Monday, 7 April 2014

Haircuts kill


Everything about Yearling #1 is enjoyable except for what happens - which is a super hero origin story, told with too many frames and constant backpedaling. A guy like Rich Tommaso can take a worn-out relic and give it charm. Dry County is proof. But this? Aside from aesthetic value, it drags, willfully laying idle as opportunities pass by. Unlike Dry County, it forgets to spike the old with a fresh hint of lime, and the experience simply feels unnecessary. I've walked away confused, even uninspired to write this shit down, because I like Tommaso, and it sucks to whip on someone talented.  

It's true, though, that I may suffer a bias. I've read so many of these stories, and genuinely enjoy them at times, that I tend to judge super hero comics more so than others. Because I care, honestly. I care, and I want that genre to spin, excite and explain like it did for me four years ago. Like a lot of other things did four years ago.

It's true, too, that a super hero is only as good as their origin, and while I tire of that familiar flow, it is the cornerstone of the genre I am dedicated to. There's no escape. For the fan or the characters. And it may be wise of Tommaso to acknowledge the fact and submit to it. 

But it's fun to attempt a jailbreak. I understand Tommaso to be an artist drawn to classic tropes or motifs, yet those things inevitability stunt any sort of definition from stamping the work.  At least, beyond the already established "old school" or "classical" tone we can associate with his books. What I liked of Dry County - and, yes, maybe I'm too heavily comparing Yearling to it - was it's commitment to things like noir, mystery and auto-bio, yet also having enough confidence to tweak those tastes with settings like Miami or hot neon pink. 

There's almost too much structure in place here, and as how origin stories sometimes strangle the characters they create, Yearling #1 reads as if Tommaso is caught in a pin, twisting his body to fit the allowance of wiggle room provided. Because it has no choice but to explain how this protagonist came to be; how she found herself in the death trap illustrated on the first page. We're subjected to flashbacks from there, filling in holes with things you'd expect: mystery parents, secret agents, hidden genetic super powers. The one enjoyable bit is the nature of the protagonist's parent's death, which is almost funny. Because Tommaso just drops a bomb on them and moves along.

That scene pretty much illustrates what this comic book needs more of - an ability to acknowledge these tropes, yet bypass them simultaneously with sharp story telling and a hint of innovation. You can't lag when something so played as this dominates the stage. With Dry County, with a tale of that nature, you simply need the character centerpiece, and it's OK to drift. Yet Yearling needs the constant motion. It requires the snap. And it could use a character, who ironically enough, while be summarized before us, is barely defined other than a teenage girl in tights, fearful of adulthood. 
   
I feel poorly typing it, but I was just bored with this. And the origin is still but pieces by the end of the first issue, installments away from completion. Who knows, though? Maybe I've complained too early. Maybe it comes together later on, and all the sluggishness will materialize. Maybe I'm too caught up on one-half of this thing.

Tommaso still excels as a draftsman and designer. Yearling #1 - especially that cover - is sharp. In ways, that's probably where the quick heels tread and where this cartoonist leaves a mark. I would argue so. There's something about his line art which appears somewhat timeless, in that it encompasses so much at once, and feels kind of perfect for a project as this. I do wish it were printed in color, though, because I believe Tommaso originally ran it as so online, and it would undoubtedly provide some vibrancy. Especially when it's he who's coloring it. 

But that's really all I can say, and probably all that needs said.