Friday, December 01, 2006

Gray and Greyer

I haven’t posted some reviews of comic trades you’ve probably already read a long time ago, in a while. So here goes.

Today you get Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things and The Incredible Hulk: Ground Zero. Now, I also read two Hellblazer trades – Staring at the Wall and Stations of the Cross – but by now you probably know that I’m enjoying his dark arts a bit too much. All I’ll say is that I was happy to read a couple of story arcs in context and I like how the apocalypse isn’t really avoided with any consequences. Good stuff, just hide it from the kids or your Christian friends who point out evil things. Unless you like fingers stuffed in your face, then whatever.

I wasn’t too sure I should have been requesting Courtney Crumrin books from the library but I figured I could tell them it was for my kid or something if anyone asked. Thankfully nobody seems to be taking out the comics but the kids so, really I shouldn’t mention what a great, free, source of comics the Ottawa Public Library is so I can keep it to myself. But I had heard good things about the series and I was looking for something that was an easy escape from my generally cynical existence these days.

Yeah, if you’ve read this comic you’ll see the irony of that last statement. Wow, this is not a happy lovely kids book. It’s a brilliantly insightful collection of stories about the pain and agony of growing into a world that is essentially a shell of everything you were told it was. Your parents are fake, unthinking gobs of humanity trying to sound important and appear impressive without actually working to do anything important or impressive. And the people they are trying to impress have themselves not actually done anything except have their parents die and leave them money. So this isn’t exactly the tween or teenage version of Baby Einstein videos.

What it is, is fucking brilliant. This is the kind of comic I’ll be giving my kids, especially if I have a daughter who likes to read. It is the perfect mix of fantasy and reality that really just treats its intended audience as someone who wants a good story instead of a fragile mind waiting to be molded into banality. This is the goth cousin of the frantic Muppet Show that actually gave my generation a sense of humour and sense of adventure and play. Yes I know we’re talking two different mediums for two different age groups. If I was forced to compare this comic to other comics I’d say its closest relation would be the Scott Pilgrim books. One writer artist in black and white that focus around a charming lead character in an interesting world that goes off into wild directions – only one has video games and the other has witchcraft.

The Hulky Stuff
So is this meant to be good or bad Peter David? I can’t remember which story arcs people liked him writing because I’m not the biggest Hulk fan in the world. I gave up on Planet Hulk even though I was basically enjoying it. Then again I was enjoying Aquaman as well and gave up. Really for no particular reason either. They just weren’t doing something for me.

Anyway there were a couple of things I couldn’t get over in this. The first was the horrible typo on the back cover. It’s “an end” Marvel, not “and end.” I know you’re the “art” focused group but c’mon. And the other was that every white male character seemed to have the same haircut. They all looked like that zombie skeleton from The Cramps album cover of Bad Music for Bad People. I know both of these aren’t Peter David’s fault – most likely an editor and Todd McFarlin, but I had a hard time getting over it.

As for the actual story it’s really great superhero action. The Hulk is like a vampire that’s in his grey and smart phase and is trying to go with the help of Rick Jones and some rogue SHIELD agent to get rid of the US government’s stockpile of gamma bombs. What ensues is something you don’t see anymore in comics. A story arc that is connected and works together as a larger story but each separate issue can be read on its own. If nothing else, this showed me that comics haven’t really evolved because they have eliminated the need for craft. When you don’t need to force a story to fit a format then what’s the point of the format?

I don’t want to get into the writing for the trade thing again but honestly, I really like this type of storytelling. A plot is furthered but each stop on the journey is separate and unique. It was used well in television series like Alias, Angel and Buffy and in comics of the past but really hasn’t been seen that much lately. Or maybe just not in what I read and I don’t read that much anymore.

This is a great timepiece that has visual flaws – dated artwork (not a big deal really), but when it’s one uber-glossy paper you wonder why they didn’t redo the colouring? But the structure, pacing and plot are simply fantastic and show what skills have really been lost in the evolution of comics. Yes, I am missing the old days because they were actually better in this particular case.

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