Reviews of trade paperbacks of comic books (mostly Marvel), along with a few other semi-relevant comments / reviews.

09 November 2010

G-Man, v. 2: Cape Crisis

Collects: G-Man: Cape Crisis #1-5 (2010)

Released: October 2010 (Image)

Format: 128 pages / color slightly-larger-than-digest / $9.99 / ISBN: 9781607062714

What is this?: Grade-school hero G-Man is back, dealing with magic, villains, and his older brother.

The culprits: Chris Giarrusso

To make up for not posting a review on Friday, there will be two reviews this week; the first is G-Man, v. 2: Cape Crisis. I’m tempted to end this review in one paragraph, telling you to just buy it already.

I’ve expressed my admiration for Chris Giarrusso’s work in the past, rating the two Mini Marvels titles — Rock, Paper, Scissors and Secret Invasion — and the previous G-Man volume, Learning to Fly, very highly. I have been waiting for Cape Crisis since I picked up a sample copy of Cape Crisis #1 at the ALA Annual Convention, and I’m pleased to report v. 2 is no exception to Giarrusso’s usual high quality work. This time, however, the plot allows Giarrusso to explore some world building that was unavailable to him with either Mini Marvels or the first volume of G-Man, when Giarrusso was concerned with setting up concepts and characters.

G-Man, v. 2: Cape Crisis coverIf you’ve read any of the previous volumes, you know what you’re getting with Cape Crisis: pint-sized heroes who have as much trouble with older brothers and supposed authority figures as they do with supervillains. Giarrusso remembers just how unfair the world seemed — and was — as a child, and he’s able to translate that onto the page with remarkable fidelity. Unlike most of the children the readers knew, Giarrusso’s characters are able to respond with sarcasm even as the adults’ arguments spin into almost absurdist territory. Giarrusso also has a deft touch with running jokes, hitting them a couple of times and then bringing them back onto the page when the reader has almost forgotten them.

The artwork is still the same clear, simple linework that Giarrusso brings to all of his books. It’s deceptively simple, really, as Giarrusso manages to convey a lot of emotion and action via those simple lines. As usual with G-Man, he manages to expand his style with scenes featuring slightly different techniques; the transition between the G-Man’s world and Sky Mountain, former home of the gods, is illustrated in unfinished pencils to show its weirdness and incompleteness. The godlike character of Krios “Chris” Khrysomallos — not only named after the author but taken directly from Greek myth — is also a step in a slightly different direction.

Sky Mountain is not only the former home of the gods but it’s also where G-Man and his brother’s powers come from. Giarrusso uses Sky Mountain to give the boys a quest and to introduce Khrysomallos; it also allows Giarrusso to draw all sorts of things. There are the standard talking skeletons and man-eating trees, but there are also hordes of multi-colored sentient puffballs, rock men, mummies, and robots. The incongruity of the robots and mummies, of course, is part of the fun. Giarrusso also establishes that somewhere near G-Man’s hometown is Elf Town and a community of human-eating, Where-the-Wild-Things-Are style beasts.

There are some downsides to the volume, although they’re small. Some of the running gags fall flat, which is inevitable. I was tired of the dandelions / Princess Roja / Red Girl gag before it was done, although the joke did give Giarrusso an opportunity to write an almost touching bit about Princess Roja’s reaction to an injury to G-Man’s brother, Great Man. And I know Cape Crisis is published by Image, but that doesn’t mean fellow label-mate Savage Dragon has to appear in every volume, even if you can get Erik Larsen to draw him. (Although I really enjoyed the subtle Fred Hembeck cameo.) The pacing seemed a bit off as well; the story seemed longer than just five issues. On the other hand, the plot is secondary to Giarrusso’s jokes, so that’s not a major concern.

I don’t know how to say this any clearer: you should be buying Giarrusso’s work. If you can’t afford it — although Cape Crisis is a mere $9.99 for 128 full-color pages — then find someone who has bought it and borrow it from him / her. And if you don’t know anyone who’s bought it, then bug your local library to get a copy for you.

Because you really should be reading G-Man.

Rating: G-Man symbol G-Man symbol G-Man symbol G-Man symbol Half G-Man symbol (4.5 of 5)

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