Comics / Comics Reviews / Culture

Capsule Reviews for 4/10/13

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“East of West” #1: Here’s one that I meant to pick up last week but wasn’t able to get around to until today. There’s a few on here like that. Bear with me. “East of West” is a new series by writer Jonathan Hickman, a guy who I’ve been starting to pay a lot of attention to lately, and artist Nick Dragotta. It starts out with an alternate history of America after the Civil War involving a meteor strike that for some reason ends the war and leads to an America made up of seven separate nations (Hickman has included a very fancy map of this new America at the end, as you would expect him to).

It then goes onto explain the writing of the Second Book of Revelation before jumping forward in time to a futuristic Wild West setting where we meet our main character, who is apparently out for revenge on some people who screwed him over or something, which leads to the big spoiler-y reveal of who the protagonist actually is and how he fits into earlier subplots in the issue.

I don’t know. I’ve heard people criticize the book before as having too many ideas, and I could definitely agree with that. On one hand that’s something you kind of take on when you begin a new Hickman series. Sometimes it works well, as with “A Red Mass for Mars” or “The Manhattan Projects.” But I’ve recently given up on his Avengers books because I just couldn’t make sense of the book’s chronology from scene to scene or decipher all of the heavily cryptic dialogue enough to feel like I understood what was happening. Same thing with his “FF” run. I’d like to think I’m a person of moderate intelligence and can keep up with books about men in spandex punching each other, but I don’t know with this guy.

That said, I’m willing to give “East of West” a shot. When Hickman hits, he hits full swing, and I’d like to be there to see it.

“Saga #11 and #12”: So I kinda sat on the previous issue for a bit and wound up reading these two issues back-to-back. Which doesn’t really work because #12 is kind of the start of a new chapter, so to speak, but whatever. Essentially #11 is the main characters escaping the giant Space Baby thing in their tree rocketship but losing Marko’s father in the process, while #12 focuses on Prince Robot IV paying a visit to Alana’s favorite author, whom he suspects will be offering the traitors sanctuary.

Basically, if you’re not reading “Saga” right now, we can’t be friends. That’s the long and short of this review. You’re not going to find a more interesting cast of characters, a more original story, or a more gorgeous collection of artwork anywhere on the shelf.

Brian K. Vaughan’s writing flows so well and is interpreted so flawlessly by Fiona Staples that you kinda almost forget you’re reading a comic book. It feels more like really solid scripted television with regard to how naturally these characters act and how organic the pages feel. Figuratively speaking, I mean. It’s like watching a really great performance, which is something that is incredibly hard to pull off in comics and is pretty rare. If you enjoy comics, be they superhero, sci-fi, fantasy or indie, there is simply no excuse for not following this title.

“Mara” #3: I was kind of on the fence a bit about this series until this issue. Now I totally love it. If you aren’t reading this series, it follows a young, beautiful celebrity athlete in the future who accidentally reveals herself to be a superhuman in front of the whole world during a game. In this way it’s very in-line with writer Brian Wood’s previous work in his series “Demo,” in that it shows how someone with a relatively realistic life would have to adjust to suddenly becoming a superperson. We watch as Mara loses friends, endorsement deals, her privacy, her career, and in this issue even her sense of safety.

A major selling point for “Mara” with me is Ming Doyle’s pencils. At first I found it to be kind of scratchy and unrefined, a bit of a jarring departure from the smoothness that most contemporary comics artists strive for, but now I find it invigorating. The people she draws are gorgeous, the futuristic sci-fi world she has built is consistent and thorough but simple at the same time, and the mood she creates for the story is dead-on.

This issue is the midway point in the 6-issue miniseries, and honestly the story has been so decompressed up until this point that I’m wondering if three more issues will be enough to wrap it all up, since it feels like we’re still just getting started. More importantly, Mara herself is starting to feel like a character that deserves more than six issues. It’ll be interesting to see if Wood and Doyle really want to put her down when these next three issues are over.

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