Monday, August 21, 2006

ScatterThoughts: The Books Of August 16th

It's a Theme Week! All-New #1 issues!


And expectations.

Perhaps it's simply a matter of expectations. When I heard that this was the book that would "out-Preacher Preacher", I didn't immediately assume a sweeping epic about the nature of friendship, God, and the nature of man. Instead, I assumed Grand Guignol violence, hypersex, and shadowy conspiracies directed by the physically and mentally corrupt. I went in not expecting much. So, perhaps due to these low expectations, I really enjoyed The Boys #1. The aforementioned violence, sex, and conspiracy show in full Ennis force but the whole thing is played for a bit higher stakes than I've seen from him lately. Where recent Ennis often plays as near-farce, this has a more serious tone, a bit more gravity. If that starts to outweigh his habitual writing tics, The Boys could become something that can compare to Preacher after all.

Again with the expectations, my friends. The Savage Brothers #1 (from BOOM! Studios) didn't lead me to expect much beyond a high-concept Larry The Cable Guy Meets The Walking Dead. Redneck brothers fighting and scamming an a postapocalyptic zombified Dirty South. There's the almost-standard shadowy conspiracy behind the scenes, and plenty of "dreadnek" humor ... but what sets this apart is the titular brothers themselves. There's a bit more to them than expected. There's some smarts and some nobility and some idiocy and greed, and it's that dissonance between the stereotype and the reality that provides much of the joy of this first issue, as the plot twists and turns unexpectedly around the Bros. Savage.

And this time, we discuss expectations dashed. Oh, how I wanted to love Rex Mundi #1. Combining my love for alternate histories with my fascination with Holy Blood, Holy Grail conspiracy theories, and topped with a heaping helping of beautiful art from Juan Ferreyra ... this seemed like a slam dunk. I expected the relaunch under the Dark Horse banner would finally let me jump into this seemingly fascinating book. Ferreyra didn't disappoint, but this confusing mess of an issue certainly didn't allow for new readers to enter into this interesting world. Instead of a welcome mat, I got a confusing mix of plotlines and characters that all but said "here's your hat, what's your hurry". Perhaps I will try this series again in trade, but as an individual issue buyer, I get it already: I'm not welcome.

And finally, a title I had no expectations for: Gillen and McKelvie's Phonogram #1. This black-and-white book is about the magic contained in pop music, and the conceit is incredibly powerful. It's obviously deeply personal, and the creators' love for the music and the magic is palpable and infectious. It's Lester Bangs and Greil Marcus as High Wizards with the charm of a power-pop baseline calling upon the godly forces you always knew lurked behind Imperial Teen. The execution leaves a bit to be desired, with the characters initially hewing a bit too close to stereotype, but the concept is such a strong hook and it'll keep me coming back for chorus after chorus. Now: somebody post a damn podcast of this stuff, will ya?


Greg said...

That's why I was wondering why they released Rex Mundi with a new #1, and if they were going to do that, make it a recap issue. Dark Horse is falling into idiotic marketing/distribution mode of the Big Two with this book. First, they don't have the three trades out before this issue, then they slap a #1 on it so people who don't realize there were 19 issues before it pick it up and get lost (like you did), and then they don't have a convenient recap issue, which would have allowed the notoriously slow book to get a few more in the can. I really do suggest getting the trades, because this is a very good book. But I can see why this didn't do it for you, because you're right - Nelson was just continuing the story, and it was no #1.

markus said...

Lucky you. If you'd seen the likes of the phonomancer concept done several leagues better in the Unknown Armies roleplaying game your disappointment in Phonogram would be even more pronounced.

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