And now it's cold again - CRAZY.

*My distracting back-issue acquisition of the moment: the first three issues of the 1988-89 Epic series Havok & Wolverine - Meltdown. Many things attracted me to these books, aside from the fact that they were only two bucks each - Walter & Louise Simonson provide the scripts (the former will soon be writing Hawkgirl with Howard Chaykin on art, and I’d like to get a feel for his scripting; he’s one well-known talent whose work has largely eluded my gaze thus far), with Kent Williams (most recently of The Fountain - did anyone out there read that thing, by the way? I’m hearing virtually no talk about it; maybe the price successfully deterred everyone) and the great Jon J. Muth (Moonshadow, The Mystery Play) tackling the art. More specifically, Williams illustrates the Wolverine bits, while Muth handles the parts with Havok.

I’ve only flipped through it thus far (a complete reading is going to be sort of difficult, seeing as how I’m missing the final issue), but it looks real pretty - I suspect any atmospheric similarities to Elektra: Assassin, that earlier Epic-does-Marvel painted affair, is largely intentional, though there’s a unique feel to seeing Muth’s wispy, oft light-bathed figures (even his grotesqueries seem delicate) interacting with Williams’ more weighty designs, his Wolverine in particular striking me as something of a smearier Simon Bisley approach. Can’t say I’m expecting all the world and a golden pony from a Havok/Wolverine team-up, but I hope the scripting manages to keep up with the drive of these visuals.

Fell #3

Well, I’ll start off by mentioning that writer Warren Ellis had already scored some bonus points today before I even opened this book up - while in the store I flipped to the back of the Ocean trade to check out what sort of changes he’d made, and I noticed that one new line of dialogue reads something like “I have no idea what happens next,” right before the book moves into some of those narrative-free panels of explosions that tripped people up the first time around - it gave me a nice chortle, at least.

This is one of the better issues of Fell, as that nasty feral municipality of Snowtown once again comes to the fore; the more this books plays up its environment as a character, the better it looks - and even the themes of this issue are one with those ominous streets, paved right in. But really, the first four pages here were my favorites; Detective Fell has been stabbed twice in the last few weeks and he’s ruined his last good suit, so he just wanders around town for a quarter of the book, looking for a clothing store. He stares down a host of former businesses, encounters drug dealers and frozen foods, and generally attempts to take his new home in stride. Artist Ben Templesmith is at his best here, keeping the character art sharp and clear, whilst occasionally melting the backgrounds away into gray fuzz and sparse lines (as always with this title, Templesmith ably handles his own colors, selecting only a few hues to stand out from his muted palette, Fell’s burning blonde hair always the brightest, since his mind is ever-bright). It’s an enveloping place, a noxious urban miasma, and even without that nun pointing a gun at him Fell could never help but seems downcast by the end of his journey.

It’s then that the plot needs to start, and it’s to Ellis’ credit that I didn’t notice that nearly the whole thing amounts to page upon page upon page of talking heads, most of them uniform nine-panel grids. Fell, you see, wanders into a thrift shop run by an old lady who appreciates the past of Snowtown and loves to give away relics to nice people - there’s also a third party present, off in the dressing room, a suicide bomber whose payload is scraped together from common junk and an internet recipe. Fell (naturally) needs to talk his way out of this mess without getting everyone killed.

What’s interesting about this plot is the constant presence of discarded junk, transformed to dangerous weapons - this is true both of the bomber’s homemade weapon and some of the thrift shop’s inventory. It all ties in with the old lady’s speech on the poisoning of the cultural well in the postwar period: “See, what the war did? It trained a generation of men in the expert use of firearms. That’s what made the fifties crime waves so bad. The bad boys came back with a couple of years experience in shooting. A lot of them found ways to bring things home from the war.” But regardless of the origins of the city’s state, Snowtown is now a feral place, and it turns everything wild along with it - the young, the elderly, the disturbed. They can pick things up from the past (or even right off the streets) and use them for violence, as that is the way of the land. No wonder Fell (who arguably fits into his new home better than he consciously realizes) can’t find a blood-free suit - even the garment he eventually captures is stained, not literally, but both by circumstance and locale.

It keeps the attention, even though Ellis doesn’t really do a lot with these notions beyond utilizing them as illustrations of the book's environment’s vicious state. But perhaps that belies a certain recognition of this book’s strengths, its force of background. Even as the speeches reach up into outright melodrama (“He was my only brother and he loved me and it was just me and him and and and we’re never gonna play together again and he’s never gonna bring new cds home again and he’s never gonna tell me its ok again”), there’s something to the staging, not to mention Templesmith’s exaggeration-friendly designs. How this will change Fell is still up in the air - after all, how a man wears a suit is about the man, not the fit.

Don’t get too excited about bonuses - Ellis cites his allergies as confounding his ability to produce fresh backmatter, so this time we get a good old fashioned (plaudit-stocked) letters section, four pages long, with some bits of rough art tossed in, and a preview of next issue’s cover. Worth your two bucks, on the whole.