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Bring Me More Pretty: Jog and the unique artists of 9/19

Joe McCulloch

Man, I had no idea the new David Cronenberg movie (Eastern Promises) was already out. I’ll have to attend the hell out of that tomorrow. But now…

30 Days of Night: Beyond Barrow #1 (of 3): In which writer Steve Niles returns once again to this movie-bound franchise, now with Bill Sienkiewicz on art. Just look at this. All throughout the issue, there’s a good deal of variation packed into page after page of snowy landscapes and backgrounds: bright icy blues and whites interspersed with rolling nighttime clouds, veins of color and light pulsing in the sky, and snowy flecks of paint whipped against the page while digital blur effects swirl. It’s a very sumptuous comic, and it knows it – over a quarter of the issue is spent on mood-drenched splash pages, while characters are mainly presented in either Sienkiewicz’s vivid, panel-filling close-ups, or muddied against weather conditions.

Meanwhile, the story… well, let me sum it up. A bunch of vampires, illustrated by Bill Sienkiewicz, wander around for a while as captions fill new readers in on the essential 30 Days of Night concept. Then something off-panel kills them all, and Bill Sienkiewicz illustrates a lot of blood and pained expressions. Subsequently, a billionaire adventurer and his company of stock character types (the blithely glamorous wife! the disaffected daughter! the ambitious gunman!) show up, illustrated by Bill Sienkiewicz. Captions tell us about them. They wander around the Bill Sienkiewicz snowstorm, and ignore various warnings of danger, after which Bill Sienkiewicz illustrates a vampire head in the sky, and the issue ends with a splash page of a bearded man frowning, Sienkiewiczly.

There’s no doubt as to which member of the creative team is the star here; actually, I’ll go so far as to say your enjoyment of this issue will extend exactly as far as your hunger for Bill Sienkiewicz painting frost and gore, so vaporous is the script. That’s enough for an OKAY out of me, but others may get antsy.

Batman/Lobo: Deadly Serious #2 (of 2): Ha ha, oh my god. I really do get the impression that this series may have been led around strictly by writer/artist Sam Kieth scratching his chin every so often and thinking “well, what do I want to draw now?” It’s a really haphazard piece of storytelling, lurching from event to event with boundless energy, but little regard for pace or character. Worse, this concluding issue sees the title characters return to Earth, where Kieth has fewer wacky things to draw – Batman stands around a lot talking with an abruptly-introduced new character, while Lobo gets himself possessed by last issue’s women-inhabiting alien thingy due to his “unusually high estrogen levels.”

Kieth does circle around broad questions of what ‘femininity’ is, implying that a male character like Lobo is free to exist as a sort of quasi-superhero despite his homicidal ways, while female characters exhibiting similarly extreme moods are seen as especially odd, in that they violate expectations of feminine conduct. It’s an interesting enough notion, but it gets seriously lost in the fury of Kieth’s plot progression, packed full of repetitive fights and chases, and prone to jarring contrivances like Batman rushing to save a little kid pedaling his bicycle across an empty highway outside of a Vegas strip club.

But even then, Kieth manages a few eye-catching panels, like a great view of Batman grinning, or Lobo literally crumpling police officers like they’re paper bags. It bumps this issue up to an EH, which is about right for the series as a whole.

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