Capsule Reviews: Week of March 8th

Last week was busy with trailers and such. Here’s a little catch-up on last week’s comics!

Daytripper #4 (Vertigo, Moon, Bá, Stewart, Konot)

This is possibly the strongest issue of Daytripper yet, enough to change my thoughts on the book from “awesome” to “Eisner.” While the ideas I put forward in my full review of Daytripper #3 appear to still be true, I have to admit that I expected the events of this issue to happen in issue #9 or #10. This admittedly-subjective “hey, wait, what?” continues to make me happy, as it means I still have no idea where they go from here. I haven’t been so consistently surprised by something I’ve read in a long, long time. It looks like that’s not going to change any time soon.

Criminal: The Sinners #5 (Icon, Brubaker, Phillips, Staples)

I’m a fat sucker for pulp crime comics. I suppose it’s something of a blessing that our plate has been full enough that I haven’t been able to touch on Criminal: The Sinners since we opened our doors. I’m a little sad, now that this arc has finished, that I wasn’t able to give it the full treatment; hopefully that’s something I can fix when the next installment comes around.

Sometimes you need a hook in this sub-genre. Human Target is a good example. So much of Christopher Chance’s character hangs on his mastery of disguise that the subsequent TV adaptation lost all of the comic’s flavor by removing that element. Criminal, however, gets by simply on the strength of its characters. Each issue was a chance to see just how badly screwed up Tracy Lawless’ situation had become. The resolution was both better than I’d anticipated and appropriately dark. Also, the art throughout, both in Sean Phillips’ lines and Val Staples’ colors, is perfect. I love that they’re unafraid to fill the pages with black, just to the edge of pure expressionism. I’m looking forward to the next series (and maybe I can finally dig into that hardcover…).

PunisherMax: Kingpin #5 (MAX, Aaron, Dillon, Hollingsworth, Petit)

The end of this arc brings some surprise deviations from Punisher-standard narrative tropes. Jason Aaron’s having fun with his own sandbox to run Frank around in. Not only does this plotline end up with Frank getting his ass kicked, but said ass-kicking nearly kills him as well- close enough that I actually wondered if that was going to be the point of it all.

I love this version of the Kingpin, though, and I’m glad he’s fully established and apparently ready to keep on as a main player in the series. We find out just how cold he can be in #5, in amazingly restrained Dillon glory. There’s probably a comparison to be made between the events in this issue and the recent Cry For Justice ruckus, but I don’t think Fisk would give a shit, and that’s really all the difference in the world.

Next up appears to be a rather unhinged-looking Bullseye. I don’t have the same depth of affection for Bullseye that I do for the Kingpin, but in Aaron’s capable hands, I’m sure I’ll find something new to love about the character.

Review: Daytripper #3

Daytripper #3

“Chapter Three: 28″

By: Fábio Moon & Gabriel Bá
Coloring: Dave Stewart
Lettering: Sean Konot

I wanted to review Daytripper when the first issue came out, before the blog existed. We set it up and issue two came out, and I still wanted to review it. I couldn’t bring myself to do it, though, and I’m glad I waited. Reviewing this series on the first issue wouldn’t have done it any justice or allowed me to really say anything; as it stands, I’m still hesitant to speak up on the third issue, because it’s going to be a work that’s judged on its whole. In a market where a great book like S.W.O.R.D. gets cancelled by the numbers on its third issue, it’s a pretty bold statement on Vertigo’s part to release something that’s not even going to really start to make sense until issue three. A lot of things started to click for me when I read “28” last night, however, and I feel like it’s time to talk about it.

One of the best discoveries I made in film school was the work of Krzysztof Kieślowski. He had a way of taking normal, everyday moments in life and elevating them to levels of great importance and meaning. This worked to tie the everyday existence of his characters into the arching theme of the film, oftentimes resulting in the medium itself or one of its aspects taking a role as one of the characters. The camera in Red is as much an actor as Irène Jacob; the music in Blue is working as hard as Juliette Binoche. They all, in turn, work towards the common meaning, avoiding hitting the viewer over the head with it but still carrying the message. It’s done with purpose, but not didactically, and the end result is lyrical.

Bá and Moon are in the process of accomplishing the same thing with Daytripper. On the surface, each issue is a slice of Brás de Oliva Domingos’ life; not random, meaningless moments, but the normal points of focus we all encounter. The day we meet someone, the day they leave our lives. A trip somewhere you may never go again, an important milestone for someone close to you. It’s a tribute to the twins’ writing that Brás’ internal dialogue is completely natural while maintaining the poignancy. He’s easy-going and instantly relatable, a character the reader can empathize with in the first few pages of the book.

Each issue has its own theme, at least so far, and this is where the similarity to Kieślowski really comes into focus. Issue one, being our introduction to the characters, is about life and death. (Since it is the intro, I expect the themes in issue one to be revisited in issue ten.) Issue two is all about faith. Issue three is about love. Each of these themes merge with Brás’ life by the end of each issue, punctuated with what other critics are calling the book’s “twist.” I think it’s a little unfair to put what Bá and Moon are doing here in the same category as your average M. Night Shyamalan movie, but I will admit that the quirky nature of the setup was the main thing that made me stop and wonder what they were up to with issue one. By issue two, however, the purpose starts to clear up; the narrative conceit feels less like a gimmick and more like the necessary punctuation to the moment where Brás touches the beating heart of the issue’s theme. His moment of absolute faith, his first awareness of true love– every time, the twist drives home the essential, shared humanity of Brás’s adventures.

I’m glad the series is as long as it is. I have seven more issues to enjoy more as my awareness of what they’re trying to do grows. Part of me hopes I’ve not got it all right, that I’ve missed something that will reveal another layer of the book’s magical realism, though either way I expect I’ll be surprised more than once as things progress. Fábio and Gabriel have really created something special here. Get in on the ground floor if you can.