Giannis Milonogiannis is rapidly becoming one of my favorite artists. There’s something about the specificity of his lines mixed with the fact that it has the raw energy of a sketch. It’s an exciting book to look at and even in its most referential (the book basically wouldn’t exist without the Ghost in the Shell comics), it still stands out as a wonderful book to look at.
The fact that he's younger than I am is as amazing as it is depressing-- on the definite plus side, at least I have a greater chance of getting him to draw something for me. . . in time.
His line work reminds me of the work of Yoji Shinkawa (another of my favorite artists and apparently one of Milonogiannis’ if his blog is to be believed) mixed in with a dash of Paul Pope (there are way too many excited brush strokes to ignore).
Old City Blues is a skeleton of a story that exists to basically show off Giannis’mad megalopolis and his wonderful bits of technology yet to be. In a way that is enough. Almost. What little plot there is exists only as a sort of boiler plate cyberpunk story (if there is such a thing), which, in many ways is fine. It leads to future cars running through well composed future landscapes, as well as a robot fight or two and this world’s equivalent of mechs, “Mobile Guns.” Again: standard cyberpunk shit.
Well-- Very standard with streaks of underlying brilliance. It's all there, it just can't get through. Not yet, anyways. . .
The outstanding difference being it takes place in a sort of recovering post-apocalyptic Athens, which unfortunately could just as easily be Neo Tokyo or Neo New York or some other fake disaster ridden future city (in Milonogiannis’ defense, though, he seems to be aware of this and his “New Athens” is as much of a tribute to those fake fictional cities as it is living in their shadows). The place doesn't feel like a place, it feels like a generic world in which there are robots. That's awesome-- and really, no joke, it is awesome-- it's just that awesome isn't the sort of thing that makes a book last. Or worth lasting.
Taking all of its flaws and piling them up really makes me think that there is a much bigger and more intensive story than Old City Blues’ meager 120 pages. And if it is going to be a book that lasts it will be because Milonogiannis eventually came through on the promises of this book.
In its defense (not that it needs it), it does seem to have the kind of prescient hallmarks of a great artist that can only be found in their first major work. Old City Blues is not perfect, nor is it revolutionary, like the first works of other respected artists like Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson. Bottle Rockets and Reservoir Dogs aren’t perfect movies (especially when compared to some of their later works*), though, as fans and as an audience we can still see the little inklings of genius in between the scene that go nowhere and the ones that go on just a little too long. That’s this book in a nutshell. His work on Prophet only seems to confirm my belief that he’s going to get a whole hell of a lot better.
Despite its shortcomings Old City Blues is one of the coolest books you could hope to pick up—and I do mean that literally—the actual packaging of the book is really cool. It’s a wonderfully put together hardback and at 15 bucks—even with all of its flaws—it’s a steal. If you love Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, or even Johnny Mnemonic, then this comic is for you. It’s a wonderful mash-up of the best things you remember from the video games you played and the anime you watched as a kid in an actual piece of art. I’m glad Milonogiannis is getting work with Prophet and I am glad that I discovered this book (thanks, Warren Ellis!).
SIDE NOTE: Do you think that the Fallout: New Vegas DLC "Old World Blues" ripped-off this comic or do you think that they both ripped off the same source? Or maybe it was just some weird coincidence? (I'll start taking bets here.)
SIDE SIDE NOTE: iFanboy is always a good opinion to lean on despite their unfortunately aged name.
*Namely Pulp Fiction, Rushmore, Jackie Brown, and The Royal Tenebaums-- Those are all perfect films.The Darjeeling Limited and the Kill Bills. . . perhaps less so.