Best Shots Extra: IRREDEEMABLE, BALTIMORE

Best Shots Extra

 

Irredeemable 19

Written by: Mark Waid

Art by: Peter Krause, Andrew Dalhouse

Letters by: Ed Dukeshire

Published by: Boom Studios

Review by: Kyle DuVall

There’s a fine line between cleverly re-stating themes and re-treading old ground. I’m not 100% sure which side of that line Irredeemable #19 winds up on. Once again, we have the embattled defenders of Earth joining forces with a sinister ally to oppose the off-the-rails superman The Plutonian. Once again, Writer Mark Waid shows us that that title ‘Irredeemable’ refers to more than just the heel turn of The Plutonian. This series is about demigods who are forced to make horrible choices, irredeemable choices.

As such, the last 2 issues of Irredeemable have suffered from their proximity to the recent arc featuring The Paradigms’ cross-up with arch-villain Orian. Although #19 caps this team-up between the heroes and a race of murderous aliens with a neat little twist, there’s an element of déjà vu here, and a bit of disappointment. The primary weakness of this new storyline stems form the somewhat generic alien invader antagonists. As a means to an end and a plot device to explore Waid’s ever-more distinct themes, they work well, but in terms of design and personality, there’s nothing special or idiosyncratic about these new enemies. Unlike Orian, who felt like a fully formed character with volumes of history in Irredeemable’s universe, these aliens are all archetype, formidable and vicious, yes, but still little more than a plot-advancing boilerplate.

Peter Krause’s pencils are a little rough this outing as well. A few small anatomical mistakes and weird perspectives pop-up here and there. Still, this is an independent book that hits its deadline every month, so Krause deserves some slack, maybe even a little extra breathing room. The coloring still has that wonderful understated vibrancy that makes Irredeemable resemble a very-fine condition flimsy rescued from the bronze-age. On the whole the visuals are up to-par, with some well-composed battle scenes and a nice sense of pacing when surprises or spreads are needed to really sell plot points.

A nice refrain of re-stated themes shows a creator is in control of the story he wants to tell, but repetition is always just a step behind. Waid’s twists and turns and sadistic understanding of his main villain keep Irredeemable from falling into total redundancy. That said a little more attention to nuance and innovation in the supporting cast would really enliven this book. Irredeemable has always played out like Astro City’s evil twin. Like that series, Irredeemable is at its weakest when its creators lose focus on the balance between archetype and innovation.

 

Baltimore: The Plague Ships #4

Story by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden

Art by Ben Stenbeck and Dave Stewart

Letters by Clem Robins

Published by Dark Horse Comics

Review by Zack Kotzer

Horror comics are not easy. Creating a drawn static image that will induce uneasiness and discomfort is a difficult task, pairing it with a narrative and keeping that mood constant for pages upon pages elevates it to daunting. But man, Dark Horse Comics and Mike Mignola make it look so easy. Mignola’s been at this so long, and has practiced his alternative-occult-history aesthetic so tightly he could easily churn something out without passion. But he doesn’t. Not everything he touches is a golden apple, but he’s one of comic book’s safest bets. Baltimore isn’t a new property either, the one-legged monster hunter was the star of a novel written by the very Mignola and Golden but this is the first comic series. If you’ve been following until now the book’s lengths to fill you in are helpful indeed, and for either scenario you’ll find yourself quickly hooked.

In the fourth issue, and second last, we encounter calm before the storm. While it’s been a short time, events and grim matters have been rather steady. Moments of mayhem have been reserved in the past issues, Golden and Mignola working in favour of a careful, slow and daunting series of progressions, letting the literary and visual themes swell instead of burst all about. What has come to a head is Baltimore’s conflict with a lord of darkness, their double-edged Moby Dick-like revenge narrative finalizes the details as the reader will become familiar to just how near each other’s throats the two are. Baltimore has yet more sorrows, on top of this are forces of mystery, factors of the unknown, plagues and curses which engulf both our heroes and the imagination of the reader.

Ben Stenbeck and particularly colourist Dave Stewart seem fully conscious of the brand they are carrying. Style and colour palette are uncannily alike to Mike Mignola’s other works, but its execution is one more of consistency than pale imitation. The style is akin to Mignola’s, but still holding its own merits, feeling natural and unforced. Stenbeck, like Mignola, shows appreciation in handling the beauty of the daunting. Imagery is heavily littered with ambiguous image cues in forms of animals, architecture and flotsam that encourage curiosity to follow wherever this trail of the macabre is heading.

I am engagingly curious as to how this tale will conclude. It’s so rare that in episodic format I still carry the sensation of neither knowing too much nor too little, though this is a trait Mignola’s sharpened to a pike. Mignola, like his cues of terror Lovecraft or Poe, is skilled in the ability to use the reader’s natural unease with mystery to his advantage. It’s a lush world but with sparse details, craftsmanship that is aware what glows around a fire can be more gorgeous than the flame itself.

What have you read so far this week?

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