Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Rant-Reviews--The Pieces of the Stories We Tell

Not Whole, Yet Still Important Pieces
Comic-books are of course telling a story. The thing is, unless the book is either a complete graphic novel or a one-shot these stories are often spread-out over various issues. Then, when it comes to super-hero stories it could be argued that often one big epic story is being told that stretches back decades to when a character first appeared. This got me to thinking about how some of the comics I was reading tell stories that are maybe not whole, but pieces. The question therefore becomes if these pieces of stories are enjoyable or suffer from the fractured-into-issues nature of comic-books. Let's examine some comics to explore that concept now with ongoing titles and mini-series.

Story Segments
Island #3
This comic anthology spearheaded by the fascinating writer-artist Brandon Graham is now on its 3rd issue and proving interesting in that stories have appeared in the debut and second issue that won't be followed-up until later and there are the beginnings of storylines here where the next part may not be seen until we get up to the 7th issue. It's a bit overwhelming in that I worry I will utterly forget one story before it comes back and find myself scratching my head at just what exactly is going on. 

The comic itself is perfectly fine and jam-packed with comics and think-pieces that are all at least interesting, with some being especially attention-grabbing. The "Ancestor," comic creates an ominous tone with its characters so used to being plugged-in to technology suddenly being disconnected from it and finding themselves in a potential great danger. The things is, I won't know what happens next until issue five so that kind of stinks. Still, all the content you get for eight bucks makes for a pretty solid read and one I am enjoying even if the disjointed nature of when stories appear could become a bigger concern as the comic proceeds.
3 out of 5 stars.

Plutona #2
This is the second issue of what will apparently be a five-issue mini-series written by the talented (and generally pleasing-to-read) Jeff Lemire and illustrated by Emi Lenox. It is interesting in that it kind of takes the big macro-sized world of super-heroes and gives us a perception of how that looks from the micro-level of some kids who live out in the suburbs. This is a bit like other titles that adopt the, "Street-view," of regular folk when it comes to seeing powered beings, but with the interesting twist in this one is that it is a bunch of teenagers who have found the apparently quite-dead body of  super-hero Plutona.

The first issue of the comic gave us a pretty solid introduction to the characters and ended with the cliffhanger of them finding Plutona dead in the woods. This issues picks-up from there as they argue about what should be done with/for Plutona; there is also a back-up strip written and illustrated by Jeff Lemire that is filling us in on just what happened to Plutona that resulted in her death. The 2nd part of the comic reads as a standard super-hero story--but that is clearly intentional with the main content reading so differently.

If it weren't for the fact this is actually going to just be five issues I would express concern that this is reading as a super decompressed ongoing considering how the 2nd issue is almost nothing but the characters standing around in the forest arguing. Knowing that things will be wrapped-up after five issues however makes me think that Lemire knows what he's doing and even if things feel a bit sluggish in this second issue I see some intriguing elements at play for sure.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

The Surface #4
As I discuss stories and how comics give them to us in a fragmented way it is worth pointing out how some yarns do conclude. This is the last issue of a mini-series written by Ales Kot and he goes full-on meta here, essentially dropping the plot of the first three issues to discuss how they've been one big metaphor for some difficult parts of his life--from the death of family members to the struggle of when he wrote his popular break-out success comic, "Change." This issue has him looking directly at us, the reader, and speaking to us whilst asking the comic's illustrator, Langdon Foss to draw certain things.

It reads as extremely personal and is almost uncomfortable to witness, as if we broke into Kot's own personal journal and gave it a read-through. We watch Kot as he's angry, crying, and most importantly, forgiving himself and those around him who repeatedly let him down. Kot really puts himself out there on the page (both literally and figuratively) and I think it is admirable that he does so.

It is worth discussing how even if this story has ended, in some ways it hasn't. This is because the comic is story of life and how we live it--as well as how we are remembered by other people once our own existence ends (if I'm interpreting the comic correctly, that is). This all results in a stellar comic that takes a series which was confusing to me at first, but upon pulling-back and revealing just how wide in scope it is concludes wonderfully.
5 out of 5 stars.

Mercury Heat #4
Writer of the comic Kieron Gillen is of course especially known for his work with Jamie Mckelvie on, "The Wicked and the Divine," but has also done work for Avatar Press on multiple occasions, with the recently wrapped mega-arc of, "Uber," being a particularly interesting title by him. "Uber will return at the end of the year but until then we have had the very enjoyable-so-far first arc of, "Mercury Heat," which is about as far removed from the glum nature of, "Uber," as a comic can be, completely unlike it in any respect except for the extreme violence.

Set in the future where due to personality profiles people can find it difficult to get a job they want, "Mercury Heat," follows a borderline psychopath Luiza who finds that the only way she can be a police officer is for the wild west-ish region of Mercury and the spaceships located around the planet. Luiza at first read to me as kind of flat and one-dimensonal but over the initial issues has turned into someone surprisingly easy to empathize with in her desire to want to do good things and help others--although in the process of her doing so a lot of folk get beat-up. I actually like reading this serialized as I feel sitting down and reading a whole trade paperback of, "Mercury Heat," might be a bit much for me, but occasional doses of this over-the-top story suit me well.

"Mercury Heat," is a fun piece of science-fiction with a lot of action and a bit of thoughtfulness about examining nature versus nurture (between its explosions of machinery and blood). I would recommend giving this title a read if you enjoy Gillen's work and desire to see him really cutting loose.
4 out of 5 stars.

Comics are fun in their serialization as even prose stories used to be done that way it is not seen as often now-- I mean, besides in book-series about particular characters (your Harry Potters and Jack Ryans), but I'm discussing how in the old days novels would be published chapter-by-chapter. Sometimes the way comics are released can irritate a reader if they really want to know what happens next and they have to wait, and other times it works well, allowing a fan of something to enjoy a burst of it, then take a break before returning for more.

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