Tuesday, October 06, 2009

BOOM! Book for October 7, 2009 (and One from Last Week)

I don't do this nearly enough, reviewing books published by BOOM! Studios (and, when you read that name, you need to image Augie saying it -- "bbbbbBOOOOOOOOOOM!"), but I figure I will this week. If only because I like BOOM! quite a bit. So, I figure I'll review three titles released this week and one from last week, beginning with the book from last week, of course.

The Unknown: Devil Made Flesh #1 by Mark Waid and Minck Oosterveer: I enjoyed the first Unknown series and am not exactly sure why this simply isn't an ongoing series, especially since this story begins with you needing some familiarity with the first arc. I wouldn't say that said knowledge is essential, but it does help with getting into this issue. An odd thing to say since one of the plot points is that neither James nor Catherine remember their association or what happened in the first mini. Oddly, this new status quo makes for a better mystery than the last one. The first mystery suffered one giant weakness: Catherine's attempt to solve the mystery of what lies beyond death couldn't be solved since Mark Waid doesn't know the solution. No one does. As a result, the end of The Unknown couldn't help but disappoint a little. This time, there's a mystery that can be solved, so that's promising.

Otherwise, this is a very compelling start to this story. A lot of the issue is devoted to James trying to figure out what's happened to make him and Catherine forget the time they spent working together. I continue to love Minck Oosterveer's art. BOOM! has been very, very good at finding quality artists and sticking them on books where they will shine. If you look at their artists, you'll note that most of them could drawn other BOOM! titles, but the books they're on are the books most suited to their particular strengths. In Oosterveer's case, that means that shadowy noir world we have here, mixed with a lot of strong body language. He really develops James in this issue, letting us know what's going on in his head at all times. If BOOM! does one thing, right now, better than any other publisher, it's sticking the right artists on the right books. Although, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Avatar and Dynamite, both of which do a pretty good job at that, too. But, BOOM! is ahead of them in that respect...

The Incredibles #1 by Mark Waid, Landry Walker, and Ramanda Kamarga: I'm glad to see an Incredibles ongoing series, because I really enjoyed the mini. Okay, it will never make my top ten, but it was a nice enjoyable series. The story was fun and light, the art clean and crisp, and the odd laugh thrown in. More than that, these characters are remarkably simple, but in ways that lend themselves to driving stories forward. While the stories stem from external actions, how the characters respond is what really drives the book. Bob's response to losing his powers in the mini's story was what fueled it most of the time, not the villain that took them away. This issue isn't as character-centric, dictated more by external action, but it's still a good read.

Jack-Jack is sick and Helen is very worried and protective, while Bob is very much of the 'oh, he'll be fine, stop worrying so much' attitude. That is, until a gorilla tries to steal the mall they're in to kill time until the doctor finishes running tests... then, Jack-Jack gets kidnapped by a henchman. Waid and Walker understand that attacking the family's harmony and unity is the best way to construct an Incredibles story, and the baby getting kidnapped is a great way to make them all panic and worry. Ramanda Karmaga's art is perfect. Very good facial expressions and cartooning skills. Perfect for all ages -- and I mean that: all ages.

Irredeemable #7 by Mark Waid and Peter Krause: Irredeemable continues to be a favourite of mine as Mark Waid and Peter Krause deliver a mix of classic superhero comic allusions, perversions, and oddly progressive ideas. It would be easy to simply write this book off as 'Superman gone bad,' especially since Waid took that handle on straight ahead in the book's initial issues. This issue, though, goes a long way towards establishing the Plutonian as a complex and damaged character. Not simply a guy who turned evil because people called him names, but a guy who just couldn't handle the responsibility anymore. And who can blame him? This is the issue where I stopped and wondered how it is that all of these superheroes keep going day after day, crisis after crisis...

Actually, that's something I've wondered for a long time. Let's be honest: how long do you think a person could last as a superhero before it would just be too much for them? How long before they quit or killed themselves or just went insane, broken down by the constant violence and death and destruction? How do you keep going after a multiverse crisis let alone several? Seriously. I really like that Irredeemable is addressing that, showing that, perhaps, after so long having to help people, always being there, maybe some people would not just want to let go and use their powers for themselves but want to punish those needy people who just won't stop with their demands for help. How long before wanting to do good becomes a job, a requirement, something you resent... how long before you hate being a superhero?

That's what Irredeemable looks to be about (plus numerous other things, of course) and, man, I am enjoying the hell out of it. I've compared Krause's art to that of Barry Kitson before and I stand by that. Both have a clean, classical style and compose figures similarly. Krause's work isn't as tight always, but his characters' faces aren't quite as uniform either (you can tell a Kitson face with little effort). He's also improving with each issue.

Kill Audio #1 by Claudio Sanchez, Chondra Echert, and Sheldon Vella: This comic is a bit of a mixed bag for me. I like some elements, not others. Sheldon Vella's art is hit or miss throughout the issue. I don't like the actual look of Kill Audio (the character), but Vella shows some serious cartooning chops with Chi-Co, a giant coke-fiend chicken. His wacky, over-the-top fantasies provide Vella with the suitable fodder for some very cool sequences. Same with Fix-ler's attempts to kill Kill Audio. The book is at its best when the visual go insane and just let loose.

The writing didn't grab me at any point. This issue is sort of Wizard of Oz-like story and none of the characters impress me. Kill Audio is a cipher, and the others are just annoying or equally empty. The quick pace isn't kept up long enough in most instances to work with the art as much as it should. Vella's art lends itself to frenetic craziness and too much of this issue is slow and plodding. It seems very much like the first ideas are thrown down on the page -- and not in a good way.

I'm sure there's an audience for this book, I'm just not it.