Sunday, April 11, 2010

Boom and Bust

I really have to stop getting stories written with characters created by Robert Kirkman but not written by Kirkman. Invincible Presents Atom Eve and Rex Splode is the second one of these things, its predecessor being Invincible Presents Atom Eve, and they're just no worth the $9. It's also somewhat reminiscent of the Big Two that Kirkman largely disdains, what with him farming out work on properties he owns to other writers.

This one was written by Benito Cereno with pencils by Nate Bellegarde and colors by Gill Crabtree. This three issue series really should have been called Invincible Presents Rex Splode because Atom Eve was incidental. It's the origin story of Rex Splode, which naturally ties in to Atom Eve, but the only reason I can see for her being in the title, and first, no less, is because she's a hot chick. Not a real hot chick, but whoever needed one of those in the comics world?

Maybe it's that these 3 issue bursts don't work for the kind of stories Kirkman tells in much longer form with his characters in the main book. Sure, it's a stand alone story, but it's fairly pedestrian because you don't get all the later nuance that Kirkman developed. Rex Splode is just a jerk and a tool here, not to mention an amoral assassin, no matter how it's rationalized to be for the "greater good". Atom Eve comes across as dim and naive, yet paranoid because of what was presented in her own 3 issue series. Rather than expanding my knowledge of these characters and appreciation for their appearances in Invincible, I find myself let down by how they're presented here.

The story is standard issue. Rex is a youthful miscreant, stealing to put food on his family's table. Useless parents sell him to a government operative who trains him in fighting skills and implants the tech that allows Rex to turn inanimate objects into explosives. Rex kills lots of people, becomes disillusioined, escapes his trainer/captor. Things go boom a lot. Budding romance with Eve is hinted at, but little more. Rex is already a hound dog after Eve, and for the life of me, I can't see how he's in the least bit attractive to her.

I don't usually comment on the art too much, but this one falls into my category of distracting. In particular, Bellegarde has a problem with faces, especially mouths. Something's not right with the lips a lot of the time, and the teeth are often just frightening. Probably trying to indivicualize them at distances and angles in which it's not necessary is part of the problem, but even on closer shots it's like he's aiming for a prize for the highest count of the number of teeth in a person's mouth. Oh, and Rex has super powered tear ducts. Certainly looks that way from the cascade of liquid running down his face when he's bawling his eyes out to Eve after killing a guy.

And enough with the scarred face guys working in the secret basement of the Pentagon. It was one thing with Cecil, but now it's becoming a prerequiste for a parking space with your name on it. Of course, it's the only thing that distinguishes bald black guy who trains Rex from bald black guy who's after Eve, so I guess it had to be retained in lieu of drawing the two guys with more distinctive, individualized faces.

So, even though Kirkman is in the credits as story editor, unless someone who's as good a writer as he is comes on to any future projects of this sort, I'll be passing.


  1. Groan.

    If you're going to flop out a "review" this lazy why even bother?

  2. Nate-

    Our illustrious reviewer forgot the disclaimer... "The opinions in this review don't represent everyone on the blog."

    Without sounding fanboyish, I like your stuff. I thought your art on Brit was very strong. Story come and went but the art was good.


  3. Nate - Is it lazy just because I don't care for the art? I raised specific things that I found problematic and why. That's a lot more than I usually comment on the art in books. Unfortunately, for me, the art in this series fell into the category of distracting because it took me out of the story. Doesn't make you a bad person or anything. Just my opinion of the product.

    Lee- Fanboy. ;-)

  4. When you talked about the art, I would agree that portion of the review was lazy. You don’t care for the art, that’s obvious, but there is nothing technically wrong with the art.

    The art is consistent, the figure work is consistent, the anatomy is consistent, the perspective is correct, and the layouts make the story readable. There’s nothing technically wrong with the art. In fact, your comments are too Bellegarde’s style. And styles are not problems. Neil Googe drew little circles on the end of every single nose in “Welcome to Tranquility!” Did I like it? Not really, but he did it for 12 straight issues. That makes it a style and therefore, it’s not a problem. Scott Pilgrim by O’Malley has teeth everywhere but it’s not a problem.

    It’s one thing to say a “style doesn’t match the book” or “not to my tastes,” but to say an artist doesn’t know what’s he/she is doing because you don’t like the style is wrong.

    As a person who loves words as much as you do, I’m surprised you don’t understand the meaning behind Nate’s comment. Your comments about the art don’t provide any form of constructive criticism. They only deride the creator. His comment was more defensive than anything else.

  5. How many times have I said I'm not an art guy? I don't know anything about all that stuff you just went through. All I'm saying is that it took me out of the story and focused on unneeded details in one aspect and didn't make two different characters facially distinctive enough in another case. I'm not holding myself out as an art reviewer. I don't know the first thing about that stuff. I'm certainly not going to tell an artist how to do the art differently, but if my dislike of something leads an artist to take a different approach, that's fine. If not, that's fine, too.

    I don't think it's anyone's place to call my opinion in the matter wrong, either. It's my opinion, not some fact. You don't agree, that's your opinion, no more right or wrong than mine. What you're saying is akin to telling me to shut up because I didn't approach it from some art world critique perspective. That's not my perspective, and it's not going to be.

    Bloody touchy, people.

  6. Oh no, no, no you don't. Don't you pull the "boo hoo. whoa is me card." You may not be an art person but you commented on the art as if you were. And I don’t believe for a second that you can’t tell the difference between style and ability.

    This blog is a public forum and if you're going to make public comments, then people get to disagree with you. Lordy knows, I've gotten myself into that problem before.

    We also strive to hold ourselves to a higher standard. If we're going to trash a book, and all of us on this blog have, then there needs to be substance to the comment. There’s a whole world of difference between “the art isn’t to my liking” and “the artist has a problem.” If you re-read your comments, they read like an attack or just snark for the sake of snark. You have corrected enough spelling and grammar issues with both Jim’s and my posts that you should be able to tell the difference between cogent comment and attack.

    No ones cares if you have an opinion, opinions are like… well opinions and everyone has one. If you make a semi-logical argument then your opinion is as valid as mine.

  7. The very first sentence in the art part of the thing says "this one falls into my category of distracting." Everything after that is my reasons why I find the art distracting. Exactly what more would you have me do? I didn't say he was a shitty artist. I said it was distracting me and here's why.

    Higher standard? Higher than what? The blogosphere? My kids write better than that. We ain't no NYT or Washington Post, though at the current rate of things, they're falling toward us rapidly.

    And, yeah, I get to play the card because I am being harassed for not aping some art world language critiques. I hate that art world opaqueness. It's like you have to take a second language to be allowed to say whether you like something. A bunch of elitist crap, as Fearless Leader might put it.

  8. Just thought I'd chime in here again, I, uh, wasn't actually remarking on the comments towards my art at all. I almost never take unsolicited criticism seriously, and if I do it will be from one of my peers or, if I am lucky, superiors. Nothing anyone says in a review to slight my art is going to bother me for various reasons, the most important one being that I would never get anywhere worrying about trying to please everyone. Thats just how it goes.

    That being said, my complaint was with how the review was written as though the reviewer only really skimmed the series, failing to understand basic elements to the story. I don't want to sound insulting, but as many people have understood precisely what we tried to convey in the story, it would seem that the shortcomings only stem from a lack of reading comprehension on the part of the reviewer. Or, maybe they just did not care enough to put any effort into reading it. You get what you put in.

    Either way, the reviewer has clearly missed the point in several areas. Never does the story try to rationalize that Rex has killed for the greater good and thereby prove that what he does is okay, in fact, that is only a lie told to him to keep him from feeling guilty, which it ultimately fails to do as his conscience gets the better of him (why else would Rex scream out, in his battle against Multi-Paul, that he is not a killer?). How one could infer anything else from several scenes and plain dialogue is beyond my scope of understanding.

    Perhaps I just have a high standard for what constitutes a review or criticism in general. And of course a blog is free to publish whatever it sees fit, but I would hope that their standard plunges beyond a base misunderstanding of the material on the whole and a satisfaction that such is a job well done.

  9. Holy crap, this is so long after I wrote this I hardly recall what we're talking about.

    Not that this is an improvement over my discussion with Lee. I've gone from being told that I have no right to criticize the art to being told I'm too stupid to have gleaned from the story the intention fo the creators. Conversely to the argument that I was too lazy to put in the effort to get out of the story what the creators intended, perhaps the problem is that the creators didn't put forth the effort to convey the story they intended.

    Rather than getting into a battle of veiled, or not so veiled, insults, I'll leave it at that.