Wasteland #20 (Oni Press): With an assist from artist Chuck BB, the regular creative team provides some alternate takes on Marcus’ founding of Newbegin. As is usual, more clues are dropped along the way. From the rudimentary “cave art” that accompanies these altering accounts, it sure looks like “The Big Wet” was some form of cataclysmic environmental disaster, as opposed to some of the more typical scenarios we’ve been teased with, like nuclear winter, bio-plague, etc. The different perspectives on Marcus, which range from the plausible and more conventional, to distortion through children’s style of narration and exaggeration, to even the perspective of the Sunner population, all share some characteristics. What we first glean from this is that all of the characters in Wasteland are pretty rounded. They all possess positive and negative attributes, some damning and some redeeming qualities. This proves that Wasteland is as complex and intricate as real life. The other common theme is that Marcus is indeed the founder of one of the only known cities post apocalypse, and for that reason has roots as a hero, despite some of his more puzzling and reprehensible actions that we’ve seen. Wasteland is the most enjoyable puzzle out there. Rather than reliance on endless twists and convolution (Lost!) or a more elliptical style (Grant Morrison!), Johnston and Mitten offer a mostly linear, intellectual style that rewards readers in a fair and fun way, even when they’re left wanting to know more. Grade A.
Echo #6 (Abstract Studio): You almost don’t notice it, but the first four pages of this issue are totally devoid of dialogue. I think that’s really a testament to Terry Moore’s craftsmanship on display here. He also captures the sparse desolation of the desert quite well. His lettering is phenomenal! Notice the quiet scenes in the diner or the sounds of a growling dog. In every single scene, Moore is able to portray the exact mood that the setting and emotional arc of the story calls for. Young aspiring artists should be studying this to learn the dynamics of visual storytelling. He’s also probably the best observer of human nature around. Check out the heated discussion between the characters. The line “don’t put words into my mouth” is a very telling moment. Moore is able to express what happens to people under stress or trauma, under heated conditions, we can be illogical and irrational and have no idea what we just said. Echo is a fun story (the end scene!), but it’s more important as a commentary on the way people really talk and act and the ability to showcase that illuminates truths about ourselves, like all great works of art. Grade A.
Northlanders #10 (DC/Vertigo): Guest artist Dean Ormston brings a nice level of detail (sort of looked like Paul Grist in spots) to the second part of this little interlude arc. Brian Wood focuses largely on the danger of blind faith in divine right and explains the cultural adoption of one Northlander. It’s done quite well, but I do wonder what bearing this has on the larger work. I’m anxious to see where we go next. Grade B.
X-Force #7 (Marvel): So, here’s an unfiltered look at what my notes look like from reading this book; I’ll transcribe them much as they appear in my notebook… Umm… what? Mike Choi art? Not abundantly clear what happens in the Japan sequence. Not clear what happens with Hepzibah. Art is stiff and flat. Clayton Crain much (<- underlined twice) better. Are we really expected to believe that Angel owns Edvard Munch’s The Scream painting? Locations of entire series well documented, one in the National Gallery. Who is gold chic? Oh, it’s Elixir. “Rahney” spelled wrong. Spelled correctly two panels later, Rahne. Scott’s optic blast… ZARK? Trying to address emotional fallout from last ish, but sloppy unmitigated disaster. Anyway, I literally could not get through this book without being pushed out. I would read a panel, stop, sigh, look around, read it again, sigh, make a snarky note, read the next panel, stop, sigh, look around, read it again, make a note, read a panel, stop, sigh… The greatness that was X-Force in the preceding six issues, is… poof! Gone. Just like that. That’s how quickly and easily it can happen when the formula of a creative team is tampered with. I mean, the timing and pace of ellipses aren’t even handled correctly. There’s a conversation with Agent Young (who?) where two adjoining word balloons contain this text: Balloon 1: "This office deals with unsolved cases. You’ve never had one." Balloon 2: "Until now… The Purifier Massacre." That should read: Balloon 1: "This office deals with unsolved cases. You’ve never had one…" Balloon 2: "Until now. The Purifier Massacre." It’s a subtle distinction, but sorry, that’s how people talk and provides the most dramatic effect. The last page is supposed to be a shocker, but it just read like kinda’ silly retread. How would Scott know what that person stole anyway? Is he an omniscient third person narrator now? So yeah… I think sloppy unmitigated disaster sums it up pretty well. Dear X-Force, you have one more issue to get back on track, or I’m done. Grade D.
I also picked up;
Black Summer TPB (Avatar Press): It’s great to have this bloody political mess collecting issues 0-7 of the mini-series. Hopefully the hardcover treatment will have some additional extras to warrant the upped price.