It's a constant battle for me to stay engaged in the story, I'm being pushed out by these rough jumps in artistic traction. Any one of these artists would probably suffice. Ryan Sook was my favorite. I grew to like Dennis Calero's style, I could probably get used to Renato Arlem's style with enough sweet-talking, and I hated Roy Allen Martinez, who looked like a bad Image clone from the 90's. But when I'm constantly having to adjust every single issue, it makes me want to throw up my hands in disgust and just give up. We're approaching a point of diminishing return. It already prevented me from purchasing the hardcover collection of the first arc. As much as I liked it, I just keep thinking, well the art is all over the map, and *shrug* - it will probably get cancelled by issue 20 anyway. What a sad commentary on the industry. And I don't really even blame the creators, it's more the Marvel Editorial team. They probably consider this a "second tier" X-Book, despite it being probably the best written of all the X-Books. Yes, you heard right, I think it's certainly on par with Joss Whedon's Astonishing in terms of strength of writing alone. And that's a shame that they've chosen to adopt that attitude. The emotional rollercoaster of the inconsistent art is downright dismissive and disrespectful to fans that are trying really hard to stay loyal to what would otherwise be a thoroughly entertaining time. Grade B-.
All-Star Superman #5 (DC): Was this book delayed? I feel like it's been forever and I have no idea what Clark and Lex are referencing in their discussion. This is basically an extended intimidation session in which Lex methodically insinuates that Clark knows more than he's letting on about Superman. The issue really takes off when Parasite is used as a catalyst for a prison riot as he's searching for an intense power source, and absorbing the power, that just happens to be Clark. When I hear about the possibility of Moby Dick being recited at a high enough frequency to become a sonic drill capable of carving away rock, this is the *good* Grant Morrison zany techno-babble, unlike that tripe we were getting up in 52. He also offers up a brilliant denoument to the thread of Lex telling Clark he's killing Superman by overcharging his solar batteries. This comes in tandem with a spectacular sequence from Frank Quitely as Clark literally navigates the River Styx to the netherworld by a hot boatman chic named "Nasty." Yes, this is the good Grant Morrison. He's ushering in the age of what I'd like to term "thoughtful superhero comics." This issue also contains a wonderful multi-page spread for the new WildStorm relaunch. Grade A.
Wormwood, Gentleman Corpse #1 & 2 (IDW): Yeah, I didn't buy this book. Issue two came out this week and I thumbed through it. It looked good. I searched the back issues in my local comic shop and even found a pristine copy of the first issue. Wanted to get them both, as I've been hearing good things about this book and thought I might give it a try. Then I noticed the $3.99 price tag. With tax, that's like $8.66 for two issues. I think it's ridiculous that for half the price, $1.99, I can buy Image's Fell, get equally strong Ben Templesmith art, no ads, and a Warren Ellis script. I passed on Wormwood. If Image keeps up the $1.99 format (currently offered with their Fell and Casanova titles), they may have a consumer shifting phenomenon on their hands, the likes of which the industry hasn't seen. Go for it, guys!