Decision 2012: Barack Obama #1 (Boom! Studios)
by Anonymous & Damian Couceiro
As an outside observer of American politics, I had some mild interest in this biographical. The writer — who’s apparently chosen to go uncredited for the work and remain anonymous — offers up a fairly matter-of-fact script. The earlier parts of the book, detailing the president’s youth, reads like an encyclopaedia entry. It’s informative but dry. As one makes one’s way further into the biography, it begins to read more like a political resume, focusing on Obama’s achievements but ignoring some of his more controversial decisions, especially since taking power. While I wouldn’t describe the information here as a puff piece, it’s definitely a little sugar-coated. I can only assume forthcoming Decision 2012 comics featuring Republican candidates will be similarly glowing. I found some of the information here interesting and even a little surprising (Obama has two Grammy Awards?!), but I’m not sure what it might contribute to the actual “Decision 2012” process.
Damian Couceiro’s artwork is clearly taking a number of cues from photos, but neither does it look like he’s outright traced or lightboxed the reference material. His work here reminds me of Cliff (Buffy) Richards’ sometimes airy style. He crafts some decent likenesses, but his efforts here don’t really represent sequential storytelling as we’re used to in comics. Each panel is a different moment in history, a visual to accompany the factoid(s) on which the narration focuses. 5/10
House of Night #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
by P.C. Cast, Kristin Cast, Kent Dalian, Joelle Jones & Karl Kerschl
I hadn’t heard of this comic book before, but when I spied it on sale last week, a couple of things drew it to my attention. Artwork by Joelle Jones and Karl Kerschl is a major selling point as far as I’m concerned, and I’m willing to try out just about any comic for a buck (the cover price for this first issue). The comic served as something of a pop-culture education for this 40-year-old. Apparently, House of Night is a book series (no doubt aimed at ‘tweens and teens). I’d never heard of it before, and this first issue plunked me right smack dab in the middle of the second novel (which means it doesn’t read like a first issue). Now I get that Dark Horse intended this for fans of the series, that it didn’t think someone like me would be reading these pages. But if that was the case, pricing it at a dollar was a misstep. The price is bound to draw in people such as myself who are unfamiliar with the premise and characters, Kent Dalian’s script manages to catch the uninitiated audience up after a while, but it nevertheless seems like a disconnect between the storytelling and marketing.
The property can be summed up as Harry Potter meets Twilight meets Mean Girls, so its design to appeal to a mass-market audience always makes its presence known. The story-within-a-story approach here, which I assume will be a recurring motif throughout this comic series, works pretty well and builds up the mythology of this kinder, gentler interpretation of vampires. Jones’ art suits the property well, as she conveys the teen vampires’ youth quite adeptly (though she fails to make the “Nerd Herd” look the part as compared to the nasty popular girls). Kerschl’s artwork for the flashback/legend sequence was something of a surprise, as it doesn’t look like the super-hero genre work we’ve seen from him. The anime influence is much more apparent than usual, but he does an excellent job of capturing a mythic look. 6/10
Legion: Secret Origin #1 (DC Comics)
by Paul Levitz, Chris Batista & Marc Deering
While I was disappointed with the two Legion titles included as part of DC’s New 52 relaunch line, I remain a Legion fan. As such, I was curious about this limited series retelling the team’s origin, especially given penciller Chris Batista’s involvement and the sharp cover art from Tom Feister. The latter is striking and should appeal to anyone who enjoys the work of his frequent collaborator, Tony (Ex Machina) Harris. Batista’s clean, crisp and detailed pencils are a perfect fit for the high-tech, future backdrop against which this super-hero team story unfolds. Most importantly, the teen heroes in the story actually look like teens. Wes Hartman’s bright colors are in keeping with the prosperous future one imagines and hopes for, and they maintain a light, energetic tone that’s in keeping with the original appeal of these characters and the premise.
While I thoroughly enjoyed the artwork, Paul Levitz’s script didn’t quite click for me. I completely appreciated what he’s trying to accomplish here. He sets out to update the Legion’s origin and bring a more mature, complex and intellectual tone to it. As a longtime Legion fan, I don’t want the more intricate details, the conspiracies or the politics — at least not at this early juncture. Mind you, Levitz is writing for new readers as well here, so the different take might appeal to those without any preconceived notions of what the Legion should be about. But there’s another problem: the focus here isn’t on the Legion at all. The opening scene features a bunch of soldiers or Science Police officers that seem unlikely to be recurring characters. The rest of the script isn’t about the Legion’s formation but rather about people behind the scenes, pulling the strings. The one saving grace is Brainiac 5’s role, exploring what he was up to before joining the Legion. Levitz’s softens his usually abrasive character just a little, reflecting his youth and a little bit of innocence. 5/10
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