Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Chris' Reviews 8/24, Pt. 2

Yes, I know it's 8/30. But I really, really wanted to give myself some time to make sure that these reviews that are about to follow were my honest opinions. I had knee-jerk reactions to these comics that I just couldn't trust, like a girl who wants you to buy her a drink then slips off to be with her sugar daddy as soon as the appletini is in her hands. Damn you, whatever-your-name-was!

Onwards, true believers! And really, I'm not in a bad mood. This was just some disappointing comics.


Actual conversation:

CHRIS: Hey, what's this Sea of Red thing all about?
COMIC PURVEYOR: Pirate vampires sort of.
CHRIS: (jaw drops at utter coolness of concept, slavering at the thought of making vampires cool again) You gotta be kidding me! Really?
COMIC PURVEYOR: Yeah. And it's all in black, white, and red.
CHRIS: Get the #$%! out of town! Gimme all three issues!
CHRIS: Hell yeah! How could this go wrong? (Insert Anvil of Foreshadowing Doom Here)

The lesson, as always: never underestimate my ability to back the wrong horse.

Here's the heartbreaking part: the first issue was FANTASTIC. This 16th century Spanish sailor is thrown overboard and picked up by a piratey crew who turn out to be vampires. True to vampire fashion, they turn Spaniard into a vampire, then cast him overboard at the end of issue 1. Great setup that totally buckled my swash! I'm all geared up for a piratey tale of blood, revenge, and horror on the high seas! Avast, ye undead mateys!

Then, I read ish 2. And from the first two pages, I was weeping. What had become of my beloved vampirates? Who knows! Because the Spaniard we left so poignantly at the bottom of the sea is picked up 500 years later by a film crew. A James Cameron parody of a filmmaker and his crew are filming in the ocean, and they happen across the Spaniard and take him in. Whereupon he bites the production assistant. And....and...I can't even believe I'm writing this. Maybe if I lay it out in bullet-points it will make more sense. Here, then, is what happens in issues 2 and 3, and I swear before all that is Iron Man, I am not making this up.

  • Film crew gets Spaniard aboard. He's alive, which is apparently of little surprise.
  • Spaniard bites lovely young production assistant. Hardly anyone is fazed by this.
  • In what has to be the most calm, sane reaction to discovering a 500 year old vampire at the bottom of the sea and having a crewmember bitten, the director decides to make a movie RIGHT THEN AND THERE.
  • In fact, the director (to keep his two vampires happy) MURDERS his crewmate to feed them blood. Again, no one so much as blinks at this.
  • Our merry band heads for an island. While on route, apparently people are being killed left and right to donate blood. And no one thinks anything of it in any meaningful way.
  • There's a storm, and our merry filmmaking idiots escape their ship in a submersible...er...sub, which is pretty amazing considering that up to this point they've displayed the collective intelligence of my right testicle, and it's the dumb one.
  • They reach the island. Whereupon they're attacked by Alien/Predator/Troglodyte knockoffs for what seems like 300 useless pages of muddled fight scenes.

Other things that make this comic a hugely disappointing failure include the fact that everyone who's not a vampire or the Evil James Cameron Knockoff looks alike, so we can't even tell who the hell is who. Not that it matters. There's zero sense of dread, nothing scary...it all reads like a junior-high creative writing plot.

My God, it was so easy! It was all there, waiting for you to take hold and pluck it like a ripened pomegranate! Rick Remender, what happened? You had an awesome premise all set up and raring to go, and then...it's like...I don't even know what it's like. I am SO let down. Someday the definitive vampire/pirate comic will be written, but today isn't that day. And issue 4 can burn in Hell, and it's not even out yet.

Best Moment: The entirety of Issue 1. It was THAT good.

Worst Moment: Realizing that a promising idea got T-boned in the left-hand turn lane and she's driving an uninsured Chrysler LeBaron.

Comic Book Goodness: 1/5. Just for that first issue alone. The rest...man. Just...man. Fuck.

SMOKE #1-3

Alex De Campi and Igor Kordey's miniseries about spies, corruption, and shadowy guvments comes to a conclusion, and I have mixed feelings about it.

On the one hand, I go into convulsions realizing I've paid a total of $24 for three issues (nice quality paper and extra length tho they be).

On the other hand, I got a nicely drawn action-packed, appropriately suspenseful political thriller with a ton of interesting ideas.

On the third hand (shaddup), I can't shake the feeling that something got screwed up here. I feel like Geena Davis in The Fly, where she eats the steak that Jeff Goldblum sends through the transporter, and it doesn't taste right---it's too synthetic, an imitation piece of meat.

My friends, it is with a heavy heart that I declare Smoke an imitation piece of meat.

I have no doubt that it was written with the best of intentions. But dammit, if you're going to create a Warren Ellis/Alan Moore love child, then go all the way. The plot twists are pretty predictable (since we're told who the bad guys are right off), but it's to De Campi's credit that she makes even foregone conclusions somewhat interesting. The hero is straight-up Ellis (loner ex-guvment albino assassin on one last mission for personal reasons), the dystopian England and its weird populace (like the Beauty Brigade -- a terrorist faction of fat folks that blame their weight on society) very Moore. And there are some very interesting ideas in here. But.

It doesn't breathe. Just as plot turns get interesting and you start to think, "Hey, that could really go somewhere" or "that character is a lot deeper than I originally thought" the series ends. And it ends badly. So, which sinister cabal wins? Is Rupert Cain someone's son? A clone? What makes Lauderdale so angry at the end? What is the fate of the Quiet Men? What of the Man With The Disposable Face? I could mention thirty other subplots, but that would just make me sad all over again.

I can only assume that this series would have met (and maybe even exceeded) its potential had it been given another three issues to resolve everything. Hell, maybe that's what they're planning. Alex De Campi, if by some mis-clicked link you're actually reading this, then please finish this properly. I have no doubt that as a six-issue miniseries, it would be great. But as a three-issue series, it just doesn't finish the race.

Best Moment: The train station shootout that opens issue 2. Awesome scene.

Worst Moment: The contrived, rushed, ending that leaves you like a five-dollar lap dance.

Comic Book Goodness: 2/5. Given the price point and the feeling of coitus interruptus I got after reading the final issue, I just can't in good conscience rate it any higher. But it's a worthy effort. And still better than that steaming pile of Jack Cross.


Blogger kelvingreen said...

A pretty good nautical vampires story can be found in, you guessed it, 2000ad. It's a Devlin Waugh story called Swimming in Blood, and while it wasn't amazing, it's better than this silliness.

Devlin Waugh is like few other comic-book heroes. A bodybuilding, flower-arranging priest with an eye for beautiful boys and a handy way with extremely big guns, Devlin survived a steroid abuse scandal in the Olympics to become the future Vatican City-state's chief exorcist and paranormal warrior.

As Aquatraz underwater prison - home to some of the world's most vicious killers - is overrun by a vampire infestation, a loose gang of nurses, wardens and pest controllers must come together to fight this evil menace. But around the corner lies someone even more scary.

I remember the story playing with some fun ideas, like the vampires acting like sharks while underwater, circling around boats and dragging people in, and so on. Good stuff.

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