Into the Longbox

Will Eisner’s The Spirit #18, Aragones, Evanier, Smith, Wong. There’s nothing wrong with this issue – no grotesque misalignments of anatomy or anything – but it still doesn’t work for me. As an Eisner tribute, it’s competent and conservative. As a riff on classic characters it’s a tame placement into modern times. It’s a good comic, but no one seems invested in breathing their own life into it.

Grendel: Behold the Devil #8 of 8, Matt Wagner. Behold the Devil ends somewhat anticlimactically. Wagner’s a victim of his own success here. The Hunter Rose Grendel’s story is immutable in all but details and operatic in scope even before the larger saga grows from it. The revelations in Behold the Devil are really a gilding of the lily – interesting enough for a Grendel completeist like myself, but not resonant. Unlike, say the two incidental protagonists of Batman/Grendel, the non-Grendel folks in this series have their destinies clear from the moment we see them on panel. Innocents caught in Grendel’s whirlwind are on the ride of their lives, but have some hope that they’ll merely be tossed onto fate’s shores somewhere they never expected; actual antagonists are invariably atomized (except Batman, of course). These two are clearly going to be annihilated as soon as their fumblings catch Hunter’s eye.

Wagner’s been able to tell exciting stories within those constraints before, but he’s running out of new angles. I don’t begrudge him the attempts, he’s a brilliant creator. And there’s plenty of craft on display here; Wagner’s storytelling and art are clear and keen. Sadly that craft is in the service of a story only an aficionado of Hunter could like, and they know how it comes out.

I’d call it a noble miscue.

Anna Mercury #2, Ellis and Percio. There’s no way that the second issue of this could be as good as the first – and it isn’t – but the ride’s still fast enough that no one’s catching their breath. It’s got the same feel as Speed or the first Star Wars (Episode IV).  You don’t want to look away for fear you’ll miss something.  Beyond that there’s still the seed planted in issue 1 that there’s still more to this than meets the eye. High energy fun.

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