Thursday, May 21, 2009

Beware The Architects!

The Doctor 13 trade paperback Architecture & Morality was loaned to me by a friend who thought I might enjoy it. His taste in comics, while not the same as mine, is close enough for me to take what he says seriously. I thought the concept (obscure DC characters meet Doctor 13 who makes normal skeptics seem too accepting) sounded interesting. When he gave me the book and I saw that Brian Azzarello was the writer, I figured I was in for something good.

Azzarello does one of my favorite comic series, 100 Bullets. I'll admit it can be confusing at times, but I love the characters (especially Lono), and the story keeps me interested. His name on a book is a plus for me. Then there's the artist.

The artwork is by Cliff Chiang. I don't really care for his work one way or another (he seems like a poor man's Mike Allred), but here it really fits the story, and in hindsight may be the best part of the book.

If you couldn't guess by that last paragraph, I wasn't super impressed. It's not that I hated it. I was just expecting more. The concept is sound. The characters obscure enough to make it interesting, and the final act was a clever take on what has been going on not only in the DC universe, but comics as a whole. Azzarello is making a statement here (one I can't really give away without ruining things), and it is a bold one, but his message is tempered by a story that doesn't quite live up to what he's trying to say. Yes, it was cool to see Infectious Lass, but Doctor 13 bothered the hell out of me.

When you get to the end of the story and you realize what Azzarello is trying to say, you will either agree with him or disagree. Your stance kind of mirrors what you think about comics today. Are you a purist, a realist, or just along for the ride? Azzarello makes you question that, and for that I applaud him. I just wish it would've been ... better.

Ironically, considering the story, I think Grant Morrison could've pulled this off better. Azzarello, as proven with 100 Bullets, is at his best when he is doing something gritty, violent and vile. This book is none of those things. He's holding back and that feels forced, which is usually the opposite complaint when it comes to writers.

I like this book's art, message and the attempt to actually make a statement with it. I respect that and appreciate it. In the end, however, I think the effort kind of falls flat. The points it raises are fine and worthy of debate, the way they are raised fails to impress, and that's an assertion even Doctor 13 could believe in.

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