A Special Late-Edition New Comics Triumph!

Promethea #31 (of 32)


It occurs to me that the only point left in reviewing this book at all is to join in the analysis with others who’ve been with the story for this long, or assure those sitting on the fence that the ending doesn’t totally drop the ball so they can get started with reading the trades. Nobody is ever going to want to read this issue alone after all, without having followed the book this far. It might also be best to have followed other ABC titles, since some of them are referenced throughout the series. Hell, it’s probably best to have read most of Alan Moore’s bibliography since this title extends many of his favorite themes (the flawed utopia, the effects of archetypical story-types on new fictions, etc.) to their logical conclusion, and re-examines several more (some recent issues of this book can easily be read as a ‘response‘ to Moore‘s own conclusion to “Watchmen“). Some may accuse Moore of leaning too much on homage to older stories; this story ties the idea of homage (indeed, the idea of fiction) into a universal spirituality. It at least works in the context of Moore’s fictional ABC universe: the endless eye-pops of “Top Ten” and the pulp highlights of “Tom Strong” seem to make more sense when tied to an engine that runs on imagination, with the recurring human experiences of war and love and bias and everything operating in much the same way as the recurrence of elements in superhero fiction. Moore’s reflective comics world, in this way, can be more than a compendium of tinkered tropes and a revival of classic, semi-ignored former ideas; it can be indicative of the very pageant of human experience. As justification, it’s a marvelous one.

Anyway, the world ends. That’s not a spoiler. Promethea is even nice enough to explain what the ’end of the world’ is. I mean, she sits by the fire, looking directly at the reader, and offers a nice world-ending info dump. And there’s even more fun to be had after the world’s finished, including the return of several beloved characters (beloved by me at least) and a really nice joke about the “Tom Strong” title soldiering on (and a promise of a more ’proper’ conclusion for that book in the future… hmmm). Moore’s skill with characters continues to shine, especially the red-haired guy with the cybernetic eyes; I’m pretty sure he started out as a background person but he’s really evolved into a very cool little character here.

Interestingly, inker Mick Gray is not credited on this issue. J.H. Williams III is still working overtime on the art chores, and those who haven’t been enjoying his recent hyper-real style will certainly enjoy some scenes in this issue. After so much blood and thunder on this book, it’s great to see Williams III re-assert his skills in more typical comic art. I can’t wait to see his stuff on Ellis’ “Desolation Jones” (and hey, “Tom Strong” regular Chris Sprouse on “Ocean” too).

These wacky secrets-of-life comics. Someday, someone will do a massive comparison between “The Invisibles”, “Cerebus”, and “Promethea”, and contrast their differing approaches to explaining the underlying secrets of the human experience. Hell, I might just do it myself someday.

Oh, right. Despite the big ‘The End’ at the close of this issue, there’s still one more “Promethea” left. It’s referred to as a ’Wrap Party’. I wonder if it’ll just be scenes of what everyone in the ABC universe is up to, or maybe just behind-the-scenes material. We’ll see.

We3 #1 (of 3)

A lightning-fast read. Even with 32 story pages, this tale is being told quickly. Lots of splashes (including two double-pagers) and very little dialogue. It’s quite well-done though; one never gets the impression that vital parts are being glossed over or left on the cutting-room floor. The opening scene ingratiates us to the protagonists immediately by sending us on a mission mostly through their eyes. A bravura series of six consecutive pages consisting of eighteen-panel security-camera grids effectively showcases the speed and power of the title characters; it’s not only a novel way of conveying (easy to anticipate) plot advancement.

Speaking of the plot, on the surface it’s pretty heavily reminiscent of my foggy memories of Richard Adams’ “The Plague Dogs”, a book (and later animated film) regarding the adventures of a pair of canines who escape from horrible scientific experimentation into the woods and struggle to survive with their captors hot on their tails (pun fully intended). Here, it’s a dog, a cat, and a bunny. Oh, and they’re attached to enough weaponry to instigate regime changes in several small nations. Grant Morrison doesn’t give his animal black-ops outfit many lines (oh yes, they can talk, the illogicality of which becomes a plot impetus), but the few words they speak convey a lot. Bandit (aka: Number 1) is utterly heartbreaking in his desire to be praised and loved, and his irrational urge to go back to his old home (the excellent cover of the book gives us our only clue as to his past). And naturally, the humor of the situation doesn’t escape the writer (“Number 1 is a good, loyal dog. He only kills the enemies of our nation.”)

Frank Quitely always works well with Morrison, and the two devise some interesting staging (many characters’ faces are never fully shown on panel). He’s just the right artist to capture the inescapable ridiculousness of fuzzy pets poking out of gleaming insect-like robot shells, while still making it feel plausible. It’s a good, fast first issue, and I’m ready to see where the plot goes.

Ojo #1 (of 5)

As a writer, Sam Kieth has a tendency toward over-emphasizing the psychological plights of his characters. Often there’s some scene where two people throw down all sorts of psychological rationalizations for their behavior; Kieth sometimes tells more when he should be showing more. Perhaps it’s a preliminary move against such over-analysis by using a young child as the narrator of “Ojo”, Kieth’s new miniseries from Oni Press (with Alex Pardee co-illustrating). Here we’re left with a character who can’t help but simplify, and it helps the story’s flow.

Little Annie hasn’t quite gotten over her mother’s death. She lives in a trailer with her Grandpa and her mean sister Melissa, and she only wants a nice pet to love, but she can’t seem to keep them alive, which serves as a reflection of her own irrational child-guilt over her mother’s death. But Annie finds a special new pet one day, and even gets to meet its own momma…

This is probably the strongest work I’ve seen from Kieth since the first few issues of the second “Zero Girl” (which later got bogged down in willfully obscure mind-control antics). He and Pardee are working in b&w here, but the Kieth style retains its appealing pliability even stripped of the familiar soft colors the look is often associated with. Kieth’s command of visual metaphor is a bit more deft than usual (I loved how the pipe where the pet‘s mother resides is initially used to symbolize Annie‘s birth, the physical separation from her own mother), and the book in general exhibits none of the staleness that permeates something like “Scratch“, which also deals with outsiders and their torment but in the most thudding literal manner possible. This book feels a lot more organic, even more heartfelt. It’s a promising start.

A1: Big Issue 0

An anthology of reprints from the old A1 anthology title of yore (the definition of ‘yore‘ being the late 80‘s/early 90‘s). I hadn’t seen three of the five stories here, so I thought it’d be worth $5 to check out.

I already own a treasured copy of Alan Moore and Steve Parkhouse’s collected “Bojeffries” material as published by Tundra back in the day. That edition also sported Parkhouse’s own coloring. Presented here is the prologue and the first story in the saga, in b&w and sort of clipped off at the edges of some panels. “Bojeffries” is something of an Addams Family riff, only set squarely in the working-class England that Moore knows so well. This material serves as an introduction to the characters. It’s whimsical and generally amusing.

The other story I’d read is a “Flaming Carrot” 4-pager which actually first appeared in “Aardvark-Vanaheim in 3-D” in 1984, as evidenced by the first Carrot trade, “Man of Mystery!”, which also reprints the story. Oddly, the story is co-credited to editor/designer/producer Garry Leach, although the story itself only bares Carrot creator Bob Burden’s name. It’s a pleasant blast of typical Carrot nonsense, which is actually continued in the “Cerebus” book “Church and State” in an extremely silly way.

As for the ‘new’ stuff, Steve Dillon’s “Kathleen’s House” is a decent slice-of-Dublin-life. Ronald Shusett and Steve Pugh’s “Shark-Man” looks pretty neat but it feels like chapter 11 (of 25) in a pretty typical superhero serial (which it may well be). As a result, it’s mildly confusing and thoroughly disposable.

But Dave Gibbons and Ted Makeover’s “Survivor” is a more interesting piece. It’s told entirely through the first-person perspective of a very familiar-feeling superhero, as he undergoes an existential crisis. It’s one of the more innovative ways of examining this much-examined character, even if the denouement doesn’t make complete sense (why didn’t he just try to intentionally do what happens accidentally, if he’s so super-smart… unless that was his plan all along… quite a roundabout way of doing it).

It’s an ok book to check out, especially if you haven’t seen any of these stories. None of them are particularly lacking, though some are a bit stronger than others.