Thursday, May 9, 2013

Comics Roundup!

I've been caught saying that I don't really buy comics anymore, having sold or given away my old long-boxes a few years back, but all thats really meant is that I now have half a large bookcase full of graphic novels and collected editions. Currently I seem to be buying a two or three a month, so apart from being easier to store the only real difference is that I'm 6 months or so behind on any given storyline. On the plus side, I tend to be able to work on recommendations, so at least I'm buying less rubbish. 

Anyway, some thoughts on my recent reading....

Judge Dredd: The Fourth Faction

Since having to read some Dredd again as podcast research, I've really got back into it, to the point at which I'm right on the edge of a 2000AD subscription once again. In terms of collected volumes, I'm picking up the recent John Wagner storylines mostly as they seem to flow together well and work as coherent volumes, which is a credit to Rebellions ability to pick the relevent stories from both the main comic and the Megazine. The Fourth Faction is the first part of the large and apparently city-shaking "Day of Chaos" story, and suffers slightly from being all set-up and little pay-off.

That said, we get more PJ Maybe, who I loved in earlier stories, and whom I suspect is just a ton of fun to write. Mega-City One has so much history now, and so many supporting characters, that even with my relative new-comers knowledge there is a reward in reading it from seeing the wider cast slotting together, and seeing characters develop in a way that is rare in, for example, a lot of "Big Two" superhero stuff. I'm not sure that The Fourth Faction would work as a pure stand-alone nor as an introductory piece, but as part of a wider, ongoing story its pretty damn good.

Hawkeye v1: My Life as a Weapon
Here's a confession for you - I've never bought a Marvel Comic before. Well, I bought Neil Gaimans' 1602, but that doesn't count, right? Outside of a few loans, I've hardly touched the Marvel Universe in comic-book form, for no reason that I can place other than, well, I just haven't. In that light, jumping in with Matt Fractions run on Hawkeye seems an eclectic choice. But then again, I've seen this recommended all over the place, time and again, so I thought, hey, why not?

And I'm glad I did. Collecting the first 5 issues and a one-off issue of Young Avengers, this is Hawkeye as a (mostly) lone wolf character, doing his own thing, living his life. Its fantastically written, deadpan narration and sharp, witty dialogue, and a clean art style that really suits it. It's funny, and dramatic, and loaded with subtext, whilst retaining an accessible, comic-book-y style remarkably free from angst or ultra-violence or any of the other "edgy" trends in modern superheroes.

The New Deadwardians

Something else I picked up on recommendation was Dan Abnett and I N J Culbard's The New Deadwardians. Set in Edwardian England (naturally) after a plague of the undead (sorry, The Restless) was defeated only by the Upper Classes taking "the cure" and becoming Vampires (sorry, The Young), making them key to victory. England has endured, and good society continues. The story follows a murder investigation when one of the Young turns up dead, which of course, shouldn't be possible.

As you can probably tell, this is a story heavy on the sub-text, but setting in a society where much is left unsaid, its a great match. The dialogue is unfailingly polite and heavy on euphemism. Its got some great worldbuilding going on too, which makes the world feel real, as the story takes us first around London, and then out into the countryside and then back again. It's also got an interesting take on Vampires as "dead" creatures, repressed and static, which both works for the era and acts as interesting riposte to the current vogue for bloodsuckers and sexed up love objects.

Locke & Key
I've borrowed (and read) 5 volumes of the award winning Locke and Key now, and I'm still not entirely sure how much I like it. Obviously, I like it enough to read 5 volumes of it, and it's peppered with moments of brilliance, but I can't shake the feeling that its hard to judge until its all over, and we see where it all ends up. Set around a family living in the "Keyhouse", a involving a series of magic keys of wildly different powers, its a dark and bloody urban horror story with well drawn characters and a lot of interesting and mostly well realised ideas.

My main issue with it is that the first volume is dynamite and then it steadily sort of drops off a bit. Characters and ideas get thrown out and then seemingly forgotten, although with one volume left to go I could be completely wrong and it will all come back around again. And as much as I love the idea of the keys they can be awfully plot-convenient, for both good and ill. All that said, I am really looking forward to finding out how it all ends!