Posted by: Douglas Wolk on January 27, 2008
Just time for a couple of quick reviews, but I wanted to note that WWH AFTERSMASH: DAMAGE CONTROL #1 is awfully Good–the most welcome mainstream-comics surprise of the week. I managed to miss Dwayne McDuffie’s first three Damage Control miniseries, circa 1990, but now I’m tempted to go dig them all up. The premise is cute (Damage Control is the company whose job is to clean up and repair stuff after superhero fights), and McDuffie uses it as a vehicle to play with the current state of the Marvel universe (the upshot of Civil War, as far as civilians are concerned, is basically just additional bureaucratic hassle) and riff a little on real-world politics. I cracked up at the editor’s-note gag and the bit about being “liable under S.H.R.A.” Plus: Black Goliath!
I’m not totally sold on Salva Espin’s artwork (with Guru eFX coloring)–it’s an uncomfortable mixture of rubbery cartooniness and the Epting/McNiven hyper-modeled Marvel house style of the moment, and when some of Ernie Colón’s old characters (like Gene Strausser) show up, there’s a real disjunction. But this is essentially a talking-heads setup issue until the last couple of pages, and he manages to keep it moving anyway. Title of story: “Whatever Happened to All the Fun in the World?” Ad tagline in same issue: “Cyclops’ covert wetworks team doesn’t protect the dream, they erase the threats… Bloody variant by Clayton Crain.”
Ed Piskor was kind enough to send me a copy of his self-published book WIZZYWIG, VOL. 1: PHREAK, a fictional biography of a computer hacker-in-the-making growing up in the ’70s (there are apparently three more volumes to come). The book’s protagonist, Kevin Phenicle, is essentially synthesized from the histories of two famous hacker-type Kevins, Mitnick and Poulsen, as well as bits of other well-known hackers’ life stories. This volume is slowly paced, and the scenes of Kevin’s early social alienation drag on a bit (guess what? he was beaten up by other kids at school! and he was scared of girls!), but the stuff about his fascination with figuring out and exploiting systems is mighty interesting. Mitnick has written about how “social engineering” is at least as important as technical knowledge for hackers, and Piskor works with that idea here; the best scenes are the ones where Kevin is gradually learning how to get other people to trust him. Piskor’s artwork reminds me a bit of Chester Brown’s Louis Riel–the steady clip-clop of square panels, the compositions built around a couple of small caricatures, the empty circles for eyes–and his fine-lined feathering is worth lingering over. It’s Good, if kind of pricey; Piskor has posted the entire first half of the book at his site, and if you’re into hacker culture, it’s absolutely worth a look. Also, it’s the first time I’ve seen a TRS-80 in a comic book since this one.
And a question: For various reasons, I often don’t get to read trade paperback and hardcover collections until they’ve been out for at least a few months. Quick and non-binding straw poll–are reviews of several-months-old books interesting to you at all, or do you prefer to read about stuff with at least a little of last Wednesday’s warmth still radiating from it?