More four colour thrills and spills.
Concept by Method Man, script by David Aitchison, illustrated by Sanford Greene
As atonement for his sin, the descendants of Cain fight evil as The Order of the Sacred Method. When Lilith Morningstar escapes, the surviving elder of the Order must seek the help of renegade member Peerless Poe, who now works as a private investigator and is only interested in how much money they can pay him. To defeat Lilith and her spawn, they must secure the Spear of Destiny. With all the Biblical stuff by way of high concept, the story does manage to inject a smidgen of novelty into something that is more or less the same old, but a smidgen is all that it is. There’s also a bit of fun to be had with Poe’s bad attitude towards the Order and its members. All that aside though, this is pretty much a beat up the monster and save the world story, run by the numbers, and with black and white artwork that’s competent rather than striking. Perhaps my biggest gripe with it is that they simply don’t do anything much to justify that ‘method’ tag – Poe is just another run of the mill anti-hero with a sharp tongue and lousy attitude to authority, and we have seen more than enough of those.
Gatecrasher Volume One
Written by Mark Waid & Jimmy Palmiotti, illustrated by Amanda Conner
Unbeknown to most of humanity a secret war is being fought. Every so often gateways open into other dimensions, and it’s up to the Split-Second Squad and its cohorts to shut them down and take care of whatever alien threat comes through. So think Men in Black, with bigger weapons and skintight spandex instead of the black suits. With his ability to predict when and where gates will open, hormonal teen Alec Wagner is a vital member of the unit, but his colleagues resent him for what they see as preferential treatment and are suspicious of his ability, while having to rush off and save the world every other day is playing hell with Alec’s love life. Cue an alien threat to all life on Earth, and desperate measures by the Squad to maintain the status quo. Again, this is all pretty much stuff that we’ve seen before. Alec is an amiable enough protagonist, and there is an element of humour in his relationships with his long suffering girlfriend and his superior Commander Hazard, and I particularly liked Alec’s kid sister, who gives him relationship advice. The story is all rather routine, but still fun for all of that, with the main appeal of the book focused on the artwork. As far as that goes, there’s a sumptuous, larger than life, hyper-real feel to it all, with plenty of stuff there on the page that grabs your eyeballs, and a lovely palette of colours. On the other hand it all feels a tad exploitative, with cartoon beautiful people dressed up in costumes that at times are as revealing as cling film on meat. One scene sums it all up – when fighting an opponent while wearing a blindfold, the fiercely pneumatic Hazard strips down to her underwear as her uniform is making too much noise and handicapping her ability to hear the enemy, and by underwear I mean Agent Provocateur rather than granny pants. they make an effort to be tongue in cheek about it, but all the same it’s a woman stripping off for the flimsiest of reasons, so yeah, Hazard may run the show, and Alec’s girlfriend may run rings around him, but I suspect female empowerment is not really where this comic is coming from. I’ll admit to enjoying the look of it, but at the same time I feel that it is all rather too obvious, a woefully transparent attempt to appeal to hormonal teens, consumers who I guess will identify with Alec Wagner.
Secret Six – Depths
Written by Gail Simone, illustrated by Nicola Scott, Carlos Rodriguez, & Doug Hazlewood
The Secret Six are sort of like the Suicide Squad’s forerunners (or aftermath – I don’t know my comics history well enough to say for sure), with some overlap of membership; a group who hire themselves out to the highest bidder. In this book they agree to work for a megalomaniac intent on building a colossal island prison to hold all the world’s criminals. Pretty soon some members of the group are unhappy with their employer’s methods, while others believe that their mercenary credibility will be compromised if they renege on a contract, so the stage is set for internal conflict as well as a fight against the bigger foe. By way of complication, Wonder Woman arrives to rescue a fellow Amazon kept prisoner in the building, and there is an almighty monster hiding in the basement. I felt a little bit out of my depth here, like somebody who has sat down in the middle of an episode of some long running TV series. I couldn’t keep the characters and their various allegiances clear in my mind, with little that was visually striking enough to differentiate between some of them, and the overall plot seemed a tad ramshackle, as if the writer was making it all up on the hoof, while the idea of this huge prison complex simply didn’t convince. On the plus side, the book’s bad guy was satisfactorily ruthless, with the feel of sociopathy about his actions, and the artwork was okay, following a middle path between the visual excess of Gatecrasher and the gritty realism of Frank Miller in his Daredevil stint. I think to get the best out of this book you need a bit more familiarity with the characters and their back stories. I didn’t feel especially immersed in it to get as much benefit/entertainment from the experience as I felt I should have done.