Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Devil You Know

Mike Carey has rapidly become my favorite comics writer (with the possible exception of Ed Brubaker). His range as an author is nothing short of extraordinary. Over the last few years he's written metaphysical fantasy (Lucifer), high concept S.F. (Ultimate Fantastic Four), high-school romantic comedy (Re-Gifters, My Faith in Frankie), and is currently trying to salvage the X-Men franchise almost single-handedly.

And now he's written his first novel in a series that his publisher has no idea how to market. The Devil You Know is what you get when you combine John Constantine and Phillip Marlow, and attempt to make the result ever so slightly light hearted (thanks to the introduction at the end of the book of a token wacky sidekick). The cover seems to be aimed at the Dan Brown market, while the description on the jacket almost makes it sound like a comedy

But marketing aside, the book is fairly good. It's not up there with the best up Carey's work, and it's impossible not to compare it to his lengthy run on Hellblazer, but it's a lot of fun to read and the character's are all wonderfully fleshed out. If given the chance, I think Carey can make an excellent series out of this.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

DMZ

Brian Wood's DMZ is the latest bit of genius to come out of Vertigo. The high concept this time around is that a new civil war has erupted in the U.S. leaving New York City as a demilitarized zone between the two stalemated armies. With that as background, Wood is free to focus on the lives of the bystanders still living in the city, while basing the larger story arcs around allegories of current events.

For this review I just finished the third volume of the series, Public Works, in which Wood turns his gaze on Halliburton. In this story Matty Roth, the point of view character for the series, investigates the thinly veiled company, encountering corporate leaders, civilians, and yes terrorists along the way. Yet Wood never lays his politics on too thickly.

This is a great series, and I think it's just beginning to hit its stride.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Defenders Vol.3

The Defenders is a wildly uneven comic, as you would expect from anything that's advertised as being a "non-team" team comic. But every now and then it just clicks, and the stories in this book are from one of those good periods. The first half is entirely written by the great (and often neglected) Steve Gerber and primarily focuses on a three way battle between the Defenders, a group of mad scientists who have all surgically altered their bodies, and cosmic deity-turned self-help guru Nebulon the Celestial Man. At it's best these tales are on a par with Gerber's work on Howard the Duck, at their worst they're still incredibly fun stories with Hulk fighting a man who glued his head to a gorilla.

The second half is a series of tales by David Kraft that succeed surprisingly well at replacing Gerber. Kraft makes the odd decision to add Hellcat to the cast and manages to throw in some great tribute stories to Steve Ditko's Dr. Strange and Steranko's Nick Fury, plus a lovely Jack Kirby inspired issue with some early Keith Giffen art.

All in all one of the better Essential volumes Marvel has released.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Nomad of the Time Streams

It took a while, but I finally finished this collection of Michael Moorcock's three Bastable novels. I grew up reading Moorcock novels, but his books still take a bit of adjusting to as none of them exist in a vacuum. At this point, nearly every word he has ever written is linked to his Eternal Champion saga in some way or other.

In Bastable's case, this is through a great many references to the Multiverse and the occasional appearance of the ever cryptic Una Persson. However, unlike many of his other novels, this series thrives on its own. Bastable is a simple soldier who is forced to reassess his principals when he is forced into various alternate versions of the World Wars.

Over the course of the three books, (The Warlord of the Air, The Land Leviathan, the Steel Tsar) Bastable fights across 4 continents, over land, sea and air, and gets to experience the bombing of Hiroshima twice. The stories move rapidly and are far quicker reads than my own lack of posts to this blog would attest to. I also found them far more engaging than most alternate histories (which I usually tend to avoid). Well worth the read.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Southland Tales

Over the last few weeks my normal schedule has gotten a bit wonky and my reading has suffered for it. But I'm nearly done with a 3-in-1 Michael Moorcock collection, and in the meantime I finally finished the last chapter of Richard Kelly's Southland Tales. This is Kelly's follow up to Donnie Darko, one of my top ten films and perhaps the only movie in recent years to generate an honest to goodness cult following. Needless to say expectations are high.

So, what Kelly has decided to do is write an overly ambitious story about the apocalypse occurring in Southern California. Now what really makes this such an unusual project is that the story takes place over 6 acts, and the upcoming film is only the second half. The first half was produced as three graphic novels, incorporating large portions of a film script. Unsurprisingly the early hype regarding the movie has been less than promising.

Which at last brings me to the comic. The story is a bit hit and miss as none of the characters are particularly easy to identify with. I found this particularly disappointing as that was what Donnie Darko did best. The books also suffer from the obvious lack of a resolution that film (which still doesn't have a release date) will provide. But there are plenty of good ideas in here and the art from Brett Weldele gorgeous. The story is certainly worth checking out, but I would probably say to wait for the movie.