*Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magiks mixed with ancient corrupt business practices, has had not just the colors of his fur switched, but a complete overhaul of his work ethic as well…I think I’m kinda okay with the mishap.
Not sure what “Comics Lust” is about? Take a look at the Introduction to “Comics Lust” post or take a look at the static “Comics Lust Table of Contents” page to jump to a topic.
The Whole Story (Part 1)
For both new and seasoned comic book aficionados, deciding where to hop in on many of the more popular titles can seem like a daunting task—see my previous post, “A Valiant Effort (Part 1)”. We all want strong stories told through beautiful art, but if you want to get into Iron Man, or the Hulk, or Superman, or—heaven help you—Batman, then there are going to be characters, backstory, and continuity that inevitably pops up requiring you to do some digging to fully understand what is going on. But what if someone wants to get a clean in-and-out on a series with a beginning, middle, and end? One with all new characters and places? The good news: there are tons of offerings out there in the comic book wild. Yes, there’s a treasure trove of OGNs (original graphic novels) gracing store shelves—we’ll get to some those another day. I’m talking about books that came out on a monthly(ish) basis, with twelve or fewer issues in the whole series. I’m happy to tell you, there are plenty of those, too.
I know, I know, there is a Before Watchmen event from 2012 (I need to get around to reading that someday), and there are thus far three amazing issues of Doomsday Clock that began in 2017. Also, there is a divisive movie and plans to make an HBO series of Watchmen in the near future, but when Moore and Gibbons originally created this industry-defining series, it was a 12-issue endeavor and that was supposed to be it. Regardless of your feelings on the prequel and the sequel, you still can read this monumental series and be as wowed, thrilled, chilled, and as mentally and emotionally messed up as I was after reading this series back in 1986. Watchmen is Moore’s response to the slow yet startling change in politics and American attitudes from the time of World War II through to the Cold War when the threat of nuclear war was a legitimate concern. It is within this setting that the creators added superheroes and how they too changed with the times, becoming increasingly more dangerous and tools the government could exploit to win wars, namely the Vietnam War. Then, a former “superhero,” the Comedian, is killed and a lone vigilante, Rorschach, sets out to solve the murder despite the illegality of roaming the streets in a costume and dishing out justice. What Rorschach begins to uncover is something much more than anyone could have ever predicted as the Doomsday Clock clicks ever closer to the world’s demise. I won’t say anything more than this comic messed up sixteen-year-old Donist something fierce, and I was the better for it. Watchmen should be required reading for everyone, not just the college students who have this hallmark of comic book excellence required in their studies. “Who watches the Watchmen?” You should, that’s who.
Wow. I don’t know about you, but after Watchmen, I could definitely use a pick me up. Starlight is definitely the book to do just that. With only six issues in this fantastic, uplifting story, but with the possibility of prequels and sequels that may or may not surface someday, Starlight is a love letter to the pulp sci-fi stories of yesteryear. Even if you never read a Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers comic strip in your life, there is plenty to embrace in this beautiful and exciting series of love, loss, purpose, and a life well-lived. Starlight follows the elderly Duke McQueen, a recent widower whose kids have never really believed that Duke was once a spacefaring adventurer who fought and won intergalactic wars. No one believes the fantastic quests Duke undertook before giving it all up forty years ago so he could spend the rest of his days with his beloved wife. More alone than ever, Duke’s life changes the day a former ally from another world and a lifelong thought past arrives seeking Duke’s help. Dang. Just writing this brief intro is bringing tears to my eyes, but not of sorrow. No. Rather, it’s the touching joy of following Duke on what may be his final exploit that reminds him of why he matters. Couple this with Parlov’s Moebius-esque illustrated tapestries and I know exactly what’s up next on my reread list. My goodness, this series is beautiful.
I love animals, especially dogs, which makes this next three-issue comic book series somewhat of a challenge, but one completely worth embarking upon. So, yeah, I’m basically saying let’s bring the mood back down into the realm of anxious despair …with a side of hope. We3 tells of what happens when the government decides to replace human soldiers with weaponized pets. Bandit (a dog), Tinker (a cat), and Pirate (a rabbit) have all been outfitted with an impressive exoskeleton that not only allows them to speak, it arms them with massive strength and a lethal barrage of guns, missiles, blades, and everything that turns each of them into weapons of mass destruction. But when the three see an opportunity to break from their human oppressors, they make a dash to find their way home. Unfortunately, the government does not like its property leaving unannounced and will stop at nothing to get the three back. Again, this story is brutal in parts, but it is compelling throughout and thrilling to say the least, especially given Quitely’s oh-so-gorgeous line work. You can easily finish We3 in one sitting, but I suspect you’ll be thinking about it for days and weeks afterward.
The year is 2089. Led Dent and Debbie Decay are constables enforcing the laws created by entertainment gangsters to instill upon a hopelessly tech-addicted society that will stop at nothing to get their next fix. Debbie is a tech “virgin” having no implants whatsoever, but Led is loaded with the stuff to the point of loving the virtual over reality. When the opportunity arises to purge Led of his tech to better infiltrate the Garden Nation of Tokyo, a tech-less society, Debbie sees a chance to escape the iron grip of their bosses, make a run for their freedom, and a return to the love the couple once shared. Okay, Denizens, this one’s going to be a bit rough, too, but the world of Tokyo Ghost is one well worth immersing yourself in. It should be clear by now that Rick Remender is one of my favorite comic book writers, and this 10-issue commentary of the perils of too much connectivity and where we all might be headed is one that may as well have been tailor-made for me. We have hopelessness and hope, beauty and decay, oppression and freedom, love and codependency all presented through Murphy’s stunning vision of both dystopian and utopian societies. Although a mostly serious comic, Tokyo Ghost has its humorous moments and the lovely art is oftentimes loaded with sight gags and social commentary. You get a beginning, middle, and end, but I can’t help wishing there was more to go around of this grand story.
Speaking of the digital age…not all comics begin their life on the printed page, bound by two staples through the middle, and folded, oftentimes with a cover of differing paper stock. In the age of retina displays and iPads, comics can come alive on the screen way before they appear—if they ever do—in a store. Such is the case with Panel Syndicate, which released all 10 issues of The Private Eye as free downloads. Now, only a heartless monster would take such amazing comics and not kick down some cold hard cash for the privilege, and Vaughan and Martin give downloaders the option to give a voluntary contribution; I gave them a minimum of $4.00 per issue, of which they pocket the majority of the proceeds. If you know a little about comics, then you should be aware of Vaughan as he writes some amazing comics (Y the Last Man, Saga, Paper Girls) and The Private Eye deserves its place amongst the best of his creations. Set in the future, at a time after everyone’s private information is exposed for all to see, privacy becomes one of the most sacred of rights. Everyone is disguised and there is no longer such a thing as the internet. P.I., a private eye who exposes secrets if the price is right, is hired to investigate a murder but stumbles upon much more than he ever bargained for. Timely, predictive, action-packed, The Private Eye is a wonderful sci-fi adventure certain to thrill and to leave you wondering just how long we have before the events of the comic actually come to pass. Don’t worry though. If you hate reading on a screen, there’s a hardcover, landscape-formatted version of this must-read tale waiting for you at your LCS. Pick it up before our tech-addled society crumbles.