A little pressed for time this week… Or, no. Not time. Energy. A little pressed for energy. So… FUNNYBOOKS… IN REView… are… gooooo…
Renato Jones: The One % 1
by Kaare Andrews
Kaare Andrews’ first entry into the field of Comics That Belong To His Own Damn Self is pretty bold.
Bold in its cover design…
…bold in its Frank-Miller-Meets-Bill-Watterson graphics…
…and bold in its dramatics:
That’s two consecutive double-page spreads. Think about that. Four. Full. Pages. Devoted to one horrifyingly cinematic effect. Sure, he could have done that as the top and bottom halves of a single spread, or as a single page. Half a single page, even. But the size of it, and the shock of the page turn, truly magnifies its effectiveness (go on ahead and embiggen them sumbitches to see what I mean). I really admire the balls it took to make that storytelling decision. It is, again, bold.
Of course, the whole premise of this book is pretty bold: it’s about a guy who hunts the super-rich (as one of the series’ many tag lines has it, “The Super-Rich are Super-Fucked”). But he’s not some random maniac. No, he’s out to punish the crimes of people whose vast fortunes make them untouchable by normal authorities. In this first issue, for instance, he’s after a guy who hires pretty illegal immigrants in various service positions aboard his super-giant personal cruise liner (the biggest in the world!), where they disappear into his secret ship-board torture dungeon, never to be seen again.
Which is completely insane. Cartoonishly ghoulish. If you wanted to paint the worst possible picture of the proverbial One Percent… That would pretty much be it. It’s a screed. A polemic. A political cartoon as ridiculous as it is brutal. But it’s also funny. And satisfying. A great way to blow off some steam for those who see income inequality as one of our greatest social ills. Like Frank Miller’s Holy Terror, but for the Occupy set.
It’s not perfect. It works best as farce, and I’m not sure Andrews is always playing it that way. There’s an earnestness to the proceedings that makes me think he’s not 100% joking. That has a punk rock charm all its own, though, and lord knows I love me some punk rock attitude. So while I can’t give it a perfect grade… I did get a real kick out of it.
Cinema Purgatorio 1
by Alan Moore, Kevin O’Neill, Garth Ennis, Max Brooks, Kieron Gillen, Christos Gage, and Others
Next up is another fun book that’s maybe not perfect, but that I really enjoyed in the reading. This one’s an anthology series spearheaded/inspired/curated by Alan Moore. Moore and Kevin O’Neill (perhaps by now Moore’s longest-standing collaborator) start things off with an introduction to the Cinema Purgatorio itself, a run-down old movie house showing films of dubious pedigree. Films that seem familiar, but that somehow go off the rails.
Their example this issue is “Fatal Officers,” a comedic silent movie short subject, seemingly in the style of the Keystone Cops:
But as events escalate, the expected incompetent police mayhem has resulted in multiple careless deaths and, by the end, cold-blooded murder. The conceit is that the rest of the book represents the evening’s feature presentations, implying that it will all be recognizable genre fare that deviates from expectations. And that’s kind of true. More or less. If you squint. And maybe cock your head to one side at just the right angle…
The anthology’s central conceit is loosely adhered to at best, is what I’m saying. But that doesn’t necessarily detract from my enjoyment of it, because the rest of the strips are dandy little first chapters in what I presume will be long-running serials. Kieron Gillen and Ignacio Calero’s Modded probably sticks to the Cinema Purgatorio premise best. It’s essentially Pokemon, except set in what appears to be some kind of post-apocalyptic landscape. And instead of cute cartoon critters, the Pokemon are actually weird and terrifying demons. Fun!
Max Brooks and Michael Dipascale’s A More Perfect Union also kind of sticks to the conceit. It’s an alternate history Civil War tale, except that the actual Civil War never happens because we’re too busy fighting off an alien invasion to fight each other. I can’t say I liked this one all that much, which is to be expected: you’re never going to like everything in an anthology. It’s written well enough, mind you, and it’s evidently quite well-researched. But the art is… Less than great. Not quite awful, exactly, but… It looks like everybody’s wearing a fake beard. And in a story in which just just about every single character has some kind of outrageous period-authentic facial hair…
…that’s not good.
The opposite is true of Christos Gage and Gabriel Andrade’s The Vast, which, though I dig its premise of “fighter pilots vs giant monsters,” honestly kind of bored me. But it’s got a monster drawing in it that’s so awesome I don’t want to spoil it by sharing it here. It’s the best thing in the story, by far. So it’s a hard call to say whether this or A More Perfect Union is the weak link of this first issue.
The stand-out strip is an easier pick: Garth Ennis and Raulo Caceres’ Code Pru. It’s about a paramedic who gets called out on emergency cases involving monsters. This first chapter is quite well-done, introducing the series’ conceit in an interesting, funny, and altogether human way. It’s nice to be reminded every so often that Ennis has this sort of thing in him. He’s often so busy being outrageous that it’s easy to forget why I like his best work as much as I do.
So that’s Cinema Purgatorio. A mixed bag, but fun overall. The heights are pretty high, and the lows (except for the beards) aren’t all that low. Which is a pretty good track record for an anthology. Future issues, I think, will live or die by how good the Moore, Ennis, and Gillen strips become as they develop. For now, though, I’m happy with the six bucks I spent on this thing. For 40 or 50 square-bound pages, that’s a bargain in the current funnybook market, and I feel like I should support it.
The Wicked + The Divine 19
by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
My recently-renewed enthusiasm for this series continues this issue, as the Gillen & McKelvie team deliver more super hero style action…
…and thicken the plot a bit, too:
That’s Ananke, the apparently evil bitch behind all the gods’ woes, talking to… we don’t know who… through a contraption built for her by Woden… who doesn’t know what it’s for. Considering that Ananke was called “Necessitas” by the Romans, I found that passage pretty damned interesting.
Of course, it’s possible that she’s only talking to Minerva’s owl, who’s recording the whole thing. And considering that she then sends that owl out to lead her loyal gods to the hiding place of the rebel gods… And considering that the owl winds up in her enemy’s possession… It’s possible that whole speech is just a trap, designed to pull the rebels out where she can get to them more easily. But we don’t know. And that… is pretty great.