Monday, November 29, 2010

What I Read: Human Target #11

Games of Chance
By Peter Milligan and Javier Pulido

First issue I've read of Human Target in a few years. I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew this was a one-shot, not part of a multi-issue story. I didn't expect Christopher's relationship with Mary to get the spotlight.

My memory maybe sketchy but from what I recall about this series the usual balance between Chistopher's work and personal life seems to be flipped in this issue. Normally his personal life takes a back seat to his profession. Peeks are provided at what he is thinking, feeling but that's all, usually.

This time around his work plays second fiddle. There's plenty of it but it comes and goes in short bursts as Chrisopher spends time with Mary and wonders what she is hiding from him.

Cover Image: Human Target #11

Human Target was published by Vertigo, an imprint of DC Comics.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What I Read: House of Mystery v2 - #9

Love Stories for Dead People: Chapter Four: What You Don't See by Matthew Sturges (writer), Luca Rossi (pencils), José Marzán Jr. (inks), and Lee Loughridge (colors) - The plot thickens, both within and below the House of Mystery. Its hard to analyze a story that doesn't seem to follow a conventional model and is still unfolding. I don't know what's reality and what isn't.

Based on her relationship, her past history with the house it seems that Fig is the centerpiece, the main character. Her acquaintances (Harry, Ann, Cress, Poet) get scream -er- screen time but they all seem to be relegated to supporting roles.

Gothic Romance by Bill Willingham (writer), Bernie Wrightson (artist), and Lee Loughridge (colors) - Without a doubt,with presumably one more yet to come, this is my favorite of the side stories in Love Stories for Dead People. Rather than try to forge something completely original it uses characters from a number of well known monster movies: Dracula, the Wolfman, the Mummy, etc.

What makes the story shine is the combination of Bernie Wrightson's art with the manner in which it is told, through a series of vignettes. Despite the fact that each of them is no longer than a single page each of these episodes is a story in its own right.

House of Mystery is published by Vertigo, an imprint of DC Comics

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What I Read: House of Mystery v2 - #8

Love Stories for Dead People: Chapter Three: Reveal Yourself by Matthew Sturges (writer), Luca Rossi (pencils), José Marzán Jr. (inks), and Lee Loughridge (colors) - I love how this story unfolding slowly, litle by little, bit by bit. It's tortuous but I love it. The answers provided rarely seem definite and only seem to suggest more questions.

The manner in which multiple narratives are layered together can be very poetic at times. One persons thoughts bleed into another, often without a clear beginning or ending to either of them. It could be maddening or frustrating but the skill and artistry of the words and images with which it is achieved make it quite tasty, hard to resist and makes this reader hope for more of the same.

The Caretakers by Matthew Sturges (writer), Henry Flint (artist), and Lee Loughridge (colors) - As Harry the bartender struggles in the main story with Fig's demand for information, he reflects on his first days in the House of Mystery.

The artwork is serviceable but doesn't measure up to the high standard set by Luca Rossi's work in the central story. These interludes can be poetic but this one is more of a data dump.

House of Mystery is published by Vertigo, an imprint of DC Comics.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What I Read: Ōoku v3

This volume continues the story of the first female shogun, Chie; her advisor, Kasuga, whom she inherited from her father, the last male shogun; and her lover, Arikoto, the former monk. The previous volume ended with Chie and Arikoto learning to accept and then love being pushed together by Kasuga, despite the barriers that they erected prior to entering and consumating the relationship.

The central theme of this volume seems to be the issues of succession and continuance of the family name. In particular the story deals with the difficulty that Lady Chie and Arikoto experience when he is unable to get her pregnant. The Kasuga has a solution but it is one that neither of the lovers likes. Accepting the gravity of the situation they learn to accept Kasuga's solution and eventually grow more closely together despite the wedge that Kasuga has places between them.

The larger context that the story takes place in is the destruction caused by the red pox plague, which not only kills people, mostly men, but also, more slowly, causes Japanese society to unravel. Chie is not unaware of the trouble the country is in. She knows something needs to be done but this is an unprecedented situation.

Paramount in Japan is the continuation of families and family names. With the loss of 80% of the male population, including the early deaths of most boys, this patriachal society begins to change. Women take over many roles previously reserved solely for men. Even the members of the nobility not struck down by the plague, all men, mostly older, are grudgingly forced to make their daughters their heirs.

Eventually the government headed by Chie and Kasuga accepts the need for change. Although this doesn't happen until one of her male advisors puts forth a proposal which eventually becomes law. The significance of the gender of the character who finally puts voice to what many others must have been thinking can be interpreted in a number of ways but what is most striking about it is that it shows that succession and preservation of the family takes precendence over other traditions, such as patriarchy. Thus, the law is changed and women begin to be legally recognized as heirs to titles previously held by male relatives and thus preserving their family lines.

This is not a comprehensive review. For a more in depth look at the series read Slightly Biased Manga's reviews of v1, v2, v3.

Monday, November 15, 2010

What I Read: House of Mystery v2 - #7

Love Stories for Dead People: Chapter Two: Beneath the Skin by Matthew Sturges (writer), Luca Rossi (pencils), José Marzán Jr. (inks), and Lee Loughridge (colors) - Harry, Ann and Fig begin to explore the lower, subterranean levels of the house. Poet and Cressida remain behind to tend the bar. Its not so much what happens in this chapter that entrances me as how it happens and how it is depicted visually.

I love the way Luca Rossi draws the interiors of the House: the pasageways, the spiral staircases, the carvings and statues. Equally beautiful and more disturbing are some of the creatures he draws: the rat with a human head, the pear with a face that screams just before Cress bites into it, and the disemboweled critter that Fig cradles in her arms as the chapter ends. Lee Loughridge, the colorist, is no slouch either. His soft touch with the colors helps to set the mood.

The War by Bill Willingham (writer) and David Petersen (artist) - a story told by Poet at a party that he and Cress throw, while the others are exploring the basement. It is about a war between cats and birds. It doesn't really have a plot, its more of a description of the war.

If the story was a little better formed or had some interesting characters then I might have enjoyed it more. I get the impression, based on a comment made after the story is told, that it is intentionally devoid of the elements of plot and characters. The real draw here is David Petersen's art.

House of Mystery is published by Vertigo, an imprint of DC Comics

Friday, November 12, 2010

What I Read - The Mice Templar Vol. 1: The Prophecy #7

#7 The Symbol - I'm not satisfied with the way in which Pilot seems to have been swept under the carpet. Given the important role he played in the last few chapters I hope that he (at least in flashback) will return and his origin be revealed.

I get the sense that certain things in this story are supposed to be accepted at face value. Pilot's role thus far may be one such thing. I am not dismissing him as dead just yet. He was carried off by a bat, presumably to his death, but having not actually seen his death I'm open to the possibilty that he may return.

I'm eager to read book 2.

The Mice Templar by Brian J.L. Glass, Michael Avon Oeming, and Will Quintana

Monday, November 8, 2010

What I Read: House of Mystery v2 - #6

Love Stories for Dead People: Prologue: Cave of the Gilded Virgins by Matthew Sturges (writer), Tony Akins (artist), Andrew Pepoy (inker), and Alex Wald (colorist)- a tale from Ann Preston's past; a tale of her first human lover; a tale that ends in a rather rather grim and cynical manner, as do most in the House of Mystery; nothing too special here but this is the first look back at Ann's past.

Love Stories for Dead People: Chapter One: Cabin Fever by Matthew Sturges (writer), Luca Rossi (artist), and Lee Loughridge (colors) - Harry and Ann begin to plot an escape from the House. They pull Fig, Cress, and Poet into their scheme. The planned escape route begins with a door in the basement that Harry previously warned them against opening. Seems that Harry 's changed his mind about opening the door.

I love Luca Rossi's art. Love how he draws the five main characters and his visual story-telling techniques. I often find my eyes miss secondary and tertiary objects in his panels, on the first read through. I love how he isn't afraid to draw things rough or soft or indistinct. Its a style that really works well for a horror comic like HoM.

House of Mystery is published by Vertigo, an imprint of DC Comics.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What I Read - The Mice Templar Vol. 1: The Prophecy #6

#6 Truth Behind Lies - Karic's life seemed to be stabilizing since the second chapter. That all changed in the previous chapter, with the formal introduction of Cassius. Karic is trying piece it all together, make sense of it all and is receiving conflicting messages from different sources, all of whom claim to spreak the truth. His age and inexperience don't work in his favor.

In stories like this it is often difficult to determine what or whom to believe before the story has run its course. Sometimes the author intentionally muddies the water, sometimes steers the reader in one direction for dramatic purposes, and sometimes it just it seems complicated when it is actually very clear.

The Mice Templar by Brian J.L. Glass, Michael Avon Oeming, and Will Quintana