Sunday, March 22, 2009

You've Been Warned Vol II Issue XII

**As always, mind the spoilers, fanboy.**

- OPENING REMARKS -

Air Vol. 1: Letters from Lost Countries
by G. Willow Wilson & M.K. Perker
Vertigo (DC) Comics


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Sweet Christmas, Vertigo is putting everything they've got into getting this book off the ground. This week saw the release of the primary Air collection, reprinting the first six issues of the series, for a mere ten bucks. Simultaneously, issue seven hit the stands, priced at a measly dollar (hint, hint). Most impressive however, is the glowing praises from a who's-who of comic big wigs wallpapering this covers of Letters from Lost Countries, featuring everyone from Neil Gaiman and Brian Azzarello to The Onion and Bust Magazine (whatever holy heck that is). Show me the fan who won't give a series with so much credible hype at the very least a chance and I'll show you one jaded-ass fanboy.

Despite being a jaded-ass fanboy, I gave this collection a shot. Initially I passed on this series, as I couldn't wrap my head around its premise (i.e. a agoraphobic flight attendant who becomes swept up in an aviary war that will eventually decide the fate of the world). From that brief synopsis, it's easy (and correct) to assume this series is chocked to the breaking point with some very interesting concepts. Strange plot points, such as lost countries and archaic, reality-bending propulsion devices make for a very thought provoking experience. I found myself longing to be sucked into this story, because as so many people have attested to, this book is extremely unique if one only looks at its premises.

From my initial reading, I've observed that the setting of Air relies heavily on the rules of everyday reality in direct juxtaposition of the astounding intrigue and technological nirvana of the plot. Unfortunately what stopped me from becoming completely engrossed was the breakdown of some very basic elements of storytelling in both the creation of a stable setting and of thorough character development. For instance: in an extremely short period of time, and from a very few brief encounters, our protagonist (Blythe the flight attendant) falls madly in love with the mysterious Zayn, who did little more than shadow her around the world in an eerie, stalkerish fashion. In my experiences I haven't met a single woman who enjoys being followed by a male stranger in even a parking lot, let alone all over the globe. So I didn't believe it, and because I didn't believe it the preceding storyline became awkward, as it relied heavily on this magical, instant love. That was just the first of many troublesome instances. Others follow, such as an assortment of cut-out, static supporting characters (like Fletcher the zany sidekick, or Lancaster the evil villain who miraculously survives a plane crash with no explanation). Little inconsistencies arise, like how it's physically impossible to open an emergency exit door on a plane while it's in flight (look it up). Minute abnormalities ensue, like how the high-powered CEO of a major corporation would not only entertain a stewardess and her complaints, but know them on a first name basis. These little blemishes ultimately prevented me from suspending disbelief, and turned what might have been an exceptional read into an average one.

In the end, celebrity plugs aside, this book most likely won't set your skies ablaze.

Barefoot Gen Vol. 7: Bones into Dust
Barfoot Gen Vol. 8: Merchants of Death
by Keiji Nakazawa
Last Gasp


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If there's a more depressing comic in existence than this here series I don't want to fucking know about it. Every single sub-plot in this book makes me want to slit my little wrists and call it a proverbial day. I can't even accuse the author of excessive pandering to morbidity, because it's non-fiction.

Keiji Nakazawa illustrates the horror of perpetual war and the unbreakable nature of the human spirit clearer than anyone has any right to. Putting his pre and post Hiroshima experiences into print was a selfless and brave act, and in some measure the world is a better place because of it. If you consider yourself any sort of comic book historian, you're full of shit unless you've read this series.

Oh Jesus, there's still two more books to go before I'm done reading the story. Somebody pass the fucking Prozac.

Rawbone #1
by Jamie Delano & Max Fiumara
Avatar Press, Inc


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After reading Delano's last series from Avatar (that being the surreal, cyberpunky Narcopolis), I didn't know what to expect from this series. From such a varying range of writing styles and stories, I can only assume that the author's flexing his literary muscles, reminding everyone of the range and depth of his skills after a mostly extended absence from any major publisher.

Like most everyone, Disney's Pirates of the Carribean trilogy completely drained any interest in fucking pirates I was entertaining, so right of the bat Rawbone was facing an uphill battle to win this fanboy over. And, like most comics, there were parts in this issue that stumbled a little, such as the awkward description " ... his ball-sack huddles tight as a bat in the eaves of his crotch." But aside from brief dalliances like that, this series is shaping up to be a good ol' fashioned swashbuckling yarn, complete with an epic narrative voice, a bad-ass lesbian pirate wench, plenty of excessively violent fisticuffs, and some sort of rape-prone monkeyman.

If you've been longing for a pirate tale that's not, y'know, hopelessly trite and benign, you won't need to look farther than right here. Rawbone promises to be a cut above the rest.

Waltz with Bashir: A Lebanon War Story
by Ari Folman & David Polonsky
Metropolitan Books


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Only after reading this title did I learn it's the sequential adaptation of a movie bearing the same name, by the same author. That in mind, I would recommend anyone interested in this story invest their money in seeing the actual movie instead of picking up this book, or at the very least see the flick first. Visually Waltz with Bashir is extremely fluid and gripping, and thematically a very real sense of the futility of war is relayed, but there's a tangible sense of disorganization plaguing the flow of things. I couldn't shake the feeling that I was reading some sort of storyboard. I don't think that feeling was far off from the truth. This is a tale that would thrive in the cinematic medium, utilizing in particular sound to tell the story more effectively. I highly recommend checking it out in theatres before contemplating this adaptation. I know I wish I had.


- PICK OF THE WEEK -
Chronicles of Some Made
by Felix Tannenbaum
Passenger Pigeon Publishing


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It's not wise to judge a book by its cover, but we all do it. If we didn't there wouldn't be so many half-naked women gracing the fronts of so many comics like so much meat in a butcher's window. I am guilty of this vice as well. That's how I came across this Xeric Award winner. Something about this cover cooed, "Buy me. You won't be disappointed." I know it wasn't wise to sign up for a title after viewing one image. Despite all that, I stumbled upon one hell of a read. So much for conventional wisdom.

I am very impressed with this book. Chronicles... contains two robotic parables, one of the quest for meaning against the inescapable tide of instinct, the other of love in the face of absolute adversity. Both are honestly rendered in a warm, simple style. Both are perfectly paced and sequentially sound. Both are priceless.

Sure, the lettering's a little weak, and I honestly believe this book could have been huge (i.e. universally all-ages) if not for the authors inexplicable reliance on the word "fuck" (not that there's anything wrong with that fucking word). But I have more problems in my everyday existence before I'm even out the door. Two minuscule lumps in a sea of smooth is something anyone who appreciates a good read can live with.

More often than not I get burned when I take chances on new books from indie publishers. But sometimes I stumble across titles like Chronicles of Some Made. Those sometimes make all the difference. This is a beautiful book, Mr. Tannenbaum. Thank you, and keep up the good work.

- PAN OF THE WEEK -
None Available


The comic gods smile upon us all.

YOU'VE BEEN WARNED

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