Confessions of a Comics Shop Junkie, No. 40

You are interested in the unknown… the mysterious. The unexplainable. That is why you are here. My friend, can your heart stand the shocking CoCSJ, in which I opine on comics and graphic novel releases of recent vintage, most of which should be available at a brick-and-mortar or online merchant near you? Can you hear Criswell spinning in his grave?

VERTIGO RESURRECTED #1
Scripts: Various including Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis & more; Art: Various incl. Phil Jiminez, Eduardo Risso, Berni Wrightson, more.
DC/Vertigo; $7.99

It appears that in the wake of all the corporate restructuring going on at DC, some cleaning out of file cabinets has been occurring lately; that’s the only reason I can think of to explain this anthology series, which marks the first legally published appearance of the 1999 Warren Ellis/Phil Jiminez/Andy Lanning Hellblazer story “Shoot”. Coming up as it did, during Ellis’ short tenure on that title, and in the wake of the Columbine murders, the story (which dealt with a woman obsessed with researching mass killings, including Jonestown and school shootings) was quickly quashed and Ellis decided to move on to other projects. Of course, eventually it became available on the Internet, so I read it then. Now, reading it again years later,  I found it somewhat strident and heavy-handed, with an ending that reflects, I believe,  the convictions of a cynical middle-aged man rather than any rational 15-year-olds, but there are many who’d disagree with me so I guess any conclusion is best left to the reader. Ellis never really got a good handle on Constantine’s personality, either, so I always chalked his brief stay up as a case of “wrong place, wrong time”, and he’s gone on to much better things since. A lot of my disappointment in his run was based on how much I loved his earlier stint on Marvel’s Son of Satan character, in the Hellstorm title, I do believe. Anyway, Phil Jimenez did a good job on the visuals, although I think he was better on his prior stint on The Invisibles. As a historical curiosity, it’s good to have out there, though most who really care one way or the other have already read it.

The other stories in this collection pretty much seem like inventory, probably from Vertigo’s various attempts to do themed anthologies such as Flinch (horror) and Weird War Stories (guess); some are more interesting than others and mostly notable for the art, provided by luminaries such as Ed (100 Bullets) Risso (I miss seeing his art on a regular basis), Brian Bolland (a tale of a poor wretch that I believe was also used in a Death pinup), and Frank Quitely, who teams with Grant Morrison on an oddball story that would seem to date not long after Flex Mentallo, judging by Quitely’s style. Also of note is a reteaming of Bruce Jones and Bernie Wrightson, trying to recapture their Warren mojo on a Serlingesque tale; Tim Bradstreet’s inks don’t really flatter Wrightson’s pencils. Bill Willingham contributes a story that is a rarity in that he illustrates it as well as writes it; hard to believe he used to do the latter on a regular basis. It’s a story of monsters that I’d bet contains some of the germ of the idea that eventually became Fables. This is a grab bag, for sure, but it’s not without merit. Now what I wanna know is, where’s Rick Veitch’s Jesus-meets-Swamp Thing story?

KICK-ASS 2 #1
Script/Art: Mark Millar, John Romita Jr.; Inks: Tom Palmer
Marvel/Icon, $2.99

Uh…I didn’t read the first series. I didn’t watch the movie, either. My inner hype-resistant technology made me react to both of them with my usual recoil reflex. Which is not to say that I’m automatically inclined to avoid work by the controversial Millar; I recall enjoying his stint on The Authority- well, most of it anyway- quite a bit, and I liked his Ultimates series a lot as well. Haven’t read anything all that recent from him, though, till now. This opens some time after the events of the first arc, with young Dave Lizewski aka Kick-Ass getting some training from even younger Mindy McReady (really, Mark?) aka Hit-Girl, she who caused such a stir in comics-fan as well as movie-fan circles with her cute looks, fighting skills, and potty mouth. Dave’s goal is to join a super-group and continue his urban vigilante thing, Mindy wants to too, but is conflicted- her surface rejection of her crimefighting persona is key in the recovery of her mother, who had a nervous breakdown because of it, and she’s being watched like a hawk by her well-meaning stepdad, who’s a police detective. So she keeps her hand in by schooling KA on the sly, and texting back-and-forth with Dave when her stepdad doesn’t see. Eventually Dave does meet up with a fellow who introduces him to just the sort of gathering that he’s been aspiring to join, a group called “Justice Forever” and that’s where we break off till next issue. I’m sure nothing will go as any of them plan, so I’ve no doubt that this will take more than a few left turns before it’s done. Millar strikes a good balance between wordiness and brevity; while I wouldn’t call his dialogue naturalistic, exactly, it doesn’t grate when I read it either. We don’t get a lot of in-depth on the principals; I guess that was last time out. I was gratified to note that I could pick right up with who was who and what was going on…it’s not so dense with backstory that I couldn’t catch on fairly quickly. That’s good storytelling in my book. Romita Jr. continues to provide solid work; his style will never be what you could call pretty; he’s an action guy first and foremost and that’s where he excels. He’s developed a nice Jack Davis-looking inkline that gives his art an interesting roughish look, appropriate given the subject matter.  Guess maybe I’ll have to pick up the trade of the first series after all.

HARBOR MOON
Script: Ryan Colucci and Dikran Ornekian; Art: Pawel Sambor
Arcana Studios; $19.99

Here we have a handsomely produced horror/mystery/thriller opus- some money went into its production, no doubt about it; it’s printed on nice paper stock, glossy on the body pages and matte on the cover; full color both inside and out. It looks very nice. Problem is, that’s where my admiration ends. Despite the nice presentation, the story (by two writers) is derivative of a lot of things at the same time, from the Howling series and 30 Days of Night to forgotten TV series like Wolf Lake as well as Stephen King, and the art is crude and amateurish when it isn’t being covered up by a excessively dark mixed media presentation involving paint, Photoshop, and god knows what else in the style (but not execution) of illustrators like Bill Sienkiewicz and Ben Templesmith (probably the most obvious influence). In all fairness, there are a few single page atmospheric illustrations that work like they’re intended (one of them is at right), but it’s almost as if a 12 year old kid did the figure drawings, and someone else worked it over after he or she was done. It’s just that incongruous a mix. Not helping is that too often this multimedia approach results in action scenes that become muddy, muddled and basically hard to follow, generally not the look you want for your exciting horror thriller, I wouldn’t think.

It’s the story of a fellow who returns to the titular Maine (of course) town in search of his father, who has contacted him under mysterious circumstances. Of course, most of the townspeople (one exception being apparently the only attractive woman in town) are hostile and uncooperative, and seek to hinder him in his search for answers. Eventually he gets caught in the middle of a battle between a town full of werewolves and werewolf hunters- and of course discovers he may have more in common with the townspeople than he suspected. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. No- wait, I’ve got a little more to say. It’s optimistically open-ended, in anticipation of the hoped-for sequel; we’ll see what happens, I guess. I don’t want to come down too hard on the people involved in the creation of this; they all appear to be starting out for the most part, and I believe there’s room to grow if they keep at it. But by charging $20 (as of this writing, Amazon has it for preorder at $13.46) for the nice paper, that undercuts a lot of that good will. I’d prefer to spend a lot less to witness someone’s growing pains. Your mileage may vary; if you’re curious you can buy this via their website or as I noted earlier, you can pre-order through Amazon.com. It’s set to come out in February of next year, although it’s already been introduced at San Diego ComiCon.

The All Purpose Review Writing Music List, provided here for conversation’s sake and little else: Pink Floyd- Atom Heart Mother; George Harrison- Dark Horse; Rod Stewart- Atlantic Crossing; Tim Buckley- Blue Afternoon; Richard and Linda Thompson- First Light.

As always, thanks for reading, and see you next time. Review inquiries: johnnybacardi AT gmail.