I’ve gone and done it. Discarding my interest in novels, I turned to graphic publications which I perused with abandon, the orders racking up in my local library holds unit. Mind you I read a whole lot more than I’ve listed, but I figured these deserved a mentioning. I tremendously enjoyed many of those stories, and I hope you do read this and go on my recommendations. There is nothing I love like passing on a good story.
Casanova Vol. 1 Luxuria by Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba: This brought me back onto comics. I used to be a fan of the usual marvel canon of superheroes and all that jazz, and it was the first time I was introduced to a character that didn’t necessarily wear a Halloween outfit. I’m a big fan of Michael Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius stories, and to read Casanova is to invoke Jerry in all of his reality hopping glory. This is also a great book for the Popular Culture aficionado because Fraction, in every installment, inserts many and often obscure references, and when you reach the end of each issue, he kindly explains the origins… for some of ‘em. Fraction also hails from the Kansas City area and I’m only too glad to support local artists. To get a taste of the series, check this out! It’s the first issue, free for whoever may want to sample its delights.
Ex Machina by Brian K Vaughn and Tony Harris: This caught me by surprise. I felt I shouldn’t have enjoyed this as much as I have, considering politics is poison in my book, but who can’t not admire a renegade mayor? The story arcs touch upon many of the issues that afflict our country, and Mayor Hundred deals with each one of them in a way we would love many of our government officers do so. Hundred, in an accident with a freak object, acquired the ability to converse with machines. With the help of two close associates, he becomes The Great Machine, a superhero complete with, from designs that come to him in dreams, a jet pack and nifty gadgets. Soon he abandons the idea, for it seems to be more dangerous to assist in costume than to do so in other avenues. So he decides to run for mayor. Nicely done by taking snapshots of actors in poses then penciling/inking in for highly realistic details.
Fables by Bill Willingham, Lan Medina, Steve Leialoha, and Craig Hamilton: I was slow on the uptake with this particular series, but I am very glad I dug in and soldiered on. There are modern day Fables living in our world, and they are refugees from their homeland. These fables fled their homeland to escape the wrath of the Adversary. Populated with many well known fairy tale characters and some obscure ones as well, it is an addictive and entertaining read with story arcs that reveal the character and darker insights of each character. Jack of Tales now has his own comic book. Dark, promising, and just plain good storytelling, this is a must add collection to any true enthusiast of the graphic novel.
Marshal Law by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill: Nothing prepared me for the inherent weirdness of the Marshal Law stories. A cop in a completely fucked up San Francisco, Marshal holds no prisoners. Armed with his distinctive guns and a sadomasochistic get-up, he slays left and right in the name of the law. A carnival of costumed villains, zombies rising from the grave, and all in all a multitude of the good ol’ horrorshow ultraviolence delivered to and delivered by Marshal Law.
Oddly Normal by Otis Frampton: A dejected half witch with an oxymoron for a name, Oddly Normal hates her life. Her parents doesn’t understand her and she can’t get a break at school. She wants to be normal, not Oddly Normal. On her birthday she makes a wish and it seems to change everything… for the worse? Her parents are not around anymore, and her aunt comes to take her to Fignation, a land untouched by mortals. My first impression was wrong. It’s actually a quite intelligent and quaint novel, with a penchant for metaphysics and discourses into thought. An enjoyable quick read.
The Preacher by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon: These cowpokes’ vision of the West is as demented as it is entertaining. Jesse Custer the preacher with values and fists hard as nails, Tulip the dame as pretty as her name but almost as hard as the preacher, Cassidy the vampire with a penchant for adventure, lusty angels and demons, some good ol’ gunslinging, a crazed leader of a clandestine organization (apart from the Saint of Killers, Starr is absolutely my favorite character in this fucked up madcap ride. The things that happen to him shouldn’t happen to anyone, but you can’t help but laugh for you know the fucker deserved it), the boy with a face like an asshole, and a whole wild array of characters my descriptions won’t do justice.
The Resonator by Prentis Rollins: Aaron Bronsen Jr. is a miner in an universe where no human has slept for so long. Sleep has become the commodity of recreation, carrying the same role alcohol and drugs do in today’s world. Nobody knows why humans do not sleep anymore, but everyone knows there are drugs to help you sleep… and the resonator. Highly illegal, resonators are deemed a danger and only the wealthy can afford such luxury. Aaron Bronsen Jr. encounters a resonators and this changes the course of his entire life. Nice to find this original story, penned in black and white, amid the flash and bang of today’s comics. Don’t get me wrong. I like the flash and bang, but there’s something compelling about old-style comics, especially those with exquisite attention to detail and the concentration of objects in a single frame of reference. There’s an unique twist I find very delectable, myself being a cat lover.
Sandman by Neil Gaiman & Etc: I’d call this the quintessential graphic novel, though some might say it’s Alan Moore’s Watchmen. This is brilliant, because it chronicles a very very tiny slice of time in which Morpheus of the Endless decides to change himself… in the most drastic way. Upon completing the entire novel, one realizes Morpheus in effect planned a lot of the threads that were tied up at the consequence. Mindbending, and a completely entertaining romp through interested storytelling.
Smoke and Guns by Kirsten Baldock and Gabriel Ba: A pretty short graphic novel, but I could just see this turned into a movie. Hot gun-toting chicks sweetly selling illicit cigarettes on street corners, turning mean with guns when they find a rival on their turf, leading up to a conflagration of bullets amid all that estrogen. Sweet! Bang bang pow pow! Take a deep drag and inhale the gunsmoke.
Stephen King’s The Dark Tower Gunslinger Born by Robin Furth, Peter David, Jae Lee, and Richard Isanove: Finally a new Dark Tower storyline! When the final novel was written, Dark Tower fans everywhere lamented, for a story such as this is truly about the journey, not the destination. Apart from ‘The Little Sisters of Eluria’ there was nary a story to be seen outside the novels… until Marvel stepped in. The project is guided by Robin Furth (who I swear knows more about Midworld than does Sai King himself) with the express approval of the master storyteller himself. The Gunslinger Born begins with excerpts from ‘The Gunslinger’ and ‘Wizard and Glass’, serving as a decent introduction to the character of young Roland in his early adventures. The infamous Battle of Jericho, which readers found themselves disappointed to find no further exposition in the final novel, is one of the stories slated to be in this series.
Valerian The New Future Trilogy by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mezieres: An oldie but goldie. Valerian is an intergalatic spy and time-traveller who has teamed up with the lovely fellow spy Laureline in a series of queer and wonderful adventures. This was the inspiration for Luc Besson’s Fifth Element, a project which was started up then abandoned until the nineties, and some say many of the designs in Star Wars was stolen from Mezieres.
Y the Last Man by Brian K Vaughn and Pia Guerra: What can I say about this? It’s beautiful. A world populated by just women… and a single guy is right in the middle of it! A man’s dream? I wouldn’t think so. The dark side of man’s softer aspect. You’d think a world of women would do some good? Vaughn’s dark imagination says otherwise and it’s believeable. Sometimes outright funny, and often just damn chilling. Popular Culture fanatics’ll have a ball digging out references to everything from baseball to old movies.