17 September, 2012

And Overdue Comic Book Thing

for the past month or so I've had almost a dozen books sitting in my peripheral vision every time I jump on the computer. It's long overdue that I actually address the reason they are there: I want to talk about them. I want to write about them. I'd like you to listen to me.

There will be no pictures.

Here are the comic books I've read in the past three months or so are as follows (in more or less chronological order)--

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: 2009--
This to me felt like a step back in the right direction of the League series (which I will never abreviate as LXG, thank you very much), which seemed to want to meander into minor points about metatext or imagination or whatever and not really deal with the nut meat of what made the first two volumes so grand, which was folks you know (and some folks you don't) all getting together and having an adventure.

Of course my main problem with this is that it revolves around Orlando, a character which I never liked. She/he always felt like an interloper into a story which was about everyone else but her/him. Orlando brings a lot of interesting things to the table, especially when you think of her as this sort of Bond-like cudgel that exists more to get things done and to bring out the interesting things of people around her. I don't know. I guess I just liked the Victorian adventure aspects of Alan Moore's story than did I enjoy the counter-cultural pansexuality bits. One seemed far more in keeping with the work than the other, but that's just me.

So, it's better than 1910, but I'm going to side with 1969 being the best of the bunch if only because it involves a prolonged reference to Performance and for once I think I understood something that no one else did. It also has Harry Potter pissing lightning, so, I don't know, if that doesn't sell you then I don't know what else to say.

Dinopopolus--
This is the most fun and energetic book this side of King City (see several paragraphs from now for my King City review). If I had to describe this book, it is somewhere between She and Adventure Time, which is to say that it relentlessly loves treasure hunting in equal measure to it being English (which to me is basically only calling cookies "biscuits." Weird.). It reminds me of the kind of wonder you used to get by looking at a Legend of Zelda instruction manual. It comes from a place of pure energy and wonder and it's a nice bit of fantasy to counteract the books that I usually read. It is also gorgeous. This dude can draw dinos is what I am saying.

War Stories Vol. 1--
It's not much of a category, but as far as war comic writers go Garth Ennis is the best there is (who else is there? Greg Rucka? Jason Palmiotti, maybe? Jason Aaron? He likes 'Nam, right?). This collection came out a long time ago and its spiritual continuation exists in the Dynamite Comics series Battlefields. I would say that these are a classic group of comic book war stories, but then again it is Garth Ennis, of course it is. My favorite story is "The Reivers", which is about the SAS' involvment with the LRDG during WWII. I won't spoil it, but it has everything a Garth Ennis war story needs: The SAS, metaphysics, hats, and things getting bollocked (bollocksed?) up. In short: A masterpiece.

Baltimore: The Curse Bells--
This whole arc, as beautiful and fun as it could have been fell flat. I don't know what it is. Perhaps it is the fact that this little story wants to be, on one end, a fun little one-off in the classic comic-book sense and on the other end it wants to be a much more involved continuing story. I think. I guess the main problem is that the adventure doesn't quite work as it stands. You've got Madam Blavatsky and the Theosophy movement on the one hand and on the other hand you have the Grand Wizard Hitler and somewhere between that chasm my efforts to care got lost. I think it might have hit its head on something. The point is we haven't seen it since. We assume it dead, but maybe crab monsters might bring it back. Only patience and prayer will see this dark time out.

Parker: The Score--
It's Darwyn Cooke doing his Darwyn Cooke thing. So, yeah, it's pretty stellar, thanks for asking.

BUY IT.

Also, just a thought, but if I said this "Darwyn Cooke is the world's best cover artist that just happened to work in comic books", would you get mad at me?

Guerillas Vol. 2--
If I didn't talk to you about the first volume of this book, I appoligize. For those who don't know what this is, Guerillas is a book about a platoon of AWOL chimps during the Vietnam War and the Nazi scientist who is tasked to catch them. It really is everything I want in a comic book and all wrapped in a wonderfully illustrated package. I really, truly hope that this book makes it to its conclusion, because it deserves it. Comic books about ape soldiers in Vietnam is the exact purpose comic books were created.

Sweet Tooth Vol. 1--
Sweet Tooth, in my mind, is one of the great sleeper books that Vertigo has put out in the past five years. It's a sweet book that manages to take place in an Apocalypse somewhere between The Stand and Huckleberry Finn. As rough as the art may be, the book has a lot of heart. As brutal as this world is and as frequent as the violence may be, it is a book that is generally sweet on the people in it. . .even if terrible things keep on happening to them. It's a less sadistic book than is The Walking Dead and it also has a much more arresting mythology.

So, with that I haven't re-read it, but the fifth volume is coming out soon, so believe me when I say that I've got some homework to do. . . And so do you for that matter.

Fatale Vol. 1--
I can't say that I get this book. It's the same team that made one of my favorite books, Criminal, and yet it doesn't have the same punch, which is odd. As high as the body counts may be and as gruesome as the takes might become it seems to have less impact that Criminal had during its best moments. As the scope widened, the impact lessened. I guess there's something to be learned in all of this.

There are a lot of flashbacks and parallels and unreliable narrators and so forth bouncing around between the covers and yet none of that seems to come to a head in the way that it should. I mean, if you're going to use a frame device-- a horror device going back to Frankenstein-- wouldn't you do something else with it besides use it because it's a horror device dating back to Frankenstein?

It's a better book than The Curse Bells because it didn't leave me quite as flat. I wish it was a much better book than it actually is. . . Oh well, at least the cover is awesome. Oh well. At least we still got Incognito. . . OH SHIT THERE'S A HARDCOVER COLLECTION!?

The Sixth Gun Vol. 2 and Vol. 3--
As we speak I am about to dig into the third volume of this lovely little book. . . Alright. I dug through it. This book is great. While it doesn't have the highs or the hard-end of the first arc, it still has the energy, the artistry, and the overall sense of adventure that it had. It also has manny more mummies and mudman action in the second and third arc than does the first one, so there is that to consider. Mudmen. Mummies. Ghost slaves. A Vincet Price look-alike. . So, yeah, Why aren't you buying this? It's great. The fact that it has lasted this long is nothing short of a miracle. I mean, it's a Western book in the paranormal stylings of a comic book you would use as rolling paper in 1977 and it's going to hit at least 30 issues. That is incredible.

(PS: BUY IT.)

King City-- 
King City is like the cousin of Dinopopolous that got it high after that one family reunion. It's a bit of a trouble-maker and a bit rough around the edges, but there is a clear and important genetic link. It is a madcap and energetic work that deals out sex and references to Sega in equal measure. It is the kind of comic that I am sure we're going to get a lot more of (Scott Pilgrim jumps to mind for many reasons). In terms of storytelling it isn't a perfect book, but I'd like to think that it is the perfect example of what an indie comic book should be.

It is an uncompromised piece of work that indulges itself and goes off in tangents in ways that a mainstream and "commercial" book will not or cannot go. It's a rough, book, too, but that is part of the charm. You can see the evolution in the art and you can see the problem of not having an editor hitting you with a measuring stick every three days reminding you of the fundamentals. King City is too much fun for any of those prickly problems to matter. Even though I realized that half of the crazy ideas in this book are puns what remains is an insane book that has to be read to be believed.

I mean, the book revolves around a twenty-something cat master (that is a man who has a specially trained cat that can become anything through special injections) fighting some kind of evil hell-master and his machinist friend and his ex-GF that is dating a drug addict veteran of the zombie war. THIS IS A BOOK THAT EXISTS AND IT IS MAGICAL.

Also: It was really good weed. King City is not going to push that stank schwag on you, my gentle homies.

Single issues that I have read (in brief)--

The Goon #40 and #41--
I love The Goon. Even with Watchmen and Preacher and League and Sandman, Eric Powell's junkyard magnum opus is what got me back into comics. It's a story with all of the heart and beauty of the soft-focused 1940's with all of the grim horror that you knew was going on just behind the scenes. The Goon is a comic book written by a Jimmy Stewart movie that after a showing went home and beat its wife. While The Goon hasn't quite been what it was (at least in my hazy memory), it is still a great looking book with a fine sense of humor and more than enough knives finding their way into people's ocular sockets to keep me satisfied for another forty-one issues.


The Massive #1--
As a rule Brian Wood's insistance on bringing his reactionary liberal politics into things irks me to no end, this book seems like the Brian Wood other people are always talking about (ie: The one that can write very good comic books).

Personally I thought DMZ was a fine premise and a fun book that devolved into a raving mess, Demo I found to be indie nonsense, and Northlanders was a pretty good, if spotty book*. That is not to say that his work didn't have something in them. I mean, he is clearly not an imbecile, it's just that I got the sense that he wanted to talk more about an issue than he wanted to tell a story. The Massive is interesting because the issue really is the plot. Maybe he's found a way of tricking the Republican part of my reptilian brain. Who knows? All I know is that The Massive is a good book from what I have read.

This is the Brian Wood that made me believe in DMZ and I'm sure it is the Brian Wood that many others see. It is only one issue and maybe it'll go tits up by issue 16 like DMZ, but maybe he can take his bleeding heart off of his sleeve for a moment and get down to making some more awesome comic books (that are also about things of a political nature).

Oh, no, wait, his Conan book is pretty fun so far.

Prophet #27 and #28-- 
I honestly have no idea what the hell this book is about any more and after reading King City I get the impression that this is at least partially the style of Mr. Graham. This sense of confusion and transitory curtain pulls is more Graham's style than it is a disfuction. That is encouraging, but I would really like more from this book. The first arc was great and so were the odd little epic side-stories that we have got since then. That doesn't mean that it couldn't use more of a story (which, to be fair, seems to be what this current arc is about). Even if it doesn't all coalesce, though, what you have in this book is one of the raddest pieces of science fiction I've ever seen in comic books. Good for everyone.

Graveyard of Empires #4--
I have no idea what went wrong with this book. For a zombie book I enjoyed it mightily because it had some well constructed characters, some amazing art and lay-outs, and a real attempt at warming over the zombie genre. This issue has none of that. It is clearly an issue put together over too long of a period of time and was constructed out of a need to finish

It is too cluttered, too unclear, and nonsensical to the point of it resembling a clip show of a graphic novel. I liked this book. I liked its covers and I liked its premise. It's a shame that it so badly undoes all of that with this (presumably) final installment.

Fuck this book makes me angry. It also makes me sad as all get out. This is why I am afraid to write or to draw. I'm sure it's the same for you people. If these people, who do not seem to be fools, can put all of this effort into a work and have it get mangled so poorly what can we do? Can you not see your own future being borne out so poorly? Christ. My comic is even about Afghanistan. Jesus. Is this the world it's going to live in?

Fucking shit.

Just go read Prophet instead, would you? It is apparently under threat of being cancelled. The first trade is out now and available for only ten bucks! What a steal!

SIDE NOTE: Since actually finishing this entry I've read a whole new heap of books. This is a rough game, this graphic novel business.

SIDE SIDE NOTE: I used a British English affectation in this article! Try to figure out which one it is! I'll be waiting anxiously!

*Oh, wait, shit. The Couriers was a vulgar dogshit sack, as well-- not the contents of the bag, I mean. I actually do mean the bag itself was vulgar for its purpose. The Couriers read like someone cast a magic spell on a high schoolers margin doodles during his Econ class. What is worse is that I was recommened that book by someone. . . I'm going to say Wizard. Fuck you, Wizard.