09 October 2012

on dancer, on looper...

On Donner & Blitzen?  Maybe not... couldn't resist...

Genre material seems to get a bad rap at times.  We live in a world where we (rightly) celebrate the auteur.  Mad Men's the best show on television, and we marvel episode after episode at how it defies genre.  Genre becomes a box into which we place rote entertainment, the type that runs through the same twists, turns and tropes without ever really being new.  We celebrate the new, and in our celebration we discard the old, like a toy we had *before* Christmas.

I think that's largely unfair.  I love Mad Men, but Breaking Bad is almost as good, even though BB is unabashedly a genre show.  It's not as nuanced, not as loaded with subtext as Mad Men, but it's an exquisitely told story.  The acting is great, the skill with which Gilligan et al build suspense unequaled by anything on TV not named "Homeland".

It's in that light that I consider Dancer (Nathan Edmonson/ Nik Klein), an Image series that I think is an ongoing but to be fair I'm not entirely sure.  I've read issues #1-4; #5 is out but I haven't gotten to it yet.  Often Image series just kind of last however long they last.  Dancer fits squarely into the "genre" box, although it straddles the line between two distinct genres (crime/ espionage and science fiction).  It doesn't really say anything new about either genre - most of the tropes and twists are things you've probably seen before.  Yet Dancer is entirely engaging - it's good at what it does, and dismissing what it does as low art seems unnecessarily harsh.

The premise of Dancer is that a retired spy/ hitman type has settled down in his old(er) age with a young dancer, only to have his past intrude upon his new life.  And when I say "his past", I mean that in a literal sense.  He's besieged by a clone of himself who is determined to end his existence.  The clone is a younger version of him (thus allowing a visual distinction to be made between them - the presence or absence of graying temples), and so quite literally this master hitman is matched against himself.

It's a cool premise brought to life by some excellent art from Klein.  IMO he excels most at depicting open spaces, particularly when he can use a lot of whites, but the book looks good throughout.  It's gritty but not ugly.  The struggle between our intrepid hitman and his murderous clone is, in itself, a dance of sorts, and the art needs a little poetry to it, which it has.  On the other hand it's a story about people trying very hard to kill each other, so making it too pretty would do it a disservice.  Klein straddles that line expertly.

Edmonson's script as tight as well.  His dialog flows, the pacing is usually breakneck but not so much so that the characters get lost in it.  I dropped Grifter after the first issue and found the end of Who is Jake Ellis? to be disappointing, but here it feels like Edmonson has found his sea legs.  It's a concept that is rich enough to sustain itself indefinitely, though I don't know whether that's the plan.  (Klein is moving over to a Marvel book, so who knows?)

Ultimately the book is, though, "merely" genre material.  It's clever but not revolutionary.  It doesn't say anything new about crime or sci-fi; nor does it ever really turn any of your expectations on their head.  Thing is, though - that's kind of okay.  Much as we love the mind-bending auteur stuff, genre material like this is the backbone of most entertainment media.  Genres evolve because people like them, and IMO there will always be room for well-told stories.  This is one.  Well-written, well-drawn book that's worth your time.

Oh yeah - the Looper reference was just because it has a similar premise of dude fighting younger version of himself.  Haven't seen it yet but the soundtrack is quite good.


- Perhaps the best praise I can give Rick Remender's Uncanny X-Force is that I now care what happens next to Psylocke.  (And Fantomex, whenever he's alive again.)  Her recent actions when confronted with her future self were amazingly poignant.  Couldn't have been executed any better.  

- After finishing up Spider-Men (Brian Michael Bendis/ Sara Pichelli), I am 100% convinced that Marvel Universe Miles Morales is going to turn out to be the bubble-headed dude from that early New Avengers cover.  That is, the guy who was supposed to be an early design for Ronin but who never actually appeared in the comic.  Remember Bendis pointed him out recently?

- re: Justice League International Annual #1 (Geoff Johns/ Dan Didio/ Jay Fabok)[SPOILERS] Superman and Wonder Woman kissing causes Booster Gold to disappear?  I feel like there's a Back to the Future joke in there somewhere.  Also: apparently this is what a Dan Didio-written comic is like.  Who knew?


Dan Coyle said...

Issue #5 looks like a conclusion, ie, this was a mini all along. I agree overall it's a good story and one of Edmonson's better works.

matches said...

Bummer. Maybe it'll come back Jake Ellis st.yle at some point.