Wednesday, April 12, 2006
KNOWING IS HALF THE BATTLE
If I had to guess, I’d suspect I’ve probably used that gag before.
G.I. JOE #7-9
Written by Joe Casey and Drawn by Stefano Caselli and Nelson Blake II
Published by Devil’s Due
Comics’ longest running military soap opera continues its re-launch, as Casey works to try and find ways to satisfy readers who’ve been following the team for years as well as make the book simple enough to follow for the new readers Devil’s Due is hoping to bring to the title. His efforts are a mixed bag, but for the most part, the series remains steadily entertaining.
When last we left the Joes, they had taken vacation to go on an off-the-books rescue mission. Scarlett had been captured by classic baddie Destro, and with the government declining to support their efforts to get her back, the team was granted some shore leave to do with what they wanted to. Unfortunately, their efforts bring about the seeming demise of the most popular Joe, Snake Eyes, so no one is very happy when they get back home.
Now, if you believe that Snake Eyes, the Joes’ equivalent to Wolverine in popularity, is actually dead, then you probably believe that Iraq was behind the immigration marches of the past couple of weeks. And your lips are moving as you read this. However, if you have a couple of brain cells to rub together, you can probably guess that there’s a resurrection ahead for the silent guy in black. The key is for Casey to at least present the illusion of change, no matter how temporary, because that’s the way that a soap opera keeps fresh over time. The illusion of change keeps a series like G.I. JOE feeling vital; it can incorporate bits and pieces from the real world and maintain a zippy connection to us all, and giving the audience a vicarious thrill is always what successful soaps have done well.
G.I. JOE will never, ever, be Shakespeare. But thanks to a large number of trade paperbacks and back issues, it will always be a comforting presence for your inner thirteen-year old boy, and for many a reader, that’s more than enough.
Monday, April 10, 2006
IT WAS ONLY A MATTER OF TIME
It already seems like most of the comics on the stands these days have forsaken character development altogether and focused on action. Now, we have one of the first books to hit stands that does so willingly and on purpose. The question is: how does it work?
HYSTERIA: ONE MAN GANG #1-2
Written and Drawn by Mike Hawthorne
Published by Image Comics
Port Aesteria is subdivided and ruled by four gangs. One simple tenet sets the tone: cross into another gang’s territory for any reason, no matter if it is justified, and it’s war. So when Bruce Lopez, the ass-kicker known as One Man Gang, saves a little girl from being hit by a runaway truck, he’s about to find that no good deed goes unpunished, because he crossed into the Eggs Gang’s turf to do it.
The action kicks off fast and furious, as by the bottom of page one, the tale is underway. Essentially, OMG is one long action sequence, moving from set-piece to set-piece and never really stopping to take a breath. Kung-fu fights, rooftop chases, car chases… Hawthorne is leaving no stone unturned as he moves Bruce and the little girl from one place to another. Along the way, he pays homage to some of the best action actors and sequences ever, as well as classic manga like LONE WOLF AND CUB.
Making the book even more intriguing is the behind-the-scenes material provided in issue two. Hawthorne demonstrates how he puts his pages together, and how OMG isn’t actually “written” in the traditional sense; instead, he storyboards the flow in a huge notebook and comes back to add words much later. That creates what he refers to as a “freestyle” comic, and while I think it would suck bunches for most comics to adopt this method, for OMG it works.
Why? Because the book sets out to deliver a certain type of comics with a certain type of look and tone, and it delivers what it sets out to do. If I were in a shop and looking for a pure-action book that would occupy my attention and provide plenty of cool moments, I’d eat this stuff up with a spoon. And because Hawthorne is a talented guy with the ability to mix action and sight gags like a professional chef, so much the better. I suppose some reviewers might say that HYSTERIA: ONE MAN GANG is a guilty pleasure, but they’ve got it exactly wrong. There’s no guilt here at all. This book works.