Greek Street #1 (DC Comics/Vertigo imprint)
by Peter Milligan & Davide Gianfelice
If one wanted to describe this new series in terms of comic books that have come before it, you might be tempted to describe it as Fables meets 100 Bullets, but it’s actually far more unusual and original than that. Writer Peter Milligan is known for weird, intelligent and challenging works, and this is definitely in that vein. He takes the traditions of ancient Greek drama and explores them in a modern, noir context. That means we get gangsters and gods, depravity and destruction. It’s about bad people behaving incredibly badly, and it’s difficult to swallow. One of the most important scenes early on is one involving incest in which one of the participants is aware of the relationship. It’s disturbing. Milligan’s writing here is raw and intense, and he’s perhaps a bit too successful in his efforts. All of the characters are so corrupt or confused, I really don’t want to get to know them better. I found I didn’t want to see just how much further they could all sink into moral decay. Davide Gianfelice’s art — with the angular figures and a loose, gritty look — certainly suits the tone of the story and characters. I found his efforts a bit confusing at times, mainly because a few of the designs are a bit too similar in appearance. The colors — dark, muted tones combined with eerie pinks and reds — are in keeping with the harsh yet surreal qualities of the plotting.
I sang DC’s praises for launching The Unwritten #1 with a cheap debut issue, and the publisher deserves the same credit here. There are 34 pages of story and art to be had for a buck here, and even though my reaction to the story was somewhat mixed, there’s no denying that’s a great value. 6/10
Invincible Iron Man #15 (Marvel Comics)
by Matt Fraction & Salvador Larroca
While I’m not all that taken with the “Dark Reign” plotlines running through a number of Marvel Universe titles, I have to admit that sometimes, odd or even forced plot directives can yield strong stories when handled by a talented creative team. “World’s Most Wanted” in Invincible Iron Man is one such story, and Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca represent one such creative team. One of the biggest problems with the character of Tony Stark was that his defining qualities — his genius, his fame, his wealth and his lifestyle — required him to be supremely arrogant. With this storyline, as he desperately runs from a corrupt establishment as he races against the clock, Fraction tears him, strips away what’s made him arrogant. As a result, he’s quite relatable, and the story boasts a tragic tone that’s riveting. Maria Hill’s own desperate mission mirrors Tony’s, as does the fact that her personal losses have made her character more interesting.
Larroca’s photorealistic artwork works well with the subject. Fraction’s plot convinces the reader of the status-quo altering danger that the protagonists face, so more convincing visuals further the writer’s efforts. He offers a great take on Madame Masque. She’s alluring and unsettling all at once; the artist instills a sensuality in her that’s mirrored by the raw hatred that’s apparent in her slow, deliberate body language. 8/10
Justice League: Cry for Justice #1 (DC Comics)
by James Robinson & Mauro Cascioli/Len Wein & Ardian Syaf
There’s one hell of a typo on the front page. Somehow, someone misspelled “revenge” in the subtitle, because the heroes in this story, despite what they say, aren’t out for justice. The rage and grief that drives several of the characters (notably Ray Palmer, Mikaal Thomas and Congo Bill) are what defines this issue. Green Lantern’s speech makes some sense — had it occurred in closer proximity to the crimes to which he refers. Again, DC seems to have failed to capitalize on any momentum that may have existed in the wake of Final Crisis. Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this first issue is that nothing really happens. This isn’t even the gathering-of-the-forces issue, but rather the introduction-of-the-forces issue (and not even a complete introduction at that). I remain interested in what Robinson has in store, not only because I’m thrilled to see him tackle one of his supporting characters from Starman again, but in part because I’m curious about the sheer oddity of Congo Bill’s participation in a Justice League story. Cascioli’s art is attractive, though there are some initial problems with perspective. It’s a little inconsistent at times as well, notably during the Mikaal scene. Still, the painted look suits the brooding tone for which Robinson’s script strives.
Honestly, the best bits in this book are the bonus features in the back. Robinson’s thoughts on the origins of the series and the creative choices he made were interesting, and the inclusion of the Congo Bill origin story by Len Wein and Ardian Syaf was a smart move, as it allows newer readers unfamiliar with this obscure character to get a crash course on him outside of the overwrought emotional context of the main story. 4/10
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