Books  |  Reviews

Comic Book & Graphic Novel Round-Up (9/21/11)

September 21, 2011  |  2:30pm

Each week, Paste reviews the most intriguing comic books, graphic novels, graphic memoirs and other illustrated books.

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Green River Killer: A True Detective Story
by Jeff Jensen and Jonathan Case

Dark Horse Comics, 2011
Rating: 7.0

I was especially interested in this story that details Seattle’s most famous serial killer for gruesome touristic reasons, as I was about to visit the city, but Jeff Jensen and Jonathan Case’s telling of the tale is quite a bit different from the way Rick Geary, say, would have gone about it. Those looking for cheap gory thrills should go elsewhere. For one thing, Jensen is the son of the book’s protagonist, Tom Jensen, a detective who pursued the Green River Killer for about twenty years. The story that emerges, however, isn’t exactly Hollywood material. Jensen’s involvement was serious and long, but there was little in the way of dramatics, and the book focuses on quiet doggedness and on how being involved in such a case for so long can shape a man’s life. The read is a bit up and down. It’s not exactly dull, but there’s a bit much tramping around in the woods, and Case doesn’t have much to draw. On the other hand, its refusal to romanticize the subject is truthful and interesting in and of itself. It’s reportage more than arc and clever reveal. It takes a bit long to get through, but there’s a feeling that sticks with you once you’re done. (HB)

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Northlanders, Vol. 5: Metal
by Brian Wood, Riccardo Burchielli, Becky Cloonan, and Fiona Staples

Vertigo, 2011
Rating: 8.5

Why isn’t Brian Wood more famous? Fit the man in any genre, give him a few months to percolate and its borderline impossible for him to write a bad story. Like Warren Ellis, Jeff Lemire and Brian K. Vaughn, Wood has an uncanny knack for transforming pulpy scenarios into immersive works of brilliance. I personally love Northlanders, but this admiration has been amplified by the fact that the series will be ending in six months (not that it’s alone – are you closing shop, Vertigo? Please don’t). The Fifth volume of comicdom’s only current Viking anthology collects one full arc and two one-shots, all equally barbaric and educational. The title story features Erik, a hulking 16-year-old berserker who wages a one-man massacre against the Christians infringing against the old pagan world. With the plot’s divine cameos and religious violence, it feels equal parts Shakespeare play and Burzum album. The other two stories offer interesting, if bleaker, looks into the well-researched worlds Woods has recreated. The art is solid, but occasionally veers into some confusing perspective (was the Viking zombie a giant or just really close?). At the very least, these grizzled, austere stories prove that Wood will kick absolute ass when he takes over Wolverine for Marvel. (SE)

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Pope Hats #2
by Ethan Rilly

Adhouse Books, 2011
Rating: 6.7

Even not having read the first issue of Ethan Rilly’s Pope Hats, you may find yourself getting sucked in to this book that’s not long on narrative but somehow interesting anyway. Partially, it’s Rilly’s art, which isn’t quite as gorgeously simple as Seth’s but shares something of his shading strategies. Partially it’s the sense of mystery about the work. Where is the story going? Who are these people? Are they Canadian? The answer to the last question is yes, although I can’t remember the specific panel in which I figured it out. There is less of an abidingly Canadian feel to Rilly’s work than to that of many of his countrymen. Basically, Pope Hats might not be a thing yet, but it feels like it could be on its way to being so. Someday, especially if Rilly works a little faster, it’ll be collected, and it’ll probably be stronger read that way, a tale of stress and ennui rendered in careful, detailed panels. (HB)

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Batman #1 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo
Wonder Woman #1 by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang

DC Comics, 2011
Rating: Batman — 7.7, Wonder Woman — 8.0

In transitioning from Detective Comics volume 1 to the new Batman series, Scott Snyder takes an idea that many writers would stretch out for a full year — Dick Grayson goes undercover in Arkham Asylum as the Joker to root out corrupt guards — and blasts through it in eight pages. Instead of focusing on overblown concepts and drawn-out storytelling Snyder zeroes in on a cliffhanger mystery while jumping from invigorating fight scenes to quieter character moments that succinctly establish the relationships between Bruce Wayne, his butler, and his three former and current Robins. Batman #1 is probably the best so far of the New DC 52 in terms of building interest in a new series. Or maybe that’s Wonder Woman #1? Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang dispense with the standard introductions and origin callbacks and dig right into the meat of an internecine struggle between Greek gods. The story fixates less on Diana than on a young woman named Zola who has been impregnated by one god and who is crucial to the insurrectionary plans of another. Wonder Woman is the forthright woman of action who protects Zola from a threat whose severity is as yet unknown to both them and us. Between the mythological underpinnings, the grisly violence, Chiang’s beautiful but not conventionally superheroic artwork, and the sense of a broader and deeper story lurking beneath the surface, Wonder Woman #1 feels more like a Vertigo title than something from DC’s superhero line, only without the gratuitous language and nudity. (GM)

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