Before Watchmen: Moloch #1 (DC Comics)
by J. Michael Straczynski & Eduardo Risso
Unlike the other Before Watchmen titles, this two-issue limited series explores a title character that’s essentially a blank slate. In the original Watchmen series, Moloch was more of a means to an end; he served to advance the Comedian’s and Rorschach’s plotlines. Writer J. Michael Straczynski develops an origin story that makes it easy to relate to a villain, that explains why he’s opted for a life of crime. Edgar Jacobi is painted as a sympathetic figure here (not unlike his aged, cancer-riddled self was in Watchmen) despite the murders, drug trade and other ills he lets loose on the world. His background doesn’t excuse his crimes, but it does explain them. Now, Moloch is probably portrayed as a little too self-aware in this story, but that’s in part the byproduct of casting him in the role of narrator of his own story and the introspective turning point that serves as a framing sequence. It’s easy to sympathize with and even relate to the young Eddie Jacobi. Everyone can relate to some form of pain he’s had to endure in a life defined by emotional, physical and social abuse.
Eduardo Risso offers a much different take on the title character than what we saw from Dave Gibbons in the original source material. Moloch always seemed like a tall, lithe figure in Watchmen, but here, he’s far less imposing physically. He’s almost dwarven in his depiction, small and meek and frail. It reinforces the pitiable nature of the character. Risso exaggerates the pointed ears as well, making Edgar seem far less normal, almost inhuman. His physical inhumanity is mirrored by the behavioral monstrousness of everyone around him. Risso’s shadowy style is a great fit for a villain’s story. 8/10
Deadpool #1 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Gerry Duggan, Brian Posehn & Tony Moore
It’s been a long time since I read a Deadpool comic. I was a fan of the Deadpool comics back when they were written by Joe Kelly and Priest and illustrated by the likes of Ed McGuinness and Pete Woods. The spike in popularity the character has enjoyed in recent years isn’t something I fully understood, but mainly because I wasn’t familiar with the material with which readers were connecting. When this relaunch was announced as part of the publisher’s Marvel Now! campaign/branding, it wasn’t the title character that caught my eye, but rather than the creative lineup. While I haven’t enjoyed all of his comics, I’ve always enjoyed comedian Brian Posehn whenever I’ve seen him on television, and his sense of humor seemed like a good fit for Deadpool (even though their energy levels couldn’t be more disparate). The concept Posehn and Duggan offer up here actually has a certain logic to it — they come up with a supernatural threat that conventional super-heroes can’t really address, if only for PR reasons. The political satire inherent in the notion of undead presidents plaguing the country was a lot of fun, especially given the recency of the election in the U.S. The script was obviously written in the throes of the campaign, and it’s a shame this story arc didn’t get underway before the latest Democrat/Republican contest was decided Nov. 6.
While Posehn was one of the aspects that drew me to this comic book, artist Tony Moore was the other. His exaggerated style also suits the title character quite well, and Marvel was wise to snap up the original artist and co-creator of The Walking Dead. I’m surprised that claim to fame isn’t plastered on the cover with a blurb or two, but the tone of the storytelling here is radically different than Moore’s more notable credit. It’s fitting Moore’s first story on this series features the undead, especially given the far more comical tone. Overall, Deadpool #1 hits all the right notes, not only because it’s funny (both in concept and visually), but in part because it unfolds in its own little independent corner of the Marvel Universe. Continuity really doesn’t seem to be a concern here, making for an accessible and self-contained read. 7/10
Dial H #6 (DC Comics)
by China Miéville & David Lapham
Writer China Miéville sets aside the surreal approach to the plotting and dialogue in this issue, and in the process, provides an accessible story that serves as an excellent jumping-on point for new readers. There’s no action in this issue, which may disappoint those who crave it, but Miéville is clearly using this issue to bring his audience up to speed, to take a moment and a deep breath to explain exactly what’s been going on up to this point. I suppose one could argue the decision to do so or the perceived need might point to some weakness in earlier issues, but the creative chaos of earlier issues was part of the appeal of the opening story arc. This issue is dominated by logic, but Miéville dresses up the exposition by keeping it entertaining. His sense of humor has always been apparent in previous issues, but this script is definitely his funniest. He pokes fun at the dated, racially insensitive super-hero concepts of yesteryear, but he also has fun with the weirder, less palatable excesses of mature-readers super-hero concepts (such as those one might have found in Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol comics a couple of decades ago).
Guest artist David Lapham’s more straightforward, conventional approach to the visuals is compliments the more matter-of-fact, linear tone of Miéville’s script. There’s a brighter tone to the art that works well with the lighter tone of the story elements. Lapham brings a solid sense of comic timing and reaction to the characters, and he brings some of the same weird sense of character design that’s been such a fun part of previous issues. Brian Bolland’s covers continue to allow this underdog title to stand out, and it punctuates the mature and intelligent tone of Miéville’s take on this oddball, campy Silver Age concept. 8/10
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