Stayed up too late reading comics, ate way too many Doritos, got 4.5 hours of sleep combined and interrupted in the middle with an acid reflux attack. Didn’t wanna take a sick day since I took one last week and I just finished a 4 day weekend.
But enough about my miserable life. Let’s get on with some comic book reviews. Thanks to David Tai I got some good bittorrent links to various comics, and have been reading the heck out of them. I need to up my consumption of creative material anyway; I haven’t read enough books lately in general and it’s impacting my own writing to be sealed off from exposure to fresh creativity. Figure a few reviews will keep my mind rolling.
SPAWN – Alright, I doubt many of you don’t know the gimmick behind this guy by now. Back from the dead to see his wife who got remarried, angsts about his miserable existence, fights large monsters. Nice artwork, okay framing, but what sinks this series for me is the writing.
It has flashes of brilliance, but most of the time it rarely goes above junior high school levels of character development and plot twists. Foreshadowing works like a dull hammer to the forebrain, and subtlety isn’t exactly a goal here. My favorite example was when Jason Wynn, only three pages after being confirmed as one of the primary villains, is turned into a heavenly Anti-Spawn for two issues of brawling… then gets forgotten about for several issues… then pops back up as himself after they had explained he could never be himself again with no explanation. Que? You don’t take one of your best nemesis characters, completely alter him right when he’s getting warmed up so you can have a poor excuse for a Dragonball Z fight, then change your mind. That smacks of poor planning to me.
My other big complaint is the crossovers with other Image comics. I don’t read other Image comics. So when Guy A suddenly shows up in the Spawnaverse and starts tearing the place up and we’re somehow expected to understand what’s going on, it throws me. It’s a bit like the earliest Sandman issues, where Justice League characters and villians showed up and it just didn’t seem to fit at all. Ditto here.
So overall, it’s an okay series with good art and action but weak writing. It just doesn’t seem to go anywhere once we get some answers about Spawn’s past, revels in its own tortured melodrama (which is actually just the same five paragraphs rephrased every time) and has too many excuses for comic booky fights for a title that’s trying to take itself seriously.
BATTLE ANGEL: I saw the Gunnm anime way the heck before I ever read the manga, so I was a fan before I came in. But seeing the FULL world of the series is very nice, compared to the condensed world in the anime. The ongoing epic is nicely paced, since it covers different ‘phases’ of Gally’s life (excuse me, ALITA’S life). What’s more, it focuses on a specific period of time during that phase when change occurs rather than filling issues with eventually meaningless days and nights… I like the tight focus the series has.
The artwork’s flat out astounding. Attention to detail, fairly easy to follow fight scenes, and the motorball segments were perfectly done. The occasional bit of comic relief like a facefault is handled smoothly, to keep from shocking us out of the dramatic narrative.
Character designs are muy cool, although personally I would’ve liked a bit more fanservice / sex appeal… hard to do when 95% of your characters are pure robots other than their brains, though. The only two entities capable of fanservice are Shimura and Eelai, who are minor characters. Mind you, Gally herself is cute enough, and I did like the angle that didn’t make it into the anime where she was afraid to tell Yugo how she felt BECAUSE her body is 95% metal bits.
I’ve read up to volume 6, and I’ve got the rest waiting for me once I get some time. Looking forward to it.
THE MAXX: Man, I didn’t realize how closely the MTV animated version of The Maxx followed the comic until now! It’s almost page for page, line for line perfect, right down to the transitions between frames and frame-within-a-frame. Great stuff, and it worked well there and it works well here.
What makes the Maxx click is that it has all the metaphoric imagery, psychology and depth of something like a Gaiman title or what Spawn wishes it was — without being overly preachy or serious. It revels in its excesses and even points them out to you self-mockingly. When Maxx even dryly comments on how annoyingly surreal things are, or how the symbols are pretty blatant even to him, it’s amusing without becoming a full blown fourth wall break that ruins the narrative.
There is a bit of confusion during the middle of one story arc where characters from other Image comics pop up out of nowhere, sort of like my complaint about Spawn, but it’s handled in a Maxx sort of way — when a giant sharkheaded monster shows up, Maxx notes that he’s actually the underling of a villian enemy of some other guy. “What, I don’t even rate better than a third string lackey?” he wonders aloud/in his head. Hee. The bit where some guy without nostrils looking for ‘timmy’ shows up, though, was completely confusing and wasn’t handled with the same flair.
Overall the series has been a fun, alternative romp — I liken it to Penultima, where it tells a serious story through silly means. It can be horrifying or disgusting as well as absurd and frivolous all without breaking its own rules. And when it can poke fun at established ‘graphic novel’ styles, it does. Nice.
Next on the plate is the old Dark Horse treatment of Aliens, and finishing up Maxx and Battle Angel. …and my other projects, of course.
After a nap. …after work. A nap after work. ugh.