Wednesday, February 21, 2007

SHAZAM!: The Monster Society of Evil # 1; Fell # 7; The Dark Tower # 1

Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil # 1
Jeff Smith

The one word to describe what I felt reading this book by Jeff Smith, creator of Bone, is giddy. This book which begins Jeff Smith's take on the character of Captain Marvel is just sublime. This should be current DC continuity, it's so good. This is a book that really brings out the magic and amazement of the superhero genre, as well as a lot of the humor. Watching Captain Marvel buy a hotdog is a great joy.

The book is rife with make-you-smile moments involving Billy Batson and Captain Marvel. Though at it's core it is about a homeless child coming from a tragic past, the mood is always two steps away from happiness. Shazam just makes you feel so good to be reading a comic.

Jeff Smith's artwork for the book matches the writing, and in many cases carries the day. This is a book you can enjoy without any of the words. Just a real capturing of the genre of superheroes--not an easy thing to do, and great talents have been far lesss enjoyable while doing so. This is a book that definitely reminds me why I still read superhero books and why I liked them so much as a kid. I would recommend it without hesitation to anyone that was even slightly interested in either Jeff Smith or the superhero genre.

I can only hope that this opening adventure that will eventually tally four issues will beget many more from Jeff Smith who is one of the truly great talents in the field today.

Fell # 7
Warren Ellis-Ben Templesmith

It seems like forever since I've reviewed Fell. It's been ages since an issue has come out of this terrifici book. And the question is whether it maintains the level of excellence it had previously set in the prior 6 issues. I have to say, this issue is terrific, and if it were any other book I'd probably be lavishing praise upon it. But as a new edition of Fell it's rather anti-climactic.

As an aside, if you're wondering what the hell Fell is, it's a book about a Detective Fell working in the morally bankrupt town of Snowtown, a town which is essentially been given over to people's worst vices, and essentially lives in a perpetual nightmare of existence. Every issue is selfcontained and priced at 1.99. It's attempting to give you a satisfying story, working within the pamphlet side of comics, to sort of disprove that 1, comics need be so expensive, and 2 that you can't tell a good self-contained story in a single issue. Paul Dini is doing this as well in Detective Comics it should be noted.

But anyways. What we have in issue 7 is another issue basically locked in an interrogation room while the events outstanding are rehashed by Detective Fell, and he attempts to play his little logic games to nab the criminal. The problem with this is, we've already done that in the series, and the town of Fell is interesting enough that I would have liked to had Detective Fell out roaming it a little more. The other problem to it is, that this issue doesn't really contain any sort of logical games. Just a kind of indictment on the legal system in a note we've heard before. All in all, considering the calibre of what came before, it's very blase. It almost feels like the book was just shoved out to shove one out after all this time, and there wasn't really any passion behind it's making from Ellis. Which is something that happens a lot to me when I start Ellis series. They usually start off very strong and full of a lot of great stuff, and then he seems to lose interest, and the book suffers. I hope that doesn't happen to Fell because it's a book I get legitimately excited about reading, but this issue is really nothing exceptional for the Fell team.

There is some cool art in here by Templesmith, but since 90 percent of the story happens in a gray four walled room, it does seem kind of boring even for him. I suppose he could have done a better job of playing with the space of that room. I mean, if Linklater can do it in Tape surely it can be done here.

All in all, if you've never read Fell you should start with the other issues. This isn't bad, but it's not what I'd use to convince people to read the book.

In fact the most exciting thing about this book, was Matt Fractions little short story staring match/promo for Casanova, a book I've been meaning to check out. The small three page story is better than the entirety of the Fell portion of the book, and has reminded me that I must go and get the trades for Casanova so I can figure out what the hell is going on enough to read the monthly.

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born
Peter David-Jae Lee

Holy crap I had no idea what I was going to walk into. I had heard of the Dark Tower books and had some sort of vague notion about what they might be about, but after reading the new comic book story based on that world--wow. I will be getting myself to the bookstore. Fun stuff. Wizards, gunslingers, psychics, crazed apocolyptic vibe--so cool.

And without having access to the source material I can't really truly assess how good or bad Marvel did at translating this work over, but I have to bet good, because on it's own this is a fantastic book and one I look forward to following immensley.

The writing is like something a character from a Cormac McCarthy book might say, and the artwork is incredible. I mean, it's not suprising as Jae Lee is one of the real talents in comics, and Peter David has always been a pretty terrific story teller in the medium. It's books like this that will catch Marvel up to DC's Vertigo imprint.

Just fantastic stuff. Definitely reccomend the book to anyone whether they are familiar with the Stephen King work or not. This will appeal to you if you are into westerns on any level. Wizards on any level. Horror on any level. Fantastic opening salvo. Production values through the roof. There's even an added short story in the back of the book by Robin Furth.


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