Right now, Sean Murphy is one of the most compelling artists in the industry no matter what kind of script he’s working from. When he’s given a good one, such as Grant Morrison’s “Joe the Barbarian” or Jason Aaron’s two-part “Hellblazer” story, it becomes a joy to pour over the detail he invests in each page and invest yourself in the narrative. In the cases where he is given one that isn’t all that great, see Si Spencer’s “Hellblazer: City of Demons” or Scott Snyder’s “American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest,” appreciating those details becomes an end in itself. Murphy’s spiky, sketchy, over-the-top style may never bring him widespread fame and massive sales in the direct market, but he has a talent to enhance whatever he’s working on and that should keep him around for a long, long time. He brings that talent to this, his first project as a writer, and it’s a good thing too because I’m not sure how entertaining this would have been if Murphy hadn’t provided the art.
The big news from Dark Horse out of Wondercon a couple weeks ago was that they have an interesting new “Star Wars” project coming out later this year. Titled, “The Star Wars” it’s an adaptation of one of George Lucas’ earliest drafts of the original script for his immortal space opera. To give you an indication of how different this early version was, it still had Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, but there’s no father/son dynamic here. Both are older characters, Generals in the war. You’ve also got Annakin Starkiller, a final attack on a fortress, and wookies in spaceships. It’ll be written by J.W. Rinzler, author of the excellent “The Making of The Empire Strikes Back” with art by Mike Mayhew. Having Mayhew do the interiors is quite a coup as the man has produced some striking covers over the years, with his sequential work almost matching that caliber (at least in the “Avengers Annual” he did a few years back with Bendis). Of course, delivering that quality of art makes me worry for the schedule of the planned eight-issue series, set to start later this year, but I’m certainly intrigued by this nonetheless.
If nothing else, writer Gerry Duggan and artist Phil Noto have to be commended for having the ingenuity to think that “The Odyssey” could be reinvented as a near-future take on the War on Terror and one soldier’s efforts to get home. This solder has no name, save “Captain” and “father,” but we’re introduced to him as he decks lazy private military contractors, gets thrown in the brig for it and then goes on to cover the extraction of civilian assets in Syria before he and his men have to find their own way back home. Things aren’t much better for his wife Penelope and their son, as society and the environment are slowly breaking down to resemble what we saw in “The Massive” and she has to fend for her family against those who covet her access to clean water.
Most of the analogues to Homer’s epic are generally pretty clever, such as the Russian “cyclops” decked out in body armor with special night vision, and the “sirens” being a cult luring people to work on their ark. What holds things back is that the seriousness of the whole endeavor keeps getting hammered home on a regular basis in the dialogue. Also, things like having the Captain re-break his leg overshoot “dramatically striking” and land somewhere near “ridiculous.” Noto generally does a good job investing drama in the art, in scenes such as the plane crash and the Captain’s drug-fueled nightmare about the people he left trapped on a ship, though there’s just as much with linework thin and simple enough to imply that he was rushed for time. On balance, this isn’t bad though I think the concept and the parts I did like left me wanting to like it more than I actually do.
I wrote about how I wasn’t expecting much from the new creative teams for the “Green Lantern” family of titles last month, and apparently DC has tried to rectify that by adding DRAMA to the equation. Josh Fialkov, slated to write both “Green Lantern Corps” and “Red Lanterns” walked off both titles after he said DC was pushing a storyline that was going to kill off John Stewart on him. Killing off a much-liked character who also happens to be the company’s most prominent African-American superhero aside, no good is going to come from the fact that editorial told Fialkov one thing when he pitched them whatever storylines he wanted to tell and then told him something else after he got the job. If DC wanted a talented writer drone who would do whatever they said, they certainly did a poor job of vetting Fialkov before bringing him on. Which reminds me, Scott Lobdell will be taking over for Andy Diggle on “Action Comics” for a bit after the latter walked off the title due to unspecified “creative differences.” If these creative changes spark a massive upswing in sales for any of these titles, I will be forced to conclude that we do not live in a rational universe.
Anyhow, “Trinity War” kicks off after the break.
I believe that my love of all things Tezuka is well-documented on this site, but I’ve always found his mature late-era works to be generally more entertaining than his early kiddie-skewing ones. Here, we have a late-era work that skews towards the kiddie side of the spectrum and is less interesting as a result. “Unico” is a series of stories about a little blue-haired, red-maned unicorn who brings love and happiness to everyone he meets. However, this draws the ire of the goddess Venus and so Unico is constantly whisked from world to world by the West Wind making people’s lives better in the process yet at the cost of having his memory wiped whenever he has to move on. That’s how nearly every story in this collection plays out, and there’s pecious little of Tezuka’s brand of insanity to enliven the proceedings. You won’t find Satan officiating any weddings here.
Still, even if the storytelling is predictable it’s still agreeable enough and with plenty of positive messages and strong characters that will appeal to a younger audience. The last story does shake things up a bit and proves to be the most memorable as Unico finds himself in a world that is populated only by a bratty demon who wants his horn. There’s an eeriness to this empty world that makes it stand out as well as a belligerence to the demon’s actions which stands in stark contrast to most of the other characters we see here. It’s also worth noting that this is one of the very few manga I’ve read which was printed in full color and it looks fantastic. So even though it’s not an essential read when it comes to the Tezuka canon, “Unico” still has enough merits to make it an enjoyable read.
After avoiding it for much of his time in the industry, Brian Wood has certainly taken on a lot of work-for-hire projects recently. He’s been doing work on various “X-Men” titles for Marvel with a new “adjectiveless” title to start next month, and launching new takes on “Conan” and “Star Wars” for Dark Horse. It’s certainly a little surprising coming from a creator who seemed to willfully eschew this stuff back in the day, but people change and it’s not like he’s the first creator to pursue more mainstream projects after completing a defining creator-owned title. That’s what makes “The Massive” stand out amongst the other titles he’s currently writing right now. As Wood’s newest creator-owned series, it carries the banner that “DMZ” and “Northlanders” hefted for years and great expectations come with that. Expectations that have yet to be met here.
Savor this volume folks, because it’ll be the last one we see for at least a year as Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque pursue other projects at DC and work to get some issues in the can before the series returns. Yes, I’d have preferred it if Snyder had kept this title on the front burner instead of going off and do a new “Superman” series for the company. Doing it this way at least allows them to preserve the series momentum and prime the fanbase for its inevitable return. As opposed to the hash that Bendis and Oeming made of the “Is it ever coming out again?” schedule that “Powers” has had over the years. In that respect, the hiatus is a smart move. So what about the actual volume? While it continues to maintain “American Vampire’s” usual standard of quality, it’s the final issue that will really stick in your head here.
One of the most impressive creative turnarounds I’ve read in years continues with this volume. As the title implies, Tony Stark is currently in the process of losing everything dear to him. His friends. His status as an Avenger. His company. Even his role as Iron Man, and it’s all part of a dastardly plot by The Mandarin in order to finally break his most hated foe. Usually a story that involves this level of loss is meant to be endured rather than enjoyed given how depressing they tend to be. That’s not the case here as writer Matt Fraction manages the neat trick of making the reader feel like Tony Stark is completely in control even when things are coming down around him.
Have you ever read something and thought, “This isn’t bad, but it’s been done much better somewhere else?” That’s the experience I had while reading this collection of writer/artist Bob Fingerman’s otherwise entertainingly filthy saga of a New York couple struggling to find their place in the big city. If it wasn’t for the fact that it covered a lot of the same ground in a less graceful manner than Alex Robinson’s “Box Office Poison” I might’ve enjoyed it without reservation. As it is, I have a few.