Posted tagged ‘Alan Moore’

Review: Hellblazer: Pandemonium

March 2, 2010

It’s the 25th anniversary of my favorite character in comics, John Constantine.  In honor of this accomplishment Vertigo has released Pandemonium, and original graphic novel reunited the character with the first writer of his title, Jamie Delano (yes he’s an Alan Moore character, but Moore never wrote him outside of Swamp Thing).

Now Delano was pretty much responsible for making the character the basterd we all know and love today.  Moore’s Constantine was pretty much just a cryptic guy with an unfortunate  habit of getting his friends killed.  Delano gave him the his origins and made him political.  Course he also hasn’t written the character since he was raging against Margaret Thatcher.

Fortunately he’s able to write this as if he never left.  The story, pretty much Constantine goes to Iraq, gives him plenty to work with.  Delano covers the treatment of prisoners, British involvement in the war, the heightened security culture, and life in post invasion Iraq.  He also uses the setting as a means to bring back the demon Nergal, the primary villain of his run on Hellblazer.

Sadly the story stumbles a bit towards the end.  Delano pretty much throws out all of his criticisms of the war, and then when he’s done quickly wraps it up with a cliche gambling with the devil bit.  But then again, this is partly supposed to be an anniversary tale, and that does make a pretty good summation of the character.

Combine all that with career best art from Jock and you’ve got a fantastic work, showing just why this character has lasted so long (not to mention being the only original Vertigo book to last).

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Review: Frankenstein’s Womb

August 22, 2009

Frankenstein’s Womb is the latest in Warren Ellis’ occasional line of Apparat comics from Avatar.  The central premise behind these books is what would comics have been like had pulp traditions besides masked vigilantes become the dominant genre in the form?  They’ve also consistantly been his best work over the last few years (Crecy may actually be his greatest work ever).

So, now he’s essentially written an Alan Moore comic (think From Hell but focusing on Frankenstein instead of Jack the Ripper).  Within the fairly short tale Ellis manages to explore the origins of the Frankenstein story, the history of both Mary Shelley and her closest relations, and how all of these things tie together to lay the groundwork for the modern world.  

It’s a fascinating read, on a number of levels.  It doesn’t quite read like an Ellis book, or something published by Avatar for that matter.  It’s also far more readable than any of its peers (which may only include From Hell and Alice In Sunderland, not to sleight the achievements of either of those works).  Definitely recommended.

Retro Review: Watchmen

March 6, 2009

With the movie coming out today, I though I was due to reread Watchmen, a book I used to read once a year, but have since lapsed on.  It remains one of the best comics ever written, although not the best, or even the best by Alan Moore (have to give that to V for Vendetta).  I’d also argue that it’s not even Moore most influential work (The Anatomy Lesson launched what became Vertigo and the modern wave of mature comics).

But Watchmen is still an amazing comic, probably the most nuanced take on the superhero genre to ever see print.  I’ve read the book at least a dozen times, and I’ve taken more out of it with each reading.  This time I paid particular attention to the use of reflections throughout the book.  Clearly they form an integral symbol throughout the book, after all their’s a symmetrical issue, not to mention Rorschach’s shifting mask.  But this time through I noticed just how often characters are shown in reflections and even if you push the metaphor a little, how often the reader views them through someone else’s eyes.  When you keep in mind the deconstructionist approach Moore takes to the story this sort of structure just makes the book that much more brilliant.

20 years later, Watchmen remains one of the few truly essential pieces of any comic collection.

RA: Politics for Geeks

September 13, 2008

I’ve been aching to put together some recomendation lists for awhile now, and as it’s an election year I figured this would be a good one to start of with.  So my top 10 political stories for geeks:

10) Iron Council, the most political novel from New Weird proponent and former Socialist party candidate China Mieville.

9) Sam & Max: Abe Lincoln Must Die, Telltale games has done an amazing job by bring back Sam & Max to adventure games.  This episode is the highlight of it to date, thanks in large part to seeing the homicidal rabbit-like Max debate the Lincoln Memorial.  Right now it’s also available as a free trial to advertise the other 9 episodes.

8 ) Howard the Duck, the best satire of life in the 70’s comics ever produced.  Of particular note here are issues 7-9 in which Howard is nominated as the Presidential candidate for the All Night Party, only to lose when some lurid photographs of him get released.

7) V for Vendetta, forget Watchmen, V is Alan Moore’s masterpiece.  A searing blast of anarchy aimed squarely at Margaret Thatcher that didn’t lose any of it’s power when translated into a movie focused on Bush’s America instead.  Both the movie and the original are well worth checking out.

6) DMZ, Brian Wood’s chronicle of the second U.S. civil war (centered in New York City) is Vertigo’s best book (once 100 Bullets ends in a few months) and is by far the most relevant comic currently on the stands.

5) Futurama: A Head In the Polls, always a show with a slight politicla bent to it (Al Gore’s daughter was one of the writers after all), Futurama went all it for this episode in which the Planet Express team explore a political convention, watch the debates between Jack Johnson and John Jackson, and ultimately allow for the second coming of Richard Nixon.  One of my favorite episodes if only for the Hypnotoad.

4) Wag the Dog, Barry Levinson and David Mamet’s brilliant tale of a staged war used to distract the public from a scandal involving the incumbant President.  Some great performances from Dustin Hoffman, Robert DeNiro and William H. Macy help to sell my favorite political film.

3) The Onion, still the best source for print satire of current events.

2) Battlestar Galactica, a continually surprising, Peabody Award winning space opera, that has proven to be the most relevant show on tv.  The writers excel at playing devil’s advicates.  Positing a world in which the heroes have no choice but to rig elections, commit terrorist bombings, hold secret military tribunals and criminalize abortions (they have gone on the record as actually being fairly liberal).  Now if it’ll just come back to wrap up the final season.

1) Transmetropolitan, the book that first put Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson on the map.  An epic chronicling how the press brings about the rise and fall of a President.  Besides the politics it is also one of the great works of futurism and a scathing attack on the failures of the press.  I’ve reread the entire thing at least half a dozen times now and I fully plan on doing so again in the near future.

Review: Showcase Presents Booster Gold

August 23, 2008

1986 was the year that everything changed in comics, being the year that the superheroes grew up.  The year brought Alan Moore’s Watchmen, Swamp Thing, Miracleman and Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow.  Frank Miller released his triumvirate of the Dark Knight Returns, Born Again and Elektra Assassin.  It also gave us Crisis on Infinite Earths, Squadron Supreme, John Byrne’s Fantastic Four, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and Dark Horse.  In the midst of all this DC launched Booster Gold, a superhero book that was every bit as radical as the rest of the list (not to mention a lot more fun), but which I think was passed over given all the competition that year.

Booster Gold as envisioned by Dan Jurgens is the hero despised by all the other heroes.  He’s a disgraced athlete from the future who comes back in time, armed with a stolen super suit and a cynical robotic sidekick, to be a hero and make a bit of money on the side.  He rapidly becomes a millionaire thanks to his future knowledge of the stock market and his willingness to accept nearly any endorsement deal.  The book falls apart a bit towards the end when the book gets caught up in the awful Millenium Crossover and half the supporting cast vanishes, but until then it’s a brilliant take on superheroics unlike anything previous to it (sadly not the case anymore).

But while the comic ended the character survived thanks to a stint in the Justice League and a great revival in which Booster finally grows up but has to keep pretending to be a jerk anyway.  I recommend that book highly as well.