Well folks, it’s here, the review you’ve been waiting for.

*As many of my dearest readers know by now, I sometimes like to allow the currants of fate to control what appears on this here site of mine. For example, just last night I was sitting around at about two in the morning, rain pouring down and wind whipping, my night effectively over yet myself left without a lick of fatigue, and I started to go through my giant stack of ‘crap I need to read’.

I first trucked my way through the remaining two issues of “BPRD: The Dead”, and arrived at the conclusion that Captain Daimio is the biggest ‘Poochie’ type character I’ve seen introduced into an ongoing series in recent memory. He’s kind of like the still-missing Hellboy (gotta keep up the brand familiarity!), but with an even greater affinity for guns. He’s a zombie, which are awfully cool right now (and we’ve gotta be nearing the end of the ’zombie’ trend by now, we’ve just gotta, right?). He takes no prisoners, and verbally abuses the established cast. Occasionally, members of the established cast are suddenly characterized as morons to better prop up his authority (hey, Roger!). He’s gratuitously awarded ‘cool’ moments in the story to pump up his standing with the cast (bursting in to deliver that vital hardcore final shot in issue #5 wow that badass). And all in five issues, nonstop. There’s not enough skill in his introduction; I can see the strings too clearly, the characterization is too forced surrounding him. Also, the Abe subplot plops to its conclusion in one of the few scenes that strongly feels like Mignola’s scripting (he’s granted co-writer credit), but probably needed Mignola’s art to really pull off (no slam at Guy Davis, who’s giving a heroic effort). At the end we all sit back and go: “Abe’s wife. Yeah. She sure was… Abe’s wife. Yeah.” And that is all, puzzlingly granted five issues of back-up scenes to promote.

Nonplussed, I then moved on to “Ultimate Fantastic Four”, its new arc now 2/3 complete. I had forgotten everything that had happened in the first two issues, so I just read them again along with the two I’d not gotten to. It’s decent; better than Ellis’ last arc on the book and leagues beyond “Ultimate Nightmare” in interest. Ellis still exhibits his adorable tendency to get all nervous and twitchy when confronted with one of the less, shall we say, contemporary aesthetic choices made in the FF past that he’s busily mining (simply refraining from invoking the property’s past is surely not an option, perhaps via editorial mandate). Thus, there’s some corny gags about how terribly silly the name ‘Annihilus’ is, only to reveal the very streamlined and evocative moniker of ‘Nihil’, which kind of sounds like my dog attempting to vomit if you shout it loud enough with an emphasis on the second syllable. Oh, Stan and Jack! If only you’d thought up some catchier names for your concepts! Which we’re going to re-use regardless! But aside from that, it’s a diverting story, filled with pleasant semi-science and gently administered moral choices. And it must be said that Ellis does the patented Marvel Legacy Riff pretty well, milking some decent material out of Johnny’s powers in particular. If only the reader was spared the distinct sense of the writer rolling his eyes behind the panels at the material he so relies on for the execution of his story.

And then? Something older. Something from way back. Something I’d bought a while ago only to…


Dune #1-3 (of 3)

I just discovered today that there’s some recent news regarding the David Lynch film (based on the Frank Herbert novel) of which this 1985 miniseries is drawn from. Lynch’s production was a difficult one, with pressure applied to get the film down to a certain length to maximize theatrical grosses. The resulting cut’s compression of material baffled many audiences, prompting glossary hand-outs to be distributed at certain screenings in a desperate attempt to aid comprehension. The film was not a financial success. Lynch, having had his fill of editing migraines, then refused to design a longer, clearer cut for television audiences from the copious outtakes and unused footage created during principal photography. The extended cut was crafted without him, complete with an allegedly hand-holding narration, and Lynch’s name was removed from the credits. Thus far, only Lynch’s theatrical cut has appeared on dvd, though a special package with the extended cut on a second disc is expected for a May release. Or at least, it was. Just a few days ago, the release was postponed; rumor has it that Lynch has expressed interest in his own extended cut, one to bear his name and provide the best of both versions.

It was amusing to discover this, given the obviously compressed feel of this three-issue comics release, written by Ralph Macchio with art by Bill Sienkiewicz, right in the middle of his run on “New Mutants” with Chris Claremont. It is this choice of artist that attracted me to this series, not the source materials; I’ve not read the novel nor seen any version of the film, including the entirely different miniseries that popped up on the Sci-Fi Channel. I have heard good things about the production design on the Lynch film, however, and Sienkiewicz ably heightened my attentions. His desert vistas are gorgeous, comprised of only a few thick, jutting, uncertain lines, with gentle scratches flowing over the resulting dunes. It’s an excellent minimalist evocation, and the otherwise murky colors of Michael Higgins spring awake to fill the spaces with almond and gold and pale purples. Otherwise, there’s some clash with the Sink’s dark lines and heavy shadows, as if the color intends to mimic the level of thick ink on the page, dimming the entire affair. Pat DeFalco arrives with issue #3, lightening things up a bit.

Those familiar with Sienkiewicz’s style at the time will be interested in his marriage of movie tie-in necessity with unique visual appeal; his character art is quite dead-on in matching the likenesses of the film’s cast, though their faces are unmistakably processed through the artist’s unique eye. Sting’s hair flutters higher than ever before, Patrick Stewart’s unmistakable features are ably scratched through dark blots. And the animatronics, the make-up creations, they are rendered entirely in gonzo mode, the maw of the sand worms a mess of edge and teeth and their flesh a web of black splatters and smears, the Guild Navigators barely-distinct lumps of matter, with only suggestions of eyes and a mouth.

Suggestions, though, are also prevalent through the script. A common criticism of Lynch’s film is that it only has room to hit the high points of Herbert’s book. Being uneducated as to the execution of either, I can only note that the comics adaptation strikes me as hitting perhaps the high points of Lynch’s movie, hustling through the rest on its way to the next set-piece. And yet, as a single experience to an uninformed reader, it’s certainly comprehensible. The arcs of the characters come across fairly well. These are lengthy reads too: Macchio positively loads the page with explanatory captions and dialogue, with even the occasional footnote tossed in. Space is given to allow Sienkiewicz’s art impact, yes, but plot details are then raced through, brought up and dealt with via maximum compression. The scene sometimes shifts three times on one page, months passing within the panel gutters, little warning given to the reader. The center of the work suffers most from this, a veritable whirlwind of prophecy and ritual and falling in love and politics and training, enough so that only the most basic understanding of a ‘chosen one’ plot can creep through. But even given all this, character motivations remain surprisingly clear. Comics has an advantage in this regard, given the extreme ease of simply flipping back and consulting previous panels for needed information.

It’s far from a perfect series, taken on its own terms. I can only imagine that it works intermittently well as a guide to the film. But even as the last pages scramble to clear away the plot strands, seven cluttered panels guiding us to ‘The End’, we still have a monstrous Sienkiewicz rainstorm taking up the center of the page, storm clouds of ash blotting the sky as tiny tears of black rain rip against the sandy environs, lightning only blotches of the page’s white, and it’s enough for three dollars, enough comics.