Ah me, the hurrier I go the behinder I get, as the saying goes. Welcome back to another tardy edition of Confessions, in which I opine on various recently released publications of the sequential graphic nature, some of which may be sitting on the rack at a comics shop, or awaiting the click of a button on some online merchant’s web page, near you. If you’re lucky. Or not, as the case may be.
THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: CENTURY: 1969
Script: Alan Moore, Art: Kevin O’Neill
Top Shelf, $9.95
At first I thought that Alan Moore had dusted off an old Promethea story and changed the principals to suit his needs; I suppose it’s not quite that, but it’s awfully darn close. Mr. Moore certainly does seem to feel the need to go to his arcane magick well quite often; at least here it’s in the service of…well, if not satire, at perhaps homage though I can’t imagine Moore revering anything but himself. Anyway, and I’m assuming you’re all at least superficially aware of the basic concept (fictional characters grouping together to battle threats of varied sorts throughout the centuries, or something like that), this one picks up several decades after LOEG: Century: 1910, although it does feature the same three principals: Mina Harker, Allen Quartermain, and Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. They arrive in post-Swinging London (1969, when the Hippie Dream began to smell a bit overripe) to investigate rumours of last issue’s antagonist Oliver Haddo (Alastair Crowley spelled sideways) trying to birth another Moonchild. As so often is the case with whatever Moore deigns to bestow upon us, it’s well written but overstuffed with all sorts of arcane effluvia, which can make it a slog at times…that said, as a Stones fan from way back I did think that nodding to conspiracy theorists in regards to the death of Brian Jones as well as the extended story climax, so to speak, which riffs on the Hyde Park tribute show they played with brand new guitarist Mick Taylor to commemorate their fallen comrade, was handled quite cleverly…though in playing by the LOEG rules and not naming names it detracted just a smidge from my appreciation. Still, it’s fun and clever to see Mr. Magick Guy Moore taking the piss from the whole occult image that Mick and Keef and company cultivated as the decade ground to a halt. I’m less a fan of the film Get Carter!, original Michael Caine issue (as if there was another worth considering), but I liked how Moore makes that particular fictional character the de facto straw that stirs the drink, more so that the ineffectual flailings of the nominal protagonists, who really don’t seem to be on top of anything this time out. Artist O’Neill adds to the general chaotic feel, slathering on Easter egg after Easter egg, so much so that it becomes wearing, with or without Jess Nevins’ invaluable annotations. While I’ve never cared for O’Neill’s actual style, with its woobly, skinny ink line, I’ve always thought he was very good at telling the story, and does manage to somehow make everything look interesting just the same…kinda like a really well-laid-out and amply-provisioned buffet. He’s not particularly adept at period detail, at least in clothing styles, but that’s not really a deal breaker; he excels in the gangster scenes involving Carter and the Kray anagrams, and brings a nice sense of urgency and danger to the finale at Hyde Park. I liked this particular chapter a bit more than the good-not-great 1910, and a hell of a lot more than the overpriced, overstuffed and incoherent Black Dossier. Moore perhaps a bit bored with all of it, and is seeking ways to branch out and therefore maintain his interest and commitment; I hope this is a step in that direction and better is yet to come.
SPONTANEOUS #’s 1,2
Script: Joe Harris; Art: Brett Weldele
Oni Press, $3.99
I checked this out mostly because I liked what Weldele did as artist on Robert Venditti’s Surrogates; his art is sketchy and barely finished-looking, garishly colored in what seems to be splashed-on watercolors, and looks rushed but is actually very well composed and solidly staged. Here it’s employed in service of a script that seems made for TV attention; a quiet young man named Melvin, whose father died from what seemed to be spontaneous combustion, is compelled to seek out- not necessarily warn, mind you, but seek out- people who are on the verge of combusting as well, searching for something he can’t seem to find but in flashbacks we see it may have some sinister motivation, either internally or externally. He’s assisted by a nerdy computer hacker type, as if there is another. And speaking of types, after one such incident at the local mall in which he works, a cute nerdy potential magic pixie dream girl newspaper reporter enters Mel’s orbit, sensing a big story and determined to help him out. It’s all very X-Files meets, oh, Malcolm in the Middle for lack of a better comparison; it’s pretty no-nonsense and bare-bones and sometimes screenwriter Harris (who wrote the much more intriguing Ghost Projekt) seems to have laid all his cards out on the table early. But I suspect he may have a twist or two in mind before this is done, so while I’m not terribly impressed with the story and its lack of- if you’ll excuse the expression- spontaneity, Weldele’s art makes it worth a look.
VIC BOONE #1
Script: Scott Aldridge; Art: Geoffo
215 Ink; $2.99
This has been out a little while now; it started on Zuda, if I’m not mistaken. I kept seeing Aldridge hyping it on Twitter and Facebook, and late for the party as usual, I’m only now checking it out. It starts out like a noir starring James Dean (or perhaps more like young Pump Up the Volume-era Christian Slater) on his motorcycle; while out on a country road working on his bike, he’s approached by a bad-news dame who tells him her husband’s having an affair, and he’s framing her for murder. Says the “Nuns” sent her. After some wise-ass banter, he takes her case, and we get a splash page that shows us the country road is actually just outside some sort of high-tech futuristic city. Gasp! From there, we meet a cast full of freaky allies and adversaries straight out of Total Recall as Boone noses around a shady company called “Futratech” and meets a scientist named “Rotvang” (“wang” jokes ensue, har har) as well as running afoul of Futratech’s resident Agent Smith type. Eventually, Boone gets chummy with his employer, and we get a cliffhanger ending that promises further complications for our hero. It’s as if Aldridge had a whole bunch of different story ideas, but was afraid he would only get one chance to write them all, so he just threw ’em all together in one big ghoulash and leaves it to us, the readers, to digest it all. Perhaps the biggest surprise in all of it is that all these disparate ingredients sit fairly well next to each other, and this is as readable as it is. “Geoffo” ‘s art reminds me of early Tim Sale or Matt Wagner, Mark Badger even; loose and sketchy (but not like Weldele, in case you made that connection) and as all over the place as the script; the garish coloring doesn’t really help it much but I’ve seen worse. I don’t know what the future holds for this title, but if Aldridge gets to keep at it, the best may be yet to come for him, anyway.
SEVERED #1 (Image): Scott (American Vampire, Detective) Snyder is savoir faire these days- he’s everywhere! He’s here with someone named Scott Tufts, whom I suspect does the actual writing of the thing- with a Depression-era pastiche of Stephen King and Ray Bradbury that involves hoboes and orphans and a mysterious man who would seem to be a cannibal and…well, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense really, not yet anyhow, especially since it’s only issue one. It’s only simmering, perhaps it will boil over eventually. I think I might like this more if the art was better; the admittedly cool-monkered Attila Futaki has a sort of Terry Moore-meets-Wrightson and/or Frank Brunner style, but he doesn’t have good control of it at all- awkward poses and perspectives abound. Perhaps a better title would be Something Tepid This Way Comes. C-
RACHEL RISING #1 (Abstract Studios): Speaking of Moore, here he is with his latest, fresh off a surprisingly well-done fill-in issue of Fables. I bought Strangers in Paradise faithfully for a long time, even though there was something that struck me as pretentious and pandering to Moore’s writing; be that as it may or may not have been, he did create two characters in Katrina (“Katchoo”) Choovanski (is there anybody in the whole gosh darn world that has this last name?) and Francine Peters that were so vividly realized that they transcended whatever paces their creator chose to put them through, and the whole “will they or won’t they ever…” thing that ran until the end kept me hooked even though I knew better. Since there was no Francine or Katchoo in any of his subsequent efforts, I’ve pretty much ignored Moore’s work until, looking for something to review, I came across this- and well, it’s interesting. It opens with a young lady, who looks like Katchoo’s long lost twin sister, walking through the woods. She pauses to witness another young lady, who extricates herself from a shallow grave and wanders away. We then shift to her story, as she returns home and tries to carry on with her life, only now her eyeballs are inverted (grey eyes, white pupils), she sports an attractive neck burn, the cat doesn’t like her anymore, and she creeps people she knows out. I seems that she was killed and buried in a “Pet Sematary”, so to speak, but after that I don’t really know what Moore has in mind. I have a feeling she’ll be trying to figure out what happened and who did it to her- and again, against my better judgement, I’m kinda wondering myself…but that may be too obvious. I’m interested, and maybe you will be too. B+
WALT DISNEY’S MICKEY MOUSE VOL. 1: RACE TO DEATH VALLEY (Fantagraphics): The Mouse brand has become so devalued over the decades that these early 30’s vintage daily newspaper strips by Floyd Gottfredson come across as shocking, simply because things happen– with attitude and spirit and at a fevered pace- and Mickey himself is full of spunk and vigor and isn’t always the corporate icon he eventually became. It’s like seeing the old man down the street when he was young , handsome and vital. Like with the Popeye reprints, these are immaculately drawn- Gottfredson was a master, no doubt- but the stories have a monotonous repetition to them which I know is the fault of the daily format…but it doesn’t make them any easier to read. That said, the action is so pell-mell and hell-bent that it does keep them lively, and after a while one gets accustomed to the repetition. You can buy this with no trepidation; this is a ton of fun and well worth the investment. A-
XOMBI #5 (DC Comics): This has golems flying into battle wearing jet packs, and that’s just one panel. ONE PANEL. Why the HELL are you people not buying this remarkable comic? Oh well, guess we just don’t deserve it, and sure enough, it’s being taken away again in one month. A+
The All Purpose Review Writing Music List: Little Richard- King of Rock and Roll: The Complete Reprise Recordings; Roxy Music- Country Life; Elliott Murphy- Night Lights; The Band- Music from Big Pink; Electric Light Orchestra- Discovery; Bourgeois Tagg- Yoyo.
That’s all, folks! Back soon.