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.

Review: 100 Bullets

April 18, 2009

The best ongoing series in comics came to its conclusion this week with the 100th issue of 100 Bullets.  In honor of this momentous occasion I’ve been rereading the entire series, which was actually necessary throughout the run to keep track of the plot.

Brian Azzarello’s story begins a a series of morality tales in which a stranger is presented with the means of getting away with murder (the title’s 100 untraceable bullets) and a motive for wanting to do so.  These were fascinating and well told stories, but they seemed like parts of an anthology and not an overall narative.

However, if you keep with the book you soon discover that all these tales (with the exception of 3 issues) are intricately linked.  There are reasons for the selection of the recipients of the magic guns and their targets, and it all ties into a conspiracy involving the most powerful people in America, the Trust, and their enforecers, the Minutemen.

The series, especially thanks to the contribution of its artist Eduardo Risso, is stylish, often brilliant, and never predicatable.  Over the last nine and a half years each issue to come out has been at the very top of my reading stack.  Its (slightly rushed) conclusion is going to leave behind it a  major void.  100 Bullets has been the greatest crime comic ever produced.  ‘Nuff said.

Review: Seaguy

April 2, 2009

My most anticipated comic for the year came out yesterday, I am of course speaking of Seaguy: the Slaves of Mickey Eye.  This is the second part of a planned trilogy, that began 5 years ago and has been in limbo while writer Grant Morrison worked on some more mainstream projects and spent time coercing DC into publishing the sequel.

Their caution is understandable, Seaguy was an incredibly bizarre comic, even by Morrison’s standards (a man famous for desiring a self aware DC comics universe), but it’s also perhaps the single best summation of his career to date.  All of his themes are here, all of his brilliance, and some of the best examples of his run away imagination (I particularly like the image of the moon crying for help, shedding heiroglyph encrusted bricks down on the happiest place on Earth).  Morrison is compleately unrestrained in this book, it seems like every stray thought he had during the writing process has found a way into the story, and that largely works, and even when it doesn’t it’s hard to resist the sheer joy that seems to be present on each page (despite the fact that the story is pretty much a dystopian tragedy).

A large part of that joyous impression is due to artist Cameron Stewart, one of the most versatile and underutilized people in the industry.  He gained a decent amount of attention two years back with the Other Side, Jason Aaron’s career-launching Vietnam tale, for which he traveled to the country to get the landscape right, so clearly he can handle realism.  But here he has to draw flying fish-like creatures, hordes of clockwork, Atlantian moths, and of course the unfinished portion of the Moon (and the Mummy who lives there), all so that they fit into a cohesive world.  The result is one of the most eye pleasing books Vertigo has ever produced.

So thank you DC for finally letting the story continue.

Review: DMZ: Blood In the Game

March 8, 2009

It was inevitable that Brian Wood would turn his sociological masterpiece of a comic, DMZ, towards politics.  In this volume, elections come to what’s left of Manhattan and a local spoiler rises to power to oppose an otherwise rigged election, leaving Matty and his journalistic impartiality stuck in the middle.

This isn’t one of the stronger story arcs in the series, mostly because it feels like a middle chapter.  Despite being a full story arc nothing is really resolved here, but it does make me eager for the next collection.