Alright. Last week’s bad-mood diatribe has left us with two weeks’ worth of funnybooks to discuss. There’s no way I’ll get to them all, but let’s try and plow through the highlights…
Darth Vader 2, by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca
May I just say again… Sassiest. Vader. Ever.
The comic’s pretty good, too. This second issue is a fun, tight villain comic, featuring Darth Vader dealing with an unwanted lieutenant, assigned to spy on him by his new boss, General Tagge. The interactions between Vader and Tagge are particularly great, Tagge coming off as a magnanimous bastard, a cheerful true believer in the power of fascism, and Vader responding with a sort of cold arrogance that fits the character well. I could hear James Earl Jones in a lot of his dialogue here, and that’s a good thing.
Also good is the way we see Vader plotting the removal of his new aide. Without getting into spoilers, he leads an assault on some space pirates (because, yes: SPACE PIRATES!!), stalling for time while we see his real plan unfolding elsewhere. It’s a fun ruse, but also one of the more casually callous displays of villainy I’ve seen recently. A bunch of Stormtroopers get killed in the assault, and there’s no doubt in my mind that Vader could have prevented at least some of those deaths by acting faster. But that’s not his game. He needs to delay, and so he does. No matter how many of his men die while he’s doing it.
That’s a nice touch, and something I didn’t even consider on my first read. But that’s why I write these reviews sometimes: they make me go back and see things I might have missed.
So two issues in, and I’m still finding Darth Vader a fun read. Still don’t know if it’s four dollars worth of fun. But we’ll see. We’ll see…
Ody-C 3, by Matt Fraction and Christian Ward
I just got around to reading this book last night, even though it came out two or maybe even three weeks ago now. That’s not because I didn’t want to read it. It’s just that I wanted to wait to read it until I had presence of mind enough to enjoy it. It’s been a demanding time at the day job recently, you see, and I’ve been sick on top of that. Often, I’ve been coming home and going straight into a Nyquil coma. And even when I didn’t, I really didn’t have enough brain power to enjoy anything much more demanding than social media and a Mystery Science Theater rerun. And this comic asks a little bit more of its readers than that.
I mean, it’s not Ulysses or anything.
Oh, wait. Actually, it is. But it’s not James Joyce, that’s my point. Fraction and Ward’s retelling of the Odyssey is a bit more straightforward. But it’s still not an easy read. Fraction’s not writing this thing in any sort of glib modern speech, nor is he using the heightened (but still recognizable) English of the old sword-and-sandal epics. No, he’s telling the story in an English approximation of Homer’s dactylic hexameter. Which is a weird meter for English. It’s taken me three issues to fall into the rhythm of it, and I’m still not sure I’ve really got it. But it’s beautiful when it clicks. Also, he’s making changes to the story (like, making everyone a woman), and logical leaps behind and around it, to the point that someone like me, who knows the story, but not intimately, is kept constantly off-balance by it. Couple that with Christian Ward’s incredible acid-trip artwork…
(click to embiggen)
…and you’ve got a comic that keeps me on my toes. This is not a bad thing, understand. Far from it. But reading this thing when I’m not on my A Game… is not a good idea. It’s great stuff when I work through it, though. Not touching or affecting on a personal level, but inspirational for the work that went into crafting it, and the passion behind it. It always leaves me feeling energized, and wanting to write. And that’s not something I take lightly.
Savage Sword of Criminal, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
A special issue celebrating the sword and sorcery magazine comics of the 1970s with a sharp send-up of them, interspersed with the sort of pulpy crime story we’ve come to expect from Brubaker & Phillips. I won’t go into too much detail on how all this works; that’s part of the fun of reading the thing. But it’s fun stuff, and well-worth picking up in the magazine-sized special edition (seen above). It costs a dollar more, but that gets you something closer to that Savage Sword of Conan feel they’re shooting for. Plus, you get this back cover ad that might be worth a dollar all by itself:
(click to embiggen the deadliness!)
Nameless 2, by Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham
I love the weird genre mix of this book. On the one hand it’s Lovecraftian horror, all South American mythology and medieval demon magic. On the other, it’s about a team of experts rocketing out from a moon base to stop a giant asteroid from hitting the Earth and ending life as we know it. That mix of the supernatural and the science-fictional is a bit unusual, to be sure, but it’s very much true to Lovecraft’s spirit. Albeit as filtered through a modern sci-fi blockbuster lens.
It’s got a more pop-fiction sort of aesthetic than Lovecraft all the way around, I suppose. Because this isn’t one of Grant Morrison’s more difficult works thus far. I mean, it’s got all the super-compact dialogue and pay-attention-damn-you plotting I’ve come to expect from him in the current decade. But you could also do a pretty satisfying surface reading of it, I think, one that treats all the weirdness as window dressing for a pretty straightforward horror-adventure story.
I mean, it’s still plenty weird. You still have to deal with the idea of people being driven mad by messages from beyond human understanding. And tools brought forth out of dreams for use in the real world. But I think you can appreciate that without being so into the mythology of the comic that you understand how cool it is that the message from space is written in a language made up by John Dee.
Still. Great comic. Lots of high weirdness, lots of horrible ugly things. I dig it.
Supreme: Blue Rose 7, by Warren Ellis and Tula Lotay
And so my pick for “Best On-Going Series of 2014″ comes to its planned conclusion seven issues in. Duhr. Should have known better than to think this was anything but a mini. It just seemed so expansive, though! So full of potential and unexplored ideas! How could it possibly last less than 12 issues?!
Rather easily, as it turns out. Ellis and Lotay bring things to a satisfying ending, all things considered. The broken reality is resolved in the manner it always had to be, with an unlikely hero saving the day, and all those tantalizing possibilities left just out of reach. Which is maybe for the best. Sometimes, exploring cool ideas winds up rendering them mundane. And really, there’s no worse fate for super hero concepts.
Still, though… I could have read this book forever, and I’m sad that it’s done.
Crossed +100 3, by Alan Moore and Gabriel Andrade
Alan Moore’s exploration of what happens after the zombie apocalypse rolls on with a look at what a human city looks like, 100 years on. It’s a strangely… hopeful vision, especially for a series as grim as Crossed. I mean, just look at that cover up there! It’s positively… heartwarming! Sure, life is hard. Food is scarce, electricity unreliable. But with so few normal people left, America has become a true melting pot, with divisions based on race, sex, or sexual orientation falling away in the name of survival. It’s like some kind of post-apocalyptic anarcho-hippy paradise.
Well, except for having to live in a walled township for protection against the infected. That bites pretty hard.
But speaking of the Crossed… There’s something going on with them, too. Their extreme recklessness has thinned their number significantly at this point, so yay. But now it’s starting to look almost like someone’s attempting some kind of forced evolution on them, selecting out for individuals with a little more control over themselves. That makes them far more dangerous in the long term. So maybe this thing’s not going to end well for humanity, after all.
All that said, though, this series has not been Alan Moore’s best work. It’s still better than 95% of everything else out there, mind you. Still well-worth reading. But there’s just a little something lacking, some essential element of style or depth that I’ve come to expect from Moore. It’s almost too simple, I guess, and the artwork, while technically very nice, lacks flair. I dunno. It’s good. Just not as good as I’d like it to be. Maybe my expectations are too high. Still, I can’t quite bring myself to give this one a top grade…
Okay. I think that’s all I’ve got time for right now. Hope you enjoyed it. Next week, we’ll have… something. Only time will tell what.