Sunday, February 17, 2008

Low Blows 02.17.08

“Hulk” #1
Marvel Comics
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Ed McGuinness

I pre-ordered this comic against my best instincts. It's a fact that I had really been enjoying the “Incredible Hulk” comic for the last few years, and I’d also gotten caught up in the excitement of “World War Hulk,” and so I decided to give this new "Hulk" book a whirl despite the fact that I haven’t read a Jeph Loeb comic that I’ve enjoyed -- at least not without reservations -- well, ever.

If I may compare apples with oranges for a moment, let me say this: in my opinion, Jeph Loeb’s writing is more or less on the level of Michael Turner’s art. They’re both pretty flashy, and they both have (for lack of a better phrase) “mainstream appeal,” but in my experience with these guys’ work, I’ve never felt as if they really had much to offer in the way of lasting impact or substance. And at their worst, I’ve even categorized them both as amateurish and undeserving of their popularity.

Now, people are always telling me how good the Loeb/Sale team was with their early DC work and the various “Color” miniseries they did at Marvel. And I’ll admit that Loeb did alright with the “Fallen Son” miniseries last year, but I still ran into the clunky one-liners and wonky characterization that always bugged me about his work in the last five years or so.

Why in the world would I chance buying “Hulk,” then? I guess it was a mixture of morbid curiosity, a love for the character, and the enthusiasm that the creators had shown for the book in interviews. And I’m happy to say that this was a really enjoyable book to read. For this first issue at least, Loeb seems to have reined in his lesser tendencies, and has given me a satisfying read, a great cast (including Rick Jones, “Thunderbolt” Ross, Doc Samson, and She-Hulk) which I hope sticks around for the long run, and an intriguing murder mystery whose resolution I am interested in seeing though to the end. The art by Ed McGuinness is strong throughout, and especially well-suited to the subject matter of large, well-muscled beings kicking the crap out of each other.

The only criticism I can come up with for this issue, really, is that it took less than five minutes to read both times I read it. A brisk read isn’t necessarily a bad one, though, and if they can keep this up, I’ll keep buying it. It’s an excellent start.

[8 out of a possible 10]

“Resurrection” #2
Oni Press
Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Artist: David Dumeer

I won’t waste any time getting to the point of this review -- “Resurrection” is a great comic, and it gets my highest recommendation. You’re really missing out if you’re not buying this book.

Essentially, though, “Resurrection” is a black-and-white post-apocalyptic book, and this has caused a lot of people to mention it in the same breath as Image’s “The Walking Dead” and fellow Oni Press comic “Wasteland” -- two of my favorite books on the stands right now. But really, these three couldn’t be more dissimilar, except in terms of their quality.

Being that “Wasteland” takes place in the far-flung future on an almost unrecognizable Earth and “The Walking Dead” is a zombie survivor/horror book, what “Resurrection” offers is a variation on a completely different sci-fi trope -- the rebuilding of our world after it has been taken over by an alien race. This is only the second issue of what promises to be a long and satisfying run, and Guggenheim is still setting his pieces up on the playing board. However, even at this early stage, we have the compelling stories of two strangers on the road to Washington to see what they can see, the strange relationship between a woman and a captured alien named Spock, and the plight of the President of the former United States which have been skillfully woven together over these first few issues. At this point, we have no idea how the aliens were defeated, or even if they’re truly gone. There’s a lot going on, but Guggenheim manages to keep the story from becoming muddled or confusing.

A lot of that is due to David Dumeer’s excellent art, too. It’s the perfect complement to the cinematic nature of the script, and there was one particular two-page spread in this issue, the one with the crashed alien vessel, which really showed off his skill.

Now, I’ve always enjoyed Guggenheim’s Marvel work, but it’s a real treat to see what a writer can come up with when they’re allowed to start the story from scratch. And that’s a big reason why I’ve been waiting for “Resurrection” to come out since it was announced so long ago -- in 2006, wasn’t it? Having finally read it, I can confidently say that it’s at the top of my stack every month. (Well, actually, it’s near the bottom, because I try to save the comics I’m most excited about for last.) It’s a distinctive book, and a worthy addition to Oni’s small but excellent lineup of ongoing creator-owned books.

[9.5 out of a possible 10]

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