Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Three comics

This week I bought three comics, all written by British creators I’ve been following for 20 years. I still love their work, with few real disappointments in all those years and this rut of thought-provoking work is too good to escape.

* * *

Batman #701
By Grant Morrison and Tony Daniel

The news that Grant Morrison would soon be leaving the Batman title slowly leaked out this week, and after the next Batman & Robin arc, it looks like he will be gone after several years of top-quality Bat-action (although there is some sort of announcement coming.) If he really is stepping away from monthly Batman adventures, it is a real pity, as his Batman comics continue to be funny, invigorating and thoughtful, and I have a thing for funny, invigorating and thoughtful comics.

This brief return to the main Batman title is a thoroughly unnecessary filling-in-the-gaps that still plays to Morrison’s strength on the title. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Morrison’s plots are mere silvers of story, but his characterisation and ability to nail crucial moments is as sharp as ever.

Dig this: “Think fast, Batman.” His survival skills are unparalled, thanks to his ability to make crucial decisions instantly, and the closing pages show that Batman is fully aware of his impending doom and the trap that is existentially clicking into place around him. But he can also think his way around any death trap, because he’s just that smart, and he’s still got some time.

Dig it: “…” Tony Daniel’s art is rushed and scratchy and clumsy and so much better than it usually is. There are bits where Batman can’t hide behind his cape and he looks misshapen and odd, and I actually really like it. Daniel usually overworks his line into a bland Jim Lee homage with no life, but he really does have an appealing ugliness sometimes.

Look at that page where Batman is talking to Ellie and it’s all so wrong, but that’s why I love it. It’s mental! It’s like when poor Phillip Tan had to follow Quitely, and by the final issue his work had devolved to mad splashes of random posing, and it felt like a Paul Pope comic. He’s still not as remarkable as Frazer Irving on Batman & Robin – who can do wonderful things with that bloody cowl – but Daniel should go for it more often.

Dig some more: “You remember me, right?” Only criminal scum should be afraid of Batman.

Dig it the most: “When I get back we’ll fix everything.” Batman’s super-competence can often come across as super-irritating, and there have been far too many comics where Batman just seems like an obnoxious jerk know-it-all. But in the right hands, Batman does have super-charm, and any arrogance is apparently deserved, because he will come back, and he will work with good people to fix everything. It’s a statement of fact. Compassion is logical and charm is useful, but he will fix everything.

* * *

Greek Street #13
By Peter Milligan and Werther Dell’edera

It was also announced this week that Greek Street would be wrapping up with #16. The only surprising about this was that it took so long. When a series kicks off with the main character screwing his Mum and then accidentally killing her, it’s fairly remarkable it found any audience at all. A $1 debut issue doesn’t go that far.

There will be more to say about this series soon in the Tearoom of Despair, but the latest arc – Ajax – is rapidly turning into the most interesting tale from Greek Street yet, as a veteran of the Afghanistan war drifts around the edge of the main story and is sucked into one of the oldest tales ever told.

There is still a little bit of character weirdness in the comics - sometimes these people don’t really act like people in order to get the plot shuffling or sometimes just to make sure the point is made. There is a certain amount of cliché there, but that’s partly the point of the whole thing.

Besides, Milligan has been mixing kitchen skink melodrama with ridiculously esoteric madness for years now and know what he is doing. It’s all done in three issues, but it should be fun to see where it goes in those final pages.

* * *

The Boys #44
By Garth Ennis, Russ Braun and Darick Robertson

Early on in Preacher, a minor character turned out to be a terrible serial killer, and when asked why he did it, he just shrugged. He killed people because he could kill people, that’s all there was. It was so easy, and meant nothing, and this utter lack of a moral compass made this evil person so dangerous.

That danger increases exponentially when you’re talking about a being with Superman-level power. As The Boys thunders towards a suitably horrific climax, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that head superhero Homelander is going to be responsible for most of it. While the comic’s real villains remain the faceless corporation that shits on lives for bottom line boosting, the Homelander’s terrible nihilism can only end in rivers of blood.
As a plot, this is nothing new, and writers have been playing around with this idea for decades – Alan Moore took superpowered destruction about as far as he could in Miracleman, while Mark Waid is also currently mining the same vein. But Ennis has an endless imagination for disturbing depravity and the fact is that Homelander is a genuinely disturbed character. This will not end well.

In the latest issue of The Boys, he is seen curled up on the floor in a hole in the ground, whining pitifully that he can’t do the things he can do. He has already pushed the limit of what’s acceptable and got away with the senseless slaughter of hundreds of people. He’s a ticking time bomb with massive destructive capabilities and the limits he has to force on himself have actually driven him bugfuck crazy.

The Boys remains a solid and dependable book, and has built up a sense of impending doom over the past few years that is primed to deliver. It’s all coming to a head – over the past six months, secrets have been exposed that threaten to ruin everything. This latest issue is no exception, with one of the biggest inadvertent secrets of the series unveiled in the closing pages, and it will be a real pleasure to see how it all plays out.

Unfortunately, that may take a while, as I’m going to stop buying The Boys once the current story ends. I’ve just noticed that it’s another comic to make the 33% jump in price, which in local currency, is just a bit too much. It’s a shame, making that leap two-thirds into a story, just when things are getting really interesting. But it’s not economically justifiable.

I’ll still going to buy the comic when it gets collected, because I really am fascinated by how the story will turn out, but that monthly fix of The Boys, which I’ve genuinely enjoyed for the past four years, is almost over.

1 comment:

Smicha1 said...

Pretty sure Ennis is Irish, not British