Sunday, 5 August 2007

Reviews: Inanna’s Tears, Metal Men

Inanna’s Tears issue 1, “Tamer of the Me”, written by Rob Vollmar, illustrated by mpMann, Archaia Studios Press, August 2007, 27 pages of strip, US$3.95

Anyone producing fiction about the past faces the question of whether to emphasise the similarities with or differences from the reader’s present. Vollmar and mpMann’s comic is about the most remote era still accessible to us in history: the age of the city-states of Sumer in what is now Iraq, four to five thousand years ago.

They tackle that basic question by emphasising the continuity of emotion, while making the context alien. Thus, the story concerns the replacement of the En, the priest-king ritually married to the city’s titulary goddess, Inanna: alien enough. But it is also a story of a form of romantic triangle, of the tension between love and duty, and of political machinations. Language is formal, theatrical and archaic, but does not fall into Stan Lee pastiche. The art depicts convincing reconstructions of ancient styles, in a washed-out Mesopotamian light of earthy tones (only the apparent villain of the piece, Belipotash, wears anything as bright as brick red), but it employs a loose brush line and a cartoonist’s range of expression. Only the lettering and word balloons jar – too regular and computer-generated. But that is a very minor point.

This issue is essentially about establishing the situations and conflicts that will drive the remaining four issues. It ends with a dramatic twist. Unfortunately, the back cover blurb gives this away completely. If it’s not too late, don’t read the back first.

Metal Men issue 1, Chapter 1 “Et in Arcanium Ergo”, Chapter 2 “Theories of Realitivity”, Chapter Three “To Serve With Love”, by Duncan Rouleau (writer and artist), based on ideas by Grant Morrison, with Moose Baumann (colourist), Pat Brosseau (letterer) and Eddie Berganza (editor), DC Comics, October 2007, 22 pages of strip, US$2.99

By rights, I should have enjoyed this comic a lot more than I did. It fully embraces the preposterous silliness of the super-hero genre, juggles alchemy and weird science, and is delivered by a cartoonist in full command of his craft as a draughtsman. There is no need to have read any DC Comics before to understand what is going on, and the main tone being attempted is humorous, rather than portentous or shocking.

Unfortunately, the key word there is “attempted”, because this all falls a little flat. Look at the puns in the chapter titles – the meaningless Latin and the unpronounceable “realitivity”; try to make the repeated phrase “Hypo-Hyper Flux” trip off your tongue, rather than stumble. None of it quite works. Whacked-out Morrisonian pop-science-in-a-blender can be a lot of fun if integrated into the action, but not if delivered as a multi-page lecture, as it is here.

This isn’t a bad comic – it displays more wit, good spirits and artistic skill than most DC Universe titles – but it all does seem a little leaden, when it should be mercurial.

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