Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

DC Comics: Year by Year: A Visual Chronicle (2010)

Authors: Various  |  Illustrators: Various  |  Page Count: 352

A giant sized book that attempts to present a history of DC Comics from its beginnings as National Allied Publications in 1934, through its change to Detective Comics in 1937, right up to the year of publication (the last entry is Batman #700, August 2010). It's not just an encyclopaedic list of characters; it also gives an insight into the company and its various imprints, TV and film endeavours alongside real life events that clearly influenced the consciousness of the comics' creators of the era. It's an ambitious undertaking that has no choice but to hurry over certain things, otherwise it'd be bigger than the coffee table it sits on.

It's split into chapters, one for each year, that offer memorable quotes, an overview of events, creator profiles and an extensive timeline of the complicated DC Universe. Each page is awash with colourful illustrations and faithful reproductions of original cover art. It's a treasure trove of information. I admit I skipped over some of the character entries. As with most reference books, not every entry appeals to every reader.

It's an attractive package housed in a very sturdy slip case, with two unique lithographs by Ryan Sook that some folks will likely want to frame and hang to better appreciate their beauty. Unless you're the type of person that buys this kind of thing as an investment, thereby negating its very purpose, to be read, then you’ll maybe find yourself returning to it time and again. I know I have.

4 history lessons from men in tights out of 5

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Manhattan Projects: Volume 1: Science. Bad. (2012)

Author: Jonathan Hickman | Artist: Nick Pitarra | Page Count: 144

'Circles within circles. Worlds within worlds.
He saw the door for what it was, and he threw it open.'

Don't judge a book by its cover. Everyone knows the idiom but there's no doubt that a good cover is the thing that first attracts the eye. The covers of TMP caught my attention instantly. The monthlies, not the one above. They were simple but striking, enigmatic and alluring symbols on a spacious background that held the promise of something different, something deep. What lay beneath the cover delivered on those assumptions... mostly.

TMP is a wild fiction built around the real life creation of the first WWII atomic bomb. The build is simply a front for what the militant project leader identifies as "...more important concerns." He enlists the troubled scientist Oppenheimer and a team of equally disturbed real life geniuses to fulfil a very different agenda. More than once I was reminded of Mike Mignola; they're a kind of reverse B.P.R.D. 

It's an engaging and far-reaching story that draws the reader in with hermetic secrets, drip-feeding future possibilities alongside some cryptic past histories.

However, holding back like it does made me question whether it'll come together in a satisfyingly cohesive manner. By the end of the book that question was still ringing in my mind. One thing is clear, though: it’s a bubbling pot with two lids, neither of which is able to contain the inevitable—there will be spillage.

Nick Pitarra provides art so successfully that it's hard to imagine the work being presented in any other style. He's not completely original, his influences are clear to see, but his vision gels with Hickman's wild sciences perfectly.

The colouring is as important as the art in getting the message across. It uses a palette of contrasting primary and tertiary colours that support the dualities present in the written word. It was so well presented that for a change I didn't mind the digital colouring methods.

The book collects together The Manhattan Projects issues 1–5.

3½ flirtations with reckless abandon out of 5