Posts Tagged ‘Lee Loughridge’

briggsland

For as long as I can remember, Brian Wood has been one of those writers who has — to his credit — shared copyright ownership on all of his various projects with the artists involved and, in the case of the just-concluded Image series Starve, even the colorist. So if you’re an indicia-reader like myself, the “Copyright 2016 Brian Wood” in the fine print of the first issue of his new Dark Horse-published title, Briggs Land, is something of a surprise. We’re used to the artists being cut out of the action over at Aftershock, but why was Mack Chater — who does a bang-up job on this book, as you’ll see in the art reproduced below — not given co-creator credit here?

Well, the answer to that is simple : this comic has already been optioned for television and is, in fact, being developed simultaneously on the printed page and at AMC. When — or even if — it’ll hit the small screen is anyone’s guess, but make no mistake : Briggs Land reads very much like a not-yet-produced TV pilot because that’s precisely what it is. That would mean that the artist (the aforementioned Mr. Chater) and colorist (respected industry vet Lee Loughridge) were brought in well after the characters and concepts were developed (at least that’s my assumption), but still — I mean, these stories don’t draw themselves, do they? My best guess is that Wood probably had pretty solid visual ideas about how he wanted everyone to look and what have you when the rest of the team was brought on board, but this growing trend of creator-ownership for writers only — well, it kinda bugs me, because it means that if Briggs Land goes on to become the next Walking Dead, only one of the people involved with the comic is going to get rich off it.

Still, the artist knows that going in, I suppose, and hopefully he’s being paid a nice page rate, but this is a wrinkle that bears paying close attention to in the coming years — is “writer-only” creator ownership ethically and legally preferable to publisher/corporate ownership?  Sure, no question. But it’s just as much a certainty, in this critic’s view at any rate, that full-on creator ownership that spreads the wealth among artist and writer alike — in other words, the traditional creator-owned model — is ethically and legally preferable to this emerging “writer-as-sole creator” model. After all, if a book has shitty art, no one’s gonna buy it — yet the view of the artist as essentially little more than a “hired pencil” and the writer as the “brains” behind a comic is, at the end of the day, the same bullshit that Stan Lee has been trying to sell us all on for years, even though most of us know damn well that Jack Kirby and/or Steve Ditko more or less created all the characters (and even plotted — at the very least — most, if not all, of the stories) that Lee now takes credit for. So I’d say it pays to be very aware of what sort of creator ownership the purportedly “creator-owned” titles you read and enjoy really have going on. In the case of Briggs Land, it may very well be that the entire idea sprang whole-cloth from Wood’s mind, but shit — somebody still has to draw the book, right?

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Admittedly, if this first issue is any indication, this entire enterprise has been laid out in advance to a “T” — the various characters are all quite distinctive, the basics of the premise are fleshed out quickly and, it has to be said, rather magnificently, and all the principals involved have very distinctive voices, motivations, mannerisms, and agendas. Our protagonist, for instance, is Grace Briggs, a fifty-something woman who literally embodies the “strong female lead” archetype : she’s been operating as the de facto day-to-day leader of a secessionist/separatist community set on 100 wooded acres while her husband, the outfit’s official head honcho, is serving multiple life sentences for the attempted assassination of the president of the United States (which president is never stated). As our story begins, however, she’s taken it upon herself to let her old man know that his “services” — whatever they may amount to given his current residency — are no longer required, and that from now on, she’s in charge. Backing her up in this quiet coup is her youngest son, who’s just returned from a tour of duty with the Marines in Iraq, while her eldest son seems intent on remaining loyal to his dad and the middle son is — well, his allegiances are anyone’s guess, but first and foremost they seem to lie squarely with himself. So all our various bases are covered in the game of “who’s-on-who’s-side-here-anyway?”

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Taking all this in, and acting as our own “eyes and ears,” we’ve got a pair of FBI agents who are monitoring the shady (to say the least) financing of this “breakaway sect” — and who also happen to be sleeping together — and a Godfather Part II-style attempted “hit” on the family right where they live makes it clear that this power struggle has the potential to be a very violent one indeed. Throw in some philosophical differences between Grace and her husband (he’s a hard-core white nationalist while she’s a “non-racist separatist” — an idea that strains credulity every bit as much as a flying man in tights, truth be told) and all the ingredients are there for a really electrifying comic — and, yes, TV show.

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Which kinda brings us back full-circle to my original point : yes, this is a damn good comic. I enjoyed every single page of it and found myself immediately hooked. I’m sure I’ll pick it up religiously month in and month out. A lot of that is because of Brain Wood’s intriguing storyline, sharp dialogue, well-realized characters, and the palpable sense of tension he imbues the proceedings with right from jump. But a lot of it is down to Mack Chater’s evocative, dynamic, highly expressive art, as well (and having the always-amazing Tula Lotay on as cover artist certainly doesn’t hurt, either). He may not be a “co-creator” of this book, but he’s definitely a “co-author” — and in an ideal world, he’d be compensated as such.

 

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As we’ve already established around these parts in earlier reviews for his Shaft and Shaft : Imitation Of Life series, David F. Walker is the man. I don’t think it’s an act, either — this guy just plain knows the streets. He understands the vibe, tempo, rhythm, and flavor of an urban setting in a way that no one else working in comics right now does, and so when I heard that Marvel had chosen him (minus usually-present the “F” in his name, for some strange reason) to spearhead their umpteenth relaunch of Power Man And Iron Fist, I knew they had hired the right guy for the one-time Heroes For Hire. Now all I have to do is sit back and say “I told you so” for a few paragraphs.

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Simple, straight-forward, and to the point — that’s Walker’s M.O. across the board, and here he uses it to great effect : Luke Cage and Danny Rand are back together — for a day, not permanently (yet) — to greet their former secretary, Jennie Royce, as she gets out of prison. Neither of them visited her much while she was locked up, it’s got to be said, but then Luke was busy getting married to Jessica Jones and starting a family while Danny was off galavanting around the globe, as detailed in his recently -concluded, Steranko-esque solo series. Jennie doesn’t seem to hold much of a grudge, though, and is glad to see her former bosses — especially since she could use their help getting back a piece of jewelry with heavy sentimental value attached to it. Sounds like an open-and-shut case, right? The only problem — the necklace in question is now the property of bad-ass underworld boss Tombstone. And he doesn’t tend to let his possessions go easily, especially since he’s got more than enough hired muscle to ensure that he can keep whatever the hell he wants wherever the hell he wants it.

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If you’re thinking some bad-ass fight scenes are in store, you’re right on the money, but there’s more to Power Man And Iron Fist #1 than just  good, old-fashioned brawling (not that we have a problem with that). Walker’s got such a firm handle on the characters right from the outset that you could be forgiven for thinking he’s been writing them for years, and the issue has an underlying comic tone that serves it well and puts one in mind of the dearly-missed Superior Foes Of Spider-Man. There’s a lot of seriously cool shit happening in this book, sure, but it never takes itself too seriously, and in today’s ultra-grim, ultra-dark comic book landscape that’s a very welcome thing indeed. Walker hits the exact right tone in every line of dialogue in every panel on every page, and watching a master at work like this is more than just fun, it’s an absolute joy.

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Please don’t get the impression that this is anything like a one-man show, though : artist Sanford Greene brings a fresh, dynamic approach to the look of this series that’s about as far removed from the visual trappings of a traditional super-hero book as one could ever hope to find in a “Big Two” comic, and when you combine his rough-hewn, energetic pencils and inks with the superbly-chosen color palette of “steady hand” veteran Lee Loughridge, the result is pure magic. This is a comic that looks every bit as contemporary and “real” as it reads, and all I can say is that I hope this team remains together for a good, long, prosperous run because as much as I didn’t want this issue to end, multiply that by about a thousand and you’ll know how much I  really don’t want this series too, either.

So let’s all do our part to make sure it’s with us for the long haul, shall we? The popularity of the Netflix Jessica Jones television series should go some way toward steering the curious towards this title, but it’s a glutted marketplace right now and “niche” books like this sometimes have a hard time standing out from all the “Bat-books” and “X-books” stuffing the shelves. Marvel deserves some credit for reserving at least a corner of their corporate universe for comics with an “indie vibe” like this one, but whether we’re talking about the Fraction/Aja run on Hawkeye or the already-mentioned Superior Foes, their patience for the “offbeat” never seems to last all that long. One thing can change their minds in a hurry, though, and that’s sales — so buy this book, get your shop owner to add it to your pull list, and then tell your friends about it.

Now, the cynical and/or realistic among you are probably of the opinion that it’s a bad sign that I’m worried about the long-term “health” of this title after only one issue, I suppose, but I offer the rejoinder that a book must be pretty damn good indeed for me to have a heightened level of concern about its prospects this quickly. So consider this an opportunity to make both you and me happy at the same time — get on board with Power Man And Iron Fist right now and enjoy what promises to be one heck of a fun ride.