Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Rant-Reviews--All These Comics Are Relentlessly Dark In Tone.

In a good mood? Well lets drag it down with some comics that are quite depressing, Incognito #5,  Sweet Tooth #19, Punisher: In the Blood #5, and Caligula #1.

Incognito: Bad Influences #5
Wow, I genuinely did not expect Ed Brubaker to take the story to the ending he did here, whilst hinting at some meta-fictional concepts, and adding one last twist to the whole "Lazarus"  character. My hat off to him for surprising me so effectively, and I also give a tip of my non-existent hat to Sean Philips for turning in some more phenomenal artwork. The dark and gloomy illustrations compliment the overwhelming sense of doom that is prevalent throughout this whole issue and all the loose ends finally come together. At first I was thinking just four stars, but as I think more and more about it and upon re-reading the issue and seeing how carefully everything was plotted, this is definetely a....
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Sweet Tooth #19
I discovered Jeff Lemire on the Essex County books before they were actually popular--making him one of the few comic writers or artists I can claim I was reading, "before they made it big," like people who read Bendis before he joined Marvel. Anyways, this is his sci-fi tale of a boy named Gus (AKA "Sweet Tooth") with animal features and a large man named Jepperd he's been hanging out with. The cast has of course grown and there have been plot twists and turns, but the general idea is we're in a post-apocalyptic world. The thing is, in this issue we don't see any of Gus or Jepperd. Instead, the girls all hang out and we've got the tale of a woman who was kidnapped and forced into prostitution,  a girl who kept living with famlies that died of the plague that wiped everyone out, and pig-girl seems to have a happy tale up to the point where it becomes clear what happened to her mother. Yeah, this comic is pretty bleak. Lemire does great art, however, and the plot is interesting, so this has been a story to watch and enjoy, even if the misery can get to be a bit much.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Punisher: The The Blood #5
Now this is the way to end your run on a character. Yes, yes, I know this is technically just the last issue of a five issue mini-series, but it is really the culmination of Rick Remender's writing from the end of Punisher War Journal, all of the re-launch named Punisher (which at one point was Franken-Castle) and now this mini-series where he brings everything together and closes it up beautifully. The series was losing me before kicking it into gear these last two issues and the final one is just great. We see genuine soft emotion from characters you think have none, people's obsessions ends up being their downfall and it is all just so great.

Don't get me wrong, this is violent and sad, with an end that is as depressing as touching, but I'll be fool in fall if this isn't possibly the best Punisher comic I've read outside of some issues of the Garth Ennis Marvel Max one. Maybe it is the way the whole mega-arc comes to a perfect close allowing the next creative team taking over Punisher to have a clean slate, or how Remender just has such a good grasp of who Frank Castle is, but damn this is a wonderful if dark as hell comic. Now, I'm not saying it's perfect. Such a thing doesn't exist, but it is A+ work.
5 out of 5 stars.

Caligula #1
Based on some of the thing's he has written, from the beat-up little girl in Stray Bullets, to the disgustingly abusive family in his Crossed mini-series, the insane Young Liars, and now this...I don't know if I would feel safe spending even a moment peering into the creative mind of David Lapham. It would just be too scary. Caligula is the famous emperor who did incredibly vile and violent things, which Lapham doesn't hesitate to cover in detail in this story. It is from the point of view of a young man whose family is murdered in the most gruesome way possible by Caligula and the rest of the comic is his plotting to try and kill the emperor while witnessing the depravity that goes on inside his royal halls. Half the time Lapham seems to want to be making a point about the potential for horror in human nature, and other times he just seems to be wallowing in it for shock factor. If you are being gross and horrible so that we really hate Caligula, well, mission accomplished, I was cheering for our protagonist to succeed.

Things of course don't go quite according to plan as a last page twist shows, because if Caligula died in the first issue we wouldn't have much of a series, would we? Still, the story is interesting, the art is nice, but the details are just so gruesome and not at all for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. If this were a movie it would be one of those hard-R movies where you wonder how they got away with getting it in theaters because it is so violent and just..wrong. Kind of like those gory 1980s horror movies with the sex and violence cranked up even further. Based on the story alone though, this is interesting and I am curious where things are going. I just hope Lapham doesn't have to get any weirder or twisted than he has this issue.
3 out of 5 stars.

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