January 9, 2015

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RobM's Single Minded for 01/07: Double Life of Miranda Turner 05, Army of Darkness 02, and ODY-C 02

No clever theme this time, just some books I wanted to talk about, leading off with a strong start to the year for a series I hope we hear a lot more from in 2015...


Cover of the Week Material!
Double Life of Miranda Turner 05
Written by Jamie S. Rich
Illustrated by George Kambadais
Published by Monkeybrain

The new Cat is in a jam when one of her late sister's partners comes calling, demanding answers from a reluctant source as this series continues to do some amazing things with visual storytelling.

I'd hoped that when we saw a hero who basically has the powers of Marvel Comics' Spot showed up that there'd be a chance for Kambadais to really play with the line work. We'd seen such promise on this in the opening issue, but by issue three, it had settled down considerably. Given that we open with the title credits--along with lots of other letters framing the background as Miranda tries to explain what she's doing in Lindy's apartment--it was clear things were going to get crazy (in a good way) from the start. By the end, I wasn't disappointed at all, as Kambadais took Miranda all over the place, at one point hitting herself ("I throw a mean punch," she quips) and in other cases splitting across the page as she duels with the guest hero, Portal. I mean, we get Steve Ditko arrows, for God's sake! How cool is that?

Sure, it's a bit of a cliche, but when a villain shows up that they need to team up to fight, we see that Miranda is not only getting better as a superhero, she may in fact be able to fill her sister's shoes, after all. I like that she fights back, not just with fists but words, too--calling out the hypocritical nature of the heroic guild, a nice touch by Rich.  The villain is a lot of fun, and how they dispatch him is perfect, based on his name (Crab), as he's foiled by being--well, that's telling.

Despite not being a ton of pages, there's a lot going on. Rich know just what to say to give meaning to the story while also piling on the jokes, showing his lighter side. With Kambadais pulling in stronger visuals again, playing with perspective, using better color contrasts and generally mixing things, up, this is well on its way to hitting my main favorites list in 2015. We're moving closer to finding out just what happened to The Cat, and I'm looking forward to seeing where this one goes. Hopefully, we'll get more than 1 other issue this year, because I'd love to see this be the next breakout hit from Monkeybrain.

Army of Darkness 2
Written by Cullen Bunn
Line Art by Larry Watts
Color Art by Aikau Oliva
Published by Dynamite Comics

Ash has to hand it to his long-time nemesis as it continues to use a spaceship to bring the next Deadite plan to life in this breezy romp that's got some great visual comedy, quick lines, and a plot that reads amazingly well in single issues.

Cullen Bunn is quickly becoming a favorite writer of mine, and this issue is a great example of why. We open by picking up the big cliffhanger of last issue (Ash's mechanical hand has been infected by the virus), get an additional complication (the crew thinks he's an insane saboteur) and end with a new cliffhanger that sets up the action for issue three. There's definitely an overall arc--stopping the virus--but getting there will involve mini-steps along the way. Not chapters of a trade paperback, but honest to God, read it now, issues.

It's so much fun, in fact, that despite only a cursory interest in the series itself, this was one of the first books I read when I got in my previews from Dynamite in. The lines are great (at one point Ash references the whole thing as being "Babylon 6"), and the line art that goes along with them times everything perfectly. Watts has no problem doing a Three Stooges gag, a movie-version Addams Family riff, and polishes it off by building up the final moment of tension--literally. I've never heard of him before, but this is two issues in a row that are amazing. Even the fight sequence, which has to juggle being somewhat realistic with cartoon-level violence, is spot on. I'd also like to point out how well the characters pop against the mostly white backgrounds, thanks to the colorist, Aikau Oliva. This could have been a muddy mess in the wrong hands, all "dark space" or something, but Oliva uses a bright background and lets the reds, blues, and other shades contrast against it. I don't know where Dynamite is finding these folks, but they're slowly but surely putting together a very strong stable of artists.

This isn't going to win awards the way that the comic below will. It's not likely to be reprinted endlessly or used in college classes. But it's a lot of fun, and sometimes I think comic-makers forget that there's nothing wrong at all with that being your goal. Given Ash's comedic horror background, I'd say Bunn,Watts, and Oliva are really nailing this one, and it's definitely recommended, even if you aren't much into the movies.

ODY-C 2
Written by Matt Fraction
Illustrated by Christian Ward (with color flatting by Dee Cunniffe)
Published by Image Comics

Zeus speaks on the difficulty of parenthood while Odyssia's crew gets an uneasy rest among the lotus in a second issue that is just eye-popping amazing and really unlike anything I've ever read.

There were a fair number of second issues out this week, but most of them moved stories forward, without really giving me enough to expand on. This book? My God, I could probably write a dissertation on this issue alone. James handled issue one, which I had eagerly anticipated. I'm a lover of Greek Myth, going back to my mother reading the Roman versions of their stories to me when I was just a wee child. (I later learned these were echoes of the better source material. Sorry fans of the Romans, but the Greeks did it better--and first.) I admit, I wasn't sure how this take on the material was going to go, and if I'd enjoy it.

By this second issue, I can tell you without hesitation that it's already probably my favorite book from Matt Fraction. While the first issue got a bit mired in set-up, this one opens with Zeus ripping the head off Cronus (who was male), explaining why she destroyed all men in this universe, and discussing how her daughter Promethene created a new form of life to counter Zeus's plan, sparking a "fire of life" in a brilliant, brilliant take on the original narrative. When Zeus, who is drawn by Ward as a powerful, Rubenesque figure, says, "Let me tell you how I feel about children" as Ward shows her taking over as Queen of the Gods, I got chills that lasted through my reading--and re-reading--of the story.

Put simply, Fraction has taken his time to get this one right, from start to finish. He's looked at the original myths, found ways to adapt them to his setting, and write the whole damned thing in a way that feels like translated ancient Greek and yet also has a modern overtone. There are 1970s style narrative boxes, but they work here perfectly. Taking the land of the lotus and bringing illusions of Dante into the mix? Now that is where you get asked to take a bow. Then add questioning whether this displaced heroine actually wants to go home or not, after starting off by not wanting to leave home in the first place? Oh man, now you're bringing critical theory into the mix, too? Matt, just please take my comic-reading heart, because you've stolen it.

And this is before I talk about Ward's art. Imagine, if you will, what would happen if you took Kirby's mixed media techniques, dropped in a bit of Bill Sienkiewicz, and threw in Salvador Dali for good measure, and you'd have an idea of what you'll find here. The page layouts are unbelievable in this comic, and I don't know if the next issue can even top what we see here. Whether it's the peeling of the layers of the lotus lands so they open up like dissecting a baseball, each section getting more time on the illustrations than most comics give an entire issue, tying Promethene to an X-Chromisome rock, or having panels blend into each other effortlessly, like a series of paintings, it's just off-the charts good.

This is a comic where Ward uses a Warhol-style approach to slowly dissolve all men out of the universe, as they fade away on picture-like negatives while Zeus declares her wisdom (arrogance?) to the reader. Throw everything else out, and that sequence makes this issue worth buying. Plus, I didn't even get into how the color scheme is purposefully using shades that are not natural to what they're portraying, which could be an entire post in and of itself!

I could go on all day about this comic, but I know others who will do that better than I could. Maybe I'll swing back to the series as a whole, when it's got more issues together, to talk about some of the aspects of it that really appeal to me, once I settle in on one or two. There's so much going on here, I'd be hard pressed to select just one area and talk about it now. I'd like to see what parts of the story really resonate after re-reading them together.

I'm not a hype person. I like what I like, and I'm happy to buck trends and dislike stuff others are really digging. Whatever hype ODY-C is getting? Multiply it by 10, and you're in the range of what it deserves. This is comics as high art, and Fraction and Ward recognize this, and are structuring their creation accordingly. I really loved this one, in a totally different way from the other two issues I wrote about here. There's a whole lot of range for good comics of all kinds, and man, ODY-C is in a class all its own right now.