Tuesday, September 12, 2006

ScatterThoughts: The Books Of September 7th

Heading in, I thought I knew what I'd get in Cross Bronx #1. Considering Michael Ovon Oeming's style and past credits, I assumed we'd see some noir-ish, stylized crime drama. It certainly is crime drama, but it's much more mature, with characters that have a bit more complexity to them. Instead of noir, this has the feel of 70's crime drama: Serpico, The French Connection, or the books of Joseph Wambaugh. I was expecting to be impressed by sheer style and crackle, and instead was impressed by something altogether more subtle: character. Excellent work, and a series well worth reading. Even after just a single issue, I'm already a tetch disappointed that the logo reads "1 of 4", as this is a world and a cast I want to see much more of.



The last page blurb in Hero Squared #3 promises that the next issue will bring "LESS DIALOGUE ... MORE HITTING", and that's welcome news. It's a very enjoyable issue, and one that makes great strides in fleshing out Milo and Valor beyond their Odd Couple stereotypes. It's just the second issue in a row filled with almost nothing but long tracts of (admittedly witty) dialogue, without much actually happening. About midway through, I grew a bit weary of the speech bubbles and hoped to see something happen. The fact they are damn good speech bubbles doesn't change the fact that it's a bit of a pacing problem.



Haven't we been here before? Haven't we already talked about the way we so often pass like archetypical ships in the night? Haven't we already had unseen life companions whose absence defines them? For some reason Local #6's "Megan and Gloria, Apartment 6" reminds me of "Polaroid Boyfriend". There's a different emphasis here, a different lesson, and a cutting look inside Megan's traveling act ... but it's a damn familiar backbeat. At it's midpoint, we see the Catch-22 of Local: once Megan really interacts with someone the series will have to end, because she'll stop moving. So these haunting tales of our inability to connect are Local's core fodder, but Brian Wood needs to vary the tune a bit more if Local's going to avoid eating it's own tail.



A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599 isn't a comic at all. Nor was it released last week. I blog it nonetheless, as I read it last week, and was completely blown away. It's a detailed examination of the political, economic, social and artistic currents of the year 1599 as they relate to Shakespeare's output that year: Henry V, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and the first scratchings at Hamlet. James Shapiro has an easy, conversational style that perfectly suits this book's tangential digressions. He wanders across the whole of the English experience that year, yet it's always in the form of compelling stories that have flow and spine. I devoured it in a matter of days, and enjoyed every page. Can I recommend it wholeheartedly to non-Shakespearans? Not really, I suppose ... but you could consider it a prequel to ...



... 1602: Fantastick Four #1. Another series set in the 1602 universe, and though it seems to be largely ignored and/or disparaged among the WeboComicsBlogoNet Cognoscenti I quite enjoy the setting. I'm slowly changing my opinion on Peter David, who I had until recently written off as entirely too concerned with self-referencing cleverness at the expense of character and plot. With X-Factor and this, I feel like he's again hitting that pitch-perfect blend that marks his best work. When he's hitting on all cylinders, PAD can juggle all the balls: character, drama, comedy, wit, plot. I don't even mind that he flaunts Shakespearean scholarship for the good of a joke here, as I realize I'm one of a damn short list that would balk at it. I don't know I've ever seen penciler Pascal Alixe's work before, but he's a natural for this book, with a loose naturalism that perfectly suits this odd world.
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