<i>Black Diamond</i> #2 review

Larry Young was nice enough to send me a copy of Black Diamond #2 (in stores tomorrow), so I thought I'd give you an idea of what's going on in it before you head to the comic book shoppe so you can decide whether you want to get for yourself.  Sound good?

Black Diamond #2 (of 6) by Larry Young and Jon Proctor.  $2.95, AiT/Planet Lar.

The biggest problem I had with the first issue of the mini-series is that not a lot happened.  Young sets up this ridiculously awesome idea of a super-highway built 150 feet above the ground, but the first issue is all set-up.  At the end, Dr. Don McLaughlin roars away in a 1973 Charger, and I thought, "Hell yes!  Now it's time for some Deathrace 2000 crazy action!"

Instead, we get more set-up in this issue.  This does not bode well for people who are buying this in singles rather than simply waiting for the trade.  In the trade, this will probably work.  But nothing really happens again, and we don't even see McLaughlin until the last page.  It's frustrating.

But what about the actual issue instead of what I want to happen?  Well, the three scenes in the comic are intriguing - we see McLaughlin's wife and her kidnappers, who appear a bit too familiar with each other, we see the oil baron who controls the gasoline on the Black Diamond and his meeting with an Army general, and we see a diner on the highway itself, where a waitress ditches her job and absconds with a "bag," which is full of something important, obviously.  As she leaves, she crosses paths with McLaughlin, so we're presumably back to him next issue.  All these threads will, one hopes, tie together.

The problem with the issue isn't really that there's not a lot of action in it.  I appreciate slow burns as much as anyone, and as long as Young delivers on it, I'm fine with the waiting.  The three threads are certainly interesting, as we get more about the government's plan to shut down the Black Diamond and we also get a mystery about Cammie the waitress and what's in the bag.  However, the biggest problem with the issue is the way the characters speak.  There is a lot of extraneous information in this issue, as McLaughlin's wife and the kidnappers do a crossword together, which means we get to find out what "stound" and "yclept" mean; the general explains to the oil baron about global warming; and the two men who visit Cammie in the diner talk about the history of the airplane.  Taken on its own, the information is actually pretty interesting, but the way it's delivered by the characters feels, in the words of one of the kidnappers, "arch."  It's far too affected to be taken for real dialogue, and reads more like a Wildean comedy of manners (with different subject matter, of course).  I don't mind when a character is using an affectation knowingly (the Shade in Robinson's Starman leaps to mind), but every character in this book talks like an encyclopedia.  It's too stiff and formalized, and it makes the book a bit clunky.  I know that Young can write more naturalistic dialogue (hell, he did it in the first issue of this series), so it just feels off.  I hope it doesn't last.

As for Proctor's art, well, Young once again doesn't give him a lot to do.  There's only one real jarring shift in the photo-referencing, and that's when the hair on McLaughlin's wife inexplicably changes shape.  Other than that, it's solid enough, and the coloring again is strong.  As Proctor has not had much chance to shine (or, to be fair, fail) in the book, I can't say much about it.

I'm still not entirely sure why Young is doing this as a mini-series instead of a graphic novel, because I am sure reading this all at once would be a more pleasant experience.  This reads like a chapter in which we get to know the characters, and those are difficult to take in a vacuum.  The first two issues certainly haven't turned we off of the book, but they have made me question the viability of releasing it in this fashion.

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