Golden Age @ Poopsheet Foundation
I reviewed the impressive Golden Age by Rob Harrington, Giulie Speziani, and Cecilia Latella over at Poopsheet Foundation.
Astro City, A Voice In The Dark, Conan The Barbarian, Danger Club, Deathmatch, Death Sentence, East of West, The Fuse, Jupiter's Legacy, Lazarus, Letter 44, Manifest Destiny, The Massive, Pretty Deadly, Saga, Satellite Sam, Sex, Sex Criminals, Sheltered, Star Wars, Think Tank, Todd The Ugliest Kid On Earth, Trillium, The True Lives of The Fabulous Killjoys, Umbral, The Wake, Wasteland, X-Men
1 Night On Earth (Ginger Rabbit Studio): It’ll probably sound horrible, but sometimes I joke with people that I’ve been reviewing comics for so long that I can just glance at one and know instantly if I’m going to like it or not. Yes, I can actually judge a book by it’s cover. When I saw this Giovanna Terrone cover, I fell in love a little bit, and then when I realized all of the stories were written by Giulie Speziani, I got really excited because her work I’ve sampled in the past has been so strong. 1 Night On Earth is billed as “5 Cities. 5 Stories. 1 Night.” taking place in Hong Kong, San Salvador, Miami, Los Angeles, and Sydney. All of the pieces are written by Speziani, with different artists accompanying each entry, and then self-published by Speziani under her Ginger Rabbit Studio label. This type of micro-anthology is an ambitious project for her to take on, and I’m happy to report that it totally succeeds.
Think Tank #11 (Image/Top Cow): Matt Hawkins and Rahsan Ekedal really amp up their bold approach to speculative fiction in this issue. While it’s all based on real-world tech R&D and authentic tradecraft, it leaps from those origins toward a startling showdown with China. Political pundits and intelligence analysts in-the-know are betting that the “next” next global hotspot will not be the Middle East, but probably some dispute (Taiwan, North Korea) involving China and the general South China Sea Region. Hawkins peppers the story with factoids and details that ring true (not just about the cool tech on display, but about how money talks, or our modern surveillance state, or how to navigate internationally) because, well, they are. The transparency of the research makes for a very satisfying read. The final shot is a nice callback to a historical event, like the BSG homage that preceded it. Now, I was perfectly happy with the black and white art, but I’ll admit it will be a fun treat to see Ekedal’s work in full color when Season 2 hits. As a side note, it’s interesting to see the creators openly address sales, jumping on points, and roadblocks around consumer perception. I wonder if some of these bold storytelling choices are also meant to address that. They’re stripping away the excuses, so if you’re not buying this now, you’d better start soon! Grade A.
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Sheltered #5 (Image): I did some sort of weird reverse gasp when I cracked this issue open, as the full page opener rendered by Johnnie Christmas and Shari Chankhamma literally took my breath away. Their compositions are so smart and striking, the rich juxtaposition between how the light and smoke of the fire in the foreground counterbalances against the snowy skyline in the background. They help writer Ed Brisson marry his affection for low-budget sordid crime tales and the high concept du jour (pre-) apocalyptic genre so well. Christmas is particularly good at emotions and intent being carried in facial expressions. We begin to see a power shift in this issue that highlights a theory of social influence I read about years ago when I was wasting a decade working in the annals of Corporate America. The theory essentially suggested that the average mass of people will break down into thirds once you try to exert influence over them: one third will actively support you and acquiesce, one third will come off neutral or indifferent, and one third will actively resist and fight against you. Readers can now start their pools and place bets on the characters being fleshed out and who goes which way under the de facto leadership of Lucas. Speaking of Lucas, he’s a masterful spin doctor (ok, let’s just say “manipulator”) who tries to crack down even tighter in an effort to maintain his precarious grasp on Safe Haven, but as the saying goes, the tighter you try to squeeze grains of sand, the more they just slip through your fingers… I really enjoyed seeing new alliances being forged by people who either suspect or know the truth about what happened to Chris. I won’t spoil it, but the close of this first arc comes with an “AWW, C’MON!” cliffhanger that will have lasting repercussions that shake up the externalities of the status quo, which has to this point been driven solely by internalities. There’s also another dose of backmatter by Ryan K. Lindsay, this time discussing the threat of Solar Storms. He manages to keep his half pragmatic / half paranoid voice in play, with references to Fantastic Four and “Black Swan Events,” something we used to discuss in crisis management contingencies, and a personal favorite term I last saw being used in ABC’s cancelled-before-its-time show Flash Forward. Backmatter Is As Backmatter Does, and this one is a subtle form of entertainment that bolsters the main course. If you’re missing Sheltered, you’re missing out on one of the hottest new books of the year, which still probably hasn’t realized it’s full subcultural social phenomenon potential as “The Next The Walking Dead.” Note: The first TPB is out in December, with the series resuming with #6 in January. #TeamVictoria Grade A.
Conan The Barbarian #22 (Dark Horse): DMZ alum Riccardo Burchielli joins Brian Wood for the beginning of the end of his run on The Queen of The Black Coast Era, entitled “The Song of Belit.” In some ways, it seems that Belit’s Song is akin to the mythological Siren’s Song. Conan describes her song as the silence that follows an irresistible succession of passion and pain. Wood really pushes the tone of the story toward a melange of foreboding notes of horror, mystery, and a discussion of the utility surrounding belief in the Gods. The couple venture into waters as toxic as the willingness to blindly follow a cause. It’s easy to admire the sense of inborn fatalism that Wood imbues these characters with, Conan seems to function with a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” attitude. If your belief is that you’re going to be just as lost in whatever afterlife as you are wandering the Earthly plane in pursuit of the fleeting, then why not adopt a carpe diem-like mantra that allows you to live in the moment and revel in what Metric would describe as “Gold, Guns, Girls.” Conan does confess that Belit has been his “shining light” that’s punctuated all the dreariness, but readers won’t escape the feeling that something terrible is on the horizon, just out of our periphery of comprehension at present. As good as I found the dark tone, suiting what I’ve been feeling personally lately as a darkness in the world wherein people just ruin everything, the real star of this issue is Riccardo Burchielli and his sharp chiseled art. Burchielli absolutely has a mastery of human anatomy and how to bend it to his will. With protruding jaw lines for Conan and sumptuous lips for Belit, there’s danger, always danger, lurking just below the surface of his lines. That was the case with how he rendered the sub-text of war-torn New York City in DMZ, and it’s the case here, whether it’s the environs of a dark river or the eerie chill of a forgotten Ghost City. Burchielli’s art possesses a depth of field created with either layered backgrounds or altered figure scale that definitively sells whatever world he’s helping to build. In a book that’s already been “can’t miss,” this feels like it’ll have all the makings of a “can’t miss” arc that sticks a big period on a creative swan song. Grade A+.