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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Occult Crimes Taskforce #1, Devi #1, Battler Briton #1 

Occult Crimes Taskforce #1:

The idea of a special division of the NYPD tasked to cleaning up and containing supernatural horrors has a certain appeal. It’s ground that’s been covered before, but often by lofty globe-trotting governmental organizations like the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense in Hellboy. Grounding the setting with a pragmatic anchor like the day-to-day functions of the NYPD could give otherwise inconsequential material some weightiness; imagine a less cartoonish version of the Buffy setting crossed with The Shield or Gotham Central. Thematical play on the word “monster” could drive the series all by itself. Promising stuff.

But that’s neither here nor there with Occult Crimes Taskforce. This is standard fare through and through: Average beat cop stumbles into something supernatural, gets put on suspension, then indoctrinated into the OCT division of the NYPD. The World You Know is Fake, et cetera, et cetera. It’s a dark-fantasy unveiling-the-truth speech we’re so familiar with that all anyone can do is bring a new rhythm to the same beat. The variation in OCT is lukewarm.

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Devi #1:

The launch of Virgin Comics is a big one. Should the venture ultimately fail, they’ll be marked off as another CrossGen, picked apart for flaws in content and business strategy, and cast aside. Should Virgin succeed, they’ll be the first mainstream publisher to do so in over a decade. Devi, the tale of an ultimate human weapon created by a pantheon of gods to fight rogue deity Lord Bala, is their launch title.

The stated intention of Virgin Comics is to bring the rich storytelling tradition of India to the larger world, in much the same fashion as manga has done for Japan. There’s no doubt at all the mythology of India is rich and diverse, covering the complete spectrum of storytelling in a way unique to the region. India puts out more movies a year than Hollywood. As “Chief Visionary” and filmmaker Shekhar Kapur says, there are 600 million Indian teenagers ready to seize on an art form that speaks to them.

600 million teenagers. Think about that number. That’s twice as many people as there are in America, from infants to the elderly. One doesn’t have to squint hard to read between the lines: There is a hell of a lot of money to be made in India. And you don’t have to ape other cultures to do it; India has more than enough source material to work with.

So why does Devi look so much like something Top Cow would put out?

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Battler Briton #1:

Garth Ennis must be on a personal crusade. Save the occasional Sgt. Rock mini, he’s the only man in mainstream comics consistently writing war comics. Anyone who’s tracked his career wouldn’t be surprised: Ennis frequently ruminates on battlefield morality and how it stays with—and taints—even the best of men. It’s a good story and should be visited, but Ennis is now getting to the point where he’s asking the same questions and giving the same answers. One too many trips to the well.

Battler Briton is a welcome departure. It packs little in the way of surprises, but then it’s not meant to. Ennis himself acknowledges the tried-and-true formula for the original Britton comics: shoot down some Germans, get shot down by some Germans, beat up some Germans on the ground, get back home with a smile. Wash, rinse, repeat. In this issue, it’s 1942 and the Americans have just entered World War 2. Rommel’s mopping the floor with the Allies in Africa, and Robert Britton has just been asked to teach the Americans how to fight the Germans in the air. The Americans don’t like being told how to fight, even though they’re greener than apples. Rivalry ensues.

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