Thursday, August 23, 2012

I'll Take (Dr.) Manhattan

The first page of Adam Hughes' DR. MANHATTAN #1 is a dead-on tribute to Dave Gibbons' opening from the second issue of the original series. He takes a three-quarter step away and captures the event of Edward Blake's funeral from a slightly different angle in a very similar illustrative style to the chapter that first bore the title "Absent Friends," and J. Michael Straczynski's script plays up aspects of both absence and acquaintance. The dichotomy of familiarity and divergence are handled expertly by two technicians at the top of their game.

In short, these last two weeks of Before Watchmen titles (RORSCHACH and DR. MANHATTAN) have given me back the excitement of the first two weeks. Darwyn Cooke's introduction to the prequel line via MINUTEMEN and SILK SPECTRE gave me high hopes that were quickly grounded by lackluster outings by NITE OWL, COMEDIAN and OZYMANDIAS. It's somewhat poignant that two of the authors responsible for disappointing me in the middle weeks have returned with exceptional entries in WATCHMEN lore. In both cases I believe it's because they each had one great vision for a single Alan Moore character but were assigned two.

JMS first came to fanboy prominence with the creation of the science fiction television series Babylon 5. If there is one thing at which Straczynski excels, it's deep sci-fi and soap opera, making him a natural for enriching the back story of Dr. Manhattan. Reading this first issue made me nostalgic for the Alan Moore WATCHMEN –in a good way. It was so rich with the type of mesmerizing ideology that made me love Moore's work twenty-five years ago that I totally forgot Moore hadn't written this. In Adam Hughes, JMS has found a marvelous collaborator who understands how to illustrate big concepts in an easy to digest layout. I look forward to seeing the modern king of cheesecake tackle Silk Spectre on the interiors the way he has on this cover, and I've got a blank check for his art rep when it happens.

And if contentment from a single source offers only fleeting joy, there are two reissued collections (of wildly varying page count and retail price) that will keep you engaged well past new comic book day next week.

Scott Snyder put a macabre new spin on Dick Grayson's reign as Batman in DETECTIVE COMICS with his Black Mirror story arc featuring knockout artwork from Jock. This was after establishing himself as the new go-to guy for horror with AMERICAN VAMPIRE, which enticed Stephen King to his first ever original comic book script collaboration. So it should come as no surprise that his relaunch of SWAMP THING is very much a horror comic. Mindful of the creators that came before him, Snyder and artist Yanick Paquette fill the landscape with figurative and narrative tributes to Steven Bissette, Bernie Wrightson, John Totleben, Rick Veitch and others. Paquette's artwork is reminiscent of several of those within Len Wein's stable, particularly Tom Yeates and Alfredo Alcala, but Snyder's spiritual guide is definitely Alan Moore.

SWAMP THING Volume 1: Raise Them Bones (New 52) collects the first seven issues of the DC series that was part of a company-wide relaunch of their entire line. Along with Jeff Lemire's ANIMAL MAN, Snyder's SWAMP THING casts a respectful glance back to an old Vertigo title that began life within the standard DC Universe continuity while generating a new and interesting origin that doesn't completely disavow an era that many consider to be among the finest in all of comicdom. The two titles don't bear the Vertigo brand anymore, but are part of a new sub-line of the regular continuity called DC Dark. And they're very good!

The other amazing collection to street this week is the long-awaited omnibus of Grant Morrison's INVISIBLES. I'm still waiting for mine to arrive in the mail, so I won't review the collection yet, but having read the comics that are reprinted within, I can only call them required reading, praise Morrison's writing as groundbreaking, and urge you to run right out and buy it. And before you get sticker shock (it's $150), let me say that if this had cost $300, it would be worth it. Prepare to have your mind blown.

That's all.

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