Monday, November 05, 2007

The Comic Haul

I have been getting pre-release preview notices from Zenescope Entertainment for some months regarding their titles Return to Wonderland, Se7en and Final Destination: Spring Break. A few times I clicked over to see what was up but I had kind of retreated from the whole comic book commentary scene so I never bothered to do a proper review of anything I saw. The last notice I received included the final issue of their prequel/adaptation of David Fincher's Se7en which features artwork by Brett Weldele, who also did the artwork for the Richard Kelly prequel comic, Southland Tales. I really liked what Brett did on the latter series, so I thought I would take the time to check out this latest effort.

Se7en #s 6-7: The first of the two issues, "Envy", is written by David Mack and drawn by Leif Jones, while the latter, "Wrath", is written by Mike Kalvoda and illustrated by Brett Weldele.

I've got to say right off the bat that this is both one of the most unexpected licensed books I've ever encountered and one of the more interesting comics I've read in a while. I am a huge admirer of the film and when I first heard that Zenescope was going to produce a comic book based on Se7en I chortled heartily and wished them luck on what I knew would be a failed venture. Seeing the books on the stands I never bothered to go beyond a casual glance at the covers and possibly a flip through the interiors before putting them back on the shelf and moving on. I mean, they looked different and were definitely riffing off of some of the imagery in the film, but the writers and artists were people I knew nothing about so I never gave it a second glance.

It was the Mack connection that finally managed to draw me in. I was curious to see what he would do with the book and, admittedly, it gave me an excuse to actually read an issue and find out what the whole mini-series was trying to accomplish.

Essentially, the series tells the story of John Doe and acts as a prequel, of sorts, to the movie. It shows formative moments in Doe's life, develops the character a little bit further (since we saw virtually none of him in the film) and attempts to apply some motive/background to the crimes that he has committed, the results of which we see in the movie. The story also weaves back and forth through the film's narrative showing the reader moments where the two parallell stories intersect and giving you a slightly diferent perspective on the activities of Somerset and Mills, mostly through the eyes of Doe himself.

The artwork by Leif Jones and Brett Weldele is both evocative and suited to the task of bringing this world to life on the printed page. I was very pleased with what I saw and appreciated the restraint they both displayed when portraying what Meatwad on Aqua Teen Hunger Force would call a 'mature situation'. Tracy's grisly demise, the film's finale, even John Doe's attempt to strip himself of any identifying attributes is handled tastefully and, like Fincher's movie, only shows you how much you really need to see.

I'm not sure what previous artists accomplished in earlier issues but Leif Jones' work looks like a cross between Paul Pope and Eric Powell, while Weldele's muted pages and uncomplicated compositions are reminiscient of Ben Templesmith's work. Both artists manage to maintain a continuity between issues despite working in different styles. I liked the work done on both stories very much and will probably keep an eye out for any of their future works.

Like the movie, Se7en, this is not a happy fun read. If you're looking for a pick-me-up, you'd be best served by moving on to something else. If you're looking for a dense, atmospheric, and darkly rich crime drama, however, you could do a lot worse than picking up this book. It's a nice companion piece to the film.


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