Yes, I’m back. Sorry about the skipped week, but that happens in a month with 5 Wednesdays, doesn’t it?
Things have been a bit crazier than usual, maybe a tad melodramatic, too. Sorry if that slopped over into your readings of the last couple of weeks. I’ll try to keep that sort of thing to a minimum.
So, let’s talk about a few things that have come through my pile of comics to read, shall we? Aw, c’mon. It’ll be fun.
I swore that I’d never read this. I’d been hearing about it since before I quit reading comics back in 1994. Literally years in the making, and I’d figured that I wasn’t going to be interested in it at all. Then I read the first issue. No, it’s not War and Peace, or even Swamp Thing for that matter, but it’s an unapologetic cosmic superhero saga (and a hell of a lot more fun than recent other outings in that vein, such as Marvel: The End.) Kurt Busiek’s dialogue is just as overblown as is it wants to be, and he throws in a few wry observations (even if the best of them gets repeated) and some great bits of characterization. Yeah, sure it’s a big goofy superhero book filled with nods to continuity and arcane geek lore. It’s also a hell of a lot of fun, even if you haven’t been reading heavily in either Marvel’s or DC’s superhero lines.
Steven Grant writes, Mike Zeck draws. It’s a big, ugly crime book. It’s relentless and unforgiving, about an ex-con who makes a promise to a friend and goes through Hell and back to keep it. Solid writing and pacing make this a great read, far better than a lot of the other crime books I see out there. The characters have enough meat on their bones to keep them standing, even as Mr. Grant and company run them through the wringer.
Hawaiian Dick: Byrd of Paradise
Another crime book, but again, standing out from the crowd, for a number of reasons. One, the setting. B. Clay Moore and Steven Griffin have gone all out to create an exotic, yet believable vision of Hawaii in the postwar years. The second is Mr. Griffin’s art. It is impeccable, even when it’s rough-hewn. He’s able to bring out a depth of characterization with just a few strokes of the brush. I could use more of this. The recent trade paperback collection brings with it a wealth of bonus material, which is the sort of thing that I like to see (it’s not like magicians often let us look behind the curtain).
Essential Tomb of Dracula
You may or may not remember that a few months ago, I wrote a column on Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan’s Night Force and how it paved the way for a lot of the things that we take for granted in mainstream comics today. Well, Mr. Wolfman and Mr. Colan had been doing that very same thing before they started on Night Force. While melodramatic at times, the characters are far from the squeaky-clean do-gooders that you got in a typical comic from 1975. Gene Colan’s art (particularly when paired with Tom Palmer’s inks) looks great, even in black and white. His version of Dracula always manages to menace. Sure, there were some crazy, nutty storylines (the brain-in-a-vat villainy of Dr. Sun comes to mind here) but there’s a lot to like about this collection. I hear that I can get the whole run of ‘em in Essentials form, if I can read German that is. Pity.
The Marquis: Danse Macabre
Guy Davis is great. He’s another of those artists who often gets short shrift in the mainstream readership, but I just treasure his work. Every scratch on the paper tells a bit more of the story. It’s not perfect draftsmanship, but it’s incredibly evocative artwork. His vision of a deranged Versailles haunted by devils and demons is chilling, and beautifully realized. The tragic, antiheroic Marquis is a compelling character, who is a thousand times more interesting than the stock demon-hunter. This volume from Oni Press is the first of a projected trilogy; I can’t wait for the next one.
The Blueberry Saga: Confederate Gold
Called by many readers “the best western comic ever,” and I can see why. Even reading this reduced-size, black and white reprint from Mojo Press, I was blown away by the story and artwork. Mike Blueberry is a man who doesn’t always go looking for trouble, but manages to find it. I found myself hanging on every turn of the story, and really that sort of thing doesn’t happen very often. This tale is literally an epic, taking the reader far further than they’d ever thought at the onset. Moebius’ vision of the American West is unique and compelling, more informed by Sergio Leone than John Ford. Sadly, this is the only volume reprinted by Mojo Press, leaving me no choice other than to hunt down some of the Epic reprints of the series (or the very expensive Graphitti Press editions. Sigh.)
Lots of good reading in the above. Do check one of ‘em out, even if you don’t think it’s your cup of hemlock.
Hmm. Brief entry this week. You’d think that I’ve got a million things to say after taking a week off, but that, sadly, isn’t the case. There’s not a lot in the comics world to comment on. Though I hear that Marvel is finally putting subscription cards for their comics into the X2 and Hulk DVDs. About time that happened, but I’m not sure how much return they’re going to see out of that particular investment. Sure, it’s not all that expensive, but I don’t see a lot of correlation between comics readership and movie viewership.
But hey, I’ve been wrong before. Maybe I’ll be wrong this time and Marvel will sweep thousands of new converts into the fold with this cost-effective and powerful marketing tool. And maybe you all subscribe to every magazine that you get direct reply subscription cards from.
So yeah, I don’t see it as a terribly effective move. But at least it’s a move, I suppose.
And yes, work on Strangeways: Murder Moon continues. To clarify, Strangeways is the name of the series, Murder Moon is the storyline (I know, you were breathless with anticipation). That’s about all the new information I can get to you. I suppose I should release the artist’s name sometime.
Yeah, I really should.
See you all in a week. Maybe two.