Thursday, April 12, 2012

Paul's Picks! - April 11, 2012

Well, it's that time again folks: Wednesday! And you know what Wednesday is?... Well, of course you do, you're reading a blog about comics, so you obviously know it's New Comics Day, a.k.a. Paul's favorite weekly holiday! 

Hello everyone, I'm back on the regular end of the country, and we're ready to get everything back in full swing here on the Ancillary Characters site. I'll admit, we've been a little behind on the columns, but no worries: the end of my school semester is in sight, and with all of the very exciting things coming up over the next few months, we'll be right here to provide you with our lovely brand of fandom. And so without further blabbing, we'll get right down to the goods from this week's comics:

Demon Knights #8 by Paul Cornell with art by Bernard Chang and Diogenes Neves.

There were some really fun reads this week all around, but the book that stood out to me the most was Paul Cornell's take on the magic/fantasy realm at DC. My pick over the last couple weeks has gone to the Marvel end of things, but DC rose back to the top with another amazingly written entry into this tale about the rag-tag group of anti-heroes in Demon Knights. This week, Cornell takes us a little deeper into the mythos of these characters. In this relaunch from the DCnU, one of the biggest weaknesses of some of the opening arcs has been the manner in which the writers have attempted to introduce these characters or set up some big new arc. While some have had success going about it different ways, I have been particular pleased with the way that Cornell has done his own setting up. He wrote the first arc in a way that did not demand much setup for this characters by tossing them right into a gigantic battle, which strangely worked perfectly for me as a reader. What's even more intriguing has been his manner of bringing in origins and background stories at different intervals, always making them seem to fit in just the right place. For example, this week's tale gives us the story of how Jason Blood/The Demon Etrigan managed to wind up in the twisted relationship with Madame Xanadu. This story seems to go off on its own, but I must admit it works perfectly, which is not an easy task. Geoff Johns attempted (but failed) something similar in issue #6 of Aquaman, where the story took off on a tangent about Mera, which wound up being a blot on the series that I wish could be erased. But Paul Cornell pulls it off magically, creating a stand alone story that I would say is a perfect point for new readers to jump on this series if they haven't been reading it so far.

I have been a fan of this series all along, but I this may have been the first issue where I felt that real Cornell style that I've come to love so much. The love story of Jason Blood and Madame Xanadu is told as a tale that seems almost basic, tied up with a bitter-sweet ending. In some ways, it's a common tale of love and tragedy. However, Cornell throws the reader into a whirlwind of uncertainty with a couple of pages at the end that manage to make us question everything that we had read leading up to that point in the issue... Once I finished reading this one, I couldn't help but think that this was exactly what I was looking for when I added this series to my pulls last september. Don't get me wrong, there have been somer really great issues already, but this was, in my opinion, the best issue of the series. It had the humor, a deep fantasy world, fighting, love, sorcery, and of course, betrayal. If you're reading this column and you're not buying this book, you should be. If you have any interest at all in fantasy literature, comics, or just good storytelling, then this book is for you.

As for the art, this was easily one of the best looking issues so far. The artists have gone back and forth a lot in this book, and this week had a similar situation. Neves and Chang split the book, with one drawing the pages set in the present day and the other drawing the flashback storyline. To be honest, I'm typically not a fan of these setups, where one issue bounces around between different artists (see Action Comics #8... geez), but these guys really pull it off well. Their styles almost compliment one another, and where this issue is set in two different time frames, it almost helps create the ambiance of a world that is different than the one they're in when the art switches for the flashbacks.

Overall, this was a fantastic issue that wound up being a whole lot of fun. If you're looking for a book that's not a mainstream hero book, or even if you're a book reader who's looking for a gateway into the comic book realm, this would be a great place to start. Thanks for reading, and be on the lookout for our next episode of the Ancillary Characters podcast, featuring a guest co-host. Until next week!

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