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The Build Up: Comics’ Niche Skill

Welcome to Comical Musings and thank you for giving us a read today.  I, first would like to apologize for the lack of content that we have been able to post recently as many Writer’s Blok members either have multiple jobs or are in graduate school.  Now, I know that’s no excuse, but bears mentioning to our faithful followers.  Anyways, even in our busy-ness, we still occasionally find time to read our weekly books and I have mostly kept up with mine even through extreme work conditions.

I’m not sure if you have noticed, but there have been some good comics out lately and the bar seems to be raising in various areas, weekly.  Not everything is wonderful and awe-inspiring, but I feel comfortable, making a blanket statement about the comic books that I regularly consume.  I would say that there is an elevation in the stories being produced lately.  I’m simply saying that good comics are finding ways to be great, bad comics are finding ways to be good, and unreadable dribble is finding ways to be comic books.  We are seeing writers playing to strengths and artists putting it all on the page.  One such strength is the “build up,” a skill that I feel that comic books have the market cornered on.  Comics are able to use literary devices to tell stories and artistic devices to convey emotion.  That’s what happens when you have skilled writing with deliberate illustration.  A comic book can “build up” and “pay off” like no other medium.  I have been particularly impressed with this sort of craftsmanship on a few titles and thought that I would share what is tripping my trigger with you here.  There will be LOTS OF SPOILERS so if you don’t regularly read the title and wish to remain ignorant of the breakdown of MAJOR PLOT POINTS, then please feel free to stop reading or skip over that section.

 

 

Swamp Thing / Animal Man

Swamp Thing and Animal Man are comic books written by good friends Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire.  They feature heroes that had very little clout in the DC Universe pre-New 52.  The trick is that now, these are two top flight books and are well received and purchased heavily by critics and fans alike.  Swamp Thing displays crazy panel work with weird plant-like borders and crazy layouts.  Animal Man brings grotesque and intricate detail work to the table with a strong desire to surprise.  Swamp Thing has wings and characters from “The Rot” (The badguys) regularly perform their best impressions of The Exorcist because it is really creepy.  The Green (Plants), The Red (Mammals), and The Black (The Rot of Death) all exist in balance, but the crux of both of these books is that The Rot is making a power play.  Death is invading all of life and Swamp Thing and Animal Man have to stop it.  Everything about this series has been building to the crossover.  Even the two #0 issues were spectacular by showing the destructive power of The Rot.  Crossovers are typically laughable in comics, but it seems that Lemire and Snyder are intent on sticking the landing.  If the “build up” is any indication as to what the “pay off” will be, then we are in for a treat.

 

Sweet Tooth

Have I mentioned that we like Jeff Lemire?  Sweet Tooth is his Vertigo book and features a post-apocalyptic society with a plague supposedly caused by the appearance of child-animal hybrids.  Our band of heroes treks from heartbreak to heartbreak, rarely finding triumph.  All of the characters are likable and understandable, but you get this feeling that they are all going to die.  Add to all of this that we know that the series will end this fall and there is a definite time frame in place.  Typically in comics, a time frame denotes the death of creativity, but with Lemire, he set it himself and so he gears up to finish his story in the next couple of issues.  Don’t get me wrong, Sweet Tooth is always good, but it has been limping a little over the last few issues.  The last really shocking moment was when the villain, Abbot, killed his brother in cold blood.  It was a deciding moment where Abbot decided that the emotional part of him was no longer in the equation.  As he shoots his mentally handicapped brother in the head, it removes all hope for redemption of the character.  Abbot now exists as a force of evil…period.  Other than that, not much has happened lately.  But, with the latest installment, issue #37, Sweet Tooth seems to be coming to a head.  We know when it will end (three issues from now), it’s been “built up,” now all that’s left is the “pay off.”  Two haggard old hockey players fending off an army to save the future of the world from hopelessness?  I’m in.

 

Avengers Vs. X-Men

In a laughable crossover, AVX (Avengers Vs. X-Men) has underwhelmed and confused at every turn.  Most of the only people who are still reading it are the same people who read everything Marvel puts out (Marvel Zombies).  The writing has been performed by a carousel of star writers and no matter how good they are, it hasn’t seemed to gel.  Then we get issue #11.  Issue #11 is an absolute kick in the pants and through perfect pacing and a little heart string manipulation, we end up with a brilliant moment.  Father, in his arrogance, assumes that he can stop son, in his arrogance, and the younger and stronger survive.  RIP Charles Xavier.  Many have said that this is a cheap move as Xavier has been mostly irrelevant for years, but I would contend that it is a big deal.  If Prince William killed Queen Elizabeth, although neither of them have any effect on my life, it would still be messed up and I would still be immensely interested in what would happen with England.  Thus is the state of the Marvel universe.  Cyclops has put on his big boy pants and made a bold move.  We know that in the wake of AVX, the Marvel universe will be completely different.  Issue #11 looks as though it will stand out as an opening shot in what will become Marvel NOW.  The excitement comes from the “build up” to the future of the Marvel universe.

 

Remember: It’s like papa Coolio says, “Gotta, gotta “build up” to get down.

 

~ Scott Deaux ~

 

About Scott Deaux

Favorite Comics: Lazarus, Essex County, Chew, Superior Foes Of Spider-Man, Age of Apocalypse stuff, The Nightly News, Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate X-Men, Pax Romana, Avengers, NEXTWAVE: Agents Of Hate, Sweet Tooth, We3, others... Favorite Quote(s): "Journalism is just a gun. It's only got one bullet in it, but if you aim right, that's all you need. Aim it right, and you can blow a kneecap off the world." - Warren Ellis "People who hold signs go on...to hold many other things" - Eddie Pepitone

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