I think things. Then I write about them. It's the narcissism, you see.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Bags & Boards: 9/16

Sorry for the delay this week. Every Wednesday I pop into WhateverStore on Castro Street in San Francisco to pick up my haul of new comics. In addition to the books on my list, Rich and Cougar toss in one or two recommendations. I read the books. I think thoughts. Those thoughts may contain spoilers.

Tokyo Ghost #1
Book of the Week
Whatever Store Recommendation
Last week I was unimpressed by the first issue of Faster Than Light; it felt overburdened by dialogue that went nowhere. Tokyo Ghost is no less overburdened by dialogue, but unlike Faster Than Light you’re rewarded with real substance if you persevere through it. The concept reminded me a lot of the book Ready Player One in that we have a society full of people who are constantly plugged into a virtual world. But where Ready Player One took nobility from that idea, Remember exploits it here to show the darkness of human excess. People not only lose themselves in a virtual world because of the ugliness of the real one, but in the real world they modify themselves emotionally and physically with addictive chemicals (at one point a doorman is bribed with a vial of “self-esteem”). For all my fascination with the world building, though, the issue is a bit of a slog. It’s dense with dialogue and narration—especially from the villain who just will not shut up. Speaking of the villain, the fight where he spends pages running around killing random people we do not know and, given the setting, don’t have sympathy for lasts entirely too long; it felt like excess for the sake of excess—proof of this world’s ills delivered like blunt force trauma. And frankly throughout most of the fight I was wondering why I was even reading the issue. But—at last—hidden beneath the overwritten excess is the core of the book: a tragic love story that only becomes apparent in the closing pages. It’s the desperate relationship between the two main characters, a woman who’s the only Los Angeles resident that’s not wired in and a man who’s a full-blown tech and chemical addict, that has me waiting for the second issue. Two people, broken in very different ways, who are poised to maybe find their way back to each other. Also of note is that Murphy’s art is a perfect companion to this world; it’s an ugly world beautifully drawn, and everything looks rough to the touch—like wood before it’s sanded down.

The Paybacks #1
Whatever Store Recommendation
So where do super heroes get their financing? And what happens if they can’t pay it back? Those questions make the central premise of Cates’ and Rahal’s story. This first issue introduces us to the overall concept of the Paybacks, the super-powered repo men responsible for collecting on unpaid debts, as they clean out the Night Knight’s secret headquarters. The scenes with the Paybacks are played reasonably straight which balances the absurd humor elsewhere—the Night Knight, answering the call of his Batsignal-esque Knight Light, is pursuing a nemesis who has kidnapped the queen in what is apparently all just playacting—and the mysterious unanswered questions such as how a van seems to house a giant secret headquarters. The unique concept and quirky humor kept me interested through this first outing, but as my previous reviews of the first two issues of We Stand on Guard bear out, I am suspicious of unique concepts because there’s always the danger that there’s no “there” there.

Robin Son of Batman #4
Damien’s quest for redemption is interrupted when Deathstroke, angry at Nobody for abandoning her job, pays Damien and Nobody a visit of the unnecessarily violent kind. This issue didn’t blow my mind, but in a week of mostly uneven also-rans, its conclusion made an impact. Damien’s fight with Deathstroke doesn’t go particularly well. He holds his own, more or less, but victory seems unlikely and Deathstroke will probably kill Nobody if Damien loses. So Damien solves it the way you picture a rich, spoiled brat solving a bully problem: paying him off. Damien gives Deathstroke the five million dollars he had earmarked for restarting a health clinic (this issue’s redemptive quest). After worrying last issue that Damien was being redeemed a little quickly (a consequence of his own efforts to inspire Nobody toward nobler aims), I loved this end to the fight. Gleason’s choice makes perfect sense; it reflects not only the logistics of the situation—I don’t care how well-trained Damien is, I can’t imagine a scenario where he beats Deathstroke solo—but also Damien’s willingness to play by a different set of rules than Batman or any of the previous Robins.

The Rest
Burning through good will faster than anything I’ve been reading lately is Age of Apocalypse and the fourth issue is no exception. Short version: the legacy virus Apocalypse released last issue infects mutants through the use of their powers and then causes them to lose control. As uninteresting as the issue was, the virus at least kills Apocalypse in one of the greatest much ado about nothing ways you could imagine: he melts into a flood of goo. There’s one quick moment with Magneto that recollects the first two issues’ ideas of struggle in the face of inevitable darkness, but beyond that, we’re just fighting it out to the end.

I was hoping Beauty #2 would go a little slower with the plot and give us a little more time with the characters Alas... The book’s concept has such potential to be a metaphor for human obsession with physical appearance and for the stigmatization of HIV. But this issue’s pace (as it was with the first issue) makes it hard to connect with the characters; Haun and Hurley pack in so much plot that I lose the threads of these people I should care about. There was a great moment where Foster, newly infected at the end of the last issue, tells his partner about how he reacted. The retelling was presented so formally that I wished I’d gotten to see the events Foster was describing—gotten to see him lose control because he did nothing wrong and he’s infected anyway.

I don’t know that I have much to say about Sex Criminals #12 besides noting that Jon and Suzie encounter another person that can get in the quiet—and in doing so he summons a cum fairy with tentacles in her vagina.



Credits
Age of Apocalypse #4
Fabian Nicieza: writer
Iban Coello: artist
David Curiel: color artist
VC’s Clayton Cowles: letterer
Marvel Comics

Beauty #2
Jeremy Haun, Jason A. Hurley: story
Jeremy Haun: art
John Rauch: color
Image Comics

The Paybacks #1
Donny Cates & Eliot Rahal: script
Geoff Shaw: art
Lauren Affe: colors
Michael Heisler: letters
Geoff Shaw & Lauren Affe: cover
Image Comics

Robin Son of Batman #4
Patrick Gleason: script & pencils
Mick Gray: inks
John Kalisz: colors
Tom Napolitano: letters
Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray, John Kalisz: cover
DC Comics

Sex Criminals #12
Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky
Image Comics

Tokyo Ghost #1
Rick Remember: writer
Sean Murphy: artist
Matt Hollingsworth: colorist
Rus Wooton: letterer

Image Comics

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