Daily Archives: July 30, 2009

Menace to Society

Justice Society of America #29
“Fresh Meat: Part 1 of The Bad Seed”
Writers: Bill Willingham & Matthew Sturges
Artist/Cover artist: Jesus Merino
Colors: Allen Passalaqua
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Mike Carlin
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I’ve been a fan of DC’s Golden Age heroes and new characters following in their footsteps for a long time, ever since I was a kid and first learned of the “Earth-2” heroes active during the Second World War. Geoff Johns, the previous writer on this series, approached modern stories about the first super-hero team by focusing on their legacy, reviving Golden Age character concepts and breathing new life into them with younger characters, and I enjoyed the concept. Now this series has new writers, and one would expect a new approach. To my surprise, we get more of what Johns brought to the book, only Bill Willingham and Matthews Sturges don’t execute it as well. They take the concepts and wield them like sledgehammers. Everything about this plot is loud and urgent without any kind of buildup. The story unfolds awkwardly as a result, and the characters often speak or act in ways that just don’t make sense. Furthermore, while artist Jesus Merino seems to handle the expansive case of characters fairly well, his art lacks any truly distinct style.

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Pain in the Asterios

Asterios Polyp original hardcover graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: David Mazzucchelli
Publisher: Pantheon Books
Price: $29.95 US/$34 CAN

Like most comics readers, I associate the name “David Mazzucchelli” with Daredevil and Batman: Year One, the artist’s collaborations with writer Frank Miller. Those were much-lauded (and deservedly so) super-hero genre projects, but those who have read them shouldn’t consider them any kind of indication of what they can expect from Mazzucchelli and this book. Not only is this character- and philosophy-driven graphic far removed from spandex costumes and crime-fighting fisticuffs, it also boasts a radically different visual style.

I realize that might sound like I’m panning this project, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. This is an intellectual work about a flawed intellectual, and with it, Mazzucchelli proves that there are some stories that can only be told through the medium of comics. Asterios Polyp is an engrossing, challenging work. Everything about the book — the characterizations, the plotting, the art and the lettering — shows incredible vision and ambition on the creator’s part, and it demonstrates just how well he knows this medium. Harvey Pekar meets Scott McCloud in this fascinating tome, one that will not only amaze lovers of comics but will change the way they think about them.

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