Sunday, 8 July 2007

Reviews: Faker, The Highwaymen, Welcome to Tranquility

Faker issue 1 by Mike Carey (writer), Jock (artist), Clem Robins (letterer), Lee Loughridge (colourist) and Shelly Bond (editor), 24 pages of strip, DC Comics/Vertigo, September 2007, US$2.99

A group of students at Minnesota University get drunk in a cybernetics-cum-biological laboratory and wake up with identity problems.

Oh dear, this is a mess. It’s most obvious problem is that all the characters are deeply unpleasant, most notably the narrator, who has seduced her professor with the intention of blackmailing him. This nastiness is not offset by any wit or compelling characterisation. The storytelling is confusing. Without the blurb, I wouldn’t really have known what was going on – not in the sense that there’s a mystery, but in the sense that the narrative is badly constructed. There are pages of decompressed pacing used for no readily apparent reason. Key transitions are missed: how did they get into that laboratory, for example?

Jock is usually a reliable artist with a good sense of composition and mood, but his ragged, jagged artwork makes all the characters look to be in their thirties at least.

“Everyone has something to hide,” reads the cover blurb. Well, don’t worry. I won’t come looking.

The Highwaymen issue 1 “Sick & Retired” by Marc Bernadin and Adam Freeman (writers), Lee Garbett (penciller), Jonny Rench (colourist), Rob Leigh (letterer) and Scott Peterson (editor), cover by Brian Stelfreeze, 22 pages of strip, DC Comics/Wildstorm, August 2007, US$2.99

In 2021, two elderly ex-secret agents are called out of retirement by a message from the late President Bill Clinton, and find themselves in opposition to the current CIA.

This reads so much like an illustrated pitch for a summer action blockbuster buddy-movie that I was surprised to find that it was published by Wildstorm rather than by Boom! Studios. The big action sequence this issue has our heroes on a bus full of old folks being chased by several car loads of CIA agents. It’s well enough done, with some amusing dialogue from the elderly passengers in particular, but I don’t think comics is a medium as well suited to this sort of thing as film is.

Artists Garbett and Rench have a strong Frank Quitely influence, which is surprisingly rare, when you consider how long Quitely has been a critics’ favourite.

Worth a look if you’re on a Live Free or Die Hard kick and want something similar in comics form, but not compelling.

Welcome to Tranquility issue 8, written by Gail Simone, colours by Carrie Strachan, letters by Lanham and Pat Brosseau, edited by Abernathy and Quinn, cover by Neil Googe, 22 pages of strip, DC Comics/Wildstorm, September 2007, US$2.99
features: introductory page with art by Neil Googe
The Ferocious Lindo Sisters “What You Really Want!”, art by Jason Pearson
Zombie Zeke “Dead End Highway”, art by Chriscross
The Emoticon “Not My Type”, art by Georges Jeanty (penciller) and Peter Guzman (inker)

Presumably an interlude between story arcs to allow Neil Googe to keep up with his schedule, this issue is drawn by a fine assortment of artists with an approach sympathetic to his. We get the origin stories of Zombie Zeke, the Crypt-Keeper type who looks after the Tranquility cemetery, and of small-time super-villain the Emoticon, as well as some formative events in the youth of Sheriff Thomasina Lindo. Each story is a neat little vignette in its own right, and each links with the others in minor but effective ways.

This is a fill-in issue in more ways than one: it gives the regular artist a break, but allows Simone to fill in more of Tranquility’s background, adding depth to her fictional setting. It’s an interesting, and, I think, more successful, contrast to the recent issue of The Spirit which also featured three stories by guest artists (and writers), but which seemed entirely separate from the ongoing series.

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