Monday, November 01, 2004

Best of October

In this post I'm reprinting reviews of items for which I gave a rating of 4 or better in the month of October:

Human Target, vol. 1: Strike Zones
by Peter Milligan & Javier Pulido
As a writer, Milligan runs hot and cold for me. When he's phoning it in he can be pretty awful, but when he puts his best foot forward, as with the recently ended X-Statix, he can be quite entertaining. But for all that, I think that his most recent work on Human Target may be his best work ever. Even beyond his good work in the original mini and the Final Cut OGN, the regular series kicks the level of quality up another notch. Milligan uses Christopher Chase to explore the nature of identity in unique and interesting ways; but besides being a look at personal identity that would make Philip K. Dick proud, it's also an examination of our national identity. The three complete stories in this volume (collecting the first five issues) look at violence in entertainment, 9/11, corporate scandals, and professional atheletes. The stories manage to look at their protagonists and at the same time Chase as a catalyst. Equally fine is Pulido's artwork, with its deceptively simple style and thick lines. Pulido also has a expert grasp of how to use backgrounds effectively--when he leaves them out and shows only the figures, it's for an enhancement of the storytelling. The colors from Lee Loughridge & Javier Rodriguez also contribute positively to the experience. This is a great package from cover to cover, and for only $10. Buy it.
Rating: 4 (of 5)

Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return
by Marjane Satrapi
The first Persepolis told the autobiographical story of Satrapi's childhood in Iran in the wake of the Islamic Revolution, ending with her parents sending her off to live in Europe. This second volume picks up where the first left off; the first half deals with Satrapi's making her way alone as a foreign teenager in Europe, while the second half deals with her returning to Iran and trying to live there as an independent young woman in an oppresive society. The theme of alienation runs throughout the book; a quite common theme for a bildungsroman such as this, but in Satrapi's case it is true alienation. She is a foreign outsider in the West, and back in Iran she is faced with old friends and a country she no longer recognizes. At times the young Satrapi comes off as a bit spoiled and unappreciative, especially when her life is going well, but that's a common attitude of the young. At the same time, Satrapi maintains a narrative distance from many events, particualrly bad ones, that makes it hard sometimes to sympathize. But for all that, Satrapi still creates a vivid portrait of her life, one which is seldom glimpsed in the western world. While not quite as good as the first volume, Persepolis 2 is still highly recommended.
Rating: 4 (of 5)

Courtney Crumrin in the Twilight Kingdom
by Ted Naifeh
Courtney Crumrin keeps getting better. The first chapter in this collection is a stand-alone story, with Courtney going back to her old city where she once lived a mundane childhood and discovers that indeed you can't go home again. It's pretty standard stuff, but the creepy ending works well. The remainder of the book finds Courtney enrolled at a Saturday Coven School for young witches and warlocks (if Hogwarts is like an English boarding school, this is more like Hebrew School or Bible School). She finds that she gets along with the magic kids just as well as she does with normal kids, i.e. not very well. But when a spell goes wrong, it's up to Courtney to save the day as she takes a group of kids into the Goblin domain. Adults play a minor role this time out, excepting the Javert-like Templeton who suspects that the young Miss Crumrin is up to no good. Naifeh's art is superb, with just the right mix of cartooniness & menace, and his writing and characterization is top-notch. I especially appreciate that the villains, if you can call them that, are complex characters with real motivations that go beyond just being bad. The situations in Courtney Crumrin are not exactly novel, but the way in which Naifeh puts them together makes for a great read.
Rating: 4 (of 5)

We3 #2
by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely
Well wow. Since comics are such a static medium, it's hard to present dynamism and action effectively. But in this issue Morrison & Quitely pull it off big time. Using innovative visual techniques and pacing, they so effectively create the illusion of motion that you feel that you're right there in the comic with the action flowing over and around you. The story is typical second act fare, with the 3 on the run from the miltary and an army of cybernetic rats, but it's so well done that you'll want to read and look it over several times.
Rating: 4 (of 5)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think this monthly summary is a great idea. It's also encouraging to see that you're stingy with the high scores, which makes the roundup all the more useful.