This week's post is probably not going to be describable as "the soul of wit," but I do intend for it to be brief. I will almost certainly break that vow when we get to the Alan Moore section at the end, but we'll play it by ear and see how it goes.
Let's begin with a bit of news:
Marvel has decided to get back into the Dark Tower business, and their adaptation of The Drawing of the Three begins with the first arc, "The Prisoner." Both Robin Furth and Peter David will be returning as plotter and scripter, respectively, which, given how The Gunslinger turned out under their shepherding, is perhaps not a great thing. We'll see. I'm skeptical, but will I be subscribing via my local comics retailer? M-O-O-N, that spells "fucking of course I will."
I'm not at all familiar with artist Piotr Kowalski, but Entertainment Weekly posted several pages if pencils from the first issue, and I like what I see. He's got my interest, and I have to admit that the final page of the EW gallery also makes me think Furth and David might have stepped their game(s) up a notch.
So, skeptical, yes; but also cautiously excited. I'd love for Marvel to eventually adapt the entire series, provided they can do it well.
And now, let's move on to this
week's month's comics, starting with:
Wraith #6 is the penultimate issue in the series, so it is difficult for me to be specific about what things I liked in this issue, and which things I loved in this issue; at least, if I want to avoid giving away plot details. I am arguably being too sensitive about that. But the fact is that I just don't want to delve into the intricacies of the plot. Someday, sure. We'll cover the whole series and dissect it like it's a frog.
Today, I'm going to restrict myself to saying two things:
- There is a two-page splash that would probably rank up there with my all-time favorite double-splashes. It involves several characters running through a maze in Christmasland, and that's all I will say about that.
- There is also a petting zoo. A Christmasland petting zoo. If you are expecting bunnies and kid goats and ponies, you are on the wrong track.
It is a terrific issue, and both Hill and Wilson are in peak form.
The next item on our list is not a comic book, per se, but it is certainly comic-book-related:
I didn't know this sucker even existed, but the day it came out, I got a Facebook message from my comics shop asking me if I wanted they should put aside a copy of the Locke & Key Artist's Edition Portfolio for me. "The what now...?" I asked, but I think we all knew the answer to their question was a "yes."
Luckily, it turned out to be more or less within my price range ($44.99), so once I saw that it consisted of twelve frameable pieces of Gabriel Rodriguez pencil art -- (might be ink art, I'm not really sure) -- from the series, oversized and housed inside a custom slipcase dealie, I said, oh yeah, sign my ass up, here's my money, good day to you, sir. (I also got them to order for me a copy of a similar portfolio that is coming out this summer commemorating Walt Simonson's art for the Bizarre Adventures comic-book adaptation of "The Lawnmower Man" from the early eighties.)
There are some great pieces in the collection, including one of my favorite double-splashes. Here's what a few of them look like:
|All of those images borrowed from IDW's Tumblr (http://tumblr.idwpublishing.com/post/84434455000/pages-from-the-locke-key-artists-edition).|
The pieces are each roughly the same dimensions as a treasury-size comic page, which means they are pretty big. I don't have any immediate plans to actually frame any of them; I don't have a line in my budget for framing art, sadly. But I will likely do something with them one of these days, and until then, it'll be nice to know they are on my shelf. When and if Locke & Key fans come over to my pad, I'll whip it down off that shelf and lord it over them. That'll be fun. They won't resent me at all, probably.
In this issue of America Vampire: Second Cycle, Pearl meets up with Clay for aid, and we find out a bit more -- quite a bit more, actually -- about who or what the Gray Trader is.
I'll give you a hint: it sounds like it is going to be very, very bad news.
Another strong issue from Snyder and Albuquerque.
In this issue: a man named Mary; somebody issues the command, "RELEASE THE UGLY!"; the future has a flying car; ice sculptures; somebody gets nekkid, and the somebody seeing her is presumably better off seeing this while under the influence of a hallucinogen than he might otherwise have been; and, of course, giant squid.
Good stuff. Not entirely like any previous issue of the series, and that's a good thing.
My only concern is that I simply don't see how the series can come to a fitting close with only two issues remaining. At this point, I am going to have to begin hoping that this will be merely the first volume of several in a larger story.
Either that, or that Snyder and Murphy have some tricks up their sleeves.
Did you ever have a desire to read a story set in a dystopic city ruled by The Riddler?
If not, this issue is decidedly not for you.
There is some good stuff in it, including the customarily fine Greg Capullo art, but it didn't have much of an impact on me overall.
Here's the 2014 X-Files annual from IDW. It includes two stories, one of which was written by Frank Spotnitz, who, for those of you who know nothing about The X-Files, was one of THE most important writers for the series. So you'd think this would be pretty good, right?
Well, it might be, but I don't actually know, because I got a few pages into it and gave up. Not because the story was uninteresting, but because the art by Stuart Sayger is simply awful. Let's have a look at the three pages that caused me to give up on this story:
That shit speaks for itself, so I'm not even going to bother complaining further. All I'll say is that I got to this part, said (aloud) "nope," and proceeded to the next comic in my stack. Which was:
I was tempted to forgo it, too, but I didn't. I went ahead and read it. It had something to do with Mulder and Scully getting (implausibly) sent to Saudi Arabia. It ends with Krycek showing up.
It wasn't terrible, but it was certainly nothing to write home about. Especially since my parents don't even know there IS such a thing as The X-Files: Season 10, nor would they care even if they did.
All of which decided me: I am dropping this book. I wanted it to be great, and it was occasionally good, but that's four bucks per month I can use in some other way.
Jeff Lemire's miniseries Trillium concluded with issue #8, and I'd be lying if I didn't confess to feeling a bit ambivalent toward it. Part of this is due to the fact that I simply did not understand certain elements of the finale. And what I did understand did not entirely sit well with me.
However, Trillium is a very complex, nuanced piece of work, and all along, it felt like something that was only going to be appreciable on a start-to-finish reread. And I'll say this: the final issue does nothing to make me want to own a collected version of the story any less.
So for now, let's assume that much -- if not all -- of my ambivalence toward the final issue might well be eliminated by a concentrated reread.
When that happens, I will probably blog about it at Where No Blog Has Gone Before, but at that time, I'll link to it here.
Seems only right.
This series continues to be a combination oddity/joy, and this particular issue is mercifully free of the of the abysmal lows in dialogue quality that we've seen lately.
Anyone who is particularly a fan of Return of the Jedi will receive numerous echoes (foreshadowings?) of that film.
Only one issue remaining, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it wraps up.
We now enter the Alan Moore portion of today's post, beginning with the most recent issue in Marvel's Miracleman reprint series. This issue collected four stories from the fall of 1983, and there are certainly some big events brewing in the life of Miracleman. Dr. Gargunza begins to get heavily involved in things, and among the issue's other pleasures, there is:
- a very bad day for a jaguar
- superhero-on-preggers sex
- a kid asks Miracleman, "Are you a pouf?"
One of the four stories features a "flashback" to Young Miracleman, completely free of dialogue. It's pretty great, so let's just have a look at the whole thing:
|The art here is by John Ridgway, and the script by Alan Moore (or, as these Marvel reprints bill him, "The Original Writer").|
I like Ridgway's art a lot, and overall I find this to be a damned charming story.
The issue also contains a couple of '50s stories, one of which is the first appearance of Dr. Gargunza. These things are a bit too daffy for my tastes, but I'm glad that Marvel is including them.
We now turn our attentions toward Alan Moore's work for Image during the nineties, which I
Moore wrote fourteen issues of the series (#21-34), plus a sort of coda story that appeared in issue #50. Most of Moore's Image-era work is given very short shrift by people examining the broader scope of his canon. It's hard to argue with that in some ways; stacked against such genuinely awesome Moore works as From Hell or Watchmen or The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, this run of WildC.A.T.s isn't such hot stuff. Moore certainly doesn't seem to think much of it himself.
But I would ask two questions about that. #1, is it mandatory that all of Moore's comics be judged in comparison to Watchmen and his other masterworks? And, #2, is Moore's opinion of his own work the be-all/end-all of opinions on the matter?
From where I'm sitting, the answers are "no" and "no." I do think there is room for Moore's work to merely entertain, and while I get that his particular inclinations tend toward wanting his work to also have deeper artistic significance, I'm not sure I feel that it is mandatory for his comics to possess such qualities in order to still be worth reading. Is this Promethea? Certainly not. Is it fun?
I think it is.
Here are the circmustances -- which are like circumstances, but spelled incorrectly -- under which I read these issues: I torrented them. (Let me clarify for the benefit of any government agents who might be looking in on this. By "torrented" I (obviously) mean that I borrowed them from a friend and then promptly returned them. That's all we're talking about here. Nothing to see here, officer.)
When I did so, I knew nothing about the WildC.A.T.s. I'd heard of them, but had never read a single issue and could not have named a single member of the team, nor even tell you the vaguest version of what the story setup was for the team. I was as uninformed as if the comics had just come out yesterday. Moore's run, however, begins with an obvious assumption that readers have been with the comic since its debut, meaning that not only was I missing some twenty issues of backstory, but it felt like I was missing them.
I am not necessarily put off by this. When beginning a series -- be it comics or television or books or movies or whatever -- I generally prefer to do so from the beginning, but if I have a good reason to not worry about that and just plunge in, I'm not shy about doing so. I like to think that have a fairly good nose for figuring out when I'm confused because of the fact that I've missed out on backstory, and being able to then make the leap of simply assuming that what I'm reading/viewing makes sense. So when characters appeared in WildC.A.T.s #21 and I had no clue who they were, I figured that was okay, and that I'd pick it up from context as I went along.
Guess what? I was right. More or less. I'm sure there would have been some added resonance to certain things if I'd read those first twenty issues, but by no means did I feel crippled by my lack of knowledge.
Anyways, like I said, I torrented these issues. But I liked them sufficiently that I then decided to see if I could locate cheap copies of the actual issues, and in that, I was entirely successful: I got all fifteen for about a buck each, all in near-mint condition. These issues, obviously are nearly worthless. Makes sense; the series was coming out at around the height of the nineties speculator boom, so comics were selling quite well, and so the popular titles -- of which WildC.A.T.s seems to have been one -- were shipping a million copies or so per month. This is good news for people like myself, who are buying back issues two decades later.
In any case, I think what I'll do for this retrospective is skim the issues in physical format, and just talk about whatever seems worth talking about. My inclination is to be fairly in-depth and talk about whole chunks of issues, but since we're talking about fifteen comics here, that's probably not going to be doable. But I'll try to avoid being mere surface-level. I'm purposely not doing research to find out what sort of context I'm missing out on; I'm just going to proceed as though all of this was brand-new to me (which it was, at least the first time I read it).
Let's see how it goes, and we'll begin with a cover gallery.
|This is a double-length issue with a shiny, faux-metallic cover. This time, we begin on Earth, with Mr. Majestic -- a Superman-esque Kherubim warrior of whom we last spoke in Bryant Has Issues #37 --thinking to himself that what happened at the Church of Gort has robbed the team of any hopes it may have had. This whole thing has somehow -- in a way that I seem to have missed -- upset Stormwatch, which is another hero team. One of their members decides to attack the WildC.A.T.s headquarters, and gets i a knock-down/drag-out fight with Majestic. This mainly seems to occur because the guy from Stormwatch is Irish and drunk, which is an amusing reason for a fight to break out in a superhero comic. Some of his pals show up and disarm the situation, but Majestic is still left with his uneasy feelings about where things seem to be headed for the group. Meanwhile, on Khera, both Maul and Voodoo seem shaken and disgruntled by their experiences learning about what the society on this planet is really like. They take their concerns to Emp and to Zealot individually, but both seem to have let the new (old?) political power they have on Khera go to their heads, and they show either disinterest in or disdain for the plights of their ostensible team members. Voodoo proclaims that she is done with her fellow WildC.A.T.s.|
|It's Tao. In this issue, he wreaks a bit of havoc, freeing a bunch of very dangerous prisoners from WildC.A.T.s headquarters. He also does something rather nasty to Ladytron in the last few pages. Can she survive?|
|...this issue, which includes an eight-page story from Moore that essentially serves as a coda to the Tao storyline. It's pretty good.|
Well, you will no doubt have noticed that as the series progressed, I seemed to have less and less to say about it. The latter half of these 14/15 issues are fairly good, but I think it would be entirely correct for me to suggest that the first half is quite a lot better. Moore seems more engaged by the material, and the issues read a bit closer to my idea of what an Alan Moore comic is than the later ones.
My guess is that this is in large part due to the imposition of the Fire From Heaven stuff. Crossovers of that nature tend to get mandated at a corporate level, which likely means that Moore -- who was doing work for hire here, remember -- was handed at least a vague outline that he had to follow during the second half of his run. That is sheer speculation on my part, though.
Regardless, it does seem to me as if Moore had much more interest in the plotlines involving the two different teams of C.A.T.s being separated, and by the political-intrigue stuff on Khera. That is where many of the best moments of his run on this series happened.
But don't let that make you think I'm slagging off the rest. I'm not. Moore doesn't seem to think much of what he did, and yeah, as we've said, it pales in comparison to, say, Top Ten. But so what? It's a fun read, and it's fairly exciting, and all in all, it just plain works. When and if some Hollywood studio decides to make a series of WildC.A.T.s movies, they'd be fools not to turn to this run of issues at some point. Not for the first film, or the second, or even the third, probably; but you could easily get a fourth and a fifth film out of what Moore did here, and with the right set of people shepherding the project, those could be really good movies.
Forget that, though. It's unlikely to ever happen. The comics are fine in and of themselves. The nineties era of comics -- specifically, the Image comics of the era -- are sort of known for being gritty and oversexed, but in a childishly adult way, if that makes any sense. In some respects, they play as parodies of themselves; they are all about psychotic "heroes" who murder about seven people per issue and seem to know an awful lot of women with huge tits who wear as little clothing as possible. Or at least, that's my perception of that era in comics, based on its covers.
Moore does not fall into those traps. Yeah, there's a bit of cheesecake in the art, sure; and there's definitely a spot of murder from time to time. But the whole thing has a lightness that I suspect most other writers were not able to invest titles such as this one with; and, in its finer moments, it also has a depth of feeling and meaning that I would also suspect is missing without Moore at the helm. As he writes them, these characters are complex and peculiar enough that the persistent conflicts they have with each other seem earned, as opposed to forced. And at the same time, they are colorful and engaging enough that Moore is able to wring humor out of their dialogue and also use them in occasionally cartoonish ways, as most of us seem to want from our superheroes on occasion.
Or, in other words: as written by Alan Moore, WildC.A.T.s is FUN. Is it deep? Not really, although it has its moments.
I just don't think that is a prerequisite to enjoyment.
I would also note that unlike most Moore comics, the art in these issues is courtesy of a large number of artists. There are something like nine different pencilers who worked on these fifteen issues, and more inkers than I could even keep in my brain long enough to count. You might expect this to create some serious aesthetic confusion, but it doesn't actually hurt much at all; the various artists do a fairly good job of staying close to one another in terms of how everything looks.
Now, before we wrap up, I wanted to touch on a few little flourishes that struck me as being particularly Moore-esque.
First, we have a hotel on Khera where several of the WildC.A.T.s stay. It's called Coincidental Mansion, and it got a few laughs out of me.
|WildC.A.T.s #22 page 11 panel 1|
If that strikes you as an odd aside, well, you're not wrong. If it never got mentioned again, that would be not too uncommon for Moore. But no, when the next issue opens, we get a bit more: Adrianna (also known as "Void") hears music in an elevator that is identical to a Ukrainian folk tune from her childhood, and she also find out that the Kheran word for "lobby" is also their word for "void." Meanwhile, Maul (whose human name is Jeremy Stone) gets no sleep due to being bothered by the fact that the guy in the room next door is name Jerem Ystone. Void chalks it all up to a low probability field generator.
This is an amusing concept, and Moore only hits on it a few times. Which is either good (in that he avoids overusing it) or bad (in that it kind of feels like the sort of concept Moore could exploit at great length).
Coincidental Mansion doesn't pop up again (I think) until #27, when Moore simply drops the following panel on us:
I do love a good callback.
I was also quite amused by some of the Church of Gort stuff:
|Can't help but hear Reverend Lovejoy's voice in my head when I read that dialogue.|
|That "H.A.L.elujah" made me laugh out loud. That's right: I LOLed. I also got bummed out to think that Moore never wrote a Sister Transistor spinoff.|
I can't swear that Moore actually created the Church of Gort for these issues; for all I know, he might merely be following up on an idea that somebody else in the Image universe already did. But it seems like something Moor would do, doesn't it?
So does this superhero bar:
Again, this might be stuff somebody else at Image had already done. But I don't think so. This page feels like a dry-run for Top Ten to me (and in case you don't know what that is, Top Ten was a Moore-created comic set in a city entirely populated by superheroes and supervillains). The name of the bar is a fairly obvious joke, but no less satisfying for that. And the three Wolverine-lookin' dudes crack me up.
Clark's doesn't get a huge amount of space in the series, but Moore does return there during issue #28 for a "date" that Max and Maxine go on:
It feels a bit as if Ladytron -- unlike much of the rest of the series -- really did have Moore's full attention. This makes sense, given that he created the character. It feels to me as if what Moore would really have liked to do was spin Ladytron off into her own comic, where he could explore her existential plight (and, especially, her very specific style of randiness) to his heart's content. I'd have been okay with that; she's an appealingly horrible character.
We're going to close off by way of me posting all of issue #21, Moore's first issue, which includes an interesting structure that seems worth talking about:
|Majestic's first couple of lines here feel like he has briefly turned into an executive at a comic-book company...|
|Majestic dressed as Abraham Lincoln is ridiculous, and kind of hilarious.|
|Ah, yes, The $75 Million Woman -- I remember that never being a show. But if it was, I might watch it.|
|Sure is a lot of white space on that top row. What up wi' dat?|
|Gotta love a good splash page, and I especially like the fact that the car is "crashing" into the other panels.|
|In that bottom panel, does it look like the artist forgot to draw the body of the guy Maxine is holding captive?|
|Yes, but Keith Richards would be utterly unfazed.|
|It's such a simple, frequently-used effect for the last line of dialogue on a page to end up having ironic meaning when you flip to the next page . . . but it works like a charm here.|
|I assume that people who'd been reading the series knew the characters depicted on this page were still alive. Maybe not, though, in which case this would have been a fairly effective revelation. It works either way, I guess.|
Overall, I'd say this first issue is perhaps the best of Moore's run, at least in terms of structure.
And with that, I think we've probably said enough about WildC.A.T.s a la Moore. I think it's maybe a bit short of being up to his typical quality level, but that it is nevertheless a fairly entertaining read for superhero fans.
Next time we look at Moore's Image years, it'll be via another WildC.A.T.s series, a mini that crossed the team over with Spawn. I'm guessing that won't happen for a few weeks, though. See ya then!