Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Elk's Run #4

In the interest of full disclosure, I do not have a book placed with Hoarse & Buggy. Nor do I plan to in the future. However, they did send me a wonderful Holiday E-Card, and gave me an in-print "thanks" in this issue's letter column. I make no secret of the fact that Elk's Run is one of my favorite comics. I also make no secret of the fact that I want to see it succeed. If you want pure impartiality on Elk's Run, you will need to look elsewhere. I am a fan.

That said, Elk's Run #4 is even better than I was expecting. Remember the oft-repeated cover blurb of comics past: "This Issue: Everything Changes"? Remember how nothing ever actually did? Well, in this chapter everything changes. Though the issue has been delayed due to various issues with new publisher Speakeasy, the wait was worth it. "Compression" in comics isn't just about a Silver Age-y packing in of as many events as possible. It's also about making comics that juggle theme, plot, and character skillfully. It's about making comics that read well on many levels. It's about comics that are dense and chewy and rewarding. That's what's so often missing from the decompressed storyarcs of "The Big Two", and what is so plentiful in Elk's Run. This issue is the high point of the series, as Joshua Hale Filakov skillfully fits major plot development, significant subplot development, massive thematic development, and a damn fine story into 24 pages. Once that Herculean labor is accomplished, Noel Tuazon and Scott Keating then come along and kick it up a notch ... or twelve.

Fialkov has used the technique of layering flashback and current action earlier in the series, but that second issue now looks like a rough draft for what he pulls off here. He weaves two suspenseful, interesting stories that unexpectedly come together in a powerful scene that fundamentally changes what the series is about. The major theme of Elk's Run is the "Sins Of The Fathers" and the generational divide. The generation of the Vietnam War made an agreement, and now their children are being destroyed by it. The blood spilt in the first issue makes that clear, when the town's insistence on maintaining its pledge literally kills one of its children. Teens always feel trapped by their parents, and often teens in rural, remote America feel it more acutely. In Elk's Run, that feeling of being trapped in your small town, your small life, and your small family is made literal. This issue heightens the stakes on that conflict, as it becomes clear that these boys are their fathers' sons and escaping the legacy of Elk's Ridge won't be as easy as climbing a fence or driving through a tunnel. It's deep in the bone, and these children commit the same sins of blood that they find so shocking in the generation they're trying to escape.

Keating again proves he's one of the best colorists in comics with his subtle, skillful shading that not only differentiates the dual timelines, but also tells an emotional story. As the two timelines come together, there is a double-page spread that is a perfect example what makes collaborative comics great: a writer, artist, and colorist all using their unique skills to heighten and strengthen what each other is doing. It communicates both story and theme, and looks stunning doing it. (Usually I like to include scans of the images I talk about ... but I'm not spoiling this one. No way.)


1 comment:

Jason said...

Thanks, as usual, your check is in the mail...

Seriously, glad you're still digging it.