Comic Book Review – Lanza’s Haul 1/22/14

Sex #10
Written by: Joe Casey
Art by: Piotr Kowalski
Colors by: Brad Simpson

Whew. Sex is one of those rare titles that truly lives up to its name. Sure, there’s a fantastic story, a little bit o’ superheroics, vile gangsters and lively politics. But damn, there’s a lot of sex too. A LOT. I’m gonna take a quick cold shower and we’ll resume in a minute.

Ah, ok, where were we. Sex #10, that’s right. This issue delves back into the business side of things after a few issues off exploring the extremely seedy and sexual underworld of all the major characters in the book. I felt like the last few issues, while extremely racy, were aimed at exposing the chink in everyone’s armor through their lusts and illicit desires. Everyone has a dark side, and everyone shows where they fall into the hierarchy of dominance or submissiveness. Plus everyone likes to have sex, and there was plenty of that too. But now that we’ve uncovered a few more secrets it’s time for Simon Cooke to get back to work and reassert himself as the billionaire leader of his corporation. After his experiences and personal revelations at the Saturnalia party, Cooke is ready to show that he’s fully invested in running the company again and his days as the Armored Saint are fully behind him. We also catch up to the fabulous Alpha Brothers who still can’t quite put their fingers on the hacker that has been a thorn in their side. Speaking of the hacker, we get a nice little reunion with Cooke and Wade that I think is going to spark some new fire in our two former heroes.

There’s so much subtext to a book like Sex. The portrayal of sexuality is obvious on the surface, until you take it in the context of former superheroes that hid their public identities now struggling to understand just who they are in the aftermath of retirement. The sexual encounters only play up the fact that we all wear masks, even when we’re completely naked. I love that complexity to this book and that every interaction has to be approached carefully or you’ll miss the message beneath the surface.

Obviously, I’m a fan of Casey’s writing here, and have been for a long time. From X-Men to Elephantmen he’s always had a way of writing characters that have substance and feel like they have a physical presence. You just know them. And here in Sex you feel like everyone that inhabits this world is absolutely imperfect and just slightly broken beneath their exteriors. A lot like all of us in real life. Casey’s also got a penchant for stepping things up to the next level, usually the most inappropriate uncomfortable level you can imagine, but making it flow with the story as if it were all just perfectly natural. The multiple storylines and subtexts beneath them are subtly and masterfully woven thus far.

A book like Sex just won’t work without some special artwork backing it up. I’ll just say this right now, Piotr Kowalski is some kind of saint. He somehow manages to transition from high powered business meetings to super-hero car chases to massive orgies and masturbation scenes with grace. At least I think that’s the adjective I’m looking for. Regardless, he’s thrown scripts with such whacked-out debauchery he must just sit there and shake his head before penciling the page. His style is both distinctive in its simplicity and perfectly functional for pushing the story from one drastically different situation to another. Also of special note are the colors and lettering from Simpson and Wooten respectively. The color palette is striking and contrasting, with large splashes of color highlighting each scene. It’s almost a very pop-art vibe to me. And I don’t usually pay much attention to the lettering, but this book is my exception. I really like the font they’re using, and the different colored highlighting for emphasizing text is a very interesting and effective touch. The color used behind the text really drives home the kind of emphasis Casey is wanting to convey. It really makes me read every page carefully and gives each word the impact it deserves. It’s kind of genius really.

I suppose by this point in the review I should be telling you how much I like this title and this issue specifically. Because I really do. But I don’t think this book is for everyone, obviously by the title alone. If you don’t like intricate stories, imperfect yet compelling characters, stylish impactful art, and lots and lots of sex, then this is not the book for you. If you do like all that stuff, and especially the sex part, then please run right out and give this book the attention it deserves. Sex really pushes what the comic book genre has to offer, and that’s worth the price of admission to me.

Score: 6 (out of 7) I’ve not seen masturbation in the shower depicted with such care before now.

Origin II #2
Written by: Kieron Gillen
Art by: Adam Kubert
Colors by: Frank Martin

I remember Origin like it was yesterday. The much lusted after and oft-demanded origin story of Wolverine. It was the tale we all thought would never happen and then incredibly Marvel gave it to us. And it was amazing. Better than anyone expected. Not just because it satisfied without destroying the mythology of Marvel’s most famous mutant, but also because it did with an M. Night Shyamalan style twist. Logan was the sick little wussy kid all along? NO WAY!

As good as Origin was, I felt like its job was done. The story was told, and told well, and I was fine leaving it at that. Let the other X-Books and Wolvie’s solo titles retcon and adjust as needed around these new revelations and take the character forward with renewed interest and energy. But, I suppose as with most good things, Marvel just couldn’t leave well enough alone. So here we have the continuation of a story that doesn’t really need to be told. Will it add enough to the Wolverine mythos to be a worthy successor to Origin? Or is it just another sales grab before the next title relaunch? I suppose we’ll have to wait a bit longer for the answers to those questions. Because, you know, I’m only reviewing issue #2 and we have a few more to go before the end. But I digress.

I found the first issue of Origin II to be a mixed bag. The artwork started off inconsistently while the story was told in conflicting voices. The intro read like a Cormac McCarthy novel while the narrative reminded me of Clan of the Cave Bear. However, by the middle of the issue they married up nicely and Kubert and Martin really turned in some striking panels with Gillen providing heart wrenching twists. Sadly, issue #2 doesn’t take this head of steam and build on it. The book picks up with a group of frontier’s folk discovering the polar bear from last issue’s encounter and hatching a scheme to recover the body. They are so rudely interrupted by Nathaniel Essex, or Mister Sinister to us X-Fans. If you paid attention to the end of issue #1 you saw the bear was tagged as Essex property and surely saw this coming. Sinister wants the corpse back as it was obviously another in his long line of genetic experiments. While this appears to be his intentions it’s clear he’s after the being that dispatched the bear, and he proceeds to take his army of genetic clones to smoke Wolverine out of the woods, not knowing he’s about to discover his first mutant. Meanwhile, an intrepid group of trappers is also seeking the corpse and its killer, and is led by no other than Victor Creed. Right away we can see a triangle forming between Creed, Logan and Clara, a woman depicted as having a gift with animals. I hope this takes a different direction than the relationship between the two mutants and Rose from Origin. Because I really hate reruns. As the story unfolds Logan is captured by Creed and the story ends with an odd revelation that Wolvie may have a future as a sideshow attraction.

Thus far, I’m not especially enthusiastic about the story and the direction it appears to be heading. Most concerning is the inconsistency of the narrative and the characterization. So far none the voices in this story match up with the time period. We’ve had two changes of tone and direction in issue #1 and yet another here, with every character speaking more like they’re in a 1950’s film than living in the late 1800’s. It just rubs me the wrong way when period pieces aren’t handled properly. I hope Gillen smooths things out as the series progresses. Kubert’s art is much more even throughout than in the first issue, while Martin’s colors are simply serviceable rather than the stunning pieces they were just an issue ago. And honestly, this isn’t even his doing. Looking back at the first Origin series, and the colors-over-pencils technique they used that was so groundbreaking at the time, it’s incredibly evident just how far coloring has come in comics today. What we see in comics today is far and above the best examples of coloring from ten years ago. So I probably don’t give him enough credit in this issue but when compared to the last it just doesn’t match up.

Origin II still has a lot of story to tell before we know just what is up the proverbial sleeve. Through two issues, it’s been an uneven start with little indication that we’ll learn more startling revelations about Logan’s beginnings than we’ve already gleaned from the past 13 years of stories. I want this to blow me away like the original series did, and I’ll give it the chance to do so. I only worry that this time around the expectations are too high and it won’t have the legs to outshine its predecessor. This may end up being one of those times that it’s best to leave well enough alone.

Score: 4 (out of 7) Who knew that all this time Tony Stark has been ripping his look off of 1890’s Mister Sinister

What did you think about these issues? Let me know in the comments or shoot me a Tweet (@lanzajr26)

Frank Lanza

The old man around these parts. X-Fan, indie-fan, lover of pretty much all things geek.

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