Monday, March 15, 2010

Review: Black Summer

I have been waiting to read Black Summer for awhile now. It is written by Warren Ellis, with artwork by Juan Jose Ryp. Warren Ellis is probably my favorite comic writer, and Juan Jose Ryp's artwork is amazing. This combo has had me drooling over this title for nearly a year, so I was pretty pumped to get it at a half-off sale at a local comic shop. It then skyrocketed to the top of my to-read-pile, and I was rewarded with a kick-ass graphic novel.

Black Summer kicks things off from the get-go with a presidential assassination, an act committed by a costumed super hero. It is never out-rightly stated, but the president who gets killed is George W. Bush. The murderous super hero is John Horus, a member of a scientifically enhanced super group called the Seven Guns. The Guns are all linked to high-tech pistols that deal out more fire power than most small nations could muster. Due to the death of a teammate the Guns are like a rock group who have chosen to go their separate ways; One guy, after losing part of his leg, has quit the hero life completely, four others have somewhat stuck together - but haven't done much, and John Horus, who is surrounded by floating eyes - which is also his "gun", has pursued his solo career. Well, there's nothing like a government mandated bounty hunt to get the old band back together.

Tom Noir, he of the missing leg, gets brought back into the fold after a failed attempt on his life. Fitted with a fancy prosthetic limb, he re-enters the fray alongside his old teammates. But other government controlled enhanced Guns are looking for them, while they search for John Horus and try to right his wrong.

Black Summer is vintage Warren Ellis. A brilliant plot, coupled with gripping characters and tons of action. I haven't read too much of his stuff, but the things that I have read, (half of his Planetary series, and all of Fell), I have loved. He mixes science fiction, fantasy, and costumed heroes very well. I think what I like about him is that his ideas seem just plausible enough that I think they could or already have happened and we just don't know about it...the bastard makes me paranoid!

However, where Black Summer really blew me away was in the art department. Juan Jose Ryp's art is the best I've seen in a graphic novel yet. I found myself scrutinizing every panel, every page taking in Ryp's skill and drooling over the insane detail. My acts of deep scrutiny were rewarded too. I noticed that some pages contained "easter eggs" - little hidden pictures within the tapestry. On one page in particular I found Sponge Bob, Bam-Bam, and Mario. Crazy. Really fantastic art though...just look at the pictures!

The entire Black Summer story is contained in this one graphic novel. While I sometimes like the single book format, versus 10-12 volume story arcs, I felt like Black Summer could have been longer. I wanted more. I wanted more of the back story on the Seven Guns...hell, we never even see who the deceased seventh Gun is. I also think the story could have been fleshed out more, and Ellis could have given more depth to the plot. I can't really complain too much though, because I really loved this graphic novel. Any complaints I have are washed away by Ryp's artwork.

I think Black Summer is a great place to start for readers who are new to Warren Ellis. From what I've read of him, this graphic novel seems to be on par with his other writing and evokes a similar style to what I've seen. Ellis is definitely one of the biggest names in comic writing, and I have my sights set on reading more of his work in the future.

Grade: A

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