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LONG BLOG

Comic Review Double Whammy: Shooting War & Coward

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Shooting War: The New Graphic Novel (trailer) from SMITHmag on Vimeo.

Shooting War
Anthony Lappé
Grand Central Publishing

Going into this, I didn’t realize how much of a chore it would be to review this book. When you’ve got a piece of literature that deals with social commentary, it’s difficult not to let your own political views skew your opinion of the overall quality. Wall-E had this very same issue for a lot of people where they couldn’t pay attention to its merits. It was shrouded in, “this is just propaganda from insane environmentalists.” I’d imagine Shooting War is going to have the same effect .

Originating as a serialized web comic, Shooting War covers a wide array of political hot topics. The current war in Iraq, immigration, the light speed growth of technology and its effect on warfare, our crumbling economy, the past future presidential elections, and corruption in journalism. It’s all nicely wrapped in a well written satirical story. And while you’re not wrong in saying that this book definitely slants on the liberal side of things, I’m not going to deny that it’s an entertaining read regardless.

The book follows a fictional character named Jimmy Burns. After terrorists bomb his apartment (also a Starbucks thanks to imminent domain) during one of his live “vlog feeds”, Jimmy becomes hot shit. He scores a job at “Global News” and is shipped off to cover the war on Iraq with his trendy blogger sensibilities.

Lappé, despite having the book overstay its welcome near the end, manages to throw in some interesting plot twists and characters. Jimmy Burns is fascinating in that he’s somewhat of a jab at “liberal hipsters“. He’s very brash, and a lot of what he says on his blog (burnbabyburn.com) is so incredibly left wing and ostentatious it almost comes off as parody. Thankfully it never comes to that and we get a well written realistic character with an interesting story to tell. And some of it is pretty funny, too.

Some of the more noteworthy parts of the book are how Lappé has his fictional (but believable) futuristic technology play a big role in the war, and how war correspondents cover it. Robots controlled by remote controllers that resemble that of video games now roam war zones, and soldiers look like they’ve been ripped from some sci-fi first person shooter. He makes it appear as if war and war-based video games have finally come full circle. It’s fascinating while exceedingly creepy at the same time. Warfare suddenly becoming less personal -- less human -- doesn’t sit very well with me. The author certainly strives to make you feel that way.

The art is done by one Dan Goldman, who uses real digital photography with some nicely done digital art placed over it. While it isn’t something that’s exactly new, it certainly fits well with the tone and actually feels fresh in this medium. His use in coloring is also very impressive. He uses it sparingly throughout most of the book, but unleashes it in highly stressful situations. It draws one in as well as the writing in many cases.

There’s no denying this book’s intentions. It’s very left-wing and extremely in your face about it, but underneath all of that was a fairly interesting story. It lagged up a bit near the end, and I certainly wish it wasn’t so obvious with its agenda, but it’s definitely worth checking out if you don‘t mind the preaching.

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Coward - Criminal Vol 1.
Ed Brubaker - Sean Phillips
Marvel Comics - Icon

Great crime comics are few and far between. They’re usually lost under all the crappy super hero stuff, but sometimes one manages to break through. The Coward series has been going on for some time, and while the reception has been lukewarm, they have been releasing trades. Coward is the first of these releases, and I’m here to let you know if it’s worth your time and money.

For starters, we’ve got our protagonist, Leo. Leo’s professional thief who “plays it safe”. He won’t do a job unless he knows for sure that he can make it out. He’s been successful his entire life by following a strict set of rules given to him by his father and uncle.

Leo’s left the big times though. He pacifies his criminal lifestyle by pick pocketing and spends the rest of his time taking care of his drug addicted uncle. Unfortunately for Leo, he’s forced into taking a job by a crooked cop and an old friend of his. Naturally, the job goes bad. People are backstabbed, lives are lost, and Leo must go into hiding with his “friend” Greta and around one million dollars worth in “merchandise“.

It all sounds like very typical crime drama. The professional criminal doesn’t follow his rules for the first time ever and he’s screwed. So is it too bland to enjoy?

To put it simply, yes and no (I realized I just confused you). While the situation is undoubtedly familiar if you’re a crime genre fan, the characters were quite interesting. Leo isn’t your stock two dimensional comic book character. He actually has layers, though some of them are admittedly derivative. The difference is that everyone seems vulnerable -- even the backstabbing cop.

I have a few issues with some parts of the book. My biggest problem was the sex scene that just felt tremendously contrived. Leo walks in on Greta, Leo quickly turns around and apologizes, Greta then comes onto Leo, and then intercourse ensues. Granted, the high stress situation may make anyone crave intimacy, but I didn’t believe in what was going on, and again, it felt far too forced.

The ending was also extremely predictable, which was disappointing considering Leo’s character. To be as spoiler free as possible, I’ll only say that I didn’t believe Leo would just throw it all away so easily.

Sean Phillips does a very good job with detail in the book’s art, utilizing color appropriately for lighting. His work on the characters is exquisite. It’s almost as if they’re animating in a few panels.

Coward isn’t the best crime story out there. In most cases it seems to be “borrowing” a few ideas from many other movies and books. I can’t say it’s bad though. I was entertained, and I never felt like I was forcing myself to read it. The art is beautiful, and the writing is fairly elegant for what it is, though it admittedly has some rough patches. It’s certainly not a “must buy” but don’t ignore it if you come across it. Flip through it and find out for yourself.

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P.S. - As always, I'm open to advice regarding my reviews.
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About vexed alexone of us since 12:48 PM on 08.04.2007

A Mexican.
Xbox LIVE:Vexed Alex
PSN ID:Alexandorator
Steam ID:http://steamcommunity.com/id/vex
BattleNET:[email protected]


 

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