Monday, October 27, 2008

Comics Roundup 26/10/2008

Criminal #6, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

This crime title has become one of my favourites lately, with its consistently excellent writing and atmospheric art. This issue, though, represents a new peak, and feels like one of the greatest comics issues I have ever read. This is the third part of a story focussing on this cartoonist and ex-forger who has found himself mixed up with the kind of shady lady anyone with sense would run a mile from. They have a body on their hands that needs to be disposed of, they get rid of it, everything seems grand. And then the main character is hit by not one but my two whammies.

The sequential form of the floppy suits well this kind of title. The story unfolds gradually, leaving the reader on tenterhooks till the next issue. A month-long wait heightens the suspense, know what I mean?

Unknown Soldier #1, by Joshua Dysart & Alberto Ponticelli

This is a revival of some old DC character I've never heard of, but I think they've given him a new set of clothes, and the story seems to work even if the character is a complete novelty. The title is, at least for this issue, set in northern Uganda, and it gains a lot by being set in a real part of a real country, rather than in some fictional African makey-uppey place. One of the worst things about the way the media and culture deal with Africa is the tendency to merge the entire continent into one amorphous hell-hole, missing the fact that African countries are very different from each other. The title must also be praised for not having a reader-identification whitey hero, with the main character instead being a Ugandan-American character.

The actual story seems to be about this doctor bloke working in a camp for people displaced by the insurgency of the Lord's Resistance Army (one of the world's great scary organisations). He finds, though, that he has some weird stuff going on in his subconscious, like as if he instinctively knows how to kill (with his bare hands, or anything that comes handy) in a way uncommon among graduates of the Harvard Medical School.

I'm not quite sure where this is going to go – I have fears it could turn into a one-man-takes-on-the-scum, Deathwish-in-Africa piece of nonsense, but for the moment there seems like interesting stuff going on here, so I will be back. I should mention the art too, as I like it a lot. It is very expressive, and has a kinetic quality that works well in the action sequences.

One final thing about this is the way it is written by someone who isn't actually from Uganda. It's almost like he went on a holiday to this fascinating country and then decided that he had to write about it. Maybe there should be more of this kind of thing.

The Age of THE SENTRY #1

So I went back in time to buy the first issue of this thrill-powered title. This is appropriate, as in one of the two stories here, Scout, Lindy Lee, and Watchdog travel back in time to when The Sentry gained his powers (in a complicated attempt to revitalise him after Cranio (the man with the tri-level mind) had used Gorax to deprive him of his powers). The second story also sees The Sentry rendered powerless, as The Mad Thinker and The Tinkererer drain his abilities away under cover of making him record public information films. It would only be fair to say that this issue is not as good as the second issue, but it's nice to see a title on an upward curve, and there is still plenty of thrill power here.

Freak Show: a One Shot Special, by Rob Curley & Bob Byrne
Freak Show is an ongoing title written by Rob Curley and drawn by various other people. |t tends to have striking covers usually referencing some aspect of 1950s Americana, often with a Hollywood tinge. I've never read any of it before. I picked this up in Tower as a taster, as they were giving it away as part of some Free Comics Day event. The set up seems to be that the characters are these slightly outsider-ish people in 1950s Los Angeles who investigate weird stuff. I don't know what the normal issues of it are like, but this was a bit slight. I wasn't really that convinced by the ironic Scooby Doo pastiche set up of this either. So I don't know, maybe the normal issues would be worth looking at, or maybe they would not. What do you think, readers?

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