Posted tagged ‘Vertigo’

Review: Scalped: the Gnawing

June 3, 2010

I’ve raved about Scalped a few times here and now I’m starting to run out of new ways to praise it.  It’s the best crime comic written today, and quite possibly the best ever.

The Gnawing is the latest tale, in which undercover agent Dash Bad Horse is tasked by Chief Red Crow to find the rat in his organization.  And if that isn’t bad enough Dash also has to attempt to keep a witness to a murder perpetrated by Red Crow alive long enough to testify.  And Red Crow has his own problems after inciting a war with his casino’s financiers.

The ensuing conflict is one of the most brutal stories I’ve ever read.  This is an epic tragedy, with no happy endings.  In fact, the saddest part of the book is the news that a character is pregnant and that the pain and suffering endured by everyone in the story is about to be extended into another generation.  It’s heartbreaking and ingenious writing that somehow made a great book get even better.

Review: The Bronx Kill

May 13, 2010

The Bronx Kill is Peter Milligan’s best comic in years, as well as being one of his most atypical.  He’s done some truly phenomenal books in the past (The Extremist, X-Statix, Shade the Changing Man) and has been writing a pretty good Hellblazer run for the past year, but generally he’s fallen flat every time he’s attempted a slightly more mainstream story (such as his runs on X-Men and Elektra).

So now we have a fairly low key missing wife story this is absolutely brilliant.  Martin Keane is an author whose sophomore novel was just released to scathing reviews.  But he has a new one in the works that has absolutely nothing to do with the family of policemen he comes from, or his grandmother that walked out on the family, or his great-grandfather who was murdered in the Bronx Kill for that matter.  He has spent his whole life trying to distance himself from his family’s legacy, and now he finds that its become his main source of inspiration despite his attempts to combat it.  Then when Martin’s wife vanishes one night he gets pulled into his family history even further, especially once he becomes the chief suspect.

Milligan here has created the first book that really justifies Vertigo’s new line of crime comics.  It’s also one of the best pieces of modern noir I’ve encountered.

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).

Review: Scalped: High Lonesome

October 30, 2009

Well the cover blub on the latest volume of Scalped (from the Philadelphia Daily News) states that this is “one of the best comics ever created”.  I’m not sure if that’s totally true, but it’s certainly in contention, and actually might be the best crime comic to date.

Jason Aaron is just an incredibly brave writer, crafting a painfully bleak work that lacks even a single sympathetic character.  In High Lonesome he tells a series of 5 interconnected stories revealing both the motivations behind the main cast and the answers to most of the major mysteries that have driven the plot up until now.  

It’s a ballsy movie by Aaron to unmask everything all at once, but it works incredibly well, and it really feels like the right approach for him to have taken.  And even with all that out there, there still seems to be plenty of story to come.  No padding, just plenty more misery to heap upon the residents of the Prarie Rose Reservation.  I can’t wait.

Review: DMZ: War Powers

September 16, 2009

The latest collection of Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli’s DMZ introduces a key element to the series that has been a bit absent up until now, a plot.  Now I don’t mean this to be harsh criticism, DMZ has been a story about its location, and has up until now been a series of vignettes about that place.  Those stories have been incredible, and the fourth volume earned a 5 star review from me over on LibraryThing.

But those bits and pieces haven’t always connected up into a larger story.  Now that’s changed as Wood touches on quite a few of those prior tales as part of the rise to power of the DMZ’s new governor.  The book also brings the series into some darker territory than its been in before by pretty much eliminating the last hope of their being a happily ever after moment for any of the characters, and yes that includes Manhattan.

Review: Dark Entries

September 3, 2009

It’s been said elsewhere but it bares repeating, Dark Entries marks the low point in publisher marketing this year.  A little history is needed for this.  A few years back when Denise Mina was writing Hellblazer she managed to connect Vertigo with her friend, bestselling writer Ian Rankin.  Before too long word started to leak out of Rankin writing the book.  Then Vertigo started thinking of launching a line of crime books, and with Rankin already commissioned to write for them it made sense to launch the line on his name (which appears in a font roughly 5 times the size of the title).

The only problem, THIS ISN”T A CRIME COMIC!!!!!  It’s not even much of a mystery, despite the god awful “graphic mystery” logo on the cover.  Also worth noting, the title of this book comes from the name of a reality show that is central to the plot, however the plot description calls that same show “Haunted Mansion”.  Nice to see that people are paying attention.

OK, enough with the rant, what about the book itself.  It’s a pretty routine Constantine story.  There’s a haunted house, a damsel or two he fails to save, a few demons, and a lot of British snark.  Rankin also performs admirably for a first time comics writer.

The art from Werther Dell’edera suits the material well, but suffers at the begining because I’m guessing the first 40 pages or so were originally intended for the ongoing series.  There are pretty clear chapter breaks, and the art feels like it was inteded to be colored (later in the book the pages gain a lot more detail).

So, this is a pretty good Hellblazer comic and it seems better suited to a graphic novel format than it did a serial.  However, if you buy this expecting an Ian Rankin mystery you’re going to be very disappointed.

Review: Scalped Vol.4: The Gravel In Your Guts

May 2, 2009

The last time I reviewed a collection of Scalped I said it was on the way to becoming Vertigo’s best book.  The release of vol. 4 clinches that.  Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera are creating the single bleakest piece of noir literature I have ever encountered, and man is it brilliant.

This volume contains two stories.  First up is the two-part Boudoir Stomp, featuring some great guest art from Davide Furno.  This tale explores the downwards spiral of a  relationship between protagonist Dash Bad Horse and his junkie lover Carol.  This is followed up by the title story in which Chief Red Crow declares war on his financial backers while strugling to live a slightly more righteous existence in order to honor the memory of the slain Gina Bad Horse.

Anyone who need proof of just how powerful a medium comics can be need look no further.