My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I come to DP via the movie, which I giggled through, but finally thought, "It doesn't matter how meta you get with superhero material -- at the end of the day it's still a superhero story." That isn't necessarily a bad thing -- indeed when the writer and artist possess insight and some capacity to surprise the reader, it makes for a magical experience. Dead Presidents has its moments of amusement, which will strike some readers' funnybones with greater force than others. But insight? Surprise? Nah. DP/DP is just a superhero story.
The Twilight Children by Gilbert Hernández
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Man, I wish I was giving this five stars! Story by Gilbert Hernandez and art by the lamentably late Darwyn Cooke -- this is the sort of pairing that can set off fireworks for a reader.
Not so this time, alas. Hernandez' magical realism proceeds with a leaden rote-ness to it, while Cooke's art -- the shiniest eye-candy he produced in his entire life, IMO (kudos also to colorist Dave Stewart) -- is too polished to bring any emotional weight to a narrative that is already threatened by its inherent spritz.
Back when Los Bros Hernandez were the last of the underground masters, they kept sharp and edgy touches in stories and layouts that threatened to slip into Bob Montana/Dan DeCarlo predictability. A little of that edge, or messiness, would have gone a long way in this project.
Not that I regret this purchase or the time spent thereon in any way shape or form. Maybe it didn't work for me, but these guys deserve attention -- particularly Cooke, who made every effort to keep stretching his already formidable capacities as an artist.
Maze of Blood by Marly Youmans
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Marly Youmans is a lyrical writer -- a sort of Michael Ondaatje of the Deep South, really. Readers who dig the latter should, I would think, dig her.
Conall Weaver, her fictional portrait of pulp master Robert E. Howard, contains multitudes -- many more than most people do. Her compassionate excavation of his tumultuous inner life makes for a surprisingly welcome immersive experience. You've gotta be in the mood for it, though -- were I in another time and place, I'd likely rate this a "five out of five."
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Scott McKenzie's Power Chord is, I think it's fair to say, a boy's book. The guitar heroes he tracks down and yacks with are all fellas who had their highest hay-day before Grunge appeared. Now they shill for guitar companies, form various iterations of the act that made them famous and rock out smaller venues, or give one-on-one guitar lessons at advanced rates.
McKenzie combs the highways and byways for these dudes, to gather wisdom -- not of the "living life" variety (which is just as well -- the one guy who could legitimately offer it, Warren DeMartini from Ratt (married 20 years and counting), resolutely refuses to discuss family life), but of the "What's it take to really play this thing?" variety. This is advice McKenzie heeds well, so that by the end of the book he is, despite a disastrous Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy Camp experience, a proficient player.
The conversational tone to these exchanges is strictly of the "from one guy to another" variety, including McKenzie's tone as a writer. Is that a bad thing? If you're (cough) a midlife guy who's just picked up his first electric guitar . . . not even remotely. I had a gas.