Once again, your author loses track of time, or even what day it is.

*Inventory Dept: I was going to wait until the end to do this but since that’s a long way off now - sometime tonight (probably in the next 3-4 hours), I’m going to put up a link to access an index of all my Seven Soldiers reviews, just so the lot of them will be in one easy spot and everyone can point and laugh at how wrong my predictions for the project were in discussing early issues. It’ll be over on the right, in the Best of/Specials section. I’m also going to create a similar index for my Comic Book Galaxy reviews later this week. Say! Maybe this fresh yen for organization will one day extend to my apartment! No.

Solo #10

Another installment of this much-acclaimed dead man walking, this time showcasing the art of Damion Scott. That’s a nice dynamic cover he did, I’ll say again, but I’d not seen any of his work prior to this. He’s provided art for the likes of Batgirl and Robin, and one certainly gets the sense that they understand the flavor of those works from what’s presented here - indeed, Scott is one of the few talents participating in this series who sticks exclusively to DC-owned superheroes in the stories he presents. One does still get a sense of understanding where the artist is coming from, however, regardless of the genre uniformity of his work.

The thing I love about wildstyle letters is that although they can be hard to read, if u take the time it opens up your imagination.” This is Scott himself, addressing the reader directly via handwritten note. Actually, it occurs to me that Scott’s concept for his issue might defeat claims of his sticking ‘exclusively’ to superheroes - there’s only four stories in here (three really, but more on that later), with a fair amount of space taken up by Scott writing introductions to all of his pieces and chatting about his influences. Various sketches and alternate cover thumbnails are sprinkled throughout. But really that above quote is the key to grasping Scott’s approach, a feverish, convoluted visual morass that strives to force the reader into appreciating comics storytelling on a level more attuned to pure movement and force rather than anatomic and panel-to-panel exactitude. In a way, many of Scott’s pieces are visually reminiscent of Cory (Sharknife) Lewis’ work, focused largely on giving the reader dynamic impressions, often to the detriment of direct storytelling clarity.

This sometimes works. In a decadent, adorned fight book like Sharknife, it’s perfectly fine to blast through those pages, understanding what is happening on a loose level even if the visual display itself doesn’t easily surrender what precisely is going on. It’s enough to feel that Character A has struck Character B, with the reader’s brain painting in the finer details. But when a more detailed story is being told in the same visual manner, the very opposite effect can be experienced - the brain screeches to a halt, searching every inch of the page for clues as to what’s going on, as suddenly any character action could mean something necessary to basic comprehension. That’s what happens in some of Scott’s work here - his stories can be slow reads, because they remain intent on providing semi-detailed story ‘moments’ without offering up clear portrayals of such.

Suffering most in this regard is the final piece, a alternate future Batman thing titled The Batt - it’s co-written by Scott and Randee Carcano. Occasionally Scott does well with his visual display, a pulsing mass of deep, painterly hues and wild, stretching lines - on several pages, he deftly leads the reader’s eye around the page using the capes of Batman and Batgirl and various sound effects and word balloons, though there’s virtually no sense of where the Dynamic Duo are going in regards to the spatial ‘reality’ of their environment. It is enough to know that they are moving across the page, on page 39, and toward a deadly sound effect.

But on other pages, one simply cannot tell what’s happening very easily, which leads the reader into trouble when specific events are cited later in the story. The plot of this one involves Batman and Batgirl interrupting a deadly firefight - eventually, Batman hotly chides a burglarized storeowner for shooting one of the robbers in the back as he ran away. The problem is, I couldn’t even tell when that had happened, and was thus left confused. I flipped back through the pages, searching around until I puzzled out exactly what had happened. That’s really not the way I should be reading an action comic - I think Scott would be better served by keeping up the abstraction, but on a story level too, letting action be action, and plot happen under calmer circumstances.

I know Scott can do this, because he does it in another story in this very issue - a Flash opus titled Death Race, written by Rob Markman. Here, the plot is essentially divided between a crazed dream sequence the Flash is having, racing with doom through a hellish landscape, and the plight of an innocent man about to die in the electric chair. It’s not an impressive bit of writing, prone to presenting loud, cackling villains and saintly suffering victims in its social justice mélange, but as a blast of artistic play it works just fine, the prison bits kept mostly tight and clear with the superhero racing all but bleeding jagged lightning bolts and sharp angles, culminating in a great, symmetrical joining of the two forces in a double-page spread. If tied to a more interesting story, I can easily imagine Scott’s work excelling.

Elsewhere in this issue, we have a series of Superman pin-ups, each one representing a word that embodies Superman’s core qualities (and if you take the first letter of all eight of them, you get S-U-P-E-R-M-A-N) - they’re nice pieces, ranging from homage (oh that Action Comics #1!) to more portrait-type images. And finally there’s a Batgirl/Robin story titled Second Chance, again written by Scott and Carcano, with special guest inks and color by Brian Stelfreeze. This one looks entirely different from anything else, providing a simple, crystal-clear, animation-ready approach. According to Scott, it’s the style he used on Batgirl - “It’s kind of hard to bring back an old style, but here it is for the Batgirl fans.” Again, the plot is simplicity itself - Batgirl and that female Robin who didn’t last long fight a girl gunslinger named Calamity, and there’s a twist at the end. The real attraction is the visuals, which are certainly pleasing, and I expect more on the level of what a lot of readers prefer in their superhero comics.

But Scott has his eyes on other things, and what he’s doing now can be very good. It can also be confounding, a hurdle. And in some areas of visual storytelling, a quick recognition of what those letters say is necessary to reader enjoyment. There’s some good stuff in here, and I hope it gets better on the whole in the future.