DC Comics Presents: Blink #1 (DC Comics)
by Dwayne McDuffie, Val Semeiks, Dan Green & Renato Guedes
This is one of DC’s 100-page reprints I picked up recently because my local comic shop had it on sale dirt cheap, but had I known the story within was so strong, I definitely would’ve shelled out full price for it. In the main, three-part story, the late Dwayne McDuffie offered up a great premise about a blind con artist who witnesses a murder thanks to a special ability he uses to bilk people of thousands. The premise of the murder — that it’s one of several committed to supply the depraved elite of Gotham with snuff films — is secondary to the blind man’s shtick, which gains more credibility from the fact the story’s set in the DC Universe. It’s a fun story that mixes traditional Batman storytelling of yesteryear with a more clever, modern approach to plotting. While the main story is reprinted from a short arc in Legends of the Dark Knight from a decade ago, the reprint book is rounded out by a more recent Superman story from a 2007 issue of Action Comics v.1. There’s no thematic link to “Blink;” McDuffie’s the only link. It’s a perfectly serviceable standalone story, but it’s also predictable. The characterization of Ma and Pa Kent is well done, though.
Val Semeiks was an odd choice to illustrate McDuffie’s “Blink” story, as he boasts a more cartoony style that really doesn’t reflect the darker elements in the story. It is in keeping with the traditional tone for which the writer strives, though. Semeiks’ designs are a bit disappointing. The blind con artist dresses like a caricature from the 1950s, making it a little more difficult to find him believable, and the wealthy man who serves as one of the key villains of the story looks far too much like Commissioner Gordon, making for a moment of confusion when he’s introduced. Renato Guedes’ photorealistic approach for the Superman story is attractive but stiff, and his interpretation of the Kents is unlike others I’ve seen, though perhaps more convincing and believable. The detail and realism conflict with the sci-fi elements, robbing the story of some of its sense of wonder. 7/10
Green Lantern #7 (DC Comics)
by Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke, Keith Champagne, Christian Alamy & Mark Irwin
If you’ve followed DC’s various Green Lantern comics for the past few years during which writer Geoff Johns introduced the various Rainbow Lantern Corps, this new story arc will be a treat. As the story title suggests, Johns, through Hal Jordan and Sinestro, is delving into “The Secret of the Indigo Tribe,” the most mysterious of the various Lantern groups. The problem is if you haven’t read Green Lantern: Secret Origin, Blackest Night or numerous other comics from the past few years, you’ll really have no idea what’s going on here nor does Johns give an uninitiated audience much reason to care. Of all of DC’s New 52 titles, this is the most “un-New 52” of the bunch, as it’s definitely not for new readers. Still, I’m one of those readers who have been following these comics, and I must admit this feels like a nice payoff of previous plot threads. I thoroughly enjoyed investigating this mystery along with the protagonists, though I have to admit I found Sinestro’s manipulation and empowerment of the exiled Hal Jordan to be more than a little repetitive.
After the disappointing fill-in art from Mike Choi in the previous issue, it was a pleasure to see regular penciller Doug Mahnke return with this issue. As has been the case with many of his comics in the last couple of years, he’s joined by several inkers to complete this issue. Fortunately, Mahnke’s style is so distinct and strong, that approach doesn’t lead to noticeable visual inconsistencies. I love the designs for the Indigo Tribe. They’re diverse but all capture a dark, mysterious and oddly spiritual tone, but in more of a cultist kind of way here. I know the Tribe comes off as somewhat malevolent here, but I’m looking forward to the twist that ends up casting the characters in a positive… ahem, light. 6/10
Saga #1 (Image Comics)
by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
Ever since this project was first announced, people were chomping at the bit to see it, and those in the know were calling it something that couldn’t be missed. That’s a lot of hype to live up to, and I had my doubts. Saga had been built up so much, and while I love writer Brian K. Vaughan’s work, I figured the buzz stemmed mainly from his return to comics. It turns out the anticipation and early kudos were all well deserved. This is a fascinating bit of world-building in a blended science-fiction/fantasy setting. I don’t entirely have the intergalactic conflict straight in my head, but the broader premise — a couple of a newborn on the run — is crystal clear. Vaughan’s over-the-top concepts are fantastic and fun, but what really makes the book is the characterization. The couple at the heart of the plot are quite likable, not because of their love for one another and their child, but because of their imperfections. They bicker and they doubt, but they remain connection and committed. Vaughan is clearly writing something of a Montague/Capulet story here, and one can’t help but notice Alana has wings and Marko has horns. The divine and infernal imagery isn’t subtle, but then again, Vaughan turns that dynamic on its ear, as Alana’s rougher around the edges while Marko seems like the softer soul. Another element I thoroughly enjoyed was the fact a couple of the apparent antagonists — Prince Robot IV and the bounty hunter called The Will — seem like honorable men who are driven by other motives. Robot IV is surprisingly relatable.
As strong as Vaughan’s writing is, I think artist Fiona Staples tops him by bringing his visions to life. This is absolutely one of the loveliest comics I’ve seen in some time. I’ve seen Staples’ work on covers and in an issue of Jonah Hex not too long ago, but those fine efforts pale in comparison to what the Canadian artist has accomplished here. Alana is absolutely loveable, but like the other characters, there’s a rougher look at play in her design as well, thanks to Staples’ loose style combined with softer colors. There’s really not a single character design in the book that’s not appealing, from the “robots” to The Will’s feline companion. This is as close to a flawless comic book as one might find. The only thing I can find wrong with it is its generic title. 10/10
Saucer Country #1 (DC Comics/Vertigo imprint)
by Paul Cornell & Ryan Kelly
Whenever there’s a show on TV about Area 51, UFOs or alien abductions, I roll my eyes and reach for the remote, so the title of this particular new comic-book series didn’t really grab my attention at first. Still, whenever a new Vertigo title launches, I always figure it’s worth a gander, given the strength of the brand. I’m glad I checked this out, because the political and personal elements in the story really clicked for me. I’m a sucker for stories that blend political elements in other genres, and Saucer Country has that in spades. Cornell’s plot of a Hispanic woman running for the office of the president of the United States in incredibly topical, not only in the wake of the 2008 U.S. election, but given the immigration issues that arise as a result. Overall, it’s clear the basis for this series is Cornell’s decision to play around with the double meaning of “aliens,” creating a scenario in which the main character is connected both to illegal immigrants and extraterrestrials. Arcadia Alvarado is an impressive, likeable character. Her brightness and determination make her thoroughly readable, but Cornell also instills vulnerability in her as well. She’s a strong female protagonist, but it occurs to me she’s driven in this story by the influences of two men in her life: her late father and her ex-husband.
What really drew me to this series was the participation of artist Ryan Kelly. His work on such books as Local and The New York Five was always strong, as he seemed well suited to more personal, character-driven fare. Saucer Country has a strong grounding in characterization, but it also includes some larger-than-life and extreme elements, and the artist handles them adeptly. I especially enjoyed how he conveyed the haziness and darkness of Alvarado’s memory. Kelly’s work here actually reminded me of the simpler but effectively dark work of Warren Pleece, a mainstay of Vertigo comics (such as Mobfire and Deadenders) in the 1990s. 8/10
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