February 19, 2005

SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE: The Tarantula

SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE: The Tarantula (writer: Matt Wagner; pencils: Guy Davis).

Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. ..

I'm not old enough to have read this book. I'm not sure anyone is.

Seriously, this is a work of solid craftsmanship, with some memorably lurid moments, but the subject matter grows so repellent that I was glad to put it down at the end. DC's policy of releasing first trades for $10 is brilliant, but the problem with reading only the first trade of a story like this is that you're not entirely sure what the hell you waded through all the horror for. Neither protagonist is even fully human yet; indeed, I'm depressed to find the much-lauded Dian Belmont to be yet another spunky daddy's girl, though it's entirely possible she develops later. I don't demand a redeeming message from my horror comics, but I do like to be able to think there are sound reasons for taking the excursions into the lower depths. I doubt I'm going to be able to nerve myself up to drop $17.50 on further forays into this gruesome world in search of the payoff. As for the art, it's spidery and trembling like an exposed nerve--entirely suitable, but adding to the grotesque effect.

If you like this kind of thing (call it HELLBLAZER with strictly human demons and no sense of humor), you'll love The Tarantula. It does pain me to sound so negative about a work of considerable skill, but reading this trade on its own was a fairly unpleasant experience, and I don't think I'll prove unique in that.

Posted by Sarah T. at 05:39 AM | Comments (0)

February 17, 2005

GREEN ARROW: Quiver

GREEN ARROW: Quiver (writer: Kevin Smith; penciller: Phil Hester). Full disclosure: my exposure to GREEN ARROW has been slight, at best: mostly indirect, through Roy with the Titans/Outsiders and Dinah in BIRDS OF PREY. Ollie's something of a blank to me. So, nuances may have escaped me.

This is a resurrection story. Unlike most genre resurrection stories, this one plays fair. The price for Ollie's being brought back to life is substantial and unexpected, and paying it involves real sacrifice. That said, most comics don't have the heft required to tackle Heaven, and I don't think this one does, either. There were also some really weird lurches of tone--the jumps from the cotton-candy cosmic DC approach (for good and evil characters alike) to the very concretely disgusting Vertigo-refugee villain at the end were disorienting, to say the least. Basically, this book has storytelling ambitions that really aren't suited to a GREEN ARROW title, and while that makes for some fun leaps, in the end the result is disjointed and leaves a lot of loose ends.

Smith does a good job of making most of the characters seem appealing. Ollie's initial blandness is, in fact, explained away by the plot. Dinah's feminism would sell a little more easily if she had more than an inch of fabric covering her coochie, but let's set that aside. The supporting cast is all handled fairly well. I know a lot of people are fans of Hester's work on this title, and I can see the appeal in his blocky, bold style, but at the same time, it bothers me that I could not distinguish between Dinah, a powerful woman in her thirties, and Mia, a half-starved teenage prostitute, without looking at the dialogue. All blondes look the same?

Basically, Quiver's a pleasant way to kill an hour. I think the writer aspired to more than that, but his pretensions don't sink the book, as they easily could have. I wouldn't actually spend any money on it, but if you're a Smith or Ollie fan, you'll probably find it worth your while.

Posted by Sarah T. at 12:17 AM | Comments (1)