Saturday, May 09, 2009

Graphic Content

Music on CD and on iPod: Painkiller, Scorn, Slint, Sloan, JAMC, Henry Mancini, ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Andy and Joey, Black Moth Super Rainbow.

One of the staples of my reading has been graphic novels. I loved comic books as a kid and have been reading them on again and off again over the years. I quit reading comics in the mid 1990's when it seemed writers had begun losing work to artists who couldn't really couldn't write. and were more interested in rippling muscles and expanding bust lines than good storytelling. But I always find myself returning to comics at some point. The advent of the graphic novel has been a godsend for people like me: no more collecting single issues. It also seems a bit more mature in a way.
There are quite a few talented writers that are out there producing works for comics that are interesting, informed, informative and highly imaginative. Back in Vancouver, I was helped out quite a bit by the staff at Golden Age and the owner of Elfsar when trying to come up with titles that I might like. Here in Saskatoon, Theo at Unreal City has been great at pointing me in some really worthwhile directions. The following is a list of some of what I have been reading. Writers are immediately listed after the title followed by the artist:

Queen and Country by Greg Rucka and various artists: Ostensibly an updated sequel to the British series, The Sandbaggers, as I understand it from my friends Elijah and Iain. I am currently reading Volume 1 of the collected series, but read the Declassified issues prior to that. So far it makes an interesting companion piece for Misha Glenny's book on the rise of Global Organised Crime, McMafia. Rucka is a good writer, but the art might be hit or miss for people. It misses sometimes, but the stories are so tight I don't mind. One of the artists is from Vancouver, BC. Rucka also wrote White Out, which is an excellent crime story set in Antarctica. (I have only read the first one, however) White Out is about to be released as a film starring Kate Beckinsale - but I do not hold out high hopes.

Ex Machina by Brian K. Vaughn and Tony Harris: This series is still ongoing and the wait times for the graphic novels can be frustrating, but Vaughn and Harris have yet to disappoint. The story centers around a failed ex-superhero who decides he could do more good for New York as its mayor. He wins and confronts problems within the city, with former allies, unknown enemies and his own origins. If you have found that the DC and Marvel universes have become too bloated and too ridiculous, then this is the series for you.

Planetary by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday: This series has and still is blowing my socks off. I am envious, because I had some very similar ideas to Ellis'. But as in so many other cases, my inability to complete projects has only short changed myself. Planetary is about the Planetary Foundation - "Archaeologists of the Impossible" dedicated to discovering the secret history of planet Earth. The series runs the gambit of comic genres and delves into quite varied film and literary genres. The villains of the piece are an amoral and quite evil analogue of the Fantastic Four. I look forward to seeing how Ellis finishes this off. Cassaday's art is incredible and really brings this world to life.

DMZ by Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli: America has spread itself thin fighting conflicts it can never win across the globe. Forgetting domestic threats on the home front, the government is unable to put down militia groups who rise up and declare independence from the USA. (forming the Free States of America, or FSA) Matty Roth is an intern with the Fox News analogue, Liberty News, who gets stuck in Manhattan while on an assignment with a veteran reporter. New York City is now a Demilitarized zone (hence DMZ) caught between the machinations of the USA and the FSA and the agendas of those people and groups who are stuck inside the city. Roth takes up the mantle of journalist and investigates the lives of those caught in the middle of conflict in the DMZ. Quite compelling stuff here.

100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso: What is it about comics writers and the name Brian, you must be asking? No clue, sorry. The basic premise is a man known as Agent Graves meets people whose lives have gone wrong in some way and gives them a chance to seek vengeance, or not. He meets them shows them how and by whom their lives were ruined and offers them an attache case with an untraceable gun an d 100 untraceable bullets. But the game Graves is playing is much, much larger than anyone knows and the secret history of the United States of America is coming undone. Who are the real Minutemen? What really happened at the Roanoke colony? What was Croatoa? Who are The Trust? Read 100 Bullets and find out.

Other things to check out would be Red Son, (Communist Superman) Y: The Last Man and IDW's Doctor Who series (if you like Who) - Geo's husband J turned me on to that one.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love Queen and Country, but people are always so down on the art! Who cares? The writing is good!

10 May, 2009 18:35  
Blogger Magnus said...

I like Steve Rolston's (my fellow Vancouverite) work and don't mind Brian Hurtt's work in volume one - but Stan Sakai's work leaves a lot to be desired. Leandro Fernandez's work isn't bad, but I find some of his characterisations a bit jarring. Paul Crocker and Youssef's extremely exaggerated features are too big a contrast between the more natural features of Tara Chase and Tom wallace. Of course Fernandez's take on Tara Chase's body is also pretty extreme - big breasts, tiny waist, etc. Ralston's take on chase is more cartoony, but surprisingly more naturalistic. Chase looks more like a real woman and less like a porno fantasy when Ralston drws her.
Rucka is an excellent writer, but the art can distract from that.

10 May, 2009 19:39  
Blogger RC said...

this is an intersting list, and i appreciate it -- especially as a non-graphic novel reader, i do feel like when i hear of certain projects i never know if it's a popular graphic novel or someone's discovered something super-unknown.

thanks for sharing your list and educating me.

11 May, 2009 22:16  
Blogger Magnus said...

Nae a problem.

I would say it is worth your while to check out graphic novels, given how many seem to be optioned for a film treatment.

11 May, 2009 22:33  

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