It’s time for something new again.

Before I conned SBC into allowing me to helm a weekly column, I was writing regular reviews for the site, which subsequently fell by the wayside in the wake of Ambidextrous. The New Hotness (on vacation last week and this week, but returning next week with an additional twist) provides me the opportunity to highlight that which glitters in my Wednesday stash, but I’m always been hesitant to return to ‘reviewing’ comics. At least without a unique angle that is…

Allow me to welcome you to the most horrifically detailed and anally-retentive comic review known to man. We take a twenty-two page comic and eviscerate it in public, discussing any and all relevant bits while commenting on the lack of world peace in the process. No longer are creators safe from offering five pages of useless filler before proceeding to the obligatory big hero fight. And no more of that clever spreading of two sentences’ worth of dialogue across six panels either. We are on to you. Why do I keep saying ‘we’ you ask??

Because fellow SBC columnist J Hues is assisting in this endeavor, and he swears it was his idea first. Only it’s not appearing in his Rolling With the Punches column, because if it doesn’t work out, the final product won’t pollute his sacred index. I, as usual, am overconfident regarding the whole experiment. And what poor title have we agreed to spread thin in Siskel and Ebert fashion??

DC’s The Resistance #1 looks ready for a close-up. It is written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray after all (who moonlight as SBC columnists). Who else would we choose to pick on but our own family members?? If all goes well, we may do this again sometime with other deserving subjects. Tell your favorite message board if you’re down for it.

Let’s do the damn thing.


Thomas: Okay. Wildstorm logo…check. Direct sales UPC…check. Wait a minute…is that an original cover design?? Love the four way image using the talents of different artists for dramatic effect. Love the simple logo that repeats itself in faded fashion down the middle. Not nearly as sexy as the Wildcats covers…but damn close.

Hues: Wildstorm is really starting to make a name for themselves with their originality in cover design. This one almost looked like an internal title page at first glance. The four images don’t really give anything away about the interiors, but you’ve gotta give ’em credit for giving your four times the teasers to try and lure you in. Simple but effective.

Thomas: We’re agreeing on something…this thing’s already off to a bad start…

Hues: The first thing that happened when I opened this book was an “Oh my god, look at all those words!” This was a pretty overwhelming thing to see on the first page of a new series and I actually flipped the book to be sure it wasn’t going to be that wordy. Dudes were giving Claremont a run for his money. Essentially all this exposition was just to set up this world so maybe I can forgive them.

Thomas: Yeah, they also used the clever writer trick of having a news broadcast running in the background to make the dialogue more fluid. Two writers means twice the word balloons apparently, but they manage to steer clear of trying to introduce an entire premise in six panels. It’s wordy but there’s enough breath here to let it pass. That shot with the reflection on the surface of the spoon was nice too.

Hues: Yeah, but moving to the second page they reuse this reflection device to more awkward effect. They have some of the gruel sliding off the spoon but it’s colored as if it’s part of the spoon. I had to stop and go back to see if this wasn’t a different kind of spoon. In two pages we learn that we’re in the future in a world dominated by a governmental organization that controls breeding, medicine and everything else. Apparently overpopulation is the big problem in this world. So we’ve got student and mentor. Well in the classic hero tale we start by sending the student off in the world to make his own way and discover his destiny. Let’s see… check. On a side note, am I the only one who sees how Brian (our protagonist)’s hair evolved quickly from a buzz-cut to a pretty close imitation of Tintin’s hairstyle?

Thomas: What bothered me more was the fact that the gruel seemed to be defeating gravity. Perhaps in this world…things fall up?? Okay, it’s not important now. Classic archetypes, the old wise man and the naive youngster living in a world where nothing makes sense. And of course the old man keels over with heart failure…because isn’t that what all the old guys in comics do?? He didn’t even have the courtesy to mutter something of use while passing out. And I think that is Tintin’s hair, Hues.

Hues: So Tintin takes the old man to the hospital even though Tintin himself is illegal, the old man is apparently over the age limit for medical care. Still world building here and I guess we’re seeing just how naive and dumb Tintin -er Brian is. There’s a lot of interesting technology and design-work done in the hospital scenes and I found myself wondering what this stuff does; I hope the writers know and will expose some of it as we go along. I did like how the nurse behind the window was all business, no sympathy. In a world that would allow the kinds of laws existing here there wouldn’t be much “humanity” left, I guess.

Thomas: Oh, hold on there…the old man does mutter something of importance…and just like a know-it-all main character Brian ignores the wavering plea. Idiot. The world remains familiar and somehow alien at the same time. And that asshole nurse has a disposition that reminds me of my last trip to McDonalds. Except they don’t have an age limit there. Does this world have a McDonalds??

Hues: If so, I don’t want to know what’s in the hamburger meat. The next couple of pages show Brian bringing the old man into the hospital (note: you’ve got to pay attention to the signs and details around you as they are integral to the plot) and the appearance of the distinctive looking dude from the cover. I like the design for this guy as he really stands out. Now why he appears out of nowhere brandishing a lethal mop is still beyond me, but he’s pretty effective with it. The dialogue is limited and integral setting up our title page/two-page spread/first real look at this world.

Thomas: Yeah man, where the hell did this dude come from?? The security guys show up to arrest Idiot Brian (who’s an illegal birth you know), only to be thwarted by a guy with a broom. Next time…let’s use a bat for dramatic effect. Is this Eye of the Storm?? Can they hit people with bats here?? The character says ‘move your ass’ so you know he’s the real deal. The splash on pages 6-7 is lovely, giving a glimpse of the world and what Idiot Brian and his mop-wielding friend are up against. Nice title too…’Weep For The Future’…

Hues: The boys find their way onto a subway where they find a secret stash of weaponry. Brian’s mourning briefly but gets over it pretty quickly when he gets his hands on a gun. Wasn’t this guy his whole life, I mean I know he’s under a lot of duress but…Okay, I know that the GCC (this is the government organization running the show) is supposed to be intimidating but they’re goons/robots/dunno look like they have a voodoo doll in a jar for heads. Big problem I have here is who this other guy is, why he saved Brian and then turns around and says “If you get hurt then you’re on your own.” Why did he stick his neck out to save this guy and then turn around and say you’re on your own? Inconsistencies like this are confusing. And where did he come from? Too many questions.

Thomas: The obligatory gunfight lasts for five pages before concluding in the eventual escape and secret lair. The giant robots (though heavily armed) aren’t really making me wet myself in second-hand intimidation. Clever was the stashing of supplies on the train. It suggests that this ‘resistance’ reaches much farther than the mop-man, who also gets a nice little moment of self-less heroism by rescuing a child from random gunfire. You like what this guy is about. Then he begins telling Idiot Brian that he’s going to leave him behind, which I agree doesn’t make much sense, because he just got into a block-wide gunfight with giant robots to keep him from getting’ whacked. Looks like one of those contradictory anti-heroes to me…perhaps he’ll change his mind again over the ensuing pages. Art is sufficiently flashy and expressive throughout however. The hero is tripping over his motivations…but he looks good doing it…

Hues: At the top of page 10 we learn that the new guy is Surge. He gets on a remote and calls someone named FTP and “requests immediate extraction.” Suddenly I’m thinking major Matrix moment as we’ve got these guys on the run from this uber-powerful government agency all the while screaming for someone to get them out. I swear to god if a telephone had rung I would’ve thrown the book away. Luckily that didn’t happen as they were rescued for real by this FTP person, who turns out to be a hot chick in a bikini. Huh? They address this in the text as a bikini certainly isn’t practical but I still wonder if it isn’t just an excuse to have a half-naked chick running around. It’s a shame really. Once on board the crew goes under the water and we get a really fascinating look at the world under there. Looks kind of familiar doesn’t it? Plus, it looks like going underwater officially breaks off the chase. Convenient.

Thomas: Quite. You think maybe the artist decided to draw the chick in the bikini and then Palmiotti and Gray had to explain it in the final script?? I don’t see the bikini aspect being included in the original script for any reason. Major Matrix moment indeed I’d say. Can you say ‘operator’?? The glimpse of what lies beneath (sorry) could lead to random speculation about just what put the world in this sorry state. But…if people are living in the earth’s core we’re going to have a serious problem. Oh, what’s this…a cut-away to a scene with another naked woman in it…I’m getting’ a bad feeling about this…

Hues: My thoughts exactly. They at least tried to explain away the pointless bikini but this woman is just completely naked for no reason having a heated discussion. Are you sure we’re not in the
“Eye of the Storm”? Okay, here’s another line that lost me. She’s naked just out of the shower and they’re talking about how her ‘beau’ wants a baby and she doesn’t because it doesn’t fit into her career plans (hell this happens in OUR time), but she says “It’s bad enough these breasts and hips make me look heavier than I am.” What kind of line is that? Are the breasts and hips artificial? Who talks like that? What curvaceous woman would hate having breasts? The guy in questions is a GCC agent so I guess we’re getting into his head a bit to create emotional attachment with the enemy. Fine, but the nudity thing was gratuitous and disappointing.

Thomas: Having big breasts in this world is a bad thing, J Hues. These government wackos are controlling birth rates, health care, and the food supply…and breast size is next on their list. Just wait until issue six man. Okay, anyway, the scene has some believable dialogue that works even in the present time period and succeeds in building some sympathy for the GCC (probably because we’ve only experienced second-hand accounts of their handiwork as of yet, we’ll see what happens when we witness some of it) but the nudity is like..”What?? Why is this here??” The point is brought home…but I feel dirty about the whole thing. Maybe if they both were nude it woulda been more natural. Look at that…I’m calling for more nudity…

Hues: Ha. You know as well as I do that male nudity is taboo in comics. The pubescent homophobic audience we’re trying to reach will have none of it. Seriously though, it seemed kind of pointless. After this, we get back to Brian and Surge and FTP in their secret lair or whatever. Thus far the only two remotely lead females have been either naked or mostly. Not to harp but come on guys. Looking through the next scene as our alpha males have a little fisticuffs and macho struggle back and forth, I couldn’t help but notice FTP’s expressions. She seems so bewildered and inconsequential here. What’s with that second-to-last panel on page 18. There’s a gun to Tintin’s head and she’s all “You won’t do it” to Surge but she’s not even looking at him and she has her hands held in prayer? Nevertheless, Surge is a strong character. I like him at least so far.

Thomas: His motivation for even rescuing Brian is slightly explained over these two pages, and the naive idiot resorts to the tried and true ‘screw you’ retort. Bikini girls’ dialogue sounds a little funny. And why is she praying in the second to last panel?? Hmm. And why does Surge offer this dude the chance to join them if he doesn’t trust him quite yet?? His speech in the last panel is too much. One of those balloons should be shaved. This guy should be defined by his actions, not beautiful soliloquy. It’s just a little over the top for my liking…

Hues: I guess there’s more to this leader than meets the eye. If he is the leader of anything. On the next page we see bikini girl not looking at who she’s talking to again. And this time she’s leaning down to talk to him and looking off to the sunset. Maybe there’s a mirror over there and she’s making sure her hair is just right. I don’t know if these things are intentional or a problem with the artist, his work on females has been largely inconsistent thus far. The overdone dialogue continues here with Brian’s extended speech at the end of the page (19) especially wordy and rushed. Should’ve at least been spread over a few balloons as it reads very awkward as is. This is followed by an entire conversation that’s over explained and wordy as Brian explains how he’s able to hack into mainframes that others can’t. Isn’t this guy supposed to be in mourning (he just lost the only person who meant anything to him)? Maybe the bikini made him forget about that.

Thomas: I think it did. Brian talks almost non-stop over how he’s the ‘chosen one’…oops…I mean…the Mad Hacker…whatever. It’s so overly convenient that this kid just happens to have some kind of useful ability that these people can use. Maybe if this was suggested before in the story it wouldn’t read as so completely out of left field. And he should be spiteful about his grandfather’s death. Short sentences. Terse replies. He shouldn’t give a hell if Surge blows his head off; he just lost the most important person in his life. Perhaps the adrenaline has deadened his emotions. Still, too many balloons though…bring it back just a little bit…

Hues: Well Brian does admit to knowing how to hack the mainframe back on page one but I agree with the overdone wording. Honestly, this duo has the same problem over in there other book 21 Down. So we go from meeting a young computer hacker who’s an illegal birth who’s been hiding from the government living with his grandpa who gets all worked up and has a heart attack and gets taken to the hospital where Brian’s discovered as what he is and attacked. Inexplicably, Surge shows up saves his ass (even using that word to let us know he’s not kidding around here), they get chased, end up back at the secret HQ with bikini-wax (after a short interlude with nekkid chick) and suddenly we’re getting a recruitment speech. And these guys have no proof that Brian can do what he claims he can. They’re pretty willing to just sign him up with little to no knowledge about him. Maybe that’s the way it is with the ‘Strayz.’ they all gotta stick together. Of course, then we get to that last page…

Thomas: …and the damn freaky robots have located the secret hide-out. Didn’t see that one coming….okay…well…kinda….nevertheless, I’m back next month because even though Palmiotti and Gray utilize several plot conveniences which serve to muddy the motivations of their main cast…the concept is dripping with potential. Anti-establishment titles are always crowd pleasers and there are definitely some good things happening here, with the art among the bright spots, if you subtract the gratuitous nudity of course. Hopefully in the next couple of chapters, we’ll be introduced to a few more dangerous protagonists, lose the bikinis and watch the writers scale the scripts back a little. The over-abundance makes them look like they have sweaty palms or something. Remember the first few issues of Spawn where Todd McFarlane was trying to write 22 pages of poetry, because people said he had no business scripting the thing?? I’m seeing some shades of that lingering paranoia. Jimmy…Justin…just take it back a few notches. We trust you to find the balance. Don’t force-feed. The idea is big and shiny; lay it out with a little more confidence and subtlety. Let it breathe a bit. But I’ll be back for more…definitely interested…

Hues: Yeah, I’ll be back for more too. The boys set up a lot here in this first issue and world-building is tedious work so I’ll forgive the overabundance of verbiage… this time. I really hope they find a better balance. The art-form is comics because we have both visuals and text to move a story forward and an over-reliance on text detracts from the work. There’s a little bit of rushing in the language usage (it just doesn’t flow naturally at times… especially during the speechifying). And the nudity. I don’t know if this is the artist or the writers but it’s pointless. It drives me crazy when books with potential stick gratuitous nudity in for nudity’s sake. If it drives the story fine but otherwise… Well, luckily the problems I have are more gloss than substance. Palmiotti and Gray have turned in a distinctive story with a fascinating potential. It deserves to find a bigger audience than it may due the Wildstorm logo (as that would indicate it as a part of the Wildstorm Universe and that doesn’t appear to be the case), but with some nurturing and time it could become quite the critical darling. The potential is there. I’m gonna hang around and see if they can realize it.


What do you think folks…more of this skittering commentary of things only lasting 22 pages…or does this become lost in the index?? E-mail me and let me know, Hues has promised we can do the last issue of Lab Rats if this idea takes off. No New Hotness this week because I recklessly took all of its space, but look for its return next week…along with a special guest…

Ordinarily I don’t like doing this because it mentally locks me into something I’ll later change my mind about, but I can’t contain myself at this point. Next week…on Ambidextrous…brought to you weekly by Silver Bullet Comics…I bring you…

Brian Hibbs…the interview…

In seven, people…

Peace

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