Friday, May 6, 2011

One-paragraph reviews: Superboy, Sweet Tooth, Astonishing Thor, Godzilla

Superboy #7
Written by Jeff Lemire; art by Marco Rudy and Daniel HDR; DC.

I saw someone on Twitter describe this as "absolutely perfect. I couldn't read it fast enough. Perfect art. Best single issue of 2011 so far." And I seriously have to ask myself whether they read the same comic book I read. Not that this was terrible, but with the exception of last issue (the pointless Doomsday crossover issue), this was probably the weakest in the series so far. So this is not even the best issue of Superboy in 2011, let alone of all comics. As for the art, "perfect" is the last word I would use to describe it, no matter how talented I think Marco Rudy is. The problem is we have two artists whose styles are constantly at war with one another, and even though the different looks are sometimes use to separate what's real and what's not, it still makes for a very inconsistent visual narrative. I'm just sick of having multiple art styles in a 20 page book, which these days is almost becoming the norm on DC books. In addition, I thought a lot of the layouts were ugly, and a few pages were so confusing that I wasn't even sure what order I was supposed to read the panels in. I know that Lemire likes to experiment with layouts, and when he draws his own books, the results are wonderful (see my review of Sweet Tooth, below), and with regular artist Pier Gallo, who seems particularly good at following his instructions, it can still work. But in this issue, I thought it ended up looking like a mess. Gallo is back next month, just in time for the four-story arc that's going to conclude the Hollow Men plot. I'm looking forward to it.



Sweet Tooth #21
Written and drawn by Jeff Lemire; Vertigo

As much fun as Lemire's superhero comics can get when they're on, for me they'll never compare to Sweet Tooth. When he's in full control of the writing, art and direction of the story, we see just how strong he is as a storyteller and artist. This issue reuses a technique that Lemire first experimented with in #12, where we had a narrated story in a continuous strip at the bottom of each page, while a separate world-less story was shown in the rest of the page. In that issue, the technique doubled as a kind of homage to Crisis on Infinite Earths #10, whereas in this one he seems to have developed it into a unique style all his own. I almost wonder if he took a cue from Frank Santoro's fascinating Layout Workbook column at, as he divides each page in such a way that the top narrative occupies a near-perfect square, which gives the book a particularly harmonious feel. I loved issue #12, but I think this one is even better. What's truly remarkable is that in spite of this fairly rigid grid being followed throughout the book, Lemire still finds additional ways to experiment and play with this form. There's something cool and different happening with the layout on literally every page, and it's always in the service of the story and never feels gratuitous or gimmicky. It's just brilliant. Plus there's a panel where Gus and Jepperd hug that is so sweet and moving that it almost made me cry.



Astonishing Thor #4
Written by Rob Rodi; art by Mike Choi; Marvel

Thor is fighting against a living planet. It's pretty cool.



Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters #2
Written by Eric Powell and Tracy Marsh; art by Phil Hester and Bruce McCorkindale; IDW

I thought this issue was better than the first one. I was so happy to see the fisherman who was looking for his kids in the first issue return, as one of my biggest concerns was whether the story would follow up on any of the characters who only appeared in a few panels last time. I still think some of Phil Hester's layouts are a little bit...messy?, but less so than in the first issue. I think it's mostly just a personal preference anyway. More and more I realize that I don't favour comic book art that constantly spills out of the panels. I like gutters. I like things neatly contained within grids. So that on the rare occasion that this neat order is broken it has a big impact on the narrative. On the other hand, I suppose you could argue that this is a comic book about giant dinosaur-like monsters fucking shit up all over the world, and subtlety is not exactly what it's going for. So perhaps it's fitting that the art refuses to be contained into those neat borders that I crave. Maybe the chaotic layouts are part of the chaos of the story.



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