Sunday, August 27, 2006

Low Blows 08.27.06

(It's been a while, and I've got some catching up to do...)

"100 Bullets" #73
DC/Vertigo Comics
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Eduardo Risso

"100 Bullets" is my favorite comic that I have no idea what's going on in, month after month. Some might argue that Azzarello reads better in trade paperbacks; I just say that a lot of comic readers are lazy -- myself included -- and can't be bothered to dig back through their collection and do some re-reading. But that's not to say that this book isn't enjoyable. It's violent, funny and intriguing, and the crime noir trappings of the first 50 or so issues of the series have more or less given way (for the time being, at least) to an exploration of the inner workings of the Trust, the conspiracy behind Agent Graves' own personal conspiracy.

Issue #73 is the fourth part of "A Wake," in which it seems we are meeting yet another Minuteman for the first time. Parallel plot threads including the above-mentioned awakening of a sleeper agent, South American beef bandits, a pair of warring small-time crooks who happen to be brothers, and the selection of a new member of The Trust fill this book to the brim with story. Decompressed it's not, though it does still feel as if the story is unfolding at a slower pace than your average comic book. But then again, this is no average comic book.

There's not a lot new about "100 Bullets" that I can say, really, as the book prepares to enter the final quarter of its 100-issue run. Azzarello's dialogue continues to be lyrical, streetwise and obtuse, his plotting perhaps moreso, but in a good way. And, what can I say -- Risso's fluid, dangerous art couldn't be a better match. I'd be a liar if I said that this would be a good issue for a new reader to start with, though, as it's too involved in the mythology of the series to provide any kind of good entry point into the story. In fact, I'd say "100 Bullets" is probably well past its new reader-friendly stage. Instead, I'd recommend that the new reader start from issue #1, as I'm about to do (for the third time), and experience the "100 Bullets" saga from the beginning.

[7.5 out of a possible 10]

"Ares" #5 (of 5)
Marvel Comics
Writer: Michael Avon Oeming
Artist: Travel Foreman

You've heard of Mike Oeming -- he's the artist of "Powers," and the writer who killed Thor and wiped Asgard off the map. Travel Foreman, on the other hand, is probably best known as "that guy who dropped the ball on that awful 'Doctor Spectrum' miniseries."

It so happens that I really enjoy "Powers," (though I realize that Oeming's artistic prowess most likely has little correlation with his writing skills -- point in case, the majority of Image Comics' founders) and I had also heard that Ares may be joining the New Avengers in the future, so I decided to give this miniseries a try.

I'm glad, too, because I was rewarded with a truly interesting story about warring Eastern and Western pantheons, centered around the betrayal of sons to their fathers. The character art and backgrounds in these five issues has varied in quality between merely serviceable and outright stunning, but I blame this inconsistency on deadline pressures rather than any lack of talent on Foreman's part. My only other complaint lies in the fact that Zeus seems to die about three times in battle over the course of this story, only to return quickly to his allies' side -- but perhaps this is just a piece of the mythological underpinnings to the story that I'm unaware of.

This final issue ties things up nicely, and leaves me wondering exactly how Ares might fit into a modern team context. My money's on him filling the "tough guy" role in the new "Mighty Avengers" book that Bendis and Frank Cho are going to be putting out after the Civil War runs its course. What actually sold me on the story wasn't the plentiful action scenes, but instead it was the relationship between Ares and his son, whom he fears will follow all too closely in his footsteps. I only hope that this narrative thread, and also the larger story of the Marvel Greek gods, isn't lost when Bendis takes over the reins.

[7 out of a possible 10]

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