BRILLIANT (Marvel/Icon, July 2011)
I wasn’t sure I liked the beginnings of this creator-owned series by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley on the first reading. I just wasn’t feeling any connection to it and didn’t care much for the characters. One month later I pick the book up again for a second read - - while waiting for a troublesome 5-page memo to successfully fax from my home office. The slow progress of the fax actually gave me more time to spend on the book - - and I found myself warming up to BRILLIANT. Even though the principal characters are all younger than my sons I found myself relating to them a little and ended up feeling that, as a slice of life look at modern college students, it was pretty accurate.
BRILLIANT is grounded in reality, at least for now, and hints (at first) at supernatural or arcane undercurrents within and then opens up to matters of a science-fiction or super-powered nature. Brainy college students (astrophysics majors, etc) decide to work together to decipher how super powers can be created. We are introduced to this by way of a character, Albert, who returns to campus after a one-year absence to find things have really changed while he was gone. When the group leader, Amadeus, decides to have a rooftop meeting to introduce their project and invite his participation, we learn some of the details at the same time that Albert does. The premise is a little flimsy but at least Bendis made an effort to come up with a rationale that led these students down this path.
The visual zoom-out panels on the last page reveal the rooftop group is gathered around an all-terrain vehicle. It also shows how high they are- - at least fifty feet or more from ground level - - and with no visible means of getting that vehicle up there. Perhaps they have already uncovered some of what may be science-based powers. (One of the members refers to a satanic source earlier, so I’m not certain about this). It does appear that at least one member of the group has - - as leader Amadeus is very generous to his friends and paid for this party-like gathering . You find out his source of income in the beginning of the story. No spoilers here.
Bagley does his always magnificent job. It’s the subtle things that draw me to his work - - his art is never flashy - -but just perfect in its details and scope. Always the right angle of view. Always the right body posture. Always the right facial expressions. As if he always knows exactly the best way to get the message of the story and character reactions across.
CRIMINAL MACABRE / THE GOON: WHEN FREAKS COLLIDE (Dark Horse, July 2011)
The first meeting of Cal McDonald and The Goon is written by Steve Niles and drawn by Christopher Mitten. Niles, the creator of Criminal Macabre, seems to know his way around Eric Powell’s The Goon character and is spot-on in his adaptation. Mitten’s style is similar to Mike Mignola and is well-suited for the large amount of small panels per page.
There’s a lot of story to cover in one issue. I’m also not sure how much Powell had to do with this book. He’s listed on the credits page as “farts and negativity”. However, that may just reflect the dark humor nature of this book. If you like your horror to be a little funny, you will love this one-shot (although the end hints at a sequel/continuation). This was the most fun I’ve had reading a comic this summer, and I’d love to see more.
In an older version of Chicago that exists on a dimensional plane, vampires and werewolves are the crime gangs and battle each other for supremacy. One side recruits Cal McDonald. One side recruits The Goon. They pound on each other for awhile until they figure out the scam and join together to rid Chicago of monsters. Hellboy makes a funny one-panel appearance.