Morrison tries 'em out.

*My first impression of that fifty-cent recolored Sandman sampler that Vertigo released this week?

"Wow! Neil Gaiman apparently wrote and drew the book all by himself?! That is a remastering!!"

I mean, it's not like Sam Kieth wants a ton to do with the title anyway, and I have no idea how Mike Dringenberg feels, so maybe I'm just being churlish here... but would it have killed Vertigo to put the names of the guys who, you know, drew the comic on its cover along with Gaiman's? The credits are intact on the inside, of course, but yeah - it's just Gaiman up there staring at you from the racks. Kind of left a sour taste in my mouth. Anyone know anything about this that I'm missing?

The new coloring is quite good, though.

WildCats #1

From what I can gather, the correct spelling and title this time around is simply WildCats, two caps, no Worldstorm subtitle.

That sinking feeling starts with this book on the first few pages, which are apparently supposed to serve as a little introduction to the WildStorm universe and the various characters therein. Since the book’s a month late and there’s already been a handful of new WildStorm books released, the effect is rather dulled. But in a more constrained focus than that, the book also serves to reintroduce the various WildCats characters, as well as their universe. It kind of works, but also desires to leave a few things unsaid to tempt fans of the ‘high superheroics’ era of this book - as a result, we have a comic that seems somewhat familiar, even somewhat generic, yet not entirely easy to grasp.

Writer Grant Morrison does manage a few interesting ideas; it was maybe inevitable that the series would switch back to some form of costumed adventuring after the lukewarm sales reception to Joe Casey’s Wildcats 3.0 run, but Morrison does retain the notion of Hadrian attempting to change the world through corporate means. He’s cooked up his own line of mass-produced Spartans, an affordable series of personal superheroes that have apparently upset the microcosmic balance of power in the world, with poorer regions of the globe now even more susceptible to abuse through their lack of metahuman accompaniment. Meanwhile, the Covert Action Team bit of the old WildC.A.T.s rises to the fore, as all our old friends from 1993 return to do something that will no doubt become clear in later issues. For now, there’s superheroes having semi-explicit psychedelic sex, cracking Wolverine jokes, and fighting big monsters with bigger swords. I think I recognized a few of the villains lurking around.

Co-creator Jim Lee is back on penciling duties, so the whole thing looks a lot like 1993 as well; I expect the intent here is to capture the brassy fun of early Image comics while imbuing it with a greater measure of narrative sophistication, but I’m left feeling like I’m reading one of those ‘90s-style big creator kick-off arcs that used to lead new series from Acclaim or whatnot, a few catchy ideas and some flashy art dished out to bolster some ok concepts for a little while, maybe keeping it humming for later creative teams to pick up with ease. But I dare say the WildCats cast isn’t mythic (or even recognizable) enough for a writer to have the characters parade across the pages like this in semi-mythic fashion; the introduction winds up feeling sort of blasé, as if we're supposed to know things about these characters that only a fairly devoted fan might, without the decades of storied knowlege surrounding the characters that the core DCU cast could utilize. As a result, it seems more like a book for older fans, without all that much to attract folks who might just be showing up to see what Morrison does.

Not a lot to say. It's an ok introduction, if kind of watery. It's WildCats, and they're superheroes. See you in two months, maybe!

The Authority #1

A fair bit more interesting, yet maddeningly even less immediately satisfying, is Morrison’s revival of the consummate latter-day WildStorm superhero team. It’s been a hard road for The Authority; the bombastic stylings of early writers Warren Ellis and Mark Millar provided a decidedly time-sensitive feel for the book, one that both defined its identity and essentially assured that it’d never remain relevant long after its stylish flourishes fell from high style and became integrated into the longstanding superhero books that most of the Direct Market feeds on. In other words, you can assuredly draw a line from, say, Millar’s run on the book to the brawny, politicized posturing of The Ultimates and Civil War, but that doesn’t help The Authority itself from seeming trapped in a comics world of half a decade ago. Merely hearing the title brings to mind feelings of a zeitgeist-capturing superhero comic whose time has incontrovertibly passed. 'Oh, The Authority. Are they still trying to publish that?'

Morrison apparently has a strategy for reviving the book for today, one that cleverly prevents anyone from drawing many conclusions about the book from reviewing its first issue. Suffice to say, The Authority do not appear in their new first issue, the book choosing instead to focus on the daily affairs of Ken, a fellow whose personal life is gradually falling apart due to the distance between him and his wife, and the rigors of his secretive intelligence job. But Ken is whisked away yet again to investigate a deadly, mysterious problem on a submarine, with far bigger things just waiting to be discovered.

And that’s all for the issue.

In many ways, Morrison seems to be emulating an Ultimate book here, from the myriad single and double-page splashes of Big scenery and fabulous establishing views, to the half-naturalistic, half-stylized mode of ‘realistic’ interaction between the characters. Oh, there’s no superpowers just yet, and from his interviews Morrison is apparently shooting for a less mannered ‘real world’ vibe to his approach, but it never seems terribly naturalistic, I have to say. Unadorned conversation isn’t quite Morrison’s strong point to begin with (even relatively ‘real world’ works like St. Swithin’s Day are inevitably filtered through a lens of imagination and mannered narrative fancy), and he essentially replaces his more overtly artificial superhero voice with a choppy approximation of realist conversation that nevertheless drips with necessary exposition and mild melodrama. As a result, the issue seems like a particularly decompressed, particularly loose emulation of a style that Morrison himself is on the record as wishing to move past in crafting superhero books.

Or, at least it would have, had it not been for the presence of Gene Ha on art, who delivers an experience that can best be described as genuinely unsettling. At virtually every opportunity, Ha and colorist Art Lyon strive to drain every drop of traditional action impact from what’s happening on the page. The book’s only action scene is an abrupt two pages, wiggled and prodded with visual filters until it’s roughly as difficult to discern as an actual submarine calamity might be. Characters are constantly positioned off to the side of panels, or glimpsed from behind their backs, or spotted only as mouths, or seen in long view or shadow. There’s constant visual blur effects, straight out of Spider-Man Unlimited circa 1994, which serve mainly to confound our attempts to hone in on the cast. We almost never glimpse anyone’s face straight-on. And those towering splashes of scenery and machinery are muddy, dim, ominous. Never pounding or thrilling in an action movie way.

Simply put, Ha manages to sell this world as a mundane, anti-fantasy place through sheer visual aptitude. I’m sure it’s also fortuitous that the look won’t be quite as work-intensive as Top Ten, allowing for the artist to perhaps adhere to a bimonthly schedule, but it’s still quite a marvel of counterintuitive tinkering, and absolutely necessary to pick up the slack that Morrison seems to leave. In this way, The Authority emerges as more of an aesthetic critique of the brand of comic arguably spawned by the book’s own earlier incarnation. That doesn’t make the story any less glacial, mind you, especially when it’s bound to arrive only six times per year at tops. Plus, a full analysis of what the book even intends to accomplish is rendered impossible until a few more issues are on the stands, and the superheroes start showing up and stuff. But there’s enough here to at least get you hoping that something satisfying will possibly emerge at some distant point. Accordingly, I award this book my most enthusiastic shrug.