Sunday, July 12, 2009

North 40 #1 (of 6)

Aaron Williams & Fiona Staples
North 40 is a new DC/Wildstorm mini-series that launched this week, featuring a small Southern town off of the highway that is under siege by demonic forces. And can I just ask...what is with cthulhu in comics? Cthulhu comics seem to outnumber vampire comics two to one - it just seems odd. I mean, Lovecraft is great, but I don't get the fascination. There's Cthulhu Tales, The Fall of Cthulhu, Mnemovore (maybe not technically cthulhu, but might as well be), Arkham Woods... Anyways, I guess I can't fault this comic based on that, especially since using cthulhu in this story (and in the others, which is probably why he's used so much) allows the creative team to just do a lot of crazy things with the characters in Conover County: possession, weird psychic nonsense, transformations, vampirism...all that weird demon stuff goes down from a few whispered syllables out of a book with cthulhu on the cover. And if any of those other cthulhu comics taught me anything (besides the fact that artists love drawing tentacles) it's that cthulhu wants to manifest on Earth really, really badly, and he'll cause quite the bedlam to make that happen. One thing I don't like about a lot of these magic-based stories is that no limitations are really set in the universe, so anything could happen at this point. A character could magically find a weapon hidden in some obscure place they stumble upon (like a, er, scythe), or someone will start leaking an antidote randomly or something to save the day. It's just too easy to fix things when there are no boundaries established - it kind of cheats the story and doesn't build any tension or suspense leading up to the climax. That's how I felt reading the first issue of this series, like random things were just happening that the creators can assign any meaning to later on and it'll make things right. And unfortunately, the characters introduced are all pretty stereotypical Southern figures, so hopefully something interesting and different will be done with them to make this story a smidge original, since cthulhu...not helping the cause there. This book does have one really good thing going for it...the art. It's pretty beautiful. Whether it's just scenes from the town diner painted in soft pastels, or tentacles writhing over dark figures bathed in shadows, Fiona Staples does a pretty stunning job. Dainty shapes, hulking boxy characters, elaborate curves and makes no difference, as they all look great under her hand. Even if I don't continue reading this book, I'll definitely be keeping an eye on the projects she has coming up in the near future.

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