Saturday, September 4, 2010

Comics Reviews - Sept. 4

Recently a minor fuss hit the comics field as a scathing critique of modern comic book writing by an industry professional made the rounds.  The piece expresses disappointment in the current 'sprawling and inconsistent patchwork of murky, angry, shock-value events'  So this week we'll look at some of the bright spots in a field slipping back into some very bad habits from the 90's I thought creators had sworn off.  It's appropriate that we begin with a book by the writer widely assumed to be the anonymous author of the name withheld note, Kurt Busiek.

Astro City Special
Silver Agent #2 of 2

If you get a sense of Déjà vu from this issue, yes in the last several months both Captain America and Batman also went skipping across time after seeming to be killed, touching lives down through the years until returning to their own time to face their destiny.  Considering the lead time a comic needs, its likely all three story-lines were in production simultaneously.

Silver Agent is a character in Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson's long running Astro City series.  A tribute to the comic book superhero that with it's sprawling observation of a classic comic book universe has as its conceit the goal of putting the 'human' in the superhuman.

Silver Agent is Astro City's Captain America analogue.  There are also Superman, Fantastic Four and Batman analogues in the series - not so much imitations of these characters but iconic archetypes who play the same roles in the Astro City Universe as their avatars do in the Marvel or DC universes.

Silver Agent is brave, steadfast and true, and those attributes aren't mocked with a clumsy Dudley Do Right satire as so many hacks would doubtless portray basic goodness.  Busiek takes on the far more challenging writer's task of making heroism and self sacrifice in pursuit of an ideal a fully realized and seriously considered display of human choice.  Silver Agent chooses his fate with his eyes open and without regrets to protect an ideal he's seen and decided is worth any cost to protect.

Busiek and Anderson explicate the moral essence of self sacrificing love in the context of the comic book superhero as perfectly as you're ever going to see it.

I Am An Avenger
#1 of 5

Surrounded by frankly uninspired filler in one of the 3000 different Avengers related tie in titles published this month, is one of the most emotionally resonant stories published in a superhero comic that I've seen in a long time.

The Books of the Iron Fist written by Duane Swiercynski and beautifully illustrated by Jason Latour, fakes out the casual reader with an obligatory page and half opener with the classic muggers confronting the hero in his civilian wear motif and then a comfortably genre sounding title before becoming a story about a man and woman sitting on the floor after a breakup sadly splitting up their bookshelf.

With delicacy, understatement and real feeling, the end of a relationship is shown with more real quiet drama than a thousand of the shouty, weepy monologues that the comics medium usually presents as its idea of human interaction.  It's a fractal snapshot of a story that unfold like a geometric flower from every word, every sad glance.  Eight pages that have more human feeling than any other ten comics you'll read this year.

Meanwhile in Brightest Day #9...

Oh, who gives a rat's ass?

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