Thursday, October 26, 2006

ScatterThoughts: The BOOM! Books Of The Recent Past And Near Future

Yes, I have catching up to do. I've felt particularly bad about stuff I've been sent that I haven't written about yet. Watch my feats of prestidigitation as I clear my desk!

I have some vague inkling Kevin Church was involved in the creation of What Were They Thinking?!: Monster Mash-Up #1. Not sure where I read that, however. I haven't read any of these mashups before, thinking they were ponies that knew but a single trick. What I now realize it that it's a pretty funny trick. The "weird sexual subtext" button gets punched one too many times, but then there are tales like Johanna Stokes' "Hats Off" which is a dense riff on identity, appearance, and chapeaus. It's utterly mad, and manages to eke out a life of its own that doesn't rely on nudgenudgewinkwink for all it's content. Church's "Flipper_Boy_47" is also a delight, a note-perfect livejournal entry by an emo fishboy that pretty accurately translates Beaucoupkevin(dot)com to the printed page. Now it's just whetted my appetite for the nigh-inevitable What Were They Thinking?!: All-Star Blogger Edition.

What a deceptive little pamphlet Tag #2 is. It may be the best comic BOOM! Studios is putting out right now, and that's saying a lot. Though this Giffen/Chamberlain collaboration feels like it falls into the "movie/television pitch with panels" that much of the comics industry seems to be aping right now, it transcends all that by realizing horror isn't necessarily about the horrific. Good horror is about people and how they react under extreme situations. Tag brilliantly places an utterly dysfunctional relationship between two flawed people at its center and uses a clever conceit of "zombie tag" to apply pressure. It's not a comic about an ancient curse descended from Cain and Abel, but a comic about complex characters under extreme stress. I'm hooked on the series not to see how the mystery unfolds, but to see what happens to Mitch and Izumi. That's what horror should be.

Is it possible to escape the shadow of Watchmen when writing a tale about shipwreck and a raft made of corpses? Keith Giffen, Chris Ward, and Rafael Albuquerque certainly try in the opening story of Pirate Tales #1. At least I think they are trying ... though its placement front and center also seems an admission that they may as well get the inescapable comparisons out of the way as soon as possible. At least their "Jerky" feels like a complete tale, but much of the rest of the book can't manage more than rough sketches and opening beats of larger stories. Just as in prose, the short story is a hard form to master and entries like "Wolf On The Wave" and "The Walk" feel like long form works simply cut short by page count.

The Savage Brothers #2 leaves me feeling a confused. It's quite well done, with characters that are already growing outside their initial stereotypes and fun, kinetic art that keps the action a-poppin'. I just can't shake the feeling that it's not done quite well enough to escape the overwhelming feeling of being there, doing that, and owning the requisite t-shirt. Take one part Walking Dead, one part Fear Agent ... shake and serve with a sprig of mint and you have The Savage Brothers. It still shows promise, but the hook will need to come from the characters and not the concept.

Speaking of "movie/television pitch with panels", X Isle #3 still can't shake the feeling of a project designed solely to jump on the now-departed Lost train. This issue's main action sees the survivors split acrimoniously with one group trying to climb a mountain to get radio reception, and the other searching for a missing child. We have the hardass with a gun, the fat nerd, and the desparate father. It's been awhile, but doesn't that describe the early episodes of Lost? Perhaps it's unfair to judge this against the ABC juggernaut, but X Isle isn't doing enough with its characters and setting to climb out from under Lost's shadow.

Second Wave #6 is a refreshing change from the last issue, focusing more on widescreen action sequences than Deliverance flashbacks. For that small cadre of fans of the Tom Cruise sci-fi blockbuster - and this being the Age Of Fandom, I have no doubt they exist - this continues the franchise well enough, providing more depth to the continuing war against the aliens. I often feel lost though, with characters that don't look or sound different enough from each other.