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Namor #5
Story: Jemas / Watson
Art: Larroca / Miki / Smith

By now we've already firmly grasped the Romeo and Juliet / aboriginals versus imperialists themes of this series, so think of this issue as the final review before the midterm exam. The subtly-named Sandy tries (too little, too late) to talk her father out of his rapidly forming plan to exploit Atlantean oil. Then she drops no more than a hint to Namor of the danger on the way, as the two of them prepare to attend an undersea birthday party. Here's the contrast to the uptight WASP social we saw a couple of issues ago, a festive dinner where Sandy learns that most Atlanteans are easy huggers and quick to welcome outsiders. There are,
of course, the racist exceptions, Zarina and her son causing trouble for the "drytails."

Andi Watson's minimalist scripting -- all terse dialogue in the present tense -- is both effective and frustrating. More introspection would destroy the mood and weigh down the story, but it
might also bring a little more depth to what could so far be non-fiction, if set on an island
instead of offshore and underwater.

But the first confrontation that tells us what this book will really be about can't be more than a couple of issues away, and the sumptuous art generously compensates for the spareness of the script.


The Sandman: Endless Nights Special
Story: Neil Gaiman
Art: Miguelanxo Prado

It's a testament either to the magnetic brilliance of Neil Gaiman's Sandman or to my own kneejerk gullibility that I reached for, bought, and read this twice before it fully registered that I'd just hustled myself out of $2.95 plus tax. This "special" is in fact a complete story excerpted from the forthcoming hardcover, and since I would have bought it on sight as well, no questions asked, this preview has just raised the price of the book by at least 10 percent for me.

You don't have to be this foolish, but there are bigger mistakes you could make, because the
book is all a Sandman devotee could hope for.

This is the Dream story, and in modest Gaiman fashion it's set near the beginning of time. It's short on plot because it's about beginnings and introductions, and not just of Sandman characters (watch for the powers of Superman and Green Lantern in zygote form). Also, it's less revelatory than promised; the confrontations between Dream and Desire are a little too underplayed, and Delight turns out to be basically identical to Delirium except for the matching eyes.

The new mysteries are more interesting, such as Death's icy demeanor which must at some point give way to the eternal joie de vivre of the incarnation we met in the original series; there's a story behind this, and we can only hope we'll get it in Death's chapter.

But the best news is that it's Gaiman on form telling us a story that could only happen (and be taken seriously) in the Sandman universe, paired up with gorgeous art by Miguelanxo Prado.

If the rest of the hardback is up to this standard, the final price tag can only be a bargain.



Story and Art: Rod Espinosa

If, like me, you were previously unfamiliar with Espinosa's work, this is an excellent place to
start, at the beginning of Neotopia volume 2.

We're joining the story as a servant girl, having been obliged to assume the identity of the missing (presumed dead) Grand Duchess of Mathenia, regroups with her loyal followers and prepares to rally against imperialist forces.

If there's a flavor of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace about this, it's just a pinch. The dough of
Espinosa's style is rich, bright, organic fantasy, Nausicaa and the Valley of Wind folded back
into classic Moebius and baked lighter than air.

That is: the characters are cute, the colors are sunny pastels, and the ships sail through sky
instead of water. But the motivations are sound, the plot is serious, and the villains --
industrialists looking to dominate the world culturally and economically -- inescapably familiar
to anyone aware of international politics in the real world. It's a perfect combination of
style and substance, easily appreciable by fans of both pure manga and Western-style comics but easily overlooked because it's a Tortoise among Hares.

This issue finds our heroine confronting a shipful of anthropomorphic hyena pirates, and
reintroduces the real villains, who resemble a cross between The Invisibles' Archons and
something out of The Dark Crystal. It's mostly stage-setting and foreshadowing, but there's
so much happening with the characters and the action that you'll hardly notice.


Andrew Simchik


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