Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Grounded - Sorta like a Trompe L'Oeuil

Today's "You Decide" (courtesy of Kurt) is Grounded, or more specifically, #4, which came out today.

The Trompe L'Oeuil reference is referring to a comment in the letter column, where a reader makes the somewhat pretentious (sorry, Felix!) comparison of the first issue of Grounded to the style of painting where the artist tries to make the painting look SO real as to fool people into thinking the painting is real. The comparison works (MAJOR SPOILER!) because writer Mark Sable creates a world in the first issue where you are meant to think ONE thing (that the protagonist of the book thinks superheroes are real) while really it is a whole other thing (that the protagonist of the book is just too obsessed with superheroes). It's one of the better "reveals" that I have seen of late, but I have to admit that I think I would have preferred to read the adventures of a kid who believes in superheroes in a world withOUT superheroes that a kid who is obsessed with superheroes in a world OF superheroes. Still, the reveal is good, and so is issue #4.

Artist Paul Azaceta is amazing, and sadly, it is one of those things where you see the art and think, "How long will he last before Marvel and DC snatch him up?" That is for later though, and for now, we can just be pleased to see his pencils on Sable's ideas. Like the other Image title, Hero Camp, our protagonist is the non-powered son of famous superheroes who is placed in the middle of superpowered teens.

The difference betweeen Grounded and Hero Camp is the attitude of the protagonist. In Hero Camp, Eric, does not have the same confidence that Jonathan does in Grounded. Eric ends up having to fight the bad guys all the time, but it is NOT something he embraces, unlike Jonathan, who takes control of the situation in this issue well (the faculty of his superpowered high school has removed the powers from the students and they are now being held hostage - their superhero parents must either allow THEIR powers to be removed or their children will die).

Sable has some great, quirky takes on superpowers, like when Jonathan turns a villain's own illusions against him very cleverly. If you want to stretch it out (and why not?), you could say that Sable is making a commentary upon the way longtime comic readers read comic books. Lord knows that I have read enough comics that I can see certain tropes appear ahead of the actual reveal. In this comic, Jonathan is a HUGE comic fan, and in the world of comic books, someone who knows all about comic books is very powerful, indeed. Which makes the following statemnt by Jonathan sound like more than just a clever line, "See, you guys have - sorry, had - powers. Me, I'm armed with something better. Knowledge. Comic book knowledge."

Meanwhile, there is the subplot of the parents trying to solve the situation (and also whether, as one of the kids mention, they would be willing to let their kids die rather than lose their powers).

All of this is handled by Azaceta sooo damn well. He gets the nuances that Sable asks him to get across to the reader, and that is very important.

Oh, and at one point, a character is hit by a bunch of quills, and when asked if she's okay, she says, "Yes, it tingles, kind of like acupuncture." And when he says, "Really?" She tells him, "No, you idiot, it hurts like freaking hell!" I just thought that that was great.

So, yeah, Grounded is a good book. Pick it up. It's a six-issue mini-series.

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