7.23.2013

SDCC [Capsule Reviews]

I started to feel a little guilty that there hadn’t been any new content on the site for a week, so I decided to post these quick capsule reviews, which are essentially just extensions of the micro-reviews I’ve been blasting out on Twitter. This is roughly a third of the floppies that were shoved into my hands at San Diego Comic Con 2013. Enjoy.

Letter 44 #1: Black & White Preview Variant (Oni Press): I fell in love with Strange Attractors and was eager to sample more original work from the writer. As far as I’m concerned, Charles Soule delivered one of the belles of the ball with this book, which is an extremely clever hybrid of The West Wing and The X-Files, in a way that’s completely different than Saucer Country, which was pitch-billed as the same. That said, maybe this is more The West Wing meets Apollo 18. It involves very thinly disguised analogues of Barack Obama and George W. Bush, with the former succeeding the latter, and receiving a heartfelt reflective letter, as is the presidential custom. In it, the “W” character explains the unseen challenges of the role, including the fact that, oh by the way, I know you all thought I was an idiot, but I did what I felt was in the best interest of the country, I entered the country into multiple foreign wars so that we’d have battle hardened troops to thwart an alien invasion being detected somewhere in the solar system by a covert manned space mission, good luck! Gulp. It’s socially relevant, shifts perspectives, and already offered twists. It’s fantastic! The full color regular series doesn’t come out until October, which now feels like an excruciating wait after so deeply enjoying this preview copy.

Ten Grand #4: Convention Exclusive (Image): I’ve been really impressed with previous installments of this book, and it’s still visually enthralling, but for some reason this issue started to wear thin on me. There were a couple of typos up front, some dense exposition about the “rules” of the occult in this world, and I already feel as if the narrative is becoming both a) a little repetitive, and b) a little convoluted as to who is doing what to whom and why. Your mileage, of course, may vary. The “actual” regular fourth issue isn’t due out for a couple of weeks, so you’re way ahead of the curve if you snagged a copy of this at SDCC last week.

Fatale #15: Ghost Variant (Image): I tuned out of Fatale, and Criminal, and much of Ed Brubaker’s recent work for that matter, so it was a little awkward chatting with him about this series when he signed my copy. It’s perfectly well executed and Sean Phillips’ style has never looked better (much more refined and less “blocky” than the old WildStorm stuff I remember him working on), but I’m just personally burned out on the whole noir thriller vibe. The Darwyn Cooke cover on this edition is gorgeous, though.

Sidekick #1: Convention Exclusive (Image): It’s another big debut from JMS’ Joe’s Comics imprint; this copy I was lucky enough to have signed by both JMS and cover artist Whilce Portacio, while interior art is handled by Tom Mandrake. The premise of a washed up sidekick trying to get his act together after his mentor is supposedly gunned down is right up my superhero deconstructionist alley because of the way it plays with the Batman/Robin or Captain America/Bucky archetypes, but as caustically interesting (the “Robin” character shaking down a prostitute for a beej in a back alley) as it was, I just never felt that the campy awkward art ever stood up to the gravitas of the script. Could be something I'll revisit in trade.

The Mysterious Strangers #1-2 (Oni Press): It was nice to find a Chris Roberson project that I felt I finally connected with. This is a really fun, stylish, fast-paced, 1960’s style supernatural espionage throwback. I can see myself sticking with this for a while. Verity Mills is a name I’ll remember, reflective of the type of distinct characters and characterization being offered by this team. With other ongoing creator owned series like Letter 44 debuting, it really feels like Oni Press is making an effort to compete in the space largely being led and dominated by Image Comics right now.

Chew #35: “Destroy Savoy” Convention Exclusive (Image): I still don’t quite grasp the rabid appeal of this title. I know a person who claims this as his favorite modern book, shoot, it wouldn’t even crack my Top 30. The art is reasonably attractive, but the visual gags in the background didn’t make me laugh. Nor did any of the writing. It’s just a pleasant read that I stare blankly at, endlessly waiting for the funny to arrive. Typos aside (a growing concern with the books I picked up at SDCC, as you’ll see), I think Layman and Guillory have built a very fascinating world to play in, but it doesn’t tickle my funny bone in the way its rabid fans usually describe.

Misc. Others: I picked up and read through about half a dozen other small press books from SDCC that were just generally awful. I’m not trying to subtweet; I’m just not interested in naming names when it comes to these books. I’m still old-school enough to think that even bad press is good press. These books just didn’t offer any type of compelling or memorable premise, the dialogue was completely unnatural and failed the “read it out loud” test, ideas that could have been crisply relayed in a page were strung out over several, I generally think story ideas should have a discernible beginning, middle, and end, and the art was atrocious, looking like failed desktop publishing experiments from the 90’s.
 
I saved one for the tail end of this particular reading session because it superficially looked better. It had some really attractive art that reminded me of the wispy detail of old Joe Quesada, circa his X-Factor effort with Peter David. But, I cracked this book open to find literally 10 typos on the first page. When I say “literally” here, I literally mean literally, not figuratively. There were actually 10 typos on the very first page. I’m confounded by this. I don’t understand the logic or carelessness in the chain of events that leads from someone wanting to be a comic book writer, to writing an actual script, to finding an artist, inker, and colorist willing to work on the book, to spending loads of money publishing it, spending another load of money getting yourself to the big dance at SDCC, and then having the gumption to hand your project over to a critic as an example of your foot-forward best work, only to discover 10 typos on the very first page.
 
Really, small publishers? Really? Nobody caught any of these mistakes at any stage of the process? There were an additional 16 typos littered throughout the book, but 10 on the very first page? Really? I can overlook something discretionary like not using my beloved Oxford Comma, but this stuff was way more basic. Not knowing how to use commas and semicolons correctly? Not knowing that you're supposed to capitalize the names of continents as proper nouns? Randomly omitted words? Extra letters just haphazardly sprinkled about like garlic salt and inserted into words for extra flair? Using “citys” and “city’s” and “cities” interchangeably? Repeatedly? Come the fuck on.

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