Title Here, You're Reading It

*Top Shelf has updated their Alan Moore page with text descriptions of the Magus’ projects for the next three or so years. Yes, they’re thinking ahead - don’t get excited for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. III: Century (a three-volume miniseries of 72-page tomes) until 2008. It does at least reinforce the possibility that The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier will actually arrive in 2007.

But the real fun looks like it’ll be here in 2009 (or maybe also 2008 - Top Shelf’s page can’t decide), as Moores Alan and Steve (no relation) present The Moon and Serpent Bumper Book of Magic, a 300+ page hardcover project that will apparently be packed with wonderful things like picture biographies of magic luminaries, official tarot cards, illustrated prose fiction, pop-ups, a fold-out Kabalistic board game (“the first player to achieve enlightenment wins providing he or she doesn't make a big deal about it”), and apparently a bunch of essays on magic and stuff. At least at this early stage. Which immediately raises one important question: whatever happened to Grant Morrison’s Pop Magic!, the magic-focused prose project with the first two chapters posted to his website? Last I heard it was almost done in 2005.

Garth Ennis' Chronicles of Wormwood #1 (of 6)

This is simultaneously a very familiar and slightly odd project from writer Ennis, awfully low-key for an all-new project from the famously excessive Avatar, yet festooned with all the usual thematic decoration. ‘Low-key’ for Ennis still leaves room for a man’s swimming pool to be filled with whale ejaculate as a prank, not to mention one of the writer’s beloved mixes of the face and regions below the belt, but this is largely a quieter, more situation comedy-oriented apocalypse. So far.

Wormwood, our narrator and protagonist, is the son of Satan, but he’s left his mission of Armageddon behind long ago. These days he’s head of a slightly excessive, progressive cable television network, and spends much time sitting around with Jesus Christ in a bar - Jesus has also returned, but the LAPD cracked his skull cracked his skull at an anti-war rally and now he’s both fully human and fully brain-damaged. Wormwood also has the power to perform one amazing trick per day, usually to do things that seem fun at the time, like giving a rabbit the power of human speech. There seems to be a bunch of Heavenly characters wandering around, everyone sick of immortal bliss and interested in once again getting dirty. I believe the end of the world is still supposed to appear eventually.

That’s really all this issue does in a wide sense. The premise is set up, the lead character narrates a lot, and the final page seems to activate the actual plot. Most of this chapter’s space is actually spent promoting Wormwood’s worldview, his bemused air of personal freedom contrasted mightily against blowhards and loudmouths that might otherwise share some of his free speech-loving ways. One might presume that Ennis means his moderately more delicate approach to match the peaceable, laid-back philosophy of the title character, though the book ends on a note of such things being challenged, so we might as well expect this to ramp up in intensity as much as Garth Ennis’ 303 did.

Jacen Burrows’ art is nice as always, very well suited to all of the talking and sitting around, as his aptitude with facial expressions and body language sometimes gets overlooked. But it's hard to say where this is going, or even if its tone might not just be a fake-out. Still, slightly better than Ennis' other recent first issues, a little more novel in approach (and I say a little), in that that the writer seems willing to allow it move into softer emotional tones, if not fresh concerns. It will say a lot how the rest of the project responds to this initial bit.