Monday, February 9, 2009

Jersey Gods #1

Image Comics, 22 pages, $ 3.50

Writer: Glen Brunswick
Artist: Dan McDaid
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Cover artist: Mike Allred

My only prior exposure to Mr. Brunswick’s work is The Gray Area, a 2004 miniseries about a corrupt policeman’s experiences in the afterlife which was, well, rubbish (reviews: issue #2, issue #3). But Jersey Gods has a nice Mike Allred cover and Kurt Busiek said it was good—“a lot of fun,” are his actual words—so here I am.

So, is it good? Well, it’s not bad, and it’s certainly much better than The Gray Area. The female lead of Jersey Gods is Zoe, a young New Jersey woman who likes to dress well and drives a green convertible—with the top down, on Christmas Eve, while it’s snowing. Zoe has also developed the habit of being dumped by her dates on holidays, which, I’m willing to presume for now, is not just some arbitrarily odd thing. On balance, she’s a fairly interesting character with a consistent voice and a clear dilemma: She desperately needs a date for her family’s Christmas get-together. (“Mom’s gonna ask if I’m a lesbian. Again.”)

That, presumably, is where barbaric-looking Minog and heroic-looking Barock and Helius come in. They’re members of two rival clans of Kirby-styled gods from outer space who show up at a New Jersey shopping mall and start beating each other up; at which point, of course, they cross paths with Zoe. So what we’re heading for, evidently, is a set-up that’s broadly similar to Grant Morrison and Philip Bond’s Vimanarama (reviews: issue #1, issue #2), only more plot-driven and without the Bollywood trappings: a romantic comedy starring a New Jersey minx and gods from outer space, one of whom will—presumably—end up accompanying her to her family, from which complications will ensue.

Mr. Brunswick’s writing is a little on the dodgy side at times. The interaction between Zoe and her latest boyfriend shifts in a way that doesn’t quite work, and the eight pages devoted to setting up the outer-space people are largely generic and boring; the story might have been better served by focusing on Zoe and giving me the relevant backstory on the Kirby guys later, once I actually have a reason to care.

British cartoonist Dan McDaid, whose work I’m not familiar with, illustrates the book in a style that’s reminiscent of Jack Kirby’s, not surprisingly, but that also makes me think of Darwyn Cooke in its sturdy and yet expressive and stylish approach to storytelling. (Incidentally, Mr. Cooke provides the cover artwork for the second issue.) It’s thoroughly dynamic work, occasionally very rough in a very controlled way, suggesting movement and energy. With Rachelle Rosenberg, Mr. McDaid has an able colorist at his side. In some of the superhero fight sequences, the palette gets a little messy, but the first six pages of the story plainly look fantastic.

I agree with Mr. Busiek—Jersey Gods is great fun, after all. There are some kinks, but I’m curious where the story is taking these characters. It’s an appealing bunch, with a solid set-up that’s refreshingly off the beaten path and creates a lot of potential. To be frank, though, Mr. McDaid and Ms. Rosenberg could have turned in 22 pages of Zoe cruising through New Jersey in her green convertible on a snowy Christmas Eve, and I would have been perfectly happy with that, too.

Grade: B

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