Friday, June 14

Dynamite Comics – July 2013

Reviews, commentary, general reactions, and random notes on the Dynamite Entertainment comics that were released during May (mostly) that I received near the beginning of June. Caution: Spoilers ahead! [Link to previous month.]

Cover D (25%) by Francisco Francavilla
Masks #7 of 8

I'm not sure what was different this time, but I found this penultimate issue a bit chaotic and hard to follow. The art seemed rushed – sometimes facial expressions seemed downright goofy (see in particular the last page) – and the action sequences degenerated into almost random images with no narrative value. For instance, how did Britt get loose? – and What's with Kato rubbing his nose in the midst of the action? Surely that latter had significance as a signal of some sort, but what exactly it was I couldn't tell. The story logic breaks down as well: Could the Spider possibly have liberated a prison camp upstate and crossed the countryside toward New York City, gathering more and more followers along the way, without the Master somehow getting word?

These are criticisms from someone who knows and loves the source material and hitherto has been willing to “fill in the blanks” from what I know of the original Spider “Black Police” trilogy, but most readers of this series do not have that advantage. And it's a dubious advantage in the end, because for me there comes to mind the biggest deviation from the original, implemented certainly in an effort to bring some kind of modern sensibility and “rationality” to what motivates the Master – who is now finally discovered in-story to be indeed the former crime-fighter known as the Clock – who ends up being another “noble” but insane villain, considering his ends to justify his means. In the original, part of a series which drew things in terms of stark black and white, good vs. evil, the whole Black Police movement was purely a criminal enterprise. Admittedly, when I assessed that original pulp trilogy a couple of years ago (link), I argued that a fascistic state such as that could not be set up without positing some higher value than pure avarice, no matter how warped in our minds that “higher value” might be, but I can't say I buy the simple imposition of order on disorder as proposed by the Clock as any more convincing.

I am ultimately enjoying this series, but this issue breaks down for me. I am still going to purchase the collection as soon as it becomes available – apparently not as a hardcover as I hoped, but rather as a paperback which is solicited in this month's Previews catalogue – as a companion volume to the one-volume Spider vs. the Empire State collection of the pulp originals. Interestingly enough, the Masks collection is solicited as “Volume One,” including all eight issues, so apparently there are plans to come back to the concept of uniting the Dynamite's pulp/licensed/public-domain characters in the future. And I will doubtless be buying that as well.

Main Cover by Paolo Rivera
Green Hornet #2 of 8 (I think)

This is another well-written issue by Mark Waid. Britt Reid is getting more and more reckless as the Green Hornet, even to the point of being careless of Kato's life. And Kato's obviously not happy about it.

Cover by Lucio Parrillo
Lord of the Jungle #15
A Shadow in the Golden City”

Well. I didn't see that coming. Tarzan fights a four-armed white ape that's been terrorizing the people of Opar, and uncovers legends of a dying red world with ships that fly in the air. Holy cow! Can it be only coincidence that Dynamite is currently soliciting a Lords of Mars miniseries that unites Edgar Rice Burroughs' two greatest creations? – To be written by Arvid Nelson?

But ultimately I don't care for this issue. For one thing, La is killed through Tarzan's inaction. Of course we don't actually see her body, just a body that is shrouded – and neither does Tarzan – but I presume that Tarzan would be able to smell the subterfuge if the Oparians tried to coerce him into action by faking her death. And Tarzan himself seems to act even more out-of-character in this issue than previously. AND WHY IS HE ALWAYS SHOUTING?, as represented by sharp-edged word balloons bordered in red. Finally, wouldn't a white ape from Mars be crippled by the three-times-heavier gravity of Earth? – the opposite of the disparity that gives John Carter “super-powers” on Mars.

What does it mean that there's no next-issue blurb on the text page at back?

Cover A (50%) by Joe Jusko
Warlord of Mars #24 and 25
Parts 4 and 5 of 5: Magnet Switch and The New Ruler”

There's really not a whole lot for me to comment on here. As far as the basic story goes, it's an increasingly loose adaptation of ERB's Warlord of Mars, the third John Carter novel, from chapter eleven to the end.

Cover A (50%) by Joe Jusko
And yet, comment I shall, because this series is losing me also. For one thing, I object strongly to the uncanonical killing of Tardos Mors and Mors Kajak – off-panel, no less. It's referred to in the first of these issues, but not having a good memory for fine story details where I haven't read the original book in a couple of years, I thought they'd turn up okay. They don't. Admittedly, I don't remember them having a big part to play in any future books in the series, but still.... This points to my biggest growing problem with Dynamite's ERB-based series. Both are increasingly diverging from the original classic stories, not just rearranging things a bit as is inevitably necessary in any kind of adaptation, not even developing points that ERB glossed over as was done especially in the expandaptation of A Princess of Mars, not even telling new stories altogether in ERB's already richly developed world, which I'm all in favor of – no, changing major plot points radically, often to “update” the narrative to incorporate modern sensibilities. It was annoying from virtually the beginning in Lord of the Jungle. Now I find it almost unbearable. Frankly, I'm losing the high regard for Arvid Nelson as an adapter of ERB's stories that had me, as recently as a couple of days ago, pre-ordering Lords of Mars. I'm seriously reconsidering that, and even considering just dropping all of Dynamite's ERB titles altogether.

One note about the cover of #24. I don't know that there is an ERB-canonical statement one way or the other, but I was always under the impression that red Martian daughters would be hatched as prepubescent girls rather than very fully developed women! The former would, I believe, be more in line with how Dynamite's stories have portrayed Martian youths in the past.

Reviews #24 and #25

Cover A (50%) by Paul Renard
Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris #25

Finally, in the last issue that I've pre-ordered, we get an interesting story again after well more than a year. It's a psychological drama revealing the dark secret of a hitherto unknown brother of Dejah Thoris. It's also a done-in-one story, albeit with a hanging plot element obviously meant to be taken up again in the future.

I won't be there for it, though. This story isn't that good, that I'm rushing to change my pre-orders and start getting this series again. And frankly, even if the story were that good, the visual execution is almost laughable. Come on, Barsoomian mental institutions and medical personnel – and patients – would not look like our own here on Earth! If you don't have the imagination to develop your own design styles for such things, you shouldn't be presuming to write and tell stories in such settings.

Cover B by Alex Ross
The Shadow: Year One #3 of 8

Again, an excellent story – one which does make me kind of regret dropping this series with this issue in favor of waiting for the trade collection. But I'm sticking to that. I'd rather wait and have a fine book than a half-dozen or so loose issues. And it will probably read even better that way.

Cheers! – and Thanks for reading!

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