Lots and lots of good funnybooks to talk about from the last two weeks. Tonight, though, I'm just gonna cover three of them...
East of West 12, by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta
Last week, I mentioned that this comic caused a bit of a stir when I read it over lunch. See, there's this Hibachi joint up the block from my Local Funnybook Emporium (Nostalgia Newsstand, represent!), and I often head up there for lunch after picking up my weekly haul. It's a counter service kinda place. You put your order in at the counter, go sit down, and they call your number when your (delicious, delicious) food is done. And they're pretty damn quick. So I had time to sit, pick out my lunchtime reading, and open it. Then they called my number, so I got up to get my Spicy Chicken Bowl, without even really looking at the artwork I'd left lying exposed on the table.
When I turned around to head back to my seat, I noticed that a guy had walked past and stopped dead in his tracks, staring at my funnybook. Thinking I was about to be the victim of theft, I hastened back. The guy noticed me making a surly beeline in his direction, and promptly scurried off back to his seat, looking a bit sheepish but muttering something to his dining companion about "some sick shit." I was confused, but once I sat back down, I saw what he was looking at, and...
Heh. Yeeah. Well, it IS a striking image, I must admit. Go on ahead and embiggen it. You know you wanna.
What's that? Is the comic any good? Well, yes actually. How could it not be, after that opening? That's not just some very, very strange BDSM going on there, though. I mean, it is, but... It's also a plot point. A plot point I'm not going to spoil, mind you, but I didn't want you to think that Jonathan Hickman had suddenly gone in for some Garth Ennis style shock-for-shock's-sake stuff here. Not that this would be a bad thing, of course, but it's not quite Hickman's style. His shocks are always part of his grand tapestry, and this one's no different.
But I'm not answering your question. Is it any good? Yes, decidedly so. Not that you'd know it from that opening, but the story's built around a meeting of the heads of the various nations of America. So it's a bunch of high-strung extremist bastards sitting around a table for most of the issue. Lots of nine-panel pages of talking heads. But it's no less exciting for that. In fact, I was riveted throughout. Then something unexpected happens, and shit gets really crazy.
So that's a fine installment, and one that helps to further define the world it's taking place in. Plus, you know, a scene that you may or may not want to read in public....
Trees 1, by Warren Ellis and Jason Howard
This one kind of caught me off-guard. I keep my eye on any new Warren Ellis projects, and I remember hearing that this was coming out, but it had evidently slipped my mind. And I had no earthly idea what it was about. But the title intrigued me, and it was coming from Image, whose track record with writers I like is pretty damn stellar these last few years. So of course I got it, and...
click to embiggen
Hmm. Intriguing. So it's ten years after an alien invasion of the Earth, but not a shooty-killy-kicksplodey kind of invasion. No, these aliens... Well, they stand there like trees, not even acknowledging our existence. Even when one of them spills toxic goo out over anyone dumb enough to live in its shadow, it's nothing personal. They're just... taking a dump or something, and we're the microbes living in their toilet. So far beneath them that we don't even understand what they're doing.
It's the cold, indifferent universe of a Lovecraft story, embodied in these giant towers. They've come from above, they're all over the world, and we apparently don't know the first thing about what they really are. So we call them Trees, and in the ten years since they arrived, we've gotten used to them. They are the new normal.
Ellis and Howard introduce us to the problem of the Trees in a series of vignettes set all over the world. We open in Rio, as you can see above, then move on to New York, the Arctic, and China.
click to embiggen
Love that panel for any number of reasons (Jason Howard's excellent shading and linework high among them), but I'm showing it to you here in large part because of the way it depicts the Trees. Specifically, you never see the top of them. In every panel they appear in, even long shots like this one, they just go up out of sight, either disappearing into clouds, or all the way out the top of the panel. That goes a long way toward getting across how massive the things are, and how ominous, how mysterious. The visual alone makes me want to come back for more, and that's good comics.
Warren Ellis is turning in good work here, too, solid writing that demonstrates the changes the Trees have wrought on society by way of character. There's some exposition, of course, but it feels like a natural part of the scene, rather than a bald info-dump. He's also not falling back on the easy “Ellisisms,” the bastardy flash and patter, that tell me he's coasting. Sometimes, his glibness covers a story that doesn't quite work. But when he's not relying on that for appeal, it usually signals that he's got a strong story to tell.
It's not perfect. I don't yet care much about the characters he's using to reveal the world, for instance, and it leaves the book feeling just a tad sterile. But overall it feels like he's putting some effort into this one, and when Ellis really tries, he's almost always compelling.
Powers Bureau 10, by Bendis and Oeming
I gave the last issue of this book so very much crap for the kinda bullshitty super-fight it featured that I feel obliged to point out, right up front, that this one's far, far better. The best Powers
comic I've read in a good long while. A series highpoint. Maybe even a bit of a classic.
What's so good about it? Well... I don't wanna spoil it, so...
Ah, hell. Yes, I do. But I'll do it after the jump, in case you want to remain pure...
Okay, so. We all good here? Grown-ups only? Impure SPOILERY thoughts ready to be satisfied?
Are you sure?
This issue’s so good because it’s a classic interrogation story, the sort of thing this book has always done so well, but not so much recently. This is a good one, though. Juicy. Some nice verbal sparring, with a slow build to the haymakers. Great questions, great answers, a conversation that turns the story on its head. And the real kicker? The twist that puts it over the top? The tables are turned, and this time it’s Walker in the box.
click to embiggen
They’re accusing him of killing Extreme last issue, but that’s not what it’s really about. They think he has powers again (which he does), and they want him to confess. Which he of course can’t do, because it’s one of the conditions of the alien police who gave him the powers: don’t tell anybody, and only use the powers to defend the planet from alien incursion, on penalty of death.
(Remember that last bit. It’s important.)
Thing is, Walker’s better at this than the other guy. Something’s not right in the LA FBI offices, and after a brief bit of off-balance stonewalling, he turns the confrontation back on his interrogator. It’s a thing of beauty, some of the best Powers writing Bendis has done in years, and shows just how good Walker really is. He plays it just right, plays it cool.
It’s Pilgrim that breaks.
click to embiggen the terrible widescreen guilt
What does she have to break over? Well, shit, man… Take your pick. I think she was officially pardoned for all her actions back when she had the Powers virus, but she straight-up revenge-murdered the guy who gave it to her, and I don’t think they looked into that too closely. Still, the pardon probably covered it. What it might not have covered, though, was that time she killed her asshole ex-boyfriend when he tried to assault her. Because she dumped the body, and I don’t think she ever told anybody about that.
And then, just as Walker’s turning the tables, and Pilgrim’s about to confess…
click to embiggen
…the pigeons come back to roost on Walker’s big secrets, too. Because, yes, he used the space alien powers on something that had nothing to do with advanced races interfering in Earth’s development. And though it looked like they were going to let him off the hook for that… Nope. They’re just gonna hurt him in the worst way possible, by killing him with the body of the girl he mentored in super heroing, the current incarnation of a woman he’s loved, in one way or another, over and over again, across multiple lifetimes and vast oceans of time.
Of course, this also takes me back to Walker agreeing to take on the powers in the first place. Was he really desperate to get his powers back, or was the restriction on their use so severe that he was really fulfilling his lingering death wish? I initially thought the former, but suddenly… I’m not so sure.
So… SHIT. YES. Gripping cop drama, the series turned on its head, long-running plotlines suddenly and unexpectedly coming to a head… I don’t know that Powers has been this on-point since the end of the first series. Hell of a comic.