After the epic struggle depicted in the previous volume, it’s not surprising that Mignola, Arcudi and co. would want to dial things back a bit. They’ve clearly got a lot more story to tell and the kind of tension they’re generating with it needs to be carefully modulated lest the audience burn out on the depressing fate that appears to be awaiting everyone. So backing off on the overall level of intensity is welcomed here. What’s even more appreciated is the payoff we get on previous storylines as “B.P.R.D.” continues to play the long game.
After three volumes, and many hard-fought battles the crew of White Base finally makes it to the Federation’s South American base. There’s plenty more hardship to be had as key members of the supporting cast find their moment to shine… before being snuffed out. “Gundam” has been an engaging read up to now as it’s been a pleasure to see the story unfold through mangaka Yoshikazu Yasuhiko’s measured, deliberate storytelling and wonderfully expressive art. Yes, there are plenty of tropes and cliches in the narrative, but Yasuhiko’s work is captivating enough to carry you through most of these issues. Even if it is rough going accepting the presence of characters who betray the origins of this series as an anime that was originally intended for kids.
I’m talking about Katz, Letz and Kika, three orphaned children who should’ve been moved off the ship at the earliest opportunity. They haven’t and have now come to regard the White Base as their home, causing more mischief than help in the process. Yasuhiko clearly loves drawing them and builds one of the book’s artistic highlights -- a two-page mostly silent escape sequence that features more panels than a page should logically hold -- around them. However, they’re ultimately annoying ciphers and their role in averting disaster at Jaburo feels like something straight out of a kids’ movie. It’s particularly jarring given that the series is clearly geared towards a more mature audience and you’re left with the feeling that the only reason they’re here is because they were beloved characters from the original anime and doing a new “origin” story without them would’ve been heresy. Not having any reference for the love the original Japanese audience must feel towards them, I can only hope that subsequent volumes find them out of the spotlight and fading into the background where they belong.
Now this is more like it! The first volume of Makoto Yukimura’s viking epic contained over a hundred thrilling pages that set the stage for the story in dramatic fashion. They were then followed by a few hundred more of a flashback to earlier days in the lives of our protagonist and one of the key supporting characters which were well done, but still covered a lot of familiar narrative ground. This second volume begins with another flashback one-off before diving back into the “present day” of 1013 AD as the story deepens and really starts to sink its narrative hooks into you. I was certainly captivated by nearly all of what I read here, though I do realize that there are certain issues that may prevent others from feeling the same.
The second ImageCon, held earlier this month had some fantastic announcements coming out of it. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips signing a five-year exclusivity deal along with a new title “The Fade-Out,” Rick Remender and Scott Snyder launching a new title each while Nick Spencer launches three, Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham re-teaming for a horror title, and Robert Kirkman trolling the “new issue #1” trend with “Invincible” #111. It’s like three issue #1’s in one, you see. Yet all this was overshadowed by a photo of all the major Image creators together with the majority of the comments being how it was a white (mostly) male sausagefest. Since then, the discourse has shifted to why there aren’t more minority comics creators out there and if Image is presenting itself as the future of comics, what are they going to do to fix this?
Out of all this, there was one response which I found particularly illuminating. Rob Guillory, the artist of “Chew,” discussed on Twitter how he had done comics classes in poor African-American neighborhoods in Louisiana. The number one response he got from his students in these classes, “We can do this? Aren’t comics for white people?” So yeah, there’s a lot of work to be done in order to increase the racial diversity in comics. It would also appear that a lot of it is going to have to be done during potential creators’ formative years in order to make a real difference.
"Vaughan was last seen working on a revival of Swamp Thing over at Vertigo, which is tantamount to wearing a sign around your neck saying 'I am not Alan Moore, please kick me'." — Paul O'Brien, The X-Axis
It’s been years since I first read that quote, but it sums up the general state of the character better than anything else I’ve read. Granted, it doesn’t actually give you any real indication as to the actual quality of Vaughan’s work which is really besides the point. The only hint you have there is that it has taken this long for a collection of it to surface in the first place. Normally after a creator hits it big at either DC or Marvel, they’ll rush to get the writer’s previous work back into print to capitalize on their fame. DC didn’t do this when Vaughan gave them “Y: The Last Man” and “Ex Machina,” but now that he has the arguably more popular “Saga” and is the showrunner for “Under the Dome” (and won’t likely be writing anything for them in the future) we’re finally getting a collection of his work with the character.
That being said, if it’s taken this long and with such particular circumstances for this volume to be released, one could be forgiven for wondering if these stories are actually any good. The answer to that is they’re “okay.” More than anything else, the issues contained here represent a writer still trying to find his voice and work out the kinks in his style.
Lots of changes this month in the solicitations. There are a couple prominent series like “Nightwing” and “Teen Titans” ending, low-selling ones like “Stormwatch” getting the axe, and new high-profile debuts like “Batman Eternal” and “Sinestro.” Save for “Batman,” there’s not a whole lot that interests me in the latest bout of culling and churning at DC. For the most part, it looks like we’re just getting another round of throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks.
At least, that’s what the title is on the cover depending on your interpretation of the layout. The copyright info inside calls this “The Complete Multiple Warheads.” So this may be all we’re getting of organ-smuggler Sexica and her double-dicked werewolf boyfriend Nikolai and the crazy world they live in. Or it might not. Creator Brandon Graham strikes me as being fickle like that and this is virtually a spiritual sequel to his breakout work “King City.” That means it’s another undiluted showcase for his fearsome imagination which will give you scenes like an assassin coming across a palace walking through a snowcapped canyon and a hot springs battle against a character for whom the loss of a head is only a momentary inconvenience. Frankly, it was enough for me to sit back and admire the craftsmanship in his art as well as the incredible level of detail he can pack into his deceptively simple style.
“Multiple Warheads” does show that Graham does still have a ways to go before he can craft a engaging narrative on his own. The plot involves Sexica and Nik leaving town on a meandering road trip while a parallel narrative has the assassin Nura tracking down a bounty with a very special set of organs. It meanders back and forth between the two, never really amounting to more than a slice-of-life look at a vivid world. That’ll get you so far with a talent like Graham, but when I got to the end and found the fates of all the characters left completely unresolved I found that I really didn’t care. His work on “Prophet” may not be as ambitious or insane, but there’s more narrative and character for me to get invested in. Though you can enjoy “Multiple Warheads” for its art alone it really has nothing to offer beyond that.
Unless you absolutely hate puns. If you do, stay the hell away from this book or else it will make your head explode.
Unfortunately the biggest news about the company in the last month is still the revelation that “Star Wars” will be headed to Marvel next year. I’d like to think that Publisher Mike Richardson and the rest of his team have been preparing for this inevitability and have found ways to shore up revenue or are looking into new titles to replace it. Along the lines of the former school of thought, they still have yet to announce any plans for reprinting the vast library of “Elfquest” comics that have been published over the years. I know that they won’t come close to filling the void we’re talking about, but it’s a start.
Also, I’d REALLY like to add what comes after the volumes DC published to my personal library as well. So there’s that.
Remember what I said last week about the possibility of a $4.99 monthly price point for Marvel or DC comics? Also how the only way they could pull off such a thing would be by offering a corresponding increase in value (read: page count)? Well, there’s a lot of that going around in the comics being solicited this month by Marvel. Big events, big prices, big page counts as well. I’ll certainly concede that this is the right time to relaunch “Amazing Spider-Man” with Peter Parker, with the new movie arriving the following month, but it’ll be interesting to see how long they can keep up the hype for these special issues before the shine wears off. Then what form will the company’s efforts to boost sales and get more money out of its fans take? Interesting times indeed.