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Review Date: 08/29/2008
 

Air #1
Title Story: Letters from Lost Countries
Publisher: Vertigo/DC
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: M. K. Perker
Colors: Chris Chuckry
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Price (USD): $2.99
Release Date: NOW ON SALE
Genre: Adventure/Mystery
MATURE CONTENT (Comics on the Edge)

     This new comic has the intriguing cover of an airline stewardess falling through a bright blue sky, along with a Neil Gaiman cover quote that the comic "starts as Rushdie and then parachutes off into Pynchon."  Both cover art and quote very accurately sum-up this extremely original new comic from D.C.'s Vertigo Line, written by G. Willow Wilson and drawn with beautiful art and expression by renowned Turkish artist M.K. Perker (Google Mr. Perker for access to his very impressive website).
     The best way I can describe this comic is that its a magic realism short story presented in a visual medium.  Magic realism is a form of science fiction or fantasy in which the reader finds a very matter-of-fact world, with a few sudden touches of the unusual blended-in when you least expect it (check-out any novel or story written by author Lisa Goldstein, or the novel "The Necessary Beggar" by Susan Palwick for high quality examples).  The t.v. show "Lost" is a good example of having magic realism elements blended into some very mainstream sub-plots.
     The main character in Air is Blythe, an American working as an overseas stewardess for Clearfleet Airlines.  The first issue nicely propels Blythe through some very interesting sub-plots, including her growing relationship with a mysterious boyfriend who has multiple identities, and a shadowy group of citizens who claim they're against airline terrorism yet seem to be worse in many ways than actual plane terrorists themselves.  The action and intrigue nicely come together in a key scene that centers around that amazing cover scene of Blythe plunging parachute-less through the sky.
     I really don't want to give much more of this extremely creative storyline away, given the originality of this comic.  I also won't spoil the one sudden Magic Realism twist at the end of this issue, other than to say that after reading this issue, you'll never look at a postcard again without thinking of this comic.   Suffice to say that Wilson and Perker work wonderfully together here as a creative team; the combination of his art and her written dialogue can be described as poetic in presenting average folk dealing with a blend of the usual and the mysterious sides of life.  
     I do feel its important to note that this is a very brave comic, the first one that I've read since 9-11 that has as a central theme the very changed world that you and I actually live in now, whether we're up in an airplane or just trying to live our lives in an everyday manner.  I give a lot of credit to DC Vertigo for taking-on a storyline with such mainstream literate quality at the heart of it; no superheros here, folks, but the hint of magic realism in issue #1 will obviously grow with each succeeding issue.  Again, if you like the subplots of the t.v. show "Lost" where everything seems extremely ordinary and then one little item turns the whole world sideways, I think this is a comic for you.

Justice League of America #22
Written by Dwayne McDuffie
Art by Ed Benes
32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

The current issue of Justice League is #24, the third story of a multi-issue story arc, so this time I jumped back to issue #22 to review the story arc's beginning.  #22 through #24 are all currently available on the That's Entertainment new issue display wall.  Issue #22 is entitled "The Second Coming-Chapter One," and is written by Dwayne McDuffie and drawn by Ed Benes.
     The main storyline in this issue focuses on the League trying to help Red Tornado stabilize into a permanent body, so he can live as close to a human life as possible.  The League tries a radical, complicated scientific experiment to try and achieve this, which seems to be in the process of badly backfiring by the end of the issue, resulting in a dangerous programmed villain personality asserting itself in Red Tornado against the League.
     I didn't enjoy this comic that much, for a few reasons.  First, the current Justice League writing is being outshined by the stellar writing of The Justice Society of America comic that I reviewed last week.  I thought it would be fun to compare the two back-to-back, and quickly found that the current writing is light years apart in quality between the two comics.  Justice League isn't bad, but its just average compared to Geoff Johns's writing level in Justice Society, and as such, Justice League seems drab in the Society's shadow, I'm afraid.
     The second problem for me was Ed Benes's art.  Its excellent, but his style is heavier than most current D.C. artists with extreme shadowing and over-penciling of figures.  It makes for a bleak feeling in each scene, plus I'm always squinting to make out details in large scenes.  A two-page spread on pages 4 and 5 almost gave me a headache trying to make out all of the details.
     Third and perhaps most significant is that after finishing this comic, it struck me that a lot of the sub-plot dialogue is kind of wooden, and frankly feels fake.  There's a scene of Superman and Green Lantern giving Red Arrow relationship advice that's supposed to be serious, but seems very stilted and just plain weird-its almost as if it was written by a kid in a creative writing class in school who is guessing how real adults might talk with each other about relationships and hasn't got a clue.
     The final point that got under my skin about this issue is a point about the League that's actually bothered me since the early issues in the 1960's.  The League has always been structured as having a rotating chair; whoever's the leader-of-the-month is like a little dictator, and whatever he or she decides in certain storylines goes without saying.  In this issue, the League meets to consider whether the superhero Vixen should be allowed to stay in the League.  Everyone's willing to give her another chance except for the current League Chair Black Canary, so she's booted-out.  It's time for D.C. to drop this unrealistic structure, it just feels dumb and unreal, either for the real world or for a group of superheros that have come together to function on equal footing as a workable team.
     If you're an old Justice League fan, not much has changed from the Silver Age Justice League approach for D.C., but I'm afraid that's not a good thing.  In light of the high quality of the current Justice Society line, combined with how comic book plotting has evolved in the past decade or two, this comic line feels very stale and is in need of a major style updating.

A Quick Heads-Up: Check-Out Brave & Bold #16!

     Just a quick heads-up to the D.C. fans out there, definitely check-out the current issue #16 of The Brave and the Bold, featuring Superman and Catwoman.  I won't review it in detail here, because I did an extensive review of the B & B line a few months ago, but this current issue is one of the funniest comics I've read in awhile.  Writers Mark Waid and Scott Kolins not only provide an interesting story, but inject it with quality comedy relief as Superman hasn't a clue how to handle Catwoman's personality.  I guess this is why they used to call 'em funny books!

 
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