Wednesday, May 14, 2014

For Fans of Weird Westerns as well as Mythpunks

Kelly Sue DeConnick & Emma Rios “Pretty Deadly, Vol. 1” (Image, 2014)

If you’re not convinced that Image is the most creative publisher in contemporary comics, take a look at this title.  Pretty Deadly is a mythpunk weird western.  Its creative team is two women.  

I have to admit that I haven’t been familiar with Emma Rios’ work before this title.  But wow.  That’s clearly an oversight.  This comic is absolutely gorgeous.  Her illustrations tend to be ornate without being cluttered or fussy.  She uses a warm palette heavy on the purples.  It’s dangerous and ugly and scary while being feminine and mysterious.

I’m familiar with Kelly Sue DeConnick’s work with Captain Marvel and the Avengers, but I’ve never seen her attempt anything like this.  Writing myth heavy material requires a different skill set than a contemporary cape book.  I’m pleased that she makes the leap easily.  

I’d recommend Pretty Deadly highly to fans of the Sandman, Catharine Valente, or Joe Lansdale.  This first volume wraps up the first story arc nicely, but I’m looking forward to seeing where the story goes from here.

If Sex Criminals is the sign of the times, what does that say about us?

Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky, “Sex Criminals Volume 1:  One Weird Trick” (Image, 2014)

There’s one thing I’ve got to say first:  this is the first time I’ve read a comic about sex that hasn’t icked me out.  Personally I’ve always found the “hey I’m sexy” comics more disturbing than titillating.  I think that the trick is that Sex Criminals is about sex without trying to be sexy.  Make sense?

The plot is pretty thin, but then it’s not really about the plot is it?  Suzie stops time when she orgasms.  Eventually she meets Jon, who has the same ability.  They decide to team up & rob banks, both to stick it to the man and to save her library.  Unfortunately they hadn’t known about the sex police….

It’s ridiculous, isn’t it?  That’s ok, because it’s fun.  And that’s the attitude that Fraction and Zdarsky take towards sex.  It’s ridiculous and fun.  

And underneath this ridiculous story about people who can stop time when they rub one out you have commentary on everything from education to grief to the economy and more.  It’s a coming of age story for Suzie as she struggles to deal with her grief and learn about her sexuality.

Chip Zdarsky’s art is perfect for this strange science fictional story.  He avoids the clich├ęs of the world of capes to give us an artistic vision that is both realistic and surrealist.  He works with the passage of time (much of the story is told in flashback) to keep the narrative clear while adding to the humorous tone of the entire series.

I don’t know when I’ve read a comic series that seemed to hit the zeitgeist as hard as Sex Criminals has.  It seems to have tied into so many important issues of the day.  Comixology was giving away the first issue of the series.  So go on over & download it.  Odds are you’ll want to pick up the trade.

Can she stick the landing?

Rachel Bach “Heaven’s Queen” (Orbit, 2014)

Now we come to the final book in Bach’s Paradox series.  The first two volumes, Fortune’s Pawn & Honor’s Knight, have developed a universe of action, intrigue and romance.  Deviana Morris is a strong kick ass heroine who just may be able to save the universe.  Because by Heaven’s Queen, those are the stakes – all life in our universe! Can Bach stick the landing, or will this series end on a sour note?
Bach wisely choses to forgo adding additional elements to the story in the final volume.  While many of the mysteries of the series were solved in the second volume, now we are watching things play out.  Will Devi lose her autonomy?  Will she be destroyed by her disease?  Is she the savior of the universe?
I’m happy to say that Bach does a great job managing the characters and the plot in order to reach a tidy conclusion.  While readers may or may not be pleased with the outcome of various events, they will not go away angry at dangling threads or unresolved character arcs.
Heaven’s Queen is a great conclusion to an action packed, romance filled series.