Hello! As mentioned in part 1, the plan is to review the recent Marvel UK-reviving comics event (I suppose), Revolutionary War. Better get going with that, eh? In the spirit of the hideous ‘Britishness’ of the comics, this blog post is like a London bus. You wait ages for a review to come along, and you get two at once. And I’ve ‘read’ the comics? Like a ‘red’ bus? No? Yes?
It’s always good to see Gillen and McKelvie, and though this actually has nothing at all to do with the latter, you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise. Dietrich Smith is the first example of a post-McKelvie artist I’ve seen outside Tumblr, and that’s okay as I assume he will grow and change and get his own ‘voice’, and there’s worse people to be influenced by (the blando Disney/Bluth axis is gaining ground, and I don’t like it one bit).
Still, it’s close enough to the KiKi/JaMc (gotta have those music references!) pop-team that I’ve instant goodwill towards this comic, though the backgrounds are a constant reminder that it’s a different artist, which is a wee bit jarring.
While the figure work is strong and clean and the body language is effective, problems vom up when there is anything other than the human body being drawn. Dietrich Smith’s backgrounds/bits of technology/buildings all have that sort of traced or photocopied (or photoshopped) look to them that was popular in ‘gritty’ and ‘dark’ Vertigo titles in the 90s, and all manner of manga. What a rubbish explanation! Sorry! Here is a visual:
See? Now, I am a fan of that sort of thing sometimes, but it doesn’t really work too well with the more bold, cartoony figure work, and lends the scenes a curiously flat feeling, like those horrible Chuck Austen Elektra issues from back in the past. And while I am sure it was a stylistic choice, there’s always the nagging feeling that maybe the art had to be rushed, or that the artist just hates drawing anything that’s not people.
Dietrich Smith is obviously talented, though, and I am genuinely interested to see how his work’ll develop. Perhaps some sort of weirdo integration of all the elements, for that “comics aren’t just for kids anymore, but here’s Green Lantern anyway” sweet spot?
Anyway! The story, how is that, eh?
It’s a bit of a dissappointment, I’m afraid.
Feminist-cybergoth neon cosmic science-wizard Dark Angel should be a great fit for Kieron Gillen, and there is some good character work to show that that is indeed the case. Gillen sets up Dark Angel’s little corner of the Marvel Universe nicely, as well, with an amiable no-nonsense fortune teller pal, and a potentially interesting small, touristy village overlooked by her gothic castle/lab. That stuff’s all richt grand, as is the characterisation of Mephisto, who is the right level of really fucking annoying (shame it’s not the beaky iteration, but).
The actual events of the comic are just a bit dull, though. I don’t/won’t/can’t care about ‘Psycho Wraiths’, the baddies, even when Gillen gamely gives them a wee bit of pathos. I mean, when your fear-inspiring evil guy is this chump…
…it’s quite hard to feel any sense of threat or excitement, really. And that doesn’t bode well for the whole event, given that the Psycho-Wraiths show up repeatedly.
I reckon Gillen could build up a pretty neat series out of this, given time, but as a single issue it didn’t really grab me.
Also! The blurb at the front of the comic gets Dark Angel’s civilian name wrong, which is mildly amusing the first time, a glaring mistake on the first bloody page, but soon turns out to be a harbinger of the fact all these comics are full of odd wee errors, adding to the general feeling of them being sort of tossed-off afterthoughts for the creative teams (which they may well be?).
Part of the weekly routine of reading these involved “ooh, what spelling/colouring mistake will show up in this issue?!?” and that made me chuckle, in a way. It also made me wonder if there was actually an editor (there was, apparently?), and why I was actually paying over £3 for each one of these when I could be spending the money on Xbox Live Arcade, or a nice bit of salmon for my tea.
Let’s also take note of the Salvador Larroca cover, wherein Dark Angel’s nice visual of a jet-black cosmos torso is recast as being boring, shiny fetish material. Because, you know, that’s what female superheroes wear, eh?
Comics! they are fun! SEE?
I was really hoping the stupid fairground robot iteration of Gawain was going to show up in this, but it was not to be. No big deal, as I have no real prior affection for the Knights of Pendragon, and went into this comic not really caring what happens to any of them.
Lowered expectations are a powerful thing, and lead to enjoyment of all manner of unlikely dross (first Iron Man film, Alan Moore’s WildC.A.T.S…), and while this comic feels somewhat inconsequential and a bit like it was pumped out quickly between Rob Williams’ proper paying jobs, it was still a decent romp and provided a moderate thrill.
Sure, the humour in it is sometimes a tad laboured, but it did make me chuckle once or twice, as Rob Williams seems like someone with an actual sense of humour. I mean, he manages to make those over-exposed redundant monsters, zombies, funny! It’s those chumps that actually provide the most fun in this comic, and where the belabouring of the joke actually works in its favour, as Zombie King Arthur prefaces so many of his words with ‘zombie’ that he fails to make much sense.
Zombie King Arthur is pompous, strangely contemporary for someone from the olde dayes, and gleefully flippant. It’s right ridiculous, and his characterisation is so much more enjoyable than any amount of Blackest Night/Marvel Zombies jerkass dickhead-speak.
“Zombie King Arthur wants his big sword back!” he says (he wants Zombie Excalibur back in his zombie scabbard, eh), like a correct take on the frequently awful modern Warren Ellis-aping unrealisto-dialogue.
There’s some half-hearted satire about Englishness and all that (let’s not pretend these comics have anything to do with the other parts of Britain, really) which I can take or leave, and some mentions of the horrors of fracking (a word completely neutered by Battlestar Glactica: Above and Beyond) and globalisation in austerity Britain, which I kind of enjoyed. Knights of Pendragons always had a “stop fucking up the environment” message at its core, so it’s good to see it show up here. Or, at least, it would have been a bit wrong if it hadn’t?
Pete Wisdom’s in it, and he’s shit (Bad Warren Ellis), and his complaints about prog rock just made me consider how neat this comic could be if it fully embraced that overblown 70s album cover part of its nature? Though then perhaps it’d lose the opportunity to have a throwaway Ludicrous Zombie King Arthur?
Anyway, the Green Knight, who is a big lad that watches over and embodies Britain or summat, he moves with the times and instead of being what he sounds like (a big green knight), he turns into a sort of giant Mo Farra (representing Britain coming together to celebrate the Olympics with optimism and spirit? Is Britain as a whole really represented by a Union Jack-clad sportsman?) winning the zombie battle with some good-ol’ Python-foot, like what those Americans like:
This made me laugh a tiny bit, but like most of this comic, it doesn’t really stand up to close scrutiny, and is maybe a bit cute?
Also, I should have been annoyed that this Big Action Surprise was on a right-hand page, thus spoiling it (surprises should be overleaf!), but in my peripheral vision it just looked like an advert, and did actually provide me with surprise when it turned out to be a page of comics.
LET’S ASSUME IT WAS AN INTENTIONAL SUBVERSION OF THE FACT WRITERS HAVE TO ACCOMODATE A FUCKING AWFUL REDUCED PAGE COUNT.
Anyway, shit, this comic was good fun, entirely forgettable and looked not bad (I’ve not said much about the art, as it’s not really striking. It’s competent, the storytelling is accomplished and sells the jokes, and the colouring doesn’t ruin it?) . I do not regret buying it!
Did it make me care about the plot of the ‘Revolutionary War’ miniseries, though?
No. No, it did not.
NEXT: According to the next issue bits, it’s “Death’s Head” by Lanning, Cowsill, Roche and Gandini and “Supersoldiers” by Williams, Anderson, Palmer and Redmond, but it’s actually “Death’s Head II” and “Super Soldiers”, according to the covers of the comics themselves. See, tiny mistakes, all over the place.